Year 2

Backyard rugby practice in early Spring

Backyard rugby practice in early Spring

Pregnant at the Prom--downtown to chaperone the MPH year-finale

Pregnant at the Prom–Matt and Tyra dolled up downtown to chaperone the MPH year-finale

After watching his first ever Shakespeare play, Caleb gets to meet Prince Hal ("is that real blood"), handily played by his friend Jeremiah.

After watching his first ever Shakespeare play, Caleb gets to meet Prince Hal (“is that real blood?”), handily played by our friend Jeremiah.

Dear Family & Friends,
Welcome to the Twomey-Smith stuff-we’ve-been-doing letter and winter greeting card! We hope you will understand—forgive, if necessary, but perhaps even appreciate—our choice of media. It saves a lot of paper to send out greetings this way (no paper inserts, no other-side-of-the-card, no envelopes), which appeases our environmentally responsible inner voices, and it also saves us money on postage and the time needed to stuff all of those envelopes, and since money and time (at least time that can be spent using two hands at the same time!) are both in short supply, we’re going for a rounder process… you know. One with all the corners cut, and cut again and again until it’s smooth. We hope you still feel treasured, though; it’s true that everyone ends up with the same letter, and seeing the same pictures, but going through making lists of who to send cards to makes us smile at each name that we add, gives us a moment to think about why we care about you and how you brighten our lives, and gives us warm fuzzies—really. Because it’s a pretty long list, and neither of us is quite sure how in the world we lucked into being so loved. So please know that despite the fact that this isn’t your own, unique letter, we’re thinking of each of you, and we hope that comes through. And, hey, your card was addressed by hand! Unfortunately for your postal worker (if yours came by post), ″by hand″ this year means with wobbly handwriting, as it was done by Tyra stretching over the head of a nursing baby. Feel free to be forgiving of that—and be glad your postal workers were forgiving as well!

Sunrise clouds at Lake Placid, where we had a brief day-and-a-half romantic pre-baby retreat.

Sunrise clouds at Lake Placid, where we had a brief day-and-a-half romantic pre-baby retreat.

Clowning with the camera (and C's prize dolphin) at the NY State Fair while he was on a ride

Clowning with the camera (and C’s prize dolphin) at the NY State Fair while he was on a ride

So, happy end of 2012, a year that’s been a busy one for us, and not just because we’ve been counting down for the end of the world (if you believe the Mayans)–or the hobbit movie. Since last year’s letter, things have changed a lot around our house, including the addition of a few sapling trees (did you know you can buy trees on the internet), a backyard patio that had Matt doing a lot of digging in the spring, the epic renovation/extension of the upstairs bathroom that he and his father Gary accomplished in the summer, and the loft bed Matt and our friend Chad built for Caleb, which effectively doubled the size of his tiny bedroom. And that was just the house part—we also had to rearrange a lot of furniture to transform our home-for-three into a home-for-four!

One thing that has not changed is Matt’s great teaching job: after a terrific close to the year last year, including taking over full responsibility for coaching the school’s track team through a stellar season, his provisional one-year appointment at MPH was extended, and he has continued to flourish there, adding 7th grade History to his teaching repertoire. He is currently indulging his inner geek and his professional responsibilities simultaneously, shopping online for new Tolkien-related books to use in next semester’s senior elective on how fantasy novelists use their work for social commentary. He has also been developing his music hobby in public directions, playing with the school’s rock band in a local competition that doubled as a fundraiser for the Red Cross back in April, and then this semester starting a new band with some friends and colleagues; their first live performance at a local club is coming up next month.

Demonstrating his dedication to MPH, Matt climbed a telephone pole at the 9th grade retreat--and then jumped off the top!

Demonstrating his dedication to MPH, Matt climbed a telephone pole at the 9th grade retreat–and then jumped off the top!

Matt onstage with "Old School" at a Red Cross fundraiser in April.

Matt onstage with “Old School” at a Red Cross fundraiser in April.

During the first half of the year, Caleb was still spending half of each week at our house, doing practice-school workbooks with Tyra on Mondays, staying with another family for daycare on Tuesdays, and being ours all day on alternating weekends. Over the summer, we worked on a week-by-week alternating schedule while Matt and Caleb’s mother negotiated schooltime custody, as he turned 5 in November, and the demands of kindergarten change everything. Although we were hoping to have him attend MPH, going in with Daddy every morning, right from the beginning of his education, his mom’s wishes to have her little boy closer to her while he’s little prevailed; we’ll be revisiting the conversation in later years, as he gets older and the opportunities the school offers become more valuable. For now, he’s with us 3 weekends of every month, which isn’t nearly as much of our sunny-gold boy as we’re used to having, and the withdrawal has been especially hard on Matt, who sees the other kindergarteners at school and is constantly reminded of who’s not there. Tyra misses him too, but school seems a far away world under current circumstances, and each Friday he appears is a shock—how in the world, she wonders every time, did it get to be Friday again already? We’ve made the most of our Fall despite these limitations, working in an apple-picking outing, a pumpkin-carving party, leaf-pile leaping, Hobbit movie tickets bought on the first day of pre-sale, a hobbit-themed 5th birthday party, and a family road trip to Cleveland for Thanksgiving with friends, but we’re all looking forward to the summer, when for two months the schedule reverses, and he’s with us five days of every week instead of two, but we don’t want to hurry it too much; by all reports, Caleb is loving kindergarten.

Mister Bilbo Baggins, as he has taken to introducing himself, dressed up for Hallowe'en.

Mister Bilbo Baggins, as he has taken to introducing himself, dressed up for Hallowe’en.

Evanny at about a week (proving that John was right--the camera he sold Matt takes only awesome pictures!)

Evanny at about a week (proving that John was right–the camera he sold Matt takes only awesome pictures!)

It’s hard to believe that his first school year—and Matt’s second—is almost halfway over! But time has been a bit of a blur since September—the 25th, in fact, which was the evening Tyra went into labor, bringing our beautiful, feisty, redheaded daughter, Evanny Roísín Twomey-Smith, into the world the morning of the 26th. Our hospital stay was mercifully short, and we were fortunate to be able to use Matt’s week of leave flexibly around weekends and other school events to give us almost two weeks to spend with her together before he had to go back full time. We were even more fortunate to have friends and family come to stay and provide extra hands as well as lessons in mothering, resting, and patience, all things Tyra wasn’t exactly expert at when this process started (which isn’t to imply that she’s an expert now, but she’s getting better!). Tyra’s mother Jan was invaluable, spending an entire week dancing, snuggling, diapering, cooing at, and singing to her first granddaughter and making sure there was enough attention to go around to help Evanny’s big brother adjust to the new dynamic, and our friend and mothering expert Janet came in for most of another week right on her heels, to keep doing all of the above while adding lessons in cloth diapering and putting her art degree to work to help Caleb with his first real school project. Then, a few weeks later, Tyra’s father and grandmother, Travis and Max Ann, came for a few days to shower attention upon both children. Being proud of their homeland as only Texans can be, they brought with them a box of Texan dirt, and we dipped the baby’s feet in it. Legend says, since it was the first soil her feet had trod, that the ritual has made her a born Texan, no matter where her arrival took place. Unfortunately, none of Matt’s family has been able to make it across the pond to meet her yet—his brother and sister-in-law just welcomed a second child of their own a few months before her arrival, and his mother has been an involved caregiver with wee Sam and his two-year-old sister Sophie. But we’re looking forward to the possibility of seeing them this coming summer; Matt’s working on planning and then hopefully extending a school trip to the South of England in June.

A sunbeam and a little baby-snuggling for Jan

A sunbeam and a little baby-snuggling for Jan

Captivated by her Great-Grandmother's voice

Captivated by her Great-Grandmother’s voice

Papa Travis preparing Evanny for her Texan induction ceremony.

Papa Travis preparing Evanny for her Texan induction ceremony.

Evanny (pronounced like ″Evan,″ with an ″ee,″ and Roísín, Irish for ″rose,″ is ″ro-sheen″) was born with a crumpled ear, a squished-backwards foot, and her parents’ hearts squeezed tightly in her tiny hands. She has been growing at a rate her pediatrician says is perfect, and in two months and change has learned to recognize voices, to smile at her parents, to laugh at her brother, to reach out and bat at toys, and to threaten the hearing of everyone in the household—after an initial check-in in the NICU because of a slightly slow start at screaming, she has caused no one to doubt her lung function since (also, there’s no sign of the crumple anymore; we have to look at pictures to remember which ear it was, although one foot still hyperextends a little bit—less every day—at the ankle). Being at home with her mom all the time has led to her being surrounded by technology: she ″talks″ to her grandmother in video chats a few times a week and has met her English family the same way.

Criminal levels of cuteness, right here

Criminal levels of cuteness, right here

She is also the subject of a comprehensive photo-record, as a phone with a good camera in it is usually in Mum’s reach, the result of this being a Facebook presence that likely drives most of our friends and family crazy, but only one person has complained so far, and we think he was kidding.

Tyra was able to procure enough maternity leave to spend last semester at home full time, although she has been working with editing clients online throughout the summer and fall, and she has lucked into a one-semester compromise this winter of online classes, allowing her to continue at SUNYIT without the commute, although the courses she’ll be teaching next semester are borrowed and will need to be given back, so next year’s plan is still wholly in the air.

Multitasking: feeding his sister while listening to The Hobbit audiobook

Adding the workload to the tasks of stay-at-home baby-minding is a daunting prospect, but the bills have to be paid, and nobody’s lining up to write the little starlet checks just for her cuteness. Being at home has been anything but boring; Tyra has become a fervent researcher of all things baby-related, and is slowly making progress at applying book-learning to the real life demands of a tiny person.

Daddy's burrito and editing companion

Daddy’s burrito and grading companion

Meanwhile, Matt is finding that his previous experience is much like her research—it gives him a starting place, but this is a whole new baby, and what worked with Caleb may or may not have the desired—or any—effect on his sister.  We’ve also had some changes to the fur-family: after losing Tyra’s 17-year-old tuxedo-cat Sejarez (affectionately known to many of you as ″Piddy the cat″) late in the spring, we gained two more feline friends; he was an irreplaceable fellow, after all, so there was no way for just one to even start to fill the gap. Gustav chose us in July, and after her months-long period of mourning, Picabo has finally decided to appreciate him more often than not—which is still only about 52% of the time, but this seems typical for a big sister/ little brother relationship.

Evanny with Gustav, the Most Loving Cat in the World

Evanny with Gustav, the Most Loving Cat in the World

Gustav has turned out to be an amazingly loving, sweet, sociable cat likely to throw himself into the arms of anyone who comes to visit, and he can often be found lying next to Evanny while she naps or nurses—also, he has taken it upon himself to test every piece of baby-equipment that has come into our home. In the fall, literally days after coming home from the hospital, we (i.e. Tyra and her mother, while the new baby took too-short micro-naps—Matt was away on a school trip, thankfully, or the capers would have been cut short, we’re sure) captured a feral kitten who had been begging outside our door for a couple of months, and after spending the season in the basement ceiling, he has just recently begun tiptoeing into other rooms of the house during quiet times in the day.

Beorn the Rescued sneaking into the upstairs

Beorn the Rescued sneaking into the upstairs

″Friends″ is only mostly an exaggeration; Beorn is not yet social with any of the humans in the household, and Picabo bullies him a bit, but he and Gustav are good pals, and can often be found playing follow-the-leader around the downstairs or tiptoeing up to prowl in empty rooms when the baby’s asleep and nobody (but Tyra, stealthily paying attention to washing dishes in the kitchen) is there to witness their play.

What all this change has brought about for us, as we try desperately to find a chance to stop and reflect this holiday season, is an appreciation for opportunities for reflection!  We have been intensely grateful for the friends and family who have shared their time and energy to help us build this life we’re working on, whether that help came in the shape of physical presence, gifts or hand-me-downs to baby-fy our lives or clothe our baby, some of the long, idea-rich emails we’ve received lately from other parents of little people who know more about this baby business than we do, or just Facebook or in-the-hallways-of-MPH words of encouragement.

Christmassed out--Evanny and Marco have had enough of the hype (and the Thanksgiving photo-shoot!)

Christmassed out–Evanny and Marco have had enough of the hype (and the Thanksgiving photo-shoot!)

It’s also made us very appreciative of our chances to see one another; having a newborn in the house means that even when Matt and Tyra are both at home, one of us has the baby while the other one is scrambling to clean, cook, or grade something (or, more likely, a few hundred somethings), and by the time she goes to bed we’re barely able to keep our own eyes open, if one of us hasn’t given up and preceded her to bed already.

Peaceful baby, dancing with Daddy by the tree.

Peaceful baby, dancing with Daddy by the tree.

Adding that to our reduced time with Caleb—who will be spending Christmas with his mother’s family this year—has made us all a little nostalgic for each others’ attention, even while we’re together; our goal for the new year is to work toward making less frantic of the time we have when we have it (a goal we hope will be helped immensely by Evanny learning to sit up on her own and thus not having to be carried at all times!).

Tyra & Caleb modeling baby-gifts, which turn out to be fun not just for babies!

Tyra & Caleb modeling baby-gifts, which turn out to be fun not just for babies!

So if you’ve been on the receiving end of un-returned phone calls, lost emails, belated responses to invitations or inquiries, or if you’re wondering if we even care that you sent Evanny something adorable, because you never got a thank you card, or you’re just out there thinking ″don’t those people ever call their mothers?″ (insert ″siblings,″ ″fathers,″ ″aunts and uncles,″ ″friends,″ ″grandparents,″ etc.), just please bear with us. We’re kind of up to our ears. But gosh darn it, we really like you!

Merry everything and Happy New Year, with all our love,
Matt, Tyra, Caleb, & Evanny

P.S. If you like our shiny postcard and want some of your own, we got them at MOO.com.  Use this link to check them out, and if you buy something, we get a discount on next year’s printing!  http://www.moo.com/share/6kzkff

P.P.S. Sorry the photo-sizes got all wonky near the end.  WordPress’s editing functions went on strike and refused to play nice with iPhone pictures…

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