A weekend with Grandma and Papa (KK’s parents) makes everything MUCH better.  On Saturday we took our weekly pilgrimage to the Farmer’s Market followed by Swimming Lessons.  This is my ABSOLUTE favorite way to spend a Saturday.  The only activity I love more than visiting the farmer’s market is swimming.  Put those two things in one day and add the whole family?!?!  Win!  Also, Z started sleeping well again (three nights with 6+hour stretches) and managed to show us tooth #3.  Way to go kid!

To expand a little on my last post:  A student who was home for the summer managed to overdose on prescription medications.  We will never know if it was accidental or intentional.  He is on life support until they determine if it is possible for him to make any kind of recovery – for at least another 2-3 weeks.  Because of the amount of brain damage he did there will never be a full recovery.    It took quite a while to come to the decision that the needed to give him that time…in the middle of the week it was looking more like there would be no chance of recovery.  This made it a very rocky week for everyone.   As clergy on a college campus it is my responsibility to provide rituals that honor our community and the students who have left it, and to provide pastoral care to students who are struggling.  To say that the week was draining is putting it mildly.  I don’t think I really slept until Friday night…

As the mother of a boy there is a whole new level of heartbreak in these moments.  I spent a lot of time over the last week thinking about how incredible life is and how miserable I was in college.  For a few years I thought daily about how wonderful it would be to not be in the world anymore.  Thankfully, I did not act on those thoughts.  As I imagine Z’s life I wonder how I can spare him from those moments.  Not the moments when life is hard.  It’s important to work through those things.  But, to spare him from ever feeling like life was so awful that you just don’t want to be alive.

When I was little I would often say that I couldn’t wait to grow up.  I looked forward to being free to make my own choices and decisions about everything.  The adults around me always scoffed, saying that childhood was much better.  As an adult now I disagree.  Childhood had its lovely moments, but this adulthood is so much better.  What I want for my child is to have the experience of adulthood.  To be able to make his own choices and dance to the beat of his own drummer.  I want him to see and feel and taste and smell how amazing life is.  I hope that he would learn that there is always grace, always forgiveness, always redemption.  He cannot unmake poor decisions, but he can always clean up the mess and move on.

There aren’t good words for what is going on at work right now…  This poem is helping me frame my own thoughts for the moment.  Since it’s Mary Oliver’s work and her writing is amazing I thought I’d share.

 

“When Death Comes,” by Mary Oliver, from New and Selected Poems (Beacon Press). 

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

Life is hard right now.  We’ve had an emergency on campus that is dragging on.  I haven’t slept well in weeks.  After our last two awesome trips with great sleep Z jumped off the good sleep wagon.  He fusses when he wakes up and wants to be asleep – multiple times a night.  It’s totally normal except that I am up like a shot the minute I hear him.  That equals many many many wake ups per night.  Ugh.  And KK has been working a LOT of night shifts.  I really miss my wife.  

It’s good to get that all off my chest, but that’s not what I want to say today.  

First.  

You’ve got this.  

I’ve got this.  

We’ll be just fine.  

Growing up I was always afraid to make the wrong decision.  Unpacking that angst I’ve found that it was the result of growing up with a mother who always had the right answer.  Not just the answer she thought was right.  It was always the right f*ing answer.  I could make a different decision, but I was going to be wrong.  She is brilliant.  She wanted the best for me and saved me from myself in some important ways.  And, it was miserable

I have become my mother.  

I realized a few weeks ago that KK was asking me what I thought about every decision she made.  It was annoying.  And I quickly realized that I started it.  I was giving the right answer every time, and when I didn’t I was doing an “I told you so” or an “I knew better” every time she made a decision that wasn’t to my liking.  It was gross.  It made me hate myself.  So. Not. Cool.  

Then, I was reading a parenting article about RIE (www.janetlansbury.com) and I realized that I was trying to help too much.  In my desire to get it right I wasn’t allowing for multiple ways of being, doing, living well.  We are all capable of making great decisions.  We don’t need someone to tell us how to do it because we already know what we need.  And if we don’t know exactly what we need, we can figure it out ourselves.  If I help Z too much I’m not doing him any favors.  In fact, I’m denying him the experience of failing and learning that he can pick himself back up.  I work with too many students who are 18 years old and are terrified of failure, because they have never been allowed to experience it.  I want Z to fail.  I want him to make his own decisions, not just the ones I think are right.  He deserves to have my love, support and admiration in every time he makes a reasonable to good decision – even if I don’t love it.

This was something I needed to apply to all of my relationships, including the one I have with myself.  All this getting it right nonsense is ridiculous.  You’ve got this.  I’ve got this.  We’ll be just fine.  If it’s not perfect we can pick up the pieces.  No big thing.  Failures are awesome.  Taking a risk. Trusting each other.  It’s all totally worth it.  Because…

Second.

We are all doing the best that we can.  That’s it.  That jerk on the highway who cut me off?  Doing the best that he can..  The neighbors who woke my kid up with fireworks?  Life for many folks in my neighborhood is hard.  They were just celebrating.  My wife not doing exactly what I thought she should have done while I was at work and Z was a daycare?  No big thing.  She did what needed to be done.  She’s doing the best that she can.  In fact, we are all doing the best that we can.  

So, I’m finding some liberation in these two things.  And I think that they are making me a better wife, a better Chaplain to my students, a better mom, a better person.  

A few of my favorite things:20130618-113242.jpg

My birthday was on Friday.  Knowing the value of a good surprise (and a fancy blue box for this girly girl)  KK bought me a pair of earrings.  I was shocked (to say the least).  She is still the head of the surprise department in our family.  Not to be outdone, Z slept like a champ on the last two trips!  Thank you, family!

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While visiting my bff in Savannah Z took his first trip to the beach.  He thought the ocean was terrifying and the tide pools were awesome.   Smart kid, that one…

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KK and Z at a picnic to celebrate our good friend’s acceptance to Teach for America.  Luckily she is going to be placed in our town so we only have to say goodbye for the 5 weeks she is spending in training…

20130618-113613.jpgAnd on to some content:

KK and I are celebrating our second wedding anniversary.  We were married two years ago by a Justice of the Peace in the boardroom in the Hospital my father runs.  It was intimate, moving and perfect.  After the brief ceremony my dad’s secretary snapped this picture of the two of us.  It is one of my favorite pictures of all time.

Two days later we had our big ceremony and party with family and friends (actually it was small…35 people).  We vowed to love each other into the twilight of our lives, ate lobster rolls and played croquet with friends in the sunshine.  It too was a perfect day.

Weddings are lovely.

Marriage is hard.

Also, I’m bad at it.  I’m not bad at being faithful, or at loving.  I do both of those things fairly well.  I’m bad at trust and I stink at letting go.  Over the past year I’ve been a good mom, a pretty awesome provider, an excellent organizer, and a pain in the backside for my wife.  In the midst of KK’s struggles with depression and less than ideal employment situations I’ve been angry, frustrated, blame-y and frequently ugly.  Rather than remembering that what I need in KK is someone who can balance me by reminding me to stop doing (she is excellent at this) I’ve been mad that she wasn’t as uber-over-organized as I am.  I wanted to stop doing, and thought it was her job to pick up the slack.  But that’s not who she is.  Rather than trusting her to take care of the necessary stuff, I picked at all the things she didn’t do.   So, I was crabby.  And whiney.  And sometimes mean.  Not cool, not cool at all.  In turn, she stopped listening much to me (can you blame her?).   This is a two way street and KK is no saint, but I can say with certainly that she is much better at marriage than I.  Considering that we have been working on our communication the whole time I think that what I can honestly say is that marriage is hard work.  Over the last few weeks (under the advisement of our therapist) we have both been working on compassion.  Reminding ourselves that we are in this together, and that neither of us act out of maliciousness.  It sounded silly to me at first, but the more I live into compassion the happier we are.

Teamwork is hard, but having a partner in crime is worth it.  Today, in the day between our anniversaries I am committed to working hard to keep us together for many years to come.  I will continue to be faithful, and loving while I work to let go of “doing” and be a bit more trusting.

It’s a traveling kind of summer here at Chez K.  Last weekend we visited KK’s family in Chicago.  Next weekend we will head to Savannah to visit my BFF and her lovely husband and daughter (who also happens to be a Z).  For my birthday I’m attending a conference in Columbus and eating Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream with KK and Z.  Then in August we will be off to the beach for a week with my family, a week at home, and then a week in Calgary for my cousin’s wedding.

YAY!

I love to travel.

Z is an excellent traveler.  He loves the car seat.  He flies with ease.  Z thinks new people are THE.MOST.INTERESTING.EVER.  But, like attracts like and Z is clearly of my gene pool.  When away from home the boy sleeps for no-mama and refuses to provide us with number 2s.  Thus, today’s “prunestache” is brought to you by mr. i-will-not-poop-on-vacation!

Sorry dude, you may win the no-sleep battle, but you may not withhold for a week.  I’m glad you like the prunes!

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In other news… We had a family photoshoot while visiting KK’s family.  Sunny Girl Photography captured some incredible shots of the whole family but this is my favorite.  Z at 6 months.  I can’t believe that we get to be mamas to this boy.  He is the love of my life.  Also, he’s got my eyes.  How awesome is that?!?
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Still working on how to put the binkie in himself…

We are a “binkie” familiy.  Early on I worried about nipple confusion, but Z is totally clear about the purposes of each nipple.  Yesterday he was happily hanging out with his binkie when I laid him down to nurse.  He promptly turned his head, spit out the bink and launched himself into an appropriate latch.  Rock on, kid, rock on.

For calming only an orange, hospital issue, binkie will do.  For food, well Mama is preferable but a bottle will suffice.

Lately he has been exploring putting the binkie in himself.   This particular attempt just cracked me up.   Also, my son is 20lbs and 29in as of his 6 month appointment with our pediatrician.  OH MY!  Good thing we have the convertible car seat waiting in the wings.  He’s about a month from done with this one…  Now we are hoping he will be tall like my brother (Big D is 6ft 5in).

 

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Driving lessons with Mommy…

KK and I have been having a rough go.  The first year of parenthood is not for the faint of heart.  Lack of sleep makes me not so nice and not so happy.  Lack of sleep makes KK needy.  Mostly we love each other a lot and don’t always like each other so much right now.  But, this photo exemplifies all that is good about my wife.  I had a meeting in the city last week and she brought Z to me not once, but twice so that I could nurse him rather than lugging my pump with me.  This photo was taken while they waited 15 minutes for me to come out of the building.  It was an interruption to her day with Z and a huge gift to me.  We talk often about the stresses of the breastfeeding relationship.  It’s hard on my body, a sometimes source of friction in our relationship, a challenge in the workplace and the best thing that we can do for Z.  The longer we go the more proud I am that I was pretty hardcore about nursing in the beginning.  That early dedication has made it much easier to keep going even when the going gets tough.  It has also helped KK understand why this is so important.  Her support is amazing considering that I’m pretty sure she’d like to have the boobs back.  ;)

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The best day ever…or Commencement 2013

Sunday was commencement on our campus.  We sat in the shade to watch some of my favorite students graduate.  To temper my sadness Z gifted me with the BEST.DAY.EVER.  He nursed in all sorts of strange locations – quite a feat for an inquisitive baby – made friends with my work colleagues, napped incredibly well for someone who took ALL his naps in the car that day, and was super cheerful.  I am so lucky.  After commencement we met KK and her church youth group kids at the Zoo.  I was shocked to learn that Z loves birds.  The budgies were a favorite.

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Oats!

In true family fashion, Z loves oatmeal.  Z’s Bob (my dad – didn’t want to be Grandpa, so he’s just Bob) and his great grandpa Ed are oatmeal lovers.   I doubt that they rub it all over their face when they eat it, but hey, dedication is dedication!

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This is what 6 months old looks like first thing in the morning.

Last night Z went to bed at 8pm, was up to nurse at 10:30pm and then did not wake up again until I woke him at 7:30am.  “Happy 6 month birthday, Mama!”  It was awesome…

Thank God for awesome because there is quite a bit of not awesome in my life right now.  My beloved cousin J has cancer.  He is 32 years old.  His daughters are 3 and 2 months.  For at least the next 7 months he will be in the hospital for 3 weeks out of every month.  At night when his daughter S heads to bed she tells her Grandma, “I miss my Papa.”  His wife, K is amazing.  She is juggling her daughters, her family, her job, and keeping us all informed through a daily blog.  I am in awe of her.  After a week of tests the diagnosis came back yesterday.  It’s a form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, “DLBCL”, and the good news seems to be that it’s not in his spinal cord or brain yet.  All forms of support and positive wishes are appreciated.  We all deserve life abundant.

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This little boy will happily sleep anywhere…in this case, on the floor at daycare.

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In a family of big heads Zach-o fits right in…

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On Monday morning Mommy and Z talk about the beauty of a ceiling fan.

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Surprise! There are sharks to pet at this Zoo.

Purchasing a membership to the local zoo has been liberating.  Now we can drop in when we have a free half hour without worrying about”getting our money’s worth”.  On Sunday KK’s youth group event was cancelled so we headed to the Zoo to enjoy a lovely cool afternoon.  Z is ALL OVER animals.  Who knew that there were creatures to watch that were even sillier than our cats?  Favorites were barking seals, flamingos and ring tailed lemurs.

In other news I have taken to hanging out at daycare when I drop Z off.  :/  It’s not intentional.  One minute I’m passing Z off and the next I’m chatting with the day care provider.  Suddenly, 20 minutes has passed and I can’t really tell you why I stuck around.  I think I’m desperate for a mom’s group but I can’t imagine where I’d even begin looking.  Z loves being with other kids.  It is incredible to watch him interact with his daycare friends.  I’d love to do something like that on the weekend, but the thought of trying to figure out what groups would be friendly to our family is a huge deterrent for me.  And so it goes….

When I was pregnant with Zachary and the doctors would ask if I had a “birth plan” I usually replied that the plan was to have a healthy baby. I knew that I wanted to try to give birth without pain medication, and that it would be nice if the birth was “natural”. I watched “The Business of Being Born” and considered all of my birth options very seriously. But underneath it all I was %100 sure that this was Z’s show, not mine. While I was entering into mamahood, Z was entering into life. And starting a new life out in the world way trumps my transition to mama status. After 36 hours of labor and one scare with a decelerating heartbeat Z was born via c-section. Our amazing anesthesiologist calmed me while I shook and then documented the entire event with our D-SLR camera so that KK wasn’t watching Z’s birth through a viewfinder. In my dyadreams I’d hoped that the first person to hold Z out in the world would be his Mommy. I’d been holding him for the last 9 months and now it was her turn. But I thought it would be unlikely to play out that way. Thanks to the c-section KK was in fact the first of our family to hold him, the first to welcome him into the world, the first to call him by name. The story of Zachary’s first day was so much better, so much more than I ever could’ve imagined and yet, even with all of the work I’d done to assure myself and others that this was his big day not mine, I somehow was left feeling like less because it wasn’t the “right” birth.

Today Z is 5 months old. In our family we’ve worked together to figure out what is best for all of us. For us that means that Z is fed only breastmilk, but he gets it by bottle and nursing. I (very happily) work full time as does KK. When Z is hanging out with KK they use the stroller and when he’s hanging out with me we use the Pikkolo carrier to get around. Z goes to daycare 5 days a week and LOVES it. He thinks his daycare provider is the best and really loves being around other babies. When we run errands on the weekends Z is always most excited to see other children. At 4.5 months Z moved out of our room and into his own. He’s sleeping much more soundly in his own bed, in fact, this week we swaddle weaned with no problems at all. Z loves his sleep. Loves Loves Loves his sleep. Just like I do. And we both sleep better this way. Last weekend Z rolled over back to tummy trying to keep our kitty, Dexter, in view. Right now his favorite “toys” are the cats. He’d watch them do just about everything if they’d let him. Every decision KK and I make about Z’s care is done with a view towards helping him become a stable, independent, feminist young man who knows without any doubts that his parents adore him. We want to help him become the best Z he can be, and for us that begins by letting him know that we will meet all of his needs but he doesn’t run the show in this family. KK and I see our family as a little ecosystem. We all have things that we need and the goal is to get all of those needs met. No one trumps anyone else. That’s just what works for us. And yet, last night we spent an hour talking about our “choices” in parenting. I was panicked that we had done it wrong, made the wrong choice, somehow ruined Z by not bed sharing and not having one of us stay home with him. When we “stroll” him around town I feel guilty for not breaking out the Pikkolo, even when he’d be to warm to be happy that way. When I’m out by myself, at a worship service, or reading a book at a coffee shop to meet my own needs I feel guilty about taking time away from Z. But here’s the thing… Z loves me, and he loves his Mommy. He’s happy to be with us, and he’s happy to do his own thing apart from us. He likes to hang out in his crib and chatter to himself in the morning. These expectations are not Z’s expectations, they are my expectations, gathered from too many blogs and books and pop culture commentaries.

For me feminism has always been about women having the equal right to become fully realized independent and interdependent people. I like the diversity in the world, and what I want most for all of us is the ability to be fully ourselves. There are lots of mamas and papas that I admire. Some stay at home and baby wear and attachment parent. Some work and use daycare. Some nurse and some formula feed. Some cloth diaper, some use EC, some use disposables. Some buy their children all new clothes and some only shop resale. What they have in common is that they are true to themselves, true to their families, true to their children. These are people who love their kids beyond any kind of love they imagined before. Just like we love Zachary so much more than all the love we thought we were capable of. When I read their stories as an indictment of my own I do us all an injustice. Buying into the notion that there is a “right” way to do everything not only robs me of my sense of accomplishment as a parent, it robs me of my feminist values.

What I want right now is to be a part of a feminist community of parents that is committed to learning from one another, not diminishing one another. The world needs our children. The world needs us.

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Don’t you just want to eat him right up?