Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Perfeck

One of those clear memories that I can call up at anytime is when I was lying with Kate at her naptime. She reached her fat little hand over to my cheek and said, "Yer perfeck." It is a phrase I use often, along with "I love you." and "You're  my favorite." I tell my children they are perfect. It's both hyperbole and the truth. They are not perfectly behaved, but they are perfectly suited for our family. These are the things I do not need to say because all I want is for my kids to hear how loved and valued they are regardless of the parent-child power struggle of the moment.

Today was a day where most things out of my control were yucky, but it was a great day. It was great because our kids were helpful. It was great because I managed to be patient. It was great because we all found ways to encourage one another. I awoke feeling the anxiety that only productivity can abate. I longed to rush about doing laundry, fixing myself up, and getting Mae ready. I knew it was the only way I would be able to take my coffee to a quiet corner and be still with the Lord. Of course, it wasn't God's plan for my morning, and lo, Scott felt yucky and Mae's rash looked scary, and Becket needed to cluster feed. 

By the grace of God I was able to meet needs and even express my anxiety calmly to Scott. Being heard was enough to get me through the early part of the morning. Molly awoke to the bad news that her sleeping in had led to the great responsibility of emptying the dishwasher. Normally, Molly would feed the dog and Charlotte would empty the dishwasher, but the dog was hungry and C was awake. Molly felt crumby and weepy, and I folded on the dishwasher chore, but when I went into the kitchen it was emptied by Molly, who explained she felt compelled to "do the right thing to help our family." 

Our doctor appointment was midday, and I found Charlotte to be eager to help at every turn. Whether she was chasing Mae or holding Becket, she was ready to serve without being asked. She was alert and engaged and never interrupted with selfish questions. We discovered Mae has a viral infection and a staph infection, so I had a lot of questions and concerns which were addressed with no interruptions thanks to Charlotte. On the way home she did not ask to get lunch at the drive through though she was hungry. What a gem!

Kate also awoke feeling crumby. That coupled with the adolescence that has poked its head into our lives, I did not know what the day would bring from her. What it brought was a request to do laundry so she could "relax". It brought the desire to make her own dinner. It brought a desire to care for Becket when he was squirmy from being full, but wanting to nurse for comfort. Never mind the hail outside, life was great indoors.

Today when I was asked if we planned more children, I found myself thinking, "Have you met these wonderful people?!" I'm 3 weeks from delivery and each of these beautiful kids have made life better in every imaginable way. Life can be hard, but my young children remind me daily that we can make it better for one another. Life can be overwhelming, but my young children show that we can bear the burdens of one another. Life can be exhausting, but my young children can be an example of how to persevere. I will never take credit for these beautiful souls, but I am grateful to be a witness. They are, indeed, perfect*.

*Paul is visiting family, and Mae napped well, thus contributing to this perfection, God love them.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Becket

It is 0517. I am writing on my iPad, where there is no spell check, so God help this. Becket woke up at 0356, I have no idea when he ate last. The last two nights I have gone to bed at 9 ish and Scott has fed B a pumped bottle. It has been glorious. I wish all new mothers this amount of sleep. I have not cried for a sillly reason in like 5 days. I think my hormones like sleep. After he ate and went back to bed, I pumped a full 3oz, which makes me feel like a nursing rock star and also makes me nervous that I am going to get mastiitis from over production. This is because I just had a baby and all good things are tempered with irrational worry. However, because he is number 6, I do not spend too much time on the worry and kinda laugh about it to myself because it is a bit tedious to be your own Debbie Downer.

I wrote Becket's birth story down, but decided not to publish it. No one but Becket and I care, let us be honest about that. I mean, I got it out of my system with my family and close friends, so that should be enough until my daughters and their friends start having babies. That is when I get to whip out 6 full birth stories like every other post-menopausal woman at a baby shower is compelled to do. I get to talk about head size and labor length and false labor and DRAMA. I am so looking forward to it! I am also glad I wrote all of them down. My future daughters-in-law are going to love me as I regale them with tales of woe. Except Becket has been a really beautiful newborn, and I wish his personality for all my kids' kids.

A strange calm has come with not being pregnant anymore. So far, since his birth, the life drama has been amped up. One kid has a broken toe, or rather, we think she does because we are now those parents who take their kid to the athletic trainer next door rather than the hospital and breath a sigh of relief when he says to splint it and give it a week before we worry. (So far so good, definitely not the foot that is broken.) Another kid was truly nearly run down at Target until I smacked the back of the car and screamed for the woman to stop. Luckily, she was a human being who was freaked out instead of angry and we hugged because neither one of us really cared who was at fault as long as no one was hurt or killed. That same kid has a wicked ear infection from our negligence after swimming. Oops. Even with all of that, the thing that bothered me the most this week was the dog getting out and pooping on a neighbor's yard. That was the worst because I like my neighbors, and though I like my dog, I am infuriated by her need to roam.

Part of my serenity is from nursing Becket. He is such a beautiful specimen to gaze upon while he eats. He has the perfect head, the perfect amount of fuzz on his head, perfectly shaped ears, and he has dimples that are visible while he eats. He also has that look of intesity that prompts everyone to call him an "old soul". He gazes right back with a look of Secret Knowledge and it just sucks the anxiety right out of the room. 

The big kids are amazing too. There really is nothing like having another baby to bring out how wonderful the siblings are. They love him, and they want to care for him. I have been asked to pump more so that they can feed him, and when I explain that it is good for him to nurse, they accept it well because they want what is best for him. They have made their own breakfast and lunch every day since Scott has gone back to work. Kate made the salad for dinner last night. They pick up their rooms after breakfast every single day without complaint, and even offer to put Mae on the potty when I am nursing and she has gotten up from her nap. I am bribing them, yes, but they are receptive to the bribes, and that isn't always the case.

I am also caught up on laundry. My mother-in-law made this happen while she was here, and I have kept it going. It is one of those things that takes a total of maybe 20 full minutes a day, but is so worth doing every. single. day. Now, I do have some help if we get backed up by a Mariana accident. She is potty training, and she is weird about poop now, so that can get messy. Kate, Charlotte and Molly will help fold clothes because they are good kids, and if they are not, I use folding clothes instead of time outs. Hey, if you are getting difficult you do not get a break, you get an assignment. 

So this is life with Becket so far. There will be ups and downs coming, I am sure. Getting Mae to an independent place with the bathroom is weighing on me a little thanks to the school deadline, but I need to place that in God's hands. I am practicing detachment on that front. Her speech has really taken off, and she understands that Becket is the baby that was in my belly, which is far more important than her ability to pull her pants up and down on her own. We have a lot scheduled this summer, which I am praying is a positive thing that keeps us moving through the tough days, rather than an overwhelming thing that makes me want to hunker down and eat ice cream. Then again, there are worse things than ice cream....

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mother's Day

This morning I read this post. Please read it. I want to explain my headspace when I clicked on this link.

The other day I thought I was in labor. I had regular contractions and I was convinced enough to hop into the shower. (Pro Tip: shower before the hospital because you don't know when you will be able to bathe again.) Suddenly I was hit by a wall of exhaustion, so I decided to lie down. I figured if I fell asleep labor contractions would wake me up, but if not, I wasn't really in labor. I was not in labor. Of course this has put me in that desperate-to-have-baby phase of pregnancy.

Today I read a snarky thing about how priests "have permission to preach about the Gospel instead of mothers this Sunday." Now, I get it. Really, I do. There are a lot of women who are not mothers, some of whom would LOVE to be mothers, who hate mother's day sermons. I myself am not a huge fan if only because I find these lovely men paint motherhood with a soft glowing lens. Meanwhile, I'm usually in the pew, hot, being climbed upon, acting as a barrier between two children trying to sacrifice each other in an Old Testament kind of way. So, yes, I agree that sometimes the Mother's Day homilies can fall into a "more harm than good" feeling. I may or may not have fantasized about having a Mother's Day baby in order to escape this kind of personal discomfort. (Incidentally, I do love when priests talk about Mary and/or The Church as a mother. Everyone needs a good mom, and not everyone gets one. It's nice to be reminded that, actually, we all do get a Perfect Mother.)

I went downstairs after Scott had left with the kids, and I saw Molly's book report on the counter. My blood boiled as I went stomping around the house looking for my phone to call him. The book report was something I was so very proud to have her turn into her teacher. First of all, Molly loved the book I bought her and asked for the next in the series, which was a miracle of sorts. Secondly, her picture that she drew looked perfect. If only I could describe what it is to have Molly, of all the kids, draw something well. I cannot, except to say that I was almost considered worrying that her teacher would think that I drew the picture, it was so well done. (This is because her teacher doesn't know that I cannot draw very well.) At any rate, I was angry it was left behind after all Molly's cheerful hard work and cooperation, I was so upset that she just forgot about it as though it were nothing, as though we haven't had such a hard time with tension over school work. Here was our one collaboration in which we were both excited about her results!

Thankfully, God is perfect in His love and I read the above link. A mama who will only have a stone to visit rather than a child to cuddle. A mama who still deals with all her daughter left on earth, but has no cheek to stroke or hair to brush or book reports to make her exasperated. A mama who is not fretting about how to pay for tests for her child, but a marker for her grave. Oh, I have so much to learn from this life.

In retrospect I should have laughed at that book report. It should have tickled me and felt so perfect. After all, today is her birthday treat day at school. She sent me in search of overpriced cupcakes because Molly, who cannot eat cupcakes, appreciates the finer things in life and is always generous in sharing them with others. It is also Teacher Appreciation week and the kids decided to bring flowers, so she had a bouquet to give to a teacher that she adores with her whole heart. Why wouldn't she forget about her book report when she had so many good things to share with her class? Why wouldn't she forget about her own glorious work? She was being selfless, and I was seeing irresponsibility instead. Oh, I have so much to learn from these children!


Friday, May 1, 2015

So, it's been a while. I've gotten all manner of complaints, but let me assure you that I have spared any likely reader from months of congregating at a blog that would be, in it's essence, a Festivus Pole where upon I air all my grievances. You see, there has been lots and lots of sickness. A virus every other week, along with the usual busy life that a good sized family might encounter, will make a person a big grouchy and whiney. So I just took Thumper's dad's advice: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." I had nothing.

Today I played "Here Come's the Sun" and I felt the urge to go a write how pretty freaking fantastic we are. Which is a little bit of an optimistic spin given that I am 37 weeks pregnant, grossly anemic and unable to quench my desire for a margherita - extra tequila - as big as my face. Yesterday Mariana followed classroom routine without extra prompts. Next week she starts 4-day-a-week school. She's been all but discharged from PT because she can walk up and down appropriately sized steps without help. She is speaking more, though it has been suggested that perhaps a behavioral therapist might be of some use given her sass. (Note to all: I am the behavioral therapist without the degrees or the ability to bill insurance. I also kinda like that she can defy the "They are so sweet." protocol for people with Down syndrome. I feel it makes her an ambassador of sorts.)

Here is what I love about Mae's school. The kids in her class are hyper aware she is different, but none of them can put their finger on it. They ask me all the time if she is still a baby and why she doesn't talk, though she does talk and is simply unintelligible at this point in her development. They adore her and line up to give her a hug before she leaves. They both want to be her friend and want her to like each of them. When she is mean to one of them it is a big deal and the offended party always tells me. But they are always kind to her regardless, which is such a sweet thing for a bunch of 3 year olds. (3 year olds are mostly wretched humans with adorable voices and yummy chubby arms that hug you right as you consider wringing their rotten necks.) Her teacher expects Mae to do everything the other kids do. She cleans up her own messes, washes her own hands, with the help with the soap since she is so short, walks in line, puts her hand on her heart for the pledge, holds the flag when it is her turn, and must always push in her own chair no matter how long it takes her. Miss K. is excited about seeing Mae's successes and is never fooled by her pretend incompetence. We are the luckiest family ever to have this preschool experience right now. Things aren't always easy in our world, but God is never too far for us to hear Him loud and clear.

**********************

In other news, we had a First Holy Communion for Molly. I love this day so much and I really appreciated that it was on the Feast of the Good Shepherd weekend. I love Jesus as the Good Shepherd and I often see my children as little lambs (and goats depending on the day). It's a peaceful image to sit with, especially when one of them is seemingly beyond my help. Realizing that The Good Shepherd loves them more than even I helps me relax a little and let things unfold over time rather than running on the anxiety treadmill of "What if...."

Molly's been that kid lately. I feel it's probably not appropriate to get into details on a public blog since I do care about my kids' sense of privacy, but the specifics lead to a general problem all parents face with our kids: How do we help someone when we don't really know what is actually the issue? Sometimes I think just making an effort is enough. Trying something different can jostle a kid into a new perspective. Or maybe just having Mom and Dad put a kid between them and show that this kid's problems are both important and not overwhelming is enough. I can't say that I know the exact formula for success, but somehow just shining a light on a particular child for a particular reason and saying, "We expect and we will help." is working.

Which leads to the other children, all who have become high-need all at the same time. Magically my anemic exhaustion has been fruitful. I sit in my recliner at night in my bedroom where each child comes in alone and we get 10-15 minutes of chatting. (I prefer the image of a stately queen receiving subjects, but I resemble Jabba the Hut more closely in a visual aspect. Minus the girl in a bikini and chains, of course.) It has happened naturally, and it has been nice to remind them that they belong there in my room, that I am not shut away incubating their brother. Kate is in that adolescent place of needing me and never having enough awareness to actually ask for my help. Charlotte is in a phase of finding her siblings just awful to have around her breathing space. (Incidentally I do not blame her. I find many of the things they say to one another grating, but I'm also 37 weeks pregnant and easily annoyed.) Molly is being forced to face her weaknesses and needs extra hugs and reminders of her magical qualities. Paul needs the cuddles of his mama and to exercise his ability to make me laugh even if I'm tired and the baby is literally on my nerves. Mae needs to swipe all the baby's things out of the crib and lay them on my belly because she is the boss of this belly.

So, yes, we've been active. Things have been very challenging and sometimes disheartening. Life has not been terribly kind this winter and spring has arrived quite late given that we live in Florida. Also, I have a charlie horse that just won't quit. What can we do? The answer seems to be in that image of Jesus gathering his sheep. He is not doing much, just picking them up and looking at them in the face and letting each little lamb see that His love is big enough for all of them. And magnesium...for the charlie horse, I mean. Magnesium hasn't failed me yet.

Monday, January 5, 2015

And Then There Were Six

Whoa, let's dust this old thing off a bit, shall we? I've been purposefully neglecting this place all fall. The reasons vary, but mostly come down to the fact that just living was a lot of work. We are expecting another baby in May, and he, yes he, made his presence known and felt in the most unpleasant ways. This little guy will not be ignored, I tell you. Little being a reletive term since I am measuring, and he is measuring a week ahead. My helpful OB said, "Oh, let's not do anything over 9lbs." because I'd like to avoid a c section this time...as though this is in my control. The only thing I can do is avoid too much of the sweet stuff, which hasn't been too bad since I mostly hate food, unless I don't, which I almost alsways do soon after consuming it.

Pregnancy is my Achiles heel. I hate every bit of it, not because I have these woeful experiences, but because I have so little control over the health and wellbeing of the child. There are a million sources that will tell you that every eyeblink can control the outcome of pregnancy, but life will teach you otherwise. Yes, good nutrition and exercise are very important, unless you are throwing up so much that keeping any calories down is a win, or you are on bedrest, or both. You see? It's a crapshoot. Denise Austin is my favorite fitness guru out there because she always stresses doing the best YOU can do. Not that we should slack off, but that we should maybe be okay that we are limited. 

I did have the NIPT done, which is how we found out that this person with the hiccupping is a boy. I didn't do it because I wanted to breath easy that he will be physically perfect, but because insurance covered the test and the kids REALLY wanted to know the sex. Even with all the screens coming back favorable, there is no known outcome. There is an expectation, but nothing known. Which is astounding sometimes that we keep having babies. None of our kids are total jerks, so the odds are this guy just might be a total jerk. But hope springs eternal and we are up for the adventure, or so I think. Ask again after the many sleepless nights.

The other children are also growing. I am often astounded at their individual growth. K is cruising toward adolescence, which I am ever hopeful that I won't totally mess up. C is becoming a very interesting person. I feel she is always showing a new depth and at times am astounded that such a little girl can think so deeply. Molly marches on, having had her first Reconciliation and displaying a new level of piety that I remember from second grade. How serious those children become when they realize that Jesus gives them the chance to start new at any time! I love the sweet, purposeful sign of the cross, and how each word of prayer is pronounced just so. She wants so much to be good! Meanwhile, in the land of Paul, we are surprised that he can read so much since his interest in such things seems non existent. When I read to him, he is content to listen, but when we are out and about, he will read off labels and signs with relative ease. We practice sight words, during which he bounces, stands on his head and jokes that "when" is "will" even though I know he remembers the word. He has no interest in practice, even when I make games of it. Thankfully he has a teacher at school with the patience of a saint.

Mariana, oh Mariana. She is growing, learning and becoming--God knows what. We are in search for a new speech therapist closer to home. The poor child has so much language, but her speech, or the motor planning to articulate her language, is not up to her ability. Being in school has helped tremendously, and we hope to continue her education in a class with typical peers. We started in a class of 18-24 month old children, but quickly found that she is a kid who likes to fit in. The behaviors we had moved past came roaring back, along with some new, uncool tricks that we were more than happy to skip. At least in a class of 2 year old peers her negative behavior is age appropriate. I don't love hearing her yell, "No! Stop!" at me, but it is at least a 2 year old thing to yell.

To sum up: Scott is the last one in the family who has stayed the same relative size and shape these last months. The rest of us are growing up or out. One of the snakes went missing twice in the last few months, and I did not have a heart attack.  There was an outbreak of lice at Thanksgiving, which was a nightmare, but we survived. My friends, we are a hearty bunch, are we not? Now that 2014 is gone and we have a fresh calendar to fill with adventures for the new year, I only ask that we stay mostly healthy, the snakes stay contained, and the bugs kindly reside somewhere in the wild. Not a lot to ask from a new year, but then, we shall see.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Joy and Narcissism

Leave it to the interwebs to make another seemingly innocuous thing controversial. There was this post about the ice bucket challenge that brought up a very good point. The ALSA donates some of their funds toward embryonic stem cell research. There are many people, myself included, who find this line of research immoral due to the the destruction of life. Not everyone agrees, I understand. However I have another, perhaps more practical, reason for opposing money being poured into this type of research, which is: never, not once, has this research been effective at producing a practical solution to the problems it seeks to address.

Adult stem cell research, however, has had multiple successes. Let's focus our time, talent and treasure on that which offers the most practical hope and does not have legions of people concerned about the ethics of such research.

But there was another issue at hand in this post that I have seen other places. The idea that these things are wasteful and rooted in and encourage narcissistic tendancies. First let's talk about narcissism. I will grant that social media seems to feed the beast that is our Culture of Me and our cultural lack of empathy. Of course this is true! Anything that gives a person the chance to put on a "display" can indeed feed that sort of darkness.

That being said, there is a large blindspot in this claim. You see, the ice bucket challenge is fun. Yes, doing something seemingly inconsequential, and daring others to do the same is playful. Playfulness can build community because we tolerate one another so much better if we know we can set all of the baggage down once in a while. Sure, it's seems wasteful. Isn't all fun peered at from the outside looking in a bit wasteful? "But good drinking water!" I hear you gasp. Stop it. Unless you protest swimming pools and water parks, just stop your nonsense. We have access to water, and using a little for fun is okay. If there is a draught where you are, then yes, by all means refrain from the challenge. But also? Be creative. My sister, Geek, chose instead to sing "Ice Ice Baby" in carline while waiting for her children to be let out of school. (Gee, I hope she wasn't wasting gas by keeping her car idling!) She was nearing the 24 hour deadline, and decided that she could be creative and meet the challenge in a fun and silly way.

The second blindspot is this idea that all things displayed on social media are inherently narcissistic. If that is the case, then all things done publicly must be so. Do we not understand yet that Facebook and Twitter can be much like the water cooler? We live an online life now, and that is not a sin. Maybe it's not as good as authentic in-person relationships, but it can also keep those relationships strong when time and distance cause them to whither.

My parents had weak relationships with their siblings when I was young. Oh, sure we were family, and God knows we had one another in times of trouble. However, the day-to-day sharing and caring was missing because we didn't live close, and there was this weird thing called "long distance rates" that meant calling someone in another area code cost money. When you are raising a young family, those expenses have to be held to a minimum. But now? Our family is strong. I love my cousins and I know how to contact each of them. Each of my 8 siblings is on Facebook, but none are in my hometown. We make each other laugh, we call if we are concerned, and we groan when one of us is getting too righteous online.  That is just my family. I can't tell you the number of friendships I've strengthened online. My friend Sarah, whose ups and downs have allowed me to cry and cheer in communion with her family. The boy from grade school who reached out to me on Facebook and told me of the troubles he had faced post college. He later committed suicide, and while I am heartbroken, I am so glad I could lend a shoulder to a suffering soul for just a little while. Nora Rose, whose family has been in our lives for a very long time, but whose journey I could follow first hand thanks to social media.

I understand the impulse here. The ALSA donates to things that are sketchy. ALS is a horrid disease in need of eradication, and posting a video of getting a bucket of ice water dumped on your head seems to make light of a very serious disease. But the world needs light. The world needs fun. The world needs communion and understanding and encouragement. This is what this challenge can offer, my friends. The good news is there are organizations that you can donate to that won't fund embryonic stem cell research. There are hospitals, maybe even local organizations, that can hunker down and help out your actual real live, and not just virtual, neighbor. You can look it up and post that on Facebook as your ALS charity of choice. Celebrate the charitable inclination of your fellow man and have some fun!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kindergarten 4.0

The Blurry Child Who Never Stops Moving
Dear Handsome,
You are the fourth child I have seen off to Kindergarten. On Monday we brought your supplies and met your beautiful teacher, Mrs. G. She is a Buckeye, which I'm sure makes Cappy (and Kiki, of course) very happy. Today you dressed in "button shorts", a belt and a golf shirt. You wanted your hair combed like Cappy, something that makes you feel connected to the man you hardly remember. You ate breakfast with a tea towel around your neck and on your lap, and you were barely still for the photos I wanted to take. You seemed excited because you kept getting into the car before it was time to leave.
His genuine smile is like a vampire--never  to appear in photos
Two pretty girls and a goofball.


On the way to school we said our prayers. We asked our Gaurdian Angels to care for us and and help us make good choices, as well as keep us safe. We prayed for everyone going to school, and then I heard a little voice say, "Help Molly not be scared...and maybe me too."

We've had a great summer, you and I. We bonded over our hatred of being spoken to in the morning. We snuggled deep under covers when you were not supposed to be in our bed. You started really taking becoming a gentleman seriously. I began to see that my baby boy is not a baby at all. Even when you pitched fits over things like swim lessons, I saw through your naughtiness and learned to coach you. Your skin went from pale to brown over the course of a few weeks, and any chunk left from the toddler years disappeared to reveal bones and ropey muscle.
Not an ounce of body fat anywhere but those cheeks and lips!



As we walked in to the room, you grew quiet, but this year you didn't bury your head into my hip. You showed Dad your desk, we hung up your backpack, and you handed Mrs. G your papers. Mae sat next to you. I snapped a picture, which happened to reveal the truth; you were very scared.
Mae is ready for Kindergarten, while her brother is ready for this to be over already.

Dad and I left anyway, knowing we had to let you march through to the other side where happy chatter and friendship waited. Before I left, I kissed your cheek and reminded you that I couldn't wait to hear about your day. There was a small smile, or at least a corner of your mouth lifted in an attempted smile. We left to go find some friends and to peek at your sisters, but my heart stayed right there with you desperately, hoping you would feel better fast.

Molly's Motto: Why carry bags when you have so many other's willing to do it for you?
********************************************
You were first in this afternoon carline today. Your hair was sticking to your scalp like a 90's Clooney. You had a huge grin on your face. As you climbed in the car you said, "Hi Mama, good seeing you!" I asked how your first day of Kindergarten was. "Oh, great! It's not hard work at all!" That was all I got from you, though I was waiting for stories about friends and teachers. Instead you asked if you could buy lunch tomorrow, letting me know for certain all was well with you.

I'm glad you still love school Buddy. I can't wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

Love,
Overly Sentimental Mama

Thumbs up for Kindergarten!