Monday, November 15, 2010

introducing gracie's newest goddess-mama!

i'm sure you've guessed it already: auntie valerie!

valerie has been the most amazing, generous, incredible, amazing, wonderful, amazing friend ever ever ever. seriously. this girl is MADE of love and hugs and sweetness. she has been an extremely important friend for me over the years and continues to take up more and more room in my heart every day that passes. she is amazing. have i told you how amazing she is?

i first met valerie when i had JUST moved to the netherlands, back in 2006 (can it be that long ago?!). i found a unitarian universalist congregation in holland -- there was only one in the whole country, and at that time they only met one time a month -- and she and i happened to be there on the very same day. and, to make it even MORE spectacular and serendipitous, she had actually been to my former UU congregation back in boulder on more than one occasion -- she even attended on a sunday when i had a solo in the choir! can you believe it?! what a crazysmall world!

so of course i attached myself to her immediately -- for better or worse, i was in love with the woman who was in love with the UU church of boulder.

valerie was the first friend i made in the netherlands who just called me to talk one day. like, just dialed me up one day on her cell phone and was all "hey, wanna keep me company while i commute home?" i don't know if she'll ever know how much that meant to me, just to gab on the phone with a girlfriend. it was definitely memorable -- i'm still talking about it four years later!

valerie always opened her home to us, whether we came out by ourselves to amsterdam or brought out friends who were visiting from the usa. she even let nick and teresa cootie-up her apartment when they were spending a couple of days in amsterdam before flying home from a visit to us at christmas. teresa and nick got TERRIBLY sick with the flu and needed a place to crash before their flight home -- valerie, without hesitation, opened her home to them and then quickly ran away to her boyfriend's house so she wouldn't get the crud. and like, valerie hardly knew them! but she did it anyway. she's just that great.

and, one more story, just to prove my point: adam and valerie had been planning a surprise baby shower for me, but a few days before the party was to begin, valerie got the terrible news that her opa had died. the funeral was going to be back in the usa, and she needed to be there. but instead of packing up at her place in amsterdam, and trying to catch up on work that she would miss while she was gone, she got in her little red car, drove across the entire country, and delivered my sheet cake for the party with the most disappointed-sounding "surpriiiiise...." that you'd ever hear. then we went shopping for an outfit for her opa's funeral, she got back in her car, and promptly broke down before she even got out of town. this girl! she's so amazing! who DOES that for their friends?!

so i don't know why we didn't think of inviting valerie to be a part of the god squad from the get-go... i think maybe at that point i hadn't really realized how incredible she was, as we'd only been friends for a couple of years. and we'd only see each other maybe once a month, if that. but she has proven time and again how loyal she is to us, how dedicated she is to be a part of gracie's life, and how much she loves all three of us.

when we learned this past summer that valerie was going to be in colorado to see her dad at around the same time that we were going to be in colorado too, we formally invited her to be a part of this god squad. to be fair, valerie had kind of already bestowed upon herself the honor, by writing letters in dutch to gracie, sending gifts from sinterklaas, mailing her birthday presents, always asking about her in every phone call and email, and just generally staying REALLY involved in gracie's life (and ours too). in fact, she's been more involved than some of gracie's own relatives. now THAT says a lot!

so we were really excited to see our dear friend, and to celebrate her BIRTHDAY with her, no less! valerie found a water park in engelwood that she wanted to take gracie to, so we drove up there from colorado springs to meet her, and we all magically showed up in the parking lot at the exact same moment! we spent the day splashing and swimming and digging in the sandbox, going down waterslides, getting soaked by giant buckets of water, and just goofing off and playing all day long. she is amazing. have i said that already? cuz she is. it seemed like no time had passed at all since i last saw her, and yet it had been more than a YEAR. that's when you know you have found a good friend -- when you can just pick up where you left off. she's amazing.

after an afternoon of splashing and playing and having FUN, we all went out to dinner in castle rock, CO. valerie chose a place that served both italian and mexican food, and we all cozied up in a booth, drinking wine and coffee, and enjoying our pasta (or, in valerie's case, her chimichangas or whatever it was she picked out -- mexican food is hard to come by in holland, so she really wanted something smothered in green chili, naturally). we told gracie about her god squad and explained to her how it came to be and who is in it. we told gracie why she has a god squad, and why that is important to feel a connection to god/goddess/the universe/the divine. we told gracie about some funny/sweet stories about her and auntie valerie. we asked valerie what her intentions were, and how she saw her role in the god squad. then we all toasted each other to make it official. it all seemed very appropriate that we would celebrate auntie valerie's induction to the god squad in a restaurant, after spending a whole day playing in the water. holland is wet. valerie loves to cook (and to eat!). so water and food seemed like perfect elements to have in our day. how absolutely appropriate!

(oh, and then we went to a bar to teach gracie how to shoot pool. as long as it was pouring outside and unsafe to drive, we figured we had better do something fun while we waited for a break in the weather!)

valerie was generous enough to give gracie a necklace with a little vial of purple fairy dust in it to honor their connection. and knowing valerie as i do, it was the perfect gift. i am still finding purple glitter around my home, all these months later... either i am a terrible housekeeper, or the fairies keep visiting my daughter to tell her how much auntie valerie loves her.

welcome, valerie! i am sorry that we didn't invite you sooner, but we are so grateful that you are a part of gracie's circle now! (and, to your credit, you kind of always acted like you were in the god squad anyway, so it's absolutely appropriate that you are now "formally" a part of it!) thanks for all you have done for our daughter! WE LOVE YOU!!!!

my halloween with spiderman

neither adam nor i are completely sure exactly when or how gracie got on this whole spiderman kick, but here it is. in fact, gracie will no longer answer to her name. "actually, i'm not gracie," she explains to me. "i'm pie-doo-man." or, more often than not, "i'm spiderman-manray-batman-diego, mom." aha. sorry i mistook you for someone else. my bad.

no matter how she got on this fixation with spiderman, the fact is that all day everyday, she IS spiderman. even people at our church are beginning to call her "spiderman." maybe they don't know her name? or maybe they don't want to be reprimanded by a 2-year-old on exactly how she should be addressed? but when she wakes up in the morning, often the very first thing she says is "i wanna put on my spiderman suit and my spiderman song and my spiderman cape."

so of course, when we asked gracie what she wanted to be for halloween, her emphatic reply was "i'm not gracie. i'm pie-doo-man!" so that's what she went as. (in fact, that's what her jack-o-lantern went as this year too.) her former teacher, miss lucy, gave gracie her son's old spiderman costume, complete with built-in muscles and mask. and this is what we now wear ALL. THE. TIME. i have to sneak it in the wash when she's not looking or is asleep, like how most parents have to wrestle a stuffed animal or favorite blanket out of their child's sticky fingers. for us, it's the spiderman costume.

right around the time that gracie got her spiderman costume, adam found a 2-sizes-too-small superman costume which he HAD to get. so, going along with the theme, i decided to go as wonderwoman. (and, btw, finding a wonderwoman costume -- or, indeed, ANY women's costume -- that ISN'T skanky/slutty/offensive is disturbingly difficult to do. check out this HILARIOUS video to see exactly what i had to deal with this year. it's funny cuz it's sadly true.)

not that we needed to get our money's worth out of gracie's costume since it was free, after all -- but we did make sure we spent as much time at halloween events as we could so that she had lots of opportunities to dress up like spiderman. (little did we know that she'd be wearing her costume first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and struggling with her to take it off because she actually needs to take a bath/go to school/put on something CLEAN.) so we went to lots of different things: a kids concert with halloween music, spooky storytime at the library, and of course trick-or-treating with all of her friends.

gracie did much better this year at trick-or-treating than last year. last year, she was most excited about ringing the doorbell. then when someone would answer the door, she'd get all shy and scared and hide behind our legs, until we took a piece of candy for her and said thank you, and then move along. this year she rang the doorbell, said "trick-or-treat" in her sweetest voice ever, took only one piece of candy willingly and without help, and then politely said "thank you" as she skipped down the sidewalk chatting with her little girlfriends about what they got. too cute!

after a couple of hours of trick-or-treating, we finally made it home just in time to offer candy to trick-or-treaters of our own. (sadly, our neighborhood is LAME when it comes to t-or-t. many of the residents of our neighborhood are not only grandparents, but many are great-grandparents. and no one goes trick-or-treating at great-grandma's house. so the majority of homes in this neighborhood are dark on halloween because 1. no one is coming by anyway, and 2. it's too hard to get up and down off the couch to hand out the candy. sad, but true. our adorable neighbor across the street -- who is 92 years old and lives alone and weeds-whacks and puts out the trash bins and fills the birdbath all by herself -- basically told us this is the case. but we predict that will change as more young families like ours move into the neighborhood in the coming years...) anyway, we got home around 7:45, switched on the porch light, and within a minute we had someone ring our doorbell! huzzah! we had hoped gracie would be able to hand out some candy before bed, and we were just really lucky that someone rang our bell so early!

well, we had already dumped out her stash of goodies on the floor to inspect the candy that might be unsafe to eat. and gracie is so excited to eat her yummy treats that she picks out a piece for herself (a sucker, naturally), and then really wants daddy and mama to enjoy the candy party too and starts just handing us pieces of her OWN candy. what a doll! then the doorbell rings, and i jump up and say, "hey, spiderman!" -- because of course i can't call her gracie -- "there are trick-or-treaters at our door! let's go give them some candy!" and being the sweet child that she is, she starts happily picking up her own candy up off the floor to bring it to the door to give it away to the trick-or-treaters. and being the doofus i am, i was like "oh no, honey -- that's YOUR candy. we have DIFFERENT candy for the trick-or-treaters." argh! i'm so stupid! i should have totally let her give her candy away! that would have been so sweet of her! candy as communal property! what was i thinking?!

anyway, it was wonderful. as is everything that we do with her. it's all just wonderful. full of wonder.

(and, within a couple of days, she forgot all about her candy, so adam and i ate it all! nom nom nom!)

happy halloween!