Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Scariest Things

On a day that looks at the dark side of things:

My Scariest Things

Potty training running late Sunday morning,
Sitters that cancel without any warning
(Who knew that Advil was so habit-forming?)
Washing baby, earring goes down the drain,
These are the things that drive me insane.

Pediatric enemas, nasal syringes,
Playdates where toddlers go on munchkin binges,
Coffee runs out; from work, husband is late:
There are the days I am tempted to hate… ®

® When the dish drops,
When the clocks change,
And baby wakes at four,
I simply remember my scariest things
And that I could feel… bad more!

Standing on high chairs, and carts while out shopping,
Caillou’s voice whining without ever stopping
Gastroenteritis of kid on top bunk
These are the things that put me in a funk. ®

On the plus side, I am forever grateful none of my scariest things involve war, gunfire, explosions, or starvation.  We are so blessed.  Happy All Hallow’s Eve everyone!  -TLC

“Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth.” Col. 3:2

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Aftermath

I awoke this morning to the sound of my girls singing “Amazing Grace.”  Honestly I did.  And no, this is by no means typical.  I am just as likely to awaken to the dulcet tones of them singing, “Firework” by Katie Perry, or “Where is My Hairbrush” by Larry the Cucumber.  Even more common is for me to awaken to “Mom, she took my SOCKS!  And I have a HEADAHCE!” (I have still not convinced them that, if they really had such a horrible headache, yelling loudly would not help the situation.  Nor have I yet convinced them that there are enough socks to go around.  Because there are.  We have enough socks for the neighborhood.  Do you need socks?  Let us know, cuz they’re all here.

But no, this morning I awoke to “Amazing Grace,” sung pretty darn well, by my daughters.  Which made me smile (as opposed to waking up with Patient Mommy Speech #32 which begins, “Now ladies, there are plenty of socks…”)  And it was appropriate to hear the old hymn on a morning of sunshine and warm air and yes, still many autumn leaves, after our visit from Hurricane Sandy yesterday, which for us, gratefully, was more bark than bite.  Our thoughts and prayers are heartily with those who faired worse. 

As usual, things were a lot better than I’d feared, because I’m a pretty good fearer.  After getting warnings about days of no power, I had bought the last generator—no hand-to-hand combat required--at Job Lot (the el grande cheapo kind that can power a whole toaster oven).  That evening, when I checked Facebook postings, I realized that all my mom friends were cooking.  Oh.  Right.  I am ashamed to say, I had not thought of doing that.  At all.  Even though I had realized the stove might not work in an outage. 

True confession here: I am not a good cook.  This blog will likely not be replete with amazing recipes.  I am no domestic goddess (though I do follow her blog).  I do not enjoy cooking it, though I gradually warming up to it (nyuk nyuk)  It just seems to take so much time, and it makes more things to clean (of which I always seem to have an overabundance).  I do not like seeing or touching or smelling raw meat, nor could I kill anything larger than a beetle, so maybe I’m a subconscious wanna-be vegetarian, who knows.  

And for me, the worst part of cooking is, the results are never guaranteed.  You can slave over a particular dish, only to have no one really want to eat it.  The last time I steamed green beans I forgot about them, set my entire oven on fire (harvest gold circa 1950.  Sadly, it survived), and had a visit from the somewhat cranky local fire department who advised me to air the smoke out of the house and “clean this up.”  (By “this” they were referring to the results of my frenetic sweep of the kitchen with powdery substance during my first use of a fire extinguisher, which involved me pulling everything off that looked like a pin and squeezing the trigger, neglecting the aiming part somewhat in my anti-fire enthusiasm.) 

At any rate, after reading posts such as “Just finished baking three pies, creating four casseroles, sautéing eleven stir fries, and confecting the perfect lasagna... waiting around the hearth holding hands with board games and laughter for the start of Sandy,” I felt somewhat lacking.  So when I woke the day of the storm and saw the lights still on, I blessed the Lord I had been given a second chance at domestic success.  I graciously told my kids they could watch TV “till the power goes out,” and then frantically cooked most of the day.  These dishes mostly involved my “comfort zone” of cooking, which is boiling.  I can boil with the best of them.  My mother was Irish, and we were raised on all things boiled and blackened.  I thought steak and scallops were supposed to be really chewy till I met my husband (who, naturally, is a fabulous cook, which is how this all works out.)  And I still have a fondness for canned green beans, instant potatoes, and well-done hamburger.

So I made rice, and pasta, and then got all kinds of crazy and pulled out the quick bread mixes.  After the frozen pot pies emerged in “edible” form from the over, I tired a bit and let my eight year old take the reins on completing the apple crisp… all went well till she mistook unlabeled hot cocoa mix for brown sugar.  (FYI cocoa mix does not bake well, and in no way does it “crisp.”)  (Note bene: In my heart, I am an organic, gluten-free, locally grown, paleo-inspired provider of nourishing traditions.  In reality, I am not. Yet.)

And after all this delectable bounty of overdone rice and dark brown pot pie… we did not lose power!  Praise the Lord!  The worst thing that happened here was that my children were bleary eyed from television (as it worked just fine all day) and everyone was overfed on starches.  I guess it just goes to show that 95% of what we worry about doesn’t happen, and no, it does not add one minute to our lifespan as Christ said.  (Matthew 6:27).  Still, unfortunately, doesn’t always stop me from being anxious. Yet.

I’m reflecting on Matt 6:28-9, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin.  But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these.” It makes me think that God doesn’t just give us what we need, but He makes us beautiful.  “He hath made everything beautiful in its time.” Eccl. 3:11).  That our mere existence gives glory to Him and our life is upheld by His abiding love.  What hurricane has anything on that? 

I earnestly hope you all are well after Sandy or otherwise, and if not well, then will soon be.  Not being glib about it: I earnestly believe God looks out for our best interests, though I am well aware it does not always appear that way.  (The last time I said a novena, my car was stolen at the end of it.  That’s still a head-scratcher to me.  Still, I trust God works all for good, and perhaps someone needed the car more—and the car seats, and my notebooks, beach umbrella, and purse that was inside it… no, I’m not bitter lol.  Okay, not anymore. But I remain curious, and I’m cultivating the faith that God worked it all for the best, though I don’t understand why things happen at times.) 

I sometimes feel badly promising to pray for people, when my prayers are often so distracted and hurried.  But I have faith my prayers are worthwhile to God, though I confess—since I had babies—I have found daily Mass a thing of the past and a hope for the future, and the last time I was actually on my knees with a rosary was when one got tangled in the dishwasher and I prayed that nothing was broken.  Formal prayers mostly happen in the car or shower these days, how about you?  I miss contemplative prayer so much though… for now, mommy life seems to be mostly active prayer, offering up mishaps and aches and exhaustion.  Working while praying, and praying through work… I like to this I’m being “Opus Dei” about my vocation.  Trying anyway.  So I will boldly promise to pray for you; and I would love if you pray for me.  (Thus "Oremus pro invicem"... just sounds so much cooler in Latin. :)    

Turns out, my girls were not actually singing the traditional “Amazing Grace” this morning after all, but a parody about “Amazing Baby.”  Ah well, ‘twas a nice thought.  As I write, this same “amazing baby” is taking a nap while my three year-old thunders back and forth past her room to the kitchen on juice acquisition missions.  This could get… sticky.  Perhaps I’d better go for now.  Oremus pro invicem!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Parenthood: The Perfect Storm

It’s my favorite season of the year.  Heat yielding to coolness.  Blue skies. Falling leaves. Pumpkin pie.  And hurricanes. 

Well, they’re really an afterthought, right?  Like you're planning this amazing party, you’re all excited, and somewhere along the line you realize you are just going to have to invite your crazy uncle, or your mother-in-law, and it changes everything.  Just like parenthood does. 

Currently I’m joining thousands of East Coasters anxiously watching the approach of Hurricane Sandy.  (And if you’re not on the East Coast, think of whatever your region’s pet cross is: wildfires or earthquakes or droughts or tornadoes—not sure how you manage those, they scare the Pinterest out of me…)  We’re facing the cross of the east.  Biting nails and stocking pantries.  My mind swirling in counter-clockwise patterns, I just jumped out of bed at midnight because I couldn’t sleep, and now was finally the time to start writing.  I mean I’d planned for years to write a blog, and suddenly I have to… because the stress I’m feeling over this “perfect storm” strongly reminds me of something else.  Parenthood.  Boom.  There it is.

Standing on a diving board.  That’s the typical description I give of “preparing” for parenthood.  You’ve climbed the steps, walked the plank, and you’re just standing there, toes on the edge.  Looking down.  Wondering how cold the water is.  If it’s as far away as it looks.  If you’re somehow going to go in the water all wrong, like sideways or over-rotate and hit the ledge below or something, and really get hurt and look like an idiot to boot. And you don’t know until you jump in.  Many adults stand there for years.

I was kinda pushed in, but I’m sure I’ll tell you that story later.  For now, all eyes are on the swirling mass of white on the Atlantic.  Where will it hit?  When?  How hard?   All the locals are thinking that.  I just came back from the Mart de Wal (yes, I refuse to say it, it’s a love-hate relationship, very complicated, get into that later), and you could see these questions in everyone’s eyes as they bought the last minute things they think they’d need.  Like batteries, Cheetos, and five games from Red Box.  I happened to go with my ten-year old daughter, and somehow you’re always ridiculously brave when you’re with your kid.  “Let’s yell, ‘Grab all the milk and bread you can hold!!  AGHGHGHH!'”   I love the big goofy smile that spreads over her face when I’m a big goof.  And I get goofier when I’m nervous. 

“I’m being a chicken,” I announced to my husband in lieu of good night tonight.  I had just had him reread me the litany of how storms work, and how this one would involve falling water and swaying trees, and no I did not (actually) need to purchase life-jackets and a raft. Which I was tempted to do. He really is such a smart guy. (I mean, he married me, after all.)  He is also one of the rare human beings who, without any formal training, could handily predict the weather, design a road, or give you directions from exactly where you are right now as you read this to absolutely anywhere, usually without consulting anything at all but his cerebral cortex. 

But back to my temptation towards flotation devises: Before motherhood, hurricanes were way fun.  I’d help my dad make big x’s with masking tape on all the windows.  (To this day, I’m not sure what this was supposed to do really… perhaps hold some pieces of glass together for an exotic craft project should the window get blown in?  I dunno).  But it was fun.  And we’d get out all the old Advent candle nubs out of the shoe box above the stairwell, and the hurricane lamp, and pray for a power outage so we modern children could have FIRE just like Little House on the Prairie and maybe school would be canceled.  (For dad that is; he was a teacher.  We were homeschooled, so the point was rather moot on that.)  But now… I’m a mother hen, and my chicks are small, and need to stay dry.  And fluffy.  Storms are not fun anymore.

A friend of mine is expecting her first.  (Child that is, not hurricane.)  I always tell an expectant mom, “I’ll pray the labor goes beautifully!”  (And then I always pray right away, for fear I forget; hate when I promise to pray for something then forget later…)  And she always gives an earnest, “Yes!  Thank you!  Please do!”  Because it’s scary.  And even when you’re pregnant, and you know something serious is on the radar, you still wonder where will it hit?  When will my water break?  And how hard is this all going to be?

And sometimes, it’s beautiful and wonderful and a piece of cake and a lark and oh-my-gosh can’t wait to do this again without the epidural!  Or sometimes, the experience is more like mine.  But either way, your life is changed forever.  Irrevocably.  And while you may miss some aspects of the mysteries of the diving board, you never regret actually being in the water.  Though sometimes it’s perfectly okay to hold on to the side to take a breather. 

If you’re a parent, you’re saying “blah blah blah” already.  Because you know.  But if you’re not yet, and are on the edge, and thinking about it, and planning, and wondering, and waiting and… seriously, jump already.  J  Or at least I’d encourage you to try, unless there’s a valid reason for postponing the whole kid experience of course.  Like if you aren’t actually married, or there’s a great hardship, or if tragically the pool is not an option at all.  And no, not because misery loves company.  But because our children need… company.  We have a population shortage in so many countries.  Closer to home, we are depriving ourselves of what really, really matters in life, if you’re married, and just (just) waiting.  I find it so tragic when couples wait, and then try to become parents too late. 

Because in general, “being prepared” is a fallacy. All the milk and bread in the house is not going to help if the tree near our driveway falls on our leased mini van.  Which it totally better not do, cause I would be seriously put out about it for a least a week.  But my point is, like for Sandy here, you just can’t fully and perfectly prepare for parenthood, any more than you can prepare for swimming when you’ve never been in the water.  So c’mon in!  The water’s fine.  Most of the time.  Except when the toddler has a stomach bug and your husband’s away, and you’ve slept three hours and the stove is broken.  But diving in is always worth it all.

Which takes me back to today, and good ole’ Sandy.  I am so grateful for the times we live in… yes, there’s plenty of problems, but really!  We’ve got ourselves a beautiful half-filled glass here.  Wunderground gives us fair warning that this hundreds of miles large storm is coming (pardon me a moment, must retrieve my paper bag) and mostly what to expect when you’re expecting a hurricane. We can virtually hold hands really through all the storms of life now, texting, Facebooking, etc… I remember the one time I was in a storm cellar and would have loved to reach out to the world outside the thunderous tornado that loomed above, and now we can. Just recently I got a friend’s post from a storm cellar with her kids (and yes it all ended up okay).  What a consolation to be able to type, “I’m here alone in the dark right now; think of me and say a prayer!” I’m hoping this blog can be kinda like that, cultivating the knowledge that we are never alone in our storms, whatever they may be.  And yes, mine currently involve children and diapers and nursing.  J

If there’s a lesson to any storm, it’s that we are small, and God is immense, and the winds and the sea obey Him.  Here’s my favorite storm prayer, attributed to St. Bridget—(I first read it in the Pieta prayer book.)  It is elsewhere attributed to St. Maximilian Kolbe.  In any case, I didn’t write it, and it seems to “say it all,” so here goes, I mean, In nomine Patris, etc:

Jesus Christ a King of Glory has come in Peace.†  God became man,†  and the Word was made flesh.†  Christ was born of a Virgin.†  Christ suffered.†  Christ was crucified.†  Christ died.†  Christ rose from the dead.†  Christ ascended into Heaven.†  Christ conquers.†  Christ reigns.†  Christ orders.†  May Christ protect us from all storms and lightning†  Christ went through their midst in Peace,†  and the Word was made Flesh.†  Christ is with us with Mary.†  Flee you enemy spirits because the Lion of the Generation of Judah, the Root David, has won.†  Holy God!†  Holy Powerful God!†  Holy Immortal God!†  Have mercy on us.  Amen.

As for this baby blog (as in wee little newborn blog, not blog exclusively about babies, or weather for that matter) thanks for reading!  I will strive to be mildly entertaining and at times borderline inspiring should you choose to return.  I will further pledge to avoid preachiness—cuz Lord knows that would be an absurd mistake—while also sidestepping heresy, schism, apostasy, and plagiarism, as far as my half-a-master’s in theology, common sense, chronically sleep-deprived state, and limited spiritual prowess allow.  I plan to write as often as my sieve-like memory and multiple children allow.  I’m sure you’ll keep me accountable.  Oremus pro invicem! - TLC

Parting thought: I'm finding that the context of Mark 4:41 has a lot more “punch” if you aren’t reflecting on it in the living room, or even before a painting of the scene.  Instead, go (mentally) to the storm at sea, hear the howling gale, taste the salt spray slapped in your face by the furious waves, watch the roiling ocean and the bending trees on the shore and think with the awe of the apostles, “Who is this . . .that both wind and sea obey Him?”