naming and claiming…yourself

 

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Me in my original Ernie Bufflo days.

 

My name is Sarah. Except it wasn’t always.

I was born Sara. For a while, as a young kid, I insisted my name was Ernie Bufflo, which is why this blog has such a funny name, and why encounters with people who previously only knew me online are always a little awkward, as people are obviously hesitant to ask a total stranger, “Are you Ernie Bufflo?” in case they’re actually wrong and the other person has no idea what they’re talking about. Then, sometime in Sunday School, I became aware that the Sarah in the Bible story actually has an “h,” and I became convinced my parents spelled my name “wrong.” I felt about Sara the way Anne Shirley felt about Ann:

“Oh, I’m not ashamed of it,” explained Anne, “only I like Cordelia better. I’ve always imagined that my name was Cordelia—at least, I always have of late years. When I was young I used to imagine it was Geraldine, but I like Cordelia better now. But if you call me Anne please call me Anne spelled with an E.”

“What difference does it make how it’s spelled?” asked Marilla with another rusty smile as she picked up the teapot.

“Oh, it makes SUCH a difference. It LOOKS so much nicer. When you hear a name pronounced can’t you always see it in your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished. If you’ll only call me Anne spelled with an E, I shall try to reconcile myself to not being called Cordelia.

For years, I managed to pass as a Sarah-with-an-h. I possibly even lied a little in order for my drivers’ license to say “Sarah.” My diplomas all said “Sarah.” I was Sarah, not Sara. I figured I’d make it officially official when I got married, but then I discovered that the Social Security office only changes last and middle names, not first names. I thought I’d have to go through the courts, but then I discovered that for a simple spelling change, all I needed to do was request an amended birth certificate from the Department of Vital Records and pay a $15 filing fee. I got myself a new birth certificate, and while I now probably have an identity document trail too sketchy to run for president, I’m officially Sarah Sweatt Orsborn.

Needless to say, I think it’s important and powerful to be able to name and claim yourself and your identity.

Fast forward several years, and now my little Etta has started making it clear that she wants to be known by both her first and middle names. While my non-Southerner husband wasn’t too keen on the idea of a double name, it seems our girl has other ideas. We’ve always called her Etta, but she proudly introduces herself “NAME ETTA JANE!” Claire calls her Etta Jane, too. As far as I can tell, she figured Claire Bear has two names, so Etta Jane should as well. And who am I to deny my girl the naming rights I so proudly claimed for myself? If she wants to be known as Etta Jane, then I’m going to have to train myself to call her that.

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Name Etta Jane.

 

 

small milestone, big bag

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Something big has happened in my life. 2.5 years in as a mom, and I have graduated from the diaper bag. Not that I even had a “real” diaper bag, as my diaper bag was always the giant yellow Patagonia messenger bag I used first for a work commute bag, then for a graduate school backpack. It was sort of the big yellow school bus of diaper bags, and it allowed me to carry more gear than a Himalayan sherpa while expeditioning with two small people who might at any moment need diapers, wipes, toys, a complete outfit change, bibs, blankets, burp cloths, pacifiers, teethers, a bottle, a snack, a bandaid, or even a change of shirts for me (Claire barfed a lot).

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Toddlers, I’ve realized, don’t need nearly as much gear. I can actually leave the house without packing each of us a complete outfit change. In fact, I can generally throw a couple diapers, a catheter, a wipes clutch, and bibs into my bag and we could survive an outing. Even better, my toddlers even think carrying a backpack themselves is cool and grown up, so they got their own little backpacks for Christmas. Now, they can actually tote their own diapers, wipes, water bottle, snack, and toy, and they think it’s fun! Have fun, baby pack mules, knock yourselves out! I’ll just be over here twirling, wild, free, and unencumbered by all your stuff!

My current bag situation is a Fossil tote with birds all over it.

My current bag situation is a Fossil tote with birds all over it.

 

 

epic stories

“Etta fall down. At da zoo. Hurt knees. Hurt hands. Etta cry.” It happened in October, but she still tells me this story of her epic zoo fall at least once a day.

“Claire Bear fall down. At da wi-berry. I bonked my head on a shelf. I screamed. Then Mama had me.” This fall at the library, too, happened in October. This story, as well, is told as frequently and reverently as a great epic from the oral tradition, with all the solemnity a toddler can muster.

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Moments before the Great Library Fall of October 2014.

Usually we sigh, the way we all tend to do when someone tells us something we’ve heard before a hundred times, and say something like, “I know baby, you fell down and hurt yourself, but that was weeks ago, and you’re ok now! Your owies are all gone!” The repetition seems to us a little silly– why keep telling the story of such little hurts? Childhood is practically made of skinned hands and knees, of knots on foreheads and bruises that fade slowly, like sunsets that last weeks.

But to our girls, they are the biggest falls they’ve had yet. Their most significant injuries. Big events in the life of small people who lead otherwise routine little lives. To them, they are big stories worth telling.

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simply having a wonderful Christmas time

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I know I’ve been singing the praises of toddlers a lot lately, but I gotta say, this was our best Christmas with our girls, yet. It’s the first one where they sort of knew something special was going on, and their joy and wonder have been a joy to behold. I think their favorite part of the whole season has been “kiss-mas wights,” and they love driving around, pointing out light displays according to whose side of the car they’re on– “ETTA SIDE! BEAR BEAR SIDE!” They also love turning on our Christmas tree and, though I worried they would constantly be messing with the ornaments, they actually play with them very sweetly and usually put them back– the lower 1/4 of our tree has seen a lot of rearranging.

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Santa, his reindeer…and a lion

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Can I admit to you all that I’ve got some ambivalence about the whole Santa thing? I grew up believing in Santa, so I have fond and happy memories of that tradition and don’t feel scarred in any way. But the way Santa is so wrapped up in want and consumerism and making Christmas all about Things, the way his story is centered not in Bethlehem, the locus of the Christmas story, but the North Pole, which has nothing to do with anything– it all seems to indicate to me that we’ve gotten a little off track about the whole Santa story.

So, I admit, I’ve kind of been deferring the decision of how Santa would figure in our family’s Christmas traditions. Last year, my kids basically had no idea it was Christmas, though they did enjoy opening presents, and the year before they were infant blobs. I haven’t had to really decide until now. Even this year felt kind of like another year in which I could wait to see how I felt about the whole thing. I figured we’d decorate the tree, make cookies, listen to Christmas music, go look at Christmas lights, play with our little Nativity, read Christmas stories, do our Advent calendar, and just generally live in a Santa-free bubble for one more year. And we’ve been doing all those things (minus the Advent calendar, which I still haven’t finished making).

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But it turns out, I can’t live in a Santa-free bubble anymore.. Continue reading

sweet whispers and big questions

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It’s time for sleep, it’s time for sleep, the fishes croon in waters deep.
The songbirds sing in trees above, it’s time for sleep, my love.

Those are the opening lines of the girls’ “last book,” Nancy Tillman’s It’s Time to Sleep, which we recite to the girls after turning out their lights each night. I say recite because after many many readings, we don’t really need the actual book anymore. Instead, we can tuck them in and snuggle a bit while we chant the familiar words that ease them into slumber.

Usually, I lie in Claire’s bed with her, and she wraps her little arms around me and strokes my hair and generally acts like the tiny mama she is. She kisses my forehead, and sometimes, if I’m lucky, she whispers sweet nothings in my ear. The other night, she snuggled in close and said oh so softly, “You are SO CUTE.” I keep thinking about it. I love that kid so much.

She just has a sweet, nurturing spirit that goes hand in hand with her ham personality. She wants to make people smile and laugh, and she wants to take good care of the people she loves.

She’s even started asking about more siblings, for which I blame Daniel Tiger for adding a baby sister. The other morning as I changed her diaper, she said, “So, when you gonna have a baby, Mom?” “Um, Mama can’t have any more babies, you and Etta are my babies.” “But I’d be such a big helper!” And you know, I know she would be. She’ll have to settle for taking care of the people she’s already got.

And as you dream inside your sleep, the fishes crooning in the deep, and all the songbirds up above will sleep and dream of you my love, of you the one I love.

We finish the story, and now it’s my turn to whisper in her ear. I love you sweet girl. Sweet dreams.

 

I don’t actually talk to my kids about healthy eating

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Geez, mom, how will I ever learn about eating healthy foods if we don’t talk about it?

Healthy eating is really important to me. I have written a lot about food, I have thought a lot about how a less-meatarian, largely-local diet is best for me and the planet, and I love to cook. I think a lot about what my kids eat too. But, I realized when asked about it recently, I don’t actually talk to my kids about healthy eating, and I rarely label food as “healthy” or “unhealthy,” either. When we talk about food, we mostly talk about how it tastes, or that it’s crunchy, or that it’s yummy, or what color it is, or how many pieces of it there are, since we’re learning words and colors and numbers and stuff right now.

Instead, right now, I’m mostly counting on the message sent by our family eating habits to teach my kids that a healthy diet, one based largely around veggies and whole grains, with little processed food and not a lot of sugar, is a normal one.

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