Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wonder. Ful.

We're having guests come through Friday evening, and we're going hiking with friends tomorrow. So today is the last full day I have to get the house ready.

I finished cleaning the bathroom while hearing shrieks of delight from the main part of the house.
"I'm so glad we have a dog he can play with, while the baby naps," I thought. Tigger's shrieks and laughs made me smile while I scrubbed.

I emerged from the bathroom to find him throwing handfuls of rice (from our 40lb bag) straight up into the air, and shrieking with delight as it all landed with pitter-pattering sounds everywhere in the kitchen. This had been going on for a while. Aside from a layer on the floor, there was rice all over the counter tops, inside the dog's water bowl, under the chest freezer, embedded in the throw rugs, ...grrr.

"Mama try?" he asked, wondering whether I was sad enough to "cry."

"That would be a lot better than what I want to do right now," I responded.

I gave him the dust pan and brush while I grabbed the broom, sternly enlisting his help to clean all the rice from the kitchen's various surfaces.
For a few minutes, he dutifully brushed my little piles of swept rice into the dust pan and deposited everything into the garbage can.
But then I watched him step into a pile and start swinging his feet backward, like a rabbit trying to run away from a tether. Essentially, he was using his heels to toss the rice in all directions again.

"Teee hee-hee!" he squealed.

A friend's recent Facebook status read something to this effect: "Whoever coined the phrase 'terrible two's' had no sense of wonder."

I don't know if, at this point in the story, I lost all sense of wonder, or just lost all my patience.

But I scooped Tigger into my arms, marched to his room, put him down there on the floor, and closed the door behind me as I walked out. I didn't care that his minor protests went silent 3 seconds after I left the room. There isn't that much he can do in his room.

After I cleaned the kitchen, I went and retrieved him from the bedroom. When he heard me coming, he quickly put away all the clothes he'd been removing from his dresser drawers.

Then, when he was sure that I wasn't going to "try," he asked for a hug.

And eventually, everything became wonderful again.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Mirror of my mind?

What does it say about me as a mother that my son is always singing the alphabet ...but doesn't even try to join in when we pray the Our Father at Mass?

If I begin to recite, "A...B...C..." he'll pick up where I left off. It's fun to listen to what letters he skips. Then as the weeks go by, I start to hear those letters, subtly added into the song. K, Q, and X were especially difficult. But he's begun to say "Tay" after "H,I,J." So it's coming.

He also doesn't know the Hail Mary.

I discussed this with Doo the other night, who assures me that he won't grow up to be heathen. He will learn.

But I still have to reflect on my personal habits, and wonder why the alphabet is more familiar to Tigger than basic prayers.

There's nothing like having a mirror of my shortcomings running around the house.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Perfect Rainy Day

It's been raining rather steadily the past two days. I've quickly learned what makes a rainy day not only survivable, but truly enjoyable, inside our cozy bungalow.

"Willie Nelson For Kids" drowsily playing on the CD player. Repeatedly.

Reading "If You Give a Pig a Pancake" a ka-jillion times.

In keeping with the theme of our reading material, making gingerbread pancakes for after-nap snack time.

With real maple syrup.

Speaking of naps, long naps--almost two hours--make a rainy day even better!!

Catching up on laundry.

And dusting.

And cleaning the refrigerator.

Replacing framed pictures with updated prints. So much fun to see new and current faces around the house!

Trying new recipes for dinner.

Not going out grocery shopping.

Watching Tigger tip-toe around the backyard in his boots and fireman raincoat for fifteen minutes before knocking to come back inside.

Drinking hot tea.

Observing playful laughter between two young siblings.

And having the presence of mind, as well as the camera on-hand, to record such encounters:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Affirming Him

Tigger holds out a piece of food to show me, with an inquiring, "Huh?"

"Mushroom," I tell him.

"Eat?" he asks.

"Yes, you can eat it," I assure him.

He pops it into his mouth: "MmmMMmm!"

A few seconds later, he holds out another morsel, "Huh?"

"Carrot," I tell him.

"Eat?" he asks.

"Yes, you can eat it," I say.

And again the consumption, followed by the verdict: "MmmMMmm!"

I watch as he picks up a green bean.

Here we go again.
Rinse, repeat.

If both Doodle and I are present, he asks both of us. He asks each of us to name whatever he has, and will not eat it until it has been correctly identified and verified as edible, twice. I say "correctly" identified, because he does know what the object is, most of the time.

It's some kind of a game.

Or isn't it?

Is this scenario just a small tableau of his 2 year-old need for affirmation?

My son hasn't lived in this world all that long. Many times, I forget that. When he belts out nonverbal yelps after I've told him that the baby is sleeping, I forget that he really isn't trying to be annoying. He's little; he's learning cause and effect. Yes, he's learning quickly how to "push my buttons," but he doesn't do things for the sole purpose of making me upset and frustrated; he does it because he likes to observe the cause-effect relationship. He likes to see my reaction. He has little idea that my reaction stems from my personal distress, anger, and frustration.

But I forget.

When I lose my patience and yell, or clench my teeth and pull him forcefully away from kicking the baby, I forget that my little son isn't really being defiant. Not in the rebellious teenager sort of way, anyway.

He does not have the self-efficacy of an adult. His actions do not stem from a confidence in his own personhood. He is only 2 years old! He's still looking to me to affirm that personhood!

I am his self-efficacy.

What must he feel, then, when affirmation is denied? Does it crush his little spirit every time I forget to treat him with gentleness?
I can hope that the angels still kiss his little cheeks when I'm not looking, but by-and-large, he looks to me for approval. For unconditional love.

And I keep forgetting.

Affirmation is not single compliment about a job he did well this afternoon. It is a continuous loving attitude, expressed by patient guidance and acknowledgment throughout the day. He is constantly learning, and so he requires consistent encouragement, in order to integrate all of his experiences of the world and allow those experiences to build him up in the right way.

A friend of mine likes to say, "Parenting is difficult, if you're doing it well."

It seems, however, that some are naturally better at it than others.

After about seven pieces of food, I tend to lose interest in vegetable identification.
"Tigger," I say, "I assure you that everything on your plate is edible. Okay? Eat up."
Doodle, on the other hand, has no end of patience, calmly naming each item presented. I sometimes wonder whether he should be the one to stay home and raise our children; perhaps they would be better nurtured by him.

But this is my purification. I am being pruned, humbled by my own failings. And learning so much. Most importantly these days, I am learning to take a step back from myself. Trying to remember that these behaviors are not personal attacks. I'm the parent; he's the innocent child. I am learning to decrease my personhood in order to allow his personhood to develop.

I am learning to affirm him.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spring Planting

Yesterday in the mail, all the fliers came. Grocery ads, coupons, and other random sales events. My habit is to pull out the three fliers that we actually care about, cut whatever coupons I deem valuable to our diet and lifestyle, and toss everything else (pronto) into the kindling bag. Otherwise, we end up having piles of papers collecting dust on random household surfaces for weeks to come.

When Doodle comes home, he likes to peruse the fliers with me. We joke that while other families look longingly at travel magazines and real estate pamphlets, we drool over the grocery store ads as we prioritize what we *really* need to buy!

"Oh, look," Doodle commented last night. "Lowe's is having a sale on lilacs."

He must have known his observation wouldn't be ignored.

Guess where I brought the little ones today? :D

We also needed bird seed, some more planting pots, potting soil, and a gas can for our lawn mower. But my scheming side-mission was to check out the lilac bushes. And we ended up buying one.

The woman in the garden center assured me it would produce a few blooms this season. I don't believe her. I also don't care. I'm just excited that I have a lilac bush planted in my backyard.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fluid Schedules

My Darling Doodle is not a morning person. Never has been. I doubt he ever will be. Many have told me "that will change once he has children." But his parents still stay up on weekend nights well past midnight, and sleep in when they can. They wake up early when it is necessary. But they are not "morning people."

These thoughts cross my mind as I am lying in bed, wide awake, at 7:15am. His half of the bed is cool to the touch.

I listen to the soft clinking of silverware hitting bowls as he prepares breakfast for our energetic Tigger. I hear his soft muted whisper, "Would you like cream cheese?" and Tigger's eager (and louder!) response, "Ehs!" I watch with my mind's eye as I hear Doodle lift our 2 year-old into the high-chair, help him find the buckles to click together, say grace, then push the breakfast plate toward his chest.

Looking down, I see that Ninna is still attached to me, sucking deliberately. I force myself to breathe deeply, softly, slowly. Resisting the urge to break away, I will myself to remain calm so that she'll drift back to sleep.

Finally, at 7:45am, I enter the kitchen. Tigger is dressed for the day, already playing with his toy firetruck in the living room. Doodle is searching the bottom drawer of the fridge for fruit to add to his lunch. I rub his back as I walk by on my way to turn on the coffee machine.

"I've been awake for a while," I say apologetically, "but Ninna wouldn't let me get out of bed."

"That's okay," he replies, always understanding. "I have to be up anyway."

A few months ago, I awoke with him early in the morning. I made Tigger's breakfast, prepared and packed Doodle's breakfast and lunch, emptied the dishwasher, and started prepping the kitchen for whatever projects were planned that day. Meanwhile, he was able to ease into his day: sip his tea, listen to the radio, look through his favorite news blogs, make last-minute edits to his meeting notes, ...

But we've moved into a different phase. Now there's this beautiful baby girl who doesn't like me to leave her alone in bed. I, the morning person, now stare bright-eyed at the ceiling while my dear husband wearily autopilots bread in and out of the toaster for our son.
This man who used to never fall asleep during the day has figured out how to synchronize the two little ones' naps so that he, too, can nap for an hour on weekend afternoons.
My daily run with the dog has shifted from early mornings to late nights--because it's easier for the baby to handle my absence when she is tending toward more sleepy, rather than more awake.

We follow the waves of need and our household routine looks different from one season to the next. But I believe that some things will never change. I imagine that someday, when our children are older, I will wake up early and go to bed before my Doodle. Once again, he will slowly sip his tea in the morning and be able to ease into the day.

Until then, I'm getting used to running down the street at 10pm.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Weekend Entertainment

We don't have a television, but on the weekends, Doodle brings his work computer home and we spend the evenings gathered around it at the kitchen table, catching up on shows like American Idol and Britain's Got Talent.
This is a fantastic performance; all of us love this guy.
We watched this clip a few times, and Tigger couldn't take his eyes away from the screen, laughing loudly with a big open mouth at the moves Razy accomplishes. Check it out.

This corruptible body

For my weekend job, I work with the aging population. When I see that one of my patients has not yet reached 80, I automatically think, "young." It is enjoyable for me to chat with these people who have experienced so much. I often ask for their wisdom, and try to listen carefully to what they say.

All of the responses from people on the upper end of this age spectrum are strikingly similar when I ask for their secrets on making it to that age: "You don't want to get this old."
Man or woman, chronically ill or healthy as a horse, the answer tends to be the same after the age of 90. And what do I say? I don't tell them there's plenty for them to live for, even if I think there must be--because I am not in their position.

Plenty of these people are suffering. But their comments are not necessarily drawn from their ailments. Younger patients with far worse ailments are not ready to leave this world.
One elderly woman in her late nineties--whose only current "medication" is a daily multivitamin--said to me, "I wake up, and I wonder if today I'm going to move. And then I do move. And I make it through another day. But I'm ready to go."
She is not depressed. Unlike many of her peers, she is not visibly ill. She is active and, by all outward appearances, still enjoying life. Yet she is honest when I ask her about her secret.

These are not suicidal tendencies. They are sincere expressions of fatigue, coming from corruptible bodies. I believe it is evidence of the natural human lifespan. No matter what advances medical science achieves, humans will be ready to leave this world within a century of birth.

Because really, we're made for something beyond this.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Happy Friday!

Every Friday feels a little bit like the day before a trip out of town. Since I work outside the home on weekends, I try to make sure that the house is clean and meals are prepped before Saturday comes. It's a comfort to know that the house is ready for recreation and that dinner is at least planned as I leave my little family for the better part of these days. After all, this is Doodle's time off, and he works so hard during the weekdays. He should be able to spend time playing with his children, not cleaning floors or dreaming up likely possibilities for dinner. My goal, then, is to have everything done and ready to enjoy, every weekend.

I've been working the weekends for over a year now. I should have this routine down to a science. There are five days for me to space out the tasks of weekend preparation. And some weeks, I do just that. I cook and clean in small amounts everyday, and by Friday evening, I can sit back and relax with Doodle, who is also more than ready to sit back and relax.

But more often than not, Friday afternoon finds me on the edge of a multitasking cliff:
--3 loads of laundry in various stages of completion throughout the house
--2 sticks of butter softening in the large mixing bowl (in anticipation of restocking the cookie supply)
--vacuum plugged into the wall with only half the house traversed
--various refrigerator items sitting out on the counter waiting for dinner prep
--multiple tabs/windows open on my computer, one of which is a recipe for pizza dough, because I just remembered that one of my goals for the week was to learn how to make pizza dough from scratch
--dishes from lunch in the sink (okay, maybe there are a few there from breakfast, as well)
--a growing grocery list on the counter that I swear I will take care of this evening when Doodle comes home from work (after all, the store doesn't close until midnight)
--the breast pump set up on the couch, because we need more milk in the freezer for the baby
--did I mention that there is butter still softening in the mixing bowl?

And things become more complicated when the children decide to stagger their afternoon naps.

I've slowly made the discovery that being a stay-at-home-mom requires initiative, self-direction, and self-discipline. It's just like owning your own business. The profits aren't immediate, the hours are long and irregular, and a lot of leg work needs to be done during the start-up period before the organization will begin to run like a well-oiled machine. Like most vocations, you take out of it what you put into it.

Some Fridays, I end up going to bed late, just to tie up all the lose ends I've ambitiously started. Some weekends turn out to be freezer dinners or last-minute stops at the store on the way home from work. Some Saturdays I return home to find that my husband has done one of "my" jobs--one of those housekeeping duties that I missed or didn't finish during the week. He's a great man, and he knows that an unorganized home drives me crazy--even if it's my own fault.

Every Monday brings new resolve to stay on top of it, to arrive at the next Friday with some semblance of routine and order, and with a house set up for enjoyment of the weekend.

Week by week, more lessons are learned, whether by success or failure.

And now I must go address those sticks of butter in the mixing bowl.

Thursday, May 05, 2011


There are about 7 blog posts half-written in my head.
Instead of writing them out, I'm revamping the "look" of my page.
Which will motivate me to come back and write out my posts... right?

Monday, February 28, 2011

A few deaf men

They don't care that the baby is crying.

"Who?" you ask.

My boys--namely, my husband and my son.

Ninna is screaming and crying, ...crying and screaming.

They don't cringe, their heart rates don't sky rocket, they don't breathe faster, they don't shift in their seats, NOR do they press on the invisible gas pedal on the passenger side of the car so we can get-there-get-there-get-there and pick up the baby so she STOPS CRYING.

They don't seem to hear it.

I look over at my Doodle, who seems to be driving *just* under the speed limit; seems to be slowing down at green lights in anticipation of those lights turning yellow; seems to be totally engrossed in the conversation we're trying to have over the screaming child. He seems not to hear. the. screaming.

I glance back at my son in his car seat, legs dangling just shy of Doodle's seat. He's barely three feet away from the crying baby girl, flailing in her own car seat. But he is placidly looking out the window, holding his stuffed lamb. When he feels my gaze, his eyes shift to meet mine. Now that he has my brief attention, he points to the ribbon on his stuffed friend.

"Bwoo!" he states, showing me he knows the color of the ribbon.

"Great job!" my husband responds, as I shake my head in wonderment. "And tell Mama what color your hat is," my husband continues to encourage him.

"Bwoo!" Tigger shouts now, proud of his word.

"That's right!" my husband crows.

"Very good!" I say enthusiastically, hoping my smile masks the wince on my face. Because I can hear the crying. Screaming. Hunger? Gas? Pain? She needs me. How can they be completely unfazed by the noise coming from that little being?

It must be a mothering phenomenon. I cannot sit at peace when I hear that particular noise. I shift, fidget, wince, and press my foot on the invisible gas pedal.

Get home. Get home. Let's go.

Good thing we only live 1.7 miles from church.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Exclusive Footage

In our family, my dear husband is the one in charge of most visual media. When he recently organized and uploaded all the videos he's taken over the past few months, this one was tucked, like a secret treasure, in amongst the scenes of park swings, snow sledding, and family Christmas highlights.
This is the morning of little Ninna's birth, shortly after Tigger awoke to meet her for the first time.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Thursday Challenge

Thursday is "floor day."

At least, I like to pretend that it happens every week. I make sure to vacuum the entire house, at minimum. But on the ideal Thursday, the mop bucket comes out as well; the kitchen floors are left without scuffs and stains, and the wood floors shine by the time Doodle comes home from work.

The biggest challenge lies within this Challenge: timing the two tasks of vacuuming and mopping close enough together so that the dog and cat don't shed in the meantime. Otherwise, there is infiltration of black hair into the mop threads, and unnecessary clouding up of mop water.

Unfortunately, vacuuming is easiest early in the morning, before too many of Tigger's toys have found their way to the floor. And the mopping is best saved for the afternoon, when little ones are (ideally) nappng at the same time, and the dog also senses that it's time to mellow out on his cushy bed.

Alas, the stars did not align today; but tomorrow is Thursday, so that's when the official attempt will commence!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Myself and the two children celebrated today by going grocery shopping for the first time without my mother's help, to TWO different stores!!

We survived (wa-hoo!). Of course, what's the worst that could happen?

Oh, yes.


And it did.

It happened.

Somewhere between the two stores (that happen to rhyme with Bosco and Star-jet, respectively), Little Miss decided to make up for her recent lack of bowel activity. As in, lack of activity, I mean that we've been starting to worry after about 5 days of only wet diapers.
So she finally let it all come out. She was a mess. I mean, all over. I'll have to remember to put her car seat cushion in the laundry, actually. Blech. And since the weather is so lovely today, I didn't bring a blanket to wrap her in, so I had nothing civilized within which to transport her from the car to the Star-jet restroom. Guess what else? Yesterday, while gallivanting around the city as a family, we realized there were no baby wipes in the diaper bag. Well, we actually fixed that problem yesterday by stopping to buy a new box. However, we brought that new box of baby wipes inside the house upon our return home yesterday afternoon. So they weren't in the diaper bag! All I can say is that it's a good thing I was at Star-jet...

I somehow led Tigger by the hand (no easy feat these days) into the store and up into a cart. Meanwhile, I had Ninna-in-arms, with a jungle-animal-print changing pad wrapped around her. We went "shopping" for wipes and a new outfit for Ninna (I was doing this all one-handed, since I wasn't about to put her into the Sleepy Wrap!). As we went, I heard and felt further emissions into her diaper region. I say "region," because there definitely wasn't any more holding room in her diaper! I discreetly checked my shirt a few times, to make sure the output hadn't seeped through the changing pad onto me. I finally managed to shove our shopping cart into the narrow ladies' restroom, completely ignoring the sign that restricts bringing in "unpaid merchandise."

And that was half the battle. Tigger was so patient; it probably took me a good 10 minutes to get Ninna changed--there was nothing solid in that diaper, and I had to be extra careful not to let it all pour onto the changing pad as I removed the diaper, then her clothes. Tigger sat in the front of the cart the whole time, watching people come in and out, checking himself out in the mirror, and wincing every time the hand dryer starting roaring.

Yes, Ninna will be getting a bath tonight!!

In unrelated news, I also bought another box of diapers for her, and a training potty for Tigger. No, I'm not preoccupied with toilet issues, I swear. :P

Time Warp! 2 kids now...

I haven't written out Tigger's entire birth story yet. It's in the making, but not complete. And here, already, is the birth story of our second child. But it took a lot longer for Tigger to be born. So I'm justified. (Right?)

Baby Colette Moninne (Mo-NEEN) was born at home in the water early on Wednesday morning, January 19th at 12:49am after about 5 hours of labor, start-to-finish. 8lb 9oz, 19-1/2 inches.

Tigger slept through the whole thing, and awoke the next morning to a new baby sister!

Yes, this was a planned home birth. I love my midwife, Rebecca--she was awesome throughout all the prenatal care, the labor and delivery, and then the postnatal care, which was more adventurous than any of us would have liked.
I'd been having strong BH contractions for about 2 weeks, so from about 7:45pm when they felt a little stronger than usual, I didn't think too much about it--maybe I'm a little dehydrated, I did quite a bit today so maybe I'm more tired, etc--but Rebecca counts this time as "early labor."
I suspected that subsequent contractions were "the real thing" around 9:45pm, but since my experience with Tigger was long, slow, back labor, I was still waiting for the really difficult and painful contractions to start when Rebecca and my doula arrived around 11:45pm! I didn't believe I was in full-blown labor, even when she told me I could get into the birthing pool, and that I was "about to have a baby." Besides, my water never broke. Colette might have been born in her amniotic sac, if Rebecca hadn't needed to break through it to help her shoulders jiggle through.
I think I went through transition in the birthing pool (even with Tigger, it was the one contraction I couldn't bring myself to greet with a welcoming breath). Then I told Rebecca I was going to poop in her tub.
"That's okay," she replied. "But I think that's just the baby coming."
I gave a push and when I reached down, I could feel the amniotic sac coming forth like a bubble. Which freaked me out, actually. With the next contraction, I could feel her head. It was happening so fast. Rebecca, my doula, and Doodle all assured me that I could slow it down by blowing through a few contractions. That was the scariest part--I just wanted her out, Rebecca reminded me I didn't want her out too fast so that I wouldn't tear, and of course, I didn't want her to retreat backwards (is that even possible?). I also didn't want her where she was, because that, too, was highly uncomfortable!! I panicked and screeched that I was going to die. I didn't, though :). Her head came out, then the contractions stopped. Rebecca saw that the cord was around her neck, so she told me to stand (I had been half-kneeling up to this point). Rebecca went around the tub behind me and that's when she broke the sac and pulled Colette down a little bit to elicit another contraction, then helped her shoulders get through. The cord started pulsing again soon after she was released, but she was a little blue right at the beginning. Being born in the water, though, she was much cleaner than Tigger was when I first held him.

I lost a lot of blood, but Rebecca gave me methergine orally, and later pitocin by injection, to help contract the uterus. I stabilized by around 5 in the morning on Wednesday. However, I started losing a lot more blood on Thursday, and she came over Thursday evening around 10pm in response to a call from us updating her on my heart rate of 138 at rest, and uncontrollable headache. After she checked my blood count, it was decided that I should go to the ER. Some huge clots were removed from my uterus by manual extraction (ouch!), and I was admitted with a diagnosis of acute endometritis. The only pain I had, though, was a severe headache (which they ultimately diagnosed as a migraine); this was kind of weird because an inflamed uterus is supposed to be extremely tender, even if just touched lightly. However, 48 hours of heavy antibiotics, plus a blood transfusion, put me on my feet again. So whatever it was, I'm alive and grateful for the important role that modern medicine can play. I discharged Sunday afternoon to home, and since then I've been feeling better and better.

Colette is a very quiet, calm baby. We've been very blessed through this ordeal with that, as well as with wonderful neighbors and friends. They let me keep her with me when I was admitted to the hospital, but I needed to have another adult in the room with us at all times, in case something were to happen to me and I couldn't take care of her. So Doodle got neighbors to stay with Tigger overnight, and his boss spent some significant daytime hours with me while he went home to relieve the neighbors. My Mom changed her flight so that she arrived Saturday morning, and she stayed until February 7th.

Colette is a 14th century French saint who reformed the Poor Clares; there is actually still a branch (?) of the Poor Clares known as the Colettines. She was known to love animals, and is sometimes pictured with a lamb or a bird. My husband especially loves that piece of trivia. :)
My husband's name is Colin, my middle name is Colleen, and her godparents are from Louisiana and have French heritage. So we thought the first name really fit well.
Moninne is the nickname of an Irish saint, St. Brinne (BRIN-yeh) who is said to have been baptized & confirmed by St. Patrick. Mo-ninna actually means "my daughter" or "my little girl" in Irish. Depending on which legend you read, she got the name "Moninne" when she cured a dumb man and the first word he uttered was "Ninna Ninna," or it came about because her first word as a baby was "Ninna."

So from here on out, she will be referred to on this blog as Ninna (NEE-na).