Goodbye, Goldilocks

I thought Lucy was still in bed yesterday morning.  And I went to put away come clean paintbrushes, and was surprised to see her standing at the table in the learning room.  I was even more surprised by what I noticed next:

Do you see it?  The little pile there under the scissors.  That’s right, Lucy reached that milestone every little girl reaches at some point in her life: her first self-imposed, clandestine haircut.

I almost cried.

But instead I laughed, and yelled, “Craig, come quick!  Bring the camera!”

(You can see around the hair the remnants of the Christmas card project.)  So today we have an extra little project in Baton Rouge – fixing Lucy’s new bangs.  I tried really, really hard to keep her from having bangs.  I hate bangs, because they’re a nuisance.  I didn’t want to have to keep them up or facilitate growing them out for her.  But it is Lucy’s hair, after all, and her scissors have spoken.  So bangs it is.  For now.


Sorry, everyone, for the long silence.  It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, and I promised myself I wouldn’t write until I could be reasonably sure I wouldn’t be immediately interrupted.  We spent most of last week in Texas, because on October 21 my father passed away.  Even though we knew he had cancer and this was possible, it was not expected at the time or in the way that it happened, so it has still been a bit of a shock.

The Thursday before he died, Dad was feeling really well.  Then he started running a slight fever, which, because of the chemo, meant he had to go to the hospital.  They kept him over the weekend, and I last talked to him on Saturday.  He sounded good and was watching the Texas-OU game.  I didn’t call Monday or Tuesday to see if he was out of the hospital yet, and on Wednesday Mom called me.

When Mom left the hospital Tuesday night, Dad was fine.  He had not gone home yet because his white cell count was low, and when it got back up, his platelet count was still low.  Wednesday morning the hospital called Mom to tell her that Dad had had a fall during the night, and was now in the ICU.  She rushed over, and found that the hospital staff had spent most of the night trying to get Dad back to consciousness and figure out what was wrong.  This went on until around 2:30 in the afternoon, when he let go with my Mom, his brother, and his brother’s wife and daughter at his side.

I missed Mom’s call the first time, but something (my angel?) told me to check the cell phone just a few minutes later, so I talked to her before they had even finished taking out all the tubes and IVs and such.  I took the girls outside and we waited for Craig.  (Actually, I called several people to try and tell him not to go to his Campus Ministry meeting, but it had been canceled anyway.)  I must have explained to Lucy twenty times that Grandpa had died while I pushed her on the swing.  I think that helped it sink in, having to say it over and over to her.

Well, we packed up and went to Baton Rouge and Craig’s parents’ house for the night, and then drove on to Fort Worth Thursday.  We were able to see Dad that evening, then he was cremated and there was a graveside service the following Wednesday.  We think there were between seventy and a hundred people at the service.  Apparently that is a lot, but I didn’t have anything to compare it to, since I had never even been to a graveside service before.  For some reason, my parents thought they could sneak their funerals by without anyone noticing.  My dad taught almost everyone in our town, and two and even three generations of some families.  Sneaking by was really not possible.  The ladies at St. Peter’s put on a nice lunch for the family and a few of our friends, and the next day we drove back to Baton Rouge.  The girls and I stayed there, while Craig went back to N.O. for school on Friday, then joined us in B.R. for a baby shower, birthday party, and Trick-or-Treating.  And finally we are home again, the house is back in some semblance of order, and life is returning to “normal”.

Those are the basics of what happened, but there was so much more.  The outpouring of love, plants, prayers, and food was nearly overwhelming.  (And thank you for all those things!)  Knowing how much my Dad was loved and respected is wonderful, but in some ways I think it makes it even harder to miss him now, and to wonder if I appreciated him while he was here.  Believe me, it’s hard to write, or even think, anything of substance without tears.  There are a thousand little things to miss.  I know I haven’t even discovered so many of them yet.

I wrote down thoughts as all this was going on, on a note card which I’ve pinned to the bulletin board above the computer screen.  They are some of the things I’ll be thinking about and working out over the coming weeks.  But the most glaring thing I’ve noticed is, how can anyone grieve with little children around?  When they aren’t keeping you busy with diapers and other basic demands, they are snuggling, laughing, and doing outrageous things that keep your mind from wandering.  There is little room for moping, or sitting and thinking.  I’m having to devise a new way of grieving, both for a new kind of loss and a new situation.  It’s different.  I feel almost guilty for the hours I spend without a thought of my Dad, and the joy that wells up so often in spite of what I think I “should” feel, but the moments of realization are strong and effecatious.  I’m sure that is the wrong word, but I can’t think of anything closer.  And I remind myself that maybe now Dad’s enjoying watching Samantha walk (which she started doing in earnest in Texas), and Lucy run and laugh and learn more than he ever could here on earth.

And I question why I ever wanted to be so far away from my family, what pride made me think I was too good for my hometown and needed a bigger, better place.

Meanwhile, Samantha is walking.  She’s a different baby (toddler!) from when Dad last saw her.  Craig got a part-time youth ministry job in B.R. at his parish from high school, St. Jean Vianney.  Which means our ends really do meet again, and our schedules will be getting tighter.  The JustFaith group I was possibly going to lead fell through, which in light of Craig’s new job may actually be a blessing.  Life goes on.  This might be the hardest part to deal with so far.  The world doesn’t stop when someone dies, even someone very special and very important, at least to me.  My girls keep growing, the boys Craig teaches keep being boys, bills are still due, Fall keeps marching towards Winter.  The Saints keep winning.  We still need groceries and diapers and soap.  And tomorrow is Samantha’s first birthday.  It is difficult to keep it all in perspective, or even to hold it in (or near) my mind all at once.

So for now, we press on.  It seems anti-climatic, and maybe it is.  Where is the climax to this story?  Where was the climax to Dad’s story?  I’m not sure he thought he had even reached it yet.  Do our stories even fit the narrative structure we learn in literature classes?  Maybe it’s not the building to a climatic moment, but rather the small, quiet nows that make up a life.  The story might not play well on screen, but it wasn’t designed to.  It was designed to play in a human body, in a family, among friends and a community.  There is an online guestbook attached to the obituary in the newspaper, and there are so many people who commented that Dad touched them as a teacher or principal.  They were just small moments for him.  But clearly each of those small moments, each of those few words, each of the smiles he gave so generously made a difference.

If it is the small moments that matter, I have a lot of work to do.  If our magnum opus is not so much a single tower as a meandering pathway made of small, carefully laid bricks, I must be much more careful how I make breakfast in the morning, how I speak to my girls, how I welcome my husband home, how I treat the lady working the check-out.  Merton, among others, speaks of focusing on living in the “now”, being present to the people and situations around us at a given moment.  That seems especially hard right now, but also especially important.  I can’t change anything I said to my Dad, no matter how much I dwell on it.  But I can still decide how I treat people today and tomorrow and the next day.  I can make them feel special and important like Dad did for so many of his students.

It’s good to write, even if it gets to be rambling.  I don’t realize what I’m thinking sometimes until I see it on the screen, and there it all works itself out.  It’s a strange way to think.  But anyway, thank you for your patience, and especially for your prayers.  Please keep praying for me and my family.  We are missing a large part of our selves right now.  But I don’t doubt that the prayers help.  I know that they are that little push I get when I need it most these days.  So thank you.  Believe it or not, I don’t have anything else to say!

Spiritual Birthing

There is an amazing article in this week’s America magazine.  (The Oct. 5, 2009 issue.)  It’s called “A Fiery Gift: A spiritual case for natural childbirth.”  Susan Windley-Daoust has a deeper perspective on the issue, one I hadn’t considered, and I think everyone (female, or otherwise, and likely to give birth sometime soon or otherwise!) ought to read this.  I think she is absolutely right-on.

The gist, if you don’t care to read it for yourself, is that the process of birth, if left relatively un-tampered with, is a powerful parallel experience to some parts of the journey through prayer to God.  In fact, she worries about the effect missing out on a “natural” birth may be having on the spiritual lives of the women of this country: “But when an overwhelming majority of women in the United States have unnecessarily scheduled or medically augumented births, we must ask: Do we lose a window to God?  A window to the interior life?  When the Holy Spirit initiates a spiritual birth to something greater within us, will any of us be able to say, ‘I’ve been here before?'”

Go to your library, or do what you have to, but read this article.  It makes me want to stop the pregnant women I see every time we go to the zoo (there are always a ton of pregnant women at the zoo!)  and ask if they have considered (really, carefully considered, with the benefit of good information) how they are going to bring their babies into the world.  I am convinced that childbirth is transformative.  I am convinced that God designed it to be that way.  Not easy.  Most things worth doing are at least a little hard.  But transformative, in part in preparation for the challenges the next many years of child rearing bring.  Perhaps, if Susan Windley-Daoust is right (and I think she is), in preparation especially for the spiritual challenges these little ones bring us.  I think she asks a very important question:  What are we, as a community of women, as a church of women, missing?

Samantha’s Birth Story – Lucy’s Version

Lucy gave us the synopsis of Samantha’s birth this morning.  It went more or less like this:

“We drove to that house, and Mommy pooped in the bathtub.  You (Mommy) did a good job.  And that was Samantha!”

And we laughed.

Later, I heard Craig doctoring Lucy’s scraped knees while I was feeding Samantha.  He said, among other things, and over her screams,

“You know, a lot of your pain is psychological.”

And I laughed.  Hard.  Never a dull moment here!

A Spiritual Goal for Women

Elizabeth Foss uses this quote from Edith Stein in her book:

“The soul of a woman must therefore be expansive and open to all human beings; it must be quiet so that no small weak flame will be extinguished by stormy winds; warm so as not to benumb fragile buds; clear, so that no vermin will settle in dark corners and recesses; self contained, so that no invasions from without can impede the inner life; empty of itself, in order that extraeneous life may have room in it; finally, mistress of itself and also of its body, so that the entire person is readily at the disposal of every call.”

Essays on Woman, 132-133 (In Real Learning, 210-211)

That should be an aide to personal growth goal setting…

I’m a person, not a “childbearing goal”

Samantha smile

Just in case anyone was unsure.

Sometimes NPR makes me sad.  These two stories ran back to back on Monday, and I’m trying to decide which part to focus my angry/disappointed/how can people really think this way?! letter on.  (The text on the page is not the same as the story that you’ll hear if you click the “Listen Now” button at the top – they cut whole paragraphs, but actually come out as two significantly different stories.)

And by the way, the Guttmacher Institute who did the study at the beginning of the first article (50% of US pregnancies are unplanned) is basically Planned Parenthood.  Who funds NPR, and is funded by several of the same huge endowments/foundations which keep NPR running.  (In case you were curious, as I was, about any potential bias here.)  When/if the angry letter gets written, I’ll post a copy here.  We have a wedding in Houston this weekend and I have a long day at school tomorrow, so it may be a while.

March Update

So, rather than folding laundry, I thought I would spend a few minutes updating you on the goings-on around here, other than my haphazard reading, which is taking up disproportionate amounts of blog space.

Samantha has a tooth, on the bottom in the front.  I have not seen it yet, as she guards it jealously with a strange tongue-curling manoeuvre which makes her look like a turtle.  She is happy to chomp on anything near her mouth, however, so we have established that it is sharp.

Samantha has also learned to grab.  Hair is one of her favorites, right up there with whatever happens to be on my dinner plate.  This led to our finding out she is allergic (apparently only a little, so don’t worry) to eggs.

Lucy is getting very verbal, as her grandparents are learning from repeated (semi-intelligible) phone calls.  She also “wrote” her first story a couple of weeks ago, which went something like this:

“Once upon a time, I had a doggie, and cows, and mommy.  Samantha.  The end.”

Various permutations of this involving the store, birds, etc., have followed over the last two weeks.  Samantha is also getting more verbal, but she mostly says different versions of “blah”.

Lucy is enjoying spend as much time as possible outside, particularly on her slide.  I enjoy spending this time in the hammock with Samantha.  She also likes to make “snails” out of play-doh and put various stuffed animals (and other inanimate objects) to bed in various parts of the house.  Furthermore, she can now do somersaults.

We only thought Lucy was into her independent phase.  Now we are getting more “I do it by self!” statements every day.

Exams finished at Chapelle, which means I am one quarter away from official stay-at-home-momdom.  I have not started a countdown calendar, unlike our seniors.

The garden is, sort of.  We have tomatoes, bell and jalapeno peppers, cucumber, okra, and onions so far, as well as mint and basil.  Something is already eating the basil.  I suspect slugs.  We’re planning on some beans, melons, squash and whatever else sounds good at the time we go buy plants and seeds, as well.  The iris are blooming in front of the house, apparently the “lollipop” and “Sunday morning” varieties which Fr. R.B. gave us after we moved here.  If we ever get new batteries for the digital camera, there will be pictures of some of these exciting things for your visual enjoyment.

Craig got a new lawn mower in the mail today.  It’s the reel variety, which doesn’t require a motor or gasoline.  He is very excited.

We had a wonderful visit from Taylor and Rob recently, for those of you who know Taylor.  Lucy still asks for “Aunt Taylor” every day or two.

Housework and sewing are pretty much on hold, although I make an attempt  at each once or twice a week.  I have been decluttering by giving one thing away each day of Lent, which I’ve been fairly consistent with.  But I think I need Lent to go several hundred more days for that to do much good around here.

I guess that’s pretty good for an update.  And the little natives are getting restless, so I guess it’s back to the laundry…or more likely chasing Lucy around while Samantha drools on me.  The laundry can wait, it’s hammock time.

Body talk

There are schools of thought which encourage children be fed by having several different foods (including dessert!) set before them at the beginning of a meal, and the child will naturally choose the foods which his body happens to need at the moment (and not necessarily dessert).  The thought is that a small child, not yet driven by mere routine, not having been taught simply to finish his plate, is still connected to voice of her body.  We haven’t implemented this totally into Lucy’s world, but we don’t force her to make a “happy plate” either.

I bring this up not because of our eating habits, but because of what I’ve been seeing from Lucy the last day or so.  She is coming down with a head cold, and last night the girl who never goes to bed without screaming curled up next to me saying, “I going to sleep.”  Then she let me get up and leave the room and went to sleep without a snuggly parent.  Unheard of.

This morning she slept late and even when she woke up, didn’t want to get out of bed but claimed, “I going to sleep.”  And she laid there for close to an hour by herself.  My rambuncious two-year-old does not spend extra time in bed.  But today, she recognized that what her body needed most was rest, and made sure she got it.  

So I guess my job now is to stay out of the way in hopes that she will keep being able to respond to her body’s cues like this when she’s five, and fifteen, and thirty-five.  And maybe along the way I can learn a little from her (and Samantha) about listening to my body well, and trusting what I hear.

Release from solitude

Allow me a lenghty quote, and a few (less lenghty) comments. ? Is it me, or does anyone else wonder why it is taking so many Americans so long to realize some of the things Montessori mentions below? ? (More on this later – I think I can combine some of my readings!)

“But let us think, for a moment, of the many peoples of the world who live at different cultural levels from our own. ? In the matter of child rearing, almost all of these seem to be more enlightened than ourselves–with all our Western ultramodern ideals. ? Continue reading “Release from solitude”