Year 3

Dear friends and family,

Ha! It’s March, and we haven’t even started writing this yet! It was supposed to be done by Christmas, so we could put the URL on Christmas postcards again. Except the photo-session we promised Caleb, so he’d be in the card this year, since (as he only told me recently) the one with Evanny and Marco makes him so angry he never wants to see it again, the one we tried to engineer with his and Evanny’s grandmother here to take pictures (we thought pajamas on the couch would be cute, the kids in their footies, us all snug and fleecy…) didn’t work out: something about being six apparently means you feel great sadness when things are designed to please you, so he spent exactly the same number of minutes moping behind the couch being cajoled as the baby was willing to sit still on the couch. And if there wasn’t a photo for the card, well, there was no real impetus to write the page.

But we have had a year! A very busy one. Evanny has learned to walk and run and climb stairs (up and down) and slide and spin in circles and eventually, reluctantly, even crawl. She has a very good “downward dog” and makes associations and communicative leaps without words constantly (like making her “auk auk” bird noise when she sees the picture of a single feather). Also, she talks, a little. In fact (it’s the 20th of January), she said her first complete sentence yesterday: “Nigh-nigh, Dada.” Caleb has been reading, practicing subtraction, and learning about magnets and solids, liquids, and gasses in first grade, and if we beg, he’ll even tell us about these things, instead of only reporting, when we ask “how was school?” about how many times he got in trouble for talking/not listening/distracting his classmates. Remember the little boy who talked rings around the babies in his daycare and couldn’t shut up even if bribed (we tried, last summer, to get him to be quiet for an entire metro-ride in DC for a dollar. He fell asleep, unable to maintain consciousness with his mouth closed)? He’s still undeniably exactly that kid, plus, as a bonus, he’s a great big brother. His favorite thing in our house is his sister, his second favorite is any device that plays video games, and his third favorite is his sister again. Daddy ranks fourth, and Tyra is about fourteenth these days, but that’s because when he’s not being awesome to Evanny, she gets fierce and defensive and stern with him, and he gets enough of that (by his measure, anyway) from his mom for being not-awesome to his brother all the time. They’re working on it, both of them, because it’s worth the work.

Matt’s continuing to be a rock star at MPH, but it’s more metaphoric this year, as the band broke up, so his music has only been happening at home, at parties and on the occasional quiet evening (like last night, when he broke out the guitar, and Evanny danced to the first song he played and then began, insistently, to demand that he play Ylvis’s “The Fox” for her, which really isn’t an acoustic piece. And yes, a baby with few words (“fox” not among them) can very easily make this request known: she tilts her head sideways, howls the wolf-howl from the song, does a little knee-bending, arm-flapping dance, and points emphatically at the guitar. Anybody who can’t translate that sequence doesn’t spend enough time with this baby. He’s teaching AP US History for the first time this year, in addition to his usual 9th graders; he coached cross-country this fall and is deep in winter conditioning for the track team, whose practices will begin as soon as the snow thins out this “spring.” And Tyra’s still teaching enough classes online to guarantee us health insurance, even if there isn’t much of a paycheck involved anymore. Ends are sort of waving around near each other, not exactly meeting-meeting, but they are, as my Texan grandfather used to say, close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades, and that’ll have to do. She’s also been pouring energy into making neighborhood friends, organizing baby playgroups, and forcing herself out of the house for winter yoga–the yoga is appealing, but the winter walk to get there (all three blocks worth) is not.

This past summer (so far away now it’s almost impossible to remember) was a whirlwind of travel: First, Matt took sixteen MPH students, two other chaperones, and Tyra and Evanny on a two-week trip to southern England, where we spent a little time with his family and a lot of time testing the travel-worthiness of our baby in various strollers, carriers, hotels and pack-and-plays–Matt was vindicated and Tyra amazed by how very well she did with all of the excitement and the new experiences, and it was great to spend time with Grandma and Uncle Adam, Auntie Julie, and cousins Sophie and Sam (whose first birthday party we got to attend–although Evanny slept through the cake part). We also took Evanny and Caleb to Raleigh to see friends for the fourth of July, and then took them both down to Northern Virginia for a few days near the end of July, coinciding with a trip of Tyra’s father’s, so we got to take the kids to the zoo with Lola and the Baltimore Aquarium with friends and Papa Travis.

Fall came fast–the school years started, pretty much picking up where they left off, with Matt adding a new course to his repertoire (AP US History), Tyra losing one (our finances are bleeding from this wound), and Caleb finding that first grade isn’t that much different from kindergarten, except for how some of the kids in your class are different, your new teacher is automatically mean (because she enforces discipline and doesn’t know to love you already… we keep telling him it takes time, and time it working its spell; amazingly enough, on the weeks he reports that he didn’t get caught misbehaving, he also says he likes her better), and you occasionally have 5 or 10 minutes worth of homework that usually involves crayons.  Evanny has just started her first 2-month stint of 1-morning-a-week nursery school (our neighbor Katy, her teacher, is expecting a baby in April, so classes only run until the end of March), which she absolutely loves so far, the most compelling reason for this being that her favorite person outside of our family, her little bff and neighbor Nathan, goes there too, so every Wednesday morning is like a Mummy-free play-date-with-Nate that comes with other kids and CHEESE SNACKS!

We were twice-blessed at the beginning of the holiday season: just in time for Thanksgiving, Matt’s mum Jenny came over to spend a few weeks with her American grandkids, and just before she had to cross the pond home again, we found out that Evanny will actually be a middle child; we’re expecting a new sibling in August (Matt found out about this from a message in purple marker written under Tyra’s belly button: “Hi Daddy!”)  So Christmas was a bit subdued for the adults–not a lot of sparkly beverages on offer, and first trimester exhaustion and tender belly on Mum’s part getting in the way of some of the glow–but it was our year to have Caleb for Christmas, so we had two kids for the first time, both of whom were delighted to play together with each others’ new toys and clamour to be read-to from each others’ new books, so that was good fun regardless.

So there it is: the photographs are somewhere, mired in a data-storage snafu of maxed-out computers, camera-cards, and cell-phone backups that it might be years before we have a chance to sort out, but it happened, the year… and if it was a bit too much of a whirlwind for us to do a good job of keeping connected with you while it was happening, please don’t give up on us.  We’re trying, we’re learning, and they’re growing–in just a few years, they’ll ALL sleep at nights, and at least one of us might have the energy to stay up past 8pm to answer emails, phone home, or organize the photographs for sharing!

If you’re reading this, WE LOVE YOU, all the more because you sought it out on your own, without even the nudging of The Christmas Postcard That Never Was.  Next year, we might just Photoshop everyone into one image… or just send you a picture of a tree.   Probably not our tree, because it will be lucky to be decorated at all, let alone in time for pre-Christmas pictures, but a tree.  Somewhere.  Like the park.  Decorated with stuff-that-just-fell-from-the-sky.  What the heck, right?  Snow is (if nothing else) pretty.

A blurry, bad-haired family pajama-photo, the very best among our scattered attempts to put a card-worthy shot together in 2013!

A blurry, bad-haired family pajama-photo, the very best among our scattered attempts to put a card-worthy shot together in 2013!

Love Matt, Tyra, Caleb, and Evanny

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