Isabel Cora. My girl. At her 2 year checkup she was: 31 pounds and 3 feet tall!
When I post these stats, I always think of the starting lineup to the 90's Bulls. We used to turn off all the lights in the house and blast the TV while the Bull ran through the streets of Chicago on the screen. I just imagine Isa lining up there with Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan.
"A two-year-old point guard from Pullman, Washington. 31 pounds and 3 feet, 0 inches...Isabel Cora FITZGERALDDDD!!!" And the crowd goes wild.
Oh my, oh my. Isa girl is TWO?!? She is a big, big girl. She speaks to us in entire sentences. She is going pee on the toilet. She eats food. She can spend hours on end with other people without any problem. She's basically a grown up.
We have done a whole lot in her two years with her. She's experienced more than some 80 year olds. She's been to Canada and Uruguay, to National Parks. She's flown on a plane more times than you can count on one hand. She swam in the ocean, lakes, the rio de la plata. She's spoken Spanish and met friends from around the world. She charms everyone she meets. She can identify flora and fauna from a Canary Islands Palm Tree to an American ground squirrel. She knows her ABC's, can count from 1-10 in Spanish and English. She does yoga with Auntie Em. She fully memorized several books. She can crack an egg and cook it. She can make tea and coffee. She jumps and runs and holds a pen correctly. She can go up and down the stairs herself.
She makes friends like Oprah and cares for people like Mother Theresa. She pushes limits like Martin Luther King and makes art like Picasso. She sings and dances like Elvis and swims like Michael Phelps. She loves like Anne Frank. She's an artist, a singer, a dancer, a thinker, a lover, my best friend and the love of my life.
I want to write this post to let Isa know: we thought a lot about when to bring you into the world, and why.
After college and before graduate school, I spent a lot of time travelling. These were the most formative experiences of my life. They taught me about how people around the world live, how I am capable of living, and how I'd like to live the rest of my life. I learned about how little resources or material comfort I can get by on, and how much I appreciate those comforts when I can get them. I learned how most people in the world live much closer to the earth, and that Americans are so alienated from all those things that keep them alive: growing food, getting water, noticing the birds and the bugs.
We go to these jobs, get food from the store, and put our kids in the care of others. Why not cut out the middle men and provide for myself? It helps solve several problems: I get to spend my days teaching my children, being outdoors, providing my own food, and limit my environmental impact.
Once I decided that this was my plan, and then I met Papa and he agreed, it was time to put the plan into action. But how? Where? We talked about everything: our hopes for an ideal life, what the future will look like, where we can be safe. We considered the following when thinking about where to settle: climate change, arable land, potable water, a stable water table, political and economic stability, lack of resources (look at the places that have oil - not where one would want to live), universal health care and education, language spoken, culture, isolation. We wanted to live in a place close to a big cultural capital, but far enough away that no one could come raid our land in times of trouble. We want to live within biking distance to a small town. We wanted to live close to some fresh water. We want healthy soil that can grow a lot of food. We wanted a place that wouldn't get too affected by climate change. We wanted to find somewhere where we could speak the language and wouldn't stand out too much (where there is some European descent). We wanted a place where we could be politically active and it would make a difference. We want a culture that is slower. People that can understand why one would want to live off the land.
Then we found Uruguay. We went there, hoping it was what we hoped it could be. And it was. Tranquilo (relaxed), beautiful agricultural land, close to fresh water, next to Buenos Aires, stable, European, within biking distance to a small town, it has universal health care and education. AND we could afford the land. We met a real estate agent, bought 9 acres, and haven't regretted it for a minute.
Now, how do we plan to build the house, move to Uruguay and have some sense of stability? We are, after all, city kids without a clue as to how to live off the land. We aren't going to do what the hippies did: all philosophy and no skills, they starved in the first winter. We wanted to get higher degrees, so that we may be more desirable candidates for citizenship (or at least permanent residency). We also needed to save enough money not only to build a house and buy tools, but with some savings to live off of until we got good at agriculture. We bought the land in 2012, and plan to move in late 2016 or 2017.
Now, here's where you come in, Isa girl. In this interim time, when we're working toward this future, I felt like I wasn't growing much. Despite earning my PhD, I felt like I was teaching my professors, rather than them teaching me. Certainly I learned some technical skills for how to conduct research, etc. But, as far as pushing the boundaries of what's possible, I brought in all my ideas from my travels, and learned very little from grad school. I wasn't growing much, and I couldn't imagine sitting still for these years and waiting for time to go by. I needed growth, change, a challenge, a new era.
After Papa and I bought the land in Uruguay, we laid in bed on a farm where we were staying a few miles away. And we talked about you. I was having dreams of having you. These dreams were so vivid. In them, I would be giving birth and you were being put into my arms. Or, I would be sleeping with you on my chest. Then, I would wake up and worry about where you went. Panicked, I would realize you don't exist yet. We had the land, we had a plan, now we needed you. We needed to learn how to care for someone other than ourselves. So, we decided to bring you into the world.
We have learned so much from you in these past 21 months. We've learned how to laugh more, and be kind more. We've learned how to get out of our own heads, and into the present moment. We've learned to love, and be caught off guard by happiness we didn't see coming. But, we've also learned how messed up it is to have a child in this country. How isolated it is, how difficult. It has made us even stronger in the conviction to live off the land in a different country. For you and for us.
We're working hard everyday to make this happen. Not only to move, but to learn how to do it right, with stability, and to bring some good people along. We want to build a community of learners, doers, thinkers, and artists. We want to build the village, from the adage "it takes a village." Making this life right is not easy for us. It's been so difficult to be patient, work hard, and live poorly so we can save for this future. It's been hard being in limbo, not quite yet living the daily life we want. It's been hard facing the difficulties, the instability of American life and economics. But each day you make it easier and more worthwhile.
I guess it goes back to the poem at the beginning of this blog. From the very beginning, we bear you in mind. We consider your future in every decision we make. We only live one life, better make it the most fantastic adventure you can imagine. Thanks for coming along.
Isa is so. much. fun. I don't know what else to say but that.
Spring is here, and we're out the door. We open the windows and sing and dance all day. It's amazing what happy weather can do for the soul. It's so much easier to pick up and go. Plus Isa can put her own shoes on now. I say, "grab your shoes, let's go." And we do.
The bad news is: Patrick and I both lost our jobs (my online teaching through WSU, his job at Hinsdale) for Fall. Ugh. We are seriously bummed and stressed, being in limbo like this again. There is hope Patrick might get hired back on for Fall, but it remains to be seen. I'm applying for adjunct teaching, but the pay for that wouldn't even cover the rent, let alone food, or childcare. It's an uphill battle in this world we live in. Each time we encounter a stress that's unique to the American way of doing things, it makes me work harder to get to Uruguay. I've been enough places in the world to know that this daily stress doesn't exist everywhere, and we don't have to put up with it.
Okay, now pretty pics of Isa, and our trip to L.A. (we didn't get to Come on Down on Price is Right, but still had fun!)
The other day she met a woman who said, "Wow, she's quite petite, isn't she? I mean, you and Patrick are quite tall, so it's strange how petite she is."
Patrick and I looked at each other. Is she looking at the same child? Isa's been above the 90th percentile for every body measurement since she's been born. What was this woman thinking? Well, we think because Isa walks and talks like a child much older than she is, this woman was confused by her age. To her, Isa acts like a much older person in a tiny person's body. In a way, this woman was right. This was the best characterization anyone has come up with about Isa: she is like a tiny, two and a half foot tall, fully-fledged person.
She speaks in full sentences. Last month, she learned the whole ABC's song, and I never even taught it to her. I'm assuming she picked it up from Sesame Street. But there we were one day. Isa is sitting in the shopping cart at Aldi and she sings the whole ABC song, right down to "next time won't you sing with me." And I'm looking around the store like, "does anyone else see this kid? Whose kid is this? Who taught you the ABC's!?! Answer me!" :)
She counts to 14 (because after 14, every number is 14 until she gets to 20). She counted to ten in Spanish at 18 months! Who are you, sorceress? What have you done with my normally-developing toddler?
I remember reading a while back that growth hormones get secreted while the baby sleeps. Since I read that I swear she wakes up some days noticeably bigger and more capable. She just woke up one day and said, "I want to see an egg." So I showed her an egg from the fridge. She tells me, "Please cook it. I'm hungry." She doesn't do a lot of this caveman speak that is common for her age: cook-egg-I-hungry. No, with Isa it's, "Please cook it," and "I want to see. I want to help you cook it. Please let me do it." What the what?
I really like having this little adult-impersonator around. It's fun to pretend she's actually an adult and hold a real-life conversation with her. Then, inevitably, she's tired or her skin is itchy, and she breaks down and becomes a toddler again. She hugs me and cries and I remember that she's still a baby. Then, I hold her and nurse her and give her the confidence and security to get back on her feet and into pint-sized adult mode.
I get the best of both worlds, really. I get this cool friend to talk to and hang out with, but I also get the little baby to hold and snuggle with. She will sit on my lap and hug me for 30 minutes straight, or fall asleep in my arms. But when she wakes up, we sit and chat like the ladies on Coffee Talk.
Let's see. What else is new? We are all going to L.A. for Spring Break, where I have a conference for sociology. We are staying at my friend Jose's family's house. We also have (free) tickets to go on The Price is Right while we're there! Come on dooooowwnn! We are going to Uruguay at the beginning of the Summer: June 9 to July 7. We will be meeting with home builders and planting some fruit trees and doing some other small projects on our land. We will rent an apartment and a car for the month, so we should be comfortable and I hope my Spanish abilities improve!
I am currently babysitting for two families (where I bring Isa), teaching online, and conducting interviews for my dissertation. I need to do 100 interviews and I've done 9. Woo hoo! I basically spend all weekend (while Patrick is home with Isa) doing interviews with people. So, my life is basically 7 days/week working, but at least it is set-my-own-hours kind of work. Patrick is working about 50-60 hours a week teaching Spanish at Hinsdale Central. We are busy people right now. But we have goals and it's fun to work toward reaching them!