Thursday, April 24, 2014

Purple Shoes

Easter went without a hitch.

Somehow, I never caught whatever it was that made the boys sick. It actually only made them sick for a total of 3 hours, and then it was over just like that.

I bleached the whole house. I mean, hands and knees, used-up-all-the-spray-bleach cleaning, because The Dude, in all his 3 year old vomiting glory really made the rounds in those 3 hours. Still, I couldn't believe I was spared this time.

We missed the egg hunt, but had just as fun a one at home (probably more fun, Aquaman is not one for competition...).

We dyed our easter eggs,

made our resurrection rolls Easter morning,

and walked to the Easter service in the park.

We were late-ish and ended up in the front row. The electric guitar was screaming. Aquaman covered his ears. The Dude pressed himself halfway into me.
And somehow, the tears were rolling down my cheeks as our songs resounded across the park. "You called, and You shouted: broke through my deafness."

Pregnancy is an emotional time, and a preoccupied time for me. I still remember learning in "experiencing God" in the 7th grade that often God is quietest just before He does something profound in your life.
I have found that to be true of pregnancy. It is a deadened, tired time. A simplified time. And my prayers and study, though they remain constant, often feel static.
But on Easter morning, in the park, He called and He shouted to me. He broke through my deafness for a few moments.
There is something about loud praise music to me. It just makes me sure that is exactly what heaven will be like. This freedom that will lift up out of the muck and mire of my own tired thoughts and center on Him. Drowning out all the other noise. Leaving no room for distration.

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard...what He has prepared for us."

And then there was Easter celebration with both sets of our parents at JT's parents' house.
The Dude had so much fun, and stimulation, that predictibly he had a one hour night terror a few hours after going to bed.
It was everything I had pictured Easter would be. I am grateful I wasn't sick, and that baby E stayed cooking just a little bit longer.

Now he need only stay in there for a few more days: enough for JT and I to fit in one more date on Friday evening. So far he has been very accomodating. I think he is going to fit right in here.

Last Friday night, I took Aquaman on a date. I've been wanting to do it, needing to do it. I don't get enough alone time with him. Some nights The Dude goes to bed before he does and we have about 30 minutes of get-ready-for-bed time, but often I am in a hurry, and exhausted and it is not the quality time it needs to be.

So when The Dude got up early and didn't take a nap, I put him to bed right at 7 and whisked Aquaman off to Moo's. He was glowing. So was I.

He asked me if this was "just a practice date, you know for the girl I'm really going to marry".
He confided that he knows he can't really marry me, but he wishes he could.
I told him, on the way, that Daddy opens the door for me on dates. And when we got there, he jumped out of the car so fast to open my door that I barely knew what was happening.
When I told him that lots of times Daddy and I hold hands on dates, he became suddenly shy when he put his hand in mine.
He told me he wasn't exactly sure who he was going to marry, because pretty much all the girls at school are nice. He confessed, matter-of-factly, that he was probably going to be a pretty good husband. And that he was definitely going to be a good big brother to baby E.

I agreed with both.

He couldn't believe I climbed on the motor operated teeter-totter with him. That he got to ride it "even though it cost money".

Or that I let him get chocolate AND sprinkles on his ice cream cone.

He would have sat with me out in the rain if that was what I wanted.

It was a very special night, and it only lasted an hour. I am definitely going to make more of an effort to do that with him.

He's changing and growing up so quickly. He wants privacy now when he takes a shower. His feet look so big next to his scrawny legs.

His "developmental" evaluation came back stating that developmentally he is exactly the same as his calandar age...meaning nothing about his intelligence but that he is not immature. Since we have requested he be held back for social reasons, Tk1 was recommended as a result of the developmental testing, and since he is also excelling in his school work and would be able to do 1st grade work and therefore "not get bored". But here's the catch...we'd have to apply for out of area and send him to a different school.

No thanks.

I had a moment of guilt for not wanting the inconvenience of it. And then I got over it.
In the grand scheme of Aquaman's education, whether he repeats kindergarten or goes to Tk1 seems pretty irrelevant. And uprooting him for his school for one year seems like a worse idea than letting him go be the smartest kid in his class (and make friends that he may actually be able to still see the year after).

At the marriage conference we went to a few weeks ago, we learned about very simplified "personality types": The Beaver, The Golden Retriever, The Lion, and The Otter.
JT and I are both definitely Golden Retrievers. We're easy going, we seek to please, we are loyal best friends. It's hard to say about The Dude being only 3, but I think it's pretty likely he's a Golden Retriever too.
But Aquaman...Aquaman is most definitely a lion. He wants to take charge, and he cares deeply about a lot of things. "But it matters to ME!" is his frequent wail when I break down in frustration and try to minimize his feelings.

Knowing that this is just who he is, and that it is not my job to try to make him into someone that he is not (it seems sooo much easier to be a golden retriever...I just want him to be happy!), has really helped me to be more patient and respectful of him.

For Easter, Gramma gave him purple shoes. He loves purple. They are very cool shoes. When he wore them to school for the first time, he said only one little girl commented on them, and that was to say: "I have those same shoes!" He was unfazed.

I read somewhere that having a persistent favorite color in early childhood is a sign of a very strong sense of self. Aquaman has liked purple since he was old enough to say purple. I like that. He is a boy who knows who he is.

I love his purple shoes.

 I don't know how it happened that I am now less than a week away from my due date, but here we are. It's hard to believe that by this time during my pregnancy with The Dude, I was dying to be induced, and was in fact scheduling my induction for the next day. (Of course, the anxiety of my twin sister's rapidly approaching wedding had a lot to do with that, I think).

With each of my pregnancies, right around this time, I enter a period of extreme ambivalence.
It's almost like a less intense stretched out version of the transitional phase of labor (not that I have ever experienced this stage, THANK you epidural!). A "what have I done?!" mindset. Perhaps even a shred of denial. This third time around, I am less intimidated by it. I am less offended by it in my husband, who experiences it along with me (and thanks me for not screaming "what have YOU done?" at him). I am not bothered by the fact that most people at this stage are moaning about much they "just want to meet their baby", or how they stare in delight at all of their baby things and spend all of their extra time imagining who he will be.

I'm not that mother.

I have purple shoes.

It's no offense against baby E. I felt the same as I lay in bed, a week overdue with Aquaman.
The baby things were piled up high all over the house. The clothes were neatly folded. The little tiny diapers, the baby swing and crib all set up in the corner of our 1 bedroom condo.
Was it too soon? Just barely a year of marriage, and we were about to be parents.

I cried on the way to my scheduled induction with The Dude.
It was so hard to say goodbye to Aquaman. Was I really ready to be the mother of 2 boys? JT was scared to death. The night before the delivery his friend had called and told him "how much worse" it was to have 2.

The first time, I felt guilty about this ambivalence. The second time I felt heart broken.

And then they were suddenly real.

Not that they weren't always real. I am passionate about the sanctity of life. I am committed during pregnancy to take care of my body and my baby.

But when that first peachy orange head made its appearance. When I heard the slightly strangled cry. When I saw JT's face fall as he tried to snap a picture and was pushed out of the way by doctor and nursing rushing to deep suction the meconium from a wide-eyed 6 pound 15 ounces of our baby boy....there was only love. Only the knowledge that this was forever meant to be from the moment the first pages of history were written.

And when I first spied The Dude's head, emerging in the birth mirror. When they lay him on my stomach and his eyes met mine. And a hearty cry that stopped immediately and turned to my voice. When the nurses left us alone for a full hour to just be.

And when Aquaman shyly entered the room, saying "he's cute. he's really cute", it was all so right.

So this time, I have been able to laugh at the rising panic in my throat about whether 3 is going to really be my tipping point.

It will.

And it won't.

My heart will grow one size bigger, and he'll slide his way into it, in his own baby E way. Different from Aquaman who struggled so to adjust to the outside world and brought out in me a desperate need to protect and love him through it. Different from The Dude who so comfortably in my arms and into life.

Just him.

Melding right into our purple shoed family. Right where he was always meant to be.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Valley

It's 2 am, I am 38.5 weeks pregnant, and I wish I was sleeping.
I wish I was awake because of contractions, or an aching back, or restless legs, or pregnancy insomnia.
But I'm not awake for any of those reasons.
"Barney at the Beach" is playing. Both boys are awake.
One whimpered as he falling asleep that "his tummy hurt" but I didn't think much of it. After all, I had just taken him on a mommy/son date to Moo's for ice cream and he ate quite a big ice cream cone.

The other came and got me 2 hours ago saying that his tummy hurt. Which definitely set off some warning bells, but he fell right back asleep so I hoped it was just a fluke.
Until an hour ago when he woke up in a bed full of vomit.
The other one sat up and immediately said his tummy hurt too. So far he hasn't actually gotten sick yet, but considering that his tummy is much more full than the other one's, I get the feeling it is only a matter of time.
I threw away the sheet. I just couldn't imagine trying to clean it right now. The bleach has been out all over the floors, but really it feels pretty pointless. When a 3 year old is sick, it is impossible to contain it.
My one consolation is that they seem to have gotten it at the same time, so at least when it hits me they'll both be past it.

We've so been looking forward to Easter weekend, especially Aquaman, so to say that this is a disappointing culmination of it is a bit of an understatement. But alas, here we are.
The beautiful thing is that 3 days from now, it will have cycled through the family and hopefully we'll have gotten it over with for the year.
Well, it's official the other one has begun. We've moved on to "Barney and the Fire House". It's going to be a long night.
Up until 2 days ago, this pregnancy was going very quickly. I couldn't believe baby E was almost here already.Then suddenly, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I've been so tired. Despite the fact that I remain pretty small, and my weight gain has been pretty low, I feel huge.
JT has been amazing, as he has been this entire pregnancy. Whisking the boys off to the pool or playing with them downstairs during the times when I couldn't imagine doing anything other than laying down.

I've been fortunate in that I've never gotten any swelling at the end of pregnancy, or many of the other common discomforts. Pregnancy is relatively easy for me.
There have been a lot of milestones I wanted to get through before the baby came.
We got through the lifeguard competition team kickoff BBQ and had a great time.
My monthly clinics were last week at work, so I can check those off of my list.

Wednesday was my baby shower at work. It was very sweet and fun.
The boys love the cake made just for them.
Cosette not only survived getting hit by a car (she broke her leash to bark at the neighbor dog and ran in front of a car), she did not sustain anything more than a little road rash. She did, however, enjoy being allowed on the couch for a few days. This is how I found her the morning after it happened.
The skies have been overcast and cooler than usual for the season, and we've enjoyed some windy days at the beach. I've been trying to fit it all in, but I'm worn out from it.
At this week's appointment, baby E was far from engaged, and there were no more cervical changes. My uterus, which was so irritable prematurely seems to have completely settled down.
Unless he comes tumbling out as a result of dehydration in about 36 hours, he doesn't seem like he has any intention of coming soon.
For now, it's just the waiting game. Filling up these last hours with good memories, even stomach virus memories.
Barney all-nighters together in the living room.
Remembering that the "suffering" of this world is so temporary. And the joys and comforts of it can't be trusted.
That the "joy of the Lord is our strength".
During labor with The Dude I recited the 23rd Psalm to myself during each contraction.
I've been going back to meditate on it lately as I prepare for labor #3.
And maybe it's been preparation for more than labor. Maybe it's been for these next few days as we struggle through illness and the end of the pregnancy, and the changes of a newborn.
One thing I do remember distinctly: as I recited these words to myself slowly through each contraction, I always got past the "walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and fearing no evil." But it wasn't until the moment I held him in my arms that I got to one of the last verses: "you anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over."
The anointing always follows the valley. I truly believe that.
So here we go.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Slow Motion

 Today I am 37 weeks and 4 days pregnant, and I can't believe it.
 If nesting is a sign of impending labor, labor is still weeks away, because I have lost all motivation. It is a much more relaxing state of affairs than the anxious dashing around of the previous weeks, and I have really been enjoying it.
 I'm not actually inclined to believe in nesting as a labor sign. For me, by the last month of each of my pregnancies, the house is about as organized as it's going to get. The dirt and crumbs and much less bothersome. My senses are still on high alert, but in a different way.
 My body is awkward and heavy, and the helplessness of it is such a strange feeling. It makes me all the more aware of my human frailty.
I remember reading a month or so ago in Mark, Jesus said "how awful it will be for pregnant and nursing mothers" in reference to the tribulation. And it made me feel so....validated. What a unique life experience is this time. There is the physical vulnerability, of course. And on top of that is the emotional vulnerability. The hormones, of course, but more than that: the sacred responsibility of protecting and sheltering a life that depends completely on you.
My fundal height increased by 5 cm in one week, and it is now measuring only 2 weeks behind. Which is in part because his head went from partially engaged to floating again. Looks like we're in this for the long haul.
 Which is just what I was hoping for all along. An early May baby perhaps. A maternity leave that stretches further into the summer with my biggest boy.
 And a few more weeks to soak up the end of what I can only assume is the last time I will have a tiny little human inside of me, kicking my insides, and upsetting my stomach, and making me feel completely exhausted...and in awe of what is to come.
 Which brings me to the new form of nesting that I seem to have entered. That I almost forgot.
 The mental and emotional preparation for something sacred.
 Last weekend, JT and I were able to get away for 24 hours for a marriage retreat at the Hilton. It was a great time to connect and relax together, as well as with other Christian couples. We swam in the heated pool together, and I spent a lot of time with my feet in the hot tub.
 This week when Aquaman was at school, The Dude and I made a special trip to Incredible Pets, and yesterday we wandered Gleason Park in the clouds and wind. He climbed in my lap and gave me lots of kisses and hugs, and I didn't hurry him. I don't feel hurried anymore. My Mary heart has escaped the chaos of this Martha world for a little while, and I am soaking it in.
I'm in slow motion. Physically, my body wouldn't move fast even if it tried.
Emotionally, I don't mind.
I lay in bed and soak in the way the mattress feels soft on my skin, the way the cool breeze drifts in from the screened balcony and the soft whirring of the fan.
I sit and watch my boys play on the beach, making intricate sand ramps for their monster trucks, and chasing the seagulls.
I rock them both at night, even when the pressure on my belly makes it hard to breathe, and we laugh when we realize that there are FOUR people in one little rocking chair.
I boil the pacifiers, and pack my hospital bag, and put a towel in the car just in case and stare at the carseat, trying to picture it, and watch my youngest-son-on-the-outside, and want to memorize him. Want to stop time, or slow it way way down.
Because something miraculous is about to happen.
Something beautiful and life changing, and I don't want to miss a moment of it.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April Flowers (and some showers)

The morning is quiet, as I sit and sip my coffee.
I highly doubt I'll be able to finish this post, or probably even more than a few paragraphs, before there are little feet thumping on the wood floor. But for now I am reveling in a semi warm cup of coffee and the feeling of being decently rested.
Last night was the first night all week that The Dude did not wake up once. I'm not sure why he's been night waking again. He generally goes back to sleep relatively quickly, but requires his arms to be wrapped tightly around my neck while he does. Sometimes it makes me feel a little panicky, wondering what is going to happen in a few short weeks when there is a tiny newborn, requiring 2 hands to steady his floppy head, wheedling for my attention, and The Dude angrily demanding it.
When The Dude was born I had planned and prepared intricately for that situation, by not caving in to Aquaman's demand for cuddles during that last trimester. I had every intention to do the same this time around. But I've just gotten more relaxed. Somehow I just have this feeling deep down that, well, things are going to work out. We're going to probably be tired, and have a few hairy middle of the night moments. And then we're going to be ok.
For now, I am basking in these last few weeks snuggling The Dude to sleep, hearing his sweet voice, with the last thing he says as he's going to sleep, and the first thing he says when he's waking up: "mommy? You're my BEST friend."

I'll never forget the first night home from the hospital with The Dude. Aquaman called out to me in the middle of the night, and I came to his bedside, cradling his little brother who was up eating. 2 yr old Aquaman took one disgusted look at his little brother in my arms and said "just go back downstairs, Mommy."
I was no use to him, holding that thing.

The Dude is finally mostly outgrowing his nap, which makes the 3 day work weeks much more manageable. It means he is asleep by 7:30- 8, giving me a few quiet moments to read and talk with Aquaman without his using me as a jungle gym. Giving me a chance to fold the laundry and actually put it away while Aquaman chatters and works on his homework.

I've loved those couple of extra minutes with my biggest boy, who is at such a lovely age right now. Truly, he is all little boy. All silly words ("I live in the land of cuckoo, and in our language, 'hello' is 'mucklydoo'.") and upside down on the couch and cartwheels on the rug. His nonstop talking occasionally makes me feel insane. Because it's not just talking, it's talking that he insists I actually respond to. And most of the time it is about diggers and steam engines (every fact he has memorized from books and movies), and occasionally he'll bring up the occasional juicy tidbit about school, though of course never when I ask, and usually during a time when he is supposed to be getting his shoes on, or going to sleep.

At night, I sit in the rocking chair in his room for about 10 minutes after he climbs into bed and read a book while he falls asleep. Lately, he tries to steady his overactive mind by counting, somewhat emphatically and excitedly, to 100. Then he wonders why, when he gets to 100 he is still awake. I tell him he has to count to himself, and he said that always makes him lose his place.
He always gets down at least once and runs to me to tell me that "I have a scary thought in my head that I can't get out." And always within about 30 seconds of praying that God would fill his head up with only good, and right, and true things, he is fast asleep with his head flung back against his pillow.

I love him so much.
I still can't completely figure him out.
Though I did have a completely brilliant epiphany about why parenting him has been such a monumental task since the day of his birth the other day.

It is so interesting how unique each child is, and it is one of the most fun things about having more than one. I have long wondered what it is about Aquaman that makes me struggle so, and feel so inadequate as his mother. Is it is sensitivity? I read "the highly sensitive child", hoping this would hold the magical key, and I would say "aha! This is my child, and this is what I should do." But while it reminded me a lot of me as a child, and while it certainly fit him in some aspects, it did not leave me completely understanding him.
So I recently read "the out of sync child", because he's always felt just a little..."out of sync" to me. He certainly marches to his own drumbeat. From birth, he never seemed quite comfortable in his own skin. "hold me right!" I used to narrate for him at weeks old when he struggled to get comfortable in my arms. My touch is always too soft or too rough to him, and yet he craves it. He is very easily overstimulated and overwhelmed. The noises of even the tv made him wild as an infant. I don't remember his tense little body fully relaxing until the day we brought home an industrial sized fan and turned it on. He still would never want to go to the movie theater, it's far too loud.
Regular kid's movies terrify him. Recess is so overwhelming that my roly poly little boy sits by his teacher's side, quite happily throughout the whole thing.
He is never quite sure where his body is. He spills far more drinks than his little brother. He falls multiple times per day. He can eat the exact same thing as The Dude and get it everywhere, and The Dude doesn't spill a drop.

But "the out of sync child" doesn't describe him either. Because despite those things making him different, they don't make it impossible for him to function in the world. His kindergarten career has been wildly successful. He has no difficulty maintaining the self control to stay in his chair, even though he would rather be doing something else. He does not struggle with his numbers and letters, quite the contrary, working above grade level even though he is so young.

The other children adore him, and though he tends to stay on the fringes, it appears, to me, and to his teacher, that it is entirely by choice.
It is not that he doesn't know what to do in social situations, but simply that he chooses to behave in a different manner than everyone else.
At his Character Counts award ceremony, he was the only child who had to be led across the stage to receive it. At his Ice Cream social, he was the only child who sang with his back to the audience.
When other children wave enthusiastically at him in the school parking lot, he smiles confidently in the other direction, with his nose in the air. Occasionally, he throws a cursory "cuckoo!" in their face and then turns away.
Despite many of the sensory quirks he has, and his high sensitivity, 5 year old Aquaman seems to be quite comfortable in his own skin.

But there are some children that you know are always going to bob back up to the top, no matter what comes their way. The Dude is one of those, and that is, what I have found, has made him so much easier and less terrifying to raise. It's just  part of his nature. To be sure, his 3 year old self plunges dramatically to the depths of despair multiple times per day. But there is always that reassurance that, basically whatever I do, whether I talk him through it, comfort him, or give him space to move on, that he will inevitably, and in usually a relatively short amount of time, come popping back up, take a deep breath, and right himself.

Not so with Aquaman. With Aquaman, there is the constant precarious balance of wondering whether I should go in after him. He gets stuck upside down. He struggles mightily. Sometimes he has to be rescued from himself.
It is my job to let him struggle sometimes. It makes his struggling muscles stronger, and someday I won't be there to push him to the top. But at the same time, you can't let your child drown either. And sometimes, he seems quite close to drowning. It's a lot of pressure as a mother. It requires a lot of prayer.

And now the little one grows larger within me. Last week I got an extra glimpse of him when my fundal height measured a full 4 weeks behind where it is supposed to be. He was measuring right on time. The placenta looked healthy, the fluid level was perfect. Though my stomach does look smaller to me, he does not in any way feel small. My insides feel bruised by even his little movements.

My uterus, I have decided, is irritable. Some days I have crampy Braxton Hicks contractions every 2-10 minutes for the entire day. Not drinking enough water can bring it on. Having a full bladder can bring it on. In other words, there doesn't seem to be anything in particular I can do to prevent it. I doubt it is doing anything to bring labor faster, and don't want it to, since I'm still hoping for a late baby, but it's slightly tiring.

And it just recently occurred to me, as each week I collect a few more last minute supplies for this baby, that he is going to be a little person. Pregnancy does not really feel real to me. It is hard to picture a real life little baby in there.
 Bu there is. A tiny little newborn with a forehead that wrinkles when he stretches his arms out. With a rubbery bald top of his head, and probably only the slightest peach fuzz on top of it, if he's anything like the other two.
I'm starting to really look forward to those few days in the hospital, getting to know him. I can't imagine a home birth for a wide variety of reasons, but one of the biggest being those first few days in the hospital are such a relaxing chance to get to know your new baby. There are no other children to entertain, no laundry to worry about. Your only job is to hold and feed and get to know this new life.
I have just started thinking about what his birth will be like. Will it be more like Aquaman's?  I still remember the song on CMT playing while I pushed: "if it looks like we were scared to death, like a couple of kids just trying to save each other, you should have seen it in color." For a moment everything changed to black and white and slowed down, and in an changed forever.
He was late, he had meconium, and he struggled to breathe right after his birth. I didn't get to hold him for over an hour. Will it be more like The Dude's? An easy and quick induction. 3 pushes and out. I watched him come out with the mirror, and then they immediately placed him on top of me. They let him me nurse and cuddle him for an hour before they took him for his bath.
Probably, it will be a completely unique experience. Definitely he will be a completely unique baby.

The morning is rushing on. Since I started writing, first Aquaman appeared down the stairs, followed shortly by the Dude. They ate cereal and drank Boost. They watched mighty machines and fought over the purple balloon that Aquaman got on his Publix field trip yesterday. There were a lot of tears, and just as much laughter. Aquaman, worked on homework. The Dude scribbled on a piece of paper. We dropped off Aquaman at school, and the girl he says he's going to marry, whose hair was in a neat french braid this morning, took him by the hands and led him into the classroom. He scowled and smiled at the same time, and went willingly.
The Dude is filling up the baby pool, and I need to take a shower before heading to his well visit and my 36 week checkup.
This weekend, JT and I are looking forward to 24 hours of kid-free marriage conference at the Hilton. It is our early anniversary trip, since more than likely we will have a newborn by our May 5th 7 year celebration.

We may celebrate in the hospital this year.It will be no less joyous. 7 years of being best friends, and 3 beautiful little boys.
Some days I wonder what we've done. Most days, I wonder what we're doing.
But the one thing I do know is, we're doing it together still. And still following the One who does know what He's doing.
And for now, for today, that's enough for me.