Homeshooling Now

Homeschooling, as everything else towards the end of a pregnancy, is taking on an extremely disjointed, crazed, bipolar-esque quality.  One day will be incredibly productive and leave me feeling on top of the world and the next will find the house a mess, the kids out of sorts, and myself siphoned off to ridiculously specific tasks such as scrubbing all of the floor tiles with a tooth brush.  This is the beginning of the mental fraying that marks the near end of gestation.  I try to keep my perspective and also to be kind to myself, reminding myself that things are just going to be crazy for a while (even more than the usual craziness, which already feels like the max limit most of the time) and to try and enjoy this phase of our lives, intense though it may be.

Yesterday was a more productive day.  The morning was marked by the usual whirlwind of cleaning and “catching up” from the day before, along with breakfast preparations that can sometimes take on outlandish specificity in everyone’s preferences and choice combinations (what is this?  Big Boy’s Sunday all you can eat buffet?!)

After that we finished up watching “Hello Dolly”, a cheesy musical from the 70’s starring Barbara Streisand and Walter Matthau that is my absolute favorite musical and that I’ve been determined to show to the kids for some time now.  Until this year, though, we’ve never made it through the entire thing as my kids, especially Ruth, being of a sensitive nature, could not cope with the exuberant dancing and top-of-the-voice singing.  There is one scene that was especially troubling to the kids when Barnaby and Cornelius couldn’t afford to pay for their dinner at the “Harmonia Gardens” restaurant in New York and were trying to flee before they were caught and put in jail.  Ruth kept on asking, “How are they going to pay for their dinner?” in an extremely concerned and worried tone.  (Ah, my little sensitive intuit totally grounded in the literal.  How I recognize the struggles that you go through in this life as so close to my heart and poignant.  I wish I had better advice and guidance for you.)

Just the other evening I found myself sitting outside of gymnastics at the local YMCA waiting for the class to begin as Ruth explained to me, as though I didn’t already know this, as though we haven’t been through these situations a thousand times before, that she wanted to wait outside and observe the students and coach for a while before going in because she was worried that the coach would “make a big deal” about her skill level. Starting new things takes an incredible amount of bravery and gumption for her.  This is often the role I have in Ruth’s life: holding the space while she waffles back and forth and rages internally, sitting beside her as she struggles with emotions that are too large to be contained in her tiny frame of bone and skin.  It’s not easy and i often fail to be the parent I want to be but I do my best.

Finally making it to the end of the movie, I felt triumphant and happy and decided to take the kids to one of the local libraries for “art Thursdays”.  At this particular branch, every Thursday, they have an art project from 3-5 slated for kids to come after school and work side by side.  It’s actually a really good excuse to give me some serious zone out time to just sit and think or, as in yesterday’s case, to read.  The kids can partake in the project or just play in the children’s area while I sit on a nearby bench and then my mind is free to wander.  When you homeschool, you learn all these nice little tricks and tips that help you to keep your life somewhat balanced and harmonious and to give your mind and spirit little breaks here and there.

I really like this library because it has a comfy relaxed  feel that other libraries in the area seem to lack and because there is always a raucous group of kids that seem to all know each other that Ruth especially enjoys watching and taking notes on.  While she was busy absorbing their language and play habits, Joel and Miles went immediately to the Ipad they have with kids games on it.  Why they keep these in the children’s section of the library I’ll never understand.  Sigh.  Oh well.  After a little while they moved to the train table and then proceeded to play in an incredibly enthusiastic and loud way, chasing each others’ train cars around the table and making loud crashing noises.

At one point a couple other mothers came in and sat with their one or two littler kids as they played and I could see them looking at me out of the corner of my eye.  Or maybe I could just feel it.  Another sigh.  I’ve reached that part of the pregnancy that it’s really hard to go out in public during.  Everywhere I go, people are sizing up my situation, looking at my other three kids and my big belly and just thinking thoughts that I can almost hear (Ruth is not the only oversensitive intuit in the family).  The truth is, I am extremely proud of our family and very happy to have such a full life and home, but I kind of hate public attention and so would rather avoid people in general during late pregnancy.  These mothers saw me talking with Joel and Miles and my big belly and assumed I was on our third when suddenly Ruth came over and started calling me “mom” (the jig is up).  I saw eyebrows raise as they realized that I was indeed the mother of all these people and seemed to wonder if any more were about to crawl out of the woodwork.

“You don’t understand,” I said to Greg, “You go to work all day.  When you go places with the kids it’s usually only one or two of them.  You’re not out and about town during school hours with all three and a big belly.  People have strong reactions to us.”  Not that I can blame them.  I think I’ve often reacted in similar ways to large families before I was pregnant with our fourth.  I would often take count of kids in a family and feel pangs of jealousy and longing for my own large family and also marvel at how these mothers could do it all when I seemed to struggle so much with just one or two or three, depending on the timing of these encounters.  I wonder at the spectacle that my grandparents must have made with ten kids!  Times have changed a bit though, and especially in the suburbs, people are stopping at one or two mostly.

We went home and had leftovers for dinner and then after Greg came home, I took a walk, which is another way I keep myself at least reasonably sane.  The light is changing, the earth is coming back to life in our part of the globe, the robins were making their telltale spring sounds, winter is officially over.  After I got back, Ruth and I made a cake together and I was able to convince the kids to speed clean the house while the cake was baking.  They even went out for a short stint of bike-riding before bed.

It was a good day homeschooling, the kind that leaves me excited about the possibilities open to us as homeschoolers, and though I also feel a bit daunted at this stage in the pregnancy, adding birth and baby preparations to my already overbrimming life, I still love our life and try to appreciate our unique situation, taking the bad days in as much stride as I can and reveling in the good ones.

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The Opening of the Chasm

“I feel it, Greg,” I said the other day with significance.  He took a moment to try and guess what I was referencing as my words were out of context, seemingly falling out of a clear blue sky.  He looked up as if checking for rain or a thunderhead.  “Huh?” he said, ever eloquent.  “I feel it.  I feel the chasm opening.”

How can a person describe this experience that a psychologist might name an altered state of consciousness, what a mystic might call a vision, this sensation that a person might feel only once in their lifetime right before they die if they are lucky?  The only other times a person would probably feel this are when overcoming an intense illness or injury or when entering the final stages of pregnancy.  I speak of the meshing of the past, present and future, the lifting of the veil between worlds, the opening of the third eye.

I know I probably sound crazy.  Except to those who know, those who have experienced it and have recognized what I’m describing.  What is this feeling like?  What is it that makes me say this?  Simply put: my feet are starting to leave the floor.  I feel less attached to my physical reality and my mind is traveling to strange places.  Every spare moment I seem to have is filled with sensory memories from my past, so vivid that they’re  real.  I’m looking less with my eyes and more with my sight, the part of me that sees more than objects before me, but their deeper significance.  Time is taking on a less concrete quality: minutes, hours and days are losing their meaning and all I feel is a steady movement forward towards my time of birthing.  I feel myself mentally and physically building my protective nest around this event, starting to shut out the noises of the world, to go inside, to nestle down within myself.

Why do I write about this?  Because I think the deep spiritual significance of birth to a woman is all but lost in translation in modern day medicine/obstetrics (I hate that paternalistic word).  No one talks about the holiness and transcendence of bringing forth life, of our bodies and minds as the perfect instruments of evolution to carry and bear the next generation.

“Feminism is about courage and strength and celebration of feminine power.” -Ina May Gaskin, CPM (certified professional midwife)

More Roadschooling Chronicles

It’s our annual tradition to travel somewhere for Greg’s birthday.  Number one: to celebrate Greg’s birthday because it can be hard to reach a festive mood in the middle of winter and number two: just as an excuse to do something fun.  We’ve run the gamut of everything from hotels to camping to trips to other states.  Ok, that only happened once and it was for a training program for Greg’s job that we tagged along on (that’s actually the trip that got us started on this tradition as that was when we realized it was so nice to change up the scenery at this time of year and seemed to make the rest of the winter fly by).  This year, though it’s always temping to book a hotel with a heated pool, we decided to get back to our roots and plan the kind of trip that our hearts are really in.

Winter camping is a different breed of cat than summer camping.  It’s sort of like the solitary and eccentric uncle of summer camping, the one that doesn’t talk much and shuns family gaiety.  Make no mistake, there is much beauty and peace to be found on a winter camping trip but it’s of a different variety than the bug, bird, plant and people explosiveness of trips during the warmer months.  It’s often this quiet contemplative appreciation of the season that is the core value of winter camping.

No, we didn’t do tent camping.  That’s a little extreme, even for us, especially with three kids along.  We rented a rustic cabin with heat and, if I’m honest, a refrigerator, coffee maker and even a microwave which we, of course, didn’t use.  The coffee maker was invaluable though, as the rest of our cooking had to be done outside on our two burner propane stove.  It was nice to be able to brew a pot of coffee without stepping out of the warmth of the cabin (save for using the port-a-potty, which, as a seven month pregnant woman, I did a minimum of 20 times each day).

We unpacked, being careful not to slip on the frozen walkway, which was coated with ice.  Actually, the entire ground was covered with a layer of ice-topped snow, making it impossible to traverse any of the trails but which also transformed the hill the cabin was perched on into a human toboggan run for the kids.  We sat looking at each other for a minute realizing there was nothing to do.  The kids got cranky and rebelled for a moment and then quickly decided to put on their outdoor gear (which they almost never do at home by themselves) and headed outside.  And they didn’t come back in.  For hours.

It was great!  I  told Greg as he came in to refill his coffee cup, that it was the most time the kids have spent outside all winter!  I’m sure the neighbors wonder about this: how you can homeschool all winter and never be outside playing in the snow!  One of the key perks of homeschooling in the winter, am I right?  A long story short, our kids have issues with winter clothes not feeling right and that is often enough to make them balk at the idea of going outside, even if, once there, they have a good time.

This was different, though, and, as is often the case with travel, you are unlocked a bit from your identity at home and a little more free to step outside of your usual activities and persona.  This was so true for the kids.  They stayed outside sliding down the hill and climbing back up, walking with Greg out onto the frozen lake below for hours.  They found a muskrat home and coyote tracks and worked up a sweat and all came back with dripping noses and blazing cheeks.

That night, with all the stars shining through the open windows of the cabin, we heard a pack of coyotes calling nearby.  Their yipping commotion sounded otherworldly and incredibly wild in the cold bleakness of night.

The two days passed with the kids and Greg mostly outside exploring, me inside reading and no one and nothing around.  Just bare gray trees, an endless gray sky and the cold and ice.  It was a markedly introspective trip and always nice to live so simply for a while.  It’s just the kind of vacation we want the kids to remember from their childhood.

 

Benefits of homeschooling and Prenatal Self Care

Ok, that was sort of a broad title.  Almost seems like the heading of a scientific paper or something (I’m married to a scientist, so I am often cleaning up scientific papers left strewn hither and yon).

This is not to convince anyone that they should homeschool.  On the contrary, whereas when first beginning this journey of homeschooling I was young and idealistic, now I am much more pragmatic towards homeschooling.  The truth is it does have some awesome benefits but there are very real trade offs.  Therefore, it is an entirely personal family decision and one that no one else should ever question.  I am simply here to expound my experience.

There are many benefits to homeschooling.  Number one is, of course, that it is incredibly empowering to say “no thanks” to a huge institution like the education system and to take something as colossal as your kids’ education into your own hands.  Number two on the list would probably be the amount of time you are able to spend as a family.  Now, that is, of course, a double edged sword because we never get breaks from each other and sometimes, it might be nice to have some time apart.

This blog post is not about the pros and cons of homeschooling.  That would take up way too much virtual ink and my virtual pen is running low.  I actually just wanted to write about one awesome benefit of homeschooling that we’ve been particularly enjoying as of late and that is you can go to “kid things” when mostly every other kid is in school (except other homeschoolers and the preschool crowd).

There is a hands-on museum downtown that we received a membership to for Christmas and we’ve been twice so far in the last weeks’ time.  It’s great!  I feel like just a couple years ago, a place like this may have been hit or miss for the kids but at these ages, it’s perfect!  They are so interested in everything and spend the entire time running from exhibit to exhibit yelling, “Look at this!  Look at that!”  (Hmm.  Maybe they are bored at home?  I dunno, I always thought our home was pretty dang exciting.  Guess they don’t agree).  It is such a cool place, in fact, that you know it’s probably insanely packed on the weekends.  Especially in the winter, I imagine.

Now, some people might get critical when I say this, but in a place like that, it’s kind of awesome that the kids have free reign to explore everything at their own pace and with the people they are most comfortable with (each other).  This is where some might say the social isolation of homeschoolers comes in.  Some might say, “They should learn to take turns and be around other kids” and I would agree to some extent.  There’s no denying the fact that my kids are kind of socially awkward around others at this point.  And I do think it’s partly because of how much time they spend alone.  Yet, it also comes with benefits.

As I watch the kids feel free to explore the exhibits, I know they are interested and engrossed in the museum in a way that most kids their age would not be.  Mostly because of the social aspect of school.  When I think back to memories of myself on field trips, I remember usually getting lost in a crowd of kids and parent chaperones where there would usually be some running joke going on about…something.  It was very distracting.  I remember having worksheets or specific tasks to do while there, and everyone copying answers on the bus on the way home.  I remember usually not having the time, space, or relaxation of mind to ever really take in and enjoy the places we went for field trips.  Plus, field trips were so rare in general probably because of the hassle involved in coordinating them.

With homeschooling, going on a field trip can be incredibly frequent and spur of the moment.  There are no chaperones or silly moods and people trying to show off for other peoples’ parents.  It’s just us.  I think that’s a benefit.  Some people would point out the down side.  I see both sides but really I think, for us, anyway, the benefits outweigh the down sides.  It is simply so cool to watch your kids unfettered as they explore a museum like that.  It really makes you appreciate who they are and I personally feel so excited to see where their individual interests take us.

The next thing I wanted to write about in this post is self-directed prenatal care.  Well, ok.  I’m not totally self-directed.  What I really mean is the difference between more personal autonomy in care vs. being directed by a large medical establishment.

Prenatal care, for those that have never been pregnant, could consist of many things.  A more holistic view would probably focus on nutrition and community support, the spiritual and mental well-being of the mother.  The medical system tends to focus on a series of tests throughout the pregnancy, looking for any signs of pathology.  In my own life, I have experienced a good deal of both of these flavors of care, probably more of the medical kind than I would care to have and not enough holistic type.  In any case, I could go on and on about womens’ choices (or lack thereof) of care during the prenatal period and the things that I think would make it better.  What I really set out to say, though, was simply that it is so empowering when you take your care into your own hands, perhaps with a more holistic provider giving you tips and advice.

I’m at 29 weeks today (whoa, time is flying) and at this time, in the medical community that means one thing: time to screen for gestational diabetes.  Traditionally, or I should say lately, the trend is that every pregnant person at around 28 weeks does a screening test for gestational diabetes (GD).  This includes going in and having your blood drawn to have your blood sugar tested, then drinking 75 grams of sugar in a liquid known as glucola, waiting an hour and then having your blood drawn again.  They are testing how well your body is able to cope with a massive sugar dump.  If a person fails the screening, they are sent in for the diagnostic test which is a three hour long fasting test that actually confirms if you have GD or not.  Why do we need this test?  Good question.

I’ve read a lot of what the medical community and the I guess what you could call alternative community (people that see pregnancy and birth as a normal and healthy part of the female life cycle) have to say about this test and its benefits or lack thereof.  From a medical perspective, having GD increases your chances of having a large baby, one that might have trouble being born vaginally and that has a higher risk of shoulder dystocia or getting its shoulders stuck in the birth canal on the way out.  It also increases the risk for stillbirth by a small amount as well as problems for the baby regulating their blood sugar when they are born.

I’ve talked with midwives that have told me they don’t even believe in GD, that it is sort of a made up disease to describe the very normal and natural way that a pregnant person’s body deals with sugar, which is an evolutionary adaptation to times of famine so that sugar would be more available to a growing fetus via the mother’s blood even if the mother is not able to find adequate food.  So, is this a problem?

Some would say due to our modern lifestyle of high sugar and refined carbohydrates and low activity, it can be an issue.  Others might say that if you are careful with your diet and avoid these types of food and are dedicated to being quite active, it wouldn’t really matter what the test showed because that’s the treatment they recommend anyways.

In any case, it is a thing for a lot of care providers.  Even more holistic ones.  I have drank my share of glucola in pregnancies past.  Even when I was being seen by midwives and planning to have my third baby at the alternative birth center.  It’s actually one of their screening requirements to be able to go there for birth.  Luckily with the care provider that I have now, she offers an alternative: she has glucometers (like the ones diabetics use) for pregnant people to take home with them to test on our own along with instructions on how to test and record our blood sugar.

I have to say, some might grimace at the idea of poking your own finger, but it’s not so bad.  Also, it’s you, not some stranger in a laboratory with a while coat and a crammed schedule.  I found the whole thing quite empowering (I seem to be big on this idea) to be able to test my own blood sugar on a day I chose in the comfort of my own home wearing my own pajamas.

I suppose I could have refused the test altogether but I was curious about it.  My blood sugar is, as expected, well within the “normal” range that they suggest and so it does feel good to know.  It feels good to have more control and autonomy during my prenatal care.

So, I’m not totally self-directed with my care, but I am exploring becoming more autonomous and I’m loving it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endorphin releases

This is the prescription recommended by an empowered birth website that I frequent with advice on steps to have a powerful birth.  Well, this is part of the plan along with things like “feed your body” and “be in nature”.  For me, as a homeschooling parent, this is especially important in order to stay in the best mind frame for my kids and can also be incredibly difficult for the same reason.  Like the old saying goes, though, “it’s the little things”.  I squeeze in happy moments of gratitude and appreciation whenever I can.  This includes waking early to watch the light gradually color the yard, sitting still and looking at the birds coming and going from our birdfeeder in the snow, playing the piano every day, and, believe it or not, hanging up the laundry on my clothesline downstairs.  It also means enjoying my kids as much as I possibly can.  Looking past the mess of the house, the seeming endlessness of cooking and dishes, the up and down daily moods and struggles with them and concentrating on the long view: the amazing and lovable people they are.

Moments of pure exhilaration and joy can be especially hard to come by as an adult when it seems that there is always some concern, worry or work to attend to that at least half of your mind is focused on, even while you are trying to appreciate and enjoy a moment.  That’s why when the kids with their grandmother started sliding down the slope of our backyard the other day after the freezing rain had coated everything, after everyone else had moved on to building a fort, I casually took one of the sleds in my hands, placed it on the ground in front of me and plopped down on it, pushing off to gain extra speed.

I think it’s safe to say it’s been years since I’ve been sledding.  Some might say six months pregnant is not the ideal time to revisit the sport, but I would have to disagree.  It’s exactly what the doctor ordered!  As the wind whipped by me, at first I felt fear that I would lose control and crash but that quickly changed to excitement and a profound sense of freedom that only a state of free fall can create after I realized I could easily steer by putting my hands down on either side of the sled.  I reached the bottom and came to a stop.  I jumped up and tromped back up the hill, heart pounding from the exertion.

“One more time,” I found myself saying again and again as I reached the bottom, yearning to feel that complete letting go of my body to gravity as I gained speed.  The kids were at the top with their grandmother, distracted, and I forgot all about them, becoming completely absorbed in the crunch of snow, the rush of wet, icy wind in my face and the feeling of falling and trusting the hill to carry me on its back to the bottom safely and surely every time.

For any other pregnant people out there, don’t sue me if you lose control, end up careening into a rose bush and sprain your patella, but my prescription is to steal your kids’ sled and have at it until all of your worries and concerns fade away and all that’s left is you and the snow and the wind whipping downhill.

 

 

“The One and Only Ivan” and Candlemas

This is the title of the show that I took Joel to see this past Saturday on the college campus nearby.  Sure, I may gripe about the unprecedented pedestrian traffic that living in a college town comes with and also the fact that though I still consider myself quite young and spry, compared with twenty year olds, I feel perpetually elderly, but there are definitely perks to living near a college campus.  One is college sports.  We take Ruth to see the gymnastics team and often make an evening out of a hockey game.  Another is the arts.  There is actually an art museum right on the campus that sometimes hosts events for families, a music school where we have taken Joel and currently take Miles for little kids music classes, and a performing arts center which puts on family friendly shows.

I was at my book club last month when the member next to me leaned over and said she had a deal for me.  She had purchased tickets to see “The One and Only Ivan” with her granddaughter but couldn’t end up going so she handed me the tickets and simply said, “Enjoy!”

Well, though I happen to love and appreciate small college theater, having had a theater major brother whose plays I always went to see at least once, it’s been years since I’ve seen any college plays.  Also, as a young teen, my mother would sometimes take us to see performances at the local community college.  I was super excited, though a little nervous because the kids had never been to see live theater before and I wasn’t really sure how they would handle it.

Ruth would have been the obvious choice to take as she’s the oldest and would have the best chance at appreciating and understanding the show, but she was ill.  Joel was next in line.  And, truthfully, though I do feel a special connection to all of my children, I have a unique relationship with each one, I feel a special understanding towards Joel who, like me, is the middle child (though he’s about to have some company in that station of the family after Miles loses his place as youngest and gets bumped to “middle child 2”).  There is and has always been there an understanding between us that is just easy.  I was looking forward to spending some time with just he and I.

We got in the car and started driving to the show.  He sat in the back not saying much.  That’s probably one of the main differences between him and the other two kids.  Though he was as verbally advanced as Ruth from an early age, he quickly became less of an open book and has a very private inner life that Ruth doesn’t really seem to.  Anything on her mind, it seems, she verbalizes it.  Car rides with Ruth are very chatty.  Rarely does she stop talking for any length of time.  Miles, likewise, often has a sort of external monologue running at all times.  Joel, like I was, is more a quiet, contemplative child.  At once this is extremely relatable for me yet frustrating as his parent.  I never quite know what’s going on in that thick noggin of his (one other running joke in our family is how big and heavy Joel’s head is.  We’ve all been on the receiving end of accidental collisions with his big wrecking ball head).   I tried in vain to make conversation with him but he was all too happy to simply stare silently out the window.  I gave up after a little while and began daydreaming along myself.

We arrived and found parking relatively close by and made it in just as the show started.  It was a really nice Shakespeare-style stage and I was instantly taken back to the days of watching my brother perform.  There really is nothing quite like the intimacy of an audience at a small scale performance.  There is something so special about college theater that you just can’t get at a professional-level large scale.  Joel sat in the dark, eyes locked on the actors, seeming a bit baffled and a little too short to see well over the person in front of him, but took it all in and had, I think, a vague appreciation for what he was witnessing.  In all, I would call it a success and I look forward to taking the kids to many more plays in the years to come.  Definitely one of the perks of living in a college town along with quality ice cream and many selections of Asian cuisine.

Saturday was Candlemas, the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  It’s a good time to clean your house, light candles to welcome back the returning light of the sun and do some special baking.  Baking is always a good way to celebrate anything, I think.  I made some honey bars that I found on pinterest.  I would share the recipe, but they weren’t really that good (not that that stopped my family from devouring the entire batch in a few hours).  I also got us an African violet from Kroger which is looking very nice and spring-hopeful on our dining room table and Greg planted some onion and herb starts for the garden this summer.  At this time of year, he can often be found with a spray bottle in hand watering and crooning to his little plants that seem to occupy every remotely sunny window sill of the house in hopeful anticipation of new-sprouting greenery.  Signs of life!

It’s amazing that it’s already halfway through winter.  I can remember the winter solstice so well.  It seems like just yesterday that we were sitting in the darkened living room with candles all around listening to movie soundtracks (one of Greg’s odd interests this winter) and talking about the longest night of the year and the darkest days.  Now, flipping to the new calendar page, as my eyes wandered to the bottom week, I saw that I wrote down “31 weeks” and I felt my heart pick up and start thumping wildly.  That seems so close to the end of the pregnancy!  I thought back to Miles pregnancy and remembered that pretty much from around 33 weeks onward, the birth felt eminent.  This has definitely been the fastest moving pregnancy I’ve had.  I am so amazed.  It seems like just yesterday I was face to face with the positive test line.  Now I am finishing up the final week of the second trimester and feeling something I haven’t felt much during previous pregnancies: sadness that I only have three months left!  In my other pregnancies, I always seemed to feel annoyed at them lasting so long and I kind of just wanted it to be over to some extent.  Probably because I didn’t think I would ever be pregnant again am I really deeply appreciating how special this is, and how fleeting.

Happy Candlemas to you and yours and enjoy the rest of winter as the sun slowly returns to warm our half of the Earth!

 

 

Flashback

One of the tasks of getting ready for a baby is sorting old baby clothes.  Well, it just happens that a brother of mine and I have been going back and forth having boy babies for about 7 years now, so I am used to that.  Ruth’s baby clothes, except the more neutrally-colored items, have remained untouched in old diaper boxes in the corners of the basement, and in our storage unit when we lived in the apartment, for years now.  I have gotten rid of a lot of it, especially during the move, keeping only the more sentimental garments and a few favorites “just in case”.  Really, I was thinking in case my brother had a girl eventually, as I was pretty sure after number three that Greg and I were maxed out.

So, heaving those boxes upstairs, dumping them on the couch and sorting through them the other day was an interesting experience.  It was like a time warp, really.  Because holding those tiny clothes felt so familiar to me, as though just yesterday I had been sorting them for Ruth, washing them, organizing them.  They felt so natural in my hands.  Yet where had the small child that wore them gone?  I looked around to see Ruth as she is now, all long limbs and sharp angles, quick leveling gaze and there was a hint of the young toddler I once knew, yet it was hard to believe it was the same person that donned these small onesies, flowery dresses and pants with ruffles and lady bugs. I felt at once the dueling emotions of watching ones’ kids grow up: immense pride at how far we’ve come and a sort of melancholy yearning for the younger years and the simpler times.  (Though I should slap myself in the face for even thinking that things with Ruth had ever been “simple”.  A lapse of memory and the nostalgia of bygone times, you’ll have to excuse this aging mind).

The kids were building piles of clothes to jump off the couch into, Geronimo style, but my mind was being pulled back into the past: coming home from our baby shower with all the plastic gadgetry that is the badge of new parenting, the blankets and clothes still smelling of department stores and the plastic containers they were inside, the tags and gift receipts still crisp in the boxes.  The change from a first baby to a fourth is dramatic, the focus of the preparations totally different.  At that time, we were gathering supplies like explorers getting ready to attempt an Everest climb.  Now the clothes and supplies are little more than an after thought and the focus is what I would call much more spiritually and mentally based.  I think back on my younger self getting ready to become a parent for the first time with kind-hearted disbelief at my ignorance and my simple trust that having the right equipment would somehow make everything else fall into place.  Ah!  How funny, yet something that all new parents in our culture seem to have to go through.

Holding the clothes, I found myself in a sort of stunned awe that I am actually having another daughter, something I had allowed myself to daydream about many times, but felt was unattainable in my actual lived reality.  I’m no dummy and this baby is a totally different person than Ruth and I am a totally different parent than I was back when I had my first baby nearly nine years ago, but I feel a sort of deja vu sensation, like having another daughter is somehow a chance to relive my early parenting years with Ruth.  I know that’s not really right, but it feels a little right.

In any case, I get the heady feeling of something colossal building on the horizon, that this new person coming to our family is going to break down many of our preconceived notions and totally transform us, the way each of the kids has done, and I am so happy and excited and feel so lucky to be experiencing this again.

As I pulled the first load of newly-washed baby clothes from the washer and strung them up on the line, I couldn’t help but laugh with Ruth that someone not even born yet has created so much laundry already and I reveled in my first physical task of caring for our new little one: washing her clothes.