Thursday, July 29, 2010

One Handed

Since Oliver was born, I have had the chance to remember just how much hands-on time babies require. Particularly in the beginning of his life, when I was spending about half my time each day nursing, I had to quickly learn how to do as many things as possible with one hand. I just as quickly learned how to appreciate those moments when I could have both hands to myself again. What a relief it was to use two hands to type an email, fold some laundry, prepare a meal, or clean the house! And how wonderful when Oliver started to get to the point of being able to entertain himself more (and nurse less), so that I could have those two hands with greater frequency.

Even now, with Oliver finding more joy in playing with toys and practicing his cruising skills, I often feel that there is so much more to get done than there is time to do it. I still feel the need to one-hand it during the times when he needs to be held or fed. We women, after all, are ever-so-proud of our ability to multitask. So I'll steal my attention away and use my free hand to balance the checkbook, check my email, or tidy up.

But today I found myself sitting on my couch, laptop in tempting reach, with Oliver snuggled up sleeping with his head on my shoulder. I considered snagging some one-handed internet time or, better yet, scooting the napper into his crib for some full-fledged two-handedness. That's when it occurred to me that I ought to spend more time devoting both hands to my baby. And not just for his sake, but for mine. He's speeding so quickly through his babyhood, while all that other stuff will still be there tomorrow, next week, or next year.

I'm happy to say that I stayed put, both arms wrapped around my sweet boy, soaking in the feel and smell of him.

I love my life.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


My little summer baby is 11 months old today. One more month until the heart-tugging one year mark. Having a baby around in the hot summer weather is wonderful. Those little cherubic bodies are not meant to be covered up with so much clothing. There's nothing quite like the sight of roly-poly baby flesh and he enjoys being unencumbered by long sleeves and pants as much as I enjoy having such ready access to his kissable skin.

I was never that much of a summer fan as a child. The heat was too off-putting for me (we didn't have air-conditioning in the house) and I never found much enjoyment at the traditional summer hangouts like the pool and the beach (couldn't--still can't--swim). All the stinging and biting insects were also a big source of anxiety for me.

But circumstances have certainly changed my perspective on the season. I'd have to say it began around the time John got his current job teaching at the community college. Not only did he go from erratic, unpredictable hours where he worked half of all the major holidays, to a fairly regular schedule with all holidays off, but he was suddenly off for two months each summer. Two months off! With pay! I still pinch myself and he's had this job for 12 years. Having our whole family together every day for that kind of a stretch is a powerfully positive thing. And it has achieved the miracle of making me love summer. I love every scorching degree of it. My air conditioner might have something to do with that part.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go kiss a baby.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

May I Have Your Attention Please

As I have been recently applying myself to my blog with a new sense of commitment, I am pleased to see that my readership has increased accordingly. I'd like to take this little moment to say thanks to those of you who visit here.

To those of you who read my blog only on Facebook, I wish to point out all the nice bloggerly features you are missing, as well as give all of you a brief tour of the sidebar. There are a few new buttons over there:
  1. Latter-Day Homeschooling - This is a great site for moms, even if you are not LDS and even if you do not homeschool. It has tons of great resources to help with organization, enrichment, home management, and, of course, education.
  2. Homeschool Buyers Co-op - This is another great site for parents whether they homeschool or not. It's free to join and has great deals on curriculum products all the way from full-blown homeschooling courses down to products that you can use to help your public school child. There's also a great section on field trips that makes for a great go-to guide for outings.
  3. CJane is my new favorite imaginary friend. I love her blog. Her writing style makes you feel like you're having a chat with a friend and her take on things is always refreshing. Check her out.
Elsewhere in the margin are the items that are basically self-explanatory. My top five list is my effort to keep my inner Pollyanna going strong. You can also take a peek at what I'm reading at the moment or visit one of my favorite blogs or links.

Once again, thanks for reading--it's ever so gratifying--and anytime one of you Facebook fiends wants to have the full bells and whistles experience, you can come here.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Losing It

I live in a house of boys. My husband, my three children, even my dog is a boy. And for the purpose of this post, I'm going to lump my father in to this group. And you know what? None of them can find anything! Is this a phenomenon unique to my world or is this a universal male flaw? Even when I tell them where to look for something they can't find it. We were getting ready to leave for a road trip and my middle son wanted to bring his Nintendo DS. He asked where his charger was and I told him it was in the storage basket in the car. I should give him credit here that he not only planned ahead by thinking to bring a charger, but he also dashed off to double check that it was in the car before we left. Unfortunately, a few minutes later he was back in the house telling me that the charger was not there. I proceeded to spend precious minutes looking through the house for the charger, to no avail. During the search, my father stopped by our house to use our phone. He does this when he needs to make a long distance call, because we have free long distance on our plan and he doesn't. Mostly I think he likes the excuse to pop in and see his grandsons. I had been out for a walk with the wee one that morning and had taken the phone with me, so when I saw that it was missing from its usual spot I told him I must have left it outside in the stroller. He went out to look and came back, declaring it was not there. I had to trek all the way upstairs (okay, I'm whining here--my house is not really that big) to get him a phone. Then, my husband asks for the baby's jacket, in case we need it in some overly air-conditioned stop on our journey. I told him it was already in the car. Like my son, he diligently goes off to double check (or should I suspect that they're actually doubting me at this point?) with similar results. So it's back upstairs for me to grab a sweater from the baby's room.

At last we are ready to head out. On my way to the car I stopped by the stroller and collected the phone. Ahem! Then, situated in the car, I reach into the aforementioned basket and pull out the DS charger. Ahem! About a mile down the road I look behind my seat in the baby zone and discover the baby's jacket. Ahem! Seriously! Are all men this way? I told my husband the only reason Eve was the first to eat the forbidden fruit was that Adam probably couldn't find it and needed her to bring it to him.

I don't think he appreciated my theological insight.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mourn With Those That Mourn

In the past week I have felt the impact of the deaths of two people--one I know and one I have never met.

The first is a gentleman who attended my church. He was a kind man who lived a good life. He was diagnosed with cancer and, though he fought a good fight, his illness was too aggressive to be beaten. His wife spoke at his funeral and demonstrated a faith and strength that will serve her well as she moves through her grief to continue with her own life. She and I are not close, though I have known her for some time. In situations like these, it is often hard to know how to be of assistance; how to lessen the burden of the grieving. But, as I sat in attendance at her husband's funeral and played the organ for the service, I felt impressed that all of us there were helping to lift her burden simply by surrounding her in her time of need.

The second death was that of a little girl named Preslee Sullenger. Just 18 months old, her blue eyes, blond hair, and sweet demeanor put me in mind of my own baby the first time I saw her picture. Though I only came to know of her a week ago through a network of internet acquaintances, I feel as devastated by her tragic death as if she were a part of my own family. As word spread through cyberspace of her accident and her fight to survive, a veritable army of support rose up around this family. I found myself one of thousands praying fervently for a miracle, as it became clear that the odds were stacked against Preslee. And now, after her passing yesterday, I can do nothing more than add my tears and anguish to those of so many united strangers, hoping that we can somehow lessen the burden of two broken-hearted parents by our willingness to mourn with them.

Having a heart open to sharing the pain of another deepens our connection to each other and allows us to experience the transformative influence of even total strangers. And perhaps, when there are no right words or gestures, it is ultimately the best gift we can share.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Last night was tough. My hubby was out, and I was holding down the homefront with my 10-year-old and 10-month-old. As the baby was finishing a yummy meal of chicken, sweet potatoes, and rice (baby food style), he decided the time had come to make maximum use of his diaper. I waited politely for him to finish. When it seemed he was going to take a little while, I put him down on the floor to give him a little private moment (okay, it was really so I could check my email). He crawled around busily for a minute or two, then proceed to spew his meal all over hardwood floor and braided rug and himself. I picked him up--naturally--which meant that I was now covered in it, too. So there I was with a baby in need of both a diaper change and a hosing off in addition to a serious mess on the floor. Ugh! I will spare you the details of how I navigated the clean up effort and will simply say that we made it through relatively intact.

So, cleanup accomplished, bath given, I plunked a happy naked baby into his crib, grabbed his diaper, and turned to discover a puddle in the crib. Baby happy, bedding soaked, mommy frustrated. While rushing around to tackle the newly arisen laundry chore, I tripped over some toys and cut my toe. Oh, and I forgot to mention the wasp that started buzzing around my head while I was scrubbing spit up baby food out of the threads of my rug.

As I said, it was a tough evening. But later, as I was wrestling the freshly washed bedding onto the crib mattress, and feeling very tired, I was grateful. Grateful because of the story that has been haunting me all week of little 18-month-old Preslee Sullenger, who fell into an irrigation canal last Friday and drowned, only to be resuscitated by a farmer who pulled her out 2 miles from where she fell in. She's currently fighting for her life. You can follow her story here.

Life is so fragile. Just two days ago, my little baby tumbled down a short flight of stairs and emerged with barely a scratch. But the outcome could have been so different. As Preslee's dad said on their blog, everything can go from fine to a nightmare in an instant. So hug your babies, no matter how old they are, and be grateful they're around to make your life difficult.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Good Baby

Have you noticed how parents of little babies will always say, "He's/she's such a good baby!" What does this mean, exactly? I've never heard a parent describe a baby as "bad". "What a bad baby he is!" "She may be cute, but she's just bad!" So what makes a baby good? Is a baby good if he sleeps through the night, is a good eater, almost never cries? Or is he good if he makes you fall so head over heels in love with him that spotting his big wide awake blue eyes in the painfully wee hours of the morning makes you wish you could give up sleep entirely just so you could stare at him?

He's such a good baby!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Delusions of Vegetation

We did most of our Independence Day celebrating yesterday and made sure to pack a lot into it. My menfolk headed off to the parade in town, while I picked more green beans from the garden (trying to beat the heat wave). I made an apple pie--cutting up five large apples without a single injury to myself--and then we all went swimming. Then I sliced up some potatoes on my mandolin slicer for our family cookout. A slice of potato got stuck on the blade and I had the brilliant idea that I could draw it the rest of the way across the blade with my finger. Yes, the little voice in my head was very clearly pointing out to me that I was very likely to cut myself, but I didn't listen. Sure enough, just seconds later I had cut my finger and was hopping around and bleeding all over my kitchen. Ugh! I informed my husband that I was too stupid to have children, but he just bandaged me up and sent me on my way. The good thing about having a husband who is a nurse is that he has all the necessary skills to take care of all sorts of scary situations. The bad thing is, you can never really impress him with an injury.

Anyway, I finished up in the kitchen, loaded our stuff in the car, and proceeded to dump a container of milk into the van. What a lovely moment that was! I handled it with great poise and maturity, hurling the container into a tree. The cookout was fun, though, and we capped it off by playing glowstick tag, setting off Carter's hydrogen rocket, and enjoying the natural fireworks of the fireflies.

So after all of these festivities and dramas, what image do you think was dancing before my closed eyes when I went to bed last night? That's right--bean picking! There I was, lying in my comfy bed, and all I could see were bean plants. I think I just might be suffering from gardening overload.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Autism Speaks

My normally sullen teen has been very chatty this weekend. Talking to him is so interesting. He is 15 in so many ways--what with all the grunting and eye-rolling and wanting to shut himself up in his room. But in other ways he is such a young boy, learning how to relate to people and approaching life with such an earnest innocence.

We were working in the garden Friday morning. As you can imagine, our children do not usually embrace this activity and can be somewhat reluctant to leave the house when invited to pick vegetables. Being told they get to eat them is not much of a motivator, either. So after some more traditional parental persuasion, Austin and I had the following conversation:

Austin: I'm exaggerated!
Me: I don't think that's the right word.
Austin (very grumpily): Yes it is!
Me: What's exaggerated mean?
Austin: I don't know.
Me: I think you mean exasperated.
Austin: Yes.

This exchange was followed by my husband and I sharing many examples of exaggeration that were so entertaining, my son was actually glad to be picking beans with us. Okay, I'm exaggerating.

What I love most about these conversations is that they are so ordinary. It has taken my son many years to achieve ordinary conversation. The fact that he would now rather make the effort to construct original thought than fall back on his old scripting method of speaking (in which he would recite whatever line from a book or movie seemed most applicable to the moment) makes even his grumpiness music to my ears.

The best one came the next day, though. Austin had taken a bad tumble in our driveway and was covered in nasty cuts and scrapes. I was giving him advice on how to best care for his injuries and he said to me, "I know I can trust you, because you are a righteous mother."

Some days it's just good to be me.

Friday, July 2, 2010

I Think, Therefore I Am

Paul Simon once sang a song called "Maybe I Think Too Much". I'm quite certain that I do. I tend to over-think and over-analyze things. I don't know if it's just in my nature to do this, or if it is the result of a relatively solitary childhood. Being an only child and growing up amid the seclusion of the rural Delaware woods, I did not evolve a strong sense of community. I was usually on my own, wandering through the trees with my dog and my imagination for company. There is a definite appeal to being left so often to one's own devices, but it does provide an inordinate amount of time for getting lost in thought.

I wasn't exactly a social being anyway. I wouldn't say I was anti-social, just socially inept. I now realize that there are a lot of people who look back on their teen years with that same assessment. I understand that many of us felt socially awkward during that phase of life. But you know those kids you see in teen movies who get degrading messages taped onto their backs; who are so low in the pecking order that even some of the teachers take shots at them? I was one of those. I was an easy target. My attempts at being stylish repeatedly missed the mark. I was insecure and brainy--a combination that could sometimes be spun as a quirky positive for a boy, but was a real killer for a girl. College only improved my lot a few degrees. I was no longer made fun of, but I was already such a hardened outsider that I lacked the confidence to fully embrace many of the friendship opportunities that came my way.

My tendency became to value the thinking side of myself at the expense of the other parts. I still find myself falling into the trap of mistaking being admired with being liked. I have begun to suspect that I am simply hopelessly confused when it comes to the fine art of friendship. I see people coming and going around me, making friends with apparent ease, while I continue to see myself as a floundering misfit. To make matters worse, I see my children falling into similar patterns and I am at a loss as to how to advise them.

So, here is my question to you tolerant readers: What are the elements of successful friendship? Is serendipity the only path to human connection or is there--as I suspect there is--some secret skill set?