Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wear the Aare Bear, Mama Bear

These days, I'm babywearing. My sweet Aaron (Aare Bear, as I've taken to calling him) demands to be held at all times. I researched the best wraps and slings to find the perfect one for us. I decided on a Peanut Shell pouch sling. He LOVES it. No matter how fussy he is, I can pop him in there and he'll be content (sometimes even asleep) within minutes. The maker claims I can wear him until he's 35 pounds. I guess they're sending me a personal trainer to buff up too? He will be 6 months tomorrow. 6 months. Half a year. That's 1/36 of my time with him. Okay, probably a little dramatic. Taking a deep breath.
I'm feeling overwhelmed with life today. This morning the boys were especially petulant, and I wasn't at my most patient as I threw clothes on them and tried to get out the door. Ei pooped all over everything 10 minutes before we had to leave, and my only choice was to throw him in the shower. I am at my wit's end with potty training (or lack thereof). I couldn't keep Aaron in his sling while I was cleaning the mess, so he was wailing from his exersaucer. Jackson thought of 500 things that he needed, and I fussed at him to leave me alone. We finally got in the car, and I unloaded them at Nana's. She told me she wanted a diaper on Ei, which I completely ignored. I understand her concern (refer to Monday's post), but I can't take two steps back in process. It was rainy and gross outside. An 18-wheeler changed lanes on the interstate too close to me, and suddenly, I wanted to cry. I dumped them in Nana's house and left with a half-hearted kiss on each of their cheeks. What if the truck had hit me and I never had the chance to make peace with my kids? I'm the grown-up here. I can't believe I let myself get so worked up over normal kid stuff. But I did make it back, and I grabbed them up and kissed all over them as soon as I did.
Okay, last random thought... I took Jackson to his cello lesson this afternoon. Yes, my 4 year old takes cello. I know that everyone who hears that thinks that I'm one of those crazy whip-cracking moms who makes their kids take music lessons and practice French in their spare time, but I promise I'm not. He wants to play the cello. So, off to cello lessons we go. His teacher is really sweet, and he likes her very much. At home, he is so excited about this whole experience. At the lesson, however, it's a different story. He sucks in his cheeks the way he does when he's nervous, and he refuses to speak. He won't make eye contact with her, and his limbs jerk rather than move fluidly. I knew he was shy, but this seems a bit extreme. So, of course my mind goes to dark places and I worry. Breathe.
So, I can't seem to potty train my middle child. I can't seem to socialize my oldest. But I can wear the Aare Bear and solve all his problems. So, I wear on. He's almost 20 pounds. I am going to need a backup plan for what to do 16 pounds from now.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hansel and Gretel, Eat Your Heart Out

I was feeding the baby when Jackson came running into the room screaming, "POOP ON THE FLOOR!" This is not new. Ei waits until I'm busy with something, then he relieves himself on the floor, and Big Brother comes tattling. So, I was not surprised to see this.

I did, however, grow more distressed to see this.

And this.

And this.

And, eventually, this. Guess where I found him???
So, I guess I should consider this a sign of progress. I mean, he DID eventually get to the bathroom, right? I hate potty training.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mrs. Jackson's Mama

The other night I went out with a group of friends from my MOPS group. The next day, my kids asked me who went with me. "Emily's Mama, Hannah's Mama, Brooke's Mama, Eli's Mama..." and so on until I had listed all the ladies who joined me. It never occurred to me to use their names. I wonder if other people refer to me as Jackson, Ethan, and Aaron's Mama?

There was a moment when I was pondering this that I thought it is so very sad that women lose their identities over time. We marry our husbands and become Mrs. So-and-So. Then we have our children and become Jr. So-and-So's Mama. We pack away our hobby rooms to make space for a baby. We stop listening to music we enjoy and start listening to Silly Sally Sings Sunday School Songs. Ask any mom to tell you about herself, and she will instead tell you about her family. "Well, I have 3 children and a great husband."

But I've decided it's not so very sad after all. Being a wife and mother IS my identity. I spend my days thinking about what to make for supper, how to potty train, when to start my kids in school, how to get a baby to sleep. That's my life. 5 years ago it might have sounded miserable. I always pictured myself as the working-mom type. I liked the image of me working by day and mothering by night. No way was I going to trade in my identity for a day full of diapers and Goodnight Moon. Then everything changed. During my first pregnancy Mike and I started having the talk about my returning to work after the baby was born. Something inside of me had already changed. I couldn't bear the thought of dropping off my baby in daycare so I could go to work at a job that suddenly seemed meaningless. So, Mike and I compromised on a part-time working solution. No daycare--I would work 3 days a week, and my mom would help me with the baby. So, when my Jackson was 12 weeks old I went to work. I showed off pictures of the baby, felt the overwhelming need to run home to him, burst into tears and holed myself up in my office for the rest of the day. I called Mike and told him we would make it work but that I just couldn't COULDN'T do this. He agreed (bless him), and I called my boss. She already suspected that I wouldn't return and had a replacement for me picked out. The next day I returned to work for my last day--baby on hip.

So, 4 years and 2 babies later, who am I? I'm Jackson's Mama. I'm Ethan's Mama. I'm Aaron's Mama. I'm Mike's wife. I am Miss Katina to the kids in playgroup. I'm Kat to my best friend since childhood. And I'm still just plain old Katina to my mom. I guess you never really lose who you are. I'm still Katina. I still enjoy musicals. I still get excited about Christmas trees. I still cry when I watch Steel Magnolias. I'm still afraid of artificial sweeteners. I still crave "depression cake." I still hate heights. I'm me--but better. Now I have magic kisses that make boo-boos feel better. Now I know all the words to Raffi's Greatest Hits. Now I am the queen of my house. And, my, it's good to be queen.

Mike and Katina, in a previous life (2003)

Mike and Katina (and sons) now

Monday, August 11, 2008

BE KIND (and please rewind)

I had this thought the other day: "They aren't mine." Yes, they're "my" kids. Yes, I birthed them, diapered them, fed them, clothed them, disciplined them, played with them, loved them. But they still aren't mine. Although they grew in my body, I didn't make them. These precious people are on loan to me from the One who made them. Eventually my job will be done. I'll have to send them into the world and hope that I've taught them to love God and respect others.

Loan me a book, and I'll read it very carefully so that I don't crease the spine or wrinkle any of the pages. Loan me your car and I'll drive it like it's made of glass so I don't scratch the paint or dirty the tires. I'd NEVER return a movie to the video store without rewinding it. (Those of you who are of the younger generation, we used to borrow VHS movies from Blockbuster roughly 100 years ago.) Yet, I've got 3 great kids on loan, and I often forget to take such good care of them. I damage their spirits by using a harsh voice. I damage their creativity by focusing on the mess they made rather than the masterpiece they completed. I damage their understanding of what it is to be a Christian when I don't live what I teach.

It makes me cry to think of the day that I drop them off at college and return home empty- handed. I know that on that day I'd give anything for one more chance to sit in the floor and make play-doh food or curl up on the bed together and read them a story. So why do I fly through those things like they're mundane chores now? The "return by" date is coming up. 18 years is a very short time to get it right. I'm wasting time. There are books to be read, pictures to be painted, walks to be taken, cuddles to be shared.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Happy Days are Here Again

Since I wrote an entire post about how Aaron is driving me crazy some weeks back, I thought I better return now to say that he has become a delightful baby. Oh, true, he still wakes up 3 times at night (no kidding) and he screams if I try to sit in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings (what does he have against church??), but overall life is better. He smiles and coos often. He adores Ei and laughs just at the sight of him. He takes a nap every morning (and sometimes in the afternoons). He still demands lots of social attention and wants to be held at all times, but at least we've gotten past the unexplained crying stage. I've decided to become a babywearer. I ordered my wrap yesterday. More on that later.

So, I think I'm ready for #4. Could you please help me convince Mike?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Yes, Monsters are Real

If you are not from Knoxville, let me quickly fill you in on what happened in our city last week. I was nursing my baby in the dark in the church nursery enjoying a few minutes of quiet with him before church started. The nursery worker came into the room looking like she'd just seen a ghost. "There's been a shooting at the Unitarian church," she told me. She didn't have a lot of details, because it had just happened and the media didn't quite know what was going on yet. Later I learned that a man entered the church during a children's musical, took a gun out of his guitar case, and opened fire on the crowd. He killed 2 people and injured several others. Children witnessed the entire event. How those babies are sleeping at night now, I have no idea. The news later reported that the man was acting out his rage over the fact that the church openly invited gay persons to worship there and supported other "liberal" policies. Scary stuff.

So, seven days later, where are we? Every Sunday I ask my kids the same question: "After the Children's Sermon, do you want to stay in big church (the worship service) or go to Children's church?" Until recently, Jackson chose to stay in big church, but now Ei is old enough to go to Children's Church with him, so that's what they've selected for the past few weeks. Today I cringed as I asked that question. As I suspected, they said they wanted to go to Children's Church. I considered going with them. What if that man were to have chosen our church? What if someone entered our church angry over some political stance the church has chosen to take (or not take) and opened fire near my babies? The idea of it makes me ill. Are they safe downstairs so far away from the service? Are they safe on the playground? During the service, I was walking my baby in the narthex (he cries if I stay in the sanctuary, so I try to listen to the service from the back). A couple tried to slip out early, but the doors were locked. One of the ushers came out of the sanctuary to help the couple and explained that we lock the doors after the service begins now. They nodded in understanding, and no one had to say what we all thought to ourselves: if you aren't safe at church, can you be safe anywhere?

I'm so angry over the whole thing I just can't stand it. I'm angry with that man--that monster--who took away our sense of security at church. I'm angry with our government for allowing any old Joe to have a gun. Yeah, I've heard the argument that guns don't kill people, people kill people. Well, I say, hogwash. People kill people WITH GUNS. I'm scared too. I want to round up my children and shelter them like a mother chicken does her chicks. And I'm confused about why God allowed such a tragedy to occur. Here's where things get complicated, I guess. We had a rather lengthy discussion in my theology class last semester about the age-old question of why God allows bad things to happen to good people. I left even more confused than before the class. The one idea I did latch on to was that God grieves with us when bad things happen. I choose to believe that God mourned last week too.

I've been thinking a lot about the horrible man who did this. I read a discussion board about whether he deserves the death penalty. I'm not even sure if that's a possibility. Does Tennessee even have a death penalty? I don't know, but that's not the point. I just got started thinking about what God would want us to do. I keep thinking about how God made that guy and celebrated his birth. I keep thinking about how he was a baby, just like any of us, innocent and helpless. And I wonder if something happened to his man to make him the monster that he is today. I wonder if someone hurt him or if he just grew up around meanness so that's all he ever knew. I wish I could say that my heart feels sad for him thinking about these possibilities, but I can't. I just feel angry. And sad. And scared.

My oldest son has been having nightmares for a few months now. I think it goes with his OCD personality (not to diagnose him prematurely, but, well, if you knew him...) He worries and gets worked up over little things. (Where in the world did he get that??) The other day I asked him what scares him so badly. He told me he's afraid of monsters. I told him there's no such thing as monsters. But I lied. There are monsters. And I'm afraid of them too.