Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What I'm thankful for

Andrea's whines and whimpers oozed out of the monitor and snaked across my nightstand.  They wrapped themselves around my throat and constricted my airways while the muscles in my back tensed uncomfortable.  "Paul," I squeaked.  "What do I do?"  I looked to him desperately as if he were a child-rearing oracle.  He shrugged nonchalantly.  I looked toward the monitor once again as Andrea sputtered and coughed, wondering if I'd be cleaning up mucus puke before midnight.  Soon I could hear her binky squeaking between sniffles, so I sunk back into my bed.  My eyes closed and I said my one thousandth prayer for her to sleep, or at least for some parental clarity for myself.  Do I go into her room and the risk of a hysterical reaction, or do I let her whine alone?  Do I insist she sleep in her bed where she's most likely to fall asleep, or do I risk her being awake all night by trying to let her rest on the couch with me?  Do I rub more essential oils on her feverish skin, or do I concede to a small dose of ibuprofen?  I waited for an epiphany and as dumbfounded silence filled my head I wondered if I was even asking the right questions.

Paul shut down his computer and informed me the best thing I can do for Andrea is turn off the monitor.  I looked at him like he was crazy as he stepped toward the bed and swiped his pillow.  "I'll sleep on the couch and listen for her.  Just turn off the monitor in here and try to get some rest."  Hesitantly, I kissed him good night and allowed him to leave me alone in the bed.  Guilt slipped in between the sheets to cuddle me as I wrestled my exhaustion.  I hated my weakness.  I yearned to be stronger.  I fought the urge march into the living room and relieve that man I love of his nightly watch.  Heaven answered my prayers with the strength of my husband, and it seemed a little ungrateful to decline such an offering.  And sometimes it's okay to not be the strong one all the time, right?

Sleep finally overtook me and my dreams consisted of holiday commercials and things that smell like pine.  I woke up around seven, feeling more rested than I've felt in months probably because Paul wasn't elbowing me in the face all night, so I tiptoed into the living room to check on my manly nightwatchman.  He was already awake, and his report was relatively good.  Andrea was alive, didn't cough up a mucus surprise, and was chattering happily in her crib.  Paul metaphorically handed me the care-giving baton as he dressed for work and I retrieved the child.  After such a solid night of sleep, I found wrestling a cranky and feverish toddler to be much more tolerable than usual, and my mental clarity was vastly more acute.  When I felt prompted to allow Andrea to nap on the couch, which usually ends in no nap at all, I acted upon the impression.  She "cwimb cwimbed" up onto the couch and happily curled up against me.  In the dark of my basement living room, I laid in complete shock as she quickly fell asleep.

For an hour and a half I held her warm and wheezing body, overwhelmed with love for her little soul, for the man who helped me bring her into the world, and for a loving Heavenly Father, who gave me both of them.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


You know, there haven't been many moments that I've thought ‘I'm happy’ in the last year. Not because I've been unhappy necessarily, but because life has been so crazy that I haven't had time to really think about what I'm feeling in general. When there is housework, homework, motheringwork, churchwork, and wifework to be done, I find very little time to sit and ponder how it all makes me feel.

On Tuesday, I had a particularly productive day. I cleaned and vacuumed the living room, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, hand-washed dirty knives and large pots, washed and dried a load of laundry, and wrote a research paper. Whilst I toiled, Andrea skipped alongside me singing and observing. As I stood at the sink scrubbing onion bits off metal surfaces, my little daughter called out my name.

"Mama! Maaama!! Mammaaaa! MAAAMMAA!!"

"What, Andrea?" I said, rather exasperated.

"Mama, Annie eh happy!" She smiled at me and wrapped her arms around my leg. I returned the smile and told her that I was happy too. And I was. Seeing her happy for all the right reasons fills me with unspeakable joy. Hearing her express her feelings and thoughts-- getting a glimpse into her mysterious mind-- brings me indescribable feelings of wonder and delight. But her declaration of happiness also provoked some self-examination. Am I taking enough time in my life to feel? I don’t think so.

I took Andrea’s unintentional challenge to heart and have spent the last several days feeling. You know what I discovered? I really am happy. There were ugly moments, and frustrating days, and times when my little Andrea was less prolific and more. . . persistent. . . but overall, I uncovered handfuls of suppressed happiness for the blessings that surround me. It was a priceless discovery.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Andrea's first real Halloween

It's not much of a secret to anyone who's ever seen me that I struggle with my weight.  Giving birth to a girl was one of the most terrifying things I ever did.  With all of the messages in the media about women's bodies and my own insecurities and imperfections, I worried about instilling in her an unhealthy relationship with her own image.  I've tried to teach her to eat healthy.  We limit sugar, except fruit, but allow her an occasional treat to help her learn moderation.  This year as the prospect of Halloween approached, I was quite opposed to the idea of her eating a bunch of candy, and because I would be in class that night and not available to take her trick-or-treating, I didn't even get Andrea a costume.  She won't remember this Halloween a few years from now anyway, right?  Mom-of-the-year.

On Halloween, Andrea spent the evening with Paul and his parents while I was at school.  When it came time for her cousins to go trick-or-treating Andrea wanted in on the action.  She insisted Paul wear a rainbow clown wig as his costume.  Her grandmother tried to convince Andrea to wear a little clown suit, but was promptly shot down by the willful (almost) two year old.  Andrea did concede to wearing a hat which she promptly removed at the first house she came to because. . . we didn't even have a bucket for her candy.  Parents-of-the-year.

So there she was, no costume or bucket, being escorted by an accountant in a clown wig, marching down the street dragging a hat full of candy for her father to eat that probably weighed more than her.  And being at school I missed the whole thing!  Did Paul take pictures of this important first/comical scene?  No!  Not a single one!  Father-of-the-year.

I suppose there's always next year to redeem ourselves.