Monday, January 25, 2016

Snowzilla: Playtime

Snow time: Grace in her new snow pants and snow boots; Laura in her snow sack. Shenanigans!

That is Will's car. So.

Our neighbor shoveled a pathway for us since I couldn't get out of the house safely, and I hired a man to clear the rest of the pathway today. We apparently got 31" of snow; once Will gets home, we'll have to dig his car out! Till then, I've requested cheese sticks and cough drops from one of Grace's therapists coming to the house tomorrow.

This is Will's last week away; we're both ready for him to come home.

"Separation" by W.S. Merwin

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Snowzilla: The Wrath of Jonas

We didn't know what to expect when we woke up. So, we came prepared.

We checked outside: not bad, not bad... probably should have brought everything inside, but oh well. 

Then the real fun began. 


No precious snowflakes, no sir. Real bonafide blustery snow-filled winds. Mama sips her coffee and ignores, "Out? Snow!"

We also did chores, which reminded me to look for a smaller broom set for Grace. Afterwards, we went to Laura's room, cleaned up and out clothes (I am purging!!) and fixed up a little play fort with the toddler mattress currently not in use. The girls love it, and I am pleased too! 

The snow continues - 10" by noon, with an expected 6-10" more today. 

View from our kitchen window
Will worked a 24 hour shift in the PICU and refused to stay another minute; alas, another resident could not get in, so he worked another 2 hours before a 20 minute drive. Fortunately, it seems everyone is staying off the roads, more or less - in their cars. Everyone loves walking in the street already, he reports, and even more so with snow! He is grateful that I made him take our Honda, because his light Toyota would never have made it. There it is in the driveway, where I had him park so the house wouldn't look empty. Mistake, I guess. That's his driver's side mirror and door handle sort of visible.

The roads are cleared hourly... if you can tell.
We watched our neighbor shovel his sidewalk for a bit, the birds outside, played, snacked a few times, and organized.

Laura is walking around the downstairs using the wall and furniture, so I'm ecstatic! Plus, she's the cutest little bear. 

And now the snow is up to the door on the porch. Stay tuned as I decide what to cook for dinner!

Where are you camping out? Any snow adventures? Or sunny skies?

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Monday, January 4, 2016

Climb Every Mountain

Once we finished breakfast, Laura resumed her favorite activity of standing against the window. It's freezing cold outside, and we were not going anywhere near that windchill.

She can climb up on the couch now, using the little step stool, and up on the edge. And when Laura's done, she can slide herself off the couch via belly. I've always thought the couch was a nice height when Grace was learning to creep, but it's absolutely fascinating watching my ten month old become so mobile. 

She's simply fearless, for better and worse. I've always been more cautious, and I love encouraging my daughter in a safe zone of exploration. 

Will is "gone" for the month - Philadelphia for his pediatric ED and ICU rotations. Fortunately, he's off on Wednesday and Thursday so he can come back for Journal Club and Grand Rounds and I am thrilled. Throughout the month, we'll visit him when we can, and he'll come back too. 

I'm using the time to purge the house. This means I am cleaning out nooks and crannies, and whenever Grace finds something she enjoyed as a baby, she must re-enjoy it. 

Remember how small she used to be? Actually fitting in this car seat! (Bought for her first plane ride at almost 3 months old - going home for Thanksgiving and her baptism.) She's growing up so fast.

Suddenly, it was nap time. You know this time: the girls start rubbing their eyes and fighting a bit more and demanding the iPad. Okay! Everyone upstairs! I lift them over the gate for a race - Grace always wins. Laura always makes sure I'm coming too. 

Today was the first day back at school. Honestly, I'm not ready to be back. I had a great first class and really loved it, but there's still a lot to do before the end of the semester in three weeks. Oh well! We press on; keep climbing. I walked out of the room to prepare lunch post-nap and returned to this:

Sigh. NO TABLE. 


After dinner, we cleaned up together and went off to play and FaceTime with Dad. Unfortunately, this is much less exciting than trying to tear down the gate (even though it is also tied into place). Laura is just so amazing. I love watching the way her mind works and she tries to understand the world. Fortunately, when I re-direct her (which happens one hundred times a day), she never gets upset but moves seamlessly into the next adventure. 

Surprise, surprise! Our [opened] Christmas presents from Nana and Pappy arrive! Time to climb. 

The transformation from baby to toddler is fun with Grace. Earlier today, she helped me scramble the eggs and then put the lid on leftovers from lunch. As her language and movements are improving greatly, I am starting to look into a special needs homeschool pre-school program put out by Memoria Press. (Disclosure: I work for their online school.) Level A looks perfect for Grace, and I would not have said that when she first turned 2. Amazing what a couple more months of therapy can do!!

As a result, I can see how Grace teaches Laura as well, and that just warms a mama's heart. They are really transforming into the best of sisters and friends, and even though it is a lot more work up front, I am excited we're having the kids so close together. 

After a total meltdown near the end of Dad's call, I ask Grace if she's tired and ready for bed, and she says "yes." So, up the stairs we go! The final ascent of the day. 

I have a hard time capturing still photos these days, but what's the saying? A ship is safe in the port, but that's not why it was built. Here's to another day, another climb, and more adventures with my girls.

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Friday, December 18, 2015

"Woolies for the Winter": Here We Go A Wandeling

One of my best friends, Betsy Howard, and another very dear friend, Laura Kern, have started a women's publishing house, Wandeling Press, and are publishing their first children's book - "Woolies for Winter"!

Fellow Hillsdale College grads who became friends through Mars Hills Academy - a small classical school where Betsy and Laura's husband both worked - they reconnected and collaborated in lyrical poetry and beautiful watercolors.

The best part? They met their goal - for the first book! They plan on writing at least one more per season, and many other books to follow. Help stretch their goal - hear more from Betsy here!

With Betsy's finesse of language and Laura's attention to details, these books will be treasured for years to come.

1. Become a backer - today! Goal ends at midnight of December 20, 2015.
2. Share this project (They were a staff pick in Publishing - featured on Kickstarter!)
3. Follow on Facebook

Want to know more? Here's their blog.

Support Wandeling Press, get your own copy of "Woolies for Winter" and help launch a great renaissance of children's literature.

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Advent Lessons From Watching My Daughters

Pictures from last Sunday, because the girls had to wear their Sunday hats.

Grace is sporting a yellow knit, given to her (and one for L too) from a tech who loves when the girls come visit the ED. Silver star leggings and a horse-themed top confirm her wild spirit.

Laura, as you may recognize, if wearing her sister's last season Hanna Andersson sweater dress and matching hat. She was less enthused about the hat. 

Since we've been back in PA, it's been a case of WE CAN DO IT. I haven't been feeling well, and by the end of the month, I started dealing with some tough customers who do not like the work load of AP US History. This is a tough balance, because a student needs to have good time management skills with his/her studies, or it does become a lot harder. I've worked with my boss on adjusting the class, and, alas, not all are satisfied. Unfortunately, this is not going to change the class. There are still requirements, and I'm sure this will be a life lesson for all. Maybe, one day, they'll appreciate these lessons - and me. Ha.  

The girls and I spend a lot of time together, and they teach me every day. Here's what I pick up from the littles this Advent Season:

1. Nothing without quality time

The past two nights, the girls have stayed up past their bed time so they can spend time with their Dad. It does not affect their sleep schedule too much, fortunately, and Will is always extra happy to see them. (It's a bummer to leave in the morning and not see your kids before they go to bed! Also why we stop by the hospital often.)

When I am not in class, I try to do work around them as well as sit and play. Laura is learning how to use a sippy cup and drink from a straw (we skip bottles around here) and it's really fun teaching her - she learns from watching Grace as well!

I do not think children need a stay at home parent - I do think that children need tuned-in parents. I try to keep the television off (unless we're all in moods, then praise the LORD for Daniel Tiger & co.) and the music on, my phone out of reach and my to-do list handy. I usually have my computer nearby so I can keep up with grading in between snacks, walks, tower building, loads of laundry and the forever list. Since I work from home, I need to stay realistic about what I can and cannot do, e.g. I cannot be on my computer for longer than 10-15 minutes or else a little hand will sneak onto my screen and pull it down. Ask me how I know. (Standing at the mantle helps!)

Jesus asks us for this too - to see Christmas as less of an obligation and more of a celebration of love. That we want to be at mass because we love God, want to spend time with him, and want to join in the feast of celebrating his birth.

2. Do what needs to get done.

To-do lists (I also call them my forever lists) really do help me; time management, as in school, is essential to home life. With our plethora of therapies and appointments, I never have a "best" time for anything. And still, lots has to get done. I recently realized that I can't work out at home, and with our double stroller out of commission, the time has come to join the Y. Or else perish into a non-exercising maniac.

I've started listening to the rosary on YouTube and reading Christmas stories to the girls; it is my job to teach them the faith - no one else can replace my influence in this area.

3. No really; sometimes, you just have to buckle down.

Do I like giving my girls baths? No. Do I like brushing their teeth? No. Why? Because there are always tears. (Yes, even with tear-less shampoo. It's the water shock, I suppose.) What about therapy? Have to do it. Stretching? The same.

The pile of boxes I need to work through downstairs... okay. I get my own message. The girls know (though they do not always comply) that we clean up our toys before bed. Period. Wah.

And FINE, they don't really have a clue who Santa Claus is (they were pretty ambivalent about the St. Nick stories I read them, though they do like their new slippers), but Grace especially loves the lighting of the Advent candles each night and tries to sing along. A definite win in my book.

4. Bumps and bruises and other realities of growing up.

Sometimes, it feels like some of my students do not want to feel the sting of adequacy. Fine, they did an adequate job, but not a good or even great one, and that is reflected in their grade. And maybe my teacher's note was not sensitive or detailed enough; it's a bumpy ride being a teacher too. I attended a prestigious high school where the teachers were very helpful and very hard on us. They expected a lot, and when I delivered - it felt great. When I did not, I could usually pinpoint what went wrong. That's part of the learning curve, and I work with students to reduce the bumps...

But as Grace and Laura learn every day, no matter how many gates and protections their parents put up around the house, they still fall. So, we focus on the reaction after the fall. "Uh oh! Are you okay? What a big fall!" I usually get a stunned look and then a smile; they roll it off and move on. A really hard fall (hardwood, ouch) deserves a snuggle and lots of kisses, but it usually doesn't stop them from trying again. How many of us can get up from a fall like that?

The refugee crisis is especially close to my heart during this Advent season. Not because people are saying Mary and Joseph were also homeless refugees (uh, sort of - they were traveling for the census before Jesus' birth; I would say they became refugees after Jesus was born and went into hiding!), but because THEY ARE PEOPLE. They are fellow humans fleeing for their lives. Did you know before the Civil War many Northerners did not want to help the abolitionists because they feared they would lose their jobs? Or the fear during WWII that put the Japanese in internment camps and kept many Jews from re-locating? We all see the terrorist threat going on overseas. We need to start embracing the angel Gabriel's entreatment to "Fear not!" and look for positive strategies to help, not hinder. I cannot imagine leaving our home right now for fear any of us could be killed. No walls can keep out hate.

5. Keep having fun!

Grace is in time-out a few times a day for various injustices, like pushing Laura in the face if she's too close. We go to the stairs, where she gets a stern talking to and time-out, which is immediately forgotten as soon as Laura crawls over and Grace says, "Hi Rawr-ra!" After the steps, they go back to playing before another rough attempt to back Laura away from the communal toys.

Life can be hard and unfair and really, really tough - so it's important to have fun too. When Will and I were going through a really tough time earlier this year, we made a point to play tennis as often as we could. We made it a priority to do something fun, something active and something together.

And after I've put Grace in time out and they're playing together, there is no better sound than the two of them laughing together. It's fun - it's joy - it's Christ in my girls.

Sarah Bessey wrote a beautiful Advent reflection on joy (for tomorrow), which I'll excerpt here:
Joy isn’t emotionally or spiritually or intellectually dishonest. Christian joy doesn’t mean that we are sticking our heads in the sand and saying, “it’s fine, we’re fine, everything’s fine” while running past the gutter of broken dreams, eyes averted. 
Joy isn’t denial of grief or pretending happiness. 
Now, now I know this: joy is the affirmation of the truest thing in this life. 
Joy is born, not from pretending everything is fine, but from holding both hope and truth together. The Christian can stand in that liminal space, the place of grief, even there with joy. Why? Because joy is the affirmation of the thing that is truer than any trouble, any affliction: the affirmation that Love wins. Jesus is as good as we hope, it’s all worth it, and all will be redeemed.

Now Christmas is coming, so we wait for the Christ child, and we wait for my next appointment and the anatomy scan of our own little bebe. We wait for next Saturday, when Will gets to go home for the first time in two years. We wait, and we love.

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