Friday, April 30, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I started out with a trip to the Vietnamese fabric store for a screamin’ deal on fleece. Good. I took all four kids. BAD.
The shop was like something you would see in a travel magazine. A half hour away, it lay smack in the middle of one of those areas where you reach over to lock your car doors, between a liquor store and a liquor store. Inside, bright rolls of fabric 5 feet long hung ceiling to floor in tight maze like rows, and two giant tables stood in the middle stacked with huge, tumbling bolts. A little man with only basic English whipped the fabric about measuring with a yard stick that flashed back and forth as the huge bolt flipped over and over. He cut a straight line without a guide.
It would have been so cool if I had not been wrangling cats at the time. I tried to keep the kids all with me, but the tight aisles made them crush together and fight. The catacombs of the rest of the store were too tempting for them, and they kept running off. Then I would hear fighting in some unknown region of the store while I was trying to order my fabric. I finally sent the boys outside to keep the winos company.
I called Guy on the way to the van. “Do you know how to say “torture” in Vietnamese?” I asked, exasperated. “Four kids at the fabric store.”
Fabric, check. The rest should be easy. I borrowed a variety of cutters and scissors from people who actually buy good ones, and I began what became a two day process of cutting the tabs that would be tied together. Guy made most of the headway while I was gone to a practice. Bless him.
The night before the blankets were due, we had ONE finished. The kids had been so swamped with projects and homework they had not yet helped. I informed everyone that the only people going to Disneyland would be those who helped. It was drudgery at first, as the kids fought over where they would work, what blanket they would tie, and complained that it was hard and they were messing up. Once we found our groove, though, they became excited and the overwhelm of the huge pile of fabric turned into excitement as one by one the completed blankets were folded and stacked. The kid's chatter became a series of sweet conversations and jokes. I began to really marvel at the moments that were being tied into the edges of the fleece.
I sent the girls off to bed, let the boys stay up, and we watched a movie together as we worked. We were done by one in the morning, about 4 hours ahead of my imagined time-table. The next day I drove the hour-and-a-half-turned-two-hours-when-you-get-lost trip to a little mountain town called Nevada City, and left the blankets at the designated drop off site.
On the way home, there was a strange feeling in my heart. A heaviness. We had done a good thing, but I knew that we were getting compensated for it. It certainly had not been a lesson in selfless service for my children. I called the woman in charge of the project to let her know the blankets were at the drop off, and told her of my misgivings. She expressed to me how important the blankets would be to the children that received them at the battered women’s shelter, and how grateful her organization was. I felt better knowing I could tell the kids about other children like them that their blankets would be helping.
I thought about the sense of a lost learning opportunity that I had over the whole thing, and I realized my kids have been taught to do a lot of service. They mow the lawns of widows, pick up trash where ever they see it, and extend help to neighbors and friends with yard work, pet care and baby tending at church activities. They always point out the homeless folks in town so that we can stop and give them food and change, and they hold the door open for strangers. Perhaps they understand service better than I give them credit for.
After a few hours at the Zoo a few days ago I had expressed to Guy how sapped of energy I was, and that I didn’t think I would last too long at Disneyland. I was thinking about skipping the trip so that everyone else could have fun. Inside, I was incredibly bummed.
Last night at dinner, Guy began to talk to the kids about Disneyland. He explained that mama wasn’t going to be allowed on any rides because of the baby, and that I get tired so easily that I wouldn’t be able to have much fun. I thought he was going to tell them I might not be coming, but instead he suggested that we wait to use our tickets until after the baby was a few months old, when mama could have fun too.
I held my breath anticipating the moans and tears of disappointment that were about to hit, already feeling a little worried to hear that, in their child minds, Disneyland was more important to them than I was.
“Sure.” One of the kids said, easily. They each quickly agreed that it would be more fun with mama there, and that waiting was a good idea. They even seemed excited.
I mentioned my suggestion that I just stay home.
“I wouldn’t let that happen.” Adam said with a fierce, protective boldness and a smile that said he was enjoying a moment of defiance without risk of wrath. My hero.
When I signed up for this project, I had been enticed by the reward. As it progressed, I felt the reward had become a burden. But a sweeter reward came than I could have anticipated as I experienced my children’s selflessness. I will enjoy being at Disneyland with my family knowing they waited for me.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
I learned something new last week about procrastination by watching poor little Addyboy struggle with a big project. And I think it may truly change the way I approach the things I have been putting off doing.
About a month ago, Adam came home very worked up. “I have to do a huge Mission project and I need to start now!” I assumed it was due right away, but no, he had a month. His reaction to the due date was extreme. I explained that we would work on it a little each day and he would have plenty of time to get it done. With his intensity, though, I figured he would be done early.
But days turned into weeks, and soon Spring Break was upon us. He began anew with his panic. “I have to get it done before Spring Break because I don’t want to be stuck doing it all on my vacation.” He fretted. But still, he did not start. Each day had a new excuse; a more important thing to get done (and of course there was the Nintendo to be played…). Each day I reminded him in count down fashion, so-many-days left, to no avail. I prompted him to collect cereal boxes. I showed him the paint he could use. I made him a list of questions to help as he did his research. I was determined not to do it for him, but to clear the way for his success as he did it all on his own. I wanted him to feel supported, but also, that true confidence could be his because he had done the work himself. He remained stagnant.
With a week to spare, my reminders were met with tears, as he suddenly felt the weight of the task still ahead. A mission to build, a report to write, maps and art to make… it seemed impossible all of a sudden. Each day I sat with him and worked for an hour or so, but it was slow going, and tears came easily. I had him begin with the report and collecting the main components for building his mission. It seemed a logical place to have him start.
I was wrong.
I had forgotten what it is like to be ten. Logic isn’t fun. It’s totally boring. It wasn’t until he was 4 days away from D-day, and still barely underway, that I had an idea. I got out my polymer clay.
“What if we take a break from building the buildings and start on the inside. What do you want to put in the rooms?” He was blank, almost paralyzed. He couldn’t imagine where to begin. Besides, he said, he was not good at clay, like mom. So we started with a little lesson. We tinkered and experimented. We messed up and started over. We made silly and random things. Soon we were focused on a room; the kitchen.
Tiny dishes began to take shape. Next silverware, itty-bitty forks and knives that I would demonstrate, and then he would create all by himself. He invented food and even made little candles with real wicks for the candle making workshop.
It wasn’t long before his mind was bursting with ideas, and his energy became boundless. We stayed up late and started again early. It was a challenge because I was splitting my time with him and the rest of the kids, as we were babysitting 5 additional children for the weekend. Guy was swallowed in homework and had not been to bed in two days, so we were on our own, which meant that a lot of the time Adam was on his own, but his thrill at having found something meaningful in this project kept him moving. He didn’t play all day, though the laughter of the eight other children beckoned to him. He was motivated.
Once the walls were up and the floors were in, his excitement took on a whole new dimension as he began to place all of the tiny things he had made into the mission. Tombstones, altars, adobe bricks and tiny rugs.
He was beside himself with pride at the little sink full of dirty dishes that he made in the kitchen, inspired, no doubt, by the state of the neglected kitchen he worked in. It was coming together.
“I wish I had even more time,” he lamented at 10PM, the night before it was due. “I have so many more ideas I could do.” There wasn’t time for many of them, but he took a few minutes to create his crowning glory, a fountain with tiny coins in the water.
Soon, the mission was compete, and I helped him finish typing the report. He went to bed, exhausted and satisfied at nearly midnight.
I have reflected over the little journey this assignment took Adam on. He seemed to be procrastinating, but maybe he simply needed to find his best starting place. How often do we put off a project or task because we think we dread the work to be done? What if we just need to find our perfect starting place? What if we need to start our mission the way we start the day, with inspiration for the journey?
Today I will, at long last, embark on something I have been putting off. I plan not to start at the most logical place this time, because that has gotten me nowhere for weeks. Today, I will start with something that enlivens my senses and gets my juices flowing. It will need to be unconventional, because convention has failed me repeatedly when it comes to daunting tasks.
But I think it is possible.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Not long ago I asked Ellen a question. More like a favor.
“I know this is premature, but, um, I need to ask you something,” I began. I explained that I am a little funny about my babies, particularly my newborns. When I have one, I want to hold it. All the time.
Here’s the deal; all week long I am having to put the baby down when I don’t want to, for completely meaningless and trivial tasks like eating, and feeding kids and showering. Then there are the dreaded two-to-three hour intervals when I have to sleep and miss watching the baby breathing and doing that little hiccup-sigh thing that they do. It is agony. So when I have a baby, I live for the one time a week when my world holds still, my children are plunked quietly on the church pew (because I have mastered the silent-snap,-point,-eyebrow-raise,-scowl that strikes fear in the hearts of all squirrly children), the music plays softly and I can stare into the sleeping face of an angel for three solid hours. Oh, the smell of them! And their gurgley breath and their tiny noses, their little pink fingernails to examine, their fuzzy heads to kiss and sniff over and over! Their crackley complaint to nurse, and their faint joyful gulping! And don't get me started about when they start to stare into your eyes and the corners of their tiny lips curl into a shiny little grin just for you!
I mean, me! I don't want to miss that. Not even for an hour.
Why, for the love of all that is breastfed, would someone think I need rescuing from that? Women, baby hungry ones in their 50’s whose own offspring have selfishly not yet produced a third generation, lurk around foyer corners and pop out of nowhere doing grabby hands in the air and saying “Let me take her for you.” For me? FOR ME? Have you lost your mind, woman?
That's like saying, "Here, let me take that seven-layer, chocolate-ganache and raspberry-cream filled cake off your hands for you." Utter madness.
The very first time I let tiny Ellie out of my arms at a church function, it was because I was in charge of a huge event and at one particular moment I was needed for something that I could not accomplish with a baby snug in a sling on my chest. So I asked a woman I knew well to hold her for me. About ten minutes later when I went back to get her, there was a perfect stranger with my baby in her arms! I imagined her having walked right out of the building with Ellie. I would not have even been able to describe the villainess. I hurried to her and asked for the baby back, trying to stay calm while she engaged in chit chat. Yes, she’s adorable, you baby-snatcher! I thought, That’s why you want to kidnap her and name her Cloris and raise her as your own child in a cabin in the woods of Tennessee!
Thus, when, (on rare and bladder-bursting occasion) I need to let the precious gem out of my arms, I actually like to have it all prearranged (yes, you can go back to the control post and see I’m a slow study).
I have designated baby-holders.
Ladies, just one or two, mind you, that will hold the babe whilst I teach a class or go piddle. It is not a simple job. The trick is, they can’t give the baby to anyone else. They must be as gentle and tender as a pit-bull. One germ infested, baby-napping hand gets within a foot of that baby's face, and the baby-holder must use evasive maneuvers with ninja-like stealth to protect the baby.
I finished my explanation to Ellen and made my unorthodox request. Would she be my baby-holder?
Kind Ellen, mother of 8 and kindred that she is, understood my neuroses. She would gladly take the job.
In chatting with Stephanie later I told her of my arrangement with Ellen. At first she thought it was my (not so) subtle way of letting her know that she fell into the “not-to-hold-baby” category.
I love Stephanie. She is one of my closest friends. She is one of the dear ones praying this pregnancy through to its full-bellied finale.
Besides, in case Ellen and I need to pee at the same time, I will need a back up.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Say hello to my little friend.
I haven’t actually ever seen Scarface, but I have brothers so the quote is one often intoned in our family, rich Latin accent and all. But Scarfinger, I am very familiar with. I have had gestational diabetes with every pregnancy, but this time it has popped up early and with a vengeance. I usually start testing at around 28 weeks and modify my diet to keep things in control. This time my midwife dropped off a glucometer on her last visit, and I casually began the routine of harpooning my finger and testing my blood, only to find out to my abject horror that I was already way off the scale of where I should be.
To rub salt in the wound, I began swelling and decided to check my blood pressure. It had also creeped up.
Now there is a particular quality that I possess that most often comes in extremely handy. When there is a problem, I want to drop everything, that very second, and find the solution. No hem and haw, no waiting around for permission; I go, seek, find, implement and conquer. An excellent trait if one is broken down and in need of an auto mechanic or on the prowl for a good Greek restaurant for a last minute night out. Not so great when the solution is not minutes, but days, weeks, or months away.
With each prick of my finger my resolve to fix has increased, while my emotional state has declined. I have been waiting, breath held, to decide what my mood will be until after I prick my finger, allowing the number there to dictate which side of the bed I will get out on. I have measured every bite, scrutinized every label, researched every alternative treatment, and tested my blood. A lot. Too much. Way the heck too much.
I wept to Ellen, my Zen Master in disguise, fretting over the impending loss of my planned home birth if I could not get my blood sugar and blood pressure under control. What if I became pre-eclamptic? What if the baby had to be born early? What if it was very sick and hospitalized? And the deep fear that I still had not reached, even in my tears to her, though it was the truest fear of the lot; what if the baby died because of me, because I had not done enough?
In her warm gentle voice she asked the question that had been trying to surface in my heart despite my guerrilla-like suppression tactics. Could I give this away? Could I relinquish control of the outcome and just be? My eyes burned in response. Not yet, I knew I could not.
Later that day, under yet another torrent of tears I told Guy of my fears. He asked, in his own way, the very same question, “Can you get yourself to the point where you can be okay with everything that happens as long as in the end you get what you want?”
“But if I can’t get this under control I won’t get what I want.” I said, imagining a sterile hospital birth with drugs, monitors, procedures and the possibility of a cesarean. I saw things spiraling out of my control, the control that I believed was the only thing keeping my baby safe and alive.
“I thought you wanted a baby.”
I was jolted into a new place. The place where I could now see that I had lost sight of the goal. In all my futzing I had begun to focus on the next ten feet and not the end. A sometimes necessary approach for, say, mountain climbing, but even then it’s problematic if you focus so hard on your feet that you wander to the wrong path.
Monday I woke with a number that sent me spiraling. I plugged through my day trying to figure out what more I could do. There was only one stone left unturned. The one I should have begun with. Prayer.
I prayed that night for help. I explained about what I hoped for and asked for divine protection. I was still trying to control things.
Yesterday my first “number” of the day wasn’t just good, it was fabulous. Normal, even. And I hadn’t learned my lesson, because I allowed that number to give me permission to have a great day. Soon it was clear to me that I would get whiplash dealing with these emotional ups and downs if continued to let a machine tell me how to feel.
On the phone yesterday Stephanie told me she and her family are still praying for me and the baby every day. Some times several times. I guess I had figured that now that things appeared to be OK with the baby that we would have fallen off of people’s lists, especially Steph and David, who, because of their responsibilities at church, are privy to the private suffering and pains of dozens of members of the congregation. Yet they are praying for us.
I can only do so much. The rest, I know, is in God’s hands. I need to stop relying on my own efforts so much and rely more on the knowledge that He knows what I need and he has a plan for me. Ellen quotes C.S. Lewis to me… “We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.” My belief that if I attempt to control every eventuality then everything will be alright must be replaced with a trust that regardless of how steep this path may become, it will still lead me to where He needs me to be.
My numbers were funky today. One really high and troublesome, one gorgeous and perfectly in the low range. I decided not to let the high one get under my pin-pricked skin, and not to let the low one over-inflate my pride.
I am pondering, now, how to loosen my death-grip on being in control. It’s apparently not my job, nor has it ever been. There are miles to go yet, and I have to keep my eyes off my feet and my attitude off my machine.
Maybe I can just pray for that.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
I often write of Tessa, because she is my little pal, shadow and companion while the kids are away at school. I appreciate her tender heart and her unabashed adoration of me. She is suddenly growing up so fast, and I feel her moving away from me into the big world that extends beyond my little kingdom of dust bunnies and laundry piles. She wants to be with friends more often these days. She wants to be a big girl, independent and grown up. I will soon miss the days of her endless cuddles and spontanous hugs, as they are replaced by other interests that don't include me.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
For our wedding, Guy and I received (count ‘em) 15 platters. It was my fault. When we went to register for gifts (back in the day before you could register at cheep-o places like Wal-mart and Home Depot... heck, I would have LOVED to register at Home Depot! Who needs potholders and pillowcases when you can get power tools?), I had a melt down over having to pick my own gifts. I mean, $150 for ONE china place setting? Seriously? So we called my mom from a pay phone at Macy’s (also before cell phones… and electricity) and I blubbered that I couldn’t be so materialistic.
So, instead of getting what we needed, we got platters.
Oh, and no toaster.
It turns out, we needed them - the platters. We like to entertain.
In fact, Guy’s ability to host a great evening of entertainment was one of the things that set the hook in this little fish. He asked me out to dinner for our first date. I didn’t catch on that he was asking me out on an actual date, and sort of ended up laughing at him. It took a whole month for me to work him into asking me out a second time. This time, he invited me to a homemade Finnish dinner. It was amazing. It was the start of something wonderful (read that post here).
Last month we planned dinner with our friends Dave and Steph, Kathy and Bishop J. Dave made us a fabulous French dinner (ever heard of Raspberry Butter? Yum!). This month was our turn, and for only the second time since that wonderful first date, Guy broke out the cardamom and rye flour and created culinary magic like only he can.
Now, I am a really rotten friend. I was so excited about the food, from the moment the first tray of Pulla came out of the oven, that I ran for the camera and lost all sense of decorum.
I took pictures of food. Yup, only the food. I did not, however, take any pictures of our friends, Kathy, Wayne (affectionately known as "Bishop"), David and Stephanie. (Bad, bad friend!)
I hope the meal was so wonderful that they will
forgive me for it.
Next came the pastries...
Guy making Riisipiirakat (or Rice Moccasins, as I call them, because when I try to say that other crazy thing he laughs at me. Every time. So mean).
Clockwise, starting with food you recognize: boiled potatoes, Punajuurisalaatti (beet salad with cream), Porkkanalaatikko (rice and carrot casserole), Rice Moccasins with egg butter, and finally Lihapyörykät (meat balls made with...drum roll... cream!).