Wednesday, December 22, 2010
So I looked up a place where we could cut down our own tree, and we finally (in Maia's mind "FINALLY") headed out to get a tree last weekend. When we arrived however, we found some bad news. The place only took cash or check, which we didn't have. And the trees all started at $65. Yes, $65. If you're from Jersey reading this, you're probably saying, well, yeah, of course, and that's a good deal. But if you're from Iowa or Ohio, you're probably thinking - $65!!!!, to cut down your own tree? And of course, there was no hot cocoa, nor popcorn, included in that price. Above is a picture of the girls with the trees.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
It's that time of the year again... that time when everyone wants to know what my kids want for Christmas. Wow. Do we really need any more toys? Well, I don't want to be a scrooge, and, let's be honest, kids love opening gifts and having new toys. So, in preparation for Christmas, we cleared out the toybox (for the SECOND time this fall) of all the toys that the kids were willing to give away. It's nice that we have a playroom (pictured above), not that there's any containing our fun here.
(Above: Eva on one of the top gifts for one-year olds - the bounce and spin zebra; Maia setting up her dollhouse, which is a favorite.)
This deluge of gifts is just what happens, I guess, when your kids are the only kids on one side of the family and the majority of grandkids on the other side. Because it always seems to me that we already have a lot of toys, last year for Eva's first birthday, I did some research on top gifts for one-year olds and suggested to the grandparents toys off of that list. This year for Christmas and for Eva's birthday, I did the same thing, hoping to come across something we didn't already own that I thought the kids would like.
The top gift for two-year olds is this Billibo thing. I call it a "thing" because it's not really anything specific. Just a piece of plastic that can be used in various ways. Eva's first reaction was that it was some kind of hat (see above). But it wasn't long before the kids figured out some other ways to use the Billibo.
For example, as a seat, to sit in or to balance in.
Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control
The Billibo is kind of cut out for imaginative play, but I admit, when you first see it, you wonder why bother? All I can say is that my kids have had fun with them so far, and they've used them in a hundred different ways. But at this time of the year, my favorite playing to watch is Maia using the Nativity set (the Fisher Price one this time). Of course, there is a script that goes along with it, and today I acted out the whole play for them. But really it's more exciting when Maia does it. Like today she was insisting that Mary should sit in the cart attached to the donkey rather than sit on the donkey directly. "Mom, that way she can lay down, and that would be so much more comfortable!"
Anyway, happy birthday to Eva! Being the second child with a newborn baby brother, having a birthday so close to Christmas, and having a nasty cold on her birthday kind of put a damper on the celebration. But I think she's glad to be two anyway because she likes being helpful!
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Babies like to move, but newborns have such limited options. When Eva was a baby, Maia and I discovered that if we propped her up on a chair, she would do her best to fall over. Of course, I have to supervise this game, and we only do it on big, soft chairs. In the above video, Maia explains how this works, and then Patrick demonstrates his ability to fall over, with just a bit of help.
Monday, November 29, 2010
A week later or so, I was doing a routine clearing-off of the ledge and deciding which pictures to keep. Maia produces so much artwork that we simply can't keep it all, but some are so good that I can't bear to let go of them, and I usually staple them together into a book. Without really thinking about it, I put all of Eva's pictures into the throw-away pile. After all, compared to Maia's art, Eva's pictures are just scribbles.
Of course, anyone would say that it's unfair to compare a 4.5 year old's artwork with an almost 2 year old's drawing. Obviously I knew this, and I laughed at myself for unconsciously favoring Maia's artistic skill over Eva's.
But later I was thinking about being a child of God and the lives of the saints (yes, this is what I think about when I'm running on the treadmill). I was thinking about what makes Eva's and Maia's artwork different: Maia's has recognizable shapes and forms and she is able to actualize her intentions. In other words, she has a clear end in mind when she's drawing. Sometimes the picture is truer to her idea, and sometimes she's disappointed. But she knows what she's doing when she sits down to draw. Perhaps Eva does too and is just unable to actualize her intentions, but regardless, we can say that Eva's drawings appear to be only scribbles.
It occurred to me that some who strive for sanctity - especially the beginners - merely write scribbles whereas the more practiced can draw recognizable images. We who are early on the path lack the attention to detail and the understanding of how each mark fits with an overall picture. And yet God appreciates both the scribbles and the pictures, regardless of our human judgment. God knows when failure (sin) is not hypocrisy, but human weakness. God notices our progress, even when others fail to see. God understands how we are trying to fit the marks into an overall picture, and God can probably even see the picture before we can. Moreover, God can recognize great artwork even when those with a close-up view can't make out anything from the images.
On All Saints' Day I heard a great homily that included a true story that I saw as connected to this. My husband confirmed it with his students that are associated with the order, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (Gray Friars). They had just purchased a convent from some Dominican sisters who no longer had the population to keep it. In the process of moving in, they were moving the bones of the long-deceased buried below and respectfully interring them elsewhere. In the process of doing this, the Gray Friars made a few discoveries. They came upon the prioress of the congregation, whose head was incorrupted. The rest of her body was decomposed, but she, as the head, had still a perfect head. Then they came upon an incorrupted hand on a decomposed body; upon research, they learned that this particular nun had been an icon painter. Her hand that had spent so much time painting sacred images, was just as it had been. Then, with nothing but bones to left and to the right, they came upon a completely incorrupted entire body. Who was this? Someone important? Not really. It was just the doorkeeper. The woman who had spent her time opening the door and welcoming people to the convent. But she must have done a good job at it, eh?
On the Solemnity of All Saints, this woman served as a good reminder to us that there are many holy people who are not officially canonized saints. Or we might say, there are many excellent artists who spent their entire lives perfecting their art, giving their lives to God, and supernaturalizing the everyday (yes, there's even a holy way to open up a door). Many are not recognized either in their lifetimes or after for what they have done, and yet, they are not forgotten in the Kingdom of Heaven.
God knows when scribbles are just scribbles and when scribbles are actually his children's first steps to something greater. In the latter case, even these pictures are worth hanging up on the ledge. They are reminders that no one starts off as a saint, and as a confessor recently told me, God smiles at our efforts.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Anyway, chapel time. So when I picked up Maia, the teacher told me that everyone was impressed with how Maia knew the names of items in the church, like "pew." On the way home Maia and I had a conversation about the church's interior, which I've actually never seen.
TM: So did the church look like ours?
M: It had pews like ours all lined up facing the front.
TM: Did it have an altar at the front?
M: Sort of.
TM: Was there an ambo - you know, the place where they read the Bible from?
M: They had something like that, but it was all the way at the back.
TM: Really? The back? That's funny. So was there a tabernacle?
M: Nope, no tabernacle.
TM: That's because they don't have Jesus there. (Pause as I consider what I just said...) What I mean is, they don't have Jesus present in the Eucharist inside the church, so that's why they don't have a tabernacle.
Later, at home, we renewed the conversation as Maia was coloring the coloring page of a church sent home with her from school.
TM: What's that you drew on the steeple of the church?
M: It's a cross. I think they forgot to put the cross on this church, so I added it for them.
TM: Pretty windows. Is that what they looked like in the church you saw today?
M: Well, the windows were stain glass, you know, like in our church, only they didn't have pictures on them.
TM: What, no pictures? You mean no saints?
M: No saints, Mom, and no angels either! Isn't that strange?
TM: What are you drawing on there now?
M: That's Mary. I'm drawing a statue of Mary on the top of their church because they didn't have any statues of her in their church.
TM: Nice job, Maia.
I think she did a pretty good job Catholicizing the picture.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
While we had family in town for Patrick's baptism, an account of our disagreement on this book arose and we ended up reading the book aloud over dinner. I should say Tia Carla read the book aloud because Jeff was convinced he could read it in such a way that the plot was emphasized, and I was convinced I could read it in such a way that it was clear there is absolutely no plot. Carla had never read the book, so she was the neutral party.
Following the reading, we took a vote as to whether or not it has a plot. The results were a clear male-female split. All males present (3) voted that it did have a plot (although Tio Kyle said it was not a romance, but the narrative of a pilgrimage where the climax is the dog party in the tree). All females present (4) voted that it did not have a plot.
What do my readers think?
Monday, October 25, 2010
"What do you mean? Eva's still special, only now she's special in a new way because she's a big sister!" I answered, quoting Joann Cole's book I'm a Big Sister.
"No, Mom, you know what I mean. Eva's not special anymore, and I'm glad about that."
In case you're wondering, Eva hasn't noticed that she's not special anymore. She's not so gentle with Patrick, but I have not seen any signs of jealousy. She's had to share attention her whole life, so she seems to be taking Patrick's appearance in stride. Maia, however, was an only child for almost her first three years of life, and she's clearly still recovering from that.
Maia has been celebrating Eva's not being special by antagonizing Eva non-stop. This has become Maia's number one favorite activity - whether it's telling Eva that there are monsters in the basement or taking away whatever toy Eva has or chasing Eva or insulting Eva or, well, you get the picture. Her behavior has been so poor that Jeff and I have really been at a loss for what we could do - send her to Grandma's for a week? It's too hard to spend all day punishing her, and neither of us seems to have the time that she seems to require in terms of attention.
I was at the park today with Eva and Patrick while Maia was at school and a mom there asked me how far apart the kids were, and when I said 22 months, she smiled kindly and said that her kids were 17 months apart: "It gets easier," she said sympathetically. I was thinking to myself, "Easier than this?" Patrick was sleeping in the stroller and Eva was running around happily, playing on the park equipment. If all I had to deal with all day was Patrick and Eva, my life would be pretty easy.
But as someone (I forget who) recently said to me, the challenging, strong-willed kids are much more interesting to raise, and much more rewarding in the end. I still have high hopes that a difficult early childhood will be followed by an easy teenage time period. But anyway, I think parents get their parenthood points by dealing with kids when they're being difficult - not just when they are sleeping in a carseat all day.
8:00 a.m. "I am SO tired after all that sleeping last night. Better take a nap."
Yes, I've been calling Patrick "Boring Baby" because it really seems like all he does is sleep, sleep, sleep. Not that I'm complaining. It does make my life with three pretty easy. I guess a boring baby is God's gift to a busy mom.
Monday, October 18, 2010
As I've written before on this blog, parenting involves a lot of patience. This is especially true for mothers, I think, and it all begins with the pregnancy - nine months of waiting. As Patrick's due date approached (October 4th), I started getting the usual questions and comments from friends, neighbors, family, and complete strangers: "So, are you ready to get this kid out?" "I bet you're ready to be done being pregnant!" and the like. Actually, this was my most comfortable pregnancy yet - no swelling, for one thing, and no real problems at all other than some nasty acid reflux. So I prided myself on being patient.
Then my preferred birthdate passed. Granted, that was the 1st, the Feast of Therese Lisieux, so it was a bit of an early shot. Then my second choice, the 2nd, the Feast of the Guardian Angels passed. As a bunch of other good liturgical choices passed, including the due date (St. Francis), I began to hope for at least a fun secular date: 10-10-10. Then that passed as well. Ok, I was doing great at being patient... but how late could this kid possibly be? Especially since I was having contractions off and on for about two weeks, I thought for sure he was going to come out any time! In fact, there were three separate times that I really thought I was in labor and got ready to head to the hospital.
For the last few months I've been reading Teresa of Avila's Way of Perfection, and I happened to read her thoughts on the Our Father, specifically "fiat voluntas tua" about the time of my due date. So this became my prayer over the last few weeks. In the end I had a good delivery with Eva, in that it was unmedicated and my sister got to catch her. But I also think I ended up having a premature rupture of membranes and having to get pitocin because I used castor oil to try to induce labor so that my sis would be there for the delivery. I wanted to have a better delivery (no pitocin!) this time around, and so I knew I needed to be patient, patient, patient and just wait for the labor to happen naturally.
Since Patrick was eleven days late, "fiat voluntas tua" became a daily struggle. Again, I wasn't particularly uncomfortable, but I did feel a bit of pressure, not just from the friends, neighbors, and strangers who kept asking... but also because my parents very generously came out to be with the kids while we went to the hospital. They had planned to be here about one week before the birth and about two weeks after. But with Patrick being eleven days late, they ended up being here for two and a half weeks before and only five days after. They had to cancel their visit to Niagara Falls, and my mom had to reschedule several doctors' appointments. The other pressure was that my husband had a wonderful fall break that would have been perfect if Patrick had been born on his due date or just a few days late. Instead, the break passed by with no baby (but still some good quality time with the husband).
As a planner who had two other late babies, I knew I could go late - but really, eleven days late? Who would have thought that! Even Maia was only about five days late. Some people say it's because this one was a boy, but I think it's because we gave him an Irish name. Next time, we'll pick a German name, and I know that baby will be punctual.
Anyway, the reward of this patience was that I did go into labor naturally, right as I was on the verge of taking castor oil (facing a 42-weeks post-date induction on Monday anyway). I had heard many stories of Mom's having really quick labors and deliveries with their thirds, but, true to my style, I managed to have contractions beginning Friday around midnight, and then he wasn't born until 11:34 at night! So basically it was a 24-hour labor, with some more painful times than others. When I went to my midwife appointment in the morning I was four centimeters and 70% effaced. But although I was having contractions, the midwife made me feel like I wasn't really in labor... she said things like, "Well, if you haven't had the baby by Monday, then we will need to set up the induction for that day."
I think it kind of psyched me out, so Jeff and I went to noon Mass (we had missed the 8 a.m. because I thought my labor was going to pick up soon), had lunch out, stopped at Trader Joe's, etc. all while I was having really painful contractions every few minutes. When we came home I attempted to take a nap because then I was scared that my contractions would pick up right at rush hour and it would take us an hour plus to get to the hospital. I didn't eat dinner, but I did help put the girls to bed, and I think it was nursing Eva that finally put me over the edge and full swing into labor.
Even then, though, we were debating just going to bed. It was 8:00 at night, and I hadn't slept the previous night at all (due to those contractions). My contractions were painful and pretty regular, but for all I knew they were going to dissipate again, since they seemed to be doing a lot of coming and going.
Anyway, I called the midwife on call, and she advised us to come into the hospital. When I got there, I was six cm and 100% effaced. But of course when they hooked me up to monitor my contractions, they slowed down, and I thought - here we go again. I had memories of being in labor with Maia and spending literally hours in the middle of the night walking up and down the hospital hallways. But this time it only took a few laps, and not even two decades of the Rosary until I told Jeff I just couldn't do it and I was going to go lie down because I was just too tired.
My mom (who got to come because the girls were both asleep) gave me a back massage, and when they came in to check me again, I was having body shakes and was 8 cm. I agreed (with surprisingly no hesitation) to have my water broken, and they let me get into the tub. This was by far the coolest part of my delivery. After two foiled attempts at getting a waterbirth, I was blessed with the coolest waterbirth tub ever. It was huge, with beautiful tile around it, and they filled it up with wonderful warm water. As soon as I got in my shaking stopped, my back felt better, and, although my contractions were still painful, they were much more bearable.
Then we discovered the buttons on the tub - one of them made lights turn on. Then it turned out if we pushed that button again that the lights started flashing and changing colors. Wow - what a great distraction for hard labor contractions! But of course, the real challenge was figuring out how to turn on the jets. That took a few contractions and asking a techy nurse, but what a reward! Massaging jets on the back during a contraction was amazing! At some point they seemed to turn off and we couldn't get them back on, but at that point I was feeling ready to push anyway, and - one push to bring the baby down, and two to get him out! A long labor, but definitely my fastest (and least harmful) delivery ever!
Other than the cord being tight around his neck, and the midwife almost falling into the tub as she caught him, the birth was pretty uneventful (although exciting, as these things always are). My first words to Patrick were, "Patrick, you look like a smurf!" And indeed, his Apgar was only a four and he had to be given a little oxygen. By five minutes, he was pinking up and meriting a nine on the Apgar.
I was really, really, really, hoping and praying for Patrick to be born on the Feast of Teresa of Avila. But I have to admit that when we went to the hospital at 8:30 at night, I didn't think it was very likely. And when we were still walking the hallways at 10:50, I thought it was pretty impossible. And when I was in the tub at 11:16, I didn't think it was very likely. The midwife and nurses probably got a kick out of me constantly checking my watch. I gave it a glance at 11:21. Jeff started praying "Nada te turbe." And he was out by 11:34. Thank you, St. Teresa.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Notre Dame may have become a corrupt institution (I don't know, I'm not making any accusations, I'm just saying it's possible). And the football team may be contributing to a sort of moral bankruptcy (I don't know, I'm not making any accusations, I'm just saying it's possible). But doesn't Maia do a great job of singing the Fight Song? The above is not her usual version; I think she just got excited in front of the camera and wanted to be a little bit more creative.