27.3.07

Things that go bump in the night

I miss my computer. I don't like borrowing the GH's laptop to type on. Anyone know how to make changes to a wireless network without the "special number" that comes with the router? We can't figure out how to make it accept my computer without that "mysteriously missing" number.

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

In other news, the other night I was getting ready to go to bed and the boy walked out of his bedroom blinking in the light. "Do you have to go pee buddy?" I asked, hope rising in my chest that perhaps he might finally be learning to wake up and use the toilet at night.

"No mom, it's time to go, daddy says it's time to go."

"Were you dreaming Boy?"

"No... oh wait, yes I was."

"Where were you going in your dream?"

"To Beema's house."

I made him try to go pee anyway, but it was too late, the diaper was already wet.

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

The Girl has been talking in her sleep. I shared a room with my little sister for most of my childhood and she also talked in her sleep. Often she would yell out completely nonsensical things but occasionally it was coherent. I'll always remember waking up to her screaming out in her sleep, "No, it's my icecream."

Since the Girl is still sleeping in our bedroom, I'm starting to get a sense of deja vu. Almost every night I have been awakened by the sound of her screaming. Her nightmares are never the stuff of fantasy and monsters, she has far too many things closer to reality to disturb her sleep. I most often hear her yell, "No it's mine" or "I don't want it" or "NO!"

Sometimes her middle of the night dramas break my heart. Once she woke up sobbing and shrieking, something that tends to awaken the Genius Husband and the Baby. I was next to her trying to settle her right away to keep her from waking everyone. After the crying stopped, and she was settling back under her blankets she said to me, in a little tiny, tired and broken voice, "Mommy, I don't want the Boy to yell at me."

When your child's bossy behavior is causing your other child nightmares what do you do?

Then there was the recurring dream that went on for months when I was pregnant. It changed every day but the basic elements remained consistent. She was stuck in a hole, mommy saw her and didn't help her, then the bad man came and was chasing her. Some nights Beema ran over the bad guys with her car, sometimes daddy fought them off, but it always began the same, she was stuck and mommy didn't help her. Talk about tearing my heart out with a spoon. I just hope that since I was the one next to her rubbing her back and holding her when she woke up that it would sink in to whatever part of her was afraid that I would abandon her that I have not in fact done so.

Between the Baby's late night gassy episodes, the Girl's early morning nightmares, and the Boy's preference for waking at the crack of dawn and sticking his bare behind next to my face so I can check for poo after he wipes it, I'm feeling a bit tired these days. (There is nothing quite like the wake-up call that is a 5-year-old's stinky bottom that must be examined without contacts.) That's my excuse for incoherence.

21.3.07

3 months

Well sweet baby, your three month letter is hard to write with you mid growth spurt and nursing constantly, and crying when I put you down. You no longer sleep through anything, loud noises now startle you awake. That means mommy is not able to watch a show and get you to sleep at the same time. Sigh.

You are such a bright girl. We love it when you smile and talk to us, which you want us to do all the time. Everytime one of us stops to pay attention to you we are rewarded with big smiles and your attempts at conversation. You love to chat, you will spend hours just talking to me only fussing if I walk away. Even tired and hungry you will smile at me if I make eye contact with you. You are indescribably sweet.

With your ears sticking out from your head like that, and your big blue eyes that look like they will pop right out if you open them any wider you look like a little elf, an elf that does Kung-fu. You thrash your arms and feet around like you are practicing some ancient form of martial art and are getting ready to give the gerber baby a good thrashing. You have at last perfected the move that involves grasping a wayward hand with the other and pulling it toward your mouth where you proceed to attack it with all the ferocity your toothless gums can muster, drowning it in drool. Soon you will be able to use this technique on everything within reach and nothing will be safe from the drool monster.

You laugh now, and you like to be tickled. You love your swing and exclaim excitedly over and over again when we put you in it. You have people amazed at how strong your neck is, you can hold your head up indefinitely now which is a definite advantage to one who likes to look around as much as you.

Can I tell you a secret? You are so wonderful that I want to do it all again. The thought of another baby actually excites me, and that's saying a lot considering how difficult I found the 9 months you were inside me. You are worth every single moment of discomfort, sadness, and depression that I went through before you arrived. It's hard to explain how your presence here has blessed me, has blessed all of us, and yet I know, I carry the conviction within my heart and body that you have changed me, changed us, for the better by being here. It's almost as though the feeling of peace and surrender that I experienced during your birth has stayed with me through these past three months, and I am not fighting to be anything other than your mother anymore. Somehow the internal struggle I live with has stilled for a time and I find myself content with life as it stands and that is a rare gift that spills joy into everything else.

I love you Baby, I look forward to the many days to come.

16.3.07

Why is my baby still asleep?

It's almost two in the afternoon and she has yet to wake up. She fell asleep last night before midnight and aside from two nursing times last night she is still sleeping. I keep going in to check on her and she is in fact still breathing.

I made challah bread first thing this morning. She was still asleep. So I made this complicated custard for dessert that involves beating the egg whites and poaching little mounds of them in the milk to place on top later, it took a while. She was still asleep. I made lunch. She is still asleep. That's almost 15 hours so far. This is kind of freaky.

15.3.07

Dear little Girl,

It’s hard being the middle child, I know, there is an older sibling bossing you around and a younger sibling getting all of the attention that you used to get. It irritated me the other day when our neighbors looked at and talked to the Baby for a long time, and didn’t even look at you. You sat there next to me smiling so sweetly and I hoped you wouldn’t notice that they were ignoring you. I realized it was a good time to give you some attention and so you and I smiled at each other and gave hugs and kisses while they were distracting the Baby.

I’ve relaxed my expectations of you more than I should have the past week or so. I’ve been so tired from late nights with Baby that I just ignored it on occasion when I told you to do something and you ran off to play instead. I’m sorry about that, it doesn’t help you to learn when I’m not consistent, and I’m sure that is a contributing factor in the way you have started to crumble and cry at the drop of a hat, especially whenever we say “No” to you. It's also harder to re-learn the boundaries when you got used to having them relaxed. Is there anyway I can help you understand that just because we don’t give you everything you want doesn’t mean we don’t love you, or are in any way rejecting you? It’s exactly the opposite actually. There have been a few good moments on my part, like the way I let you fully experience the disappointment caused by one of your choices. You were angry that I told you to let your brother have a turn riding the horse next to the grocery store. You were so angry that just to spite us all you refused to ride it when it was your turn. Only it didn’t bother us that much, but it made you very sad. I gave you one last chance and you refused to respond, so we walked away. You waited until we were 2 blocks away before you suddenly realized that you still wanted to ride it. I wanted so badly to take you back and let you, but I didn’t. I let you cry, and I let you realize how you had hurt yourself by holding onto your anger. That was a hard day for you. It was hard for me too, because I just want to give you everything you want, all of the time, even that real horse you want so you can ride on it.

You know all of those times when you just start to scream when I walk away from you to do something? I love you then too. Even though you are shrieking and clawing at me and pulling on me or the Baby and sobbing, I love you, and I would love to just sit and hold you all day and read to you, but sometimes I need to pee. And you know what, when you ask me for something to eat I can’t hug you and make food at the same time. I’ve tried but it’s just not possible. I know you are tired and I know you feel sad and insecure sometimes, that’s why my every free moment has been spent with you and the house is a disaster and the laundry still needs doing. You matter more to me than these things. Have you noticed yet that I give you hugs all the time except when you shriek and pull and yell and have a tantrum over them? Have you noticed that as soon as you calm down I am there to hold, and to listen? Have you noticed that when you stop your screaming to listen to me I often have a satisfactory solution to the dilemma that saves you from all of that crying?

I know it’s hard when your brother is bossy. And he is a lot lately, something I’m trying to help him to stop. I know it irritates you when he talks to you in his superior 5-year-old voice and tells you that you’re wrong. I’m actually impressed with how much patience you have for him, the way he tells you what to do when you’re playing together, the way he just stands in your way and makes it hard to do something, or tells you how to do it, or takes over completely. It’s interesting that he’s started to tell you to hurry up or we will leave without you, which isn’t true by the way, and I don’t know where he got it because I don’t remember ever saying that. Sometimes though it makes you downright angry to have him pestering you, and I don’t blame you. I’d like to punch him sometimes myself, but that doesn’t mean I do, and that doesn’t mean I’m going to let you get away with it either. Though privately I think it would help him learn to not be like that if he got hit a few more times. I’m not going to let you become one of those people who think that violence is an okay choice if you are provoked enough. So he will have to learn a different way.

It makes me really happy that you genuinely love your sister, and that even though you have regressed a bit and become more clingy and needy you don’t consider any of it her fault at all. I like the way you are the first to tell me that she’s awake and demand that I go to pick her up. I like that way I catch you smiling at her when she’s looking at you. I like the way you always want to see her, to look at her and to touch her. I’m sorry for the times when I have spoken a little too sharply to you when you get carried away in your exuberant interactions with her. I know you don’t mean any harm, but she’s very tiny and I get nervous. Sometimes I have to stop you in order to protect her. But I have been overly severe once or twice and I apologize for that. More often than not I’m grateful for you and your attention to her because it keeps her happy for a while longer while I get some things done.

It’s hard for you in the mornings when I am teaching your brother school, you want all of my attention there too. I’m hoping exclusive use of play dough will help you while I explain vowels to him. It’s hard for both of you when I don’t let you talk at once, and I make you say excuse me, and wait your turn to talk. You would talk all day long if I let you and you have so much you want to say. But I can’t properly hear anything you say if you try to yell over you brother. I know it’s challenging, and I want you to know you are doing an excellent job.

I just wanted to tell you that I know this is a difficult transition for you, and I think you are handling it really well. I love you. I love to snuggle with you in the afternoon; my hearts melts when you smile into my eyes and give me kisses. I am captivated by your freckles and your cute little nose. I want to keep you forever close to me as you are now, even as I try to help you to grow up. We will both get through this, and we’ll be stronger because of it. I promise.

12.3.07

Instructions?

After the Boy was born I would have these moments when the magnitude of the responsibility I had just undertaken would slam into me. It’s unnerving to think all of a sudden that if I got it wrong, this child could die. It wasn’t anxiety exactly, just these moments, as I was bathing him for example, when I would suddenly think thoughts like, “I am the only one keeping this kid alive right now. If I walk away he will die.” It usually had the result of causing me to hyper vigilant for a while, and humbled and awed by the role I now found myself in. Those moments just kept slamming into me over and over until I barely notice them now. There are all of those days at the swimming pool, and standing under the ladder at the playground to catch if they fall, and sleeping with one ear open, and putting the things they shouldn’t ingest somewhere else, and generally panicking when they’re outside and it’s been longer than a minute since I last saw them. Living under this mantle of responsibility has become commonplace, a regular part of my day.

In addition to these however are the crisis moments, the times when I feel all alone and the weight of figuring out what to do is a bit overwhelming. When the Boy was two I was visiting one of my best friends for a few days and staying at her house. They didn’t have any children yet, but they did have a chocolate lab puppy. The boy and the dog loved playing with each other and chasing around the house. My friend’s husband is a welder and they have a very unique dining room table that he made. It has a metal frame and legs and a glass top. (Do you see where this is headed?)

Sunday morning we were just about to leave for church, I called the Boy to leave off of his running around with the dog in order to leave. He was laughing looking behind him at the puppy that was chasing him. SMASH. We watched in almost slow motion as the corner of the glass top table caught him square in the mouth and threw him onto his back.

I was already running and shouting, too late of course, and rolled him over to see blood spilling out of his mouth and his front tooth bent sideways and pointing into his mouth. I choked back the urge to start screaming hysterically and crying and wringing my hands uselessly. Instead I asked for a clean cloth to soak up the blood so I could get a better look. The Boy was screaming and delirious and fighting me, and so I had to get my friend’s husband to help me hold him down. I looked into the pale concerned faces of my friends and announced, “The only thing I’ve heard to do with teeth is to straighten them out as soon as possible so they won’t set crooked.”

I stared at them, willing one of them to become the expert I needed, wishing I could talk to the Genius Husband who was on the road in a different country far away from us, or a doctor or dentist, wishing some one would tell me what to do. Instead they shrugged and said, “You’re his mom.”

There it was again, the never-ending burden of deciding another’s fate. I took a deep breath, reached inside his bloody mouth and with my fingers carefully and painstakingly pulled the loose tooth straight again. For several days I checked it to make sure it was straight and hadn’t moved and my vigilance paid off because that tooth is still straight. It would be a crowning achievement in my mommy career if I hadn’t failed to notice, until it was too late, that the tooth next to it was also knocked slightly askew, and remains so until this day. Every time I notice it I feel a mixture of relief that I got it back to almost normal, chagrin over the crooked tooth, and worry as I wonder how much we’ll have to pay an orthodontist to correct the problem.

That same friend just sent me a package a little while for the Baby. One of the items she sent was a little bib with the caption, “Instructions not included.”

Ain’t that the truth?

8.3.07

International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day and I thought it would be fitting considering all of my ramblings about being a woman if I did something to notice this particular day.

Women the world over still live in poverty, are victims of violence, are often refused education and bear a greater load of the care-giving burden when it comes to taking care of families. How can we, as women who are in a much better position than most of our sisters, help?

So I have a few ideas that work for me. Today I am finally contacting my local WIC chapter to see if I can volunteer to teach nutrition and budgeting classes. Kim mentioned this to me ages ago and today is the day I am going to do it. After all, one of the biggest obstacles for women is lack of education. Knowledge is power, so I will share what I know.

Since the birth of the boy we have sponsored a little boy in Rwanda who lives with his grandmother after the death of both parents. I always planned to sponsor a little girl after the Girl was born but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I think sponsorship is a great way to help because it costs barely anything and significantly improves the lives of children within their own family and community. There are a ton of agencies that arrange to sponsor children and improve communities through education and development. You can choose one that you like best. This week I am calling to sponsor another child and I will be specifying a girl. I want it to be in a country where girls are most at risk of being sold into the sex trade. I know it’s only one girl, and that won’t solve things for a different girl, but I can at least help one, and you can too, and if enough of us help one other girl somewhere to grow to adulthood free of HIV and other diseases and equipped with an education and skills we can make a huge difference. Girls grow up to become mothers, they are the ones who will teach the next generation what they know and we can add to that by helping one today.

Third, we can support single mothers the world over who are supporting themselves through cottage industries. These necklaces are beautiful; I have a few. The women who make these live in a township in South Africa and this is how they support their families. I personally know the people distributing their wares in the US and I can vouch for the fact that every penny goes back to these women. I have an amazing bag that was hand woven by some Karen refugees in northern Thailand. (The government of Burma/Myanmar is systematically eradicating the Karen and many are fleeing in Thailand.) These women use a couple of sticks and some thread and weave these amazing colorful purses. It takes about three days to finish one; they are selling for $20-$30 depending on size. Mine is the most comfortable bag I’ve ever worn and doubles as a purse and diaper bag. I just phoned the woman who I got mine from and she hasn’t finished her website yet, but if you are interested let me know and I’ll see what I can do to get you one. Again, all of the money goes back to these women and their families. Before my friend found them they were selling them to tourists for $5 a bag. Now they are making a decent wage off of their three days of labour, by village standards.

Fourth, I'm doing what I can to teach my son to respect woman and to protect those who are weaker than him. And I'm doing my best to be a strong role model for my daughters, to be for them the kind of woman I hope they become and to make their path a little smoother.

So those are my thoughts for the day. Does anyone else have some good ideas? Please share.

7.3.07

I never saw that coming.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you stop and look at yourself, or someone else and sort of mentally compare what they are like now with how they were, say 10 years ago? Every so often I feel a little shocked as I survey the changes that some of my long time friends have gone through over the years as they become mothers. It’s as though my teenage self pops her head out to look around and exclaims, “What the heck?”

There was the time I was in my best friend’s house after a couple years absence and asked her who gave her all the canned jams I spotted in her pantry. “Oh I did that.” She replied. WHAT! This is the girl whose entire gourmet repertoire in high school was burned grilled cheese and mac’n’cheese spirals, and sandwiches. This is the girl in whose closet I sat in the 3rd grade reading Trixie Beldon books together racing to see who could finish the page first. She was usually a sentence ahead. This was the girl who would never get married, never have children, who claimed to not have a domestic bone in her body, who ended up beating the rest of us down the aisle. Now she makes her own jam and cinnamon buns from scratch.

Another friend was the height of cool and stylish when I met her. She wore designer shoes, her outfits were always perfectly coordinated. She was always hip and super pretty, lecturing the rest of us on our style transgressions. Imagine my surprise when she had a spur of the moment wedding, in a borrowed wedding dress that didn’t quite fit and less than a year later was talking to me about finding cloth diapers and the home birth she was planning. Huh?

I have another friend who didn’t like children when I first met her. They made her nervous and uncomfortable and she wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. Now she has two of her own, natural births, breastfed both of them. She’s a great mom. She’s learned to sew beautiful things. The mind boggles sometimes at the transformation a few short years can produce.

Then there was another friend. The blogging world knows her as Journey Mama. We met when she was 18. She was this slender, dreamy, fragile looking girl who made beautiful art and poetry, who liked to smoke, a lot, who hung out in coffee shops with skater guys and talked about silly and wonderful things and spaced out often. Now she has 3 gorgeous children, and does things that are amazing to me like keeping track of the finances for an entire ministry. She has so much in her hands and she manages it all well. (Don’t believe what she tells you, she really does do a good job.) And she knits.

I guess what’s fascinating about it to me is that these are the kinds of things I associate with my grandmother’s not with my friends. None of us talked about becoming homemakers, none of us cared really about acquiring the skills it takes to run a household, or raise children, and yet here we are, and we have done just that. Somehow we have become homemakers, almost in spite of ourselves. It’s totally normal and yet totally weird at the same time.

5.3.07

The Helper

The Boy just walked up to me this morning and completely unsolicited declared, "Mommy, I'd be happy to help the Girl pick up all of the toys."

I love it when he tries to talk like a grown-up. I could tell he was pleased with himself because of the way he grinned and capered after I smiled at him and told him thank-you. Now he is eagerly picking up toys with her.

Some days I feel really good about how this parenting thing is going.

1.3.07

Today

Today is a paradox. Today I’m a paradox. Today is full of hope. Today is full of neglect. I have hope that we are turning a corner as a family, that things will get better that the future is brighter. I have a good foundation for this hope, and yet won’t be surprised if it turns out to be false. Yet my response is to neglect the elements of this day that should have my attention, reading to the Boy, tidying the house, setting things in order for the changing tides of the next few days. Instead I am craving words, pretty words, words that express and move and carry me away. I am reading the words fashioned by others, I want to write my own. I am responding to the careless way I have spilled out words this past while, wanting to take them back, to make them pretty, to give them order and poetry that I feel they lack.

Today the Genius Husband rose early and stayed for breakfast; made breakfast for the kids and myself. Today he smiled easily. Today his voice was full of life and hope. I fell in love with him partly because of the strength of his hope, his boundless optimism, his ability to craft words to create ideas and visions, to make others want to participate with him in making those dreams real. I watched him apparently lose all of that over this last year, it slowly drained from his soul like blood taking the life with it and leaving a deathly grayness behind. The past few days I have watched life return, there has been an infusion of hope and I am quietly full of gladness in ways that are beyond expression. Today I have the memory of recent laughter, his and mine mingled in the late evening stillness. Today I want to hold close to me this weightless moment, this pause for air, this freedom from the heavy burden that overshadows so many days. I want to hold it against the days to come, the disappointments and set backs that are part of life, the days when I feel as though we are in a hole and our efforts to get out are only collapsing it around our ears and shoulders.

Today I feel free, as though someone has shoved me blinking out into the sunlight from a dark hole. Today the sunlight feels like a gift. Today I don’t want to think about whether or not this is going to last, I just want to enjoy it. So today I will take it easy, and be thankful for the sunshine, outside, and in our hearts. I will breathe deeply of fresh air, turn my face to the sun, and hope that it will give me strength for whatever is to follow.

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