Monday, April 22, 2013

You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby

*It's okay to cry when you start measuring your baby's age in months instead of weeks.  *sniff*

Two Months Old

"So, is he an easy baby?" she asked.
"Yes... oh, he is such a wonderful baby," was my reply.
But, then as I was driving home I started thinking, wait a minute...  I'm thinking the standard definition of an easy baby would include things like sleeps well during the day... long stretches of silence through the night... can happily entertain himself when awake... patient... happy with a pacifier... quick nurser...

We have had easy babies before.  But, Timothy is none of these things.  He's certainly not a hard baby, but he wants to be held and cuddled at all times through the day and his tiny tummy still gets hungry every three hours - even through the night.  So I started wondering, what is it about this sweet baby that makes my initial reaction one of 'yes... oh, he is such a wonderful baby'?  

And, you know, I think it's because my perspective is entirely different this time.  I've finally realized that time steals these days away so, so fast.  With my other kids, time seemed as sluggish as... well... a slug maybe.  But when little TK wakes up for the second time at night for his hour long feeding session I somehow internally know that this will not last forever.  In fact, it won't even last very long. And this strangely gives me permission to enjoy it and to see through the fatigue to his tiny eyes and see that, oh, he is such a wonderful baby.

With beautiful eyelashes.  Seriously.  All three of my boys have super long eyelashes.  (Good thing my sweet McKenzie is beautiful enough that she doesn't need them.) 

He's just recently found his hands and entertains himself by watching them move in front of his face.  Doesn't his little smile in this picture make you giggle?  Hey! he thinks, There's that crazy thing again! 

 *Eye control is over-rated

Even so, Timothy is starting to succumb to social pressures and get his eyes aligned.  When he's relaxed one of his eyes has generally drifted outwards from the other (exotropia, my ophthalmologist husband informs me) and it's been fun to watch him try to bring things into focus by over correcting and ending up looking like this. 

*Son, this is Bacon

Brian has been happy to teach Timothy about the finer things in life

*Son, this is Life

 McKenzie is quite sure Timothy does not really need to pay attention in scripture study because "He really probably still remembers Heavenly Father and Jesus.  So anything we read he would just think, 'I already know this!'  Plus, I think he sees angels in the lights, because you know how people say that God is, like, well, they describe God as being kind of, like, light?" 

*Angels or not, he certainly is fascinated by lights

After seeing this picture, who else is thinking of Harry the mosquito?
Harry's friend: No!  Harry, No!  Don't look at the light!
Harry: I can't help it... It's so beautiful... *ZAP*
I might feel bad for Harry if I didn't dislike mosquitoes so intensely.

*Face-plant time

They call it tummy-time.  And the kids think it's hilarious and cruel at the same time.  "I don't *giggle, giggle* think he likes this, Mom *giggle, giggle*," Carson says as he watches Timothy grunt and struggle to pull his head up.  I agree.  "But, exercise is important... even for babies," I reply.

*Forks and Baby Eyes should never connect

After hearing intense giggling at the dinner table while we were setting the last of the food out, Brian and I looked over to see Timothy sitting on McKenzie's lap, holding a fork in one hand.  It would have been a seriously cute picture, but safety won over cuteness and we quickly removed the safety hazard and explained that babies do not have control over their actions and that forks and eyes should be kept apart.

*Real Babies are way more fun than Baby Dolls

Oh sweet baby... I go back and forth between feeling so happy for you that you have so many people under one roof who love you, and feeling so sorry for you that you have so many people under one roof who love you.


*Snuggling Will Never Get Old

All of my other babies have rejected the idea of snuggling like this.  But little Timothy was happy to snuggle on day one.  And he still is.

I am in no hurry to see it end.

Any of it, really.  My eyes feel a bit like they're opening under two pound weights, but I'll take it if it means I get to have this little guy around.  Because, after all, he is such a wonderful baby.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Every spring I'm reminded about how much ants love our house.  Big ones, small ones, they're all particularly fond of our bathrooms and kitchen and, until we spray, we can always find a trail leading to piles of them underneath our kitchen island or in our wastebaskets.  When I sweep the kitchen floor, I'm left with a squirmy pile of them, running in all directions.  They're fast, but not fast enough to run further than my outstretched broom and they keep getting drawn back into the pile until they're all swept into the dustpan and flicked to a more appropriate ant-home (ie - outside). 

I was thinking about them today.  Most specifically about those moments I've spent sweeping them into a pile and watching them scatter.  I think I'm a bit like one of those ants... consistently following a cycle of being drawn back into the pile (which will ultimately lead to a better life) and wandering away.  But whenever I wander I can expect to feel the soft straw of a broom, held by the Lord, gently push me back to the pile.

Now, I realize this analogy has several holes in it and that there is another analogy that is much, much cleaner and easier to understand involving sheep and a shepherd but... I'm not exactly a shepherd.  I haven't even met a shepherd.  And, I haven't ever touched a sheep outside of a petting zoo. So, it's a little hard for me to put myself in their shoes.  An ANTherd, on the other hand, I know something about.  I've watched the ants scatter, and I've brought them back again and again.  So, that's what we have to go with.

Anyway - my little ant self has been swept back into the pile again.  General Conference has a way of doing that for me.  Every time...

Every six months, Mormons around the world gather to listen to our prophet and other church leaders speak to us.  These talks are dear to me and always, always, I find something (multiple somethings) to strengthen me, uplift me, and encourage me to be a little better and to happily hang in there a little longer. 

This season's message to me was one of peace.  There were so many gentle and bold reminders that the way to feel peace in your hearts and your homes is by obediently following the commandments of God. 

McKenzie listening to our prophet, Thomas S. Monson

I know that.  I've known that for as long as I can remember.  I've not only known that, but I've felt the peace that comes from living the gospel many times over.  Yet, in this trying time of my life where things just seem to be falling apart at every seam, I somehow lost hold of the strongest lifeline I had.  We were barely hanging on through an emotional pregnancy full of the regular fatigue and slothfulness, but we lost our hold when Brian's heart attack almost took him from us We were filled with gratitude and humility for his life... but somehow our family scripture study and prayer were forgotten as seemingly more pressing issues took their place.  Kids' bedtime was hard... Brian was tired, I was big and pregnant tired, and the children were acting out... shaken by the inconsistency of their own little lives.  Somehow the goal of 'getting the children in bed' was a goal of mammoth proportions and, no question, the path of least resistance did not include scripture study and family prayer.  We were lucky if it included brushing teeth.  

McKenzie took the camera for a bit.

Timothy was born smack dab in the middle of it all.  Four and a half weeks early, he gave us something new to start healing from.  So, the healing from the heart attack was put on hold as we adjusted to life with a new baby.  A new small baby who needed to be fed for an hour and a half out of every three.  All the sudden the goal of 'getting the children in bed' was almost insurmountable and the idea of fitting family scripture study and prayer into the routine again was far from our minds.  I did not go to church for several weeks as I healed physically and then as I kept our tiny little one away from the norovirus that was circulating like mad around the halls of our church.   

RSV struck next, and Timothy ended up in the hospital for five painful nights.  I had no sustaining power left and I crashed emotionally.  I had not been to church, had not been reading my scriptures, had not been praying for several weeks and felt the consequences of those choices while I sat in the hospital, again, needing faith.  I was frustrated and angry with the seemingly never ending trials that were being heaped upon me and wondered how we were going to put our lives back together. Again.  All the while gutting out closets and cupboards, recaulking baseboards, packing boxes, rearranging furniture, and scrubbing the house down to its bare bones to get it on the market.

A couple of weeks later I went to church for the first time since Timothy's birth.  "Has anyone seen my scriptures?" I asked as I packed my church bag.  I hadn't seen them for six weeks.  Prayers started seeping their way back into my life (though inconsistent) and I started feeling... better.  A little bit.  Easter came and went and I felt sad that I had not thought much about Christ during that important holiday.  So one night in the week between Easter and Conference Sunday I knelt and poured my heart out to the Lord. 
"This hurts, and this hurts," I explained.  "This is not going well and this is making me frustrated.  I feel angry because of this and ... I'm just a mess.  Please help me get back on my feet."  I wiped my tears and climbed into bed.  

Sunday Afternoon Session - why is that the hardest one to stay awake through?

The following morning my brain hummed along to the tune of Count Your Many Blessings and, as I brushed my teeth, I noticed it.  Having not heard or sung that song in a long, long time, I realized that this must be the answer to the prayer I had cried out the night before. 

So, I did.  I started counting my blessings, and that morning I worked hard to only thank the Lord for the things I was grateful for in my prayer.  And I felt happier almost instantly.  My testimony grew that morning in two ways. 1) I was reminded that the Lord really does hear our prayers.  And he answers them, too.  2) I also developed a testimony of the power of positive thinking and that counting your blessings (along with prayer) can help. 

Another of Kenzie's pics.  Busted.  Now you know we eat oranges on our carpet sometimes.

General Conference came the following weekend.  And my prayer was answered further.  Be obedient.  Be consistent.  And have peace.  

Our circumstances have not changed.  In fact, one could argue that they've gotten worse since selling our house is not going very well... but that peacefulness that comes from living the gospel is coming back into our home and I suppose that's what this life is all about anyway.  Learning to live gracefully and faithfully through these hard years.  These hard years that we call Life.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Don't Know if you Heard....

... but Easter came this year.

Last year I vowed that we would never have a thrown together Easter again.  I was bothered by the fact that we spent so little relative time on Easter compared to Christmas, when each holiday is centered around one of the two greatest events in history.  Don't you think the resurrection of Christ should get just as much celebration as his birth?  One without the other wouldn't have made much of a difference, but the sum of both of them together is perhaps the most powerful combination known.

Vows don't seem to hold as much weight as they did in biblical times, however.

And we had ourselves a very thrown together Easter again this year.


Good thing we can try again next year!

McKenzie spent Easter-Eve in soap shavings and various pocket knives carving a bunny she set out as a gift for the Easter Bunny.  She had read a novel called Becoming Naomi Leon the night before in which the main character (a young girl such as herself) had a talent in carving soap into beautiful creations.  The book inspired McKenzie to devote a few hours to this project.

Pretty good, huh?  I was surprised so proud of her.  She then took a few seconds to throw together a little note.  If only she would apply her slow and careful carving hands to her handwriting... we could go places.

Then again, I'm a bit of a perfectionist... so maybe she could teach me a few things about just 'getting it done'.

Easter morning brought happy surprises.  And the Easter Bunny got my memo that we didn't want much candy this year.  Instead, the kids found several puzzle pieces in their Easter eggs that, when combined together and assembled, gave great clues to where they could find their prize.  I totally should have taken pictures of the final puzzles because, that Easter Bunny did an awesome job in her his illustrations!  The kids followed the clues to two different puzzles and found Duke hats (to tie to North Carolina) and flip flops (to tie to Miami) in the end.

Another hit of Easter came from Grandma.  Who knew three jumping chicks could bring so much joyful laughter!  (And, I have to admit, I was laughing at them, too.)

After church I shuttled the kids outside to snag some pictures of them in their Easter clothes.  Bribes may have been involved... and I guessed wrong at where the good light would be, so the pictures aren't great, but they're good, and the kids didn't dissolve into a puddle of tears by the end so... success.  And... I realized later that I do have another child that should have probably been included in these.  Hm.  Sorry TK.  Next year, I guess. (Besides, I may have had to choose between Miles and Timothy because I'm not entirely sure that Miles would have cooperated had Timothy been close enough to him to be in the same picture...) 

Here... we'll throw in a random picture of TK, too, because he's just so adorable.

Grandma had taken McKenzie out the week before to find an Easter dress for her and, boy, did they have a great time.  I think it was the highlight of Grandma's entire visit for both her and McKenzie.  (Holding Timothy might have been a close second for Grandma, though.)  McKenzie came back with two different outfits.  "The boys each got three things," Grandma justified.  "A shirt, a tie and pants... so McKenzie needed three things too.  A dress, a skirt, and a shirt."  Grandma told me later that a common phrase used during their shopping trip as they pulled things from the racks was, "Ohhhh, this looks very Miami."  So, behold... McKenzie's Miami Dress:

The boys got Miami shirts, too (ie: short sleeved), and seemed just about as thrilled as they ever are with new clothes.  Which is somewhere between thrilled and indifferent.

Happy (Two-Weeks-After) Easter!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Rock Star of the Biome Bonanza Kind

Lest you think Carson is the only science lover in our house, let me introduce you to this ecstatic silver medalist:

Want to know everything there is to know about rocks?  Ever wondered what the differences between sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks are?  This girl knows her stuff!  She'll tell you how rocks are formed and give you examples of each.  Need a rock identified?  You've come to the right place!  She studied for months to be able to participate in this year's Science Olympiad, where mind athletes of all kinds came from several schools to compete with one another.  And, boy, was she excited to be part of this team!

There were several science categories that these kids competed in... and McKenzie chose two for herself: Rock Star (where she learned all about rocks) and Biome Bonanza (where she studied the different biomes of the world).  Nerves set in the night before the competition and she spent the evening feeling sick in her stomach.

The feelings of nervousness were accompanied by excitement when she woke up the next morning.  It was time.  It was time to prove what months of studying and preparation could do.
"I just hope I get a medal," she said longingly as she put her shoes on her feet.
"I do, too, Kenz.  I want you to shoot for the best," I said.  "But, *insert teaching moment* just remember that you already have something that is way more precious than a medal... do you know what that is?"
She looked at me with a confused look and sincerely thought about what that might be.  After a few seconds she slowly shook her head.
"Knowledge," I said.  A smile of excitement broke across her face that warmed me to my toes and I continued, "Even if you don't get a medal today, you have learned so much about different things in this world, and that will stay with you forever and ever.  That's what I'm proud of you for.  And, if you get a medal, that would be awesome, too."

Down on Duke campus, kids dealt with the stress of the day in different ways.  Staring off into space... nervous smiles... picking noses...

...and they competed behind closed doors - but I can just see McKenzie milling around to the different tables of rocks in her Rock Star competition, checking boxes as she identified the hard lumps and answering all other sorts of other rocky questions.  She came away from those rocks knowing she had done well... and what an awesome feeling that is!  Her biome bonanza competition was not as easy for her, but she did her best and felt happy in the things that she did know instead of frustrated at the things she did not (such a skill that I'm still trying to develop).  And after all competitions were completed, the kids ate pizza and played in the beautiful sunshine while the judges graded the papers and tallied the scores.

Soon the results were in and all the kids assembled in the assembly hall.  The excitement was electrifying! 

At one point during the awards ceremony McKenzie turned around, caught my eye, and mouthed the words, "THIS. IS. SO. COOL!"  The awards for Biome Bonanza came relatively early, as they were going in alphabetical order, and she did not receive a medal.  I watched her like a hawk, my emotional sensors on hyper-alert to try and pick up her reaction and was delighted to see her clapping with vigor for her teammates who won the medals (who happened to be the two cute kids sitting right in front of me).  There wasn't any disappointment at all!  I realized in that moment that she was completely enveloped in team spirit... a victory for her school was a victory for her.

Even so, I have to admit that I held my breath and crossed my fingers when the awards for the Rock Star competition started to be announced... and - joy of joys - her name was called for the silver medal. 

Oh, was she excited.  Several times throughout the rest of the day I heard her mutter to herself, I just can't believe I have this medal.  She even wore it to bed that night. 

We are proud of you Kenz... proud of you for winning a medal, sure.  But, mostly proud of you for diligently studying.  For learning and for applying yourself, for going through with something even though you were nervous, for feeling proud of your biome bonanza performance even with the lack of a medal and for displaying such team spirit.

We LOVE you, sister!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Hold Still while I Shine this Flashlight in Your Face

*Carson is awesome.  He does science experiments. 

This boy needs to make a laminated sign that says But, How Does It Work? and carry it around with him everywhere he goes.  That way he could just flash the sign and save the breath.  He's interested in science, mathematics, nature, physics... asking questions like, 'but how does the electricity charge the battery?' and 'how does the poison from the spider make you sick' and 'how can hair actually grow in your belly?' (he was most disturbed when he saw that Timothy had hair - apparently growing the rest of a human body is acceptable, but hair crosses the line.)  So when news came home from school about the science fair, I knew he would love it. I was totally right.

He and Brian spent some fun time together talking about and executing their experiment.  The question:  How do different lights affect pupil size?
The experiment enrolled several willing participants, one rather forced participant (sorry for shining bright lights in your eyes, Timothy!), lots of different lights, and a find-the-pupil-size chart (I'm sure that's the technical name for it).

Miles was ecstatic to be the headlamp guy.

The day of the science fair finally arrived and, because we are all procrastinators at our house, we had yet to make the poster.  Procrastination is never fun, but this one bit us pretty hard because we had a tiny baby in the ICU on this day... but Brian was excited and happy to help Carson put the poster together while I stayed at the hospital, and I'm almost certain that they had more fun without me there suggesting that they cut the lines a little straighter, or position the pictures a little more symmetrically, or wouldn't putting a mat underneath each picture make it look better?  My poor family.  I was super impressed with their poster, but I was even more impressed with Carson's ability to explain it all.  He did awesome!  And he had such a great time doing it.  The kids he taught were so enthralled with his short explanations and (mostly) at the demonstration part when Brian took the flashlight and showed the kids exactly what Carson had been talking about.  Awesome! they said.  Wow!  Cool!  Carson felt like a million bucks.

Love, love, love it when my kids feel fulfilled by things other than receiving candy.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Windows through time

"Can you believe we used to do this?" my dad asked.  His question was directed at my mother in the early hours of the morning as he held my newborn son.  Brian and I had left Timothy in their care and had gone to bed to try to chip away at the gigantic block of sleep deprivation we'd built.  I did not watch them take care of Timothy that night; but I think I know what it looked like. 

I'm sure there was a tenderness.  A sense of awe and beauty and love.  There must have been because I had already noticed it in my parents' eyes and in the way they cradled Timothy's tiny body close to their own. And somehow those feelings are magnified in the quietest hours of the early morning when a sleeping baby lay nestled in your arms.  I know what that's like... I've felt those feelings, too. 
Tired, so very tired, but eyes unable to close because that face is just. so. precious.
And Beautiful.
And Miraculous.

Watching my parents love my newborn has found its way into the small and growing list of precious treasures written in my heart.  This was the first time they have been able to stay in my home to help with a baby and I feel so blessed to have had the experience.  With my first, they lived close by - close enough that they came for many visits, but not to stay.  With the next two, they were all the way around the world serving missions in Thailand.  But this time... this time they were able to come to our home, sleep under our roof, and soak in that tiny baby through all hours of the day.  And through the magic of the night.

And I was able to watch them.

As I watched them a tiny window was opened into my past.  Seeing Timothy tucked tightly in the folds of Dad's arms... I was there once, too.  Seeing Mom's whole face brighten with the delight of newborn expressions... she brightened with my own once, too. 

And then a window to my future... one day, as I'm holding a grandchild, will I turn to Brian and ask, Can you believe we used to do this?  In that day, will I remember these days with the clarity I hope for?  Will I remember the way that Timothy smelled and softness of that tiny patch of skin just below his cheeks?  Will I remember the way his newborn smile fills me with delightful emotions strong enough to elicit tears and the way his cry of pain touches my soul?  Will I remember the softness and sweet smell of a pile of freshly laundered muslin blankets and of his clean little body wrapped in one?

I hope so.  But if not, I'll answer my future question with a resounding yes.  Yes, you did used to do this.  The nights were sometimes long and hard and the days sometimes exhausting.  But the peace of a baby - your baby - made it beautiful.  Worth it all. 

And, oh, how you loved it.

PS - aren't my mom's eyes beautiful?