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Monday, September 01, 2014
Tuesday, August 05, 2014
You are coming into your own, Celia Joy. You are still full of smiles, but new skills and opinions are surfacing every day.
On vacation last week, I rocked you to sleep one afternoon, your damp forehead nestled against my shoulder. I looked at you in the mirror and saw suddenly how big you have become, how your face has matured, how your frame has stretched. Your babyhood is fleeting Celia, slipping away from us daily, and it is both sad and exciting.
You're on the edge of mobility. You've been sitting without support for weeks now. You can roll and scoot your way backwards across the floor. Every day, your ability to stand while holding on to the ottoman or play table increases. You can even pull yourself from sitting to standing in your crib and take wobbly steps across the floor when I hold on to both of your pudgy little hands.
But you want more. I can see it in your searching eyes, hear it in your frustrated cries. You want to be able to do it all yourself, and I see in you echoes of your big sister's determination, her all-consuming desire to "go-go."
You're eating more solid foods now. You love applesauce, sweet potatoes, and avocado and can pop frozen peas and sweet potato puffs into your mouth with ease. You love gulping water from the sippy cup you can hold yourself.
You can clap and wave, and you're playing with sounds. You especially love saying "da-da," and I think you might know what it means. I've only heard you say "ma-ma" once, which makes me a bit sad, until you are in your crib at 5:30 a.m. saying "da-da" and I get to roll over and tell your Daddy you are calling for him.
Your demeanor is still pleasant, characterized by joy, but you are no longer passively watching the world go by. You are finding your voice, pulling and grabbing your way into the world, into the little universe of our family. We will miss your sweet, snuggly days, but we look forward to knowing more of you, to the ways our family will grow through the gift of your emerging personality.
Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Prior to kids, I looked forward to our week-long summer beach trip all year long. It was a precious opportunity to sleep late, enjoy leisurely conversation with my husband and family, read my way through piles of books, and nap in the sunshine to the sound of ocean waves.
When Ellie was just a few months old and parenthood was still new, we took her to the beach for a long weekend with my parents. I remember that trip clearly: the rhythm of feedings that had to be continued, day and night, the difficulty of squeezing in a few hours on the beach in between naps, the never-ending stuff that had to be carted with us everywhere we went.
I learned that summer that vacation with a child was, well, pretty much like being at home with a child: days filled with caring for the needs of another. If anything, vacation threw off our routines and made us all extra tired and cranky. I sometimes wondered if it was worth it, especially the next summer, when one year-old Ellie started every morning of our week-long beach trip well before 5 a.m.
Amy Julia Becker describes this phenomenon well in her recent post entitled "When Summer Vacation is Hard." She's right about pretty much all of it: the high expectations we have for vacationing with our children, the difficult reality of traveling with babies and toddlers, the increasing pay-offs as children age.
What Becker doesn't address, however, is what those of us with small children are supposed to do about this, besides look forward to the days when our children are older. Do we, as one of my Facebook friends suggested in response to the article, skip the family vacation and spend our money on a couples trip sans kids? Do we adjust our expectations, drink extra coffee, and hope for the best? Do we just stay home?
All are valid choices, even good choices. There is wisdom in recognizing the limitations of this season of life and not investing a lot of money and energy on vacations that are far from restful.
But, fresh off a weekend trip to the beach with another family, well aware of the burdens of vacationing with a toddler and a baby, or in this case, two toddlers and two babies, I'd like to suggest another approach: embracing the realities of stressful car rides and sandy bath tubs and dinners where no one gets to finish a sentence, choosing to believe that the chaos and the extra work and the missed sleep are all, in fact, worth it.
They are worth it, in part, because my three year-old can now appreciate and remember the experience. She is old enough to spend a blissful day at the beach digging and splashing and sipping juice boxes, and her delight is mine too, a delight worth the days of laundry, packing, and driving that made those few happy hours possible.
But there's more than that. Vacationing with kids is worth it because it is real, because in the clash between expectation and reality, desire and duty, our truest selves emerge. We receive the gift of seeing ourselves and others as we really are: in our pajamas, before coffee, before make-up, when our toddler was up in the middle of the night and our baby is screaming for breakfast. It isn't always pretty, but it is how real relationships are made.
When I think back on this weekend, on the other trips we've taken with our kids and other friends and family members, I can think of many of these real moments: of tantrums and snappy comments and tension and occasional outright arguments. They've often felt like the moments that need to be endured in hopes of getting to the good stuff: the post-bedtime ice cream and pleasant conversations, the laughter.
Don't get me wrong. I'd rather it all be easy and fun. But I can look back and see that I know my family and friends better, that our relationships are deeper, because I took my kids on vacation with them.
In a culture where so much of what we call relating happens virtually, via status updates and filtered images, there is real value, I think, in doing life together for a few days, even and perhaps especially when doing life involves the ceaselessly hard and very real work of caring for small children.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
You love them.
I know this because I see what you do. I see you roll out of bed night after night, the first one up to change diapers or wet sheets. I see you welcoming a pancake making assistant when I know her presence makes the process longer, more difficult. I see you say no when it would be easier to say yes. I see you put aside money each month for their college funds. I see you hold and tickle and snuggle and just enjoy being with them.
I know this because I watch them with you. I see the big one's face light up when you come home from work, watch her put down her toys and run full force across our little court to your arms. I hear her request a Daddy-Daughter Date, beg for a run with you in the jogging stroller. I see a smile spread across the little one's face at the sight of you, her cheeks round and joyful. I see them both in your arms, and there is trust and contentment and peace.
I know this because you grieve the one we lost. We mourned her together, and I was never more sure I'd married the right man. You wore the cuff links with her footprints to your brother's wedding. When you pray for her, there are still tears.
You love them.
There are lot of things I could say about you on Father's Day, but I think this is the most important one. Our girls know the love of their father, and in that, you are giving them a priceless gift.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
We left early and ate McDonald's in the car while she slept, tracing the familiar back roads through Maryland and Delaware to Bethany Beach, where I've vacationed nearly every summer of my life. We spent the day in the sun, digging and splashing and eating our favorite French fries, and it felt good to be a family and to enjoy life even while our hearts were full with the missing of you.
Last year, we repeated our journey near the one-year anniversary of your death. We decided to make it a yearly pilgrimage, a way to remember you, to keep your life part of the rhythms of our family.
Then, your little sister was growing in my belly, and our grief had softened, mellowed. Still fighting pregnancy-related fatigue and nausea, I spent most of the day in my beach chair, watching your Daddy and sister run in and out of the surf. At night, after dinner, we stood with our feet in the lapping waves. Your Daddy thanked God for you and your life and asked Him to take good care of you for us. His voice broke, and my eyes welled with tears.
We went again two weeks ago, both of your sisters in tow. It was a colder day than the previous years, the air misty with cool rain when we arrived. We ate the lunch I'd packed indoors, at your great-grandparents' beach house table, and we talked about you to Ellie. She'd been too small to understand the previous years, but we wanted her to know about you, to grow up understanding that you are a part of our family.
She wanted to know why you died. She wanted there to be a way to make your heart start beating again. And then, finally accepting that this could not be, she wanted to die too and go to Heaven to see you. Your Daddy and I hugged her and cried with our arms wrapped tight around her, and then we all went to the beach where she ran and played like her normal water-loving self. We stuck Celia's toes in the water for the first time, and we all reveled in her shock and then delight.
Ellie talks about you every few days now. She knows she has another little sister. She's learned how to say your name. She still wants all of us to come see you in Heaven.
I'm glad she is learning to know the little bit of you that she can, glad that your life is teaching her and all of us something of eternity.
Wednesday, June 04, 2014
"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?
Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel." -James 4:1-2
For months, everyone's been telling me that three is a harder age than two. Still, the intensity with which you are willing to battle over the smallest of things continues to surprise me. This morning, it was the long-sleeve Ravens shirt you were determined to wear, even though it's supposed to approach 90 degrees this afternoon.
"I want to be cold," you wailed, even after I suggested a compromise: you could put the long-sleeve shirt on top of a short-sleeve one until you got too hot.
A few times recently, at the height of your distress over losing a battle of the wills, you've stubbornly declared, "I want God to take the whole world apart," as if to say that if you can't have your way, the entirety of creation might as well be destroyed.
It's made me smile to hear you say that, even in the midst of my frustration and, yes, anger with your outbursts. It's an apt way to describe it, that desperate desire for control we all feel from time to time. Sometimes, it really does seem like if we can't have things our way, the world should just come to an end.
I'm trying to remember this Ellie-girl, when our battles arise, that though it feels like you and I are at odds, like I simply need to win, the truth is that we are both fighting the same thing: the cravings of hearts that want to control. You want to wear sparkly black shoes and white socks with jean shorts, to eat chocolate for lunch. I want peace, quiet, order.
I can delude myself into thinking that my desires are more valid and therefore more important. Perhaps they are. I've had about 30 extra years to refine them. But the deeper truth is this: we are both desperate sinners, and we both in desperate need of a Savior.
If you being three can teach us both this, it will be a good year indeed.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
I've started reading again. The past few nights, I've found myself curled into my easy chair with a book. A genuine, for-pleasure, not-for-my-kids-or-for-Bible-study book. Two books in fact because (gasp!) I actually finished one book last night and then started another.
It's hard for me to explain this sudden renewal of my love for reading, my choice to finally pick up two books that have been sitting on my nightstand and coffee table for almost a year. Perhaps its the fact that our Hulu Plus queue is finally empty. Or maybe a friend's recent mention of one of the books was enough to get me started. I'm not entirely sure.
I can tell you this with certainty, however; I am not reading again because I've finally gotten my life in order. Last night, while I read, there was a long task list waiting on my phone, clean laundry wrinkling in my dryer, even a poopy cloth diaper sitting in the bathroom, waiting to be rinsed. Gross, I know, but the point is made. I am not reading again because I've found free time.
In fact, I think perhaps I'm reading again because I've realized there will never (at least in the foreseeable future) be free time. I will always be tired. There will always be things to do. No amount of running around all night is going to get me caught up.
I think perhaps I am finally learning to choose rest, to carve out little spaces for my soul in the midst of all the chatter and craziness of life. For most of my parenting career, I've been fleeing my weariness with the satisfactions of productivity or with the mindless distractions of Facebook and TV.
But in reading again, I'm starting to remember. Reading feeds me. It helps me think and dream and process and be still long enough to know what I am feeling. It helps me write. It helps me be me.
You smile. A lot. You smile when I come into your room after a nap, a big grin lighting up your whole face when you see me. You smile when someone says hello to you, then shyly bury your face in my shoulder. You smile at your sister, eyes tracking her while she spins and sings and dances.
The other day, your Daddy said to me: "I hope she's okay. She just smiles so much!" And I laughed because he's always the one telling me that I find crazy things to worry about.
You are more than okay, baby girl. You are a beautiful, babbling, bouncing source of joy in our lives.
You regularly start my mornings at 5:30 a.m. You eat and sleep on your own terms, making it impossible for me to plan my day and difficult for us to leave the house. You can't crawl yet or sit for more than a few seconds, but you're no longer to content to rest in a bouncy seat for long periods of time. You want to be held, carried, played with. And thanks to your GI issues, I'm still eating more quinoa than I'd ever imagined possible.
You do not make my life easy, my Celia, but you do make me smile. Your demeanor is characterized by joy, and your joy is contagious.