Friday, March 29, 2013

It Takes Dedication: January 20, 2013

Melina kept the "pretty" in her hair for the morning dress rehearsal, but that was it.  By the time we got her dressed, she had ripped it out and refused to have it replaced.

Devon loves the part of The Cat in the Hat where they fly kites in the house, and mother's new gown with the spots that are pink, white, and red gets caught on the string. Craig once explained that it was just like something Mommy wears to church, and since then we haven't been able to get through a reading without a comment from Devon about Mommy's church attire.  As you can see, I rarely wear skirts to church.  It's something about the risk of bodily exposure from the top and bottom of a really nice outfit while running after an escaping child or wrestling one over the French door of the nursery dropoff.

The girls, however, scored lacy new dresses on January clearance to wear for the special occasion, and maybe even the upcoming family wedding if the colors are right and they still fit. 

 On Sunday, July 20th, we brought the girls before the church to be dedicated to God. All members of the immediate family usually accompany the baby to the stage so the family can be presented to the other church members.  Since Devon is still so little and needs constant supervision, we decided that he would be much more comfortable with Miss Alyssa and Miss McKenzie in his usual Sunday School class. 

As it turns out, it was enough of a job handling the girls.  You always wonder how kids will react in a new and potentially stressful situation.  Melina gazed out over the congregation, a perfect little doll in Daddy's arms.  She allowed the pastor to pick her up and hold her for a few moments, smiling an aloof little smile.

All the attention went to Carrie's head.  As we walked out on the stage, she high-fived each of the worship band members as they were leaving behind us.  Then she turned around and waved a friendly and expansive "Hi!" to everyone in the first row, not going on to the next person until each responded to her.  The friendly greeting from the pastor's wife and the visiting pastor seemed to give her a special thrill.  At this point, she tired of being in my arms and tried to get down.  I shifted her to the other arm and whispered a "no", but she wasn't buying it.  She tried to shimmy down my body like a fire pole, and my grip on her tightened.  When the pastor introduced her, she was hanging upside down with her legs around my armpits.  When he tried to give her a friendly kiss, she acted horrified and sucked her thumb, clinging to me in an ironic display of shyness.  By the time pastor was praying for them, I was turning her like a rabbit on a spit to keep her from getting down and running straight down the steps.

After Sunday dinner, we sang "Jesus Loves Me" together over a strawberry and vanilla dedication cake.  All three of the kids' names were on it.

I honestly can't remember a word that was said over Carrie and Melina, and I wish I could've taken a moment while forcibly restraining my child to think and pray. Like most other moments in parenting, you can either DO it or think about it. You don't have time for both.

The important thing is, Carrie and Melina belong to God.  We didn't give them to Him by dedicating him, but rather recognized that they already are his.  We hope one day they will give their hearts to him as a matter of their own choice.  Until then, we do our best to teach them about God.

And we ate some really good cake.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Don't Order the Gumbo: March 28, 2013

The megablocks are back out of storage.  Already.  I feel like they were just cluttering up the pen and getting underfoot a second ago, when Devon was a toddler and the girls were still nursing twelve hours a day.  He outgrew them and I put them in the spare room closet.  Before I even decided which of our friends to gift them to, the girls were sneaking in there to dig through them when I wasn't looking.

It's one of the few perks to having a few kids really close together.  I may have lost the hand-me-down lottery overall, but at least I don't have to save things for very long.  The robot is, of course, a Daddy-and-Devon creation.  Thankfully they snapped these photos right away, because the moment I lifted Carrie out of her crib the next morning she spied it in the pen and ran to it, lifting its head off its body and laughing.

So long, C3PO.

As I mentioned in the last post, we've had a pretty sick three months.  Lots of extra sippies and Lightning McQueen Kleenexes have been in order.

Devon had his first course of antibiotics ever, for an ear infection.  Eight days in we discovered yet another way he takes after my side of the family.  Devon is allergic to penicillin products.  They give him pinpoint hives all over his body.

Thankfully, when you're almost three years old popsicles cure most of the evils in the world.

"Look, Mommy!" he says.  "All of the engines are watching me color!"

I watch the engines watch my big boy color a picture of... engines. 

Thankfully, he finally seems to be over the phase where he colors the walls, floor, siblings, and pretty much anything that isn't made out of paper.  Whew.

"Shhh, Mommy. I'm talking to Uncle Tim and Auntie Bojana. Because they're here!" says Devon when I check on him, hours after he should be asleep.

I'm still trying to get the girls to tolerate a "pretty" in their hair.  So far, all they won't rip out are cornrow rubber bands, so sometimes I do side ponytails that stay.  If not, we just live with the bedhead.

We three girls enjoy outings while Devon colors and paints with ten other little boys at TOTS.

The girls seem to have calmer and less adventurous personalities than Devon, but with one notable exception.  I've never seen babies that climb like these two.  Last week I caught Melina standing on the raised horizontal slat of a dining room chair back, hands clinging to the window like Spiderman.  Not even their sleep sacks keep them in their cribs any more, since they learned to shuck their bodies through the neck opening like an ear of corn and climb right out.  As a last resort, I searched the closet for Devon's outgrown PJ's and sewed the feet of two pairs together.  So far it's grounded them like a pair of clipped wings.  It's made their morning wakeups pretty resentful, too, but it's a small price to pay for safety.

"Guck!" says Carrie when I go in to get her in the morning, glaring at me.

"Yes, you're stuck," I acknowledge.

"Meemo guck!" she reinforces.

I've been waiting to see what the kids would call each other.  After months of "Sissy", Carrie now calls her sister Meemo and Melina calls her Cayo.

Devon, or course, can say Carrie and Melina very clearly now, but he still can't tell his own sisters apart.
They call him "Debby".

Mommy takes "Debby" to Home Depot for Saturday crafts.

Toaster waffles are a winner at our house, but the favorite food of all three kids is, surprisingly, gumbo.  Daddy made the first version on a Sunday Soup Night, usually a time to supplement with extra PBJ's if the selection is a bit too obscure.  All three kids finished their helpings.  Mommy followed it up with a crock pot version when company came a few weeks later, and it too disappeared without complaint.

But the real confirmation came this week.  I decided to make up for the gastronomic and budgetary excesses of our Disney vacation by making a big pot of soup that we could eat on for a few days.  Since I didn't have any crabmeat left, I opened a can of chicken to round out the andouille sausage.  

I'm not sure what happened, but all day in the crock pot and the carrots were still hard.  We made other plans for dinner and I turned it up to high, planning to finish cooking it and transfer it to containers in a few more hours.

Or six. Oops.  It was midnight by the time I finished the floors and laundry.  The next evening Craig and I poked wary spoons into bowls of a greasy brown sludge that defied explanation.  The broth hadn't thickened and the canned chicken hadn't tenderized and fallen apart like I thought it would.  Large chicken chunks like gravel floated on the surface with overbrowned bits of sausage.  I tasted it.  It was revolting.  Probably the worst meal I've ever made in a repertoire that includes Fish Enchiladas.  I sighed and made to dump the whole pot in the trash, ruminating that soup wasn't exactly a money saving idea if you ruin it and have to order a pizza.  

Just then, I noticed Devon tucking into his bowl with relish.  Carrie and Melina opened their mouths wide and gestured towards their portions.  I let the girls taste the soup so they wouldn't cry when I took it away.  

They loved it.

Seriously.  They opened their mouths wide for every overcooked carrot, every gummy bit of okra.  They chewed up the sausage and the stringy chicken, opening their mouths wide to show each other their bites and laughing excitedly.  When I emptied the bowl of chunks to spoonfeed them, they cried when I made to throw the broth away, so I got a straw and let them drink it.  They sucked it down like it was Jamba Juice. Not one to waste food, I've let them eat it for the last three days.  They finished it this evening, licking up the last bit of broth and looking around for more.

And to think I consider them picky eaters.

Carrie and Melina enjoyed a beachwalk with Kaley and Ryley last week.  Those are some pretty stoic faces for one of the most gorgeous beach spots in America.  Come on, kids!  Mommy and Daddy almost moved to Illinois instead of here!  You'd have learned to wear your shoes with three feet of snow on the ground!

However, I scored two plastic pairs of dress up heels at a garage sale that made them pretty excited.  Several times a day they put their pretty shoes on and go straight to the kitchen, clicking their heels on the tile like tap dancers.

Silly babies.  If you get Mommy's height, you'll be tall enough.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Not Waving But Drowning: March 26, 2013

I look at the date at the top of my last blog and realize that it's been five weeks since I poked my head above water and said anything.  I'm not sure that this post is worth the wait, especially for those who read my blog to keep up with the kids.  Sorry.  I'll post again tomorrow.

I AM sure that Stevie Smith's poem "Not Waving but Drowning" doesn't make a lot of appearances in Mommy Blogs.  It's been running through the English Major part of my brain for several weeks now, the one that's rapidly losing ground to the Wiping Sticky Things part of my brain and the Use Your Nice Voice or You'll Get Room-Time part of my brain.  The critical website where I looked it up to make sure I had the text right called it a "twelve-line punch to the gut."  It gives me chills, and not the good kind.
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning. 

Drowning is a good way to describe feeling overwhelmed, isn't it?

We use it a lot.

"Oh!  I can't believe I said I would organize this year's Junior League Fundraiser dinner on top of homeschooling the kids and training for my next half-marathon.  I feel like I'm drowning!"

When circumstances improve we say:  "I feel like I'm getting my head above water!"

Motherhood gives one plenty of opportunity to play with the much-overused metaphor.  I've never met a mom who said she didn't struggle to find balance.  Just when it seems I do, my almost-three-year-old virtually stops napping, my toddlers learn how to climb out of their cribs, car seats, and virtually everything else they weren't already climbing before, and I realize as I'm standing in line to buy more Benadryl that the last time all five members of my family were well was definitely before the ball dropped for 2013.

If I briefly manage to get my act together, I savor the moment.  It won't last long.  Sorry to sound so negative.  I'm not trying to invite you all to my pity party.  The opposite, really.   Ask me how I'm doing on the street, and I'll tell you I'm livin' the dream and I mean it.  Really.  If I feel like I'm drowning, or when I do (again), help is always close by.

When I confide to my mom that I'm too sick to get my shopping done, she shops for me and sends things 2,500 miles so my girls have new Easter dresses and I don't have to drive an hour each way to Kohl's.

My best friend takes a week off work and flies redeye to Florida to go to Disney World with us, bringing the ratio of tiny people needing constant supervision to adults down to 1:1 and making it possible for us to go on all the rides.

Craig comes home from work, sees the look on my face, and decides to take all three kids for a walk so I can have a rest.  Yes, a neighbor asks where I am and he replies that I'm home in bed crying, but he's only telling the truth.

I breeze into Bible Study five minutes late, holding my arms closely by my sides because I've left the house without remembering to refresh my deodorant and EVERY day of my life is a heavy workout.  When it's my turn to share I say I'm too tired to remember any Bible verses and I've had a hard week and I can't get my eyebrow to stop twitching.  Nobody flinches, or worse, looks up 'complaining' in their Bible app so they can come up with a pertinent verse to tell me how to get it together.  Everyone smiles back.  Most of all, they listen.  Then I listen.  I'm not the only one who's struggling.  We pray.  Best of all, I pick my kids up from child care and they're not the frenetic and irritated three I dropped off.  They're refreshed by the new surroundings and pleasantly tired from playing with their friends and I can tell that dinner and bedtime will be a quick and opposition-free affair.

In the middle of a rough day, or seven in a row, I can call someone, send a frustrated text, or even walk to a neighbor's house.

I'm not alone.  I've been so blessed with a support system.

Not every mom has one.

That makes me sad.  The very thought of someone doing this monumental job alone.  Putting in the insane hours and struggling with the long nights, wishing there was someone nearby to call when things get rough.  Bringing home a new baby and waiting for the phone to ring for someone-- anyone-- to call, visit, or bring a meal.  Maybe picking up her kids from school or standing in line at the grocery store, surrounded by people and yet too isolated to ask for help.  Maybe even venting her frustrations to her husband or her friends that don't have kids, getting met with a blank stare of incredulity.  What?  It's really so hard to sit on the couch and watch TV all day while your kids play on the floor?  They have medications for depression now! Get a grip! Unable to make those around her understand because they're not livin' the dream.  All exhausting twenty-hours-a-day of it.

I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

As it turns out, Smith instinctively nailed a now well-known fact about drowning people.  It's called the Instinctive Drowning Response, first named in a paper by Dr. Francesco Pia.  Everyone who has kids and spends time around water should read up on it, but not late at night.

Drowning people don't call a lot of attention to themselves, like they do in cartoons.  They don't flail, splash, and scream for help, even if it's only a few feet away.  As their bodies struggle to get enough oxygen, they become more and more still.  Most of the time, a drowning person doesn't make a sound.

I'm fortunate to be surrounded by people who know me well enough to see that I'm drowning even when I don't call for help.  They can read the (not so) subtle signs: an edge in my voice, the Coke I need every day around 3 pm, or my ridiculous right eyebrow. 

It makes me thankful.  It also makes me ask myself: who around me feels the same way? 

Do I see it? 

Do I care?

As I'm going through my day, I'm trying to be more aware of the people around me, not just the kids in the cart.  To pay attention to the other moms at the park, the checker at the grocery store, or the extended family member who calls up to chat about the kids and always has nice things to say. 

It's not that I've ever been reluctant to give someone encouragement. 

It's just that I may not have been able to recognize someone drowning. 

Right next to me.