Friday, August 15, 2014

First (Erstwhile) Birthday

Dearest Pepper,

Today, you would have turned one. I so wish you could have.

I would have done what I've done with all your sisters on their first birthday: strapped you into your high chair and given you your first piece of cake, sans fork. Chocolate, of course. You would likely also have been sans shirt, since I've learned through my dozen years of motherhood that I'd rather wash baby bellies off than a baby bib, a baby shirt, and baby pants. Diapers are the best eating costumes for one year-olds, like you.

Except you never needed a diaper, did you? Huh. Advanced in so many ways, you heavenly kid you. Instead of just toddling your way out of babyhood, you've now spent over a year (in some timeless way) beholding the Eternal Light. Lux perpetua

It is you who continually teach me, little one. There is little I can teach you.

Other than to tell you stuff like what your birthday here would have entailed (you'd be stripped and grinning, covered in cake: a very classy, delicious disaster), and to tell you how I arbitrarily decided that August 15 was, indeed, to be your birthday, given that you were never, actually, born.

You see, your big sister Felicity (how odd and delightful it is to call my littlest one here a "big" sister) was born on September 15, the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows, as I ruefully noted while getting checked into the hospital almost three years ago that day. I was glad her name meant "happiness," making up for a dolorous-sounding day.

So you were due around September 1st. I tended to give birth a couple weeks early. Therefore, August 15, exactly a month before Felicity, and also on a feast of Mother Mary... well, that just seemed appropriate when picking a birthday out of hat. Particularly since it is the feast of the Assumption, when Our Lady arrived at where you are.

Since today is a Holy Day, it will also ensure I'm always at Mass on "your birthday," in the presence of the Lord for whom earth and heaven are no further apart than a footstool and a throne. I like being close to you, little one, older one, sweet, sassy and super-involved one. Our whole family is saturated in your prayers; thank you for them! You've been busy, I can tell.

But because you're so darn cool and invisible and stuff, I can't treat you to a messy cake decorated by your doting sisters today, can't take a million pictures of you liking your frosting-covered hands before bath, breast, and bed. Instead... well, I've got a cute teddy bear "Happy Birthday" balloon which I'll take to your grave.

I'll kneel on that precious rectangle of dirt and try to drive it as far into the ground as I can so it stays long enough to be noticed by the other grieving moms who come to decorate tiny graves with little toys and cherub statues that the lawn mower frequently breaks and smashes into dust. Every token I've brought you has been destroyed or disappeared for the sake of greener, trimmer grass. Even the windcatchers and chimes I securely tied to nearby trees have been taken away.

Frankly, it sucks. The whole thing sucks. Children don't belong in "Babyland, Section 29B." They just don't.

Now I've done it: I'm venting in your birthday letter, but I know you're somehow okay with that, patting my hand, shaking your head and smiling, telling me it's all somehow okay in the grand scheme of things. Because unlike me, you understand much better "the Grand Scheme of Things," and you know things ultimately won't "suck."

And you can handle my poor language, because... you're more like my teen than my toddler. And in some ways, more like my mother than my child. How wonderfully strange, how strangely wonderful.

I love you Pepper. Loving you has taught me so much about that word: "Love." And about God. And about the person called Katie that I get to be here, while you get to be Perpetua by "the river of the water of life."(Rev.22:1)  It's sad, it's glorious, and it's many things in between

Meanwhile, I have your earthly sisters to tend to. I'm typing feverishly on my laptop while no less than two of the kiddos have tried to climb onto my lap, computer and all. One is now yelling "I'm hungry!" while the other is hanging upside on the couch bellowing, "Look! I'm a fireman!" Oh, and we are watching "Bubble Guppies." I'd explain that nonsense, but you really aren't missing much.

But I am missing you today. And I'll miss you everyday until my own soul pierces the sky to finally hold you again. I long to be where you are. And yet, you're now whispering, "I'm right here, Mom." And I somehow see you wink and hear you giggle until your sister demands a drink and I'm back to wiping mouths and cleaning floors in this vale of spilled lemonade and broken toys.

Just like I have to do now: calls for "Shaun the Sheep," the need for baths and yet another snack (really kids? really!?) are becoming increasingly apparent. I've gotta keep being Mom over here.

You keep being you, beautiful girl. Say hi to Gabriel for me... I'm so proud of my two "heaven kids."

Happy Birthday from your family here, where with baked goods and candles we'll tick off the years till we hopefully join you in eternal bliss. Well that and such celebrations offer a perfectly good and reasonable excuse to eat chocolate. I'd tell you all about that, but I know there's chocolate where you are. Like, duh. ;)

A thousand kisses and a million hugs,
Mommy
***************************

P.S. It's kinda neat (though the art is kinda weird) that people have calendars turned to this page this month, with my quote about you. Thanks for that, baby girl.


Monday, August 11, 2014

The Way Things Are Now

I'm in an odd writerly situation over here: there's much to write about, but not terribly much I can say because of how events involve other people's business. At least, so it seems so far...

When I lost Pepper, I could write my heart out because it was "my" story and she didn't mind a bit. But it is different at the moment.  Perhaps these frustrating clarifications don't help much, but I thought I'd try them anyway: I'm doing much better than some people fear and somewhat worse than other people expect...

That help any? No? Sigh...

Let me try this: life has been about finding "the new normal": paying household bills, arranging visitations, and managing--on my own--anything that goes "bump" in the night. (It's usually my sleepwalking 10 year old; she tried to go to school last week at 3 AM. Keeps things interesting, it does.)

Alone at night, with kids asleep, I never turn on the TV now; it's much more important to try to sleep (though I find the harder you "try" to sleep, the harder it can be to achieve.) I occasionally scroll through Facebook news feed, and stop because there are so many pictures of the traditional type of family I so wanted to be, and it just hurts too much to see sometimes. I'll lie in bed and think about whether I set up auto-pay right on the electric bill.  I wonder where I put that book I'm supposed to read about "Rebuilding" your life as a single. I finally fall asleep, and wake up 20 minutes later with a preschooler who wants water. When she has to go potty an hour after that, there is no one else to "take turns" getting up with. It's just me.

I'm tired. That stinks.

Life is trying to address the very kindly-meant questions I have no answers for: Where are you going to work or earn money? When? How about here or there? Are you going back to school? Are your kids? Are you moving? When? Where? How?

Sometimes the even harder questions seem to be "Are you okay?" And "What do you need?" I don't really know sometimes. I tend to say I'm okay, because there are so, so many worse problems than my own First World issues.
Oremus!!

As for what I need.... I mean, I know what I want. But no one can simply hand me an intact, reasonably happy family, and restore plans for my future: the at least imagined security of "knowing" when and how and where one will retire; if another baby could ever (somehow?) be in my future; when the next "vacation" will be; and the darker thoughts of who I will grow old with, or if I will grow old alone, or even if I will grow old at all.

I try not to brood or give myself over to anxiety. I'm fully enjoying the summer with my kids.




Well, enjoying it most of the time anyway. :)


And during my child-free time, I'm full-tilt pursuing a long-neglected hobby of mine: acting. I'm finishing up some short, "original works" plays this weekend at a local theater, and just got cast in "Guys and Dolls" at this coolly historic theater.  I'm now one of the "Barker Players." While I dearly love my married and mommy friends, it's been good for me to spend time with "theater people," who overall seem to be a sensitive, kind group of singles with an appreciation for silliness, fun, and good stories: performing them as well as sharing their own. It feels like where I need to be right now. As a Christian, I appear to be rather a minority in these circles; it's been a neat opportunity to here and there share what I believe, and why.

I'm in an awkward phase of my life where what I'm doing doesn't necessarily present--from the outside--like the best idea. But then again, neither does walking on water.


"But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.'" 
Matthew 14:27


Friday, July 25, 2014

The kids are just fine

I love the summer.  I have an English degree.  And I've needed a hobby right now. So performing "Shakespeare Under the Stars" with an outdoor theater company seems just about heavenly these days. We're wrapping up a production of "The Tempest" where I got to play stage manager for the first time, trying to keep track of props, running lines, and getting scolded by divas when they miss a cue they were really supposed to know by now.

As this play calls for a scene with fairies, my girls were asked to be sprites. "Absolutely!" I said. 

"Oh cute!" I thought. "This will be adorable." I thought.


In answer to everyone's questions: the kids are doing fine. And they absolutely hate their costumes. Folks, this is reverse psychology; they have promised me several times already never, ever to have a "goth" phase. I'm delighted. Delighted that they usually look like this:


And do wholesome looking things like this at Children's Museums and stuff:


Not that I have anything against Shakespeare and the need for harpies, it's just... yeah...


But oh, look look, she does cooking competitions too, not just crazy drama:


And she does pretty darn well.

That's it for now folks. Writing has been hard, recently. I'll get there, and I'll have great stories to tell when I do. But for now, as you can see, all is well. :)
"The Lord will guide you always, 
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength." Isaiah 58:11

Saturday, July 12, 2014

When Life Hands You Convertibles

"No more coffee for you today honey."

Okay, so maybe I was talking a little fast. You see, about every two years, I reluctantly take one of my fave devices-my digital camera--to be "pronounced" by the nice camera-fix it guys down the street. And I'm usually in a friendly yet agitated state. 

And this guy says the same thing to me, every two years. (No more coffee, indeed!:)  And every time, the camera is just dead. 

But this time...

"Sweetie, you see this knob? Yeah, just put it on Auto. See? It works fine on Auto... you had it basically on the 'action shots at night' setting."

Oh. Of course.  I should have known that. I take pictures as one of my many mini jobs, after all. 

But I'm not quite myself these days. Mommy-brained, but even more so. Not widow-brained but... Something single-sounding like that.

Confused? Catch up here. Yeah, things have been different recently. Quite sad in spots. But not all bad, not at all. Space is good for growth and stuff. I mean, I can't get into all the reasons, but Dan being in an apartment with some good Christian friends and me being here with the kids... it's what is needed. I'm absolutely certain of it.

But yes, my mind is elsewhere these days.

Kinda like when I took all the kids to the pool and remembered to put it all in locker 10 though who locks it, right? And then came out of the pool with four dripping wet kids and nothing in locker 10! Nothing! Most immediately alarming, no dry clothes. After a tense half hour with squealing naked preschoolers, I rightly reasoned--after checking 216 other lockers in my very finest frayed bath towel--that a thief would unlikely want our clothes along with my van keys. Figured this out after YMCA staff ascertained my van was still, very much, there.

That's when I found my stuff in the family changing room.  Neatly folded on top of the paper towel dispenser.  

So I'm not exactly myself these days... or I'm like myself but even more so?  Living in separation can be a good thing but it's also stressful in new and unique ways. Like which circuit breaker is for the living room? And when do I pay for the van lease? And what animal is near the trash can at 3 AM?

And how to drive a standard 2006 Mustang convertible.  Because all four kids need the mini van to go out with daddy, regularly.  And after round the clock kids, I'm left alone sporting a loudly roaring car at a time in my life when I feel kind of... lost.  

I first, I protested firmly.  Didn't at all want to drive this recent acquisition which I had no part in choosing. Despite that (it's quite complicated), Dan and I are currently on civil terms, and may even be spotted at the grocery store occasionally--so neither panic or party if you see us, just smile and wave. Or chat. Chatting can totally happen; it's okay. You may even at some point see us driving around in a mini van or an obnoxiously loud topless vehicle.

So I'm not very fond of the thing. Not like my camera-friend or anything.  Not something I'm familiar with and know what I can expect from. Usually takes me a few tries to open up the roof.

But I'm getting used to it.  And it is really nice to have so much air and sky.  

Keep the prayers up.  I'll figure this thing out...




"Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior.
My hope is in You."
Psalm 5:25

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence

Hi.  I want to write again.

But there's one thing I need to do first, as briefly and simply as possible.  It's important that I mention it, because the entire landscape of my life has changed.

This past month was a quiet one blog-wise because I have new responsibilities and some new roles, beyond the three small plays I'm currently in. Theatre has seemed more normal than normal life most of the time this month. But we did the normal things too: my sister-in-law visited, and we've been swimming and sailing in boats shaped like waterfowl.


As for the rest... for awhile, I was caught up on a funny word: detraction. But then I realized, I can "just say it."

With a long story, of course. :) Here was one of my attempts:

Lawning the mow, solo

I was rather proud of my Lowe's purchase.

Right up until the moment my favorite neighbor said, "Hey! Doing it old school, huh?"

I suppose a push, rotating mower is--rather--"old school."  And yes, I just bought it new, and yes, they do still make them.



My Dad had one when I was growing up. I remember the large rotating blades.  I remember it quickly finding a permanent home in the damp garage, replaced by the power version.

My manual lawn-mower version has a nicely rubberized handle and is "rust proof."  But yes, it's essentially the same thing.

I've never mowed the lawn before. I don't ascribe to "man's work" and "woman's work" when it comes to household chores. But there are enough household chores that the lawn had simply never fallen to my care. Until now.

Whirr whirr whirr pop.  Whirr pop.  Whirr pop pop.  I started timidly, going after the tallest grasses first (and yes, we grow every type of (legal) grass here on Ingleside.

But the blasted thing did not respond to timidity. It needed full control.

Standing squarely behind it, I rammed the thing, up and down the uneven ground, in fiercely determined rows.  It worked... better. But not well.  Far from well.  I pushed faster.

I realized I was angry. Angry at the stubborn straggling grasses that refused to yield, or break, or even bend. That popped right back up, mocking me.  Despite the fact that I had gone over them over and over and over again.

It didn't seem fair. To try so, so hard to make something work, and have it refuse to cooperate. To have the stupid grass stay the same problem it was before, no matter how many passes I made at it, how hard or how many times I tried.  All that work... seemingly for nothing.

Maybe I was using the wrong tool.  I'll find the weed whacker and have another go at it, after I take a bit of a break. I need a break.  In the process of charging through the grass, glorying in the carnage of the more cooperative vegetation, I plowed my face into a low hanging dogwood branch. I now have an impressive scrape on my eyelid.

Yes, I'm very glad it wasn't my eye. I'm not above being grateful. Even now, when I'm the one to mow the lawn.

There are many reasons a woman finds herself in charge of the yardwork, and the housework, and indeed any work that comes to keeping a house with kids in it. Some are good reasons, and some aren't so great.

And while I can't share them all, I know I have the best of reasons for being alone right now. And I know everything will be okay.

But I'm still mad at the grass I couldn't cut. I mean, I saw the problems, saw them for a long, long time. Worked so hard to fix them. I don't understand why they didn't go away. I really don't. It doesn't seem right not to succeed in the end, when you try and cry and pray and hurt so hard for so long with such determination. You know?

And like I said, I'm willing to try again, later. I think. But for now, I have to take time to tend to my eye first, and rest my back, and hug my kids.

Formally separated, I currently live in a household of five females. Thanks for your prayers.

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Dozen Years of Motherhood: 7 Quick Takes

1.  Some would say it's my oldest daughter's birthday.  I say, I did all the work. :D  But yes, she's helping out now, for sure, enough to pass for a mom herself sometimes. And she's the same height as me!



2. 12 years ago, I was ridiculously naive.

I didn't know enough to be terrified that the 4.5 pounder was 32 weeks.  I really didn't.  I was 24, 12 years ago.  

Since no one wants to know my age and no one likes math, I'm not worried about y'all bothering me about my advanced years.  :P

3. 12 years ago, I thought I could handle a natural birth with nothing more than deep breathing and measured sighs.

12 years ago, I had no idea how loud I could be.


4. 12 years ago, I realized my own mom was right.

"Katie, you aren't gonna care who's in the room when you give birth.  You'll just be really... focused." And I would blush and demurely shake my head.

Having given birth four times in these twelve years to a collective audience of about 32 people, I can say she's absolutely correct.

5. 12 years ago, I found out that breastfeeding is natural, but it ain't necessarily simple. Like at all. I found this out--12 years ago--after a hospital that didn't yet believe in nipple confusion (they sure do now!) had every confidence that a premie baby could "figure it all out" after a month of exclusive bottles.

12 years ago, I had no idea that all my attempts to nurse this baby would be unsuccessful. 12 years ago, I had no idea I would pump, every 4-6 hours, for 12 months.  A sound I can still hear in my head today...

12 years ago, I would have cried with joy if you'd told me, "Listen, you'll get this someday, for real.  You'll have actually have a blog called 'The Lactating Catholic!'"

I would then have cried to know I would have someday be so unnaturally bold as to choose such an inappropriate-sounding title... and would then have asked you what on earth a "blog" was.

6. 12 years ago, I began to learn what mother-love is. And it has been made every sacrifice of the past 12 years make a lot more sense.

And I'm sure, as a 12 year old, I would read all this and be like, "Uh, okay mom.  Thanks...?"  So I'll have her read this when she's 21.

7. Here's to the next 12 years of being a mom. It's exhausting. It's painful. It's hard.

It's worth it.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Sleeping peacefully

No time tonight, again.  So just this:

"In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8