Friday, December 26, 2008

Not Pretty Enough

The title of this post is taken from one of my favorite Kasey Chambers songs. You can see the video here. Be patient, it takes about 20 seconds to load. When the video is over you'll need to press pause or navigate from the page, it loops automatically.

Some days I just feel fat and ugly, no matter what. It was such a day a few days ago, the day that Brent and I did our final Christmas shopping and I tried on a sweater I liked. I decided to buy it even though I thought I would look much better in it at about 15 pounds lighter. It is a red sweater, and I wanted to wear red this Christmas for some inexplicable reason. (Anyone who knows me knows I don't generally dress to be "festive", and I've been known to wear mourning clothes for Christmas.)

Anyway, that night Brent and I were surfing the web together in our Des Moines hotel room as dear Willow slept, and he came across a slide show "When Stars Have a Bad Day". Some of the shots are just normal aging, so whatever... some of them though are totally gross shots of women who have done way, way, way to much to try to look good (or just "partied" too much), ruining their bodies in the process. Check out #s 8, 13, 14, 17, 24, and 25 especially. These are some sad pics, especially, to me, a child of the 80's, the pictures of Madonna. I know it's kind of mean in a way, but if you are ever feeling fat and ugly, these are the pictures for you, guaranteed you will end the gawk session feeling better about yourself. And happy about the fact that you have not tried to lose weight to much, too fast. Or gotten to many lifts of whatever sort. Or worn your heels too high for too long.

But then I started feeling crappy about the sadness of it all. I loved Madonna in her heyday, and have always appreciated her scrappy attitude toward authority, including self-proclaimed authorities on fashion. She also had a real body, not chubby at all but muscular, gorgeous, tight, and real. You could imagine knowing someone, maybe even more than one, with a body like that. Now, she has taken on that look of a woman who is aging without grace, without acceptance, and possibly (seriously) without food. The picture of her in this slide show shows her looking, well, really anorexic. I am saddened by the apparent dissolution of her confidence. She was never an especially well balanced personality, being well known for her arrogance and intense hunger for fame, but to my teenage eyes she was tough, no nonsense, and didn't take crap from anyone, making her obvious faults very forgivable. But this picture shows her just looking sad, drained, worn out, spent, and done for. Ah, I do cry for you Madonna.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

An Open Letter to Barack Obama and Pastor Rick Warren

Dear President-Elect Obama and Pastor Rick Warren:

I was at first dismayed and appalled at the idea of Rick Warren delivering the invocation at your inauguration. When I first heard of the choice I must admit I was incredulous that you would give someone who, despite his intelligence in some matters, appears to wish gays and lesbians did not exist. As of merely couple of weeks ago, the Saddleback church did not welcome "unrepentant" gays and lesbians, and even has had an outreach program to "help" gays and lesbians choose a heterosexual lifestyle.

But then a few important things happened. Pastor Warren, you displayed the courage of your convictions when you stood up to folks who did not want you delivering the invocation for someone such as Barack Obama, who has stood very clearly for overall civil rights for the LGBT community (to the unfortunate exclusion of full marriage). You also accepted an invitation to dinner from Melissa Etheridge, a prominent lesbian who is married and has children, and who has been very outspoken in defense of marriage rights for same sex couples. I applaud you for having the courage to act in a Christ-like way and open yourself up to knowing and loving people you may disagree with deeply.

President-Elect Obama, I am glad America is getting a President like yourself, someone who is willing to stick his neck out and make hard decisions, who is willing to challenge his base in order to further dialog on important issues such as LGBT rights, as well as to make common cause with someone such as Pastor Warren. Not only did Pastor Warren omit some of the most egregious text on church website within a few days of the controversy breaking open, he also does much more for the poor and disadvantaged of the world than most. His practice of reverse tithing (giving 90% of his income instead of 10%) and his work to help those with HIV/AIDS are admirable.

However, I must publicly take issue with you both on your positions regarding same sex marriage. President-Elect, I was a little disappointed, yet only slightly surprised, to read in your book The Audacity of Hope that you "believe that American society can choose to carve out a special place for the union of a man and a woman as the unit of child rearing most common to every culture."

Even though you do go on to state that you support full legal rights for same sex couples (hospital visitation, property rights, etc.), this is cold comfort to those who want the recognition of their secular and/or spiritual communities as married couples. Denying this recognition I think is not only gratuitous, but also cruel. Especially doing it in the name of "a special place... for child rearing". According to the "State of Our Unions 2007" by the Marriage Project at Rutgers University, marriage as an institution is in decline overall, and large numbers of children grow up in single parent or otherwise "fragile" households.

In this environment, then, it seems nonsensical to deny the right to marry to a population who could, conceivably, renew the institution and offer loving, two parent households to children with the same security and rights that opposite sex couples can offer their children. Furthermore, in this time of tight budgets, why not simply open marriage up to same sex couples, instead of starting what would surely be a cumbersome process of creating an entirely new legal category called "civil union"? If you truly do believe in giving the same rights to same sex couples, I see no legitimate reason not to call it "marriage".

Of course, we could instead drop marriage altogether as a legal category, call all unions "civil unions", and let the religious institutions do the marrying. However, I think this would be more cumbersome than simply opening up marriage, and also smacks of a sort of "if we can't keep it for ourselves, then no one can have it."

I hope you will both do some serious soul searching in the months to come and change your positions on same sex marriage. It seems to me fairly certain that within the next generation same sex marriage will become a reality in this country. Which side of history do you want to be on?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wondrous Snow

As I write this it's been snowing now for over 2 hours here in Seattle. It is dark out, and the snow is glowing in the air as it falls. Willow and Brent are asleep in the bedroom. I had to get up and take pictures of the garden, and cover a few plants. I have some Clarkia amoena given to me by another native plant enthusiast in gallon containers, and though it is hardy I wanted to be sure to protect the seedlings since the pots are currently full of tiny leafy little plants. When we return from our trip to the Midwest at the end of December I'll plant them in the ground as soon as the weather permits.

Though I despise the cold, I have always loved snow. The way it cleans everything up, and reminds us of who we are in the world. The silence of the glistening flakes, each one unique, falling to the ground. The way the new snow glows and lights up the night sky. The cozyness of being inside as the snow falls outside. The adventure of snow angels and incalculably tall mounds made by snow plows. The skiing. And tonight, the wonder of our dear daughter as she looked at the snow falling and kept repeating, long past her bedtime, "It nofing outide, it nofing outide!" We always say goodnight to our dog, who pretty much lives outside, and goodnight to the outside, before we have "night night time". As I took her outside to say goodnight, we saw the snow and I told her about it. She has seen snow before, but this is her first time being old enough to really experience it fully. Brent went outside and brought some snow in for Willow to hold, and we watched it melt together in Brent's hand and then in Willow's hand. The look on her face... well, I wish sometimes that I had a video camera implanted in my eyes. I love to watch her little face light up with amazement and wonder, and that it did tonight as she held the snow and watched it melt.

Even more amazing is that, though she went to the window many times as I read her her bedtime stories and rocked her in the rocking chair, she actually consented to lie down not too far after her usual bedtime, and went to sleep. Brent suggested that tomorrow she might catch some snowflakes on her tongue, if it is still snowing. She was all about that as she ran back and forth from the rocker to the window, talking about the snow. I hope it keeps on snowing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Weaning Continues

Well, I'm sitting in my living room typing this as my lovely and dear husband lies down next to our dear and sweet daughter, waiting for her to finally sleep. This past week or so since weaning, Willow has been going to bed late and having a bit of trouble with sleeping... finding everything to distract her from the task at hand. If she has milk in her sippy, she wants it exchanged for Pediasure. If it's Pediasure, it must be exchanged for "plain milk". No matter how many dolls and animals are on the bed, of course it is the one that is left in the living room or tucked into her play oven that she must have, NOW. For the first few nights with no mama milk I gave her a bit of leeway, going back into the kitchen or the living room once or twice for supplies. But after that little grace period, I stopped the practice and instead I make a big to-do about getting everything before entering the bedroom... which liquid in the sippy, which animal to take into the bedroom, which book, does she have her binky.

Not surprisingly, that helps alleviate any of my own possible guilt, but still and all Willow knows how to party hearty until the rooster crows if she isn't reigned in. She'll want to switch to the rocker from the bed. Or to the bed from the rocker. Or go from mommy & daddy's bed to Willow's bed. Or back again. And on and on.

Brent just came out of the bedroom... at only 9:30! She's been typically not falling asleep until 10 or 10:30. He said he "laid down the law", and wouldn't let her change sides of the bed or get in the rocker or...

I like this daddy putting to bed thing, very luxurious for me! It can only happen when Brent comes home from work early, since he often doesn't get off from work until 9 or 9:30 at night. But on nights when he'll be home earlier, I'll be doing the first part of bedtime: reading the stories, tucking into bed, and lying down for 15 minutes. Then Brent will come in after we've been lying down for 15 minutes. I think it's going to work like a charm.

Willow has been amazing about weaning. She will ask to nurse sometimes, and she will cry about it sometimes, but when asked "Do you still get mama milk?" She always says "No". We talk about missing mama milk, and that it's ok to feel sad, but now there is "No more mama milk".

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Time Passes

Wow, how did it get to be November... I'm sitting at Starbucks at 7:21, sipping tea and typing. Today is the second day of my 40th year, and the first day of no more mama milk for Willow. I got out of bed at 4:40 this morning, in hopes of making things easier. Willow generally wakes up between 4 and 5 for a little nip before she goes back to sleep, and then again once or twice before finally getting up around 7 or 8. So, on this day, I got up, got dressed and ready to go, packed my laptop and Brent's earphones, my toothbrush, comb, and a few other things, and headed out the door at about 5:45.

The first bus on a Saturday morning stops a half block from our house at 6:01. It is always packed and standing room only. Packed with folks who are just getting on the first bus of the day, packed with nurses and construction workers on their way to work, packed with students going to class or work or somewhere to study.

I was nervous as I crept around the house hoping Willow would remain asleep at least until I left. She did wake up, however, only moments after I got out of bed, but I dutifully ignored her cries and went about my business, having been told by Brent in no uncertain terms that he could, indeed, handle the situation. She didn't cry nearly as long or as hard as I was afraid she might. I was relieved, but also had pangs of feeling a little superfluous, visions of what's to come, I suppose, as my darling girl needs me less and less.

I never envisioned weaning Willow myself, I always had in mind that she would wean on her own, in her own time. However, when I had these soft-focus, halcyon visions I didn't have a clue about the difficulties of nursing even in the best of circustances, much less the changes that would happen as Willow grew out of infancy and into toddlerhood. My determined thoughts of "I would never allow THAT", meaning all the groping, twiddling, and disrobing I had witnessed among my nursing friends with their own toddlers, dissolved in the harsh light of Willow's insistence and my own inability to set some firm boundaries with the little girl I carried, bore, and am now helping to raise. The truth of having had her in my belly all those months, the unimaginable depth of bond which occurred during and shortly after her birth, and her beguiling little face all converged to make it nearly impossible for me to set limits on the nursing. I did, of course, begin to set some limits. After a while I stopped nursing her in public with very few exceptions (e.g. the doctor's office). I began to dislodge her twiddly, pinchy little fingers from the opposite breast, a habit that annoyed me no end. I talked to other moms I knew and asked them about their weaning stories. The biggest thing I found was that the idea of the child weaning herself, all on her own, is largely a myth. Some moms I've talked to have talked of their child self-weaning around a year, and one friend of mine has a daughter who just weaned this summer, shortly before entering kindergarten. But between 1 and 5, if a child weans it is usually not of his own accord. My friend whose daughter just recently weaned at just shy of 5 years is the most ideal of weaning stories, as I had originally envisioned. And this friend is one of the few moms I've talked to who was able to set boundaries early, firmly, and without guilt. She began setting boundaries even when her daughter was still a baby by most standards: older than a year, but not yet into toddlerhood with all its attendant habits and quirks. And, finally, her little girl gave up the one or two nursings a day, it went down to once a day or every other day, and then nothing. This is an unusual story, and its main instructive value for me was that I had a decision to make. I could wait until Willow was somewhere between 4 and 6 and see what happened, or I could wean her myself. In all this I realized another piece of my little ideal scenario: that Willow would wean by about 3. I was not prepared in any way to continue nursing her through her preschool years. I have admiration for moms who do that, but I knew that was not me, and already I was losing patience with the whole business and Willow wasn't even two. And in everything that Brent read on the subject the point he kept finding repeated over and over was that by 18 months, at 2, 3, or even 4 children generally will not choose to wean themselves.

One mom I talked to had begun to use a ticket system when her daughter was about two and a half. She allowed the little girl 5 tickets a day, one of which would need to be saved for bedtime. This worked well for them but I knew that, given her age, it would be a stretch for Willow to grasp that once the tickets were gone so was mama milk for the day. Sometime in September, I think, I started using the tickets. I knew by then that I was moving toward weaning, but needed to get aligned internally with the whole idea, both intellectually and emotionally. Through many talks with Brent we had decided weaning would be best for everyone involved, but the more we talked about it the more I realized I needed some intermediate steps. As Brent put it, I would spend some time setting all kinds of boundaries and trying everything, and none of it would work, and then finally I would wean. This is essentially what happened, and though it was in some ways an interminably long few months from the time I first had an inkling that this was what I would need to do, I'm in a bit of disbelief that I've arrived at this time and place. Willow was at the breast the first moment she could be after she was born, and has nursed every day of her life. Other than Brent and myself, the nursing has been the biggest constant in her life so far. I'm still too close to it all, and too spaced out from getting up so early, to really feel the fullness of the feelings I know are there. But it's a mark of time today, how time passes so slowly and yet, when the moment we've been waiting for comes, all that time is suddenly gone.

We experimented and started with 10 tickets each day. This was a wake up call for me, who had thought I maybe nursed her 5-6 times a day. Really it was more like 10-12. I tested the waters and allowed her to use all her tickets one day before bedtime, and as I expected she did not understand that part of the ticket concept. As time went on I reduced it to 8 and then 7 tickets per day. This week we talked up the whole idea of no more mama milk, and told Willow that yesterday would be the last day. We had a little "good bye mama milk party", which shared a cake with my birthday, and sang a little "good bye mama milk" song, and had a milk bath (a bath I take with her, where she gets mama milk), all the while saying "last day of mama milk" or asking "do you get mama milk tomorrow?" At first she answered "yes", but then by bedtime last night she was answering "no". So, we know she has some small concept of what it all means, but she still says "ma-mook" for many things that she wants... if she wants crackers and I'm delayed in getting them, for example, she may start shrieking "maaa-moook!!!" rather than "caaaackoooos!!"

So time passes, time stands still, and now it's 8:20 and Old Navy opens in 40 minutes. As I listed all the things I would do with my delicious uninterupted time online this morning, I caught myself and remembered how fast the time would go and began to prioritize things in my head and align myself with the fact that I would not get all my emails cleared out, I would not get my blog fully updated, and I would not get all my little file folders entirely organized.

I'll close with a line from a favorite song by Kate Bush, "Jig of Life": "I put this moment here... I put this moment here... I put this moment here..."

Check it out:

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

No Small Miracle

Well, today we found out that the other twin also did not make it. Yesterday I went in for a routine prenatal exam, and our doctor couldn't find a heartbeat with her Doppler, so she scheduled us for an ultrasound this morning. I have two little babies there in my womb, neither of which are alive now. So now the decision is do I wait for a spontaneous miscarriage, or go in for a procedure? At first I was leaning toward letting nature take its course, but after talking with Brent and a few other close people, I'm thinking I'm going to get a procedure next week. We're going out of town on a well deserved long weekend to the ocean this weekend, so I'll opt to wait a few days, but I think at this point it's just best to have it done with and know that I'm all clear to try and get pregnant again. Even though when I got pregnant this last time we weren't "trying", now of course I'm wanting that second baby more than ever.

All this has really made me and Brent appreciate Willow so much more than ever, and is an important reminder of how miraculous life really is. Sure, it's a mundane thing, somewhere around 130 million babies are born every year. And one could argue, that is what humans are made to do, to reproduce, just like any other animal on earth. One could also say why would anyone want to bring a child into this overpopulated world, a world where so much ugliness happens each and every day, where in the U.S. any child born will surely use far more than his or her share of resources, just by being born in the most consumptive nation on earth.

And yet, what a miracle life is. We can look at all the people on the planet, all the babies born every year, and forget what those little cells go through to get here. It's an amazing and fragile thing, life, and especially when you consider the desire to have a little life and raise a little child to become a peaceful, happy, and productive adult. So many things have to happen for that little life to even make it out of the womb... and so many things can go wrong. So when we're blessed with a perfect little being at the end of long months of gestation, it is no small miracle. Our doctors feel elated each and every time they deliver a baby, and they've been delivering babies for at least 15 years each. I don't know how many babies they've delivered, but I've seen them at appointments just after a delivery, and they are infused with the miracle of life. Mundane as it may be, it's a miracle every time, and one to be treasured.

I feel so grateful today for Willow and all the children in my life. Willow couldn't be more sweet, or adorable, or fun. At the doctor today Brent and I both cried of course when we found out for sure that both babies had died. Willow was concerned that Mama was crying, and wiped her eyes in sympathy.

Later on, after dinner, she jumped with both feet off the ground for the first time, and she was so excited to show me! She came into the kitchen from the living room, demanding my attention, and showed me her jumping. Then, she wanted me to jump with her. I feel very lucky to have such a child in my life.

Whether we have children or not, or want children or not, we can never forget what a miracle life is... embodied not only in our own human children but in every living creature, each little flower that opens for us to see every spring, every leaf that unfurls, or egg that hatches... the miracle of life is one to remember and notice every day.

Monday, April 28, 2008


Oh, wow. I can't believe I've gone more than three months without an entry. Willow is going to be a big sister, which is very exciting for all of us. The new baby is due in October, ten days before Willow's birthday, and one day after her original due date. It was almost going to be twins... but one of them didn't make it. I was excited at the idea of twins, then really sad that one didn't make it... and now I'm just glad to be welcoming a new little one into the world soon, and also relieved that I won't have all the work involved with twins.

Because it happened early in the pregnancy it shouldn't complicate things too much; we'll have an extra ultrasound or two to make sure everything is in order, but we should be able to go ahead with our birth plan. Which is currently up in the air, but I'm leaning toward home or the birth center instead of the hospital. We'll see, though. There were a lot of things I liked about the hospital, even though it wasn't what I planned on. I'm just afraid I wouldn't be able to repeat the experience. The staff was very sensitive to the fact that we did not plan to give birth there at the hospital when Willow was born, and I don't know if they would be as hands off as they were in the case of a planned hospital birth.

There are so many more things to consider now with Willow. She is too young to be in the same room while I'm laboring, so her well being and security are big considerations as we decide which direction to go in. I just like the idea of home so much, being in my own space and being able to go to my own bed after the birth really sounds like the best thing to me, but I don't know how that might work with Willow, since it seems home may be the best place for her. So many questions.

I digress however... my inspiration for writing tonight was something Willow did today. She is having so much fun lately pretending, she loves to carry her play phones around the house and pretend to talk to Daddy, or our friend Barbara, or Grandma, even our friend Wendy's dog Sofia has been added to the list of regulars. She's been getting more involved with her pretending in the past week; she likes to "feed" her baby dolls and stuffed animals, and is getting interested in (trying) to dress and undress them. Today she really wanted something to stir in a bowl. She has a wooden spoon given to her for Christmas last year by her Aunt Nicole, and we've just begun allowing her to use it without intense supervision. Her original favorite thing to do with it was walk around with it in her mouth, which seemed like a trip to the emergency room waiting to happen. I gave her some seasoning salt which we've had for probably eight years now, and she proceeded to remove the cap (once I had unscrewed it enough for her to pull it off), put salt in her bowl, replace the cap, and stir. She stayed busy with this activity on and off all day long. Brent and I just stood and watched her this morning for several minutes, while she was intent on her activity.

Possibly the most exciting thing for me about her and the stirring wasn't even the stirring itself, but the fact that when I came to take video of her in action, and she as usual dropped what she was doing in favor of what I was doing, I showed her the bit I got on camera and then, on a lark, I told her I wanted to get video of her doing her thing. I asked her to go back and stir and do what she was doing... and she did! That was amazing, and fun. I really didn't think she would do it, but she's beginning to get the concept of photos and videos and what they do, and she loves watching videos of herself or other people doing everyday things. We watch a lot of youtube clips, of kids playing, pets doing crazy things, etc. So she went and did her thing, and I got a clip of it! You can subscribe to all our videos by going to

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dreaming the River

"...Is a dream a lie if it don't come true
Or is it something worse
that sends me down to the river..."
Bruce Springsteen, "The River"

As I begin to look for part time work in the early morning, so that Daddy can be with Willow before he goes to work and we can bring in a bit more money, I've been thinking a lot about dreams. We all have so many dreams as we go through our lives, many of which we know will always remain dreams yet are treasured little gems that we keep, many of which we discard along the way, and some of which become reality.

My very close childhood friend has also been looking for a job; she has a four year old daughter and has been out of the work place for the past 5 years. She is a writer and so is of course conflicted, as I have been, about how to live life in a practical and realistic way while still pursuing her artistic goals. We've been commiserating a lot over the phone about the sorry state of our lives on paper, how our accomplishments look summed up on a resume, and trying to remember how much more there is than that.

One morning I was doing dishes and thinking about all of this and one of my all time favorite songs came on - Springsteen's "The River". My friend and I got really into him while we were in high school, and one of my most memorable times was when we went together with another friend and camped out for tickets, and the subsequent show. Perhaps it's the glow of fond memories as I look back, perhaps the intensity of young adulthood, but that concert was absolutely the best I've ever been to. I felt so thrilled and ecstatic after that concert, which, by the way, lasted close to 4 hours.

That night I saw my life stretching out before me like the open road, and we sat up late on radiator window seats in my friend's overheated all-utilities-paid apartment looking out at the city and talking about where we would live, who we would be... never imagining that we would end up living in different cities over 1600 miles apart, without the means to see each other nearly as much as we'd like.

But as I did dishes and listened to the song, belting out the lyrics with abandon for a reluctant audience of two, my life stretched out again before me, and I realized that although the dreams of that night hadn't exactly come true, there is yet another kind of dream we dream in our lives. Those are the dreams that we never pin down, the kind I had that long ago night... dreams that we feel as we watch a beautiful sunset or hike through a moss filled forest. Those are the dreams that have come true for me. My loving husband, who is a devoted father to our unspeakably wonderful daughter. All my friends and family, and of course Willow. I dreamt of being a mother for a long time, and now that I am it is far beyond what I could have imagined. The tense moments, the moments of exhaustion, the times when I feel I could explode, all melt away in the laughter, the big smiles, the wrestling around, and the surprising little things she does. Like this morning when Willow began taking silverware from the dishwasher and instead of tossing it onto the floor as I expected she would, she handed it to me to put away.

I'll close by sharing a story from an email a friend sent the other day. I received it as I was preparing to go to a job interview. It is called "The Invisible Mother"

"It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?' Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?
Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'
I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going, she's going, she's gone!
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.' It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription:
'To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'
In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.' And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.'
At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.
I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'You're gonna love it there.'
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women."

Friday, January 4, 2008

Helping and more

Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted. So many things have happened, and yet the days go by, all seeming very much like all the others. Willow loves to help around the house. I dreaded this stage, having heard so many stories of young children's "help" (wiping the filthy rag all over the stove, scooping cat litter onto the floor), and yet it is very much fun and Willow is learning also how to be truly helpful. She is very good at pushing the laundry basket from room to room, and if asked will take it from the laundry room to the bedroom or vice-versa. (Though sometimes she does get caught up with something and leaves it in transit on the living room floor.) Lately Willow loves to take baths, it is one of her favorite activities. She has new bath toys for Christmas as well, from Grandma Shirley and Grandpa Jerry, and also from Cousin Micah (and his parents, Aunt Nicole and Uncle Frank). The other day I was preparing to wash out the tub for a bath, with Willow watching in anticipation, and I said "Oh, I need a cloth to wipe out the tub". As I stood up to go from the bathroom and get my cloth, I turned and saw Willow bringing me a cloth that she had been playing with from the living room. She handed it to me to wash out the tub! I was amazed that she made all those connections, and in such a short moment. She knew what I was saying, and knew she would have her bath once the tub was cleaned out, and she knew not only what the cloth was that I needed but where she had left one.

The week before Christmas we walked to our local Home Depot to get a rosemary shrub that was our tree this year. I wanted something I could plant, and I've been wanting a rosemary. Brent and I and Willow and Alley our dog went to the store, and by the time we were about half way home on about a 1.5 mile walk, Willow had been cooped up in a stroller or a cart for close to two hours. Though it was getting dark we decided we would allow her to walk on her own down the sidewalk for the first time. I think we both thought she would walk a little bit an be tired and ready to get back in the stroller. She walked and walked, and if we had let her I imagine she might have walked the rest of the way home! We picked her up to move things along at different times, and when she would fall we used that as an excuse to carry her again for a few blocks (it was getting dinner time and we were hungry). All in all she must have walked two blocks, which seemed a lot to me for a gal just starting out, and she loved it! Now we go to the park and walk around, as much as we can spare in between naps and walking the dog and getting food on the table... woe is Mama if dinner is late, Willow likes her vittles for sure.

We have been on a very conservative food introduction schedule as well, and were planning to wait (on the advice of our doctor) until 18 months to introduce most of the things folks introduce at 12, such as wheat and dairy. Well, that went out the window right around Christmas. We had been to a series of doctor's appointments to check her weight gain, which was not satisfactory. We began with more nursing and adding goat's and soy milk (neither of which she drank much of), and then adding avocado and a smoothie with protein powder. Those helped more than the goat & soy milk, and she gained enough that the doctor thinks we're now on the right track. But in the midst of all that Brent and I decided to just let go and make it easier to feed Willow, as well as take a bit of the drama out of the situation and give her cow's milk, wheat, cheese, everything except nuts for now. It was becoming a chore not only to find fattening things that she would enjoy (she got sick of avocado after about the third day of me trying to get her to eat 1/2 of one a day), but Willow was beginning to covet our food and refuse to eat hers.

She enjoys cow's milk (though still won't drink even a whole cupful in a day's time), and cottage cheese and grilled cheese, and chicken salad and her smoothies, and also loves to "eat" crackers and cheerios, which usually end up spit out on the floor somewhere. Gross. I am hoping this is a short phase and soon she will swallow what she puts in her mouth instead of spitting it onto the floor in favor of nursing, or worse yet, handing it to me. She also loves ice cream if it is not too cold, and steak. Her Minnesota and Iowa roots show there, I think.

Now I'm going to have to watch what I eat, since I've been making a lot of rich meals like Chicken & Corn Scallop (delicious, by the way, it's chicken atop a mix of milk, flour, and creamed corn, topped with crackers and butter, to be found in the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook), and Broccoli Cheese Casserole.

I am used to carrying her with one hand all over the place, and so is Brent, and he dances with her most mornings while I get breakfast. A while back I sprained my wrist or thumb (I must get to the chiropractor), from holding the gal who is really packing on the ounces! Last night Brent said he had the same thing happen to him yesterday. It looks like Willow is really gaining on us.

Though I still get annoyed and a little worried on days when she doesn't eat much. I am working on letting go of how much she eats and just making the food and putting it in front of her and enjoying the meal, but man, sometimes I get really annoyed when I spend an hour making dinner (a lot of which she is complaining to me about being hungry), and she takes two bites and wants out of her chair. Ahh, yes, the eternal struggles of motherhood laid bare. Somehow I thought it would never happen to me. Ha.