May 18, 2010

  • Notes from a Northerner # 101

    I knew I’d grown increasingly acclimated to the South, when I pulled down my attic steps, and a dying, half-roasted, three-inch cockroach fell into my hair and landed on the floor. The last time I saw one that big, I screamed. You couldn’t get me within ten feet of one. This time, I sprayed him with roach killer until he died, and swept him into a dustpan. I am growing as a person. :)

May 13, 2010

  • 365 Days

    A year may be just a split second in God’s eyes, but to a mere mortal, it can seem to last forever. For our family, the past year has been one for the record books.

    On May 13, 2009, our two-year-old, William, fell at church and crushed his trachea. After phenomenal life-saving actions employed by the childcare workers and the volunteer medical team at our church, William was taken to LeBonheur Children’s Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery to repair his trachea. Eleven days later, he was discharged from the hospital, and was sent home with a van full of tracheostomy care equipment. Six weeks after his injury, the injury had healed and the trach was removed. Within a few more weeks, the trach hole had healed over as well.

    In past FB notes, I have described the incredible miracles that took place in the process of William’s rescue and surgery, as well as his recovery period. There is no question that he had an incredible surgeon, and that the hospital care team was excellent. The team that transported William in the ambulance made all the right decisions, and delivered him to the hospital in stable condition. Penny Williams and the childcare staff acted quickly and decisively to get William to the nurse’s station where he could receive immediate care. These people all played a vital part in saving William’s life. But I haven’t talked about the real hero that God placed in William’s path that day. I haven’t done so, because until Tuesday, I didn’t have all the pieces to the puzzle.

    One question that the surgeons asked me more than once while William was in recovery was, how long was it between the actual injury and William’s arrival at the hospital? The reason for their question is based in science and medicine: any severe trauma to the trachea is expected to result in the area becoming inflamed. It is not uncommon for someone to badly injure their trachea, feel better for a few minutes, and then suddenly asphyxiate and die. This happens because within about thirty minutes of such an injury, the trachea swells up and blocks any airway. If a breathing tube isn’t inserted before the swelling occurs, there may not be time to save the patient. William crushed the cartilage in his trachea, the smallest part of the airway. Any swelling should have closed off that area first, both due to its tiny circumference and the point of injury. My answer to the surgeons was that as best I could tell from the various accounts I’d heard, William made it to the hospital within 40 to 50 minutes of his injury. The look in their eyes told me this was not soon enough. And yet, when he arrived, he was able to be intubated before any significant loss of oxygen to the brain. Later CT scans to the brain showed no long-term effects whatsoever. A second full-body scan was equally clean. When they went in to do surgery, they were able to see the injured area and fix it. A trach tube was inserted in his throat below the injury to give that area time to heal, and of course, to allow the swelling that finally did occur, to subside. Why didn’t William asphyxiate before he even arrived in the ER? And how did he survive without brain damage? It was a miracle.

    The miracle was in the form of an EMT volunteer at Bellevue named David Chadwick. Mr. Chadwick will modestly insist that William is alive today due to the efforts of the entire first response team, and he’s partly right. Each person involved was in exactly the right place at the right time.

    Holly Irving, a volunteer in the children’s department at Bellevue Baptist, was not normally assigned to William’s classroom. One of the regular teachers was out, so she was filling in. After William fell down, he stood up and put up his arms to her. She saw his distress and carried him into the hallway, handing him to the first volunteer she saw, Penny Williams.

    Penny wasn’t supposed to be there, either. She was expected in another part of the church at the time. But God put her in that hallway, because she would know what to do next. Penny’s daughter had spent much time at LeBonheur with a heart condition, and had needed a tracheostomy at one point. Penny saw that William was turning color, and could tell that air was escaping from his trachea into the surrounding tissues. She attempted CPR, and the air would not push through, so she recognized that there was a blockage. His neck had a red line across it, and the shape of it wasn’t right. She alerted the children’s department that he needed to see the nurse, immediately!

    Gwen Kaluzny, the department director over childcare, Paula Hise, her assistant, and Shari Raynor, the coordinator for the department, all flew into action. The preferred procedure was to have the nurse come to the children’s hallway, in order to keep the area secure and not remove the child. But Penny saw that there wasn’t time to wait. Paula ran ahead of her to clear the way, and somebody called ahead to the nurse’s station, where Catherine Mills, an RN, was on duty. Penny was wearing sandals, and kicked them off so she could run at full speed. William was held against her shoulder. The emergency personnel suggested to me later that the jolting of William’s chest against her during Penny’s full-out run may have helped keep his lungs pumping as best they could through the injury.

    David Chadwick was sitting in the service when he heard a chatter on the radio he wore. A child was on his way to the nurse’s station, and might not be breathing. He stood up and quickly made his way to the back of the sanctuary, where he arrived at the same time as Penny and William. Catherine Mills sprang into action, working over William as Penny held him in her lap. The room was filled with frantic women and a desperate child, as Mr. Chadwick assessed the situation. William was scratching at his shirt, and at Penny’s, fighting to breathe. His color was gray, and his eyes rolled back in his head a couple of times, before he came to again. It was at this time that Mr. Chadwick heard what he called “a still small voice from God.” This boy didn’t just need oxygen; he needed a breathing treatment.

    The nurse’s station held a variety of emergency care equipment, including albuterol for asthma attacks or other bronchial issues. The doctor in charge also liked to keep xopenex on hand for children, which is considered the “mirror image” of albuterol. This is what David Chadwick reached for. He put a mask on William that had very few openings for the treatment to dissipate, so that most of the breathing treatment along with the pure oxygen went right into his lungs. This is when William started to relax. When the paramedics arrived, they strapped him on a child-sized body board, where he lay relatively calmly until he arrived at the hospital.

    In the hospital, William appeared so calm that the ER nurses removed him from the board and let him sit up. William’s injured trachea closed up even more, and he struggled again to breathe. He began to throw himself around the room, fighting for air. One of the paramedics shouted to a nurse he knew to get a doctor “NOW” and she reached over and yanked at the first doctor she saw. It took several people to hold William down. They attempted to give him an emergency tracheostomy, which on a child is difficult in surgery, much less on a wide-awake and panicked one. The attempt was aborted, and a tube was inserted orally instead. It went through without causing additional injury, long after his trachea should have been completely swollen shut. William began to breathe again through the tube. They were then able to prep him for surgery and successfully performed a tracheostomy and repaired the injury.

    Had it not been for the quick thinking of David Chadwick, William would not have survived long enough for his skilled surgeon to repair his injury. The efforts of the childcare workers, emergency dispatchers, and paramedics would have been in vain, had he not been given the breathing treatment that saved his life. This is so significant, that what Mr. Chadwick did may be officially put into the procedural manuals in the future. The medical community has lauded him for thinking outside the box, even as he carefully followed written procedures.

    And on Tuesday of this week, the entire first response team received a Star of Life Award for the 8th district in Tennessee. We went to Nashville with William and the team to see them win their award, and were thrilled to learn that William’s team also won the Star of Life Award for the entire state of Tennessee. (John’s Facebook Photos contains an album of the event.)

    This event has understandably been the focal point of our year. We will never, ever forget the miracle that happened to us. The Star of Life certificate William received this week commemorating the first day of the rest of his life will serve to remind us. To God be the glory, great things He has done.

    William, being held by David Chadwick, EMT-P, FF Paremedic at the Star of Life Awards.


April 16, 2010

  • Silly Bands Aren’t for Sissies

    When I was a kid, the craze was friendship bracelets. You would get the different-colored strands, and braid them in the perfect individualized color scheme for your friends. Everyone wore them. You achieved status by having friends who could do intricate braids, and by wearing several on each arm or ankle. Today, it is silly bands–plastic bracelets that snap back into the shape of an animal or character when you take them off. At one point, Anna Kathryn had forty-two of them. On one arm.

    Her first silly band came to her from “Aiden’s big sister” in the carpool pick-up line at school. After receiving one at a birthday party as a favor, and a bunch more as prizes for Laps for TAPS, a school fundraiser, she began to ask me to get her more. “Sure,” I said. “I will look for some that you can share with your friends.” “Oh,” she replied. “You need to get me a lot, then. I want to keep a whole bunch of them!” She was five, and I considered this a perfect training op. We agreed that silly bands were for sharing, but that we would make sure she had plenty. Honestly, why not use such an inexpensive tool to teach my child how much fun sharing can be?

    Slight problem, though. Where does one find silly bands? I went to the Dollar Tree–always a first resort when it comes to trend items that may break or get lost and must come cheaply. Sorry! The Dollar Tree can not afford to sell these magical plastic bracelets for $1 a bag. Somebody suggested a shoe store. I have no idea why a shoe store would carry these. Jibbits, sure (the decorative buttons you can buy for the holes in Croc shoes), but silly bands?

    My daughter jumped into the car after school asking for her new silly bands five days out of a five-day schoolweek, so finding them was becoming a pressing need for my sanity. Eschewing shoe stores for a place that makes sense, I went to Claire’s, the jewelry-slash-cheap-tween-swag store at the mall. The perky sale’s associate with the black funky pigtails smiled at me. I wasn’t sure if she was sympathetic or condescending, but sadly, silly bands were sold out. (Probably five minutes after being restocked, the way this trend is growing.) I could try the shoe store up the escalator and to the right, she said. And so I did, feeling like ten times a fool, because–again–WHY are shoe stores selling these? Sure enough, though, hanging behind the counter where sticky junior fingers can’t reach them, were silly bands. Farm Animal ones. All the other characters were sold out, I was told apologetically. Oh, except for the glow-in-the-dark bands that cost more. Seriously? These small matters do not concern me. My kindergartener asks for a computer for her birthday, and a grown-up camera for Christmas. If she’s going to beg me for something that other KIDS love to play with, let’s not quibble over price. I handed over my money, and was handed a bag of each kind in return.

    Friends and loved ones, trends like these are gold to a parent. At the playground, my now-six-year-old made friends with three children. When she came back to the blanket where I sat sipping my travel cup of coffee and watching the twins on their bikes, she not only had different bands than before, she had less. My mommy’s heart swelled to learn that she had traded with her friends. And then because they loved hers so much, she gave a few more away just for fun. She was not sad to have fewer silly bands; rather, her eyes roved the playground looking for more like-minded friends. And so for a few cents each, my daughter is learning what it feels like to give away what is hers without expectation of anything in return. Just for the joy of giving.

    Silly bands are also great for discipline. We all know that consistency is key to proper discipline, but even within consistency, it helps to shake the consequences up a bit to keep things fresh. John and I have been looking for ways to teach our children to mind using consequences that really motivate our kids to obey without reminders the next time. We use their personal learning styles to tweak our system. I’ll be writing a blog one of these days about how this process helped us with potty training the twins (seriously, it’s only fun looking back), but I had an epiphany this week when I realized I could use silly bands to help me with Anna Kathryn. One thing about my kids that drives me bonkers is their mob mentality. If one does it, they all do it, because there is strength in numbers. (Or more accurately, I might not have the strength to discipline all three at once.) With the weather turning fine, they’ve been playing outside in the afternoons after school. One rule John has given them is that they are not to play with the water hose. Of course, the one thing in our backyard that is off limits is the most attractive. I found them all out there dripping wet for the second day in a row, and after stripping them down and giving them baths to wash off the mud, I took the silly bands off Anna Kathryn’s wrist. “This is your discipline,” I told her. “You have to earn these back with positive behavior.” Folks, I won’t go into the heartbreaking tears, or all the specifics of what I’ve required of her. However, let me just say that I’ve been trying to teach Anna Kathryn how to properly make her bed for six months. For the past three days, that bed has been properly made before she’s even come out of her room for breakfast. With eagerness and pride. And she is wearing three silly bands.

    I love these things. I am going to have to keep some on hand for all the summer jobs I hope to get my kids to accomplish for me!

December 22, 2009

  • Christmas for Mommies

    Christmas is fun when you’re a mommy. For instance, this weekend I addressed a hundred fifty Christmas cards. And licked them and stamped them. Which was fun. All by myself. And it only took me ten hours, so that was fun. The house is all junked up now, but that just gives the stray roaches something to hide in, which is fun for them.

    And today when William woke up with a fever, I got to take him shopping with me and Anna Kathryn, which is always fun, especially now that he’s three and can walk by himself without holding hands, except when he wants to be held because he has a fever. I love holding my babies, so that was fun. And on the escalator when he wanted to stand himself and he fell and almost got his fingers stuck in the treads but didn’t, well, I was happy that he didn’t. And then I got to hold him some more, which was fun. I love going shopping with my kids. Especially when I have several stores to go to and it’s just a quick in-and-out. Because then everyone gets to hold hands and run, which they sometimes actually want to do. So that’s fun.

    Last week, I got to take the twins to Schnucks to buy stuff to bake Christmas cookies, which I love to do, especially after I’ve gotten the kids to bed by which time I’m tired and need pampering, which is always when I have the least self control. So lots of fresh cookies for me, which is fun for my figure.

    Shopping grocery stores is fun with twins, now that they have cars in front of the carts with two seats and two steering wheels. Except when the five-year-old wants to drive. I let her help me push the cart, which usually ends up in cutting an old woman’s legs off at the ankles, which is always a hoot. Especially when I thump my kid on the head and somebody else hears them squeal and gives me a dirty look. I think about sending my kids home with them, which is the most fun I’ve had until we round the corner, and a twin swipes a box of cereal off the shelf with his outstretched hand. The other twin tries to make it a double, which is so fun. They love it when I read them the riot act with lots of other shoppers around.

    Making it through the grocery store during Christmas is a joy by itself, but getting through the checkout line with kids is another delight altogether. Turns out, they stock attractive glass jars of sparkly juice along the checkout lines. I discovered this when two of them smashed at my feet, thanks to a stray three-year-old arm I was unable to catch in time.

    During Christmas, it is especially fun for mommies like me to make a strong cup of Christmas coffee spiked with hot cocoa to help it go down quicker. The four o’clock afternoon pot is the best. I love drinking it standing up while my kids grab my legs and beg for more of those Christmas cookies that mysteriously show up while they sleep. Sometimes, I tell them to go have fun outside. When they complain that it’s cold, I remind them of the little children in Antarctica, bundle them in hats and mittens, and send them out anyway. They love banging on the locked back door once their noses start running, so that works out to being fun for everybody.

    At night, when the kids have had one last peek at the twinkling Christmas lights, and William has finished his ten minute rambling prayer that God will “make help” him and Mommy and Daddy and Anna Kathryn and Stephen and Omie and Papa Bill and Grandma and Grandpa be happy (which is fun because my heart melts and gets to keep melting for a long time while he finishes), then I get my last hugs, and little hands wrap around my neck, and I hear, “I love you, Mommy.” That’s really the most fun part of Christmas. For Mommies, that is.

March 3, 2009

  • Holding up the Wall

    I heard a noise in the kitchen after naptime. I was putting things away in the high cupboards this morning, and left the stool set up, so I suspected that William was looking for snacks on the counters again. Sure enough, I rounded the corner to find him standing on the stool in front of the dishwasher, the open tub of mixed snacks in front of him. He leaned against the wall where my memo board covers the fuse box. “William, you already had your snack!” I urged him away. He looked up at me sideways, “Fall down.” He didn’t have any snacks in his hands, and the cup he’d been using to store them earlier was absent, too. Well, if he wasn’t filching snacks, what was he doing on my stool, anyway? I started to pull him away, when I realized–the memo board had fallen off it’s nails, and he was leaning on IT, not the wall, trying to keep it from falling. I had to laugh, but just to myself. His little face was so serious, and he handled it so calmly. I hung it back up and grabbed him in a hug. “Did that scare you?” His face was in my neck, but I could see his sheepish little nod in the reflection from the microwave. My brave little boy didn’t even call for help. Probably was afraid to get caught in the act of filching!

    I used to think Anna Kathryn was the calmest of children under stress. But I think William has her beat.

February 27, 2009

  • Vignettes

    There is no getting around it–being a parent can be draining. It is easy to think sometimes that the sleeplessness, the stress, the strain and exhaustion of it all is somehow the fault of the parent–that if only one could plan better, or do less, simplify somehow, it would be easier. There is truth to that. I know mothers who are willing and able to back out of outside obligations and minimize outings in order to have more time for focusing on the kids and home responsibilities. I can only assume that this helps with the stress level. But there is no arguing that no matter what we do to simplify our lives, the fact that we are responsible for a little person or several who can’t care for themselves is a load–sometimes a heavy one.

    I love my load. And I love my non-simple life with the errands and Mother’s Day Outs and my stay-at-home job and the house that never stays clean for more than a couple hours. I chose it after all. I signed up for these kids with my eyes wide open, knowing full well that there would be sleepless nights and way too much to do. I don’t get bored, do I? I will never be bored again; count on it. But on mornings like this when my shoulders ache, and another load waits for the dishwasher, and my laundry day is going to have to wait for next week because I still need to vacuum crumbs off the sofas and enter receipts–well, on mornings like this I welcome the little vignettes that remind me just how much I love my load.

    It’s simple things that give me a private smile on my face and hope for the future. Those are the things that expand the day-to-day neverending RESPONSIBILITY into the bigger picture that reminds me of what my purpose is, after all. When my kids argue with each other, or whine to me, or ask for things like candy or negative attention, I wish I had a large apron like Suzanna Wesley had when her many children would overwhelm her. She would sit on a chair, throw the apron over her head, ignore the screams, and just pray. Eking out a quiet time in the midst of chaos is a skill I have yet to acquire. My first thought is usually Excedrin, chased down with caffiene, and followed by a forced bedtime for everyone because surely that’s better than the complete loss of sanity that threatens.

    I was on the phone with my parents the other day, and they told me that they weren’t sure how John and I do it all. I confessed that we don’t do any of it well. Between us, we work six jobs. Two of the jobs are mine, in addition to full-time parenting. Hearing the understanding in their voices was a balm; it was one of those moments of realization I was alluding to–every parent goes through this at some level, and remembers it always. There is true and sincere empathy on the part of every seasoned parent on behalf of every relatively new parent. Parenting is hard. When you add to it the stress of making a living and keeping up with life, it’s downright difficult. Most parents would say that it’s worth it in the end, and I would certainly raise my hand with them even at this beginning stage. It’s going to be worth it. And some days, it’s already worth it.

    I sent the boys outside to play today. It rained in the night. The days that have been beautiful this spring have more often than not been the days we’ve been away from the house. I treasure the few days I get at home when the day is warm enough to play outside, and the grass is dry, and the children get along with each other and play happily while I frantically grab at moments of accomplishment in the house. More often than not, the day isn’t quite warm enough, or the grass isn’t quite dry, or the kids are sent outside wearing rain slickers and crocs in the drizzle and only last long enough to get wet, miserable, and muddy enough to need a bath. Today was somewhere in the middle–the sun shone, and the air was warm, but the ground proved the night’s storm, and there was water in the empty sand table. They asked to go outside, though, and in the interest of getting a few things done, I let them. Knowing that it would end with a bath.

    They played well. The play sand that over time has ended up on the ground around the sand table was dug up and added to the water in the table. They took their boats and cars and made a game of it. William came to the door once crying, and I came out onto the step. “Ste’en bite me!” Stephen used to bite a lot. Now, he waits until we’re sure he’s over it, and then sneaks one in just to keep us off balance. It’s his compensation for his communicative siblings–if he can’t talk, he can sure let them know how he feels. After hugs and reconciliation, I went back inside to work, with one eye on the window at the back door. A while later, Stephen came crying to the door. I went to the window to look down on them, and that’s when I had my vignette. That tiny little moment in the day when I’m reminded why my job is better than any other career, and why sleepless nights are worth it. Stephen stood there with William at his side. They were wearing matching navy sweatpants and matching green hoodies, with feet sockless in waterproof crocs. Stephen was soaked to the bone. His hands were wrinkled with damp, and muddy, and he wailed in distress at his sodden sweats and saggy hoodie. William kept one eye on the door for me, and placed his hand on his brother’s shoulder, patting it kindly. This, for the brother who had just bit him in the back and left a mark. He placed his arm around his brother.

    I don’t care what I have going on in my day; if I can just see one moment like that, it’s like a shot of Excedrin and caffiene straight to the bloodstream. I’m going to get through this day, because my children love each other, and demonstrate it without promptings from their mother. When true misery hits, they can put aside their petty arguments and jealousies, and just love on each other. It’s exactly what I need to see.

    It’s such a small thing, that to explain the significance of it requires seven paragraphs of introduction. Even with all that, it’s possible that my heart is the only one that melts. It doesn’t matter. I opened the door, and William immediately started explaining things with his stilted English. “Ste’en fall down! Ste’en fall ground!” Since there’s wet earth but no mud on the ground to speak of, I can only assume that Stephen crawled into the sand table and wallowed in the rainwater until he was unspeakably cold and miserable. I soothed him and told him to wait, that I would get him a dry sweatshirt. “GET SWEATSHIRT!” William yelled the new word at the top of his lungs in reassurance to his brother. They both waited for the change of clothes, and then in one accord, they headed back to the wet table, Stephen with his dry too-small hoodie and soaked sweats, and William with an eye of solicitation for his brother.

    Life isn’t perfect by many standards right now. It’s exhausting, demanding, frustrating, and overwhelming. But these moments in time are just what I need. They’re hard to explain. But somehow I felt the need to try. I can’t imagine my life any other way.

January 22, 2009

  • What you don’t know can hurt you.

    There are moments in one’s life when we make an idle discovery that, when added to other marginally related details, triggers an alarm in our heads. This happened to me today. Unfortunately, such idle discoveries often happen too late, or become realized in such slow motion that the urgency of the discovery doesn’t penetrate in time to affect the outcome. This also happened to me.

    I often let the kids play outside on a nice day, then throw them into the bathtub for a lovely thirty minutes of play time. Today was the first 50 plus degree day in a while, so when we arrived home from Mother’s Day Out, I sent them outside. They delightedly ran into the backyard, and by the time I called them in for dinner, they had run their cars through the sand, sat in the muddy turtle sandbox, rifled through the soot in Daddy’s firepit, and just generally had a grand ol’ time.

    I stripped the boys after dinner and tossed them into the tub. Anna Kathryn would love to play with them in the tub, but there just isn’t room. She gets her bath last. While the boys played and splashed and made a mess of my bathroom, I cleaned up the dinner mess and put away their Mother’s Day Out bags. Glancing over the boys’ daily sheets, I saw that William had taken a full nap and finished his lunch. Stephen didn’t eat all his lunch. William had three diapers changed. The last one was being done as I arrived, because they smelled a stinky. Stephen had his usual two diapers. No stinky.

    I paused in my cleaning and cocked my head towards the bathroom with a grin. Before AK was toilet trained, she would often poop in the bathtub. It was almost as though she waited for that nice, warm bath to poop. I would try to wait her out, but more often than not she won, and I got to clean out the tub. The boys have never once pooped in the tub, which is nice for them, since they bathe together. I laughed at the Facebook status update I imagined myself putting up if one of the boys committed such an atroctious act: “Kari is…feeling sorry for William, whose brother soiled himself in the bathtub they were sharing.”

    I heard an especially loud splash, and at the same moment, AK informed me that her brothers were draining the tub. When I checked, she was right–they were draining the tub onto the tile floor by dumping out the water. As I waded into the room to end their fun, I saw it: the brownish stain spreading through the water. “Who poo’d in the tub?!” I demanded, but I already knew the answer.

    I should have known the answer when I saw Stephen’s MDO sheet.

November 7, 2008

  • Strands of DNA

    Stephen’s just like his grandpa. The one he’s named after, no less. I’m not talking about his blond curls, although I’m told his grandpa had them too. Nor am I talking about the classic Swedish features, or the big blue eyes, although every time I look at him I see my dad, my brothers, my uncles. No, I’m talking about the subtle quirks of personality that poke themselves out bit by bit as a baby becomes a toddler, and then a child, and then grows up and becomes his own person.

    My dad is the natural, willing, and able product of order. Ordered parents, in an ordered house, surrounded by an ordered lawn in what at the time of his upbringing was a quiet, ordered neighborhood. Grandma had a washing day, and a cleaning day, and a day for everything in between, and stuck to her system until she was too old and unsteady to navigate the stairs to her wringer washer in the basement. If her sons hadn’t insisted on Grandpa buying her a modern washing machine–which she never learned to master–she would probably have tried to keep to her well-ordered routine all the way to the end of her 90-odd years. As it was, she and Grandpa shook their heads in bewilderment when their live-in granddaughter would stay up all night studying in the tiny spare bedroom, clothing and belongings strewn and stuffed where they could fit, and who in sudden fits of realization that the job had to be done, would burst out of confinement to throw loads of sheets and clothing into the machine in the basement, then dash out to mow the weedless lawn with the mower Grandpa could no longer see to push. The timing was never right, never orderly. It just got done when it fit. That was how I worked. My brain and my schedule has become more orderly out of necessity ten years later, but my son, his Grandpa Steve’s namesake, gets it naturally.

    Every child has his interests. William loves to sing, and to learn words.  He currently loves to whine about nothing at all until his mother starts popping extra-strength tylenol like candy, but I’m told that’s a two-year-old development and will pass. William is a six-year-old in a two-year-old’s body. He was born sage, if not wise. The look behind his eyes when you talk to him makes you think he’s dissecting you like a surgeon, learning what there is to learn. Before you have a chance to read him like he’s reading you, he cuts his eyes to the side, back to his Lightening McQueen cars and his little-boy toys. He laughs like a child, then shuts his mouth with an embarrassed smirk when you laugh along with him. How dare you draw attention to the child? He’s beyond such things, after all. Or would like to think he is. We all try to get him to respond with delight at childish things, and when he does it’s like a gift that he quickly withdraws when he comes to his senses. He’s a fascinating boy, and a frustrating one.

    Anna Kathryn  loves to sit at the table and write letters and her name, and color pictures in bright, bold colors that often don’t stay in the lines. She’s very much like her daddy. A literalist, impulsive, eager for attention, interested in everything. She offers to help me with the jobs I’m doing around the house, and although she quickly loses interest, I love it that she offers. I wish I had the patience to take her up on it every time, and that she had the patience to follow through, but we have our moments of working together, and it’s almost always fun while it lasts.

    Stephen doesn’t ask. He doesn’t talk, so he can’t ask. But he does help. In a willing, efficient, orderly way that is at odds with the rest of the household. I find myself watching him line up his blocks, and stack books on the shelf next to his toys, and I imagine the day when he’s able to take over tasks that still belong to me. He’s going to do things better than his mother does. I can hardly wait. I sorted laundry last week, and he came over to me with a twinkle in his eye, grabbing a soiled shirt and preparing to launch it across the room. In a flash of inspiration, I put him to work. “Here, Stephen,” I handed him something for the darks pile, “put it there.” He did, and then swinging his arms proudly to himself, he turned back for another. We went through the rest of the laundry like that together, with me quietly handing him something and pointing to a pile, and him dropping it on the pile, swinging his arms in satisfaction, and turning back for more. When it was done, he accepted that the job was over, picked his way past the six loads we’d just sorted, and dumped out his legos. It was a moment for me. I fell madly in love with him for about the millionth time.

    It was like seeing a piece of Grandma. Or of my dad. I still remember standing on a chair at the kitchen sink at the age of six with my two older siblings, learning how to wash dishes, because Mom was just too busy with four kids to do everything herself. Dad was our teacher when it came to housework. Mom was the enforcer. Dad was the one who made daily to-do lists for every member of the household, breaking the entire day down into thirty-minute segments consisting of meal preparation, schoolwork, house work, and even personal breaks. My mom thrived on the scheduling as much as the rest of us did. I got pieces of her style in my DNA, and pieces of Dad. A personality study of me is a study in contradictions, as I nearly always test out right on the line between extrovert (Mom) and introvert (Dad), and between artistic and logical. Choosing which side of myself to indulge on a daily basis requires concentrated effort, since the personality bents on every side of the spectrum are all strong enough to war with one another. It works for me, but I recognize it as pieces of both my parents. Some days, when all I want to do is daydream and sketch or write or create, I mentally set aside that cap and put on the other, more organized, goal-oriented cap. The one that’s my Dad. The one that’s now my son.

    Today, Stephen found my reading light. He loves flashlights. He’ll sit for hours with John’s heavy work light with the two-pound battery, flicking it off and on, and making spotlights on the walls and ceiling while he talks to himself. My light is small and breakable, and I use it daily at bedtime, reading a book in the rocker in their room while the boys learn to fall asleep in their new toddler beds. In hopes that I could prevent him from breaking my favorite reading light, I firmly asked him to give it to me. My silent boy ignored me completely and brushed past me. I narrowed my eyes and prepared for battle, then watched as he walked over to the high table where he’d found it, carefully bent it into the shape I’d left it, and shoved it back onto the table as far as he could reach. Oh, yes. My baby is going to be an asset to his overworked and frazzled dual-personality mother. I can feel it in my bones.

October 2, 2008

  • Growing Up

    It so happens that children don’t stop growing. I have always said that I love every new stage, and there are oh so many of them.

    Anna Kathryn is the height of a seven-year-old, and still goes through two shoe sizes each season.

    William is putting two words together to form short sentences. In his stroller after Wednesday night supper, he looked up at me and clearly said, “get down?” And he’s understanding things well. I told Anna Kathryn while loading them into the van after church to that I would hand out her treat from class after she got buckled in. William responded, “okay.” When I had him buckled in, he asked for his treat. Fortunately, I was able to scrounge for something to hand out.

    Stephen is still a lover. He loves hugs and swords, who’d o’ thunk it?

    We had the twins’ second, second birthday party on Saturday, their actual birthday. I’ll post pictures of both parties (one in MN) when I can get my photos to upload properly again.

September 29, 2008

  • Catching Up

    I am up at 4 AM, having been awake already for an hour and a half waiting for a boy with a diaper rash to fall back to sleep, and for the other boy (whom I found on the floor when I changed the first boy) to settle back down as well. I figured I might as well post, since I haven’t written a word all summer. It has been an eventful few months to be sure, but my xanga uploader has been hanging up on my laptop, so all my efforts to show you what’s been happening have been foiled. I don’t mind just writing, but I’ve gotten so used to showing all our photos, that my computer problems have stalled my progress.

    This spring, we spent a couple months living at my in-laws while my FIL tore out our old kitchen and put in a new, updated kitchen with custom cabinets, a new floor, built-in oven, and counter cooktop. Oh, and a dishwasher, which was the whole reason for the new kitchen in the first place. It all started when I asked for a dishwasher two years ago when the twins were born. It was such a chore constantly washing bottles and nipples times two by hand every day, and I couldn’t sanitize them nearly as well as with a dishwasher. Well, my dear husband couldn’t stand the idea of putting a tacky rolling diswasher in our already cramped kitchen, so he insisted on building me a whole new kitchen. The horror of living with newborn twins and a potty training two-year old in a house under construction was unpalatable, so I backed off and insisted that I didn’t want a dishwasher after all. Last fall, my in-laws offered us a new kitchen (FIL is a contractor) “for Christmas and a few birthdays” and after more than 365 days of hand washing bottles, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. It finally happened this spring, and the kitchen is gorgeous. You can see pictures of it on John’s facebook. If you need any work done on your house, I know a good contractor. :)

    We had a busy summer. I subbed a lot at the kids’ Mother’s Day Out, busing kids around on field trips. Anna Kathryn decided she could read (simple words, but yes, she can sound them out!) and even write a little, and is mastering her long written name on paper. She started in a preschool class this fall, and I am so proud of her. My little mophead is growing up.  Snif.

    We spent September in Minnesota with my parents and sisters there. I hadn’t been to MN in three years–not since before getting pregnant with the twins. John and AK went alone (I was hospitalized for dehydration in my first trimester) in late February/early March 2006. It was great to be home. I spent some lovely weeks of relaxation while my younger sisters fauned over my kids, changed diapers, fed, and played with them. William decided he was ready to talk, and during our entire visit, almost every word out of his mouth was a new one. Now that we’re home, he brings his toys to me or points at what he sees and asks, “Wha’ dat?” He’s a little sponge.

    Stephen is speaking too. He says almost everything William does, but in more garbled baby talk, and almost as an afterthought most of the time. You don’t even realize he’s spoken until he’s quiet again and the words he just said suddenly make sense. He loves repetition, and counting, and will play with the same toy for hours, especially if it’s a puzzle of some sort.

    In church this Sunday, Anna Kathryn recited her first bible verse from memory. Her aunt Ruth helped her learn it in Minnesota. It was a neat moment for her mommy.

    I’ll try to update more later. Boys are up again.