Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wonderfully Made

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Lying here with your velvet skin pressed against my belly, your sleep mouth still suckling, I try to reach through the fog of time to that moment of birth. The orgasmic feel of your head thrusting me open. The midwife saying "Go ahead and touch the head. The baby is right there." And I reached down to the miracle of your slick hair. I looked in wonderment at your father. It did not matter that we had performed this bit of magic three other times. The moment you left my womb for the cold air of the outside is always a moment suspended from the reality of everyday life. That moment when you are still half me and half you is an eternal second. 

With the second push, your shoulders slip out, and then another to push out your round belly, and you are pulled out and up onto my naked belly. I pull you to my body as I am holding you now. You are miraculous. Covered in birth, you are fearful. The moment of birth is fearful in the sense of awe fear. It is a tentative moment, tenuous so close to both death and life. And then there is the quiet perfection of a nose, an ear, the tiniest of fingers. Even now I am in awe that somehow you grew inside me....wonderful made in the darkness of my own body. And as I hold you, I believe in God. I praise my own body made in the image of God. Fearful and wonderful.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Slowing Down to a Halt

Even with a more chilled attitude towards the holidays, I still find myself getting a tad stressed. This year has been a bit more nuts as due to some bad planning, I am nowhere done my shopping. And I really wanted to host a little something at my place (very little as I have NO space).  End result is that I spent most of today crazed. I was trying to pick up at least a couple of rooms and catch up on laundry so that we wouldn't spend H's first day of vacation cleaning. R was extra whiny (she's trying to crawl so lots of frustration) and Piper just kept numerous tantrums. I kept trying to put R down for her nap but every time I got her to sleep, Piper would have a tantrum. At one point, I could feel my temper just boiling under the surface. I could barely control my urge to just start screaming back at Piper who was throwing a fit in her room. A friend reminded me to center myself and I kept wanting to do this but it seemed like even finding a second to do this simple act of breathing was just not going to happen.

As I was lying down with R for the tenth time to try and nurse her to sleep, I just gave up. I resolved myself to just lying there while she napped. I pulled her close to me, and began to breath with her sleep inhalations. The sweet feel of body snuggled against mine, the smile of contentment on her face. She was so totally relaxed into me. Safe. And  I just stopped. I stopped worrying. I stopped fretting about the house getting clean. About the shopping getting done. It didn't matter. All that mattered was this moment. A moment of stopping. Just being still.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas

For the last few years, I've managed to keep the Christmas bitch at bay. For the first few years of Umberto's life, I was super anal about Christmas. Everything HAD to be perfect. When anything went wrong, I went a little nuts complete with yelling and tears. I was way manic usually rushing around, buying, wrapping, decorating. I spent hours obsessively trying to figure out what present would make the biggest impact. I remember on Camille's first Christmas, H and I up until three a. m. building a train table for Umberto. I was so frustrated because I had to keep nursing Camille which interrupted my ability to help on the table. As the early morning crept up on us, H and I were snapping at each other more and more. Camille kept waking up and finally I was sobbing. We went to bed with the table half built. Umberto had no clue what we were working on and I felt like the whole moment was ruined. 

Of course looking back, it was silly to get caught up in the moment. The bigger picture shows a train table that was well loved through three children. It finally fall apart (literally) when Piper was about three. That's a lot of moments. 

Each year I got a bit better about letting go of the crazed woman who possessed me at the beginning of December. She was so bent on creating perfect Christmases that she kept missing out on the bigger pictures. On the years of memories being built out of decorating the tree, making cookies, laying around in pjs surrounded by wrapping paper and laughter. She was too busy trying to repair the past by fixing the present. And then one day, after another moment in tears because something didn't go perfect, I realized that I was ruining Christmas by trying so hard to make it right. And I let it go. 

Not that we don't do Christmas. We do. We all love Christmas. We love Santa (and yes I do believe). We love telling the Christmas story as well as other Yule stories about the season. We love the tree looking all crooked and gaudy from the love of the beasties. We love wrapping gifts and making cookies. We love our silly stories that are turning into tradition. And it's okay that it's not always pretty because in the end it is always perfect.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Surprise Socks

Today was rough. I went to bed too late in a desperate attempt to just have a few moments alone. I knitted until my eyes were blurry with exhaustion. At eight, Camille started to cry and moan because her stomach hurt. She woke up everyone. After she threw up, we all managed to go back to sleep. That should have been a sign of a wonderful day to come but it was not. R is in some kind of stage where she hates everything. She doesn't want to sleep, nurse, play, be in my lap, or carried in the Mei Tai. She whined all day long until I wanted to sob in utter frustration. Poor Piper is utterly neglected and sat around looking dejected which breaks my heart. The older two kids needed to do school. The house was trashed. And I just didn't have the energy to deal with any of it. I wanted to lay in my bed with the covers over my head and just sleep or cry or be still.

As I was getting ready to go shopping, I came across a lovely sock buried in the mound of clean laundry that dominates my bedroom. It's a blue/gray wool sock. A deliciously warm sock that I love wearing on these rare cold nights in the South. This sock came in unexpectedly in the mail on day with a little note from a friend announcing that it was a surprise pair of socks. I smiled then too because it came at a time when I was feeling a bit like how I felt today. The thought that my friend knit these socks and then thought of me made more than my feet feel warm. Today as I held that sock I remember that I am not alone.

Crisis of...Religion?

As many of my long time readers know, I have what I call "religion issues." I grew up in an Evangelical Christian setting (and yes I will write more about it someday). I joined a Neopagan group when I was 19 and practiced Wicca for a few years. I left. Went through an atheist thing, and then fell into the academic study of religion. I feel sometimes as I just can't escape and that maybe surrender is a better option.

At the end of my undergrad years, I was considering converting to Catholicism. There was a big gap though between my politics and those of the Catholic church. I struggled with reconciling these differences.  A friend accused me of being a hypocrite and that basically killed my desire to convert. When I meet H, the interest was awakened again as H's brand of Catholicism seemed up my alley. But it became clear as we dated that he was in his own crisis of religion and thus me converting because of him wasn't going to fly. Plus I felt that if I converted it should be because of my own desire.

Years have gone by and I still have no religion. Sometimes I feel comfortable in this place. The children have not been raised with any religion in particular. They know about religion because, well, that's what mama does for work. But we do not attend church. We don't pray as a family. No grace, no bed time prayers. We don't meditate. We don't cast spells. We do nothing. And sometimes that is really okay with me. But most of the time I feel like there is something missing. I don't know what it is, and i don't assume that all people feel this lack. But for me it is there.

For a while I played around with being a Neopagan again but that didn't cut it. I've thought about the UU but I just don't feel comfortable in the practice. Both things felt sort of disingenuous to me.  What I loved was the Catholic stuff that filtered through to us from H's mom. I loved that she lit candles for us and prayed to St. Jude to help us through our troubles. I love my images of the Virgin of Guadalupe that I have throughout the house. I love the idea of Mass, and using the Rosary to pray.

On the other side of all this, is a feeling that I there is something deficient about me for even wanting religion. Can't I just live without it? I feel silly when I talk to people about what I feel missing. The response among many of my friends is that religion is bull shit and unnecessary. And if I did do a religion it should be a nice liberal politically correct one like the UUs or Buddhism. I certainly shouldn't be trying to reconcile my radical liberal self with something like Catholicism.

Thus as Christmas approaches I find myself at an impasse in terms of religion. Do I move forward towards Catholicism which I feel drawn to and reconciled that my practice will be different from my politics? Do I just live with the lack and hope it goes away?

Saturday, December 04, 2010


We didn't do Christmas cards last year. I was tired (pregnant) and we were still reeling from Beastie Boy's first seizure. It was hard to just get normal Christmas stuff going. Plus I struggle with the environmental impact of cards. But at heart I just love Christmas cards. I love receiving them and getting them. There is something so....seasonal....about going to the mailbox and having those red and green envelopes tucked into the mailbox. And then having them shown all over the house so that you can feel the love!

This year I really want the kids to be a part of the whole season. As they get older this is such a pleasure, and I felt that it was time to introduce them to the joy of sending out holiday cards. What better way than having them MAKE the cards? Initially I had visions in my head of these beautifully crafted cards made with stamps and fancy scissors. We would be sitting around the table with our supplies neatly laid out. The children would be quiet but excited! Christmas carols would be on the radio as we worked together to create lovely visions of the season on paper. Never mind that we NEVER make cards or scrapbook or do anything remotely close to making Christmas cards. Never mind that my children never do a craft without creating a hurricane of bits of paper, pens, paint, glitter, etc. Never mind that the girls usually end up smacking each other midway through ANY project attempted together. No I had a firm image of how this was going to be done.

And then we hit the craft store. The first fight immediately broke out over stamps. There was no way I could afford a ton of stamps but there was no agreement on the horizon. Each Beastie wanted their own stamp. Then I almost has a spasm over the price of red card stock. Yes, reality was slowly sinking in...there was no way we could afford the vision. Plus the Girl Beasties had pretty different visions from each other and from me. Boy Beastie was just incredulous over the whole idea, and trailed behind us in slight mortification at even being in a craft store.

When we left, I was still trying to figure out a way to get this ball going. I had promised beastie made cards and damn it we were going to have beastie made cards. Right? I decided to check out if Target had anything. Nope. At this point, I have been to four stores, and the beastie girls are ripping into each other. I am feeling really frazzled, and my vision is starting to look a little different. The girls are at the table, and I am trying to get supplies out for cards. Baby Beastie is screaming because I am not nursing her. Boy Beastie is in his Lego haven safe from crafting and Girl Beasties. Girl Beasties are beating the crap out of each other because one said that cats suck and the other said that dogs suck. I can't find anything because the girl beasties have been slowly smuggling craft supplies into their bedroom while I am trapped on bed with Baby Beastie. When I finally find enough stuff to lay out, the beastie girls fight over materials. They create messy cards. Not perfectly crafted ones (see above). I start to think that the boxed cards with some pictures might be the answer.

We get home, and I get out the new paints for the girls.  I am tired by I promised. I lay out the newspaper, and the paper along with egg cartons filled with different colors. I am all the while trying to figure out how we're going to do the cards or if I should give in and buy photo cards from the internet. And then Camille starts painting. She's covered in paint when she's done with her flurry of creativity. She beckons me over to show her splatter painting with her hand print in the corner. She has also made a "Christmas Pegasus" in red with green wings.

No my beastie girls may not make the perfectly crafted things I see in those Waldorf craft books (damn you Waldorf and your expectations!). No they don't dive into their crafting with the quiet discipline of angelic children. No my girls craft with the same fierceness and energy that drives them through life. With abandonment, and determination, they create these things that are beautiful and unique. Really what more could I ask from a Christmas card created by the Beasties?

I've deprived the girls of crafting because of my drive for perfection. If it's not going to perfect then why bother doing it seems to be my attitude. It hampers me from so many things, and it's starting to hamper how I school my children. I've decided that we will be dong more messy artsy things. We will create with wild abandon and see what happens! We'll have smacking and frustration! We'll have paint on noses and on paper!

This year my friends will get a Beastie created card which may not be perfect but will for sure be unique.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Mothering Camille

When I throw open the back of the van to let you out, you are already sobbing. You are curved over yourself in the back seat, partially hidden by a red picnic blanket. The arch of your back curves the material into a tent which shakes as chocked, wet sounds emerge from behind the shield of your hair.

I am impatient. Angry. This is not the first time you have sobbed and howled. First there was the fit over room cleaning. With some patience, your father and I figured out you needed to be directed. You needed to be given a list of what had to be done rather than just having it. Next came the ordeal of combing through your gorgeous hair which tangles so easily. I tried to hold you close, to gently work through the felted mass that lay at the base of your next, but you screamed and bucked against me, until I was in tears with the effort of being soft with your kicking body. Before we left, we had one more meltdown over your short sleeved shirt, and jacket. Now we are again at this moment when something is too much.

But now I am tired. My patient is short. I want to scream myself. Cry. Beat my fists against the car. I want to just shut the van door and walk away. Walk away from your hot temper. Your low frustration level.

But I don't because you are not the child I do not understand. You are the familiar to my own internal landscape. You are the child I was inside. The child I did not dare to let out. And you amaze me with your freedom and your fierceness. I hope that there things explode upon us because you feel safe with being this wild creature within the circle of our love. Perhaps your ability to not hide the person you are comes from our ability to let you be. And even though I am not always the patient parent, the good parent, the parent who does not yell, I am the parent who is here. Knowing you. Understanding you. And still letting you be that wolf girl who howls moon or no moon.

Pierce Me With Your Words

According to my cup of coffee, stories are gifts.  Ti's the Season after all.
The Christmas song radio station features heartwarming tales as a gift to its listeners.

But what about the evil stepsister to those stories. The stories that are weapons.
The stories that trap with their tar baby consistency? Where are those stories?
Where are the stories that slice you open and riddle you with bullets like cartoon characters under fire?

Some stories are intentional weapons. The stories that tell you how you are and how you will be. The stories that people use to trap you into roles and lives that you do not want. Those stories wielded by clever hands weave whole worlds with no escape hatches. They are often pretty but always deadly.

And then there are the accidental weapons. The kitchen knifes of stories. They are not mean to wound but they are role switchers. Going from harmless choppers of vegetables to stabbing tools extraordinaire. Yes funny stories from the past that make the whole family laugh and nod with familiarity even as they tear you up inside. They bring dormant feelings of insecurity and pain bubbling up with each carefully crafted sentenced.

Yes, stories are gifts but they are also weapons. They pierce us. They slay us. They slice us. If we think of them as only gifts we forget the deadly power that lies behind them.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Last night, I dreamt that I was in this big house. It was a lovely house. A farm house. The kind of house that a part of me longs for. In my dream, there were people in the house who were menacing. I don't know if they human. But at some point, one of them lifted up a gun and shot me in the face. I woke up, my heart beating, scared to go back to sleep. I worried that the door was unlocked and that someone was going to break in. It took me a long time to calm down.

As I lay there waiting for sleep to come again, I realized that all of my dreams about houses end badly. I don't even pleasant dreams set in houses. I feel sad that I am unable to have a happy dream set in a place many of associate with home and family. I wonder what is about me that can only produce nightmares in this setting.