Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Three

Jack didn't like the number 2.

At all.

If you have read Rare Bird, you'll know that as a little guy (around 6 years old) grappling with OCD, his compulsion was to "even things up." An inadvertent tap on the left leg meant a tap on the right HAD to follow, sometimes on a loop. OCD is a bossy illness, and who likes to be bossed around?

I'm not loving the number 2 right now either.

In my almost 47 years on earth, I do not remember living in such a divisive time. Me vs. You. Us vs. Them. Insiders vs. Outsiders. There is an attempt to make someone else into "other" in a way that says, "our differences are too great." I will stay right here in my box and not worry about what's happening to you over there in yours. I will close my eyes and cover my ears if necessary, or occupy myself with distractions if need be, but I will not see your pain.

No one wants to be a humble servant, and to be teachable, when power or perceived power is so much more alluring.

We value fame over mercy.

We'd rather be right than be kind, and oh, we're absolutely sure we are right.

We feel that money or status somehow equals value, and that poverty is a moral failing.

We have a hard time looking beyond our own experiences into those of someone of a different color, gender, or from a different culture.

The number 3 had an entirely different effect on Jack than 2 did. It was his favorite number. I was happy that baby Andrew was born on April 3rd, because I think his big brother would get a kick out of that.

Three reminds me of the trinity. The three persons of God-- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, push me out of my comfort zone. Three says, while it may hurt your brain to try to understand these distinct yet unified, equally important parts, here we are. I don't get to choose which person of God is "the best." The trinity continuously says NO to duality and YES to mystery. NO to "other" and YES to THREE.

The trinity says, "It's complicated, but we're holy, and we're here in it with you."

The difficulty it takes to grasp the Trinity, the three, leaves room for NOT knowing/understanding everything. To not oversimplifying. To being humble, and open, and not shutting down in the face of messiness or having our own weaknesses exposed. To asking for guidance and mercy as we try to grasp the infinite love of God, even when we see hate springing up all around us. Three not two.



"Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life."-- St. Francis of Assisi

Monday, September 19, 2016

My Baby is So Advanced, He Can Turn a Baby Cold into a Man Cold



Andrew was in day care about 5 days before he brought home his first cold. I don't want to let him out of the house ever again. Having tended to my other babies, many years ago, I thought I knew how to handle baby colds: a lot of snuggling, using a nasal aspirator and humidifier, and doing a bit of tending in the night.

This baby, however, managed to go full-on Man Cold on me.

Here's how my baby's cold is like a man cold:

A Man Colder denies he has a cold until he has spewed his germs everywhere. "It's just allergies." "Is something wrong with the thermostat?" "I'm really tired." A Man Colder is always the last to know he has a cold, yet the cold surprises no one but himself. Naturally, he has managed to touch all of the remotes in the house during the denial stage. Baby Andrew kept up with a rousing weekend of accompanying his sis to the orthodontist, going to church, and attending a party and staying out past bedtime. But the purple tinge around his eyes, the crying jags, and his inability to take a nap longer than 1/2 an hour suspiciously pointed to a cold, which eventually kicked in with dramatic fashion.

A Man Colder, once his cold is identified, cannot maintain a schedule and routine. While a woman will likely keep working, mothering, or campaigning for president while ill, a man cold makes the sufferer's life grind to a screeching halt, with a big, "I'm so sick!" preferably uttered amid coughs and sniffles, so that it sounds more like, "I'm tho thick!"A large pile of wadded tissues on the floor adds dramatic effect. For baby Andrew, who has gifted us with 8 and even 10 hour stretches of sleep for months, it meant jettisoning his routine, waking within 45 minutes of being put down for the night, and staying up, with much weeping and wailing, until dawn crested our hill.

A Man Colder must drag others into his suffering. Not able to quietly suffer, or, God forbid, suck it up, he needs to know that YOU KNOW just how ill he is. If he doesn't think there is enough attention coming his way, he might embark on a coughing fit, accidentally drop his mug of tea to the floor with a clatter because his feeble wrist can no longer hold it, or weakly summon you from another part of the house to bring him a small, ripe clementine, peeled, if you wouldn't mind. Under no circumstances should you give a Man Colder a bell to ring, even if it seems like it could make this process more efficient. You may also want to turn your text notifications way, way down. Andrew was not content to drag just his mother, his main squeeze, into his misery. He had to make sure his dad, both dogs, and the stressed out teenager in the next room were sufficiently aware of his inability to sleep. Only when the entire household was buzzing around him trying to figure out how to use a gadget called a Nose Frida, was he mildly satisfied.

A Man Colder's suffering waxes and wanes. Certain times of day are the worst for Mr. Man Cold, such as when it comes to working, attending Back to School Nights, or shuttling kids around, but he might be able to rally just a tad when watching sports on TV or if an intriguing opportunity arises, such as a corn hole game in the cul de sac. Andrew was completely miserable. Hour after hour passed with screaming and wailing, but when I took him to the basement to allow other family members a chance to get some sleep, he was wide awake and happy as a clam. All of the enticements of our rarely-visited basement, like a couch and a clunky old TV, captivated him. He didn't care that it was now 3 am; he found his smile again, and it was party-time! Oooh! Is that a Shop Vac?

During the night, I had a running tape going in my head: "I can't do this! I'll never sleep again! I'm too old for this crap! What if his routine is ruined???" The morning sun, or at least the morning drizzle, made me realized I may have catastrophized a bit, kind of like a Man Colder.

The baby and I are staying home today, watching cartoons, cuddling, and, I hope, napping!



Monday, September 12, 2016

Contain This


We are deep into the receptacle stage of parenting right now.

Throughout the house, there are places to park the baby when we need to put him down. Bouncy seat in the family room. Exersaucer and high chair in the kitchen. Johnny Jumper in the bathroom doorway. Bumbo in the living room.

I remember when Jack was little, I strictly limited his time in the exersaucer, not wanting it to inhibit his development. Now I'm just hoping to get Andrew though the next stage of childhood without being licked to his limit by Charlie the dog during floor time, rolling somewhere unsafe, and, well, these Hello Fresh dinners won't cook themselves.

Sometimes we just need a safe place to put him.

At five months, he's now big enough for this fun seat my (much younger) cousin told me about, that hangs on our kitchen counter:

 (affiliate link)

Remember this stage? He can't quite sit up unassisted, but he really wants to. He starts out okay, then does a forward bend to make any yogi proud, tilts off to one side, and ends with a surprise (to him) landing, looking up at the ceiling.

When Jack and Margaret eventually sat up on their own, I was blown away by how straight they kept their backs. To a baby, posture is serious business and could teach this mama a thing or two about not slouching over the computer.

It will be nice when Andrew can sit up and all of these plastic receptacles can be passed down to the next child (in a DIFFERENT family,  mind you), but for now, they keep the little guy happy.

However, carpet time will always be the best time, because it comes with built-in fun--- FEET.






Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Parenting my Heart, 5 Years Later

For a Parent on the Death of a Child
No one knows the wonder
Your child awoke in you,
Your heart a perfect cradle
To hold its presence.
Inside and outside became one
As new waves of love
Kept surprising your soul.

Now you sit bereft
Inside a nightmare,
Your eyes numbed
By the sight of a grave
No parent should ever see.

You will wear this absence
Like a secret locket,
Always wondering why
Such a new soul
Was taken home to soon.

Let the silent tears flow
And when your eyes clear
Perhaps you will glimpse
How your eternal child
Has become the unseen angel
Who parents your heart
And persuades the moon
to send new gifts ashore.

Written by John O’Donohue and published in  “To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings”


Thank you, Jack, for all the gifts you have given me in life and in death. Loving you is an honor. I choose joy every day, and I bet that makes you proud.

XOXO, 

Mom

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Love, Jack

I am crazy about the necklace Christine from No Way Out  made me:

Isn't it lovely?

It was hard to decide which handwriting sample to pick. I could have used this signature (see name tag):



Or, I could have used his extremely neat handwriting from his last day with us that said:

Jack Donaldson
September 8, 2011 

on the top of several pages in his 7th grade notebooks.

Or his sweet first grade handwriting, from a school that still teachers cursive:


Instead, I picked this messier sample of unknown origin because it cracked me up. I found it in a file folder.


I have no idea what grade he was in, but I assume he was supposed to write his parents a love note. Knowing Jack, he tried to make it his own by insisting it be only one sentence, while everyone else filled up the page. That's why I choose it.

It's so easy (for me) to get caught up in a desire for the apparent ease of conformity. It's harder to remember to love our kids for their unique qualities.

I hope Jack taught me a little bit about how to do that.




Sunday, August 28, 2016

August

I've kind of lost track of time, but it appears that Baby Andrew will be 5 months old in a week or so! You are WELL OVERDUE for some new pictures, so here you go!






Hard to believe I've spent nearly 5 months wearing a hole in this couch, or doing my circuit between kitchen and living room, to lull him to sleep in the front carrier. We are doing well. I must say I don't feel older or more tired than I did 17 years ago, but maybe I just felt pretty old and tired back then.

A lot of friends are on the cusp of becoming empty-nesters right now, as I thought I would be in three years, so I think the biggest adjustment has been getting used to the idea that next 18 however many years I have left will look different than what I'd imagined. You might think I'd already grasped that, having lost Jack, but a new baby is just another re-imagining or recalibration of my expectations.

Speaking of changes: Andrew starts daycare in about 2 weeks! Yeah, you can start praying now, because we chose the FARTHER AWAY ONE since they could do part-time, whereas the close one (2 minutes away) could only do full-time. For a car-hating baby and his mom, this could be interesting. Oh, and have I told you we live in the traffic capital of the universe so every trip takes twice as long as it should?

I am looking forward to getting back to work. Some immediate goals are:


  • hiring a speaker's agent 
  • speaking engagements
  • pitching and writing articles for magazines 
  • deciding what sort of book to write next


I admit that the first few days of childcare may look a little more like:

  • taking a nap
  • meeting up with a friend
  • scheduling some "alone time" with Tim 
These waning days of summer are usually difficult for me. 

They remind me of the last few days/weeks before Jack's accident. The first week of school is rough, too. This year the crapiversary of Jack's accident, September 8, falls on the 3rd day of school, which is also Back to School night, and Andrew's first day in childcare.  Gah.

Oh, have I mentioned this would be Jack's senior year? That feels like a lot.  

Surrender. Embrace. Live. Love.

Love you guys!



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Groundhog Day

Do you ever feel like you are buying the same things over and over?

I've been doing some major culling around here, and am appalled at the volume of STUFF we have compared to the rest of the world. Having a teenage daughter and a new baby doesn't help, because both of those stages seem to be rather, um, acquisitive. Large plastic items litter the surfaces in my house, and my barely 5 ft tall girl has shown me just how expensive per square inch, little shorts can be.

I 'm proud of my reputation for being frugal. I order water at restaurants. My towels are the ones that went to college with me in 1987. Most of our furniture is from the thrift store. My Grandpa Harris would be happy, a bit more so if I could just up my twine game.

But there are some things I seem to buy again and again and again. Here are my top offenders:

1) Eyelash curlers:
I've been using eyelash curlers since 7th grade. They are made of metal, and should probably last a lifetime. Yet my teens, 20's and 30's are paved with discarded eyelash curlers. I'll buy one, carefully tuck away the extra rubber pads for safekeeping, and use it for a year or so. Then, it will start acting wonky, I won't be able to find the pads, and I'm off to buy a new one. It's only when we move, about every 5 years or so, that I find stashes of useless rubber crescents from the eyelash curlers of the past.

2) Door mats:
I buy too many of these because they hold so much promise. "Welcome to our house!" they say in their juicy summer colors, chevron patterns, or realistic fall leaves. They are like a mini-facelift for the home. A big monogrammed one makes me feel super-classy.  Until they get shmutzy, and moldy, and their message starts to say, "Stay away." I have yet to find a welcome mat that holds up to the weather, but as my many trips down the housewares aisle will attest, I won't give up trying. Oooh! Does that one have HYDRANGEAS on it?

3) Thermometers:
Nothing like been stressed about a sick child to make you go out and buy a new thermometer. "Where the hell is the thermometer? " we'll growl, stress levels rising. We even have a plastic basket in our linen closed that says THERMOMETERS on it, but at 2 in the morning, it's more like the failed thermometer graveyard. There's one that needs replacement batteries in a size I can never remember, and the Sponge Bob one that never seemed very accurate. I did find out from Tim recently that he thought when Sponge Bob played music, to indicate it was finished taking a temp, he thought "the happy music" meant you had no fever. So, I guess some of those mis-reads were human factor issues. Why do we keep the failed thermometers in the basket? I don't know. With the new baby we have a cool app-based thermometer that plugs into our cell phones! We'll see how that goes.

4) Throw pillows:
Never mind.  Throw pillows are life. You can never have too many. Kind of like buying a little bit of hope in the Target aisle.

5) Nail clippers:
I buy extra, even though I've never heard of clippers ever wearing out or being thrown away. I place them all around the house like the glasses of water in the movie M. Night Shyamalan's Signs, so that when Tim has an urgent nail clipping EMERGENCY, he doesn't freak out too much.

6)Fish Oil:
Yeah, I buy a lot of fish oil, knowing that it will lead to silky hair, a better brain, and God knows what else. Then I leave it in the cupboard until it expires, and do it all again. See also: Calcium Supplements.

I could go on. Shower Caddies, miracle eye creams, makeup brushes anyone?

So, I'm wondering if I'm the only one with wasteful habits in need of reformation!  What are you top offenders when it comes to re-buying?