The past few months have been a whirlwind. While Iris is becoming more of a “big girl” every day, she also learned a big life lesson – family takes care of each other no matter what. Iris’ big milestones include:
1. Moving to a big girl toddler bed from her crib – one day she said “I don’t need a crib anymore. I want to sleep on my rug.” So I told her that while she sometimes naps in her tent or on her rug, she still needed to use the crib at night, at least until we buy her a bed. A few days later “mommy, we need to buy me a bed!” So the IKEA trip was launched, and she picked out her new bed and sheets. We brought it home and built it “together”. Now she talks about moving the crib to the baby room to make room for a reading couch in her room.
2. Starting preschool – mommy began thinking about how baby #2 is coming before the fall, so Iris had better get a little more used to being away from mommy and around groups of kids! We found a wonderful 2’s program here run by the city at Heather Farm (yup, that same place where we got married, and Iris had her 2yr birthday… we can’t get enough). It’s just 1.5hrs two mornings a week, so mommy uses it as her exercise time since there’s not much time to do anything else. I planned to swim laps at the outdoor pool there, but so far haven’t braved the cold. Run/walking the trails is beautiful though. Iris cried for just a few minutes the first 2 days of preschool as mommy left, and hasn’t cried since. While sometimes she’ll say “I don’t want to go to preschool” in the morning, she always loves it once there, and it’s usually hard to tear her away at the end.
3. Potty training? – we’re in the midst of this right now. She has some super successful days and then wants to be a baby in diapers again for a few days, and I never know which it will be. Today she decided to wear underwear out to the library and soccer class, so she’s getting quite brave about it! Her main motivation seems to be the nifty designs on the underwear (doggies being the favorite, then stars), though I think her preschool friends are probably an influence since most are a bit older than her.
4. Library addiction – Now every day she asks to go to the library. Forget the playground even, sometimes! She uses new vocabulary from her books too, like “I realized”, “eventually”, “actually”, and “ultimatum”. That last one is from a favorite of ours called Click Clack Moo, where the cows and hens go on strike and the duck (being a neutral party) brings the farmer the ultimatum. Yeah, two years old is a good time to start learning these concepts, isn’t it? Daddy says Iris might be an actress when she grows up, since she seems to memorize her library books by the time he gets home the night we get them. Then she dramatically voices the characters, like the squeaky mouse in Bear’s New Friend saying “it’s not me!”
But through all of these milestones, we were wreaking havoc on her little life, trekking back and forth to Lincoln weekly to help mom care for dad. She went with the flow, enjoying life at Tata and Tampa’s (my parents’ house), and the extra attention from relatives like Gigi, Uncle Sean, and Aunt Lora, as well as neighbors and friends. (Parent tip: bring your toddler to Easter at a senior active living community – Iris ended up with more easter baskets, eggs, and treats than we could imagine! They sure love to see kids up there.)
Iris interpreted what she saw: “sometimes people get sick and need help”, and “we should give him medicine or a toy – that will make him feel better.” She re-enacted things with me even back in Walnut Creek, like coming into my room in the morning, taking my hands in hers, and saying “let me help you out of bed, Tampa.” This helping attitude of hers will really come in handy for me at the end of pregnancy!
And finally she had to figure out death. “Where’s Tampa?” became a common refrain of hers. We struggled to explain, using coloring books from hospice, that Tampa will always be with us even if we can’t see him. Ultimately she found a way she could understand: for quite awhile now she’s had pretend friends, whether it’s pretend-daddy who’s with us when daddy’s really at work, or making me pretend to be Trisha so she can be her friend Ian (who she misses from Seattle). So now she talks about pretend-Tampa. It makes total sense. He’s always with us even though we can’t see him, especially when we’re doing things he loves, like watching birds, hiking, gardening or singing.
In his last week of life, Iris came running in to ask Tampa if he wanted to go to the fishing pond, and his twinkling eyes said yes. We pushed his wheelchair there, and Iris saw the Great Blue Heron she’d been looking for. Tampa tilted his head back to be the first of us to see the hawk flying overhead. So where’s Tampa now? He’s all around us, Iris, all the time. Pretend-Tampa will always be here.