Tuesday, January 31, 2012

She looks at the plate skeptically. "I don't like this" she says.
"Yes you do," I say, overly bright. "You love it!"
She takes one bite and gags dramatically, causing me to rethink my own commitment to chicken pot pie.

I hold him on my lap, all diaper and rosy cheeks and chubby thighs. "You are a GOOD BOY," I tell him over and over. "You are NICE."
"DOOO BU!" he says, smiling widely as he slaps me on the top of the head. "Nasssss," poking his fingernail into the side of my mouth.

"Won't you feel great when this is clean?" I say. "It will just take a minute. Look, not too many toys!"
He grabs the sides of his hair, distraught. "This is SO MUCH TOYS! I WILL NEVVVVVER FINISH!" Two hours later, I check in to find a cozy scene, children curled up on rugs and beds with books and tiny ponies and scraps of paper cut into "designs". The room still looks like New Orleans after Mardi Gras.

"I have to do something about that," I think. "But.... ehhhhhh"

I hold fast on so many things. I have never given into a grocery store meltdown. I've never made a second meal for a picky toddler. I've never ignored rebellion, unless I think they didn't see me see... in which case I might feign ignorance. Still, with all these parenting victories, it seems I'm running into more and more capitulation. By me, I mean. Nobody else is capitulating.

So I tell myself, "You are capable of doing this! You can set the boundaries and then you will get off your duff and get up and enforce them! You are strong!" But sometimes, I don't believe me. "Maybe they will win," I worry. "Maybe they will be spoiled and disrespectful. Maybe I will be old and they will come by and steal money out of my purse and use it to buy cigarettes."

That does it. I am turning over a new leaf. A zero tolerance policy. Or maybe I will make a spreadsheet, with bullet points, about my new policy. And color coding. Things are going to shape up around here now. Or really soon. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

A great blessing of motherhood is a faulty memory. It's one of God's primary tricks for getting us to have more kids. You forget the pain of childbirth, to some degree. You forget the depth of the ache while you wait to get pregnant or adopt. Then you forget about toddlers.

It's all coming back to me now. I'm not saying I want out, like I'm going to hop in my van full of french fries and melted crayons and drive west indefinitely. I'm just saying I forgot about the part where they don't sit in your lap, because they are hanging sideways out of your arms, screeching to be put down, so you can put them down and listen to them shriek to be picked up. And though it was fairly recent, I forgot the part where they go to great lengths to spill drinks and break computers.

Lucky for them, God had more tricks and made them crazy cute. "Ehhh?" they say, tilting their heads to the side while juice pours down the wall. "No nonononono!!" they say, giggling while poking you in the eyes in your own bed, while it is still dark outside. "HAPP GUUUUTHDAY A OOOOO"  they sing while tossing household items in the toilet. And so you cry sometimes, and you laugh, a lot, but inside, you know that you are insane.

And then it's bedtime, and your back hurts and you have peanut butter on all your pj pants and you haven't had dinner but someone is in your room, smelling strangely like sulfur and brimstone, while emptying your night table drawer, throwing handfuls of tissues and nail polish bottles, taste-testing small fancy chocolates and defacing library books. And for a minute, it's too much. You change the diaper, muttering to yourself, and dump the toddler in a crib and leave the room. Too much, you think. Go to sleep.

And for a minute, maybe it would work. You eye a Lean Cuisine longingly, sweep up a pile of bread crusts and start the dishwasher, ignoring the NEW dirty dishes. And then the whining escalates to panic, as the baby figures out you weren't just kidding. Maybe they'll go to sleep, you say, because you are a little nuts, maybe. Maybe I will ignore the noise.

And then he pulls out the big gun. "MAMA!" he screams, gulping. "Mamamamamamamaaaaaa! Mama!" And your tired, selfish heart leaps in your chest because you know, really, you are what he wants. And you give in and scoop him up, and cup his sweaty little head and listen to his frantic breathing settle into a contented purr. Your back still hurts, and the microwave will beep for a while, but it's okay. Because someday, maybe, you will forget exactly how this moment felt, and tomorrow he might be 5. So, for tonight, it's okay.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

UPDATE: they sent us home on a higher dosage of seizure medicine. He's sleeping peacefully now. Thank you all for your prayers. <3

Monday, January 23, 2012

We've been fairly quarantined here lately at the house of the damned. (Disclaimer: I gave a great deal of thought to that title, for the following reasons (a.) there are evidently many horror movies by that title, (b.) it looks like a CUSS and (c.) it's overblown, since we are not actually assigned to perdition. Still, weighing the options, I decided to use it, because I love it.) I mean, I tend to hunker in place during the winter anyway, but we've been cycling through the Mosaic plagues lately, with boils and blood, frogs, locusts and pestilence, and chicken pox and barfing. And other stuff. I might need a new house.

But you already knew about that. What you did not know is that I have been coming up with Very Good Ideas while in-house. I have had a lot of time to think, in the middle of the night while Tristan is screaming/doing somersaults. So here's what I'm going to do for you. I'm just going to throw all this brilliance at you, and then it will be up to you to invent this stuff and make millions. I'm not even asking for a cut, although you don't have to be a jerk about it, send me some free stuff, since I'm obviously the brains of this operation.

1. Medicated diapers: come on, this makes perfect sense. Small packs of diapers pre-loaded with diaper rash cream, so moms don't have to get their hands all up in there. That reminds me of one of my earlier ideas...

2. Wipe gloves: A glove or mitten made of baby wipe material, so your hand is covered. Seriously. I have been changing diapers every day for over 12 years. I question why anyone would ever want to shake my hand, ever. And inventors: make that glove thick, like a baby wipe sponge glove. Trust me.

3. Bathtime apron/towel: Think about this, like a long sleeve lined terrycloth snuggie, with wide flaps to wrap around the small bathed person. This would be useful so that moms of boys, specifically, would not look like Shamu snapped and came after them, post-boy-bath. Also, some kind of floor mat that works like a fountain pump, sucking the water from the floor and running it back to the tub.

4. Home inventory scanner/finder: now, this one is tricky. What I want is some kind of system to identify stuff in your house, like a barcode or something that you can assign to keys, phones, wallets, books,SHOES, whatever. and then when you lose everything, EVERY SINGLE DAY, you can use an in-home GPS of sorts to locate said keys at the bend in the pipe directly below the toilet or what have you. Or library books, for gosh's sake. Because the cost of developing this technology would be less than what I spend on "lost" books every year.

5. Shopping cart umbrella: it is attached to the side of the cart with little clips, you just unclip it and lift it, open it, and then you and your baby or your chihuahua or your groceries can wander the Walmart parking lot aimlessly, wishing you had a GPS scanner for your car, but you won't be getting rained or snowed on. See? Oh, and a shopping cart that is actually designed for a carseat, because it's getting crazy with the upside down babies, Target. Zeriously.

I could keep going, I'm like a fountain of ideas that would make my laziness life easier. But that should keep you busy for a while. And don't make them expensive, because we mommies spend all our money on organic fruit strips for our babies to grind into the van floor.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I'm not a super competitive person. If I don't think I'll win, I probably won't play whatever it is that annoying people are trying to coerce me into playing. "Come on," they say. "You're a fun person! What fun person doesn't want to spend 4 hours sitting in a wooden chair pretending to take over other nations on a board game, with 1,435 rules? That's so FUN!" or "Come ooon! Of course you want to go out in the cold/hot/diseased air and run in the grass with bugs, to kick a ball, for NO reason!" But despite their totally logical arguments, the fact is, I don't like games or competitions.

Originally, this was supposed to be a heartwarming entry about how we want our children to succeed, and to ride on our shoulders, metaphorically, and be more than we are. But then I got all distracted thinking about people who play games, and now I have to talk about that. So now, instead of reposting me and spending a reflective 3 minutes thinking about childhood, I'm just going to make you feel weird about inviting me to baby showers.

Baby showers are the worst. You get dressed up and you buy a hooded towel or some other baby gimmick that NO ONE EVER USES and you go, and you're happy about the baby, and the mommy and all, but then there starts being all this pressure about putting down the mini quiche and the spinach dip or what have you, so you can wrap your friend in toilet paper or clip clothes pins on your collar or (God help us) eat melted candy out of a diaper. And the next thing you know you're enveloped in stress, paranoid of crossing your legs or saying "cute" in front of the jury of your peers, and you're transmitting all these hostile vibes to the unborn guest of honor, and isn't it fun? I think I'd like a baby shower where you just drop your present off at the door and give the mommy a hug, and she'd give you a goody bag with some hor d'oeuvres, and you could go home and eat them in your pjs.

As far as grownup parties, we don't drink and we don't have a game system, so games at our parties are pretty much limited to whatever board games our children have not desecrated beyond recognition. "We'll just use a nickel for a game piece," we say sheepishly. Anyway. At first it's fun, but then I remember that everyone else in the world really, really wants to win, really, really bad. Especially the MOG. In fact, he will humiliate children and end decade long friendships with his in-it-to-win-it-ness. And maybe I sneak away to talk to some queso, and then everybody's calling in that voice, "Jessic-uuuuuhhhhhh! You need to come draw using only chalk and your nostrils!" And my eyes are rolling way up in my head like I'm having a seizure, but it's just wasted attitude.

So I stand alone, a Sanguine island in the middle of the frivolity. I just want to eat stuff and tell funny stories, you know?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Every morning, Toby and Brynn (and Tristan) turn on their clock radio and dance like heathens to whatever comes on. Some days it's country. One particularly loud day was Tejano music. (note to self: is it called Tejano here in the Midwest?) I have intervened a couple of times and switched the dial over to K-Love, since I don't really feel up to lengthy discussions of adultery and divorce (thank you, country music) or other topics inspired by rap or R&B. But then they say, "Hey, we don't like this Jesus music." And so then I'm busting out the rosary for them, and I'm not even Catholic.

It brings the whole thing to the forefront, the topic that I have tiptoed around for all of my life. See, at Piney Woods Christian School, we didn't listen to "secular" music. It wasn't done. I grew up on a steady diet of Amy Grant and Michael W Smith, Petra, Sandi Patty... you get it, right? Unless you were raised in a GODLESS home. Kidding. But my dad, he had his music, which he listened to privately, and on occasion we would all listen to some musical "breaker", a generational catalyst like the Beatles or Jimi Hendrix, and I knew that their music had changed the world, and not all for the better. But they had moved people and music, and they would always be part of the landscape of history, because of MUSIC.

I've pretty much just stuck with Christian music and I've been pretty content with my bands, my 950 songs on my iPod. At the same time, I hear popular music everywhere, TV, public places, youtube, whatever, and there are songs that I like, that I know, that I sing. I just won't buy them.

I'm just facing myself on this, the "why". I watch "secular" movies, as long as they don't breach my moral code. I read "secular" books, same criteria. But when it comes to music I just hold back, and it's probably part righteousness and a larger part tradition and guilt. So that's religion. Still, I don't want my kids singing about sin, celebrating sin like many songs do. I don't want them copying pop culture in their manners, their speech, their clothes. On the other hand, I want them to be aware of the world around them, to not grow up in a holy bubble. Or do I? Maybe I do. Oh, and so much Christian music is weak, musically. I want them to know music that makes their hearts ache, to feel the beauty of music.

And I know the Christian music industry is corrupt, in many ways, and unChristian. That doesn't change the fact that most of the lyrics are Biblical... that is still life, going in via ears. Plus, I kind of live off the Christian music industry, although we're on the outskirts, technically.

Look, I want them to be lovers of God, to be pure, and to be separate, while still being aware and welcoming to people around them. And I really want them to be real, genuine, motivated by love, not performance or an unholy standard. And I want them to be musically gifted, inspired by God to make music that moves the hearts of people.  Sheesh. Is that so much to ask?

Friday, January 13, 2012

I went to the movies last night with some pals, and came home to find Tristan sleeping in a pool of his own vomit, like a tiny frat boy. He's been fussy for days, with teeth sprouting all over the place (you know, in his mouth), and he hasn't been sleeping, which means that I haven't been sleeping, and the MOG has been sleeping, unless you ask HIM. But the puke, that was surprising.  Over and over again. And then the other stuff, which I don't like to talk about. My house smells like the gates of hell.

Being the woman of faith that I am, I sat Brynn and Toby down this morning and had the don't-think-you-can-mosey-to-the-toilet talk, because I know this stuff. They will pass this around like a beach ball, like a filthy bacteria-ridden snot-covered beach ball. And no one will vomit or do anything else in an authorized location, because that's so typical.

So I'm waiting. Tristan's got the worst of it, walking around with a siren-whine that is pitiful and adorable at the same time. R2 is definitely a little under the weather, and Brynn's showing some signs of contracting the plague as well. I'm feeling decidedly, perpetually queasy, but that's probably because I am living in the bowels of the underworld.

The MOG is helping, although his primary contribution is evacuating soiled linens and spraying EXCESSIVE amounts of Febreze on people, as well as in the general vicinity of the Terrible Stink. May God have mercy on our souls.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

You might have missed this: I'm from Texas. Snow is like Kryptonite to us. Like beautiful, deadly Kryptonite. If you don't know what Kryptonite is, put down your dadgum iPod and go pirate some old school Christopher Reeve movies. I can't do everything for you people.

Anyways, when it snows, the MOG and I shut it down. Neurosurgery? Cancel it. House fire? Reschedule. We will be indoors until the law makes us come out. And we live on a little slope, you know, our road is slightly hilly. So the first thing I do with new snow is make a cup of tea and settle in to watch the cars slide down the hill. BZZZZZTTTTTTT, they say, wheels spinning to no avail. They lean forward in the driver's seat, intent. BZZZZTTTTTTeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, down the hill they go. I sip my tea and cackle like a 90 year old. Every now and then one gets through and I sit back, disappointed. 

The kids get suit up and go out for a while, but eventually the cold air activates their brain cells and they come back inside, where humans belong. I have done a few basic survival tasks, involving peanut butter sandwiches and folding clothes, and then I pulled a sweet Mr. Rogers and changed into my daytime PJs and have returned to my post at the window, waiting to see what Captain Intrepid (our mailman) is wearing today, and if the neighbors are going anywhere. It's gonna be a great day. Unless we have to go outside. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I have always been pretty flexible about my hair. I have friends and family members who have a psychiatrist on call to talk them off the ledge after every haircut, but I'm more of the "Eh, it'll grow" school of thought. I spent a good portion of the 90's going around half-scalped in an effort to look like Winona Ryder or Meg Ryan, but, you know, I was happy. I looked ridiculous, but I didn't even know. So I like to change it up, experiment with color and cuts and live a little. 

When Toby was about 2, he observed of the MOG, "Daddy don't have any hairs. He only haves a HEAD and TEETH." And this was, and is, pretty accurate. He had hair until he was about 22, and then it started escaping because of all the anointing and brains and stuff, and after a long battle with denial, he shaved the remaining hairs off. Since then, he has become fairly proprietary about other people's hair, if you catch my drift. "I think I need bangs," I said, a few days ago, envisioning an elegant swoopy bang. Immediately, he goes here in his mind: 

And he has this whole thing, like, "You look terrible with bangs! They're always all like this," he says, with splayed terror fingers across his forehead. "And you looked like a zombie/fire victim/fallen angel* for ALL of 1997!" he worries. And I mean, I had bad haircuts on occasion, sure. But I seem to remember a tremendous amount of positive feedback in 1997, specifically in regards to my hotness. Specifically from him. A tremendous amount. Sometimes in front of everyone. My hotness was a continual topic, if I recall correctly. 

But he never remembers. "I love your hair now, don't change it." he always says, even though when I suggested this new color, he was all like, "Well, I like it now. I guess you can do whatever you want, I (siiiigh) guess." And then I go dye it, or I cut my own bangs, or whatever, and he's always against it. Always. Then after like 2 days, he figures out that I was right, and can I just keep this hair, please, for 6 months or something, he requests, because, come on. Hot. 

So now, I'm tired of my current "Mommy Hair" and I threw out the idea, maybe a little color boost, some bangs... maybe a LITTLE trim. He sees this:


What I'm going to have to do is go get my hair cut, without permission, exactly like some kind of rebellious sister-wife on her way out. Then he'll hold his tongue but react with his eyes, looking all alarmed and then crushed, and then he'll like it. That's the plan. 


Monday, January 9, 2012

Sometimes I wake up and I think, "I hate everything." And I don't, you know. I love lots of things. But every night I'm like "Wooo party!!" and watch things and read things and eat chips and act like a teenager on summer vacation, and then the morning comes and it hates me.

And the children, who I begged God for, who I would walk through fire for, should that unlikely request ever come up, those same children are so awake, and so loud, and so childlike, in the morning. So the challenge is waking up without having a deep heartfelt prayer that it already be bedtime again.

It's not what I envisioned, with the dreams of morning baby cuddles and healthy breakfasts, lying together in a pool of sunlight, talking about our dreams for the day. Instead, I lurch around, make impassioned pleas for quieter voices, pour off-brand cereal and look for a corner to curl up and mourn in, but am usually sidelined by someone needing a diaper change, immediately.

About 10:00, life begins to look up. I do homeschool, Lord willin, and that rolls into lunch time, which rolls into our strictly enforced "quiet time" (not quiet, per se, but in another room, so quietER). Then it is 3:00, and no one is going to bed until 8:30. So I pilot through those hours, trying to be kind, to be welcoming, to be present, but I know I'm faking it, a lot.

I want to do it differently, to really enjoy my days. I have seasons like that, where I don't feel loopy and tired and my back hurts and I'm desperate for space. I'm sure it's part discipline, with sleeping the right hours, and part dietary, where I eat disgusting things that HORSES would eat, and part spiritual, where I have a deeper life than just googling spiritual mysteries to explain to my 4 year old, because she "needs to know". It just seems like work, so much work, to be disciplined.

I used to hate it when people talked about stuff like this, when I was waiting for a baby. It felt so ungrateful, in light of my loss and dreams, for lucky moms to gripe about their blessings. That's why I've got to throw in the disclaimer that this is my dream life, and I love it. I love every day with my kids. But sometimes I'm too tired and grumpy to think about how much I love it. I love it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

I've been meaning to write two meaningful pieces here, for the ol' blog. But I'm not. I mean, I could say, because blah blah blah molars, the sun was in my eyes, whatever. It comes down to not doing it. So. Soon.

We have a visit planned tomorrow with Tristan's birthfamily, and as always, it has plunged me into thought. I wonder what they feel like when they see him? I wonder if they miss him every day? I wonder if they're still glad they placed him with us, still glad to see he fits so well? I doubt we'll ever have that conversation, it's not really my place to ask and it wouldn't be healthy for either one of us. So I have to accept that they really are okay, and choose not to worry about their mental health. Which is a little strange, since I regularly take on the burden of total strangers, i.e., "I wonder how Sandy (Bullock) is coping with the divorce and all..."

So there's that mental gymnastics, which has no bearing, and is almost disconnected from, my relationship to Tristan himself. Tristan is my son. Fully, completely, forever my son. In my heart, my emotions, my days and my mind, there is no difference between him and the children who came from my body. Sometimes I'll remind myself that I didn't give birth to him, and do a little internal heart-poke to see if that bothers me, and it never does. He is mine.

So we'll visit, and we'll all enjoy him, how beautiful he is, and how happy, and how confident. For them, I'm sure it will be bittersweet. And then we'll say goodbye and we'll all go back to our lives, lives that are irrevocably connected and deeply richer because of a little boy who was given life.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I think of myself as frugal. "I'm frugal!" I think, and then I feel a little better. But really, at the core, I am afraid I am a cheapskate. Like, I have kind of a hangup about it. I should probably sit down and argue with myself at some point and see if we come to an agreement.

It probably has to do with my parents. Or the toxins in the environment. Because it is rarely, "I'm so broke I should just buy a 4-pack of toilet paper." (Which means I will have to go buy toilet paper again in 30 minutes) It's just this thing where I think, "Why spend $12 on toilet paper? So expensive! I'll come back later." Or I buy cookies and eat as few as possible so they won't run out, and they get all weird and stale. Stuff like that. If I were in a 1900's novel, I'd be stingy with the candles and my horses would be sickly.

Anyway. I recognize it's kind of a neurosis, so I am attempting to not pass it on to my children, which has never been an issue, because they've never had any of their own money. But this year for Christmas, they got $25 each and so I've been trying to be all homeschool-y and teach them saving and budgeting and whatnot. Brynn blew through hers, but Toby's been hoarding every cent, and doing extra chores around the house and such for cash. He picked a couple of specific goals and saved everything he needed, and today we took his $22.01 and Brynn's $1.00 and they bought stuff.

And I'm standing there in  the Hot Wheels aisle, feeling that kind of sick, worried feeling, because I know it's going to take ALL of Toby's money, and that is freaky. So I'm trying to hide it and say cheerfully, "Now, this will be the rest of your money. You won't have any left. But you'll have this GREAT toy!", and I can hear it coming out all high-pitched and worried and I am telling my brain to modulate my tone because I am messing up my kid. Luckily, he is male and not listening to me anyway.

Brynn picked a variety of 35 dollar items before we relocated to the dollar spot, where she got a plastic pig that the MOG will throw away when he finds it sitting on top of the toilet or in his shoe. Toby checked out in front of me, holding a sweaty fistful of dollar bills. "I'm not here alone," he told the lady in front of him. "I live with her. She's my mom. But this is my money."

So far so good, I guess.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Thank you so much for everyone who gave and cheered us on! We went and bought the iPad today, and his first request (via button) was "I want to watch TV." So we let him. :)

We are so blown away by the generosity and response from all of you. He's a lucky little guy to be so loved. We are learning the ropes of the communication apps, and he seems very interested in the idea of telling us things. I still can't believe that the money came in one day, in a series of hours. I can't thank you all enough, so I will spam my social networks with pictures, in gratitude.

As for me, I've been too excited to eat for like 24 hours now, so this might work as a diet plan, too.

Thank you again, seriously. A new world is opening up for Richy, and for us.

Monday, January 2, 2012

(donations over the goal line will be put in an R2 account)

R2 reacts!

Most of you know R2, either in person or from the ol' blog here. For a recap, he was born at 24 weeks, and suffered severe brain damage as a result of his prematurity. He's amazingly functional, despite having large gaps in his brain and being legally blind.

One of the hardest things for us has been his gradual move towards being completely nonverbal. In the last several years, he went from being able to answer questions and talk in brief sentences to where he is now, totally non-verbal except for the occasional grunt and, on bad days, screaming.

We've been researching communication options for a while, and the old technology would have cost thousands of dollars, so we never considered it an option. When the iPad came out, we started hearing stories about breakthroughs in communication with autistic kids, and that research has been growing. There are a lot of apps designed specifically for this purpose- giving a voice to special kids!

We were able to get his school to allow him to use one on campus, with good success at expressing his needs; he's skilled with computers. Now we're hoping to continue his success by buying an iPad and apps to use at home. I can't tell you what it would mean to be able to communicate with our son again, and to be able to teach him.

Over Christmas, 2 people spontaneously gave donations toward an "R2 iPad Fund", which surprised and blessed us, since we've been trying to find some way to budget for this and have been unsuccessful.  Our goal is to raise $800, for the iPad, the heavy-duty case, and several apps that have been recommended. If you want to be a part of helping us reach this goal, you can email us for a mailing address or give online through ChipIn.

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