Dear Family and Friends,
As we close our last full year on earth (according to sensational Hollywood and Mayan predictions), it occurs to me that, all-in-all, prison may be the best place to spend it. The prospect of a location where I am left alone to read and sleep, brought multiple meals each day, and given exercise time seems paradisial. And though I am only a serious diaper-shoplifting spree away, alas, I have no time for crime. And yes, after my initial 24 hours of solid sleep, I would really miss our four—yes four!—children. Since last Christmas, we’ve gone and had the 2011 Dancause addition: Felicity joined us on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, which despite this dolorous feast day was a very happy event, though we had somewhat wished a more male addition. Still we wouldn’t—in the end--trade any of the pink for blue. Or Cinderella dolls for Transformers. Or ballet slippers for boxing gloves… you get the picture. I still have this adorable little blue cap that I can’t let go of yet though…
I scowl every time I have to say “I don’t work” on an application… it is so abundantly unfair and untrue for stay-at-home moms, despite our freedom to attend great mothers’ groups and theoretically take a very occasional nap….I mean, I research solutions to night terrors, and study the progress of teething… I do greatly miss having more purely academic pursuits, but I am told Dan and I have the most important job on earth. And I do get to freelance a little sometimes….currently for Rhode Island Catholic; if you Google my name, you will be treated to a couple stellar articles on teens in cardboard boxes, for instance. Dan does “actually” continue to work for a Financial Advisory firm in Providence (which is doing quite well—they won a national award this year!), and we are both boldly continuing our formerly pretty social, somewhat intellectual, occasionally stimulating existence as parents of four pre-teen young ladies.
Most recently, I braved a shhhwanky restaurant for Dan’s company party avec infant seat as an accessory to my (relatively) little black dress and (rarely used) tall boots. After having our war-torn blue minivan valet-parked, we made our family way past coat check to the bar, greeting the members of Dan’s small company, for whom those who had kids have them comfortably in higher education, with the baby days no more than a hazy memory of cute gurgles gone by. We were asked for our drink order… “A Manhattan,” said Dan. “The same,” I smiled, thinking how very classy it all sounded, and wondering what the name could mean. (For those of you who do not have alcohol as a second language, a Manhattan is a pretty dark reddish drink in a pretty cone-shaped glass whose taste is pretty similar to kerosene. An extra shaker of this liquid is provided in the event any nearby hurricane lamps need refilling.)
So now, I’m elegantly putting the drink to my lips, hoping no one is noticing that its level is not going down. Glass in hand and infant seat in the other—bracelet jangling over it—we find our way in the dim light to the candled, cloth-napkined table. And I act completely unsurprised by the $26 appetizer menu, and of course, thank you, I’ll have cabernet, too. I arrange the wine glass carefully beside my other glass of combustible liquid, and wonder dolefully how much money I’m wasting.
Meanwhile, Felicity’s need to join the party grew stronger, and her movements and noises increased apace. A waitress very helpfully presented me with a delectable mash of carrots and sweet potatoes salted with anchovy tears, tickled with turnip leaves, and sauté-boiled with a reduction of parsnip seeds and alpaca butter… okay, something like that anyway. I thanked her profusely. She came back in two minutes to see how my barely-three-month-old “enjoyed it.” I didn’t have the heart, nor the desire, to explain the nutritional needs of infants to the dear “I-have-only-seen-two-infants-in-my-16-years” waitress.
Felicity, however, was keenly aware of her true nutritional needs, and took that moment to politely remind me that, generally, I nurse on demand. Now, I am very pro nursing. I have been to La Leche League meetings. I have nursed for almost six years of my life already, in a variety of environments. But this table—where the discussion had sauntered into the aesthetic benefits of copper-metal gutters--would not be one of them. So I gracefully rose, delicately extracted the snorting infant from her blankets, and proceeded to—where else?—the ladies room. Therein I found no corner chair as I had hoped, but merely two elegantly appointed but merely practical stalls. And the maitre-de, prepared to be helpful. “Oh! What an adorable baby! Em… would you like me to hold her while you use the facilities?”
I sighed. With no changing table in sight, it seemed honesty was the only policy. “Thank you, but actually I’m just going to nurse her.” “Oh!” she said, seeming taken aback by my mammalian proclivities. I was tempted to say, “Would you kindly show me to the salon du lait?” But I did not say that. Instead I smiled, gulped, chose a stall, and gingerly perched my bedecked self on the only seat available for the feeding business at hand, and the solicitous attendant departed to spend the rest of the evening giving me odd looks whenever she passed.
I was not alone long however. Soon, the empty bathroom boasted a line. A quiet, patient, polite line, thinking I know not what as my daughter entertained them with most un-bathroom-like noises. (This was to be her loud feeding of the day.) Gulp. Slurp. Slurp. Smack. Sigh. Belch. And I died a thousand deaths to pride, pondering if I should make some sort of announcement, like, “I’m sure you are all wondering what on earth is going on in here, but actually I’m just feeding my kid on the toilet.”
But I lived to tell the tale! J And most of my life is not as embarrassing, as I tend to keep to circles where spit up is not greeted with panic…The highlights of our year definitely included lots of time spent with other young families. And Dan got to usher in two weddings of dear friends and godfathers of our kids, both down south, in mid July! I got to attend one and waddle my dance moves in my maternity best. I was also a (pregnant) brides-matron in the spring for my brother’s wedding. After four years of no weddings, I got to attend four in one year, each with a baby bump. Now I have lots and lots of casual and professional pictures of my plumpest self. Very funny, people—Very funny.
Despite the recurring loss of vanity, we are so grateful for the many blessings in our lives. Materially, we acquired the aforementioned mature (yet almost presentable) blue minivan this year, and also a new roof for our house, courtesy of a gang of helpful-if-amateur teens. A full week of prying and pounding and some picture re-hanging in late-June left us with a leak-free upper storey, ready for finishing, so that the six of us can someday stretch out a bit beyond our current 1,000 square feet of house space. Most of all, we are grateful to our God for our children: a very tall 9-year-old violin-scratcher, who is equally enthusiastic as a little mother to her baby sisters and as a basketball player; a similarly-sized 8-year-old aspiring harpist whose social charms and expansive vocabulary have many teachers and friends wrapped around her little finger; a toddler with infectious laughter who blesses herself in every puddle; and a peaceably pudgy infant whose gummy smiles light up our world.
We hope you all are doing well too! You are all in our thoughts and prayers; thank you for yours! A very Merry Christmas and blessed 2012 to you all!
Yours truly, from the land of little women and one big guy,
Katie, Dan, Annemarie, Claire, Cecilia, and Felicity