Sunday, April 27, 2008

The price of the fruit

It's been a week, and what a week it's been. Fruitful, yes, but fruit comes at a price.

I've been struggling somewhat with reconciling the loss of our dear baby Gabriel in February and the knowledge of the new life I am now nourishing. It's something I didn't expect, and now I'm not quite sure how to help my poor heart in this dissonance of spirit. I find myself so torn at times, not knowing if I should be mourning the loss of my child or rejoicing at the life of my child. Both. But how? I don't know how to do both at once, for Pete's sake.

I was blessed by a visit from a dear friend on Tuesday who has been through this exact thing--having lost one baby only to come up blessed with another just upon the heels of the first. She was so kind in her listening ear, and I found myself feeling the balm of God's hand directly on my heart as I sat with her and talked through what I'm feeling.

What a mixed bag this life can be at times. While our first babies came so easily, our fourth was such a struggle. Four long years of unexplained secondary infertility really tested our mettle as a married couple, as individuals, as Catholic Christians trying desperately to understand what was being asked of us by God. On this, the blessed "other side" of those years, I would not even think of asking Him to take them from me. The things I learned about myself as a woman, a wife, a mother, are far too valuable to ask for a different gift. I can only say different, because surely there can be no better.

Losing Gabriel in February was another nudge, I know, for me to look even deeper to find more that He needs me to learn. Trust in Me, He is saying. Lean on Me and not upon your own human understanding. I thought I had been. But sometimes when truth is spoken again to your very soul, you hear it as though for the first time. I suppose that's why He keeps speaking to us.

My Darling and I had the blessing of presenting talks at a marriage preparation day yesterday, with none other than our dear friend Fr. E. Those days are amazing to me; they are a time for us to focus on our marriage and share things that we've learned with young, starry-eyed couples who are Absolutely Certain that They Know Everything About Love and Marriage, thankyouverymuch. Some of them are unfazed by the things they hear. Some of them are mildly interested. Some of them stop us and ask questions about in-laws or NFP or raising kids or being involved in parish life. Rarely do we see any of them again.

Yesterday was an extraordinary day for us because we were witness to a priest really explaining to everyone about formation of conscience and the dangers of moral relativism. It was a real eye opener, I think, for some of the young couples who came because they want to be married in the Church...and sometimes don't really know what that means...and sometimes it's because it's the bride's family's church since forever...and sometimes because they really, deeply desire the sacrament of marriage within the Church. Please pray for vocations to the priesthood--for strong, truthful men with hearts on fire for Christ, who know to speak the Word of God and carry out His Gospel regardless of the consequences.

What a week, indeed.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Over the River and Through the Woods, Part II

If I'm going to write about Grandma's house, I have to put a little bit about Grandpa in here.

My Grandpa, from what I've been told, was a wonderful man. He was quiet and thoughtful. He loved the outdoors. He wrote poetry. He had a gentle demeanor about him. He enjoyed good conversation and the comforts of home.

The Grandpa that I remember, though, was mostly silent. Soon after the Korean War, Grandpa began experiencing strokes. They were small at first, and apparently somewhat clustered. He retained the ability to see, talk and eat in the beginning. I've seen pictures of him with thick glasses and a cane, but standing tall with the rest of the family, smiling.

A few weeks after I was born, Grandpa suffered two rather serious strokes which left him blind in his right eye, paralyzed on the right side, unable to speak (though he could vocalize in tones similar to hums and grunts), and unable to chew. Grandpa could swallow, but his food had to be blenderized and he could not have anything thinner than 2% milk. Grandma had to feed him every bite.

When we were kids, Grandpa was a fixture in the living room at Grandma's house. We would come in, shuck off our coats and lay them on the stairs, and go say hello to Grandpa. He was right inside the living room door, sitting on the love seat, his cane tucked between the cushions. There was a little table that sat to his right, which held a wooden tray holding a glass of milk and a small candy dish. The dish was full of the Generic Grandpa Candies--the small, dry, pink, mildly flavored discs that came from the drug store. We would say, "Hi Grandpa. May I have a candy, please?" and Grandpa would nod his "yes."

Grandpa always sat on the love seat when Grandma wasn't working with him. The love seat, after all, faced the huge wall of windows, which looked over his beloved rock garden and the river. He was there always--on Christmas, birthdays, and even the day my mom's youngest sister was married in the dining room. From where Grandpa sat though, he mostly saw the tops of the trees on the river bank and the water between the branches. I remember the day that Grandma said she was going to have a deck built. There was a large screened-in back porch, which when my mom was a kid was used as a sleeping porch in the warmer months, but when I was a kid it was used mainly for easily accessible storage and was no longer ideal for just sitting. Grandpa had a yearning for sitting outside, so the deck was built. One section of windows, those of the dining room, were mostly removed, and the door to go out on the deck was installed. Grandma moved the comfortable chair that Grandpa had long used on the street-facing front porch to the river-facing deck, and he would spend a couple of hours out there each day when the weather was fair.

Each day, Grandma would come downstairs before Grandpa was awake and begin to prepare for her day. She would pray, read in her Guideposts booklet, and get things ready for breakfast. When he awoke, Grandpa would use his cane to knock against the floor. Their bedroom was above the dining room, and Grandma could easily hear the muffled summons. She would go upstairs and help Grandpa sit up on the edge of the bed. Grandpa could support himself on the left side with his cane, but Grandma was his rock on the right side. She would put his arm around her shoulders and slowly help him make his way into the bathroom where she brushed his teeth and washed his face.

Down the stairs they would come, with Grandma talking to him, quietly encouraging him, directing him, and telling him about what the day would hold. She would bring him into the kitchen and sit him at the table, where he waited patiently for her to bring his breakfast of oatmeal. He enjoyed sitting by the window and watching the birds, as Grandma carefully fed him each bite. She was always so patient with him, riding out his moments of frustration (as well as her own), always serving him and loving him in such a tender way. Had I only been old enough to truly appreciate the dedication and perseverance that this required.....but as you can tell, it definitely made an impression.

After breakfast, it was time for a shave. Grandma did this, too, of course. I still remember the sound of the electric shaver, and the smell of the balm she applied to his cheeks, chin and neck afterward. It was the scent that was on his T-shirts...always extra-long, and if you "forgot" your pajamas or were having an unexpected sleep over, Grandma would get one of Grandpa's T-shirts for you to wear instead. They were so soft and worn that they felt like a second skin. And they smelled like Grandpa. That scent, together with the comforting scent of the pillowcase was enough to lull even the most rambunctious child into a deep slumber.

Grandma would let Grandpa sit at the kitchen table for a few minutes, and she would move into the living room to open up the Hide-A-Bed that was in the love seat. She would smooth the sheet and put the pillow in its place and then assist Grandpa on to the bed. There, for 30 minutes every day, Grandma would work Grandpa through his physical therapy. She would help his raise his legs, bend them to his chest, stretch them out straight, and let them back down. She rotated his hips and ankles. She flexed his feet forward and back, being always mindful of his signals of fatigue or discomfort.

After the therapy sessions, Grandma would sit Grandpa in her chair, fold up the Hide-A-Bed, and then take Grandpa in to the downstairs bathroom. There she would sit him on his shower chair and help him bathe, then dress. Grandpa was back in his spot on the love seat by about 8:00 each morning.

To make ends meet, and to keep herself near Grandpa (as he couldn't be left alone, for Pete's sake), Grandma did odd jobs. Truly they were a little odd, but they are jobs which must be done by someone. First, there was the phone on the entry hall book case. It was plugged in upstairs, and when it rang, Grandma would say, "G.E. Funeral Home, Mrs. F speaking, may I help you?" Grandma answered the phone for the funeral home right there in her house. It never ceased to astound us that this was possible. The callers were mostly hospitals or families, and sometimes attorneys, making arrangements for someone to come pick up a deceased loved one. Grandma would call her employer at home and let him know that a call had come in. That's all there was to it.

The other odd job was that Grandma collected small town newspapers from local communities and would go through the obituaries. She cut them out, making certain she didn't have duplicates, and type up an information card for each, scanning the article for the family name, next of kin, and place of funeral and burial. Then she would glue the obituary to the back of the card. Each week, she delivered these cards to the local monument company--the cards were used to help contact local families who needed assistance with cemetery markers.

As off the wall as these jobs sound, they are just a necessary part of life. Of course, Grandma's jobs are no longer needed, what with the advent of computers and voice mail. But in those days, Grandma worked hard to respect and honor people who needed support in their dark days of grief.

When Grandma needed to go somewhere (she often volunteered in various capacities at the nursing home, her church, and elsewhere in the community), she would call my mom or one of her sisters to come sit with Grandpa for respite. This meant that sometimes we got to go along. We would sit and look out the window or read a book--Grandpa did not like to watch much television, preferring instead to listen to Chapter A Day or All Things Considered. Then came the day of Cable Television. I remember well the big box on the long cord, with buttons that Grandpa could punch to change the channel. I think there were about 25 buttons on that box, but Grandpa only ever liked Number 2 (CNN) and Number 11 (PBS). Our favorite was Number 4 (Nickelodeon) because they played the old shows--Dennis the Menace, Mr. Ed, The Munsters, My Three Sons.....we loved watching those, and they were the ones Grandpa didn't mind. Don't try to watch "You Can't Do That on Television" though; Grandpa would immediately start vocalizing his disagreement, and the channel would ultimately be changed.

The rest of the day for Grandma and Grandpa would progress much the same--Grandpa would hum when he needed Grandma to take him to the bathroom or when he was thirsty. Grandma would check on him in between times, always saying, "Are you doing alright, Papa? Would you like me to sit with you for a few minutes?" Each afternoon, Grandpa's eyes would drift shut, and Grandma would sit in the recliner and put her feet up. Sometimes she would doze off, too.

Grandma would take Grandpa upstairs for bed at about 9:00. After some time to herself, she would go up to join him. Every day was like this, with Grandma taking such tender care of her husband, seeing that each need was met to the best of her ability.

Grandpa came down with pneumonia in November of 1984, ten years after the big strokes that had left him an invalid. Grandma knew that she could no longer give him the kind of care that he needed, so he was taken to the hospital. On January 21, 1985, Grandpa died. It must have been a weekend day, because I remember that my brother and sister and I were home from school when the call came.

We were sad, of course, but it was a strange sadness. Because we hadn't really known Grandpa the way we knew Grandma, what we came to miss was his presence. It was bittersweet to see the look of relaxed peace on Grandma's face after Grandpa's death. She had loved him well, and had certainly lived out their wedding vows in a way that is so rare these days. She had cared for him for ten long years, every single day, and it took her a long time to settle into a pattern of not having to do things for him anymore, and having time to herself to do the things she wanted to do. As it turned out, Grandma went from serving Grandpa to serving others even more than she had before. She continued to volunteer at the nursing home, taking the mail around and reading to those who were unable to. She taught adults to read through a community program. She typed up routing lists for the Meals On Wheels program, and twice a week, she was a driver and delivery person. Sometimes I got to ride along and visit the people she served. Grandma just has a servant's heart, and always has. To this day she continues to volunteer as she is able, though it is considerably less of late.

The love seat stayed exactly where it was in Grandma's living room in the following years. We slept on it for afternoon snoozes and sat on it to read books. When Grandma moved into her apartment, the love seat came to live in my living room, and is used for much the same purpose. But Grandpa's spot will always be Grandpa's spot.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Over the River and Through the Woods

I love talking to my grandma.

Grandma will be 93 this September. She would probably shush me for saying that, but I happen to think it's one of the greatest things in the world. 93? How many of us even know anyone that old anymore, for Pete's sake?! In this picture, Grandma's holding my four-week-old Monkey. Grandma was a mere 90, and my Monkey was her 10th Great-Grandchild. Two days later, my cousin's wife had Number 11. We will be giving Grandma Great-Grandchild Number 14 in December when the Bean makes it's appearance.

About three years ago, Grandma started making noise about selling her house. She had lived in her little house (she called it her little cottage) for 55 years, and was ready to move to an apartment that was easier to care for.

Grandma's house had three bedrooms--they were perhaps a bit on the small side, but it was, after all, a cottage. :) There were hardwood floors in each of the bedrooms, and Grandma swept over them with the dust mop every week. Long braided rugs cushioned your feet each morning, and these were taken out and put on the line to air after a good shake when company was coming. There was a beautiful bathroom upstairs, with a deep cast iron claw foot tub that is just right for a long soak. Interestingly enough, when we were kids the tub was never used. I don't remember why. But we always brushed our teeth in that bathroom when we spent the night, which was often.

If you were lucky, you'd get to sleep in Aunt M's room. The wallpaper was a warm dark peach color with fancy birds on it. Even though those Sell-Your-House-If-It's-Designed-Just-Right shows would tear it out in an instant, I loved that wallpaper. The bed was a double, and there was a reading lamp fixed to the wall above the headboard, and a nightlight plugged in just above the pillow. I loved sleeping in that room. The east window looked out on the river. The north window looked over the side yard, with the purple hostas below. The pillows and sheets were always soft and cool, and had a very comforting smell about them. As a child, that smell meant it was time to snuggle down and go to sleep. It was the smell of being safe, warm, and well loved.

The linen cupboard in the hall had a scent I'll never forget. I don't know what kind of wood it was lined with--perhaps nothing special. What I do know is that when we bought this house and I stored my folded linens in my own cupboard--some of them my Grandma's that she had given to me--and then later took them out to make a bed, the pillow cases smelled just the same as Grandma's! This is a thing that shall never fail to bring me comfort and joy, for it gives life to my memories of the pillows at Grandma's house.

To go down the stairs at Grandma's meant that you stopped on the fourth step down...because there was a nook in the wall. We were absolutely fascinated by this nook. Why was it there? What purpose could it possibly serve? It was about 15 inches square at the opening, 18 inches deep, and framed and lined with darkly stained wood. It had things in it that didn't require daily use--those old, tall votive candles that our schools used to sell in fund raiser fliers, that had scenes of cute animals in winter or bunnies in the spring. Little plastic pine and poinsettia wreathes. Crocheted door decorations. We would take the things out, line them up on the steps above us, and imagine ourselves small like the Littles, so that we could climb into the nook to play. Even though we knew we couldn't fit, somehow it was always a little bit of a disappointment to rediscover the truth. Eventually we'd have to put the things back into the nook and head downstairs.

On the landing was a double window with a seat. It was a west-facing window, so Grandma had a shelf along the middle of the windows, lined the whole works with a scrap of vinyl flooring, and had dozens of plants there. Some of them were in clear plastic dishes so that the water didn't dribble down onto the carpet stair runner. After a fashion, there were folded towels in place so that the cats (she always had one, sometimes two) could sun themselves in the afternoon.

The bottom part of the stairs was where we'd shuck our coats. Since the stairs were right inside the door (actually though, to the left), it was also where Grandma would put things that needed to go to someone else's house--a magazine or book, a small box of something--but if it was not easily squeezed between the rungs, then it was placed on the square-topped newel post. I never heard anyone else call it that, though I knew many other people who had them. In the fall, the newel post held small dishes of candy corn or chocolate kisses. At Christmas time, there were red hots, peppermint or traditional ribbon candies.

The kitchen was big enough for a small table, which sat in front of the west-facing window from the time Grandma and Grandpa and my mom and her sister moved in. Grandma would sit at the table and play solitaire, or work on her Meals-on-Wheels route list, or read, or just look out the window at the hundreds of birds that visited her feeders each day. She could name a kind of bird in a flash, and if she didn't know what it was, she'd have you get the "B" encyclopedia from the bookshelf in the entry hall so she could look it up and help us to learn something new.
Sometimes we would sit at Grandma's table and play Go Fish or War or King's Corners with her. Maybe she'd fix macaroni and cheese or cream of mushroom soup. It was at that table that I first tried cottage cheese. "College cheese," she called it, and declared that to eat it would be to become very smart. She fed me cream of broccoli soup one day, using the excuse that she was out of cream of mushroom. "It tastes almost the same," she said. Of course it didn't, but it was her clever way of getting me to try something new. It worked. From that day forward, I have loved both cream of broccoli soup and broccoli itself.

When we were very small, we would sit in the youth chair--a glorified high chair, to be sure, but try to find one nowadays and you pay a pretty penny. That chair made even the shortest whelp feel tall, because you could reach your plate and you weren't looking the edge of the table in the eye. Grandma had a glass divided plate with strawberries on it and little Real Silver silverware. And to finish the setting, a pink plastic cup in the shape of Captain Kangaroo. I suppose one could be a little creeped out by the swirly golden eyes, but we loved the Captain Kangaroo cup and if there was more than one of us at Grandma's, we would fuss over who would get to use it.

The living room and dining room were one big room, with a long wall of east-facing windows which looked over a Japanese rock garden, and, after a fashion, the river. Grandpa had painstakingly laid out and built the rock garden after their family lived in Japan for three years while Grandpa fought in the Korean War. He had loved that garden, and it saddened Grandma greatly when she could no longer keep it up the way she wanted to.

I realize now how long this entry is becoming....I'll have to section it, I suppose. More Grandma's House Stories another time.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Gummy Grin is Back!

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that although I was up at 6:00 on Tuesday morning, the past two mornings have been a different story entirely. Tuesday was, of course, the Day of the Monkey's Surgery.

We were up well before the sun--all of us. As a matter of fact, as the sun appeared, we were already on the road to drop off the Pickle and the Reepicheep so that we could get to the hospital with the Monkey by 7:30, for Pete's sake. The Frog was coming along with us, as many times the Monkey wants her and no one else. Not counting my Monkey's desperate urges to nurse, the morning went very smoothly, until he and I got into the pre-op waiting area. He refused to sit on the bed, wanting the comfort of my lap instead. Well OK, I expected this, and of course I held him until the very last possible second. I prayed his favorite prayer with him (Hail, Mary) over and over. I reminded him how much I love him, how much Mama Mary loves him, how much Jesus loves him. I sang his favorite song (Happy Birthday!) over and over, just the way he likes it--with the "May the Dear Lord bless you" verse included. But no matter what I said or how softly I crooned to him, the whole time we were in the little curtained-off corner we had been assigned to, he was writhing and crying, "I want Daddy! I want to drive in Daddy's car! I'm ready to go home! I want chocolate ohs!"**

**I feel I can no longer avoid sharing the adorable name he has for nursing. My Monkey has designated my right side as "chocolate" and my left side as "strawberry." His term for nursing has long been "ohs"--which is pronounced like "close"--as in, "close to you." I have no idea why this little moniker developed, but I absolutely love it. So when he wants to nurse, tending toward the right side, he says, "Choc-ate ohs, peas, Mama." If it's the left side he wants, he says, "Aw-bee ohs, peas, Mama." I can't even stand how endearing this is!**

Back to our story: Enter the anesthesiologist. She is a Mama of Small Boys, and knew just exactly how to not only calm my fears (I was a loosely disguised bundle of nerves!), but also how to relax my darling boy. Oh yes, he went right to her. Fully conscious, mind you--they do the gas sedation in the O.R., followed by the IV anesthesia. He went right to her, yes, and did not even peer back at me as she carried him off toward the Sterile Zone of Doom Into Which Mamas Dare Not Tread. Not a peek. Nor a peep. This, of all things, upset me more than having to calm him!

Of course, he was only in surgery for all of 45-ish minutes. I was summoned immediately as he was being taken into recovery and as they were rousing him from his slumber, so that I could give him his much-desired chocolate ohs. He was terribly angry with the very kind lady who was holding him as he woke, and he was frantic for me to get down to business. Once I did, though, he was content to just fall back to sleep. After about 20 minutes, we were taken back to his room on the peds floor for monitoring until he could eat and drink well enough for them to let us out on parole. (We have to check back with our parole officer--er, dentist--in two weeks.)

Each time he opened his pitiful little eyes for about the next hour or so as the local anesthesia wore off, he was just sad, sad, sad...and then he just wanted his Daddy. No ohs. No Frog. Just Daddy, thankyouverymuch. My Darling, being the Knight In Shining Armor that he is, laid his smallest boy upon his strong chest and snuggled him for about a two hour nap. And this while lying most uncomfortably on a bed meant for much shorter people--peds beds are about a foot shorter than standard beds! *sigh* My hero!

While the Monkey napped on his Daddy, the Frog and I wandered down to the cafeteria to see what we could grub up for lunch. When we returned, our ever-so-recently pitiful Monkey was sitting comfortably in a chair, munching on a purple popsicle. He spent the next two hours plastered to the window watching traffic, much of which consisted of dump trucks--which obviously trumps being upset by the pain of dental surgery, in case you were unaware!--and was as happy as a little lark!

Since I am experiencing many cravings from the Bean, mostly for proteinish things, my cravings have a tendency to dictate our menu. And on Tuesday, the Bean informed me that it wanted steak. Well, far be it from me to deny my children things that are good for them, so steak is what we had. My Monkey, fresh out of surgery, ate about half of a ten ounce steak! The boy just kept asking for meat. "More meat! More meat, peas, Daddy!" He also ate about six beautifully cooked baby carrots, and a regular kid-sized portion of potatoes. Good grief, I think he's going to be just fine!

It's going to take me a while to get used to seeing my Big Monkey Boy With the Gummy Grin he once sported. (I've posted my very favorite baby picture of him so you can be blessed by this memory as I am.) Today, it's as though nothing ever happened. He ate pizza for supper. I've been asking and asking him all day if his mouth hurts, all the while ready to give him his Mortin if the need arises--but he says no each time. He has adapted I suppose I knew he would. Children are wonderfully resilient even when we don't necessarily expect them to be so.

It will take about four or five years for his new teeth to grow in and fill that smile again...and I'm sure I will miss this Gummy Grin when it happens.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Let the Sunshine In

Finally, a morning when the huge east-facing windows in my kitchen are allowing the room to be flooded with sunlight! It's been rainy, cloudy, and generally depressing around here for weeks on end. This sunshine is long overdue and most welcome, for Pete's sake.

This morning, because of the sunshine, it was so easy to get up that I didn't even bother looking at the clock to see if I could squeeze in a few more minutes before my Fr. E.-prescribed time of 6:30. Getting up was a joy--all the better to soak up the beautiful light streaming in! Then there's the forecast for the week--60's and 70's, thank you! I must admit, this warmth will make it tricky to adhere to my May 15th planting limit. I've had beautiful, healthy seedlings turn black overnight because of a late frost, and so I abide by the rule offered in my favorite series of books: "Do not plant until May 15th!" Bonus if you know the series. Double bonus if you know the author. Extra double bonus if you know the main character's name. nauseum. For Pete's sake.

Yesterday while helping my Darling with some construction, I was blessed by the sight of dark red buds on the maple tree in the back yard, along with the sound of a male cardinal calling to his sweetheart. I love spring! Late spring is my Official Favorite Season, when it's predictably warm and sunny, with little light green leaves covering the lately barren branches, and bursts of purple and yellow heralding the blossoming of violets and dandelions all over the yard. (I'm one of those weirdos who doesn't mind the occasional dandelion--but don't bring them in the house, for they induce massive bouts of sneezing!)

Ah, spring....the promise of new life, the fulfillment of the quiet waiting of winter, the affirmation of patience. What a great blessing it will be for the kids to take their school books out to the glass-topped table or the big cushioned swing. What a thrill it will be to replace mulch in the flower beds, to turn the compost and work it into the garden, to pull last year's late blooms and find new, green shoots in their wake!

I love being pregnant in the spring. With my Frog and Pickle both arriving in early spring, I had no idea what a joy it could be. My Reepicheep being a Thanksgiving bird, I found that spring makes for a lovely time of's certainly conducive to daydreaming, and there's something so lovely about planting and gently encouraging new growth in the garden, all the while becoming more and more aware of the new life within. What an awesome gift!

Now about that Battle with the Bug....I'm growing weary of this business, and this weekend even began nearly wishing that Major Pukey would make his appearance already and be done with it. (I did say nearly, for Pete's sake.) Unfortunately, I also know that when Major Pukey makes his initial appearance, he does so with the Nausea Bug trumpeting his arrival, several porters toting his luggage, and a small cart of inflatable furniture. Thus, he gives notice of his Intent to Occupy--however temporarily--and that is just not a welcome prospect. But I *sigh* and know that this too shall pass. And I can keep in perspective that this is one small ingredient in the most joyful outcome.......and this knowledge allows me to lightly sweep the Bug and his annoying companion, the Major, into a dark corner to plot their evil deeds.

Rats. I think the Major is beginning his march.....I hope the front lines are ready.

Friday, April 11, 2008

So let it be let it be done.

Perhaps one of the worst lines in movie history, but oh well. It suits my purposes.


I am having to rethink my battle strategy with the Nausea Bug. This thing is hitting me full force, and is threatening to bring out the commander: Major Pukey. I am loathe to face this vicious opponent, and am desperately hoping that the Major retreats before I even catch sight of him. Sadly, I have a feeling it's only a matter of time before I'm entrenched on the battle field, wielding my bucket, tissues and rinse cup as my weapons. While I am fairly confident that I can be successful in battle with the Bug, the Major is another story all together.

The Nausea Bug has made it difficult to think about writing--only because it involves sitting upright for more than thirty seconds at a time.

My Darling finally let his Mom know that she would be needing another picture frame by Christmas. She guessed the reason easily enough, and, he said, even seemed pleased. This is a humongous relief, since that's a little different than the reactions we received when we announced our other babies. We'll be spending time with my in-laws this weekend, so it was imperative that they know about the Bean before then, as I'm already sporting a cute little poof....the Poof of Proof. I'd have loved to be a fly on the wall when my mother-in-law told my father-in-law about our latest miracle........then again.......


Please consider in your prayers:

*Some families from our home school group who are traveling to see our beloved Pope in Washington, D.C., that they may have safe journeys and peaceful times in their respective vehicles.

*A dear friend who is suffering the loss of an 11 week pregnancy, especially as she and her husband and their children prepare to bury the baby.

*Another dear friend, her husband and daughter, as they welcome their new daughter into the world.

*My father-in-law, as he faces complicated heath issues which are proving rather painful, frustrating and difficult to treat.

*Greater respect for life from conception to natural death.

*My Small Monkey as we prepare to entrust him to the dentist for his surgery (this coming Tuesday).

*An increase in vocations, here and throughout the Church.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Today was one of those days you just can't predict.

We had an early appointment for my Monkey this morning. Normally we don't go to the doctor unless we're sick--which is rare. But the Monkey needs dental work done (he has four badly chipped teeth that are beginning to go bad and need to be surgically removed, poor little whelp!), and we had a pre-op physical scheduled two towns over, in my hometown. Luckily, my mom still lives in the house I grew up in, and was happy to watch the Pickle and the Reepicheep while the Frog came with us to the clinic.

We got to Mom's (Nana's) in plenty of time, got through the three thousand questions at the doctor's office relatively unscathed, and were even in time for a breakfast burrito from McDonald's (yummmy!!). Everything was going fine, until....................

Two blocks from Nana's house, I braked for a stop sign and was alarmed to hear grinding. You know, the kind of grinding that you hear after a long, soaking rain...that is supposed to wear off after four or five stops. Now, I'll admit it's been rainy--after all, it is April. But I had driven 25 miles already this morning when this ominous noise sounded from the nether regions of my van. Rats!

I called my Darling, and he instructed me to take the van to a place we've had repairs done before (last time was an alternator in our old van, for Pete's sake). Suffice it to say we spent nearly all day at Nana's house, with my brother shuttling to the store to purchase lunch supplies for my babies. We finally returned home at 2:30 this afternoon. And me with multiple loads of laundry mocking me from my living room floor! I could literally hear the unpaired socks and kitchen towels all those miles away...

Here's the beauty of it: the problem was that some substance had been sprayed (near as we can figure) on the brakes. The rust or brake dust, instead of falling into the drum, had adhered to this substance, forming some kind of...crud. The crud then stuck to the brakes, which is what we then heard grinding. The lovely gentleman who was kind enough to repair my van said they had never seen anything like that before (I'd rather hear that at a vehicle repair shop than in a doctor's office!), and that they had to scrape the resulting sludge off the brakes. EEeeeeewwww. But the best part: it only cost me $44.98! (Insert Hallelujah chorus here)

So now that we're home, I'm so tired that I want the kitchen towels to fold themselves, and the unpaired socks to find their mates and march up to the drawers so that I can take a nap, for heaven's sake.

It could have been worse. It could have been raining. Or snowing. We woke up to an inch of new snow this morning. In March, that's fine. But it's April. There are daffodils and tulips and crocuses up already, for Pete's sake. What is with the snow business? May flowers, indeed. We'll be lucky to see them in June!

I guess sitting in my living room, folding towels and pairing socks is a better fate than frozen gardening.....

Monday, April 7, 2008

Midwife = With Woman

6:30 today was no trouble at all. Apparently, Fr. E. was right when he told me that this would become habit. I have come to enjoy the quiet of the morning. My Darling does his crossword puzzle, I type away, and then we still have time together before he has to leave. It's....what's the word.....consoling. Maybe (MAYBE) I can progress to some actual activity in the mornings--a walk or some gentle exercise. We'll see.....I'm not making any plans just yet.


I can't believe it myself, but I am already at the point where I cannot fasten my jeans. If I'm to be spending the day at home, that's fine. I can wear my lovely comfy terry lounge pants with the elastic waist. But forget putting on actual pants to go anywhere. Nor can I zip up the Long Black Skirt, nor any of its more colorful counterparts from the closet. It's a good thing I bought the Twin when I did.

It's actually been about five days that I've been aware of this. So on First Friday, in preparation for Mass and the barn dance, I donned the Twin Skirt and a very cute blouse and headed out. Two Mamas commented before we rounded up our kids from the playground to go in for Mass. "You're actually looking pregnant already!" *BEAM* How can this not make me smile? (Well, I guess if I weren't pregnant, I'd be less than thrilled...however....) Then at the dance, several more people--some of whom I hadn't had a chance to tell yet--said the same thing.

I am now a believer of the wives tale (old or not, I don't know) that after your fourth baby, your body just lets go faster. Holy Moses, does it ever! Even when I suck my belly in now, it still retains the Poof of Proof of Blessing Number Five. It's lovely, actually. Being nauseous, being exhausted (beyond the usual fatigue), having to excuse myself frequently to the nearest ladies' room, and now actually appearing pregnant to people other than me and my family...I am totally into this.

Providence once again shone at the barn dance when I looked across the room and saw someone very familiar making an entrance. There were two or three women who came in, one carrying an instrument case. But the woman with the long brown ponytail came closer, and I knew I had truly recognized her--Chris, my midwife was there! The lady with the case was her mother, who was going to play fiddle with the family who does the music for these dances. The other woman was Chris' youngest daughter. Eventually, another daughter, Billie, joined her. Billie is also a midwife, and was along with Chris at my Monkey's birth (though all of our prenatal appointments were with Chris). Got all that?

It was so nice to see Chris. We've kept in touch since the Monkey's birth--every family she attends continues to receive her quarterly newsletter until the announcement of their baby's first birthday (which she lists in the newsletter). We've called at Christmas and sent our family update letter to her. And a couple of months ago, she called to ask permission to use one of my photos on her business card. What an honor!

When a midwife comes into your life, she becomes like family. Our prenatal appointments with the Monkey were spent at Chris' dining room table. The kids would go to the basement to watch VeggieTales. Chris and my Darling would talk and laugh. They have a fantastic rapport. We learned the names of her children and which ones they were in the many photos on the walls. We learned about her love of native wildflowers and actually using them in beneficial ways. We loved watching deer in the fields on the way to her house. In the little town just before the road to her house, there are three streets in a row, called (I am not making this up) Yankee, Doodle and that on the other way through town it says Dandy Doodle Yankee (my dad would have loved this turn on the words!). The kids laughed every time.

Later in our pregnancy, the visits switched and Chris came to us. Her gentle tap at the door was a cheerful sound, and even the dogs came to know her well enough to not jump at her like kangaroos.

When my Darling made The Call for Chris to come as I labored, her arrival was nothing like the trumpeted entrance of a doctor in a blue paper gown. There were no bright lights and stainless steel brought out with a flourish. Chris came quietly in with her toolbox and bag, and made one more trip out to get the emergency equipment she carries Just In Case. She sat quietly in the kitchen for much of my labor, knowing when to leave us alone and when to sit or stand with us or near us. She encouraged and suggested, she praised and prayed. We felt respected and honored. The whole time, she also took notes, so that I have a perfectly preserved reminder of how my labor was, what was said, how the time passed between being a family of five and a family of six. When he came, he was handed to me.....and after a long time of holding and loving my precious new baby, she brought warm towels from the dryer, wrapped him, and gently laid him in his Daddy's arms. Every cell in my body knew this had all been The Way It Was Supposed To Be. Chris and Billie stayed and cared for us for several hours after the birth. They cleaned up, did a load of laundry, made us a snack, and made sure we were comfortable and had everything we needed--all the while subtly watching us stabilize and settle.

In the days and weeks after my Monkey was born, Chris made several visits to us, the first being the next day. My Darling had made the bed with freshly laundered flannel sheets (it was February, after all!) and tucked us in, and then he and the three older children went to Mass. The house was quiet and still. The dogs hovered, protectively. I was snuggled into bed with my beautiful, day-old baby, watching him sleep...smelling his head...unable to take my eyes off of the miracle we had been blessed with. When Chris called to tell me she was on the way, I simply gave her the code to the garage. She let herself in, came up and visited with us for about an hour, thoroughly checked out the little Monkey, took a sample for a blood test, fixed and brought me something to eat, tucked us back in, and let herself out. I'm certain this woman is at least part angel.

The last time Chris visited our home, my Monkey was six weeks old. She checked him out, played with him, and we talked like old friends. We had a friend who took pictures at the Monkey's arrival (nothing graphic, mind you--I wanted to remember, but not everything, for Pete's sake!) and we had a set printed for Chris. We had put them into a cute little photo book, and I gave this to her along with a copy of the mix CD I had made for my labor. It was a bittersweet visit, and we both wondered if we would meet again. I certainly hoped so, but after our long struggle with secondary infertility, I knew that nothing was certain. Each time we spoke, I'd want to say, "We'll be needing you in _____," but it was just never so.

When I knew we had been blessed again, my call to Chris was as thrilling as telling a best friend. "Is your calendar handy?" (It was.) "Are you busy in December?" Chris said, "It looks like I'm going to be, huh?" What a dear!

I can't wait to visit more with Chris, and get to know her all over again. She is, as I've told many people, absolutely unruffleable. I suppose having attended more than a thousand births can do that. Her wisdom has us so comfortable and confident that there was absolutely no question in our minds that she was The One For The Job when we were expecting the Monkey, and it was just natural once again when we discovered the newest Blessing.

The kids, when they saw Chris on Friday, were as excited as I was. "Mom, are we going to get to go to her house again? Are we going to get to color and watch VeggieTales and look at her flowers and watch deer and sit on the Amish swinging bench and go past Dandy Doodle Yankee? Is she going to bring that big pool again? Is she Mom?"

Yes, my loves, yes. To all of it. It's so nice to have Chris in the family.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Yesterday I was up at about 6:45. We were going for a breakfast date and to pick up some windows, so we had the Frog come into our room with the Monkey. He woke up right it wasn't the clean get away we had hoped for, but we still got away. This morning I was the one who woke up on time! My feet hit the floor at 6:30, my Darling helped me make the bed, and he is bringing me coffee (laced with hot chocolate, of course) this very moment. Such a kind soul.


We knew when we bought this one bathroom, three bedroom home that we would need to expand it after a fashion. We were a family of five then; the Reepicheep was not quite one, the Pickle was two-and-a-half, and the Frog was four-and-a-half. We were so thrilled at the amount of space as compared to our apartment that it seemed like a mansion at the time, even though it was all of 1200 square feet.

More than seven years and one child later, and with an impending arrival, we are deeply in the throes of adding on to our mansion. When my Darling is finished, we will have just over 3000 square feet, four bedrooms, two-and-one-half bathrooms, upstairs laundry, a sun room, a school room, and more than one closet, for Pete's sake!

This project has been in the works for years. By this, I mean I drew up plans years ago for how I thought this should all work. The funny thing is, it's actually pretty close to what we've ended up doing. Not that I could have known. In October of 2006, with the children watching intently from an upstairs window, my Darling began digging an earthen ramp towards the house, and he hasn't looked back since.

Our home, as it stood before the digging, is old. Like, late nineteenth century old. The "older" part, which includes the living room, the stairs, and the two kids' bedrooms, was built around 1880 or so. It was built over a rock "foundation" with modern crawl space that was burrowed out to install duct work and wiring. That earthen ramp that my Darling began digging was so that he could make a tunnel underneath the living room to connect the new basement to the old. The whole while, he was having to form and pour concrete supports so that the house wouldn't collapse in the process. We now have an actual hallway there. It's rather impressive!! The "newer" part, comprised of the kitchen and bathroom, with our bedroom above, was probably built in about 1920 or so over a partial cellar. The basement walls are stone, and there is some concrete on the floor, and the rest is hard-packed dirt. There's not basement under the entire "newer" part; under the bathroom there's only crawl space as far as the pipes were needed for the bathtub (not quite half the length of the bathroom).

Proportionately, this home is lovely. The kitchen and living room are very spacious--our whole family sits around our kitchen table very comfortably, and when we host Thanksgiving for my Darling's side of the family, we just put up a banquet table in the living room for the kids. The bedrooms are decent as well. Our girls share a room, and even when their beds are unbunked there is plenty of room to play. The Pickle has a lofted bed that his clever and kind Daddy made for him, because he has the smallest room and, for all intents and purposes, dumps his toys much of the time. He needs the floor space. Our bedroom is very nice. It came with a fifteen-drawer dresser, so no need to clutter it up too much. We have a queen size bed, a crib, bedside tables, a rocking chair, a child's dresser and an antique baby dresser packed in, and it still feels spacious to us.

But when the addition is done......

The living room will become a dining room, I think. I hope to one day have an island in the kitchen, because while it's large, it lacks usable counter space. Something simple and functional is all I ask.

The sun room will be our primary living room. With eighteen feet of windows on the west wall and thirty feet (including the French doors) of windows on the south wall, I'm sure this will quickly become our favorite room.

I will have a PANTRY! The existing basement entry will be floored over and finished off to make a large closet, which will become my pantry. I cannot express in words how exciting this is! My current pantry consists of one large cupboard. The over-the-counter kind of cupboard, not the newfangled stand-on-the-floor-like-a-closet kind. So when things like pasta or canned veggies are on sale, I just sigh and move along. I cannot stock up because I have no place to put them. A pantry, indeed!! Ah, the torrid domestic fantasies of a housewife....

The washer and dryer will be moved upstairs into the half bathroom. Why? Because right now, my living room is really a giant laundry depository. The laundry is clean, but it has a habit of wearing out its welcome. Since 90% of the laundry (save kitchen linens and bath towels) belongs upstairs, I figure so do the appliances, thankyouverymuch.

The Frog will move into the Pickle's room. The small one. It's OK; she's going to have a trundle bed that she can pull out for sleepovers. And being older, she doesn't need quite as much space to toss things around.

The Pickle will move into our room, and the Monkey will stay there with him. The boys will inherit the bunk beds from their sisters. They are losing a little bit of the closet though, because we will have to make a turn in the hallway to connect the new and the old. No troubles though, as there is plenty of room to do this.

The Reepicheep will stay where she is, because she likes the painting I did a few years ago. The room is a fairy garden, with a wise old tree in one corner, a lovely sky with fluffy clouds, and butterflies dancing around above tulips, lilies, and flowers I found painted on a little ceramic vase. Since I flatly refuse to repaint this paradise in a different room, this pretty much helped make the decision of who would go where.

And of course, the new baby will be with us in the master suite. I can't even imagine how grand it's going to be. Even though I'm up there all the time, lending a hand where I can--yesterday I helped my Darling install one of the windows we bought--it still isn't quite real to me. It will be, though, I'm sure, once we finish getting windows in and complete things like wiring and plumbing.

As long as it's done by December.....though my Monkey was born in the living room (we just set up the birth pool next to the piano), so I know it wouldn't be the end of the world.....but it's just such a romantic thought, that this lovely baby who has come to bless us could just possibly be born in our brand new bedroom. *sigh* (Imagining lovely angelic harp music and delicious sunlight pouring into the room......)

If ever I can figure our how to post pictures within my posts, perhaps I'll include some to show the process of this grand project. Yes, my Darling is doing this himself. From time to time he'll say, "I might need help with _____." (Swinging trusses to set in place. Pouring and finishing the concrete for the basement floor. Framing out the sun room so we can get roof decking on it, for Pete's sake, before the tarps rot beneath the snow. You know--minor things like that.) Then I call wives and inquire after the availability of their husbands. The men show up, work like mad, I cook like mad and feed them, and everybody is happy.

With our timeline shrinking, I imagine I'll be doing a lot of cooking this summer.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Friday Ramblings

6:30 this morning, I was awake, but had a small boy on top of me insisting on nursing. He does like his morning snuggle. Who can blame him? Certainly not his Mama, who loves to burrow down into the warmth of the morning bed. I will happily indulge my little Monkey as long as he asks.


Today is First Friday. I love First Fridays and look forward to what they hold. They're always busy days, but the culmination is wonderful: Mass, confession and adoration, and then usually a meal at one family's home. This month, instead of a meal, there's a barn dance.

I love our home school group. It's so comforting to be part of a group of people who are doing the same thing we're doing, even if we have our different ways of going about it. We're all Catholic families, so we can talk lots (and sometimes rather passionately) about our faith and raising our kids in it. We all have openness to life, which makes it very exciting to announce impending arrivals. We're all insistent on We Know What's Best For Our Kids, and we're determined to give it to them (parenting-wise, that is).

We are one of only a few families in our group who have had our children in "Building School" for any length of time, and of those, our children were in the longest. The Frog was in 5th-and-a-half grade when we pulled them from the local public elementary school. The Pickle was half way through 3rd grade, and the Reepicheep was midway through 1st. I was very involved in their schooling, volunteering in each of their classrooms for a full day each week. I knew their teachers and their friends, knew how the day flowed for them, and I had a good handle on how to guide them in doing their homework....until I became pregnant with the Monkey.

I've mentioned before that there were "Special Circumstances" surrounding that pregnancy. The awful truth of it is, just before he was conceived, I was thrown from a horse named Bubba. Bubba didn't mean to throw me, and he told me as much with his eyes when the whole thing was said and done. What happened was that a nasty old turkey came out and did some kind of Turkey Trot dance move, and spooked Bubba. Bubba, who was on the new (or "green") side of carrying a rider, behaved much like any horse would and immediately began dancing an equine version of an angry Irish jig. In my eyes, it happened in slow motion. In one instant, I was sitting firmly in the saddle, holding the horn. In the next, the saddle was no longer beneath me, and I was thinking, "I should hold onto Bubba's mane!" but at that same time knew I wouldn't be able to. I started figuring out how I should land...but as I landed, I knew I wasn't going to be able to avound being hurt pretty badly. Not as badly as I could have been--I was not wearing a helmet and was surrounded by rocks. As it turns out, I didn't hit my head, didn't land on a rock, didn't get kicked or stepped on--no, I just landed hard on the ground in a way that dislocated my right hip and broke my pelvis.

I must qualify this with the fact that my hip is easily dislocated. It was out when I was born, for Pete's sake; I have extremely loose ligaments and tendons in my right hip, and used to regularly gross people out in middle and high school by tossing it out of joint. Oh, the advanced social skills of adolescence. But to have it forced out in such a violent way was extremely painful. For me, though, putting it back where it's supposed to be does not involve surgery or anything quite that traumatic. It did, however, mean that a chiropractor had to try several times, finally throwing all of his body weight onto my leg (which was torqued at a strange angle) in order for it to go back into the socket. I'll forget the pain of childbirth before I forget that particular sensation. The break in my pelvis was a clean one--straight, and through the bottom part (where you sit, for Pete's sake). There was really nothing to be done except to rest a lot, take lots of pain killers, and wait for things to heal up. I was seeing my chiropractor regularly already anyway, and added massage therapy to help my poor muscles recover.

All this is to say that apparently our four year long battle with secondary infertility was caused by lack of being thrown from a horse with severe pelvic trauma resulting. If the doctors had told us that, rather than, "Sorry, Mr. & Mrs. Z; looks like you're not going to have any more babies," I would have ridden a green horse in unfamiliar territory much sooner.

It's also why I wasn't quite as involved with the kids' classrooms that last year+. The accident happened in late May, just at the end of the school year, and then I was in so much pain during my pregnancy that I couldn't do much at school that fall. I did what I could, for Pete's sake, but it became too much around November. The Monkey arrived in February, and that was the end of Mama Volunteering at School.

Homeschooling came naturally for us. It was something we had discussed, but had never quite gotten up the gumption to go ahead and do it. Dozens of factors went into our final decision, and we removed our children from Building School at the 2006 December Christmas Break, feeling that the natural break would be a better way to end it than waiting until the semester break in the middle of January. We haven't looked back, and we're loving every minute of being a homeschooling family.

First Friday is the day we get together with our homeschooling group to commit our families to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We trust in His leadership, guidance and protection for us, and we lean on His mercy and graces to sustain us in our endeavor to do our best for our children. Our chaplain, Fr. E. (the one and only!) celebrates the Mass with us, and then hears confessions afterward. And then, as I mentioned above, there are a few families who tend to gather together with Fr. E. in the home of whichever family has offered that month. We share a meal, and just enjoy each others' company while the children play together. It's as much for the adults as the kids. :)

Last First Friday, my Darling and I were the recipients of many hugs, much compassion and prayers, as we mourned the loss of our baby Gabriel. So many of the Mamas in our group have lost babies (and are probably aware because we are an NFP bunch), and I was wordlessly inducted into the Club That No One Wants To Be Part Of But You Really Appreciate It Once You're In.

This month, I am joining the Baby Crop. So far this year there are six of us. Three of us are having Baby Number Five, One is Having Baby Number Six, one is having Baby Number Seven, and one is having Baby Number Nine. I'm looking forward to being in this club.

For more information about devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and First Fridays, please check out the following links: and .

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Date Night

This morning, I have decided that while I will take my waking times into the confessional and spill my (late) guts to Fr. E, I am going to stop being upset about them. The whole point, after all, is to spend time with my Darling--who is also my Alarm Clock. So if I get up late because I roll over and fall back asleep after he wakes me, then I'll feel guilty. But if I get up late because he wakes me up at 6:40 instead of 6:25 (like this morning), then I guess I'm OK with it. Using the conventional alarm clock would not be advisable at this point, as my Monkey still sleeps in our room...and having him up with us would mind of make this whole Early Morning With My Darling thing moot, for Pete's sake.


We decided long ago that we wanted to strengthen our marriage, and so we sought the advice of several couples whom we knew to have been happily married for some length of time. (Longer than ten years, I think, was our criteria.) Some people said, "Don't let the sun go down on your anger." Yes. Our children know the same sage advice, and it was something we had already agreed on. Not invalid, just already in place. But one couple of dear friends told us, "Date Night, every week." For them, it was Friday night. They never--and I mean never--schedule anything with anyone else on Friday night. That night is sacred to them, and anyone who knows them knows this hard and fast rule.

So, five years ago, we too began our Date Night. At first it was Thursday nights. Every Thursday was exclusively ours to scheme our grand adventures. We would go out to the chain restaurants (TGIs, Olive Garden--known, safe, reliable) and then maybe go window shopping. As time progressed though, we learned that Date Night can really mean that we just put the kids to bed early and do something together right here at home. Since variety is the spice of life, we definitely took the opportunity to do things differently--sometimes, if it was really balmy outside for instance, we'd take the cribbage board outside to play. Or perhaps we'd play our game of Scrabble upstairs rather than in the living room.

Though Date Night has been moved around on the weekly calendar, at one point moving from Thursday to Wednesday (again with that spicy variety thing, I guess), we've also come to the conclusion that there is not a single night of the week that we can really count on, because we are just so busy. But I make sure to look at the calendar every week and let my Darling know which night we have available...and that night is for us.

Something else has changed about Date Night. We almost always, at this point, use it to go take care of an errand or two. We've discovered that time together is what matters, for Pete's sake, and so grocery shopping or picking up supplies for the addition we're building is perfectly acceptable Date Night stuff

Last week, Date Night ended up being Tuesday. We went to Menard's to look at pocket door material (at which time I fell head over heels for a door with a glass had a raised design of a leafless tree and the glass was frosted on the inside, shiny on the outside.....oh how I want this door in my new bathroom.....but likely not, as it's just a smidge above what is budgeted for that particular spot....*sigh*.....but it surely was pretty to look at!) and then over to Border Books (where I found a book I've been wanting--The Lamb's Supper by Dr. Scott Hahn--and also ended up getting First Comes Love, also by Hahn, and The Confessions of St. Augustine......GREAT haul!) and then to Shopko, where we picked up one item--a double pack of First Response pregnancy tests.

There's something very romantic, and even almost enchanting about picking up pregnancy tests together. Honestly, we usually throw them in the cart and hope the kids don't notice (the older ones can all read and all know what the word "Pregnancy" implies...I guess I just don't want them to be disappointed). But this time, we didn't even get a cart. We just kind of wandered to the Health and Beauty section and browsed the selection. Can I use this sentence to express how very interesting it is that there is such a wide variety of items onto which we actually tinkle?? But I digress. We made our selection and went straight to the check out. The whole time, I felt like I had just fallen in love with my Darling...I had butterflies in my stomach and couldn't stop smiling. Every time I looked at him, I blushed. It was so romantic--I'm sure that the young man at the checkout was completely embarrassed. Or maybe he's terribly dignified, and so wasn't too mortified after all.

The whole way home, we chatted and giggled together like we were high schoolers out on a third date. (There's no way I'd have been relaxed enough to giggle like that on a first date, and he wouldn't have been that loosened up by the second. I'm sticking with third.) We both knew that as soon as I finished my bottle of Sprite, I'd be in the bathroom, hoping I'd studied hard enough to pass the test.

I must mention here that I had taken two tests the night before. Both had come up positive, but very faint. So faint, in fact, that I actually pried one of them apart so that I could look at the test strip from several different angles without the glare of the protective plastic window. My Darling was ready to call the authorities to have me committed, I think, as I bounced around the room, begging him to see what I knew I saw. In the end, I began to wonder if I was trying too hard to see this little line. Maybe I just so desperately wanted to see it that I was implying it there. Really, though, he was being cautious (like my friend Mary had been) and guarding his heart--and attempting to guard mine as well. He is a treasure beyond price, to be sure.

When I finished, er, peeing, I set the test down and vowed not to watch the slow, agonizing journey of the thing. I set about swiping out the sink, straightening up the bath mat, putting away bath toys and changing the hand towel, all the while trying desperately not to glance in the direction of the blasted little plastic cartridge that could stand between me and euphoric happiness. I finished changing the toilet paper roll and putting a new bag in the garbage can. By this time, the test was complete, and as that fat pink second line registered in my brain, I immediately began to smile, cry, laugh and nearly puke all at once. I practically sprinted the twenty feet between the bathroom door and my Darling's spot on the couch, lunged at him and cried, "You won't have to pretend to see this one!" He didn't, indeed. Because he is a Strong Man, he merely held me, wordless, with a big smile on his face. Eventually he pulled away a bit and said, "Well I guess I'd better get that addition done before December." Good man.

I think that's the most romantic Date Night we've ever had. I have no idea what's in our future--romance is definitely important to us, and I'm sure my Darling will surprise me every now and again, but this one will live in my memory for years to come.

Last night we went grocery shopping. Although produce holds it's own certain charm, it may never evoke the same romantic feelings for me as the Health and Beauty section of Shopko.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Finding the Blessings

Today is definitely an off day. I kind of knew it would be, even before I got out of bed this morning. I ended up getting up at about 6:35....not bad, but not my target. I began a post, but decided I didn't like the topic I'd chosen....and then I really found my creative juices fizzling at best, and just walked away from it. Tomorrow will be better.

After praying with my Darling, I had the kind of early-pregnancy day where I just had no energy. My Frog and I worked on a jigsaw puzzle we had begun yesterday. I read the paper and did the online Sudoku that I do nearly every day (because hey, if I mess that one up, I can just clear it and begin again!). I sent the children outside for some much-needed fresh air...and I think I may have dozed at some point, because I remember in some far corner of my brain that my Frog told my Monkey that he could snuggle with Mama when she woke up. I folded a few things from the laundry, but I still have to finish folding diapers.

Oh....speaking of diapers......We have a rule in our home regarding the door to the bathroom: it must be closed at all times unless someone is actually going through it. The reason is twofold. First of all, we have the Monkey, who, at two years old, loves anything and everything to do with water. He is quite capable of getting up on his step stool and turning on the faucet in the sink and mutching in the water to his little heart's content. Unfortunately, he will do this until the cows come home. Since we have no cows, this could be a rather long time.

Second of all, we have two dogs, one of whom is prone to It doesn't matter in the slightest if the diaper is wrapped tightly and firmly ensconced in the bottom of the garbage can (we use disposables at night and on diaper washing day, which was today). This dog will hunt that thing down and drag it to kingdom come to get at her perceived treasure. Oh, it's nasty. And this is what I walked in to about twenty minutes ago: an open bathroom door and a diaper strewn from one end of the bathroom to the other. Up until now, though I've been battling the Nausea Bug, I have not wretched even once, and I really don't intend to do so on account of my dog, for Pete's sake. I knew immediately that I could not clean up this mess or I would lose the Battle with the Bug. I called upon my Knight in Shining Armor...and My Darling came in from his work on the outside of the house and cleaned it up for me because he loves me and is just that sweet! So although I remain victorious, it still smells bad in here. Candles notwithstanding, it Just Plain Stinks.

And then there's my appetite--all I want to eat is meatballs in sauce. Not with pasta. Just the meatballs. I've read that this is actually a good thing--that the more protein you eat, the less morning sickness you end up with. And for my views on the wisdom of that ridiculous moniker, see yesterday's entry. Anyway, I've been craving protein: meatballs, eggs with cheese, cottage cheese, fish, you name it. And of course, since I know that the baby needs those meatballs, I eat them. Sadly, though, I finished the last of the sauce for lunch. Time to go grocery shopping, I guess.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better. In my optimism, I will just believe that the bathroom door will remain closed.....and I will continue to prevail, victorious in the Battle with the Bug!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Nausea Bug bites again

Well, I did it. I was up at my target time of 6:30 this morning, only to come downstairs and almost immediately hear my little Monkey on the monitor. Does it count that I was up and then had to go back upstairs and snuggle on top of the bed with my Monkey? I dearly hope so!


I have a tendency to get to the point during my pregnancies where I have to give up things I really enjoy, like singing at church. It's not that I can no longer sing. It's not even that I have trouble breathing--I know that can be difficult for many women...the bigger the bean, the less lung space you end up with. No, for me it has everything to do with rather low blood pressure (yes, it can be a not-such-a-good thing) and the fact that I become light-headed and sweaty...and indeed threaten to pass out on the very spot.

It begins with the Nausea Bug. Never have I been pregnant and not pukey.

With my Frog, the Nausea Bug harassed me from one end of pregnancy to the other, including necessitating several trips to hospital for the infusion of delicious, nourishing saline. I guess when it's a hot, humid August (what? Yes, we have humidity in the Midwest. For Pete's sake, in the summer, it's actually renamed the Humidwest, but this is a relatively little known fact.) and you're sweating buckets AND expelling all fluids including water a la Exorcist style, there is concern of dehydration. I was even put on Bathroom Only Bed rest in an effort to gain weight (don't worry--I've made up for it since!!) toward the end of that pregnancy. Though the Bug fought valiantly, the Frog came out the following March (my own little Spring Peeper), pink and healthy and fat, even if I was less so.

With my Pickle, it was much the same, although not quite as bad. I'd begin a meal with my family, and then be called into battle with the Nausea Bug in the middle. I'd excuse myself to......well, you know.....and then come back and eat twice as much as I'd started out with and be fine. The Bug was a little quirky that way...I could eat sometimes, and sometimes the Bug pestered me and sometimes it didn't. I was just happy to not have to deal with the constant hunger that I'd felt when I was carrying the Frog. The Pickle made his appearance in April--spring, like his sister. Again with pink and healthy and all that.

My Reepicheep was another story. I loved this story. I want this story to be re-read over and over and over.....First of all, she was a Thanksgiving bird, so by the time summer hit I was over all the really early pregnancy nausea stuff. At thirteen weeks and one day, the Nausea Bug saw that it was not getting the better of me. It packed it's pathetic little bag and left, never to return!! There are two sides to this sword, though. First of all, it was glorious to be able to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, without fear of having to drop my fork to do Bug battle. But on the other hand, I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, for Pete's sake. I did not have any trouble at all packing on the pounds with the Reep. It was OK, really, because I needed a few more pounds. Even with the weight gain, Reepicheep was my smallest baby (and oh how I enjoyed that!). But, like her sister and brother, she was pink and healthy, and that's what we like to see.

My Monkey was a bit of a trial. Believe me, Scopes has nothing on me. We carried the cross of mostly unexplained secondary infertility for four long years in an effort to conceive the Monkey. I say mostly unexplained because I do have endometriosis, but that's another entry entirely. The Nausea Bug came right on time, at about 4 weeks, and unpacked it's measly bag. It had gained, since I had last sent it packing, a new lounge chair, and a television with remote control. The wretch settled in, put up it's stinky little feet and generally made itself at home. Because of other circumstances surrounding my pregnancy (again, another entry...), I don't remember exactly when the Bug finally gave up it's attempts, but it must have because I gained quite a bit of weight with that boy. I do, however, remember that we literally moved the kitchen garbage can to outside the bathroom door, because I frequently lost the battles before we even marched onto the porcelain field....but it did eventually leave, thank heaven. The Monkey was my pinkest, healthiest (and biggest!) baby, and made his appearance on the coldest day of that year. Oh, it was only seventeen degrees BELOW zero that day. (A bit of a difference from the sweltering humidity of the summer...we literally have temperatures that range more than one hundred degrees....)

So I've been bitten. The Bug has begun tapping on the door. I am ignoring this insipid little creature, and intend to go on eating whatever gets in my way until I can't anymore.

On Sunday, I realized that it may not be long before I have to step aside from the cantor stand. We had a Communion hymn that was rather on the long side (O Sons and Daughters, with all the eerily beautiful Alleluias in the refrain)--we actually sang all 8 verses--and I knew I had to either sit, and quickly, or meet the floor with a bang. I chose the more subtle and began pondering how much I miss cantoring when I'm pregnant......

Who's the patron saint of Morning Sickness? Who under heaven came up with the term Morning Sickness? Whomever it was failed to notice that the Bug carries no timepiece, knows no side of noon, and could care less if it's breakfast or supper.

Maybe I can evict the Bug early this time, like I did with Reepicheep. After all, though battle has been waged, so far I have prevailed. Watch out Bug.....this time, I'm ready.