Baby Days

I walked into a family gathering yesterday afternoon and my attention was immediately drawn to my sister-in-law. She was holding her seven week old grandson. She looked at me and asked, “Do you want to hold him?”

“Of course,” I said, reaching for the little guy. I gathered him up on my shoulder and secured him against me with one hand against his back and the other under his butt. He scootched his little legs up underneath himself and took a moment to settle. I’m sure he was wondering who was this person who did not smell at all like Mom. He squeaked and tried to decide which way to lay his head. With my palm against his back and my fingers splayed behind his neck and head, I immediately fell into the bouncy-sway that always settled my own kids when they were babies. The little guy soon grew heavy. I checked him out in a nearby mirror and saw that he had fallen asleep.

We were both as content as could be, the little guy and me. I don’t know that there’s a much better feeling in this world than cuddling a sleeping baby, his fists bunched up against you and his cheek nestled into your neck.

I looked at his mom, our niece, and smiled, finding it hard to believe that this new mother was one of the flower girls in our wedding just a few years ago … or twenty-four years ago today, to be exact. We stood talking while little guy slept against me. My niece said she’d have to go back to work in a week and I frowned and told her I was sorry. I remember being a new mom and the way I suddenly saw the world through new eyes, the way I suddenly became a different person. Becoming a mom makes you infinitely more aware, conscious of the world in a way you’ve never been before. A protector. I remember moments after giving birth, feeling a love so strong I could never have imagined it before.

Several times, my niece and my sister-in-law offered to take the baby off my hands. I told them to eat. I was more than happy to hold the little guy while they enjoyed their meal. I really was. In fact, were it not for a sense of guilt that I was monopolizing him when there were others who wanted to hold him, I would have been happy to hang out with him all afternoon.

It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was the one wondering when I’d enjoy a full night’s sleep again, when I’d get to eat a hot meal, or when I could sit and read a book uninterrupted. Now that little girl who walked down the aisle at my wedding is wondering the same things, while I sit in a quiet house and wonder what my “babies” are doing as they are off living their own lives.

So what do you do when you reach this point in your life, when your babies have grown up and don’t need you like they used to? You sit back and enjoy watching others enjoy the parenthood adventure. You marvel at how things have changed and you remember all the fun you had raising babies. You remember too how it wasn’t always all rainbows and sunshine and are glad that gone are the days of four year-olds flooding the bathroom while your husband is away at work and unavailable to help clean up the mess.

And…

You take advantage of the fact that those in the midst of their child-rearing days are more than happy to let you entertain their kids for a while. You take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to be the parent, the disciplinarian. You can just be the goofball auntie who gets down on the floor and plays silly games with a kid who is craving some attention.

Nephew Ryan is always more than happy to pose for the camera…

And at the end of the day, you can fall into bed with little doubt that a full night’s sleep awaits you.

God’s not in the mailbox

As it often does, the lunch time conversation turned to religion. We each talked about the different ways we were raised in our faiths, our pitfalls along the way, the different beliefs we’ve held over the years. I mentioned my disappointment over the fact that I couldn’t recall having one of those big faith moments that so many people have experienced. You know the ones – those moments when someone clearly hears God speaking, or sees Him in the everyday surroundings, or simply has a defining moment when His presence is undeniably felt. I said that maybe it’s a failure on my own part that I haven’t had one of those moments. Either way, it contributes to my struggle with religion.

I wanted to lighten the mood, so I relayed an experience I had just last night. I was reading. Mark was watching t.v. and opening mail. I hadn’t been minding my husband, but he caught my attention when I heard him say, “Oh that was freaky! This is freaking me out! Look at this!”

I looked up to find him holding a sheet of paper in front of me that looked like this:

“Just stare into His eyes,” Mark told me. “Stare at them for a few minutes and you’ll see them open!”

So I stared.

And I stared.

And I stared some more.

I could literally feel my heart sink. His eyes didn’t open for me. I was sure it was a sign of my failure to be strong in my faith.

“His eyes aren’t opening for me,” I sort of whined to Mark.

“Just keep looking. They’ll open.”

I stared more. I knew what this was. I’ve seen plenty of optical illusions in my time. I couldn’t make this one work.

“I can’t see it,” I said to Mark, feeling defeated. And then I Googled the image to see what my failure said about me.

I explained to my coworkers that I was relieved to see that according to Google, this illusion was unanimously seen as a scam. The picture comes to you by mail. When you see the eyes of Jesus open, you are amazed and filled with awe. And this will make you want to follow the enclosed instructions and send your prayer requests (and some moolah!) to the designated church, which only exists as a P.O. box. Some “pastor” is getting rich off this scam. But he’s getting nada from me because the miracle failed to materialize for me.

My coworkers wanted to see the image that had me so bothered, so after lunch, I passed on a link. Thus ensued the following instant message conversation:

I’d like to think God has a sense of humor. I sure hope so because this had me laughing harder today than I’ve laughed in … I don’t know … a long time! And I’ve really been feeling like I could use a laugh lately. My coworkers sensed my feelings of worry over a silly mailing and took it upon themselves to make me see the lighter side of it. And anyone who has coworkers like mine would surely feel blessed!

Have I learned anything from this experience? Yes. I can find God wherever I think I might find him. It doesn’t have to be where others tell me he should be found.

Splat!

Jake isn’t much of a talker. Out of my three kids, he’s the one that’s the biggest mystery to me. I see things in him though that remind me of myself when I was young, so I get it. And considering that communication with Jake often consists of things like, “I’m going to work, bye,” I always feel fortunate when he occasionally feels more chatty.

So I was working at my desk yesterday when my phone rang. I picked it up and was greeted with, “You’ve got to stop cleaning these windows with Windex!”

Immediately detecting a note of humor in Jake’s voice, I was pleasantly surprised.

“I don’t clean them with Windex,” I said. (I have a special cleaning cloth for glass.) “Wait, what windows,” I asked?

“The front ones.”

He was going to make me work for this. “And why should I not be cleaning them?”

“Because,” he said. “I was sitting at the table eating a bowl of cereal and watching the t.v. in the living room when I heard a huge thud against the window. Scared the crap out of me!”

I was laughing by now. “What was it?”

“A Blue Jay.”

“Is it dead?”

“No, I don’t think so. He fell down in the grass but he’s moving around.

“Okay,” I said. “Well, keep an eye on him, I guess. I don’t want a dead Blue Jay laying in the yard.”

“Mom, I can’t keep him from dying!”

“I just mean that if he does die, scoop him up and throw him in the trash barrel or something. I’ll feel bad if he dies and I see him laying there dead.”

“I don’t think he’s gonna die,” Jake said. “I think he’s just stunned.”

“Good,” I said. “Well, much as I’d love to continue discussing birds who fly into windows, I need to go back to work.”

“Okay,” Jake said. I could still hear the laughter in his voice. Man, it’s good to hear him that way. I worry about him sometimes. He’s so … inside himself most of the time.

When I came home from work, there was no dead Blue Jay in my yard. Pretty sure he’s got a whopper of a headache, wherever he is.

Come to think of it, you’d think these guys would get headaches too:

The one who's been poking holes in my pine tree...

Laying on Beds

Mark and I ran some errands after work today. First it was off to a local bowling alley. Not one of my two regular bowling alleys, but the new one where our Saturday league will be moving next season. I’m in charge of Fun Night for the Saturday league again and it’s this weekend. And it will be the most fun Fun Night ever! I made a game where we’ll bowl 9-Pin No Tap for three games. Strikes are worth one point and spares are worth two. As soon as a bowler accumulates fifteen points, they get to come claim a prize envelope. Most bowlers will win five dollars, but a few others will win more.

I wanted to make Fun Night even more fun, so we went to the new bowling alley tonight and talked to the manager. I said, “Hey, our league is coming to your bowling alley next year and I wondered if you’d donate a few free food coupons or something for me to use as prizes for our Fun Night this weekend.”

The manager said, “Sure, I’ll give you some freebies.” And he donated – for every bowler in our league – a pass good for three free games of bowling for up to four players. And then to top it off, he donated what equates to a bowling party. It was a certificate for three free games of bowling for twelve people, plus free shoe rental.

I was so excited! These are great prizes. I thanked the manager profusely for his generosity! Remind me to send him a thank-you card.

After the bowling business was taken care of, we went to check out new mattresses. We need a new mattress. Ours is eighty bajillion years old, or maybe not quite. But it’s old. I’m a side sleeper and I sleep on my left shoulder. I can’t help it. Even if I fall asleep in a different position, I eventually end up on my left side. And when I wake up, my shoulder hurts. And Mark said he was looking into buying a sprinkler system for the yard, and I said, “Well if you get a sprinkler system, then I want a new mattress.” So being the good husband that he is, he took me to look at mattresses because he figured it was a small price to pay for a sprinkler system.

We went to the local furniture store where they sell indoor furniture and outdoor furniture and mattresses. We wandered our way into the mattress section and after perusing mattresses aimlessly for a few minutes, a nice sales-woman asked if she could help us. Mark said, “Can you show us where those… ummm… something-pedic mattresses are?”

And she willingly showed us the way to the something-pedic mattresses with the memory foam that contains cooling gel so you won’t get too hot while sleeping. I wasn’t sure how I felt about a memory foam mattress. I have a memory foam pillow. I like it alright. I use it when my neck hurts and then I go back to my pile of regular pillows until my neck hurts again. But laying my whole body on memory foam? It just doesn’t seem right. Mattresses are supposed to be bouncy, aren’t they?

Mark was fascinated by the memory foam. He played with the sample pieces that the store puts out so you can see what’s really inside the mattress. The sales woman was telling us how much she loved her something-pedic mattress. She said to go ahead and lay on some of the mattresses.

Mark sat on a bed and laid back, letting his feet dangle on the floor. “Hey, this feels pretty good,” he said. “Try it.”

I took my shoes off and climbed fully onto the mattress. If I was going to test it out, I wasn’t going to pussy-foot around. I got on my left side and curled my legs up a little. I liked it. I really liked it.

“Wake me up in an hour,” I said to Mark. He looked embarrassed and said, “I can’t take you anywhere.”

While the sales woman continued to talk about all of the benefits of the something-pedic mattresses, I continued trying out beds of varying firmness. I found one I really liked and called Mark over to try it out. The sales woman said it was the best-selling mattress of the brand we were considering.

We continued to lay on the bed while the sales woman talked. Mark asked if the mattress would keep him from tossing and turning so much. She promised it would. I asked if it would keep Mark on his own side of the bed. I pushed him toward the other side as I asked it. She said she couldn’t guarantee it. Mark said I was embarrassing him. The sales woman said, “Oh, that’s not embarrassing. You wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve seen in this line of work. I’ve seen it all.”

We agreed that details were not necessary.

Mark asked if the mattress would work with our existing frame. The sales woman said it would. I said, “Wait a minute. I wanted to get a bigger bed this time. I was thinking king size.”

Mark said, “We don’t need a king size bed. There’s plenty of room for two in a queen. Make Lucy go sleep somewhere else if you don’t have enough room.”

“Why don’t you go sleep somewhere else,” I suggested.

We were quickly getting sold on this bed. Mark finally thought to ask how long they were on sale. Because we had gone there due to the mattress sale.

“Oh these aren’t on sale,” the sales woman said. “The ones out front are on sale, but not these.”

“Well I guess we don’t have to make a rush decision if they’re not on sale right now,” Mark said.

“These never go on sale,” the sales woman said.

“Oh,” we said. That was interesting.

“How much is this one,” I asked? I was already having visions of blissfully restful nights in that bed.

“It’s $@,*&%,” she said.

“Yikes,” I said. It was a lot of money for a bed. But of course, we were now so sold on the bed that we weren’t quite ready to walk away from it.

“Just out of curiosity,” Mark said, “How much is the top of the line bed in the competing brand?”

“$13,000.”

Thirteen. Thousand. Dollars. For a bed. I don’t know. All I can think is you’d have to have some serious sleep issues to be willing to spend $13,000 on a bed. And you know I had to lay on it after hearing that. It felt good. But thirteen thousand dollars good? I don’t know. I made Mark go lay on it. He did the dangly legs thing again while he laid on his back. I said, “It’s a thirteen thousand dollar bed! Go for the gusto! Get your whole body up there!”

But he wouldn’t do it. He’s not adventurous like me.

Of course, the one we liked didn’t seem quite so outrageously priced now. We said we’d go home and think about it. We took the sales woman’s card because we want to work with her when  if we go back to purchase the bed. She was knowledgeable and she played along with our antics and besides, we just liked her.

As we walked out, Mark was saying how he would really love to have that bed.

“But it’s a lot of money.”

“And you know we have to have new bedding if we get a new bed,” I said. “I’ll start looking.” (See how I did that? I’m getting a new mattress.)

Ethan

It was a beautiful day outside today. So I’m not sure why I spent it closed up in the house, cleaning the lower level and doing laundry. It’s supposed to rain all day tomorrow. I should have saved the chores for the rainy day.

Lucy is shedding buckets lately. I’d just finished vacuuming her fur from the furniture in the family room when I noticed movement outside the window which sits at ground level. Ethan was toddling around in the landscaping rocks in front of the house. Mark had put the water fountain out again last week. Ethan loves the water fountain. Almost every day last summer when I’d arrive home from work, Ethan and his mom would be out playing in their yard next door and Ethan would come and crouch in front of the fountain, picking up rocks, dropping them in and pulling them back out again. His fondness for the water fountain didn’t diminish over the winter. But he was disappointed today to see that the water isn’t running in it yet. (It’s supposed to snow on Monday. We’ll wait until the chance of freezing is over.)

I pulled up the blinds in the family room and watched Ethan pick rocks up in his tiny hands. He’d study them for a moment before lifting his hand up high and letting them drop with a thud back to the garden. It took him a moment to notice me looking at him from the other side of the window, but when he did, his eyebrows raised in delight and I could hear him squeal, “CAH!” (CAR!)

See, last week we were enjoying one of those after work warm day visits with Ethan and his parents. Ethan’s mom said he spent many days over the winter, looking out their front window. He’d see Bob across the street and he’d point. His mom would say, “That’s Bob.” Ethan learned to say Bob. He’d see Mark and he’d point. His mom would say, “That’s Mark.” Ethan learned to say “Muck.” He’d see me and point. His mom would say, “That’s Terri.” Ethan learned to say, “Tee!”

While we visited in the front yard, Ethan showed me all the words he’d learned to say since last fall. We played basketball. Ethan wanted Mark to put the ball through the net. Mark stood below and tossed the ball in several times. Ethan pointed and said, “Dunk!”

Ethan loves vehicles. He stood in our driveway and pointed first to Mark’s side of the garage. “Muck truck,” Ethan said.

“Yes, that’s Mark’s truck,” his mom agreed.

Then Ethan pointed to the blue vehicle. “Tee cah,” Ethan said.

“Yes, that’s Terri’s car,” his mom said.

Ethan wandered between the two vehicles and pulled on the door handle of my car. Of course, he was too small and didn’t have the strength to open a car door. I helped him open it and together, we stared inside. Ethan turned and looked up at me standing behind him and then looked back into the car.

“You wanna go in,” I asked?

He turned to look at me again and nodded. Ethan is all boy. He climbed all by himself until he was in my passenger seat. He stared at the steering wheel and then turned to me again with a silent question written all over his face.

“You wanna drive,” I asked?

A smile spread across Ethan’s face and he nodded again, then climbed across to the driver’s seat. So Ethan drove (he had to stand up on the seat to see over the wheel) and I was the passenger. I talked to him while he drove and he pointed at the speedometer and told me, “clock.” He pushed buttons on the radio and tried to beep the horn, but couldn’t get it to make noise. He turned to look over his shoulder and make sure Mommy and Daddy were still out in the driveway waiting for him. There they were, talking with Mark while Ethan drove and I rode. I asked, “Do you want to go see Mommy and Daddy now?”

“No,” Ethan said, still driving somewhere far away and exciting.

Eventually, Ethan’s mom said he had to go eat dinner and our road trip in the garage came to a stop.

When Ethan saw me today, he remembered we drove and wanted to do it again. But before I could even get outside, his attention was drawn elsewhere and he ran between his yard and ours while his mom and I talked.

She told me they got an offer on the house. It’s been on the market for a few months. They got an offer today and they accepted it. They have to be out in six weeks.

I’m sad. I’m going to miss my neighbors. They are great neighbors. And I am sure going to miss my little driving buddy.

Meeting the Parents

Brad and Heather have been dating for … oh, about three years now. It’s pretty safe to say they are serious. They’ve been “roommates,” sharing living space with other students for a couple of years. They share a dog. They’ve recently learned they are losing their current roommates and have found a new place to live, just the three of them. (Brad, Heather and Dacotah.)

They’ve mentioned a few times that Mark and I should meet Heather’s parents. A date has been proposed a few times but never panned out. A couple of weeks ago, Brad suggested again that we try to meet. He and Heather would be at her parents’ house for Easter, so the distance between us would only be an hour. We could meet half-way for a casual lunch on Saturday.

I was a little nervous. What if they didn’t like us? What if we had nothing to talk about? In the end, I had nothing to worry about. They were actually scary similar to Mark and me. Before we left, I’d kind of been on Mark about what he was wearing. We were going to a casual restaurant, but he was dressed, well… pretty casual. I asked if he couldn’t ditch the sweatshirt and put something a little better on. He found a denim shirt to wear over his t-shirt. (Oh well.) When Heather’s parents arrived, her dad was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt with some kind of hunting/camouflage logo on it, the likes of which can easily be found in Mark’s wardrobe. And Heather’s mom? Dressed pretty much the same way I typically dress. And the conversation was easy and we all had a great time.

More than once, I wondered why the push to get together on Easter weekend? Heather’s mom was busy! She was hosting family for Easter the next day. If I were in her shoes, I wouldn’t be so thrilled about taking time out from the holiday preparations to go to lunch. Could it be that Brad and Heather had a special announcement to share with us? Could it be they finally decided to make things official? I wouldn’t be surprised. After all, they are perfect for each other!

But nope. After all was said and done, it was just lunch. But it sure was nice to meet Heather’s parents!

Throwing Punches

I really wasn’t feeling right yesterday. This not-right feeling had been building since the weekend and as I drove to work, it suddenly occurred to me what it was. Anxiety.

The night before, I’d called Kacey at school in response to a text message she’d sent me, asking if I could make a doctor appointment for her. Her back has been bothering her for about six weeks, but she couldn’t quite decide if it was bad enough to see a doctor. While she was home on spring break, she seemed to feel better. So no doctor. Now that she’s back at school, the pain has flared up again. When I called her Tuesday night, she was in tears. She said she’d simply been walking down the hallway in her dorm when she began to feel shooting pain down the back of her leg. By yesterday morning, she was making arrangements with her instructors to be excused from her classes and Mark went to pick her up. She’s since been to the chiropractor twice and is feeling a bit better.

So there was that.

And then there was some work stuff involving somebody being arrogant… involving a power-struggle that really had little to do with me but affected me none the less. And it made me worry. Because that’s what I do. I worry about things.

By the end of the day, I was wound tight as a drum. My friend Lori said, “Come to the gym with me. You’ll like this class I’m going to.”

So I did. The class was called Club Boxing Circuit! :-)

This class was more intense than anything I’ve ever done. For the first half of the class, we did heavy-duty cardio. We lunged. We kicked. We ran. And we did it all over and over again. Then we got to punch bags! Lori said it might be good for me if I pictured the face of someone on that bag. So I did. I got to wear boxing gloves and I got to punch that bag over and over and over again. Jab! Hook! Body! Upper cut! Faster! Harder! I punched and punched.

Google Images

 Man, that felt good! I mean REALLY good. And the reality is, I got so “in a zone” that I literally forgot about my trying day. I forgot about difficult people. I just punched and punched until all the fire had gone out of me. I was out of breath. I was drenched in sweat. By the time I left the gym, I felt like a wet noodle. And when I crawled in to bed after a nice hot shower, I drifted off effortlessly. I slept like a baby, and I woke up feeling renewed.

I highly recommend boxing as a form of therapy. I can’t wait to do it again next week!