Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Over the summer I was reading a book that contained a single line from a poem, and I found the line so compelling that I researched the poem and found it in its entirety. During the week of Thanksgiving, the poem resonates particularly beautifully. You know, this world isn't easy, and it seems altogether frightening that we can look around and see others not faring as well as we would like. It is a reminder to me, as it should be, that the life I have been given is precious and beautiful; it deserves my thankfulness each day, which I often forget to offer. Invariably I will look back upon the days of my life in wistfulness and know how good I have had it: that I have had the love of two parents, a brother, and a sister who have always cared so deeply about me; that I have met a man who is my partner in all things, and makes me feel happy and secure every day; that I have been given the precious opportunity to give life to little boys, who have blessed me with a purpose that I could have never comprehended before their arrivals; that I have in-laws who have embraced me as an extension of my husband and treated me as one of their own; that I have the support, love, and laughter of many great friends; that I have a body that functions as it is supposed to; and that my family and I have the means to obtain not only what we need, but also so much of what we desire. May I always remember to be thankful along the way, and not wait until the end to look back at how beautiful life really is.

The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA
Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Getting Things Done

Well, we wanted a third child, and it turns out that he will be making his grand arrival right smack-dab in the middle of the holiday season. This isn't a complaint, because I simply love the idea of having a Christmas baby (just wait till you see the newborn pics I have planned!). But, I must admit that the idea of a Christmas-time baby loses its appeal if we're talking about my normal fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants holiday schedule with the added chaos of a newborn baby, a hospital stay, a recovery after pushing a child out my body, and a strain on the sleep schedule. Seeing as how the last four items on this checklist are unavoidable, I figured I may as well fix the first. My solution for this was to adjust my typical approach to the holiday season and just get things done early.

I'm happy to report that our family holiday photo shoot was completed in October, the Christmas cards were ordered, and they are waiting in a ready state to be sent out.

My Christmas shopping is 90% (at least!) done, and boxes are arriving every day holding gifts for our loved ones. The boys love ripping into them to see what we bought everyone. Gift tags are ordered and waiting for presents to be wrapped, outdoor Christmas lights are up, newborn clothes have been brought down from the attic and been sorted and washed, bumpers have been taken off the crib, flu shots and DTAP boosters have been received, breast pump tubes have been replaced with new ones, and an eye appointment has been made so that I can order some new glasses for all of those middle-of-the-night awakenings (my old pair is ten-plus years old).

Van's waiting dresser

To add to the glory of our preparation, this guy is now potty-trained, averaging less than one accident per day. 
Pee-pee accidents are once a week or less (including waking up dry on overnights and naps!), and shoo-shoos are still hit-or-miss, but I can't complain. Plus, he has transitioned well to public potties. Only a parent could be so proud! 

Things we still have to do, which I am listing more for my benefit than for yours: bring the car seat down and get it washed up, pack a hospital bag--although the packing list is already devised, move the crib mattress up and get sheets on it, and wash a few other necessary items such as Moses basket sheets and the covers for the baby recliner and swing. I should probably organize a few frozen meals, and then I can finally get to focusing on the order of the house. Although it isn't filthy around here, things have gotten cluttered as I have slowed down and put more energy into knocking out the Christmas stuff rather than keeping things tidy. Eh, we all have to let some things go. 

My ultimate goal for the last half of the Christmas season is to spend my time with my four--count 'em, FOUR--guys enjoying the holiday season as a family. I want to be mostly at home drinking hot beverages, watching Christmas shows (and football), baking, and snuggling, all with the occasional jaunt out for Christmas-light looking and time spent with extended family and friends. I want visitors to know that they will be welcomed, and I want us all to bask in the beauty of the lights of our awesome Christmas tree. I know this is a lot for a girl to ask for, but for my part I've been working hard to make what is under my control successful. An update on the pregnancy, for those interested in the details: I'm 36-1/2 weeks, and the doctor thinks Van will be here in under two weeks. At my appointment on Monday I was dilated to a 2 and was 70% effaced. I think it will be closer to three weeks myself, but will be shocked if baby Van has not arrived by December 9th. To all my friends and readers, enjoy this last week before Thanksgiving! Embrace your loved ones and, at the risk of sounding like Ana Gasteyer's impression of Martha Stewart (topless, at that!), enjoy your upcoming holiday season. "I really treasure it." 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Picture-Perfect Love

In a previous post about how I stumbled into motherhood after reading an unexpectedly inspiring novel, I mentioned that I was in the process of gathering a collection of pictures of mothers with their children. The project is finally finished! All but one of these mothers are friends of mine, and I chose each picture because at the time that I first saw it I felt a lump of love rise in my throat. In each of the images, the love from mother to child is so obvious. In some photos, the emotion is awe; in some it is peace, and in some it is pure joy. In some of the photos, mothers and/or babies are now in Heaven, but the beauty of the love lives on in the pictures. I have had so much fun collecting these photos, and I want to thank each mommy for being such an amazing person and also for giving me permission to share these images in my blog. This project, I must say, really ramped up in its intensity after my friend Holly Hooper-Stover (whose talent I have previously extolled in this post) snapped a photo of my boys and me a few weeks ago that instantly became my favorite image of myself as a mother, surrounded by my three boys (one in utero, in case you're confused when counting). Holly, I will always treasure this picture. Thank you. Readers, please enjoy!

George (left), Silas (right), Van Owen, and me

 Heidi and Wes
(FYI: I previously claimed in this post about self-image that Heidi is the most beautiful person I have ever seen and that Angelina Jolie has nothing on her. Wouldn't you agree?)

Sommer and our hero Owen

Megan and Case, who both lost their lives in the tornado of May 20, 2013. The peace and love on her face is rivaled only by that on his. This picture still makes me cry.

Kristen and precious Aiden

Angie meeting Jelina, her "sweet petite," for the first time

 Tabitha in her usual outdoorsy-exploratory-mode with boys Caedmon and Noah

 Lindsey and Jameson--pure love. =)

Heidi and Max- a joyous moment!

Chanda meeting her daughter Dacie

Laurie in action with son Miles, dressed as a lamb for Halloween. I don't consider my friend Laurie to be much of an emotionally-mushy person, and I believe that this picture perfectly illustrates her motherly love in action.
Melissa snuggling with baby Ruby

Mandy hugging her son Will. Her smile is among the loveliest I have ever encountered in person.

Cyndi and her long-awaited beauty Sera

 Even though there is background chaos in this picture, I love this one of my mom and me at my doctoral graduation. Isn't my mom (pictured right) so beautiful? If ever I doubted her pride in me, I need only to look at this picture. The love in her eyes is evident. Many of us learn to be great moms because we ourselves were nurtured by terrific moms; my mom has been my shining example.