This time it was my turn to be reluctant to leave the kids behind. Every morning I went in to give them each a kiss and a little snuggle unless they were still sleeping. I hated to wake them before they were ready because it would just mean a rough morning for Tes. The carpool honked again and I heard Azula and Katara at the door. "Da-a-a-a-a-ad! You're gonna be late for school!" they teased before running off to catch the bus.
I handed Suki over to Tes's waiting arms and gave her a quick kiss before following the girls out of the house. I loved my job as a teacher and had some great kids this year but there were times like this that I wanted to quit and stay home with the kids - at least until they were old enough to go off to school themselves.
Tes used her maternity leave to try and teach Zuko to walk and talk. She even said she would try her hand at potty training but I cautioned her that it may be a bit early yet. It was fun to see him wobbling across the floor to her waiting arms though.
He took to walking quickly, I think he was eager to be able to catch up to his older sisters. Talking was another matter though. Tes spent all of her maternity leave trying to expand his vocabulary beyond "momma", "daddy", "baby", "sissy" and "milk" but he just wasn't that interested in talking.
As for potty training, we didn't even get around to it while she was on leave but he was showing a few signs he might be ready so we decided to give it a shot shortly after she returned to work. She managed to get a night schedule for the most part so we were able to switch off without ever really needing a sitter for the kids. It meant we didn't get to see each other as much as we might have liked but it was a routine that seemed to be working for us.
Usually when I came home, she had the twins changed and ready for their naps, Azula and Katara got home around the same time I did so they played or did their homework and I could get changed before trying to get the twins actually asleep and then prepare dinner. Of course with girls playing in the nursery with Zuko - naps were sometimes out of the question until I could shoo the older children away.
If homework wasn't done, they were sent to the dining room to work on it - otherwise they were free to do as they liked as long as it wasn't in the nursery or overly loud. Azula loved to read and always had a book for these quieter times. Most of them were about science or history - some fiction, some fact. She devoured books like most children would devour cookies. Every bit of her allowance seemed to go toward books but it was a hobby I could endorse.
Katara always preferred to go outdoors and play though. She made up whole adventures out there and didn't seem to mind acting them out alone since Azula rarely joined her anymore. The two girls probably couldn't be any more different but they didn't seem to fight so that was a plus. Katara was fearless too, on more than one occasion I'd look out the window and see her standing on top of the playset, ready to jump down for whatever reason. No matter how many times I dragged her down, she went back up as soon as I was out of sight I think. I was a little nervous that one day jumping from the top of her set wouldn't be enough and she'd try something higher like the roof or cliff diving into the ocean...
On the odd days that we all had off and could actually get the under three crowd down for a nap at the same time, we'd picked up a game of Sim Gnubb. I had to look it up on the internet when Tes brought it home because I'd never heard of it.
It was probably the only activity the girls both enjoyed so Tes and I tried to encourage it as much as possible. Azula had a very calculating, methodical approach to how she played. I could almost see the numbers and graphs going through her mind as she positioned herself and prepared to throw the baton.
The rest of us were more casual about it and simply threw it in the general direction of what we were hoping to knock down. Sometimes it hit its mark and sometimes it didn't.
When Tes reminded me that the girls would be going to middle school soon and having a birthday, I cringed. I didn't want to think of my girls as pre-teens or anything other than little girls but I knew it couldn't be avoided.
Although we'd done a joint party for them numerous times in the past, we always asked them if they wanted separate parties or not. Azula didn't have a preference either way and I think Katara actually liked sharing her birthday with Azula. Sometimes I wondered if it made her feel closer to Azula, especially as they grew older and the subtle differences between Katara and the rest of the family became a little more noticeable.
The party went off without any problems and both girls seemed thrilled with the prospect of moving up to the bigger middle school. Although they were not so thrilled with the idea of me being a teacher there it seemed. Thankfully I was able to relieve their worry because I'd been offered a job at the high school for the following school year so they were safe from being in the same school as their Dad for a couple more years anyway. Secretly I think they were hoping I'd get moved somewhere else before they got to high school as well.
Zuko - who adored both Azula and Katara - spent the early afternoons playing downstairs with Tes. Mostly he waited and watched near the window for the sign of the yellow bus which meant his sisters were home.
Unfortunately for Zuko, the move to middle school meant the girls had even more homework than before. Katara no longer went outside to hang out on the playset as soon as she got off the bus because she knew she'd never get her homework done if she did.
The older they got, the more different Azula and Katara seemed to be. Katara was a tomboy for the most part. She wasn't concerned with how her hair looked or what people thought about what she was wearing. She only wore the barest amount of make up because Azula pestered her endlessly about it. Azula, on the other hand, liked to look "cool". She was barely in middle school and was already absorbed with finding the friending the right crowd of kids.
Katara loved P.E. and athletics and had recently started trying her hand at the old martial arts training dummy that Mom had sent over to our house. The only time she seemed to come inside was for homework, to eat, to sleep and to watch her one show. It was about vampires I think but I admit I'd never really sat down to watch it with her. Azula stayed fit by watching what she ate but was not interested in exercising at all. She still loved art and had started to play the piano a bit. I offered to get her lessons if she was interested but she shook her head. She wasn't THAT interested in the piano. Mostly she loved her books and her research about all manner of time periods and history.
There always seemed to be birthdays in a house with five kids - Mom warned me about this and I vaguely remember it from when I was a child but I never realized just how often until I was staring at the four cakes sitting in our fridge. Don't these things ever go bad?
The twins were next on the birthday list. At one year old, Tes had thankfully not gotten bit by the baby bug again yet. We weren't even sure where we were going to put Zuko when he outgrew his crib, I didn't want to think about trying to squeeze another person into this house.
They were adorable toddlers of course! I was happy to see that Suki had my mom's blonde and pink hair and was a little startled to see the dark black hair growing in on Sokka's head. I don't know why it surprised me seeing as Eowyn had the same color hair but it did nonetheless.
As cute as they were, the few short months where we had three toddlers/pre-school aged children in the house were probably the most trying of all. Someone always needed or wanted something!
I was actually thrilled when Zuko's birthday rolled around - it meant he could go to school soon and ease the chaos in the house just a little bit. Normally I felt sad and a little nostalgic when watching one of my kids celebrate yet enough birthday but not this time. I helped Zuko blow out his candles and breathed a sigh of relief.
I'd barely gotten out of bed the next morning when I heard my phone ringing. It was only six in the morning so I fumbled around for it quietly, hoping it didn't wake up Tes. "Hello" I said quietly into the receiver once I found it.
"Faromir?" It was Eowyn and she sounded distressed. "It's about Dad...." she said before I heard her crying on the other end of the line.
Not sure what he's supposed to do with this thing? lol
More force powers at work
Azula bonked herself on the head with the wooden baton ... a few times lol
Birthdays birthdays birthdays
In case you don't figure it out soon...Azula is evil...
Teen Katara - still likes to hang out on the playground lol
Tes of the many expressions lol
There's always one with the black hair!
More crossed eyes (Zuko grown up since you don't see him in chapter)
Remember the evil? lol