This week, I tried to revamp my to-do list method. In the midst of major life changes, I get antsy. Those with sage advice (or just plain common sense) would tell me to simply get a hold of myself, to self-swaddle and reign in my flailing arms that can't keep up with demand - to wait for the pace to settle down around me rather than try to lasso the moving parts into submission. But I can't help myself. When my world kicks up the momentum, my instinct is to grab a rope and pretend I can tie a good knot. Or, at the very list, make a to-do list.
So, I've been making to-do lists: lists void of those refreshing dark black slash marks that acknowledge accomplishment. When life kicks things up a notch, nothing is more depressing than a list void of those black slash marks. After reading this post, I decided some to-do list editing was in order. I added my own twist. I started by making a list of my important life categories: faith, family, health, creativity, and educational activities for the kids (yes, friends also made this list, but time constraints being as they are right now, I decided my friends were realistic and would realize that they aren't going to be seeing me or getting phone calls/emails for a couple weeks). Then, I came up with small (in some cases, minuscule) tasks for each category. My first new to-do list day looked something like this:
Print off chronological Bible reading list.
Make pizza dough with Audrey for family pizza night.
Take a walk.
Blog for 15 minutes.
Make list of daily, weekly, monthly, annual cleaning tasks for 2 rooms (yes, I realize this seems as if it has nothing to do with kids' educational activities, but I've decided that we need to get organized so I can locate the necessary materials to do the educational activities first).
I felt instantly rejuvenated. I had a plan, one that looked simple. I could do this. The day ended. Three of my five simple tasks were crossed off. I laughed at myself.
Last night, my mother-in-law kindly volunteered to come over and make us dinner. Dinner and dishes off of my plate, I had the kids bathed early. All three were in bed by 8:30. Jason had plans, so I had a couple hours to myself. This is typically the time I would blog, or knit, or do something really crazy like wipe the hand prints off the refrigerator door. But my eyelids, of which I'm not typically aware, had a definite weight to them. As I sat on the couch, finishing a row of knitting and trying to will myself to turn on the computer to write, I heard Nate crying. He has four teeth coming in this week (I believe "teething machine" is the term you're searching for) and has had a bit of trouble settling himself into naps and sleep. I left my knitting and pulled him from his crib. We nestled into my bed, and at nine o' clock (a time that my head hasn't seen my pillow since I was a preteen or harboring a fever) we both found sleep - it only took Nathan draping himself across my head, which one would imagine would make it impossible for me to fall asleep, but sadly, it didn't. Waking for a two a.m. feeding session more awake than I've felt in days, I decided that to-do lists were overrated - not that I won't be making one later this afternoon.
To-do list or not, there are a few items I can't help but feel called to do, like write down a few moments from our weeks past, the ones I would hate to forget. So, without further adieu, here is a rather belated, rather simplified, Week in Review for that past few weeks - a highlight reel, if you will.
From the week leading up to Jack's birth:
Monday night, Jason's arm was draped across my belly. Jack kicked a roundhouse that shifted my entire abdomen. "Holy! Did you feel -," Jason broke off laughing, "of course you felt that." Jason rested, his arm up against me for a few minutes before turning to face the other direction. "I don't think I can fall asleep if I keep my arm there feeling that all night." Welcome to pregnancy, honey.
Tuesday night at dinner, Audrey wanted to tell us the creation story. After she finished, Jason asked her what happened to Adam and Eve. "They had to leave the beautiful garden," she said.
Jason explained consequences and that they were asked to leave the garden as a consequence of disobeying. "How would you like that?" he asked. "How would you like if Mommy and Daddy threw you out of the house every time you disobeyed?"
"You couldn't do that," she said, "the porch is hard."
Wednesday, while Grammy was visiting, Nathan began throwing his food from the table to the floor. Grammy told him he was being bad. Audrey, ever the diplomat, said, "He's not a bad boy. He's just making a bad choice."
Thursday, I asked her what she had done at school. "I thought about what I could do for my tea party while I worked on other things," she said.
"What did you think of?"
"Running through sprinklers. Making mud puddles. Going on a flower hunt. Taking leaves off trees." This isn't going to be your run-0f-the-mill tea party.
We had Jack the next morning. Below, a few of my favorite moments and one-liners from our hospital stay:
Friday evening, a lactation consultant made a visit. Before leaving she informed us that the nurse assigned to our room that evening was one of the best. "So you're good until 7," she said.
"What happens at seven?" Jason asked. "Do they bring on the B team?"
Saturday morning I managed to catch the hospital table on wheels (holding a pitcher of water, a folder full of papers, and a slew of medical supplies) on the rail of the bed as I was attempting to reposition the bed. The table flipped over, creating a shower of water and medical supplies. Jason refused to let me help clean it up. I apologized for creating the mess. "It was a freak accident," he said, mopping up the floor with a towel. "You're the freak."
Sunday, our nurse came in for a quick check. "What is your pain level?" she asked me.
"I'm at about a five," said Jason.
The first week of May Jason stayed home from work to assist with the day-to-day household functions and help us make a smoother transition into family-of-five status. He took on the role of chauffeuring Audrey to and from preschool. En route on Tuesday, she asked if they were going to be late. He informed her that they should be on time (they were, in fact, several minutes early). She told him that she liked him taking her to school. "Mommy bees (is) late all the time."
The following week, I took advantage of the warm weather and sent Audrey on backyard expeditions while I was busy with her brothers inside. Monday, she asked if she could take a beach towel and a snack outside to have a picnic. I agreed. I noticed she pitched her beach towel right next to the fence where our neighbor was tilling his garden. When she ran back to the door to ask for seconds, I told her to let our neighbor finish his work. "I am," she said, "I'm just talking to him so he doesn't get lonely or bored."
Last week, Nathan attempted to mimic his sister and hop through the kitchen. He would have pulled it off, if he could have gotten his legs underneath himself rather than stumbling back onto his thickly diapered bum. He also decided that silverware (which he had been trying use consistently) was overrated, adopting a vacuum technique of putting his open mouth to plate and "hoovering" his food inside.
That Friday, as we did dishes, Jason and I were remembering how rough our first five months of parenting were and contemplating how different they might have been had we realized that Audrey wasn't getting enough breast milk sooner (something we discovered when she nose-dived off the growth charts at six months old). "But, we're stronger for it," I concluded.
"You're stronger. I'm still weak," Jason said.
"You're not weak," said Audrey, who had wandered into the kitchen.
"You just look weak," she said.
Now, Jack is one month old. He's contemplating longer stretches of sleep, but still weighing his options. Nathan has begun saying "hello," always accompanied by a hand (or stolen cell phone) raised to his ear. Yesterday, after inviting Nathan into the cave she'd just constructed from the kitchen bill-payers' desk and draped receiving blankets, Audrey finished schooling her brother on some topic by stating, "Just check on Facebook and you'll learn all about it." Suffice it to say, time marches quickly and no to-do list (no matter how well constructed) can contain it.
But that doesn't mean we quit trying. Until next time...
Friday, May 27, 2011
Thursday, May 5, 2011
One morning in late April, I woke before the sun, street lights humming, my duffel bag packed with essentials. Street lamps cover only the area in need: one might do well to follow suite when preparing for a short trip. But I find, when about to embark on a life-changing adventure, I like to arm myself with the things that nourish me, regardless of practicality or good sense. Somewhere between grabbing a few bites of oatmeal and my knitting-in-progress, I made a quick pass by the office bookcases, scanning the shelves for something I'd yet to read. My fingers settled on Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale, pulling it from the shelf and tucking it into one more small canvas bag for the hospital. It was five o' clock in the morning. I was leaving the house to go have a baby. No where did reading fall into my weekend plans. I have a tendency to over pack.
I did crack open the spine of the book toward the beginning of our stay. I made it just past the epigraph, a couple paragraphs into the first page before the events of real life pulled me away. I hadn't yet read the book jacket before opening the book that morning, so I found the epigraph ironically fitting for the day:
All children mythologize their birth. It is a universal trait. You want to know someone? Heart, mind and soul? Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won't be the truth; it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story.
- Vida Winter, Thirteen Tales of Change and Desperation (fictional author from the book)
The only person who mythologizes a child's birth more than the child is, perhaps, the child's mother. So let me tell you a story, about the day a boy named Jack was born.
I find the coming of every child to be different. The day we went to the hospital to have Audrey, I knew she was coming. "Something feels different," I told Jason when I woke that morning.
"No," the doctor said, examining me later that day, "let's go ahead and schedule an appointment for you the week after your due date." Sure enough, by ten o' clock that night, I was in labor. Audrey, always one to do things her own way and keep them interesting, was almost delivered with her water sac intact. But what I remember most from that day was locking eyes with her for the first time, knowing that in an instant she had changed who I was.
I thought Nate was coming for weeks. He wasn't. I was in the doctor's office the day of his due date, hooked up to a monitor for a stress test. "You're having contractions six to seven minutes apart," the nurse said, "you're just not feeling them." The doctor suggested we go out to eat while she booked us a room at the hospital for later that evening. While last-minute Christmas shoppers filled the parking lot of the mall nearby, Jason and I went on a date to P.F. Chang's. We took our time, speculating what this little guy would be like and enjoying one last evening out for a while. When Nate did decide to come, he came like a sudden driving downpour, beating our doctor or anything resembling a real set of pushes. But, in spite of his dramatic entrance, Nate brought a sense of calm to a hectic season - our sweet boy, slow to cry and quick to cuddle for whose carefree spirit I have felt a swell of gratitude since the moment I laid eyes on him.
Jack, I believe you wanted to be born in May. If you felt rushed, I apologize. If you were hoping for the attention and quiet that come with being an only child, again, I apologize. By the time you came around, we were quite the packaged deal. Packaged deals require certain provisions - like childcare while Mama and Daddy are at the hospital. So after a week of irregular contraction teases and back pain and steadily making our way to three centimeters, we decided to make an appointment to meet you, a few days early, on a Friday that worked well for everyone involved. Luckily, you took to the plan. You arrived in less than three hours. While your birth was quicker than your brother's, yours was somehow more methodical - paced. After I give birth, I have a tendency to shake - violently. I don't know why. It worried my OB-GYN the first time she saw it. I imagine it worried your father even more. After your brother and sister were born, he made quick trips between me and each baby, not wanting to leave me in that condition for long. But with you, Jack, the tremors held off for a good twenty minutes and I was able to witness your father cut the umbilical cord and hold you for the first time, carrying you around the room; standing next to you taking videos as the nurse checked you out and commented on your tight hand grip; petitioning, once again, for the name he thought would fit you best (he was right). Audrey made me a mother, shifting my priorities and opening untapped dreams. Nathan drew us to bring our focus home, to seek and feel gratitude for the calm there, regardless of the whirlwind just outside the door. And you, Jack, gave me the gift of falling in love with your dad falling in love with you. You have already changed the world as we knew it, and we're so glad you're here.
7 lbs. 7 oz. and 19 1/4 in. long
With dark hair, pianist's fingers, and a tight grip on our hearts.
7 lbs. 7 oz. and 19 1/4 in. long
With dark hair, pianist's fingers, and a tight grip on our hearts.