Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A mother's love.

Have you read or heard about the poor, poor man in Brussels who everyone thought was in a coma for the last 28 years and it turns out he was fully conscious?

I just read an article about him in the newspaper and was just amazed and somewhat horrified. He was in a car accident in 1983 which left him paralyzed and in what appeared to everyone to be a coma.

His parents, convinced that the diagnosis was wrong and that their son was still in there, never gave up on him and continued to seek medical treatment for him. They brought him to the US five times for tests. FIVE TIMES.

The man can now communicate through an assistive device and told reporters: "I screamed but there was nothing to hear." (If that doesn't send a shiver down your spine, nothing will.)

After thinking about it a little, I am struck by his parents' determination, fierce love and true grit. They stood by their son, advocating beyond the point that many, many people would give up to get what they believed was right for their boy.

I'm sure when they would stare at him in the hospital bed for hours on end, they had the same feeling that I do when I see Michaela sleeping: the vivid flashback of staring at your child sleeping as an infant, new and fresh and full of promise. And you can almost feel the wiring in your own brain changing, laying down new tracks- tracks that mark you as a parent who would do anything for your child. Even transporting a paralyzed adult to a foreign country five times, looking for help, searching for anyone who could see what you saw.

So good for you, Fina Houben of Brussels. I can't even imagine how many people thought you were plum crazy, were annoyed by your refusal to believe what the doctors were telling you, and wanted you to give up on your boy, your baby boy. And you persevered.

You did what we mothers all hope we could do: be our child's last defense against the world despite staggering pressure to give up and give in.

You are truly an inspiration.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Eight week old Alec John.

My baby is 8 weeks old today.
And we're all still standing.

Even though he is my third baby, I still worry about all the same things I did with the girls: is he growing? Is he happy? Is he being stimulated enough? Is he sleeping enough? Pooping enough? Burping enough?
Though I do have a slightly better ability to look at him objectively and say definitively: yes, he's doing just fine. He's growing like a weed and to me doesn't look newborn-y anymore. His cheeks are luscious and full and when he started smiling last week we discovered a dimple on his left cheek. No one else has dimples so this is particularly awe-inspiring for me as his mother.

I love him. I'm in love with him. I think everything he does is amazing and wonderful and I can't stop kissing his gorgeous head and telling him I love him.
And I hope he feels this love every time I kiss his forehead or cheek or neck.

I love having three kids. I love the busy-ness this brings to my life and the sense of fullness. I love thinking about the holidays with all these warm, cozy little bodies (in coordinating pajamas, of course). I love sitting on the couch, holding Alec with a girl on either side of me, leaning their heads on my shoulders as we all watch SpongeBob in the morning. I love thinking about the next 20 years as they all grow and become their own people and all the memories we'll have of this time.

I am such a sap that last night we discovered that we don't have a good pencil sharpener in the house and I was thrilled with the prospect of having to buy one. Because big families with big kids need good pencil sharpeners for schoolwork. It doesn't even really make sense, but somehow feeds into my overwhelming desire to provide all I can for these three little people that God has put into my care.

Of course there are moments- some of which last several HOURS- when they are whiny and crying and cross and I feel overwhelmed and exhausted and out of patience. But the last eight weeks have been remarkably calm, fun and quick. The bad stuff sort of recedes over time and the happiness stays at the fore. I'm not saying it's perfect, but man, it's really good most of the time.

Alec is a blessing that we are watching unfold right before our eyes.

Michaela made us parents; Jenna made us a family; Alec was made out of love.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Foreseeing the future.

About three and a half years ago, I was walking into our local grocery store with Jenna in a shopping cart when I was approached by an older, vaguely Eastern European woman. She smiled at me and asked a few innocent, totally appropriate questions about Jenna.

At the end of our conversation, she said to me, "Don't worry... your next child will be a boy."

I didn't really think too much of it at the time... Jenna was such a tough baby, it was looking unlikely that we would even have another child. I loved having my two girls and it did not bother me in the least that we didn't have a boy. I did think it was strange that she said it at all, and that she said it with such confidence, like Don't worry... the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning.

Fast forward to now, where as I type this my almost-eight-week-old son is sitting contently in his bouncy seat next to me.

I think back to that woman every once in a while. Did she REALLY know I was going to have another baby and that it was going to be a boy? Or was it just that the small chance she had to be right came through? Could she really see into my future?

Here's the bigger question: can I find her again, and can she reassure me that my kids will stay healthy, grow up to be functional, happy adults, and that Dan and I will be able to provide for them in every way?

Can she soothe every other worry and concern we have about our kids?

Monday, November 16, 2009


Feel the love.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pithy. Sort of.

You know what?
I was going to post a delightfully fun, humorous, relevant, reflective, anecdotal post today, but instead I'm just going to tell you this:

Being a mom is hard. And there are some very bad days.

Now, I am very happy to tell you that I have not experienced one of these hard days this week- sleep deprivation notwithstanding, it was a busy but good week- but talked with several moms this week who are struggling with one area of motherhood or another.

The problem with having a bad mom day is that you are intensely afraid that not only are you unhappy, but perhaps you are ruining your child(ren) in some way as well. And every mom I know is doing the best she can to raise happy, healthy children. So sure, Dan has bad days at work, but I don't think he's afraid that his actions may lead to his kid becoming a serial killer. (Side note: on a particularly BAD DAY when Jenna was a baby, I did call Dan at work at told him this: "If she turns out to be a serial killer, I honestly did the best I could.")

So you moms out there, who are swimming around looking for a life preserver to cling to or a ballast to provide safety and security and steadiness... talk to another mom who's been through it and is sympathetic. Reach out to someone. They'll talk you down off the ledge and provide great perspective.

Motherhood is such a process, filled with tremendous learning curves, and requires constant re-evaluation and reinvention.

Being a mom is hard.
Call me if you need help.

Monday, November 9, 2009

On sleep, car trips and reincarnation.

I am living in a house with a six week old baby, which means not only am I deliriously in love with a new little person, I am also seriously sleep deprived. Alec wakes up several times per night, and each time I get up out of bed, walk into his room, walk him down the hall into our living room, sit on the couch and nurse him. Both girls slept in our bed with us at one point or another and we are trying to avoid this happening again. While this plan is working fabulously at keeping him out of our bed and being used sleeping with other humans, it is killing me slowly, because it takes me about an hour to feed him and get him to sleep soundly enough to be transferred back into his crib. And usually I fall asleep on the couch, which totally defeats the whole purpose, because at that point he is essentially sleeping with me.
So I wake up, an hour or so later, put him in his crib, climb back into my incredibly comfortable, warm, cozy bed and do you know what happens? About 3 minutes later he wakes up and starts crying. Because he's hungry. And I have to get up and start all over again.
And I am literally sick to my stomach because I just want to sleep so badly.
It is so bad that the other day, when I was in Walmart, I passed the pharmacy section and looked LONGINGLY at the bottles of NyQuil. You know that hard, solid sleep you have after downing a good-sized dose of NyQuil?? I haven't slept like that since 2001.

So this sleep deprivation, while tolerable, makes my brain a little, you know, crazy. (Just to interject: you realize that sleep deprivation is used by the military as a form of TORTURE, right?) My head is currently filled with all sorts of ideas about Thanksgiving, and the holidays, and special food, and hearth and home, and Pilgrims, and harvest, and feeling grateful. So I am sitting in church a few weeks ago, singing How Great Thou Art, really singing my little sleep- deprived heart out, and I have this vision. Not a flashback exactly, and not a daydream but this very clear picture of me in a somewhat primitive little church, singing my heart out and surrounded by tons of my own children. And I am a pilgrim.

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon. Dan and the kids and I are all in the car, heading downstate to meet our new twin nieces for the first time. I am a "car thinker", which means I can sit in a car for hours and something about the rhythm of the tires somewhat hypnotizes me and my brain can just wander. And wander, and wander, until 15 minutes later, I generally ask Dan a fantastically random question, like, "Where are JuJu and Uncle Dick's neighbors originally from?" out of the clear blue and Dan laughs and shakes his head and says, "What on EARTH makes you think about that?" We used to play a game that I would try to re-trace the string of loosely connected thoughts that got me to my random blurted out question and that was always fun.
Then we started having children and all I wanted to talk about in the car was having more children. "If we had a baby today, what would you name it?" was Dan most dreaded car- thinking game, and that poor man endured about 7 YEARS of this game.
But now we are done having kids and that game is pretty much over.

So we are just leaving Columbia County yesterday in the car when I blurt out, "Do you believe in reincarnation?"
"What?" sputters Dan.
"You know, reincarnation... do you ever have the sense that you've lived another life? In a different time, maybe? Do you ever feel drawn to a certain time in history, like you've lived through it already?"
"Uh.... no."
"Because I had this vision the other day in church, and I think that I may have been a pilgrim in New England in a previous life."
Now he starts really laughing at me. "Like you came over on the Mayflower?"
"No, I definitely didn't come over on the Mayflower... I have no recollection of that kind of horrible voyage. Maybe I was born here, like the second generation of Pilgrims."
"But doesn't it kind of make sense?" I ask. " The whole Pilgrim obsession, my Thanksgiving fetish, my bizarre interest in farming, my love for the ocean and the Cape and New England. I think I was a pilgrim, with tons of kids and I was really religious."
"You have tons of kids now." Dan says, laughing.
"I have three kids... that's hardly TONS. But I'm serious... I think it's a possibility."
"Hey, sure. Whatever you think, friend."

I really don't know. I know I had this vision, this strong connection with that time and place. And I was happy, but tired... sort of like now, with my TONS of children. Or maybe it's just my sleep deprived brain playing tricks on me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Out and about with Cheryl.

I know, I know... it's been too long since the last out and about post. Trust me- it's not because I'm not out and about. I am dragging my tushie and my three children all over creation lately- doctor appointments (three of them!), the mall, groceries, outlet shopping, the post office, and of course, Walmart. And that's just this week.

So yesterday I'm waiting in line to buy a tub of formula before my $5 off coupon expires at Walmart, and I notice the people ahead of me in line. They are two men, fairly flamboyantly gay (not that there's anything wrong with that... I'm just trying to give you the entire visual) who are stocking up on groceries. The checkout girl is a young Latina named Eve, who is fairly dripping with fake gold jewelry and is really quite pleasant. As Eve is trying to bag the couple's last 10 or 20 items, one of the guys says to her, "You know, these plastic bags all end up in the OCEAN. YOUR GRANDCHILDREN will have to figure out what to do with all of them."

Eve just kind of umm-hmmms him.

"I saw it on the news... it's the size of TEXAS- TWICE!!! and YOUR GRANDCHILDREN will have to fix it!"

And God bless Eve. She took it really well, stayed pleasant and didn't say something like this:

"You know what, Mister? I'm just a girl making a few bucks an hour here, trying to feed myself and my kid. I hardly think that I or MY GRANDCHILDREN will have to solve the entire WORLD'S environmental problems. Maybe if YOU had brought some canvas bags to pack your food into, MY GRANDCHILDREN would have a few less bags to pick up in the ocean. So lay off."

Because that's what I felt like saying.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween 2009: A Brief Summary

Costumes: Michaela- mummy; Jenna- Princess Ariel; Alec- reluctant dinosaur.
Weather: Dark, rainy and mild.
Saviors of the night: Michaela's friends Grace and Samantha, who convinced Michaela and Jenna to come out trick or treating with them.
Victory of the night: Getting candy from more than 3 houses before quitting.
Second Victory of the night: That all three kids, including the 5 week old, have matching personalized trick or treat bags.
Third Victory of the night: getting everyone to wear all their Halloween-themed clothes before Saturday.
Mommy's Contribution to Halloween: Organized and purchased the costumes, got the girls dressed, made up, and hair done, got out the decorations, bought the Halloween candy, went out in the rain to trick or treat. And ate maybe a few pieces of candy.
Daddy's Contribution: Paid for costumes and "watched" Alec- and the baseball game- while we were out gathering candy. And then ate leftover candy.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Today was a good day.

Today I woke up at 5am after sleeping for 6 straight hours, and felt ready to take on anything.
Today all five of us walked into church together and I felt a tremendous sense of completeness and calm.
Today I was able to sit in church, sing songs and recite liturgy that had real meaning to me, and relished the idea of sharing my faith with my children.
Today I talked to people at church whom I genuinely care for, and who genuinely love my children.
Today I went to an open house and after we left, I realized how much I love the house we have, and how lucky we are to have a safe, warm, and stable house.

Today I sat on my front step, feeding my baby, and watched my girls run around playing hide and seek in our front yard while Dan raked up the yellow and orange leaves. The afternoon sun was hitting them all just right; they all had the sun behind them and from my perspective they all had brilliant outlines of sunlight around them.

It was breathtaking.

Today I felt the love and peace and joy that comes from having healthy children and a loving, fun spouse.
Today I thought for a moment how empty my life would be if one of these precious people was missing from my life: Michaela and her boundless energy and toothy, easy smile; Jenna, all sweetness and light; Alec with his handsome face and easygoing attitude; and Dan with his humor and gentleness and steadfastness, who takes care of all of us in so many ways.

Today I thanked God for my blessings and tried to savor the moment. Because life goes by so fast, with one day melting into the next, filled with meals and laundry and frustrations and homework and phone calls and celebrations and doctor's appointments and shopping and the next thing you know, a week and then a month and then most of a year has gone by.
So today, I will focus on today.
Just today.