Saturday, June 15, 2013

Gigi, Papa and Boston

Sarah and Ross got married last weekend, which allowed us to pair a fun family party with a visit from Mum and Dad! After Hannah was born, Mum and Dad graciously agreed to plan their next trip to Connecticut around Sarah and Ross' wedding, so that Jim and I could have an (almost) child free weekend in Boston.  We took Hannah with us and loved being able to spend time cuddling our littlest child.

Meeting Kelly! 
Meeting Joe!
Watching Sarah, the youngest of the Clark children, get married was emotional for everyone.  Since Jim and I have been married, I always cry when I watch the bride and her Dad walking down the aisle. The memories come flooding in, of Jim and my wedding day, my hand shaking, Dad's arm holding me steady as we walked down the aisle to Jim.  Last Saturday, I watched Ross' face, overcome with love, as he saw Sarah walking towards him.  I looked at Sarah's eyes, radiating happiness as Jim passed her hands to Ross at the alter.  Nothing compares to those first moments; true expressions of love can't be rehearsed and Sarah and Ross' faces said it all.

Jim and I had a fantastic weekend away.  We got to spend time with each other; we got to catch up with good friends; we laughed and danced with Jim's family.  Clark weddings are always a good time.  The weekend was made even better knowing that Mum and Dad were looking after Lilly and Jack in Fairfield.

Jack's (first course) breakfast, as arranged by Papa.
Breakfast--one of the best times of the day!
As hard as it is, living 1799 miles away from Mum and Dad (according to google maps), it means that when we see them, we get to spend extended periods of time together.  Life continued right where it left off when they left after Hannah was born.  The house was fully stocked with fruit, coffee, beer and wine.  Dad went to the French bakery down the road every morning for fresh baguettes, which we all devoured with Vegemite.  The lemons were ready for Mum's morning lemon water.  The scotch glasses were waiting for Jim and Dad's evening scotch.

March 2013
Having Mum and Dad here this time reminded me of when I'd return home after a semester at college.  My body seemed to shut down.  Up until they arrived, I felt good!  I seemed to have things under control and had acclimated to life with three little ones.  And then, almost instantly upon their arrival, it all hit me.  I was exhausted.  I went to bed early and slept in.  I did very little around the house.  Yet somehow, the laundry was always done, the dishwasher always unpacked, the meals were delicious, the fridge was always stocked with food and the beer, wine and scotch was neverending.  Mum and Dad have had their fair share of house guests over the years.  Living abroad makes you especially susceptible to that.  As a result, they're very sensitive when it comes to things like overstaying their welcome and draining our food and drink.  So sensitive, in fact, that we often have to convince them that we love it when they visit, and that they're welcome as often and for as long as they're able to stay!  The day before they left for Austin, Dad went to the grocery store and replenished everything; they left the house with more food, beer, wine and scotch than was here when they arrived.  They are the house guests that everyone dreams to have.

Mum meeting Hannah--just a day old
On top of their extraordinary generosity and valuable extra hands, Gigi and Papa are amazing grandparents.  They gave Hannah cuddles.  They fully appreciated her always-vertical-often-blowing-in-the-wind hair.  They answered Lilly's endless questions.  One conversation with Gigi in particular stands out in my mind.  A few hours after asking Mum the names of her parents (Grace & Edmund), over lunch one day, Lilly asked Mum if she was ever a baby inside Grace's tummy.  Mum answered her question with a smile, and a sweet, "Yes, Lilly, I was a baby inside Grace's tummy.  And do you know, that's the first time anybody has ever asked me that question before!"

Lilly and her stethoscope had just informed Gigi that her heartbeat must have gone away for a little while because she couldn't find it anywhere!
Lilly and Dad can banter back and forth for hours.  When Dad asked Jack to hand over a pair of "Mummy's scissors," Lilly informed Dad that they were not in fact my scissors, but they were her little scissors.  Dad said that it didn't matter whose scissors they were, Jack shouldn't be carrying them around. And Lilly again informed him that they were her scissors.  Dad gave up, told Jack to give him "Lilly's scissors," and finished with a statement like, "well, that really made all the difference, didn't it!" It reminded me of many conversations growing up.  It's sweet to see how Lilly now understands Dad's sense of humor, and has a good time giving it back to him as well!  Dad is really good at getting in the last word.  Unfortunately for Dad, Lilly, being an oldest child, also likes to get the last word, but if I've learned anything growing up in the Stephens family, it's that Dad always wins.  I think Lilly has realized that as well, although being four years old means that she's not going to give up easily.  Dad sent me the picture below, after a dinner battle back in March.

Gigi arrived with little knitted animals, gorgeous booties for Hannah and a little jingling mobile, all of which she made.  She swaddled Hannah and talked to her and sang to her and just adored her.  Gigi taught Lilly how to go across the balance beam at the park by herself.  You might think that was the highlight of their trip to the park, but if you ask Lilly, she'll tell you that her favorite part was when Gigi let her go to the bathroom next to a port-a-potty at the park, because going inside would be too disgusting!  Anytime we've gone back to that park since Mum and Dad were here, Lilly has tried to go to the bathroom next to the port-a-potty!  Ahhh, memories.

A lamb and two little kittens, for Hannah, Jack and Lilly.  There's a cute little penguin too (not photographed).
Hannah getting to know her Gigi

One of my favorites.  Mum is appreciating Hannah's hair on the windy beach!
Jack and Papa made Dad's morning coffee together, imitating all the noises that the keurig makes.  Papa read Jack book after book after book.  Or the same book over and over again.  Last time they were here, the book of choice was Millie Cow.  This time, the book was one of those Hallmark books, which Ellie and Edward gave to Lilly a few years ago.  It's a book of nursery rhymes, where Mum, Dad, Joseph, Ellie and Edward each recorded a rhyme so that when you turn the pages, you'll hear Mum's voice saying, "Mary had a little lamb..." and Dad's rendition of "This little piggy went to market..." and Ellie with "Little boy blue, come blow your horn..." and Edward with "Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle..." and probably their favorite of the bunch, Joseph singing "The itsy bitsy spider..."  As you can imagine, Lilly and Jack love this book.  However, Papa, with his neverending patience, tired of this book pretty quickly.  When we returned from Boston, I found it on the highest shelf in the living room, on top of all the DVDs.  And when Jack discovered it there, it was quietly put away in the hall closet, where there was no risk of it being found.

Just a few days old!
Jack helping Papa make coffee

Dad's "magic" is still going strong--pulling coins out of ears!  Lilly loves it.  Jack isn't too sure...
Gigi and Papa took all the little ones for walks to the beach, where they would run around, build sand cakes, and skip rocks (or in Jack's case, find the biggest rocks he could find to throw) along the water.  They discovered cats and wild turkeys on their walks.  They looked for school busses and trucks for Jack and picked flowers with Lilly.  They took advantage of one of the rare months when the temperature is above freezing in Connecticut.

Another favorite.  Skipping rocks together.
Choosing a good rock
A left-handed pitcher in the making?

As always, we had a wonderful time while Mum and Dad were here.  I was sad to see them go, but eventually, life has to go back to normal.  I'm not exhausted.  Three children seem manageable again.  I'm cooking and cleaning and being a Mum and a wife.  I feel happy and refreshed, and I can't wait until next time.

June 2013

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