Saturday, December 31, 2011

And God

One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me was my faith.  And for me it is everything.  It trumps all other gifts.  It guides everything I do and comes with me everywhere I go.  It goes far beyond religion and the walls of the church which often become marred with skepticism, cynicism, politics, and disappointment.  It is a faith that sits deep in my spirit, that snuggles up tight in my heart, that fills me with such overpowering peace and joy, I sometimes cry out of gratitude.

While I think that the routine of attending mass every Sunday was valuable and important and remains valuable and important, my faith was really created inside the walls of my own home, by my bedside where my parents taught me to pray.  They told me that little old me could talk to God directly, that He was always listening to whatever I had to say, and that if I listened hard enough, I would hear Him answer back.

So when I’d kneel by my bed or just lay with my hands clasped in front of me as I drifted off to sleep, I knew I could ask for forgiveness and be forgiven, I knew I could ask for protection and be protected, and I knew I could pour out my heart before Him and always, always receive love in return.  And I knew, above all, that I was never alone.  No matter how dark the night was, no matter how lonely or scared I felt,  God was always with me, holding my hand, lighting my path, assuring me that He had a plan and it was good.

So, I know that as I’m trying to teach Finny about faith, as I’m trying to teach him about this God who loves him, I know that some of our most valuable lessons will occur at his bedside after the stories are read, just before I turn off his lamp.  I need him to know that he is okay without me because while I cannot always be present, God can and is.

So a couple of weeks ago when I was putting Finny to bed, I pulled up his blankets and snuggled him in with his stuffed animals, and he said, “Mommy, I want you to lay with me.”

“Oh, not tonight, Finny.  But you have your teddy bear and Thomas and your lamb and there all with you, by your side.”

“And God,” he said.

And my heart jumped. 

“And God, of course, you always have God.”

And once again I was filled with that overpowering peace and joy, knowing that my little boy will never be alone, that he will always be protected, always be forgiven, always be loved by the God who created him.

So when I switch off the bedroom light, I know that he does not lay in darkness.  If he knows he has God, he will lay in a light more powerful than a night light, with a protector more snuggly than his teddy bear.  His faith will tuck him in far longer than I ever will, and despite all the fear and worry I carry with me, that gives me rest.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Weaning Charlie

Nursing, like most of parenting, is a mixed bag.  There’s a lot of lovliness mixed in with a lot of hassle.  So, weaning, when it comes upon a nursing mom, is pure bittersweetness accompanied by both relief and longing.

And today, Charlie is weaned.  And I’m happy because it tied me down.  And I’m sad because I loved it.

All things considered, breastfeeding, for me, has been easy.  I know that it can be pretty difficult for a lot of moms leading some to jump through all sorts of hoops, struggling through the misery of mastitis, the pain of plugged ducts and sore nipples, and the incredibly time-consuming act of pumping.  Some moms fight through this struggle for weeks and months before things improve and some moms throw in the towel and fix a bottle.  And who can blame them?  The baby needs to be fed and the mommy needs to be well.  So the truth of the matter is…sometimes breast is not best.

But my trials with breastfeeding were minimal. 

The second night in the hospital, before my milk came in, a newborn Charlie nursed and nursed and nursed.  And I knew this was how it was supposed to be.  This was the process of bringing the milk in and it would not last forever.  But at 10 p.m. after I had been nursing for two hours with no break, the day after I had experienced the incredible, athletic feat of birthing a baby, I was exhausted, so I called in the nurse.

“I’ve been nursing him for two hours now.  Can I stop?  Do I really have to keep doing this?”

“Well, that’s just what you have to do,” she smiled through her cruel teeth.

BIG tears rolled down my cheeks, “Do you mean I just have to keep nursing him FOREVER?”

A more veteran nurse walked in at that moment and she took him to the nursery and told me to get some sleep.  She was an angel and I loved her.

It did get better, but it continued to be hard.  Charlie had thrush on his tongue for months.  So,  desperate not to contract the thrush myself, which my doctor warned would feel like razor blades in my nipples, I had to rub Nystatin on my nipples every time he fed.

Then there was the breastfeeding/potty training combo.  As soon as Charlie would latch on, Finny would poop his underwear or pee in the living room.

And of course, any time we went out for the evening, I could never come home and just fall into bed.  I would watch jealously as David would head up the stairs and I would pull out the pump and the bottles and milk myself in front of the TV.

All that being said, nursing my boys is one of the best things I’ve ever done.  Truly.  Because when you’re nursing, you have to sit down, you have to slow down, you have to stop and really enjoy your baby.  And it’s a kind of joy for which adjectives can do no justice.  When it works, it’s soft, tender and perfect.  Like licking a grape sherbet ice cream cone while listening to the crescendo of “O Holy Night” or cuddling up beneath a thick fleece blanket in your jammies watching the ending of It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s all those good, wonderful feelings, only better, and without the cacaphony.

But today, it’s over.  We’ve been doing the slow wean for a while now and for the past month or so, I’ve just been nursing Charlie first thing in the morning.  Today, while he’s at my mom and dad’s I tried to pump and got only drops, so the jig is up.

Which means next weekend when I want to sleep in past 5:30 a.m., I can because David can roll out of bed and fix a bottle just as easily as I can.

But it also means, at eleven and a half months old, that my baby is getting older.  That my second baby is weaned.  And it’s sad.  And it’s lovely.  Both.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Whadda you wanna do?

Stuck in the old house, holed up by runny noses, chest congestion, fever, headache, ear infections, and sinus congestion, Finny, Charlie and I have not been doing a whole lot of field tripping the past couple weeks. Even if we were well, the cold, slushy rain is gross and bothersome and who wants to put on anything but a blanket and some socks and Johnny Mathis’s Christmas classics anyway? But when we are stuck in the house for days, I start to become obsessed with “doing something” because surely there are things we can do around the house aside from watching Bambi for the four hundredth time, right? Right?

So last night, I put Charlie to bed early because the poor, sad baby crawled up to me with his frowzy, red mop of curls and red-rimmed eyes and practically demanded that if I did not put him to sleep right this instant, he was going to climb the stairs and scale his crib wall and put himself to bed. So, after poor, old Charlie went off to bed, Finny and I revisited the “what are we gonna do?” conversation once again. Ever seen The Jungle Book? We were the vultures:

“Whadda we gonna do?”
“I don’t know. Whadda you wanna do?”
“I don’t know. Whadda we gonna do?”
“I don’t know. Whadda you—now don’t start that again!”

So, I said, “Finny, what do you wanna do? Wanna play memory cards? Wanna build with blocks? Do you want to do a puzzle?”

His response, “No, I don’t want to do anything. I want to do nothing.”

My thought: Well, we can’t just do nothing…can we? Because that’s actually what I want to do. Is it healthy for a toddler to just do nothing? Shouldn’t he be getting some exercise or learning shapes or numbers or something?

“Okay,” I said, crawling up on the couch and pulling the blanket over me.

He immediately followed suit and crawled up on the other end of the couch and pulled his blanket over him.

Still feeling the need to suggest we do SOMETHING, I asked, “Wanna touch toes?”

Finny beamed from ear to ear and started in with his chipmunk giggles, “Okay! Okay! Let’s touch toes, but you have to take your socks off.” He’s very particular.

“But I don’t wanna take my socks off. My feet’ll get cold.”

“Okay, well, you can just leave them on then.” Thanks, buddy.

And then, we touched toes, and it was…hilarious. There was a little touching of the toes and then a little playful kicking of the feet and through it all just uproarious laughter.

Then, we made a fort with my blanket and we both hid beneath it and we waited for the monster to come, and we waited and waited, and if it were up to Finny, we would’ve waited all night, just to stay cozied up underneath that blanket. And eventually, the monster came, and it was Daddy and he found his spot on the couch too.

And then we decided to read books. And one by one, Finny would pull a book off the self and bring it over to his spot on my lap and listen and snuggle and listen and snuggle. And eventually, forty-five minutes later, we headed off to bed, exhausted.

We did not learn shapes or do leg lunges. We did not bake cookies or build a dinosaur out of blocks. We did not hang a new craft on the wall. We did nothing, and I’ve never laughed harder.

Finny, nothing is more fun than doing nothing with you.