Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ten Month Update: May 25, 2012

"Happy A-Birf-Dee!  Happy A-Birf-Dee" sings Devon.  I'd be flattered that he gets it, but I know better.  For the past two weeks he's sung the birthday song three times a day.  To himself.

"Happy A-Birf-Dee Dawon!"

He also learned to blow by blowing bubbles in the bathtub, enough so he can actually blow out a candle.  We lit my candle six times.  This picture is precious, especially the detail of my left hand straitjacketing him on the sly, keeping him from reaching for the fire with both hands.

I'm just glad he's feeling better.  We spent most of last week waiting out the flu. 

Monday night at midnight I broke my personal record of the most diapers changed in a single hour (10).  Ironically, only one child produced all the diapers.

By the time the twins woke up on Tuesday morning and started contributing, the Diaper Genie wasn't keeping up and I started piling the diapers in the laundry basket.

Wednesday night I thought Devon was finally over it.  I put some plain crackers on his tray, placed a steaming plate of food before Craig, heard a noise, turned around, and--

I know you don't want details.

Craig Lysolled the floor.

I changed Devon's clothes.

We glanced much later at our dinner, frowned, and put it away.

I went to Target with the girls to buy Sprite and Pedialyte.  When I got home, Devon was already in bed and Craig was sponging the carpets.

Yep, I can write a blog post like last week's about the joys of service, but I guess I haven't reached the point where I can serve my family joyfully and uncomplainingly 100% of the time.  It's good for my pride to be taken down a peg.  Sometimes I'm sitting in the pen as my cute, happy children giggle and climb on me.  Then I get up and walk across my non-crumbly floors to check dinner in the oven and I sigh and think Take THAT, Virginia Woolf.  The Angel of the House is ALIVE and living in Vero Beach!!!  I forget that I will never be the mom I desperately want to be without some serious help with my melancholic streak.

This week caught me glumly reading the Imprecatory Psalms and whining O Lord, how long will you allow my wicked, microscopic flu virus foes to rise up against me???

These days tested my firmest resolutions, especially my no-tv-'till-you're-three rule.  Parents that let their sick kids lay on the couch and mainline Veggietales until they feel better are getting NO judgment from me. What does one do with a sick child, especially when you have to put him down for several hours a day to clean up the mess?

Devon was wearing a shirt just minutes before I took this picture.  That needs no explanation.  Yes, those are his ribs.  The downside to having a toddler with a six-pack is that when he gets sick his metabolism burns up all his stored energy and he goes from perfect specimen to prairie winter survivor in two hours.

No, this is not Devon watching television.  Grammy provided a daily variety show of peekaboo, this-little-piggy, books, and songs over Skype.  Sometimes I think her 20+ year teaching career is a dress rehearsal for her magnum opus: being the most creative, thoughtful, dedicated Grammy I could ever imagine.

Devon now thinks the laptop is called "Skype-a-Grammy."

When all else failed, he napped.

The low week came after last weekend's high of another birthday.

No wonder Devon has the song stuck in his head.

(Here is how we try to make the girls smile.)

To celebrate, we had a super-fun trip to the zoo.  We've been wanting to go since a month ago, when we visited Smoky Mountain National Park and were charmed by the way that Devon responded to the stuffed animals on display.

"Come heeeeerrrrre!" He called lovingly to the raccoons, bears, and even the skunks, opening his arms to give them some love.

Since then, he's been much more attentive to the presence of animals.

We were hoping that seeing some live ones at the zoo would give Ally Kitty a break.  She runs in terror from the force of Devon's love several times a day.

Devon enjoyed seeing the birds

and the grey foxes, even though they were "fweeping."

As always, the girls got a lot of attention.  More than some of the animals, I think.  Oops.

When Devon was sick this week, Carrie and Melina experienced some turnabout-is-fair-play, having to get by on less of Mommy's time because big brother was more needy.  Thankfully, they're almost ten months old and very active.  They spent time in the pen ...

and watching through the front windows for Daddy to get home from work.

I'm not the kind of mommy that needs tea and sympathy from the doctor every time one of my kids coughs, but on Thursday I broke down and took the kids to the doctor to see if Devon was getting enough fluids to avoid bigger problems.  An anti-nausea chewable made Devon snap instantly out of it.

I spent nine hours disinfecting the house on my birthday, but I choose not to look at it that way.  I say I gave myself the gift of a clean and germ-free house.  Two days later the tips of my fingers still burn a bit when I touch my kitchen counters, and the acrid tang of bleach is just starting to leave the air.

It's now the fashion for cleaning supplies to have new interesting scents.  I admit I'm not a fan.  I accidentally bought a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner that smells like melons, and I can't wait to use it up and go back to the old, chalky mint stuff.  I don't want my toilet to smell good enough to eat.  I want it to smell like somebody just cleaned it, especially since I caught Devon pitching his bath toys into it on Friday.

While I cleaned, the kids amused each other.  Our household experienced an almost audible click right before Devon got sick, the sound of something falling into place.

I need to start calling my kids "The Pack".  My old nickname for them was "The Crew", ever since my two-week-post-C appointment when the doctor, used to Devon following me everywhere as he examined the twins in utero, blinked at me and asked "Where is the crew?"

My kids play together! From wake-up time to nap times they bounce around the house, girls spinning circles around Devon like electrons around a nucleus.  Most of the time, they do this safely enough that I can keep an eye on them and also devote half my attention to other things that need to be done.

They go from room to room, but somehow seem to prefer the bathroom.  They surround the toilet, beating on the closed lid like a bongo drum.

I'm not sure why this is more fun than the drum and instrument set they have.  Trust me, it is.

I smile to myself and say "This is it!!!"

This is why we had kids close together, not to "get it over with", as we frequently hear.  (Do some people really think that having small kids in the house is awful and best done quickly, like ripping off a band-aid or having your husband murder the king of Scotland so he can seize the throne and you can become queen?)  My only complaint about my family is that I feel the sweet baby stage slipping away, and it hurts because sometimes I feel it's gone too fast. I find myself canceling my to-do list and resting with Melina in the late afternoons when I'd otherwise have alone time, laying her over my chest like a dressing on a wound.  Something about an inert little body curling against mine and a puff of baby breath on my neck makes me forgive all the world's injustice and hardship and pause in awe of its sweetness again.  So far, having kids is the best decision we ever made, especially the choice to give them the gift of siblings.

"Where are the sisters?  Where did the babies go?" asks Devon every morning as I go in to get him out of his crib.  If they're already up with me, they round the corner and crawl into the room towards him, gliding like speed skaters to reach him quickly and pull up on his crib.

"Babies in the pen!"  "Huggin' the sissies!"  "Carrie-Ina touch my head..." he starts, reciting a list of all the things he wants to do with them.

Their love is my best gift ever!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day, May 15, 2012

I hope your Mother's Day was blessed like mine.  My husband knows I'm not a fan of large gestures that are all money and no thought, so he and all my babies took me to get some flowers and coordinated a handmade card effort that I want to leave out on display forever and also put away immediately so Devon doesn't grab it and accidentally ruin it.

Doesn't it feel sweet to be recognized?   

Mothers spend so much time behind the scenes working really hard, and a lot of their affirmation comes vicariously.  A perfect day is not when I can sit down and rest, but when my family is healthy and happy and well behaved and I can smile at them from the kitchen and enjoy them.  A life lived in service to people that mean so much to me is truly blessed. 

Sometimes on my crazier days the inner dialogue kicks up in my head.  They have no idea all the things I do...  If they just thought for a moment about all I do...  All I do...  All I do...

Have you ever lost your temper and stopped your husband and kids to spit out an exhaustive list of what you've done for them?  I have a few times.

Did it make you feel better?  Not me.

If you struggle sometimes with feeling that all you do goes unseen and unappreciated, here's a verse for you from the book of Genesis.  It was given first to a mother, and I don't think that was an accident.  Mothers need to hear it sometimes:

God sees.

This message was first given to a woman named Hagar and recorded in Genesis 16. Hagar's story is definitely tougher than most of ours.  She was forced by her master Abraham to produce a child for Sarah, his wife.  Ironically, Hagar's resulting pregnancy didn't placate Sarah (who cooked up the whole stupid scheme in the first place) so Hagar ran away before giving birth to her son.

Just as Hagar was sitting by herself in the desert, pregnant and tired and blameless and thinking that she and her child would die, God comforted her and promised to care for her future.  In gratitude she gave a special name back to her God:  "You are the God who sees me!" (vs. 13)

Let's face it, our kids will grow up and our husbands leave for work every morning pretty clueless as to the laundry, cleaning, nursing, singing, reading, supervising, shopping, driving, scheduling, planning, budgeting, worrying, praying, and working that it takes to keep their lives running as smoothly as they do.  One day of thanks can't sufficiently reward us for it. A magazine once totaled up a year's worth of motherhood and learned that moms would get six-figure salaries if they received payment for all they did at home if they did it in the workplace.

Sometimes we fixate on thinking that they really don't see, and we're right.  They don't.  It's not their job.  All the myriad tasks we do for our families we do as unto the Lord, and God is the one who sees.

God sees when your ex-husband calls at the last minute and you make some cookies and watch a movie with your disappointed kids instead of having the only four hours of me-time you were expecting this week.

God sees when your toddler screams loud enough to cause hearing damage and instead of yelling back you take a deep breath and whisper "inside voices, please!"

God sees when you've finally got the last child down for the night and are just about to make some tea and run the bath water when your husband sits you down to listen to him vent about problems at work for two more hours.

God sees when you get up early to clean the floors, and then wonder why you bothered ten minutes after the kids wake up.

God sees when you get the pink sleepers down from storage and prepare to joyfully welcome a fourth little girl even though deep down you were hoping for a boy this time.

God sees when you finally empty the dishwasher, only to refill it and turn it on again.

God sees when you mother other people's children when their parents are too busy to enjoy them and your heart cries because you feel like you deserve to have some of your own.

God sees when you let your three-year-old do her own hair before you go to the grocery store even though you know people will stare.

God sees when you go through the buffet line and get only shredded pork and corn-on-the-cob, giving up twenty more fabulous dishes because you're breastfeeding a baby who cries for hours after you've had dairy to eat and you have to be sure.

God sees when you wear clothes that don't fit anymore because if you had money to buy new clothes you'd just buy them for your kids.

God sees when you miss your babies who never grew big enough for you to hold.

God sees when you drink a big glass of water before bedtime because getting up in the middle of the night will remind you to go check on your kids and your elderly mother-in-law who now lives with you.

 God sees when you have to go to work to provide for your kids even though all you really want to do is stay home and be with your kids.

God sees when I type a blog post standing up with the laptop on the kitchen counter and a fussy baby strapped to my chest, or when I just decide to skip posting this week because my kids need me more than I need two hours to use my brain.

I used to think of God watching me all the time in terms of what I was doing wrong, but now I think of him smiling at the good I do every day.  Every sacrifice that mothers make is being written down in God's book.  Matthew 25 says that we will be rewarded for what we do for others:

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 

When your babies were first given to you, whether in the delivery room or walking off a plane, didn't you stare at the little stranger that was going to monopolize your time from then on?  Then you got down to business: feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and nurturing the sick just as God would have you do.  Years later, you're still doing those simple and sometimes endless tasks for the little ones you love so much.

And God sees.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Waiting all Week for Sunday Morning: May 13, 2012

This photo was taken on a Sunday morning, right before I ran to break up the sibling silliness.  Ah, Sundays with three kids.  If I round the corner to the bathroom to find Devon swilling last night's discarded diaper in the toilet, yep, it's Sunday morning. If he then shot puts that diaper into the knee of my good pants so it can slither messily all the way down to my ankle, that's just par for the course.

It doesn't matter.  Now that the girls are old enough, we go to church as a family.  The first time we attempted this I was up before 7 for a three hour mad dash that I was sure I would never have the energy to repeat again.  The second time, it only took an hour and wasn't so bad.  Now getting three kids bathed, fed, into matching clothes, and buckled into the car seats is routine.  It doesn't even faze me, although it could explain the carpal tunnel pain I sometimes have on Mondays.

 I'm sure our fellow churchgoers from California and Kentucky might raise an eyebrow as to our choice of a new church home, having correctly guessed that we are used to an ultra-traditional, fourth-verse-in-the-hymnal type of service.  However, from the first week we attended First Church of God we haven't attended anywhere else.  You could say we let our kids pick our church for us, since all three are fully comfortable in the children's area and I haven't been paged in months.  I agree that I'm a big fan of competent church childcare since it gives me the only three hours a week I'm not responsible for three kids, but that isn't all of it.

It's partly that we respect the pastor, who takes a firm stand on moral issues even though the local media occasionally vilifies him for it.  It's also the way people have sought us out and befriended us even though we're (ahem!) a little on the quiet side and sometimes find it hard to make friends.  Groucho Marx didn't want to be a part of any club that would accept him as a member, but Craig and I would rather find a church where people act like we feel Christians should act.  Hopefully, their loving and welcoming spirit will challenge us to do likewise.  If everyone in a church smiled shyly and couldn't think of anything to say to start a conversation, a pattern that we occasionally fall back into, that would be a pretty quiet church!

Here are Carrie and Melina at five months, dressed up and perched in the Bumbos getting ready for their first trip to church.  Carrie and Melina love being dressed up. I really enjoy it, too.  Part of me wonders why children's clothing companies make so many cute baby shoes that don't stay on, or why I iron two baby dresses so they can be stretched around my wiggly babies and then crammed into the car seats.

I mentally give every Sunday a theme:

Flapper Sunday

Jean Jumper Sunday

Matchy-Matchy Sunday

Carrie and Melina are too little to feel insecure at being dropped off, so they coo and smile at their teachers. If it's a slow day, it's not uncommon for us to walk past the window on the way to the service and glance into the baby room to see four or five people in a semicircle around them, watching intently as Carrie and Melina pull up on a chair and slowly reach for the same toy.

Going to a new church after the move has been more of an adjustment for Devon. We're just getting over a few months of him crying foul for five minutes after being dropped off.  I credit his new excitement about church to his favorite teacher, Miss Alyssa.  Now Devon amuses himself on the drive to church by telling me what he and Miss Alyssa are going to do in the childcare that day-- or maybe what he would like to do?

"Missawissa and Dawon eatin' a pizza!"

"Whatcha doin', Missawissa?  No more pickles!  Pickles all gone!"

"Missawissa!  Achoo!  Bless you, Missawissa!"

"Missawissa and Dawon on a mokkacycle, eatin' a pizza!  Get the stroller!  Go to the beach!  Go to the beach!  Go to the beach!  Missawissa!"

We're trying to introduce the idea that church is where we go to spend time with Jesus.  In the meantime, Devon sees the love of Jesus demonstrated by the people at church, and that makes him happy.  I'm sure a small part of Devon remembers his beloved Bible Study Ladies (as we called them), the child care workers that pampered and spoiled him while Mommy enjoyed using her brain for two hours each Wednesday morning while I was pregnant with Carrie and Melina.

Part of me is sad that the kids won't grow up going to Porter Memorial, our old church in Lexington.  Craig still refers to our first Fourth of July Sunday at Porter as "The Day that Krista Got Religion."

Craig and I were sitting in the service enjoying the typical patriotic/religious themed music.  For the finale, the choir began to sing the official songs of each branch of the military and veterans were invited to stand up in turn and be recognized by the congregation.  I'd heard it just about every year, so I'm sure my mind was beginning to stray to Sunday dinner and our relaxing afternoon.

Suddenly, the music was drowned out by a huge boom, causing me to throw my arms up over my head in the full-body startle that Melina probably gets from me.  It sounded like a bomb had gone off in the parking lot, or at least an unexpected tornado had touched down.  I cowered in the pew, smelling smoke and wondering if we'd get out of the building alive.

It gradually dawned on me that nobody was running and screaming.  I opened by eyes to see a pyrotechnics display that Porter must have borrowed from nearby Rupp Arena: confetti raining down from the top of the sanctuary and dozens of sparklers showering yard-high fountains of color down over the choir and orchestra on the platform. I'm sure the impact of the event was mostly because it was so utterly unexpected, but it took fifteen minutes for my heart rate to slow to normal.

Now that we have kids, I'm kind of glad we're going to miss the yearly indoor fireworks, which were loud enough to startle the babies in the nursery.

It's interesting for us to be the family with "all those kids" after being the only couple in Sunday School with no kids, like we were at Ripon Grace where we attended church as newlyweds in California.  One of the reasons that we picked our current church was the friendly atmosphere that reminded us of our old friends there.

The only thing that puzzled us about Ripon Grace was Foot Washing.  Since Craig and I were both raised Baptist, we grew up exposed to a pretty short list of what one does in church.  I remember when the late nineties and more demonstrative worship styles hit and everyone was shocked to realize Yes, it is okay to raise one's arms in church!!!  There was no dancing at our church wedding. The only alcohol at our wedding was bought at the liquor store across the street (it's a downtown church) and smuggled in by a cousin to spike the punch of everyone at his table.  Sure, we had experiences in college camp where people were invited to wash the feet of a friend to demonstrate love and service, but when Pastor announced when communion service would be that week and that everyone would take part in foot washing as part of it, we were unsure how to proceed.

We decided to skip that one and wait a while.  Later, I heard about all the women getting Saturday night pedicures.  Then, when their friends had to wash their feet, they'd expose their pretty painted toes to receive a symbol of Christ's service for us and our service to others.  As a few more weeks went by I forgot all about foot washing. I was on summer break and coping with Craig's hideous summer harvest schedule by refinishing all the woodwork in our seventies-style house.  That meant that both of us were working fourteen hour days and had little time to contemplate individualities of church tradition.

One Saturday night I finished up the day's work and set to making myself presentable for the service the next morning.  I'd been working on the cabinet doors, using messy wood stain that often dripped on me, running down and making puddles on the ground that I couldn't avoid stepping in.  I was polka-dotted all over by oily, dark brown spots.  Removing it from my face, neck, hair, and forearms took over an hour.  I decided to stop there, wear long pants and closed-toed shoes to church the next morning, and save all-over decontamination for when the cabinets were done and I was ready to go back to school.

Imagine my surprise when Craig and I took our seats and looked in the bulletin to discover that communion service was that Sunday.  I cringed, thinking of the dried tracks of stain that dotted my ankles and the dark brown nastiness of the bottoms of my feet.  I was hoping that Pastor would go right to the bread and the cup and skip the foot washing.  No, he began the service by saying that foot washing was not only a symbol of service to others.  It was also a symbol of exposing our own secret sin to other members of the congregation so that we could be supported in prayer.

You have no idea what secrets I'm going to be exposing pretty soon!  I imagined calmly wiping the sparkly-toed, callus-free feet of a fellow churchgoer before ripping off my shoes and socks and--  I didn't know what to do.  Pastor Shirk's remarks were winding down and in only a few moments my time would be up.

"Okay, folks, we'll be heading out of the sanctuary where we're all set up to participate in the foot washing part of the service. Ladies go to the right to the Fellowship Hall, gentlemen to the Sunday School rooms on the left."  I breathed a sigh of relief.  As we filed out with the rest of the congration who obeyed the pastor's instructions, I grabbed Craig's arm and we shot straight out the back door!!!

I have to admit that I didn't fully appreciate going to church before we had kids.  I look back on a few times when I was tired from a long work week and used the old "Bedside Baptist" joke, or when Craig took our only car to do research on Sunday and I stayed home even though a service was a ten minute walk away.

During the last trimester of my high-risk pregnancy and the first few months of having vulnerable babies and no child care I really missed going to church.  Many thoughtful people brought fellowship to us by bringing us meals and making sure that we had enough help while moving.  Five different pastors from Porter looked in on me and the girls when we were in the hospital, and I'm sure at least one regretted it because I was too tired to correctly fasten my hospital gown and too medicated to care.

Now that we're back in church every week, something's different.

As the music starts up and we sing the opening song, I can't stop the tears that drip slowly down my face. 

I repeat over and over to myself: We are a family and we've come to church.  I have three kids and they're all with me in church. 

 I can't wait to bring on VBS and foam board Sunday School stories and "Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man" and fish crackers for snack and memory verses and Awana and...

I feel like for the first time in my life I truly comprehend Psalm 122:1: "I was glad when they said unto me, let us go unto the house of the Lord."

I'm more than just glad.

It's the biggest high I get all week.