The hazards of multitasking

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We did a wedding yesterday, and brought Nicholas with us instead of having the babysitter keep him with the other kids. A few weeks ago I tried this when I did a wedding by myself, and he did beautifully—nursed half an hour beforehand and slept all the way through the wedding.

Yesterday, he wasn’t quite so cooperative—he didn’t want to go to sleep. But he was content to lie on the floor and kick and look up at the lights. The first two preludes went well; then he started whimpering. He was right under the mic’s, so I had to pick him up and hold him while I sang.

In the middle of the first reading, he burped loudly. I know what follows a burp, so I lunged for the nursing cover and put it under his mouth, and just in time, too. Christian and I gave each other a “whew, that was close!” look, and I put Nicholas in the car seat so I could go up to sing the psalm.

I was halfway to the ambo when I felt the wetness on my leg, and horrified, looked down to see—what else? Spitup on my black skirt!

Well, after that I didn’t pay much attention to the wedding. After the Gospel, five bridesmaids sat down and crossed their legs in unison, which struck me as funny. Just as I started singing “One Bread, One Body,” Nicholas decided it was time to fuss. Christian and I traded panicked looks, and he pulled the mic closer so he could take over singing if I had to bail. I finished out the refrain and started to go pick Nicholas up, only to find him conked out.

But perhaps because I had Baby on my mind, things struck me differently yesterday than usual. “I will bless the Lord at all times,” I sang in the psalm. “Praise shall always be on my lips.” Even when my child is in the hospital. Even when my child is throwing tantrums. Even when I’m standing in front of 150 people as a paid singer, and there’s spitup on my skirt.

There’s a line in “How Beautiful” that says, How beautiful when humble hearts give the fruit of pure lives so that others may live. I don’t know the meaning Twila Paris intended, to me, that line seems to speak to parenthood, and in particular, it’s always struck me as an NFP teacher.

When it was all over, people commented on how cute our baby was, with his one sock (Julianna had pulled off the other one and I never had time to replace it), and how good he was (which really, he was), and how beautiful the music was. So it all worked out. And maybe it’s a good witness for a married couple to bring a baby along when they do music for a wedding.

But I can’t help squirming and thinking it’s a little unprofessional to be covered with spitup while I sing a wedding!

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All right! I give in!

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All right! I capitulate! So they look like each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Alex one month b     Nicholas smile
Alex, May 05 (1 month)………………….Nicholas, May 09 (2 months)

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time

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It was a perfect morning—70 degrees beneath a flawless blue sky, washed clean by four days of rain, and fanned by a gentle breeze. But I woke up unable to move because of a muscle knot in my shoulder, which kept me from doing my Pilates. This made two days without exercise, since I got rained out from running yesterday.

I got up and moving with the help of Tiger Balm, and started thinking, Now how am I going to get some exercise with all three kids? And then it came to me. Alex has been riding his bike a ton every day—back and forth, as far as we’ll let him go in either direction. I have to jog if I want to keep up. Why not pack up his bike and take all three of them out to the Bear Creek Trail? It’s relatively flat, and pushing the stroller behind him would definitely count as exercise!

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

In one hour and fifteen minutes, I learned several important lessons:

  1. Little boys must, must, must go to the bathroom before embarking on any kind of outdoor adventure.
  2. There is no breeze in a creek valley.
  3. 70 degrees around the house equals 85 degrees on a hot, sunny trail.
  4. Riding back and forth for twenty minutes on sidewalks does not prepare a child for any kind of trail riding.
  5. Training wheels are not made to run on gravel. Particularly fresh gravel.
  6. Little girls who fall asleep in the front seat cause poor stroller alignment.
  7. There is no exercise to be had when “following” a child who brakes every three revolutions.
  8. Except the exercise of helping him get started again with one hand while pushing a double stroller on loose gravel with the other.
  9. There are few irritations more acute than trying to bully a 4-year-old who wants to be carried back to the van into walking a bicycle .2 miles back to the parking lot.
  10. Particularly when the sun is hot.
  11. And the baby wants to eat.
  12. And the toddler is asleep.
  13. And there’s no shade.

Now you know why we get up at 5:30 a.m. to exercise!

A Journal Entry

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It’s been six or seven weeks since I last wrote in my Journal. Blogging and scrapbooking really is taking over the handwritten Journal, which now only exists for rants and funnies that just don’t belong online.

But that means that every so often I just have to record things for the benefit of family history. For instance:

Julianna
Julianna has always been fresh and sweet and adorable, a constant surprise. She always makes us laugh. We spent Memorial Day weekend in Southern Illinois at the in-laws’, and on Saturday Christian’s brother and his wife brought their new dog, a little terrier that yaps a lot. Julianna generally thinks dogs are very interesting and funny, so we put her down to meet Cocoa. Only this time, he was straining on his leash and barking a lot, and she got scared. Now, most kids wail and turn to Mommy or Daddy and bury their faces. But that would be far too wimpy for Julianna. No, Julianna believes that when something scares you, the best policy is to get in its face and scream back. So she plopped on her bottom, clenched her fists out to either side, stuck her chin forward, and yelled “EEEEEEAAAAAAAAA!” She had the situation well in hand, but of course we rescued her anyway…though not without laughing.

It was a rainy weekend, so Sunday afternoon we all went to see “Night in a Museum 2.” It was Alex’s first movie in the theater. Christian was concerned that Julianna would get antsy so we got a huge tub of popcorn—the kind you can refill for free—and he refilled it midway through. He had a little triangular cup that he kept filling for Julianna, and every so often she’d say, “EEAH!” and he’d realize she was empty. Finally he got tired of it and just stuck the tub in front of her. She spent the entire movie going through it one piece at a time. She is her mother’s child, and her grandmother’s granddaughter. 🙂

Since coming home from the hospital, she seems even cuter, even sweeter and more beautiful than before. I wonder if it’s just because, once again, she’s been returned to us from the brink–if it’s all in our perception. Or maybe there’s something about adversity that naturally deepens the most beautiful parts of our spirits, and it simply reflects on the outside. Either way, oh, she is so, so beautiful.

Nicholas

I just need to do this one with a photo.

Life is good!

Life is good!

Magic. Pure and simple.

It’s getting easier

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It’s definitely getting easier to get submissions sent out. Now, instead of agonizing for ten days, I agonize for four, and instead of attaching and reattaching four times, I only do it twice.

I’m also learning that it’s not necessary to fiddle with every word choice for too long, since editors are going to take my “perfect” composition and tweak it to fit their needs and tastes. This shaves several hours off the time I spend, since fiddling and tweaking is where I glory (and gripe).

It’s always a good day when I get a submission sent. 🙂

Baby Magic

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They say there’s no such thing as magic, but they’re wrong.

There’s microscopic magic, in the way two cells suddenly, miraculously, become one. The way that those cells gobble up invisible energy to specialize and mature and grow, until suddenly, something that began as a single cell, made up of two, has developed doe eyes and Daddy’s ears and Mommy’s nose and Great-great Grandpa’s chin.

There’s pixie magic, the way that a baby can be the spitting image of Grandpa one minute, and of Cousin on the other side of the family the next. There’s buttermilk magic when, after weeks of hearing how your baby looks like his brother, his dad, his cousin—anyone from the opposite side of the family—the nurse at the hospital gasps, “Oh, my goodness, he looks just like you!”

There’s morning rainbow magic, the first smile. The first ten or twelve or eighteen…dozen smiles, as a matter of fact. So unexpected, so fleeting, a flash of sunlight on a cloudy day.

There’s Astrophysical magic. Put a baby on the floor, and he instantaneously consubstantiates into a Baby Black Hole. You can almost hear the “slurp” as every child in the vicinity skitters helplessly toward the event horizon.

There’s sensual magic, the body-wide thrill of brushing a baby’s hip, impossibly soft—softer than velvet, smoother than silk, a conglomeration of clichés that can’t even come close to expressing the sensation. And the sensation of holding a baby against the chest—the way your breath hopscotches in response to the weight of a warm head nuzzling beneath your chin. And as he calms, you calm. Magic. No doubt about it.

There’s visceral magic, the way that clerks at the party store drop what they’re doing and coo and stare with longing at a baby, even as they try to pretend that all they want is to cuddle someone else’s child, and not to have their own. The dread of three a.m. feedings can’t hope to compete with nature, with the built-in longing to hold, nurture, and love.

There’s divine magic, the way a baby transforms a man into a father, and a woman into a mother. The way his mere existence makes them better people.

Holy magic. Baby magic. Powerful. Unstoppable. And in every generation, our hope for the future.

Unplugged

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Once in a while, it’s nice to go somewhere without internet access for a few days, even though it feels disorienting to be offline. But it’s not a state of being I’d want to spend too much time in.

We spent the long weekend in Southern Illinois. Two weeks ago, a storm came barreling through southern Missouri and Illinois, wreaking havoc. It wasn’t a tornado, but the winds were upwards of 100mph, and it went on and on and on. Three and a half hours the kids spent huddled under their bookbag rack at school. Offline was the least of their problems.

In the wake of the storm, my sister-in-law couldn’t get to the school because of downed trees. There was no power for several days. As many power outages as there have been in the last few years, from New York to Katrina, I hadn’t ever thought through the implications until it touched close to home.

For those with electric stoves, there was no way to cook anything. There was no way to keep food cool, except to run a gas generator, and no way to get gas because gas pumps require electricity too. Cell phones weren’t working, cordless phones weren’t working. Grocery stores and restaurants were closed. No ATM machines, no credit card readers.

By the time we arrived on Thursday night, power was back up and running, but hearing the stories was disturbing enough. It’s times like these when I realize how frighteningly dependent upon technology we have become. It makes life easier, more enjoyable, for sure, but now, what would we do without it? How will we live if something cataclysmic ever happens?

I grew up on a farm, so I know the basics of raising your own food. I know how to kill and prepare a chicken…though I’ve never done it myself, but I think I could do it if I had to. I know something about canning vegetables, and so forth. But I still need a chicken. And a vegetable plot.

Listening to my in-laws talk about the last couple of weeks, I feel a niggling of fear for the unknown cataclysm that could wipe out life as we know it. We can only survive so long on peanut butter and potato chips, and I fear the ugliness that might result when we get desperate.

But maybe I’m focusing on the wrong side effect of being forcibly unplugged.

The storm caused only one fatality in Southern Illinois. For that family, tragedy is still tragedy. But based on the amount of destruction we’ve seen here, the fact that the number is not far higher is cause for thanksgiving. And my sister-in-law told me that people are saying how great a time they had while the power was out. There was nothing else to do, so they played cards by candlelight and board games by flashlight. They got together with neighbors on front porches. They created community in a way that went out of fashion long ago.

So yes, if the unknown disaster ever does strike, life will be harder. But maybe we’ll also discover that we’re stronger—and better off—than we think we are.