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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Shall We "Mosh"?

I realized this morning that I go around in circles a lot these days. It goes along with parenting two young children and managing a marriage. This morning Husband caught me in an embrace as we did our usual morning bumping-into-each-other dance, spinning in circles around each other in the kitchen pulling together breakfast for the three-year-old and nine-month-old who sat expectantly (and not very patiently) in their places at the table. In that moment of pause with my husband’s arms around me, I caught the curious and slightly amused look on Dear Daughter’s face. “What are you guys doing?” she asked. “Indeed,” I thought to myself, “What ARE we doing?” Only mine was a much more loaded question than Daughter’s was. Apparently the dance has become splintered and frenzied enough that Dear Daughter is unaccustomed to seeing intentional body contact between her parents.

During the first several years of our marriage (6 ½ years, to be exact), I remember looking forward to the weekends when Husband and I would spend a great deal of time together hiking, biking, taking drives to the Oregon coast to hold hands at the ocean’s edge, going out for dinner or a movie, or just meandering about together doing chores like grocery shopping or yard work. We did pretty much everything together. But that was before the metamorphosis.

Now, two rug rats later and nearing the 10th year of our marriage, the only hiking we do is to Daughter’s britches when they need adjusting, the bikes are buried under huge piles of dust and debris somewhere in the garage, and there aren’t enough hands to juggle wee ones and all the necessary “gear” let alone have a free hand for each other. We no longer know the meaning of the word, “meander.” Meandering requires TIME. To be sure, the dance looks much different after 10 years. Husband and I tend to spend the weekends running in opposite directions—running in circles—running into each other in the mess of it all—“You manage that one, and I’ll manage this one.” I am thoroughly thankful for those 6 ½ childless years in which we enjoyed the comfort of a quiet waltz for two, and I occasionally draw on the memories of those years when I find myself pummeled about in the “mosh pit” of chaos that we currently call “family.”

Thursday, September 28, 2006

More Nine Month Tricks

Dear Son figured out how to stick out his tongue last week. I honestly can't remember
if he started it or if I started it, but when he did it to me, I was supposed to do it back at him, and when I did it to him, he would do it back to me. It was great fun for both of us, and I'm still not sure who had the most fun.

Just being a happy-go-lucky nine-month-old boy is fun, too. Always lots of charming grins. And yes, his eyes really are THAT blue!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Smarter Part II

Last Tuesday Grandma H recounted a conversation she had with Dear Daughter while I was at work. They were enjoying a walk when they found a fuzzy caterpillar. Grandma, thinking she was teaching things to Dear Daughter, commented that the caterpillar would eventually become a butterfly. Dear Daughter (having the butterfly turning into a caterpillar thing already covered) replied that indeed it would, "but first it will be a "chrysalis." Grandma was a bit stunned. I told her I knew how she felt, and that often when I try to teach Dear Daughter something, she ends up "teaching me back" about an even more complex issue.

After the "new moon" thing I was thinking about how much we have always read to Dear Daughter, from the time she was only weeks old. Then I considered her love for books, how many she owns, and our weekly trips to the library. A bit of quick math (weekly trips to the library for the past 13 months, multiplied by an average of 10 books per trip, added to the number of books in her "personal library") gave me an estimate of at least 600 books that we've read to Dear Daughter. Of course, we have probably read those 600 books an average of 10-15 times each, so counting all the repeats, we have quite easily read her 6,000 books.

But I still have one troubling question: I wonder why I don't seem to be getting any smarter?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Nine Month Tricks

Dear Son no longer likes to spend much time in his exersaucer. At 9 months, he is beginning to sit up on his knees and pull up to his feet sometimes. He is much too mobile and too busy exploring his environment to sit in one place and bounce up and down. This morning he was not satisfied with my decision to corral him in the saucer while I cleaned up breakfast. He's figured out how to throw himself back in the saucer to give it enough oomph to inch it forward. In this way he can still "go places." He oomphed himself over to the refrigerator first and began grabbing at the magnets and Dear Daughter's artwork.

When I took away his prizes from off the refrigerator, he did a 180 in the saucer and decided to head to the dishwasher where he spied more treasures.

This photo is actually an action shot.
Look at the angle of the bottom of the saucer and you will see he is pulling back with all his might...getting some oomph going...

...hands raised in concentration and anticipation...

...and, SCORE! He captures the new object of his affection!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Gift...

…from the God of the Universe. That’s what occurred to me while I sat in the darkness cradling my sleeping baby boy--his pudgy hands clasped over his round belly that gently rose and fell with soft baby breaths, and his angelic face illuminated in the dimness of the nightlight. My heart ached as I thought of how we hadn’t really planned him, but the laws of nature and God’s sovereign plan came together despite ourselves. We flirted with the odds that single solitary time, knowing where babies come from, knowing that someday we wanted another child, knowing that we didn’t think we were ready for it just yet.

Then I wondered for the next couple weeks. Dear Hubby dismissed me when I pointed out the possibility. I tested at the first possible opportunity. Negative. I was relieved. Dear Hubby was unfazed, unconcerned. He didn’t believe in the first place that it was a concern. I resumed drinking Diet Coke. I scrubbed the kitchen floor with ammonia and other assorted chemicals. I dyed my hair. I wished I’d gone ahead and taken the Sudafed I had wanted a week or so earlier when I was fighting off a miserable cold. But despite the negative test result, there was still a nagging “perhaps?” in the back of my mind. I waited another week, counting the minutes, impatiently waiting for the next opportunity to test again. This time it was positive. There were definitely two lines. I didn’t know how to respond. I handed the test stick to Dear Hubby and waited for his response, which was something like, “Hmm” as in—“Well whadda ya know?” We didn’t say much else about it, but went on about our workdays while it began to soak in. And I tested again the following week for good measure.

We wanted to try for a girl whenever we were ready. There’s some science behind it. It worked when we conceived Dear Daughter. I counted the days of my cycle and factored in the day we conceived and I knew we had “blown it.” I hoped and hoped for the next 20 weeks that the ultrasound would show a girl. It showed a boy. It became clear that none of this was going the way we would have planned it.

“Thank God none of this went the way we would have planned it,” I thought to myself as I sat in the dark holding my beautiful, perfect baby boy and contemplating how he came to be…amazed at how God often blesses us with so much more than that for which we ask (Ephesians 3:20)…amazed at how God knows us so much better than we even know ourselves…that His ways are Perfect. Amazed at the beautiful gift that is my son…a gift that no “accident” or simple force of nature could produce…a gift from the God of the Universe who somehow saw fit to create this child and place him in my arms in the midst of it.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Dear Daughter is Smarter Than I Am

Dear Daughter: "A New Moon is when you can't see it"

Me: "huh?" in duh?

Dear Daughter: "A New Moon is when you can't see it, and a full moon is when it is all the way round, and a crescent moon is when you see just part of it."

Me: silently wondering to myself if she was right about the "new moon" thing; I never was a science buff and they didn't teach me this in grad school. I knew Dear Daughter knew how to identify full moons and crescent moons, but I'd never heard her talk about a "new moon" since I'd not taught her that.

Dear Daughter repeats herself more loudly as I sit in a stupor thinking all these thoughts

Me: "Where did you learn that stuff?"

Dear Daughter: "From my Leap Frog book!"

Me: thinking to myself that my daughter is an amazing sponge of knowledge and is either a really really smart just-turned-three-year-old or else I am a really really stupid thirty-something-year-old...or perhaps both

Next thing I know, she'll start talking about a "Waning Gibbous." I better go back to pre-school.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Precious Moments

Dear Daughter had her first experience eating at McDonald’s this weekend, and she thought it was pretty neat. Yes, it’s true that my just-turned-three-year-old had never stepped foot into a fast food restaurant until last weekend. You may think that’s “un-American,” but I say that in spite of loving what my country is about, there are more than a few “American ways” that I don’t love.

Nevertheless, we were out doing errands, and as I’ve mentioned before, Dear Daughter LOVES to go places. We were having fun lollygagging a bit as we shopped like girls do (I’m enjoying that part of Dear Daughter being three years old). Our errands ran into lunch, and we were getting hungry. I suggested we get some lunch, and of course she wanted to go to Applebee’s, which is just about the only restaurant she’s been to except TGI Friday’s once for her last birthday.

I didn’t want to spend that much time and money on lunch, so I suggested McDonald’s. Dear Daughter replied, “McDonald’s? What’s McDonald’s?” And that’s when I realized that Dear Daughter had never been there, nor had she been to ANY fast food restaurant yet. So told her they have chicken fingers like Applebee’s, and she was excited to go to a new place. After I placed our order I heard a little voice at my side timidly say, “…and a drink!” I think her favorite part of eating out is that we let her have Sprite, so she wanted to be sure I didn’t forget about that part. As I was grabbing napkins and ketchup at the condiment bar, she was visibly excited as she eyed the tray of food on the counter above her head. “Oh boy!” she squealed. “We are having a FEAST!” I laughed out loud and resisted an urge to grab her up in my arms and squeeze her.

We headed to a booth and scooted to together on one side of it. I sat part of the time with my arm cradled around her side, holding her close to me. She sat like a “big girl” on the bench, without a booster chair, and she seemed so tiny and lost at the big table. I was savoring the sweetness of the moment, and the image of the two of us pressed together on the bench bumping hands in the French fry box and sharing soda pop from the same straw made me feel a little like a love-struck teenager. I pondered the analogy of being in love with my little girl with all the intensity of a love-struck teenager at times, but with a love that goes so much deeper and is much more mature…and forever. Then I kissed her chubby little cheek and whispered in her ear half-teasing, but more than a little serious, “Please don’t ever grow up and leave me!” She looked in my eyes with all the reassurance a carefree, almost-preschooler is capable of mustering, and replied with the words I’ve said to her so many times, “It’s okay, Mommy. I’ll always come back!” And my heart hurt with that familiar bittersweet ache once again.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Goodbye, My Friend

Typically I reserve the main topics of my posts for the wee ones in the family. Tonight, however, the eldest and feeblest of the household gets the place of honor. Tonight I had to follow through with something that I have dreaded for a very very long time. I prayed many times that Geriatric Cat would just go to sleep one night or day and not wake up. I hoped, against the odds, that when his time was up, he would just go peacefully and that I would never have to find myself in the position of deciding when is the right time for him to die. After all, I believe God is the author of life, and it seems that if He is the one who breathed life in my lifetime furry best friend, then He is the only one with the authority to end it. *sigh* I also know that God gives humans charge over the animals.

So, in the midst of this struggle, I gave into what seemed was the only humane way out for Geriatric Cat. I think he would have held on for a very long time, because he’s just got that kind of determination. But the reality is that he was blind, or nearly so, with one eye completely obscured by a glaring red internal cyst and the other one cloudy—probably due to cataracts. We suspected he was deaf or nearly so, as he often seemed unresponsive to audible sounds and our voices. He was suspected by our dear veterinarian to have lymphoma. He had what we all guessed was some nerve damage due to the probable cancer. This led him to paw at his mouth viscously after eating. He was skin and bones, having dropped from 13+ pounds in his prime of life to 7lbs and 15 oz. He no longer groomed himself much, and did very little but sleep on his favorite couch. Often he would have jitters and shakes in his sleep that would get so violent at times that he would fall off the back of the couch with a thud, and sometimes not even wake up. More than once I watched this happen and thought the old man had died. Each time I tiptoed to have a closer look, I could see his sides rising and falling with breath and I felt both relief and sorrow. While I didn’t want him to die, I also wanted him to go on his own. But he didn’t. I held on only as long as I could before I began to question what was more humane: to be allowed to live or to die.

He continued to have his good moments all the way to the end. He still got his occasional “all is well with the world” look about him at times while he perched on his couch. He still became animated and pranced across the vinyl kitchen floor when he heard the telltale sounds of the refrigerator opening and a can of his food being opened. And he still frequently joined the hubbub that happens constantly on the floor with a just-turned-three-year-old and a crawler. He loved to sit right in the middle of the activity, and he always put up with chubby little fingers poking and patting him. Just a couple days ago he was right in the middle of our floor activity and Dear Son got his chubby little fists wrapped around his neck in a death grip. Geriatric Cat just sat stone still--eyes a bit wild with anxiety—but patiently waited to be released. He never nipped at the kids or acted cross at them in spite of their raucous loving.

I can’t remember life without Frederick, and that is because I’ve lived more years of my life with him than I have without him. I spent more than twice as many years sharing my bed with him than I have with my husband. He came into my life before I even had a driver’s license. He traveled cross-country with me at least twice. He saw me through every fleeting teenage and adolescent romance and the heartbreak that came along with them. He came with me on and every move. He was my best friend at my lowest points in life, seeing me through times that I didn’t believe I had a single human friend in the world.

In the peak of his life, he was full of personality. He greeted people at the door and loved to “talk.” Sometimes he started the conversations, and sometimes he just went along with the ones others started, but he always had something to say. While he never cared much for being held, he loved to be right next to his humans. Sometimes he loved to sit in a human lap, as long as he was the one who initiated it. I can’t count the number of people who told me they had never met a cat like Frederick. People who professed to be “cat haters” ended up falling in love with Frederick. He was just charming and charismatic like that.

But tonight he gets to rest. He doesn’t have to be blind or deaf anymore. He doesn’t have to fall off the back of the couch anymore. He doesn’t have to paw at his mouth anymore or have any more pain. I don’t know if animals go to Heaven, but I’m soothed by believing that at least some of them do. And I imagine Frederick in Heaven, young and plump again with two big green shining eyes, chasing butterflies on green grassy hills. Maybe somewhere over the Rainbow Bridge Frederick is experiencing Heaven, and when I get there one day, we will find each other and he will chat me up something fierce and sleep on my pillow again just like old days.

I miss you, Old Man!