Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Sylvie Anne

Seeing as this little lady has been a bonafide member of our family for over six months, it seems about time to chronicle a few memories of her arrival and earliest moments.  Those first moments are such precious ones, aren't they?  Difficult and precious all at once; the sort of moments you'd want to live over and over again if it weren't for the fact that while being so wonderful they're sometimes also so hard.

More and more often lately, I find myself missing the days of long-form social media. Remember the early 2000's, before bloggers were replaced by instagrammers and before everyone was trying to be an influencer? I realize I am now hopelessly out-of-date in this regard, but I still cherish the family memories I have recorded on this old-fashioned blog, and I sometimes wish I had time to record things here more often. In any case, since we now have four daughters (four!), it seems that an update of some sort is quite overdue.

Sylvie Anne joined our family on Monday, April 27, at 8:52 am. She was born at home in our family room in an inflatable tub at the height of a pandemic, and I like to think she'll be all the more resilient for it. She was also born partly en caul (with the bag of waters still intact over her head and body), which is considered a sign of good luck.  She weighed 8 lbs, 14 oz (my biggest baby!), and measured 21 inches long.  

Her three eager big sisters ran in to meet her when she was moments old, and were immediately smitten with that squishy, slightly bruised little face, her head of soft hair, her delicate and intoxicating newborn scent.  

The story of her birth is the first time I have managed a birth without an epidural.  Back when Nell, our oldest, was born, I had hoped to have a home birth, but a very long (~72 hrs) labor eventually landed us in the hospital for pain relief and rest.  Marie's labor was likewise quite long and also ended in a transfer (from birth center to hospital) for pain relief after about 36 hrs.  With Molly, in the hopes of avoiding the postpartum sense of failure that had accompanied my first two, we decided to make the hospital and the epidural "Plan A," and in this way, everything went according to plan, ha!  

Early in my pregnancy with Sylvie I sort of figured we would do the same thing again, but by sometime in January I began to find myself toying with the idea of trying once more to have a home birth.  It was, frankly, really weird and inexplicable.  Even Nathan said, "Honey, your labors are long and grueling and full of unbearable back pain that never relents.  Why on earth would you be considering trying this again?  Your epidurals have had zero complications and everything has gone really well."  And he was right!  I couldn't explain the niggling thoughts that I just couldn't shake, that maybe this time we should try home one more time.  

By February we had met with a delightful midwife based out of New Hampshire, and we soon booked her services.  As you may be able to guess, it wasn't long before we became very, very grateful that we had gone this route.  Yes, by mid-March when the United States totally shut down and we were all hunkered at home looking at graphs and charts and watching numbers that rose daily, well... I was quite grateful to think that, if everything went well at home, we could avoid a trip to the hospital and all that might entail amidst a pandemic.  If a hospital transfer became necessary, would Nathan even be able to be with me?  How long might it be before the older girls would meet their new sister?  If I developed a fever or any other symptoms, would baby and I be separated in the hospital?  These were all worrisome thoughts, and scenarios we hoped to avoid by just staying home.  

After literally weeks (!) of prodromal labor that started and stopped, started again and stopped again, that Sunday night I thought maybe things were actually really going to happen.  Of course, I had already thought this a dozen times before, so I was losing some serious trusts in my instincts in this regard.  Still, by this point I was a week "overdue," so it seemed like it really did need to happen eventually.  When he got home from work that evening, Nathan drove to Beverly and picked up some Indian food for me at my request, and we relaxed and watched a little TV together.  A couple of hours after going to bed I was awakened again and couldn't get back to sleep, so I came downstairs and tried to rest on the couch, dozing on and off between contractions.  Between midnight and 4:00 am or so, I was able to rest, watch some TV half awake, and generally cope pretty well.  But at about 4:00 I remember yelling up the stairs, "NATHAN!" and feeling pretty urgently that I needed his help at that point.  He came downstairs groggily, but soon sprang into action and started filling the inflatable birth tub with water for me.  

We called our midwife to let her know things seemed to be happening for real at last, and I texted my sister-in-law, who was planning to come be with the older girls during the birth.  After that a lot of what happened is a bit blurry for me.  Once the tub was filled with warm water I got right in--looking truly stellar I'm sure in a bikini at 9+ months pregnant.  As I had an increasingly hard time coping with the unrelenting back pain that is how labor goes for me, Nathan would hold the hose of running warm water right over my lower back for me, which provided some relief.

Around 6 or 7 am our midwife arrived together with her assistant and a young midwifery student who was doing her clinical hours or... something.  Like I said, a lot of this is blurry for me.  In any case, they bustled around on the sidelines getting things ready and I hummed and moaned and occasionally screamed from the back pain in contractions.  I tried turning on my hypnosis recordings and soon yelled, "HYPNOSIS IS A BUNCH OF CRAP!"  Well, it was nice until things were really serious anyway, which by now they were.  I kept waiting for my midwife to say something nice and definitive, like "Oh, honey, this is transition and it'll be over soon," but failing to hear these exact words while feeling that surely I couldn't take any more of this, I said things like "I want to go to the hospital! I need all the drugs! Nathan, these mean women won't listen to me! You need to take me to the hospital right now! I want my Mom!"  And my midwife, calm and serene, replied, "This is all a very good sign!"  

At some point when it all felt pretty unbearable -- oh and also, I had almost drowned myself a couple of times by dozing off in the tub in the brief moments between contractions, utterly exhausted, and slipping my face down into the water only to wake with a nose full of said water -- I told Nathan I urgently needed to use the bathroom and tried to stand up to get out of the tub.  Our lovely midwife calmly said, "Or maybe you're going to have a baby!"  When I insisted, she was ready and willing to help me out of the tub;  but of course she was right and I sat right back down in the tub and promptly delivered that baby.  

Later my brother-in-law, who had quietly arrived with my sister-in-law and their sweet little toddler in the midst of all of this, would be able to laugh with me about that endless horrifying "five-minutes-without-stopping-for-breath" scream that had accompanied the birth.  "I thought you had mastered the art of circular breathing!"  Ha!  It's a good thing this was my fourth baby and family is family; somehow I didn't die of shame having them one thin wall away from all this drama unfolding.  

As soon as Sylvie was in my arms I just collapsed with relief and happiness.  I ugly cried (I have pictures to prove it), and then the girls came running right in as soon as Nathan fetched them and they were utterly awestruck by the magic of it all, meeting this newly born human being who would be their sister forever and always.  A massive rainstorm had been going on throughout the labor but my midwife tells me that at precisely the moment of Sylvie's birth the rain stopped and the sun came out and the world was clear again.  It was almost 9 am but somehow it felt like the wee hours of the morning, and all was calm and still and messy and perfect.  

For the labor itself, at any given moment I would have probably preferred to be laying in a hospital bed with an epidural and a popsicle.  But the minute it was over, I would have done it all over again.  I was so grateful to be home, with family.  It was so wonderful to rinse off in my own shower, rest in my own bed, and eat food from my own home.  The pampering I received from my family (and, in subsequent days, friends) was far beyond hospital food and care!  And the moments the girls got to spend with their newborn sister were priceless.

Like her big sisters, we chose for Sylvie a middle name that connects her to the music of the church, which is her Daddy's occupation and great love.  St. Anne is the tune name for the hymn "Our God, Our Help in Ages Past." 

Back in January when I began to contemplate the idea of a home birth, I couldn’t quite identify why I wanted to change my model of care mid-pregnancy, but in light of Covid we consider it a divinely-inspired nudge. Born amidst a pandemic, it seemed a fitting time to recall with Christians across the ages: 

“Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while life shall last,
And our eternal home.” 

Today this sweet six-month old is sitting beside me as I type, all gummy smiles and sweetness.  Of course, we already can't imagine life without her.

The older girls requested that we listen to music by the Peasall Sisters earlier this week, and when Nathan heard "I'm That Sparrow" come on, he commented, "I would think you'd be scarred by this song!"  I listened to it while I was in labor with Sylvie.  Oddly, I don't feel 'scarred' at all, but it does make me feel a little teary, remembering that dark and stormy night -- and the sunburst of a sweet babe in our arms.  

Never has a baby been more adored than this sweet child, and even a pandemic and social distancing can't change that.  It's true that many people in our wider community haven't yet even met her, but I think her adoring immediate family and the close friends we've seen almost makes up for that (but not quite, of course -- we wish so much she could meet her grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends).  Her sisters clamor for her attention, and when she was a newborn I practically had to get in line to hold her, so eager were her big sisters to snuggle her.  And last night, as happens almost every night right now, she lay asleep beside me when Nathan came to bed.  He lay down beside her and just gazed at her sweet sleeping face for a while, alternately smiling at her and at me like the giant sap of a Dad I'm so proud that he is.  We both looked at each other in the dim light and we didn't have to say it because we both knew-- we're the luckiest people in the world.

Of this one thing we can be sure after a long day of parenting: however short the naps were, however long the tantrums may have been, however extensive the mess, and however many times I may have lost my temper, when the day draws to a close and the baby is finally asleep, we can put all the other stuff aside and be what we should be: profoundly grateful.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Mollyisms, Vol. 1

Our resident three-year-old has been well-deserving of her own Quotables on this blog for quite some time, I think.  You'll probably note quite a progression in her speech from some of the earlier recorded quotes toward the beginning to some of the most recent ones.  

I'm interspersing these Mollyisms from ages two and three with some photos I snapped in June early one morning when she crept upstairs and crawled into bed with us wearing this tutu she had put on, a self-proclaimed princess.  What a fun kid she is -- something I need to step back and remember more often amidst the inevitable frustrations a three-year-old can bring.

She really is my sweet little side-kick these days: wanting to help me in the kitchen throughout the day, and eager to help tidy the house, too -- and getting pretty good at it!   Every time I catch her eye and smile at her she exclaims, "I love you, Mama!"  And anytime she's not certain she'll come ask me, "Mama, do you love me?"  It sort of reminds me of the phase of time when she regularly asked, "Mama, are you nice?"  I think in this, too, she's really feeling out if I'm in a good mood and apt to swoop her up for a hug and a kiss.  

Her very first attempts at her own name, back around age two, sounded like "Momee" and then "Mah-dees."  Version three became "Monny," and today she expresses outrage when Nathan affectionately calls her "Monny."  
"I'm not Monny, I'm MOLLY," she yells at us.

* * *

Her version of "hair elastic" for some time was just "hair stick."  Scrambled eggs used to be "tumble eggs" - a curiously appropriate name the more I think about it.  An octopus is an "aquapus," and vitamins are "bitamins," other ones I find rather fitting.  She calls my slippers my "flippers" and delights in shuffling around the house in them saying, "I'm Mama!"  And "Why are you funny?" is her way of asking why someone is laughing.

* * *

She called a washcloth a "hoshcough," a telephone a "hellophone" (which actually makes a great deal of sense), a sandwich a "famwich," and her jammies her "dammies."  She says "either" when she means "too," as in "Mama can I have some either?" And "upside down" is "up-spied-down."  Spaghetti is "pasghetti," and in general while she sometimes complains about meals (and took a little longer than I remember my other girls taking to come around to greens and salads) these days she compliments most of the meals around here, saying on more than one occasion, "Oh Mama it's very so yummy!"

* * *

A frequent complaint while she is waiting for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anything else at all for that matter: "This is taking a long time ago!"

* * *

Her requests often go, "Mama, can you {fill in the blank} because I very want you to."

* * *

Her version of the ubiquitous kid phrase, "Look at me!" is "Mama! I'll show you me! I'll SHOW you me!"

* * *

"I'm yeddy!" is her happy exclamation when she's ready, for anything really -- breakfast, or to go on a walk, or when she's just gotten dressed in the morning.

* * *

Singing to herself hopefully one day: "Hush little baby, don't say a word, Mama's gonna buy you a donut..."

* * *

Stark naked after her bath one evening, as I combed her hair: "I'm a beautiful beautiful girl princess!"

* * *

Making a pile of dirt and sand on the edge of our street and enjoying the process very much, she mused to herself: "This is looking really good, yes, this is looking really good."  When this went on for a while I interjected, "How's it coming, Mol?  Looking good?"  She replied with exasperation: "Yes, I already said that!  Please don't ask me again!"
{Hmm, I guess she's occasionally heard that phrase before... }

More technologically adept than any three-year-old perhaps should be, she requests, "Ayexa, pay Jesus." She means "Alexa, play Jesus Loves Me," and the strangest thing is that Alexa seems to understand this and obliges more than half the time.

* * *

She climbs into her high chair at every meal and, needing to be scooted in toward the table, she yells, "Can somebody push me over?!" {Believe me, sometimes we are sorely tempted to do just that!}

* * *

Hearing me say "PBS" one day, she immediately replied, "H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P!"

* * *

"I'm yeady!" {I'm ready!}

* * *

Giving herself a pep talk one day: "I can do it!!!!"

* * *

When she wants me to close my eyes for a minute: 
"Mama, turn your eyes off!" 

* * *

On one of the first sunny, really warm days of spring: "Mama, the sky is keeping me so warm!"

* * *

Wearing short sleeves for the first time in spring, and clearly not remembering this phenomenon from previous years: "Oh wow, my sleeves are already rolled up!  So that I can wash my hands!"

One of my favorite things about toddlers is their total lack of comprehension of time and numbers, and yet the way they'll confidently utilize figures nonetheless.  They are keenly trying to figure out these things like time and numbers all the time.

"Mama, I have seven dollars.  Can you buy me a quarter?"

* * *

"When I was Nell's age, I was Nell's age!"
{How very ... astute?}

* * *

When I was pregnant with Sylvie: 
"Mama, when am I going to be in your tummy?"

* * *

"Mama? I need sifty dollars because I need it.  To put in my packpack."

* * *

After her Uncle Andrew promised Nell five dollars for floating her on her back unassisted, Molly jumped in the pool and yelled, "Now can I have fifty dollars?!"

* * *

"I was locked in the bathroom for seventy dollars before Nell opened the door for me!  Seventy dollars... seventy... I mean, seventy years."

This girl has opinions and makes them known.  

* * *

Encountering a dinner she didn't want:
"No, no, I won't eat it, SORRY."

* * *

Listening to Schubert one day: 
"I don't like this, but I do like the poop song."

* * *

When Mexican food was for dinner:
"I love cheese, I love sour cream, I love cheese, I love cheese... BUT. I. DON'T. LIKE. BEANS."

* * *

She holds a strong distaste for the infamous Canon in D by Pachelbel.  When the older two girls, who like the piece, requested we add it to their bedtime playlist of relaxing music Molly was adamantly opposed each and every time she heard it.  I would be sitting downstairs and know when that song had come up on the playlist because of Molly's utterly horrified screams: "Oh no! This is not a lullaby!  Oh no! No no no! This goes "Da, Da, Da, Da! {Yell-singing the bass line}  This is not a lullaby!"  

And yes, Nathan and I found this unendingly hysterical every night when it occurred.

* * *

And when I asked her to put her shoes on one day before leaving the house, she declared, "Hashtag, I don't like you."  Ahh, a child of the modern era.

* * *

Outraged whenever she was corrected or chastised, she would (and often still does!) reply, "Don't 'peak to me that way!"   Sometimes she'll come find me, wailing, "Mama! Mama! I do something and then Daddy 'peak to me that way about it!"  {Translation: I did something naughty and Daddy spoke to me firmly about it -- and in true toddler-justice-warrior fashion, she finds this outrageous!}

* * *

We can't help finding it hilarious all the times she'll come running to me wailing, "Mama GUESS WHAT?!  Daddy said no at me!"  Or very early one morning when she crawled into our bed as a somewhat unwelcome guest and I was awakened to her outraged, "Mama guess what?!  Daddy tell me to lie still and I didn't like that!"

* * *

Every time she gets in trouble from Nathan her bottom line is: "I don't yike Daddy.  Daddy is BAD."

But for all her grumpy moments and bold opinions, she's way more than half sweetness, of course.

Snuggling early one morning in bed, she told me unprompted: "Mama you are nice, you are cozy, I love you."

* * *

Back in February when I set the table nicely for a little Valentine's tea she exclaimed with delight: "Oh Mama I'm so happy at you, I'm so proud of you!" 

* * *

When I got home from a concert on afternoon she ran towards me, declaring, "You're my favorite Mama in the whole world!"

* * *

And she's a very grateful girl -- she continually remembers her birthday back in March, and will still often say out of the blue, "Mama thank you for {fill in the blank} you got me for a present!"

* * *

"I love you Mama, you're the best Mama forever I see!"

* * *

She snuggled up against me while I was getting some work done on my laptop. Putting an arm around her, I said, "I love you, Molly."  Molly replied, "I love your 'puter." 

* * *

She was my right-hand man for all things gardening all summer, and would get up nearly every morning and ask, "Mama, can I do some flowering with you today?"

* * *

Late in my pregnancy with Sylvie I really couldn't carry Molly around much due to back pain and such, which I guess made both of us a little sad.  A while after Sylvie was born and I lifted Molly up one day, she snuggled against me and said, "Mama, I'm glad your back is better now so we can do our carryin' again."

Molly: "I feel sick."
Me: "I'm sorry Molly, what doesn't feel good?"
Molly: "ME!!!!"

* * *

Molly often assures her big sisters, "Yes!  Mama said I could!"  Ah, a girl who understands the power of permission but doesn't seem to understand that it does, in fact, need to be granted from a figure in authority.  

* * *

"I'm too scary!" and "I will be scary!" are used interchangeably for being scared, her arms usually wrapped tightly around my neck in an act of bedtime desperation sweetness.  And once after something happened that scared her, she declared, "Wow!  That was nervous!"

* * *

Watching a slightly scary movie (Herbie!  Vintage movie classic!) on a family movie night recently, Molly did not like the way the movie was unfolding and declared: "I don't want this show to be rude to me!"

* * *

When a sister laughs at her: "Don't be silly to me!  Mama!  Nell's being silly at me!"

* * *

Putting her fingers in her ears and making a new discovery: "I'm putting my fingers in my ears and it turns it all down!"  She took them out.  "Turns it back up !"  Put them in again.  "Turns it down again!"

* * *

Processing the pandemic: "Why can't we go somewhere?  I'm not a 'birus'! I'm not!"

* * *

Back in early May, when it snowed on Ree's birthday, Molly was very dismayed: "But Mama it's snowing on Mawie's happy boow-day cake!"
"Well, it's not snowing on her cake, but it is snowing on her birthday!"
"Well, can you take it off?  Can you take the snow off?"
{I'm sorry, I find it difficult to remove weather from a day somehow... we all have our so-called Mom fails, I guess.}

* * *

"I don't love bugs, but I do love grapes."

* * *

Holding up a finger: "Mama, this little piggy is hurtin' me."

* * *

"Bunnies have a different bum than my bum, actually."

* * *

Brown-nosing from an early age, upon hearing a sibling making a scene over something: 
"Hi Mama, I'm the one who's not being fussy."

Screaming in the middle of the night one night: "I want to go to church!!!" 
{She is her father's daughter I suppose!}

* * *

Nathan was asking me about something and I replied, "Sure, go ahead babe."  Molly interjected vehemently, "He's not babe he's Daddy."

* * *

Molly: "I did a poop! I did lots of poops! A daddy one and a mommy one and a Nell one and a Marie one and a Molly one and an Uncle Andrew one and an Aunt Hannah one and..."

Me: "Okay Molly, maybe we don't need to name each of your poops..." (Although I'm sure her relatives will be honored.)

* * *

Pointing to a crackly spot on our ceiling "What's happening to our sky?"

* * *

"I'm not tiny!  Well I'm a little bit tiny but I'm not the tiniest!"

* * *

"When I was a baby poopin' in my diaper I would say, "How 'barassin'!"

* * *

Playing in her toy kitchen with lego people: "I'm pretending my guys are disobeyin' me."
Me: "Oh?  And what happens when they disobey?  Do you talk to them about that?"
Molly: "No, they just get cooked in the oven."
Me: ....
{Well then.  That escalated quickly, as they say.}

* * *

After Sylvie was born Molly would periodically ask, "Mama, are you gonna push the baby out?"  Perplexed, I would answer, "I mean, Molly, I did... she's right here in my arms."  And she seemed equally perplexed.  I guess at the end of the day, a new family member can be a confusing thing no matter how much you prepare for it.  

One of my absolutely favorite conversations, which comes up over and over again lately, involves the recent arrival of Sylvie in our family.  It has become apparent that Molly believes that our midwife brought Sylvie to us as a gift.  Yes, despite the fact that we talked extensively about the baby's arrival, and she was born right here at home, and Molly met her when she was minutes old, and we had even watched YouTube videos of home births in preparation for the big day.  (Yes, really.)  All of this is irrelevant; every few days Molly will be gazing lovingly at Sylvie and then will say something like, "I love our baby.  It was so nice of that lady who comed to our house to give her to us.  That was a nice lady to give us a baby."

I remind her about how Sylvie grew in my tummy and was born at home and that the midwife came here to help, but none of this makes much of an impression on Molly.  The midwife is a nice lady who "gived" us a baby.  She remembers the day clearly and has it all figured out.  "I woke up and went up to the attic to your bedroom but you weren't there.  You and Daddy were in the family room with the lady.  And Aunt Hannah and Uncle Andrew came.  I remember!  The lady comed to our house.  She was so nice to give us a baby.  I just love this baby sister."

And she sure does love her.  She very nearly smothers her with love and affection, constantly kissing her and climbing on top of her with exuberant hugs.  Occasionally these measures of affection are upsetting to Sylvie, and while usually Molly is unfazed and unconvinced {"No I'm not upsetting her! She loves me!"}, she occasionally sighs, "I wish we could get a new baby who doesn't cry."  

In general though, her strategy is to blame the crying on something other than her own actions, so she runs to me and exclaims, "Mama, I was snuggling Sylvie, and... now... I didn't make her sad... I think she wants to go somewhere!"

Because it's 2020.  If someone is sad, it must be because they wish they could go somewhere, right?!  Makes sense to me.

* * *

She was helping me in the kitchen the other day and she smiled up at me and said,  "Mama I love you, it's good to have you."

It's good to have you, too, Mollywog.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Reeisms, Vol. 7

This poor blog, once long ago so vibrant with posts -- even if they were just mundanities and everyday happenings -- lies mostly neglected these days.  But even a post every few months provides such fun memories of our family life to look back on later!  {Or as Nathan once said, "I'm glad you blog about our life; it makes me feel like we'll be able to remember some of it," or something to that effect.}  I'm particularly overdue with kid quotes, and have months and even years of them saved in notes on my phone.  Despite a recent data loss tragedy (oh, the sadness!), I still have quite a few worth sharing and remembering.  So here we go with some very overdue Reeisms!  {Some of these date back by over a year.}

She calls a shirt a "topping," continues to be a great lover of all things fancy (and conversely, disdains things that are not fancy enough for her taste), and can drive her big sister to a state of near distraction.  She's a champion snuggler, makes the funniest faces around, and provides the household with frequent drama over every stubbed toe ("ow Ow OW OWOWOWWWWWWWWWW!").

After a discussion of a babysitter with whom she was not pleased:
"Heavenly Father, thank you for my mama and my daddy and my sisters and my own family and NOBODY ELSE."

* * *

Profound musings over breakfast:
"Waffles are basically pancakes except they're bigger, look different, and they're called something else."

* * *

Thinking I might make myself an afternoon cup of coffee one day:
Me: "Mmm... you know what I want right now?"
Ree: "What?  What??  What I want is a whole cup of candy canes!"

* * *

Walking down the stairs one morning: 
"Something smells disgusting.  Oh, maybe it was just your homemade bread smelling like a stinky rotten pig."
{Well, well, well.  Good morning to you too, Miss Merry Sunshine!}

* * *

One morning last summer, going to a little summer camp at some friends' house:
"Mama, why do you get to wear a nice dress and I have to wear dirty kids' clothes?!"

After listening to music by Mussorgsky one morning:
"Mama, can you put on some more music from a different land?"
"What land?"
"Oh I don't know, just a land that has princesses who are fancy with crowns on their heads.  And bonnets.  That kind of land."

* * *

Tidying up one day: 
"I'm working on making my room as clean and as fancy as a castle."

* * *

"I need a bigger house to live in that has more echoes."
{Valid concern, I say.  Good acoustics make everything better.}

* * *

Practicing her cartwheels on the lawn:
"Grown-ups are worse at doing things than kids.  Cuz they weigh more."

"It's such a good thing we are all in the same family.   Because our names all match and they all go together really well."

* * *

"Why can't sharks close their mouths?"
{Valid question, right?}

* * *

Coughing badly in the night:
This cough is hurting me! And it's making my voice like lower! And ... it's ... it's ... ugly!! (sobbing)

Coughing again:
"It feels like, and it sounds like... it's a dead trumpet!" 

One evening when I was a full 40 weeks pregnant with Sylvie I told the girls I was going to take a soak in the bathtub.  Marie helpfully replied, "Ok but let me tell you something Mama.  You're probably too huge to fit in the bathtub."

* * *

"Mama, your legs are so thick you can barely fit on your chair!"
{It'll be a miracle if I survive motherhood with a shred of self-esteem intact.}

* * *

In a kindly and condescending tone: "Nell, there's just a feeling I have that I feel like I'm better at ballet than you are.  Sorry."

"My whole body is tickling! This is a real emergency!"

* * *

Last school year, after reading them Buzz Aldrin's picture book
Ree was extremely enamored with the whole book, the whole experience, the whole person.
Ree: "Where does he live? Can we go visit him? Can we go today?  Or would that be inappropriate to go to his house if he doesn't know us?"
Me: "Well, we can't go visit him, but maybe you could write him a letter and tell him you love his book!"
Ree: "I LOVE HIM!  I LOVE HIM!  Why can't kids go to the moon?! Why?"
{She was so enthralled, it was the most wonderful thing to watch.  Having once been completely space-crazy as a kid I could relate to her wonder and excitement!}

* * *

Singing to herself one afternoon:
"I just love to be unbearable! I just want to be unbearable! Unbearable! Unbearable!"

* * *

On Ash Wednesday, ironically, after multiple sibling altercations it was time for people to have some time and space apart in their own bedrooms.  What should I hear drifting down the stairs but the sound of her lovely little voice singing to an improvised melody, "Do more and more bad things that you can think of...!"
{Ah, the sweet sound of repentance.  Or something.}

Deeply disappointed in a drawing she did, and wailing: "This doesn't look like it's supposed to be admired!  This isn't something to be proud of!" 
{I disagree in fact, it was a lovely drawing of a robin!}

* * *

One afternoon when Sylvie was just a week or so old, and I had tried to take a nap to no avail:
"I wonder why Sylvie can get more rest than you can, Mama.  I guess it's because her ears are smaller so she doesn't hear us making noise as much!"

* * *

Over dinner one evening, beginning to question my parental narrative, she thoughtfully mused, "Actually... we haven't gotten sick from eating treats on the times when we've eaten treats.  So it's fine and healthy for our bodies to eat lots of treats after all, I guess!"

* * *

Ree: "I wish we had all been born at the same time."
Me: "Oh really?  Why is that?"
Ree: "So that you wouldn't die before I do."
{heart. breaks.}

"Mama, things are moving around in my head!  I mean, my mind!  My mind is moving around in my head!"
{Perhaps she's describing what we call thinking?}

* * *

"Mama, when you laugh, your head isn't so round anymore."
Nell: "No one's head is really round."
Ree: "Yours is, Nell.  And Molly's is.  But Mama's head is squashed."

* * *

Me: "What was Adam made from?"
Nell: "Dust."
Me: "What was Eve made from?"
Ree: "Plaster."

Dressed up in a vintage pink dress to go to a friend's birthday: 
"YES.  YES!  This is exactly how I've always wanted to look!  I don't look like a plain Marie I look like a fancy Marie!"

* * *

We "raised" caterpillars into Painted Lady butterflies, an experience as filled with occasional worrisome setbacks as it was with joy and wonder in the end.  One day after Molly had illicitly gotten ahold of the poor caterpillars and given them a solid shaking, Marie wailed, "I wish I could be a tiny baby so I didn't have anything to worry about so I didn't have to worry!  See, Sylvie doesn't know the caterpillar might be dead!"

I know exactly what you mean, girlie.  Just you wait until the worries become even bigger than caterpillar woes.  Being a baby again is going to look better and better.  On the other hand, being your mom has its distinct joys and advantages, grown-up worries notwithstanding.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's been worth growing up for.

wiggling her first loose tooth with her tongue
{wiggling her first loose tooth with her tongue}

Monday, April 6, 2020

Holy Week At Home

I will be honest and say that I have truly struggled to find the energy to observe Lent and prepare to celebrate Holy Week this year.  I usually delight in observing the church year and celebrating these things with my children, in our home.    And yet this year, a year without church when I know I should do these things at home more than ever, I have not been able to summon the strength.

And somehow it wasn't until Saturday night, the night before Palm Sunday, that it occurred to me that of course, I needed to ask for the strength since I couldn't find it within myself.

For the first Sunday of this already long quarantine, yesterday we got dressed instead of live-streaming church in our PJs.

I faced the day with an energy I couldn't have found within myself after yet another night of restless sleep and many long Braxton Hicks contractions.

My emotions have been up and down with the coronavirus self-isolating going on.  Some days I'm able to proceed with life pretty normally, and other days it's just... sad.  The idea of Holy Week without church has been the hardest adjustment of it all for me, maybe even harder than the idea of having a baby during a global pandemic.  Holy Week is my favorite time of year, hands down.  The Triduum is something I look forward to for all of Lent.  And it is worthy of being celebrated gloriously, even if we are all doing that in our respective homes.

Having found renewed energy over the weekend to do what we can to celebrate this week in our home, I was creating a document of resources so I could organize my plans, and then I realized I might share them here as well, in case they are helpful to anyone else.

Throughout Holy Week:

The girls will finish coloring in their Lent "maps," something we do each year as we count down the days to the long-awaited Easter Sunday.

They will continue our Lenten tradition of earning small beans (this year it's coffee beans) to place in a jar when I notice them making a sacrifice or particular kindness on behalf of someone else. When they come downstairs on Easter morning, all those coffee beans will have been replaced with... jelly beans!  {I usually get the dye-free jelly beans from Trader Joe's, so again, we are flying by the seat of our pants this year without being able to make the usual shopping trips to pick up little things here and there.  I may try to make a trip there, but everything takes more forethought and planning right now, for sure.  I actually haven't been to a grocery store since March 9!}

We've placed our little "Resurrection Garden" in the center of the dining room table, where it will stay until Easter (when I'll move it and hopefully replace it with a bouquet of flowers, if we can manage to get some, virus notwithstanding).  Most years we plant little succulents in amidst the twig and wire crosses the girls make, and nestle our small flower pot "tomb" in there.  This year we didn't venture out to get succulents, so some moss from the backyard is sufficing.

A few years ago a wonderful and more experienced mother than myself shared with me the idea of lighting a group of candles during Holy Week, and lighting one fewer each night as we approach Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  We've been doing this for several years now and it's become a special tradition.  On Holy Saturday when we remember that the light of Christ was lying in the tomb, we don't light any of the tea lights.

I also keep a Bible and a book of Bible stories for Children nearby at all times, and have chosen to add something specific to the journey of Holy Week to each night's little "tablescape."

Palm Sunday: Palm fronds (or this year, spruce branches) can be placed amongst the candles.

Monday: We read about Jesus casting out the money changers from the temple after he arrived in Jerusalem; some coins scattered on the table symbolize this story.

Tuesday: We read about Jesus's foretelling of Peter's denial; the kids bring a toy rooster to place on the table.

"Spy" Wednesday: Coins on the table again, this time to symbolize Judas's decision to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Maundy Thursday: Hearts of some kind (paper works just fine) to symbolize the new commandment to love one another.

Good Friday: I bring a piece of cloth to the table and let the girls grab hold of it together; we tear it from top to bottom to symbolize the curtain of the temple being torn when Jesus breathed his last on the cross.

+ + +

Those are some of the things we'll be doing throughout the week.

Specifically in the later part of the week, our church will be live-streaming small presentations specifically for the children, which we will be eagerly looking forward to.

At home, we'll also be doing some of the following:

Maundy Thursday:

Just as our church usually does foot washing for all of the children, we will do this at home this year. Afterwards, as we recall the Last Supper, we'll eat something simple and vaguely Mediterranean in nature -- I'm thinking dates or other dried fruit, a flatbread of some sort, olives, maybe a chickpea-based dish.   I don't think we'll attempt a full Seder, but I do have some interesting Seder resources I plan to look over and see what we can manage to incorporate.  We will certainly re-read the story of the first Passover, and talk about how every year at Passover the very same things were said and done, but at the Last Supper, Jesus "said and did things that no one had ever said or done before."  This, again, is language our children are accustomed to hearing at our church.

Thursday night I'll make my hot cross bun dough, so it can have a cold overnight rise in the fridge and be ready for Friday morning.

Good Friday:

We'll start the day by baking our hot cross buns and piping crosses onto them.  Hot cross buns are always a bit of a mystery to me, as the Triduum is such a holy and dark time of Lent, and then -- let's have some super sweet buns!  But maybe that's why I like this spelt recipe; it eschews the usual  fluffy sweetness for something a little more hearty, and replaces the white sugary icing with dark chocolate piped crosses.  I came across this recipe years ago and while it's definitely not a traditional hot cross bun, I love it and I just can't go back.  I mean, you can't go wrong with the dried apricots and dark chocolate combination.

And in the afternoon, while we won't be able to go to our church's Good Friday service for children, we will do the stations of the cross (which is the format of our church service) here at home.  I found some wonderful Stations of the Cross coloring pages, and since my older two girls are in a phase of total coloring obsession, I think they'll really enjoy working on these.  On a smaller scale, you can print this booklet or this one for an at-home Stations of the Cross.

We have a small olive wood cross I've set up on our mantel, and we can say together like they're used to hearing in church on Good Friday, "Behold the wood of the cross, on which was hung the world's salvation." / "O come, let us adore him."

We will probably also listen to a performance of a movement or more of Stabat Mater, an oft-set text about the sorrowing mother Mary standing at the cross.  I'm partial to Pergolesi's, and in particular I find this historically-informed performance to be a fantastic one.  So I'll watch it with my kids, and hope they've inherited my love of a good suspension or two (or even better, four solid minutes of them).

We'll end our observance of Good Friday by veiling our little cross and our icon of Christ on the mantle.

Holy Saturday:

Observing Good Friday and Holy Saturday with very young children is something we try to do gently in our family, and I have always appreciated that our church does this as well.  We tell the truth about Jesus's death on the cross.  But we focus on the fact that the light of Christ, the light of the whole world, could not be put out.  That he rose again from the dead, and that he is with us now.

A good part of Saturday by necessity is usually spent in some preparations for Easter.  While those preparations will be considerably lesser this year, I am still hoping to do a nice Easter dinner for our family, and clean and decorate the house for the occasion.  It lightens the darkness of the day a bit for the kids to get involved in all the getting ready for Easter, too.  They are looking forward to the celebration.

Easter Vigil: 

In addition to following along with what our church live streams, I think Nathan and I will do our own little version of Easter Vigil at home with the girls.  Easter Vigil is the single best church service of the year and I just can't imagine not having it in whatever way we can.

If you want to hold your own version of Vigil, you can find the service in the BCP for ideas.  And if you don't have a copy, you can access the entire thing, or different services individually, all online right here.

It's such a special service, to hold Vigil with Christians around the world as we remember Christ passing over from death into life.

"This is the night when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave."

A few basic elements: begin in darkness (sundown is a good time for this without getting to be too late for children), light a Paschal candle, do whatever portions of the liturgy seem appropriate to incorporate (depending on how young your children are, you may not be able to manage the whole thing, although the Scripture readings for the occasion are wonderful if you can manage them all), then make an Easter proclamation, bring up all the lights and make some noise!  I'm thinking Nathan will pound out some jolly chords on the organ we have in our home and the girls and I will ring bells, but you can substitute as necessary for your family situation -- shouting, singing, piano crashing, Alleluia-ing, bells ringing!  We'll also unveil our cross and icon.

At the conclusion of whatever small Vigil you may have, it's customary to break the Lenten fast and have a treat.  We'll definitely be doing something involving chocolate!

Easter Sunday: 

It's a celebration day, yes, even in the midst of a global pandemic and a quarantine.  Assuming we can manage to procure the right groceries between now and then, we'll have a special breakfast while Nathan is at work (the work of a church musician is never over; or at least, it certainly isn't over on Easter Sunday morning), and we'll watch the livestream of his church service at Park Street Church, or our own church, Christ the Redeemer (or both!), and sing our favorite Easter hymns from home.

Once Nathan gets home, we'll enjoy Easter dinner together.  I'm thinking the usual fare of ham, potatoes, rolls, a few vegetable side dishes... but in the current grocery situation our country seems to be experiencing, you never know!

+ + +

It's not going to be the same this year.  But that doesn't mean we can let it all go by uncelebrated.

So we will continue on this week, with the recognition that "death {and also COVID} in vain forbids him rise," and get ready to say on Sunday, "Alleluia!"

And we will rejoice in knowing that so many others are saying it with us, even if we cannot see them or hear them this year.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

a COVID-19 confession of being ordinary

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” -- Victor Hugo

I am not doing anything very significant right now.  I wake each morning thinking I ought to join some great movement to provide aid or relief to people, or perhaps to find a way despite social distancing to share uplifting music with others, or at the very least to deliver handwritten notes to each of our neighbors, but somehow each day seems to bring with it enough on my proverbial plate.  It is enough just to keep my children fed and cared for, to prepare for the rapidly approaching arrival of our fourth child, to keep our home from falling into chaos.

I am not doing great things, and if I am honest with myself, I am not even heeding Mother Theresa's call to "do small things with great love," for sometimes I cannot seem to summon in myself the great love.  There are in fact times in each day when I'm doing small things not with great love but with great impatience, or with great annoyance, or even with great bitterness.

I am sitting at the table, three meals a day, reminding children to chew with their mouths closed, to not interrupt one another, sometimes just to take another bite without complaint.  I am ushering children into coats and boots to take them out of doors for a walk, and wondering why at least one of them seems to be fussing at any given moment.  I am folding loads of laundry daily, and loading the dishwasher again the minute it's been run and emptied.  I am reading aloud through frequent irritating interruptions.  I am wiping hands and bottoms, giving baths, and reminding these small people, over and over, of the the rules and expectations of our family.  It does not feel like a great thing, this life of mine, but somehow, nonetheless, it can be enough to exhaust me.

+ + +

The world is a weighty place, and we are all feeling it right now.  People are sick and some are even dying.  We are staying home, and we are waiting as the data unfolds in real time.  Knowing that the numbers represent real lives and deaths.

But there are beautiful things happening too, even if I'm not contributing to them.

In the past week, I've been touched by a few things personally: a delivery to my doorstep of a bag of flour when Nathan couldn't find any at the store; a package of my favorite almond butter cups from Trader Joe's brought to my porch; conversations held through the doorway; a friend bringing a gift for our new baby; a bunch of forsythia from a friend's yard; another doorstep delivery of labor and postpartum supplies.  And in my gratitude for these moments of mine, I've also been humbled in the realization that I have not done very much for others lately.

+ + +

Nathan's work must feel, I think, more meaningful than any of mine at a time like this.  The music he coordinates for Sunday worship services has become a lifeline to many people right now, with more than a thousand people tuning in to the livestream each Sunday to hear the music as well as the sermon and to participate, such as they can, in worship.  

For my own work, my spring gigs have all been canceled.  I'm continuing to teach violin, albeit virtually for the time being.  Two weeks ago I could never have imagined that I would someday feel strangely thrilled to see the faces of students on my computer, to feel that saying hello to a middle schooler or chatting briefly with a beginning student playing Twinkle would become a bit of a lifeline, a glimpse of humanity outside my own door.

+ + +

Life is changed for all of us right now, in our work lives and in our home lives.  And isolation, I am learning, is not always good even for an introvert such as myself.  Even for us, a family who already homeschooled and thus was accustomed to life with children home all the time, nothing feels very normal right now.  Our rhythms and routines are disrupted.  And where things do manage to continue as normal, a blanket of anxiety can threaten to envelop me at any moment of the day.

If I read too many news articles in one day, I can feel the creeping fears -- While we are hoping to have a home birth, will I somehow end up delivering in a hospital situation where my husband is not permitted to be with me?  Will my family and friends be able to remain healthy through this epidemic?  How many will have lives inevitably altered by this, either by disease or by financial ramifications?  I have to put down my computer, go outside for a bit and breathe the fresh air, try to find a sense of normalcy.

Amidst these global concerns, I am confronted daily with my own pettiness and selfishness.  I think of things I had wanted to do before the baby comes -- updating the framed pictures from eight years ago hanging on the living room walls, changing a few decor things to create a space I'll enjoy being in when I'm nursing a new baby.  And yet, a trip to Michaels to update my walls or even a trip to Target for baby essentials is suddenly not possible, or at least not advisable.  I find myself feeling a petty sense of self-pity that I won't be able to take the new baby out in the near future, won't be able to go through a Starbucks drive-through on a particularly wearying day, won't be able to see any friends in those early newborn days.  I know that none of these things are particularly weighty problems in light of a world battling a global disease, nurses overworked and patients dying, and yet I cannot seem to help feeling them.

+ + +

This morning a timely online sermon reminded me that God never promises that we won't be in the valley of the shadow of death.  But he promises that he will be with us.  The presence of God.  I want it to be tangible right now, to myself and to my children, but instead some days I feel as though I'm reaching around in the darkness unable to quite grasp ahold of his presence.  I'm grieved that we won't be able to go to church during Holy Week or for Easter.  And while I usually love celebrating these special times and observing them in many ways in our home life, instead of feeling empowered or energized right now to do this even more for my family, I feel... tired.  Overwhelmed.  Isolated.  Sad.

+ + +

So, I'm not doing great things.  Today's small accomplishments included beginning a good and timely chapter book with my kids, and baking two loaves of sourdough bread that, for the first time in a couple of weeks, actually rose beautifully and turned out nicely.  With the heat in our house only working sporadically, along with a shortage of flour until recently, I have had depressingly dense loaves lately.  So it felt like a victory to have this morning's loaves bake up the way I wanted them to at last.

We dipped chunks of fresh sourdough into homemade hummus tonight, and we were grateful.

God reminded me of his presence in a loaf of bread today - our daily bread, our needs provided for.

+ + +

So this is me today, right now: not inspirational, not a world-changer.  Just getting through each day, tired and rather hugely pregnant, waiting for the time each evening when I can fall into bed.  Despite a million clever and creative ideas flooding the internet with things we could all be doing with our children lately, I am just maintaining the normal around here for the most part.  Not doing spectacular craft projects with my children, not making medical supplies, certainly not nursing patients back to health or even brightening anyone's day, really.

Just baking two loaves of bread and feeding my husband and children.

The pastor I listened to online earlier today said this, repeating advice he was once given when he had reached a low point: "Be faithful.  Do the next thing that you're supposed to do, and do it well."

So I shall continue to do the little things I've been given to do each day, even on the days when all is grey and rainy and my tasks feel unimportant.  And when I have accomplished my tasks, I will go to sleep, because sleep is something I seem to require a lot of right now.  And I will remember Victor Hugo's words: "God is awake."  He is present.

Friends, if any of you are like me, and not feeling that you are accomplishing great things in these difficult days, you are not alone.  Remember that the little things matter, and remember most of all that you can go to sleep after your day's labors, knowing that God is present with us and he does not sleep.