Sunday, May 31, 2009

from silence to silence

Today is the one-year anniversary of my friends' baby's birth...and death. If she were still with us, she would be eight months younger than Israel and ten months older than Eden. As it is, she is preserved in all our memories as a brand-newborn that no one gets to play with. At the time I remember thinking to myself that one of Israel's friends had died and it still feels that way when I think about it. Many of us, if not all of us, are still dumbfounded when confronted with the reality of her brief visit here. I thought about her nearly every day when I was pregnant with Eden. I still wonder about her and why her life was as it was...if there is a reason. And if there is no reason, what, then? I am humbled to have two healthy kids and will be much less likely to take them for granted, knowing what I know. But surely that is not a good enough reason. That does not even begin to approach it being "worth it." And then, well, I can't imagine that parents would ever say losing their child was "worth it." So I think of Job's friends and consider it wiser just to leave such lines of questioning alone, for what is there to gain besides foolishness? I'll close the book of my own words about it and put it back on the shelf, then.

Even when I give up on my own analysis, I still don't know how to pray for the situation. I wrote before Eden was born of struggling to pray with my friends for her when I am not sure what prayer does sometimes. But even if I knew that God would do whatever I wanted for them, I still don't know what I would pray. Take the pain away? Well, how could you remember her very well if you were just made numb to the feelings that go along with your remembering? It sounds akin to asking God to help them forget just a bit. But I would never want to forget a child I lost! I wouldn't wish it on anyone! Would I ask God to give them more children? As they are expecting again, I do pray a lot for them to have a healthy child. I know the account of Job seems on the surface to read that everything was fine because God gave Job more kids after he lost his first ones, right along with more stuff to replace all the stuff he lost. But kids aren't like stuff; you can't just replace them. And I don't buy that that's what made Job's difficulties in life "worth it," anyway. Asking for things like peace during this time is probably along the right track, but in my mind it still feels a bit like asking God to just gloss over the past -- to wave his hand over it and smooth it out. I know peace is not supposed to be linked to circumstances, but the circumstances of her life still feel so not-okay to me that I don't even want to ask God anything close to, "Make it all okay." It's not okay.

So in church we took some time to pray for various difficulties people are having. This anniversary was one of many things that was prayed for. One person was supposed to pray for each request, but several prayed for our friends on this anniversary. I didn't take a stab at it, but a young teenager did and her prayer brought me to tears. She prayed something like this:

"God, I don't know what it's like to have your baby die. But I know what it's like to have someone you love so much die -- like my grandpa who died. And you just love them so much and they aren't there. Even if you didn't get to spend as much time with them as you wanted, you still love them. And it just hurts so bad. God, I know you can't just come down here and hug 'em, but do something. God, you've gotta do something for them. I know how it is."

I agree with that. God is the one who has to do something. I know it's correct theology to believe that God showing up is what made Job's life worth living. So I can pray that God would show up and do something. I don't know what it is, but He should know. And praying that God would do what it is He does is about as good a prayer as I can imagine. I have a hard time swallowing that things will ever feel okay on this date each year for my friends and the rest of us, but if anyone can show up and wipe away tears for good, it is God. And if He doesn't, I pray he will at least come cry with us and sit in our silence.

Friday, May 22, 2009

small joys

In keeping with my last post, here are a couple of the small joys I've recently experienced looking at the world with my kids.

On Wednesday, I took Israel on a Mommy-Son (and sleeping sister) date to the park to feed the (very not hungry) ducks. I remember always going to a little pond with my Nana as a kid and thinking it was the greatest thing. I'm sure Israel has similar feelings about the river and the ducks and tossing sticks in to watch them float downstream. They just never get old to him.

We saw "baby" ducks that Israel is still talking about.

If throwing small sticks in the water is fun...

While Israel takes his afternoon nap, Eden and I get to hang out -- just the girls. She loves the play mat we used with Israel. She smiles up at the patterns on the rods and likes to play with the rings we dangle down for her. She also doesn't mind practicing using her muscles to hold her head up and is getting pretty good at it. (If I'm able to get a not-very-blurry picture indoors with this camera, you know she's holding pretty still.)

It's just that sometimes being stuck on your belly gets old.

That's right. Our little 10-week-old girl can roll over. Insane. I was definitely not ready for that. I have her do it alot, since I still can't quite believe my eyes when it happens.

It's good to remember these job perks on a day like today, when I've had more than my share of messes to clean up (I've given five baths today, including the dog.) Still, it's totally worth it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

in gratitude for my job

(There is a new entry below as well, so don't miss it if you wanna see recent pics.)

I vaguely remember in college my professors appreciating my ability to be succinct in my writing. While I'm sure those of you who follow along read that as its own punch line, I thought, in an effort to return to my roots, this post would be a list.

I just finished a book a friend asked me to read by Dr. Laura called, "In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms." Reading it made me more aware of why I wouldn't do anything else with my life right now, even on the days I spend mostly cleaning spit-up or poop or food off of things and people.

10 reasons why I wouldn't do anything else with my life:

1. I used to really want a job that would change people's lives; now I have one.
2. I have learned that it also makes adults feel better when a child kisses their boo-boos.
3. I am more keenly aware of how much bad there is in the world; conversely, my kids make me aware of how many little treasures there are hidden along the way.
4. I can be more understanding, realizing that most all people have been shaped by what they learned from their parents.
5. I get to learn how to be very happy over things like a bird or a train or poop in the potty.
6. My one year old's mimicking lets me know exactly how I sound to someone else. Talk about an incentive for personal growth!
7. I get paid in laughs and smiles and bouquets of stems and sticks.
8. Small gestures like putting a dish away can mean the world to me.
9. When someone compliments my child on a skill or virtue, I also get to receive the compliment. (The same is true of vices, I suppose, but people don't talk to you about those in grocery store lines!)
10. Being really good at my job means working to see the world through the eyes of my children. (I expect this to have great spiritual ramifications as well as the obvious benefits.)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

odds and ends

Life has a way of getting busier and busier! We've been so busy doing lately that I have not really had the time to write about any of it. I'm afraid the busy-ness precludes me being able to write any sort of reflective, thoughtful post for now, but I wanted to post a few pictures to give you a peek into what life is like for us right now.

First of all, the kids. Because that's how everything goes around here.

Eden officially rolled over today! There have been a couple of times I put her on her stomach to return and find her on her back, but I thought they were probably just flukes. However, this time she rolled over right in front of me and when I put her back on her belly, she kept making the movements trying to do it again. Smart girl.

I have a son who is really trying to do everything I do and in general is growing up fast! He is transitioning out of his high-chair. He's leaving the baby sippy cups behind and is using the sippies that can actually spill. He is learning to wield a fork. We moved him into a regular bed and he LOVES being able to sleep there. The transition has been completely uneventful, except for me trying to adjust to my little boy stomping through the house to find me some mornings, saying, as though he's all grown-up, "Hi!" As grown-up as he can seem, his version of how to sleep in a regular bed is quite different from a grown-up's. He insists sideways is better than vertical. This was one day he just took it too far....

This is another way Israel tried to be like his mommy. Headbands make him so happy! (Don't worry, we don't let him leave the house like this, though I am posting the picture for the general public to see. Hypocritical? Maybe.)

If it wasn't already obvious from the head-band shot, Israel is in need of a haircut! But it's just so much fun...!Not to be out-done, Eden would like to show you her crazy bath-time hair. Her hair is naturally curly; it just doesn't like to dry that way yet.

Secondly, some of what we've been up to around the house. The weather is warm, and that means LOTS of kids around our house. We truly enjoy being able to supply the kids and teens around with hours of fun at our basketball hoop. We are meeting some pretty great new kids from down the street as well. Some of the kids, though, have no idea whatsoever how they are supposed to behave and, while this will only be helped by spending time with some adults who will show them how, I really don't want to be the teacher every time I step out by back door to play with Israel. So we've been trying to tackle some outdoor projects, which include a privacy fence and a short rock wall for a raised-bed garden.

When Pat's mom, Terri, was here a few weekends ago, his brother, Bob, also came to help for an afternoon and got the ball rolling by tearing out the yucky old chain-link fence and putting in some of the posts for the new privacy fence we bought with our tax return. (Thank you, George W.!) It was a busy day and Terri did a great job of helping entertain Israel and three of his cousins with her homemade play-dough. I think a good time was had by all and I'm sure we all slept well that night!


The work begins. Pat and Bob took the fence....

I took on the lawn, as usual.

Grandma took on the kids!
(Not really sure which of us had the more difficult job!)

our progress as of this weekend...three weeks later!

...and we're still plugging away for about an hour each evening!

It takes a lot of work to do this sort of backyard make-over. And it is taking us a long time. But we have a good deal of help, really. Our neighbor Steve comes over every time he sees Pat working on the fence to help out. His expertise is invaluable; we don't know what we're doing! Israel can be a handful as he both does and does not want to "help" us in what we're doing. Add to this that we are still without fencing in places, and he can just run out of the yard if he is so inclined. This makes concentrating on a project not only difficult, but dangerous. Oftentimes, though, an older kid will come and play with Israel a few feet away while we work, which is so helpful. And every time I pull out the lawnmower, I have 2-3 kids begging me to let them help. So I mow until it's time for Eden to eat and then hand over the (very novel) mower. It's an old-style rotating blade mower that can be difficult to push through the grass at times, but thus far, the kids have all done a great job and thank me for the experience! Does it get better than that!?

It's nice to be forming more relationships with more kids in the neighborhood. Knowing them makes the swarm around my house not nearly as overwhelming as it was when we first moved here. (That, and now they know I will not give them a popsicle every day....) We like our life here and wouldn't be anywhere else.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

then and now

My mom tells me that I had better be careful to record which baby is in what picture or else I will get them confused later on. While I agree with my mom about all kinds of things, I think she's wrong here. Here are pictures of our kids, both in the same outfit at 7 weeks of age.

Now, maybe it's just because I'm their mom and it's my job to stare into their faces for hours a day, but I don't really think they look alike. Of course, they look like brother and sister and there are a few resemblances (such as their having similar eyes). But, really. Who is going to confuse these kids?

I realize I do forget things about Israel as Eden starts to take over the "what my infants are like" portion of my brain for the time being. I know Israel had hair and I know that it was blonde from birth, but I really thought it was more visible than it seems in the picture. I do know that their demeanors are opposite from what these two pictures would tell you. Israel most often wore a skeptical kind of look on his face; Eden usually looks pretty happy and is currently smiling a lot. The noise I remember from Israel is a percussive, spitting noise that led directly into a cry. Eden's predominant noise in my mind is her cooing and her squeaking. Whether it's because there is so much else going on or because it's really quite soft in comparison to her brother's, Eden's cry is nothing noteworthy to me. I never used a monitor to know whether Israel was crying (who needed it?!) but I have gone in to check on Eden to find that she is crying and has been for who knows how long, which would make a monitor a good idea if it weren't just one more thing to remember. As an infant, Israel seemed to skip the small reminder that he was there and getting hungry, preferring to go straight to the, "Why aren't you sitting around just waiting to feed me?! I'm MAD!" scream. Eden, on the other hand, wakes up saying, "I think I could eat now...or later...whichever." Some things about them are the same, I'm sure, but these two just feel so different from each other to me.

Just recently, I had a day when I was playing with Eden before Israel got up and kept thinking, "Oh, no. I don't want Israel to get up. This is my favorite time of the day." And I began to be afraid that Eden was my favorite kid. I started plotting how never to let Israel know this. He woke up and Eden went to sleep. After Israel and I had chatted over breakfast and snuggled in the recliner together to watch Sesame Street, I started thinking, "Oh, no. I don't want Eden to get up. This is my favorite time of the day." And I began to be afraid that Israel was my favorite kid. And then I smiled to myself and realized that everything was alright. For all their differences, Israel and Eden have in common that they are my favorite kids.