Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Traveling Mercies

If you have a moment, pray for my mom who is currently in the air, traveling back to Nairobi via JFK, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. She is set to arrive Friday morning and we are all awaiting the good news that she is there safely and soundly. In the meantime we are all in grief that she is gone. We had Such a Good Time while she was here and will miss her very much.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


However controversial, we are going to be ‘celebrating’ Halloween this year, again. Matt grew up with fond and warm memories of Halloween—running around safe neighborhoods, receiving safe candy, not dealing with the theological implications of celebrating Halloween and ignoring All Saints. I, for understandable reasons, never celebrated Halloween or All Saints Day—the one because it was too close to the occult for a Baptist Boarding School and the other because it was too Catholic. Both days always passed carefully unmarked. Although, my senior year, in June, a group of us put on interesting hats and glasses and hit all the Staff Houses up for candy and money. Strangely, we did not get in trouble for this defiance, but we didn’t get much candy either because no one expected us.

So, in the tradition of Matt, for the last five years our kiddos started out their first Halloween as a Chili Pepper, moving from there to a Bee (at age one or two) and from thence on to something of their choice. Last year A was a sort of construction working person and E was a princess. This year A will either be Spiderman or a Knight in Shining Armor (he still can’t decide) and E will be a ballerina. We look forward to R’s stepping into our third time round of an Angry Angry Bee.

And last night we carved a pumpkin in classical mode.

As Matt wielded skillfully his knife and spoon, E drew on her small pumpkin and said, sing songingly, ‘People who celebrate Halloween worship Satan. That’s us.’
Matt and I and Nonni all began quietly freaking out.
‘Where did you hear that, E?’ Matt asked.
‘In school. From my friends.’
‘All your friends?’ I asked.
‘No, just J—‘ said E.
We all launched into a discussion of how its really about All Saints’ Day and how we are Not worshiping Satan, and how that would be Very Bad. E seemed unmoved and concentrated on her pumpkin.

I’m not completely surprised by this. We’ve chosen a school for her that we were pretty sure would Not be having Halloween Parties. I have no idea what E is telling the other children. It’s probably a jumble, all of them half understanding what we, their parents, believe. And, while I wish other Christian parents wouldn’t make blanket catastrophic statements like ‘all people who celebrate Halloween worship Satan’ I can understand where they’re coming from. It is an increasingly difficult ‘holiday’ to deal with—another occasion the culture at large has embraced the dark night of shadow and rejected the clear lighted day of rejoicing. It’s been particularly interesting to consider this cultural drive given that Matt in his Sunday morning Adult Ed has been covering Contemporary Neo-Paganism, particularly Wicca. More and more of us ordinary Christians are running into this developing religious/cultural affiliation, especially those near college campuses. On our evening walks with the dog, we pass a house that appears to have a sort of celtic/pagan shrine or offering for or on the occasion of (?) Samhain.

So that’s why I have ‘celebrate’ in scare quotes. Because I approach it with caution, delighted for my children to step into the clothes and shoes of other kinds of people for the evening, and for them to run around this safe practically old fashioned neighborhood, in the way that Matt remembers so fondly, eliciting candy of all things, from the neighbors, but cautious of the darkness. I look forward to the light and joy of the next day, of spending time considering those saints who have clarified and illuminated the Narrow Way for me personally.

Monday, October 29, 2007

More Sitting Not Thinking

I’m sitting here in the sun, watching siding being put up on the neighbors’ house. All these years they’ve had bright green siding. I thought they liked it and had put it up on purpose. Turns out they’ve always hated it and suffered through a decent number of years until it was reasonable to tare it off and do something nicer. This new siding is tan. It’s very nice, but I thought the bright green was garishly endearing. I think I will probably miss it.

A is copying out the alphabet. He drew an airplane this morning, far better than any airplane I have ever drawn. I see now that I really need to get him into some kind of art class. Haven’t been able to find one, though, that takes three year olds. And, despite the mess, I should really dig out the paints and let him go at it. Sigh. So much of this house is already covered in paint.

Baby is enveloped in pink—pink blanket on top, pink blanket underneath, pink sweater, pink skin. Despite all this pink, she still looks like both her brothers. Poor child.

R is taking a second morning nap. We are getting better about calling him R. But mostly we say ‘Baby’ and then have to clarify which one.

So, it’s a calm Monday morning off. We do have to run out and buy a pumpkin to carve, and we probably should take a walk.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What I've been Doing instead of Blogging

I’m sorry for the lack of posting. Every day I get up and turn on my computer and think, ‘I should really blog about something today.’ And then I stare blankly at the wall and think nothing at all. And then life sort of happens for the rest of the day.

I’ve been slowly reflecting on my hospital stay, in a vague way. For instance, it occurred to me after coming home, that the reason I was in such a rotten mood leading up to labor and delivery was not because of all the wretched hormones, but rather because I was really honestly and truly afraid of the experience I was facing. The first baby, of course, represents the unknown, and one has every right to be nervous and afraid of that which one knows not. But I was surprised to be experiencing fear in advance of this fourth time. But really, its more justifiable, I think, to be afraid of that which one knows. I was dreading, terribly, the machines, those bands around one’s tummy to monitor the baby, the weird and uncomfortable bed, the blood pressure machine. All of it combines to set you in a twilight of space, not anything like normal life.

Most particularly not like normal life because of, essentially, the partial loss of control over one’s own body and circumstance. Of course, it’s not a total loss—one can say what one wants and doesn’t want, one can call for the doctor. But one, that’s me, doesn’t. I don’t generally call out. I go along quietly and don’t ask enough questions, all the while boiling inside at the relaxed and calm manner of the nurses. I’d rather they weren’t calm. If I’m freaking out, I’d like them to freak out with me. The calm soothing tone, voice, body language all drove me to distraction.

In advance, I feel sorry for the people who will have to drag me to a hospital if I’m ever really sick.

But mostly I’ve been feeding the baby, running around in the car to a thousand appointments and errands, cooking lunch for a hundred visitors come to see the baby, and soothing the fragile tempers and feelings of all my little children who love their sister very much but are having to reorder their lives and routine to make space for her.

And I’ve been praying quietly about this whole unknown concept of ‘maternity leave’. I think I needed it Before giving birth, when I was so anxious and wanting to hide under my bed and not face anyone. Now, tired but happy, I probably still need time off, but I don’t want it. I want to get back into the thick of things and sort out the Christmas Pageant, seriously catch up on making Materials for the Atrium, reorganize the church office, and read a book without falling asleep.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rain and Running this morning. The last few days have been taken up with luncheon engagements-friend from college, friends of my mom's. Today is One Week Well Baby amongst other things, as well as checking back with people who want to come meet baby. Haven't been able to get to the computer to read, let alone write.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Press On

I'm surprised by the sheer number of children in motion in this house. I shouldn't be, I guess, I've acquired them over time. But I'm amazed at how many of them there are now, and that they all belong to me. Last night I made a line up of Sunday clothes, and it goes all across the spare room bed. I know 4 isn't that many, but still, I'm experiencing an element of surprise.

This morning we're going to gather ourselves together and go off for a full morning-8am (no music), 9:15 Education for Everyone, 10:30 (music). And then coffee hour full of lots of little pieces of paper for me from various parishioners reminding of things I've got to do, like order toner. And then we'll come home and collapse.

I think, for me, this morning will be like climbing a mountain, sore as I am. But, as with all the Sundays these last few months, I won't be climbing on my own.

His thoughts said, The coil of circumstances is beyond anything I ever experienced before.
His Father said, All this assemblage of complicated circumstances is the massif of the mountains thou must climb. There is a way among the boulders of the moraine, between the seracs of the glaciers, over the snow-bridges that cross the crevasses, round the overhanging snow-fields and up the precipices and long aretes. There is a way through the deep shadows that will seem to bar thy path at times. Press on, press on to the summit.

His thoughts said...His Father said...

Amy Carmichael

Friday, October 19, 2007

Not a Blogging Fiend Right Now

Have acquired our first throwing up baby. Have never had one before. At this point, the most valuable baby thing I own are all my Malian panya cloths. Ordinary American baby blankets have nothing on this cloth. Right now Gwendolyn is wrapped in an old Christmas one-blue with pictures of Jesus ringed in 'Je suis l'Alpha et l'Omega' and 'Moi, Je suis le Pain de Vie'. I guess it was Christmas 2000. Everyone wore this cloth to church that year, made into various outfits. If I ever locate my camera I'll post a picture of it. I must say, its not Baby's best color, although, I don't know that she has a best color yet.

The last few days, as you can imagine, have been a tunnel (for me) of feeding this baby and trying to get beyond that to connect with the other kiddos. Today I have to come out of that small world to do the bulletin and think about Sunday School.

And I've been reading The Pickwick Papers and this awful thread over on Stand Firm. Its an interesting juxtaposition. And then, to satisfy myself, I hunted up a very tiny envelope for E's lunch money this morning. She is profiting mightily from this baby by getting to buy lunch more than is good or right or proper. Hopefully all that will come to a grinding halt on Monday, when I sleep All Night on Sunday (ha).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

New Baby

G...thirty minutes old
Here's another
R, sitting on bed, not entirely happy...other siblings quite pleased

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Lord giveth...

Its very quiet now, and a twilight 'grey dark' as A might say. Everyone has gone home and I am propped up in some hospital contraption bed with new baby G. So far she is not a delicate wilting rose flower. She has kind of a thick neck and lots of dark hair and an expression of entitlement. I can see why. Rowan, when visiting this afternoon, climbed on the bed and tried first to sit on her, and then to kick her, and then to poke her, each time thwarted, each time enraged.

Its going to be a loud week, I can tell, when I get home. Everyone shouting and trying to get a word in and be noticed AND assimilate this new interesting creature into our lives.

As for me, I'm very tired. But that's ok. Its something I'm used to.
Matt is very tired too. He has been busy all afternoon trying to arrange a funeral for someone we never got to meet. He called the funeral home,

'hello, Yes, I need to speak with a gentleman who passed away this morning, I can't remember his name.'
Silence on the other end of the phone. I shout the name quietly in Matt's ear.
'Oh yes, with ________________.'
Silence on the other end of the phone.
'Oh no, I mean, I need to speak with someone about ________ who passed away this morning.'

He, Matt, tried then to tell me he would sleep in this uncomfortable chair next to my bed tonight, but I told him he was ridiculous and sent him home. We all need a quiet night in a proper bed. Tomorrow there will be plenty of time to get to know this interesting little person.

As for me, I thank you all Very Much for your prayers over the last 24 hours. At 7 and some centimeters, as I wimped out and requested an epidural, and then burst into tears and had a good solid cry of fear while a very nice doctor put it in, I was profoundly buoyed by the love and grace and mercy of Jesus, and by my husband and mother who held my hands and told me that I was not, in fact, a wimp, and that I was going to be ok. And I know also that your prayers sustained me. Thank you.

Counting down

This is the famous ME who occasionally comments -- Anne's mom. I'm a few feet away from the end of the birthing bed, and I'm very omfortable thank you, in a rocking chair with my coffee at hand, and Anne's computer for light-hearted entertainment.
Matt is in another soft, pleasant chair, typing fiendishly on his computer. Anne is counting her way through intensifying contractions, and the baby's heartbeat is adding a soft undertone to the quiet hum of this birthing room.
So nice. So different from the day Anne was born to me in "The Shrubbery" (a maternity home in High Wycombe, in Buckinghamshire). So different because then, I could hear another woman wailing down the hall, and the midwife kept stepping out for a cigarette. Here, all is quiet and peaceful. We're only waiting for the wail of a baby.
When I heard the first wail of tiny baby Anne, all other crying stopped, and the August wind stirred the curtains at the windows, and all the roses bloomed brighter in the garden outside. "One lump of sugar, or two?" asked the lady with the teacart.
On the way over to the hospital this morning, I caught the tail end of "The Writer's Almanac". "It's the birthday," said Garrison Keillor, "of P.G. Wodehouse.
Oh! We have moved from four to seven centimeters in a very short space of time!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Normal Life

We're waiting for the rain, and waiting for this baby, and waiting for Jesus to come back. I'm not a betting person, but I did finally bet my mother today-coffee and bagels at Panera that this baby doesn't come until a week from tomorrow, Wednesday the 17th, the day of Good Shepherd's 106th Harvest Dinner, during the dinner. I'm not sure how to work out odds, but I've read The Great Sermon Handicap twice in the last week trying to figure out how it all works.

Meanwhile, A has acquired a Helmet and tunic sort of thing to go with his sword. 'I', he said to me this afternoon, 'am the knight of the world'. The helmet is enormous but very satisfying.

R has been playing the piano.

E bought lunch in the school cafeteria for the first time, to her own immense satisfaction.

So basically we're all fussing along in our own quiet ways.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Well, life continues a hodge podge. I've read through most of 1 Chronicles in an effort to go into labor, wading laboriously through the names and trying not to skip any-surprisingly difficult to do in the middle of some heavy duty contractions.

And I've totally cleaned and reorganized my desk again.

And I've learned from A that babies are 'silly mooses'.
'Are what?'
'Silly mooses.'
'Are you a silly moose?'
'No! Baby is a silly moose.'

And I watched R, always the problem solver, stand at the top of the stairs and fling a large toy dump truck down, come down carefully after it, proceed to sit in it and try to ride it around the living room. Sensible child, not carrying it down and hurting himself.

Oh, and I've cut everyone's hair, except R. Matt and I are in a battle over the curls on the sides of his head. So far they remain intact, praise be.

OH, and tomorrow is Matt's Birthday. We're all so excited, except him. He has all kinds of gray on his head to show his age and wisdom. In celebration we will be indulging in Nigella's Chocolate Cloud Cake AND Nigella's Chocolate Pots.

Oh, and R has learned to say 'hi'. Its really his one word. If you were to come over, he would say it to you.

Friday, October 05, 2007

OR, the baby could look like this

(Picture taken by my mother in Grand Place, Brussels. Notice the cigarette, amongst other things, like the size of the baby.)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Good Sized Baby Daily Getting Larger

Baby flipped to head down, as ultrasound verified yesterday. Relieved and basically very uncomfortable. So, still waiting and the temperature has gone back up to 80, of all things. Really long to go into confinement. Think it would be better for everyone. Instead of have cleaned Matt's closet, made an apple spice cake, cauliflower soup and read some more of Uncle Fred in the Springtime (that was yesterday). Today I'm going to pay all my bills, make bread and reorganize my spice and baking situation. Basically too hot to think about anything else interesting. Have begun to worry that baby will have bright red hair.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

One mind, One heart

I'm off in a minute to do Matt's Tuesday Night Bible Study. He's out of town for the night to some meeting or other. His Bible Studies are always very gracious, but I can tell they're secretly disappointed when Matt can't make it. This one, I believe, is reading through Proverbs, a good activity for us all.

E and A are on opposite sides of the couch instructed to not speak, to each other or to anyone else, for a few minutes. They cannot, for whatever, get along, and I will not have them constantly tattling on each other.

R is wandering around moaning because his teeth hurt. He has a large curl sticking out wildly from the side of his head.

Nonni is making spaghetti and meatballs.

Just in case you were all wondering what we are all doing.
I've been getting bins down from the attic and sorting throw clothes by age, gender and season-bins and bins and bins.

I don't have anything to say about anything, EXCEPT, its been bugging me on some back burner of my mind, that the HOB statement from New Orleans contained the phrase (or something like it)
though we are not of one mind, we strive to be of one heart
That, to me, seems a huge neon sign of the problem we're in. Precisely because we are not of one mind, we cannot be of one heart. Its irrational and schizophrenic (or something) to 'strive' for such a thing. The heart and the mind should not be divided from each other. More, perhaps, on this later, as it continues to niggle at the back of my mind.