the trip to cincinnati

This past weekend, Ruth and I left Greg at home to get some real work done on his thesis and drove with his parents to Cincinnati to visit his two nun aunts, Aunt Raine and Aunt Hud.  We were hoping for some real spring weather five hours south, but the temperature and feel were all too familiar.  The only thing novel was that the Magnolias and Forsythias were in bloom.

We stay at the Motherhouse, which is a kind of indoor, self-contained nun city on a big hill near the river. It even has its own post office.  It used to be some sort of school and the rooms that we stay in were once dormitories for the students.  We arrived just in time to catch dinner, where a stir crazy and very mom-centric Ruthie freaked out on some nuns and demonstrated her ear-piercing shriek that she saves for public appearances.  Not that she is one to ever shy away from “getting loud”.

Before we left, I made the comment to Tom, my father-in-law, that I would have to be on alert because if I turned my back on Ruth, the Aunts might just quickly try and baptize her in a sink.  They pointed out all of the saints statues that we passed to Ruth, who greeted each one with a cordial “hi”.  One nun tried to make the sign of the cross on her head but she balked and the nun, taking this as an unholy sign, scampered quickly away.

Between naps, playing, and diaper changes, we managed to fit in a few activities.  We walked across a bridge into Kentucky and visited a Barnes and Noble there, where my biggest purchase was a monster coffee, which I sucked down ravenously.  (The coffee at the Motherhouse isn’t what you would call satisfying).  I was pleasantly surprised to bump into a lesbian mother of an eighteen-month-old, which inspired me to give the south another chance.  Maybe they are more progressive than I thought.  We also visited Hobby Lobby at my Mother-in-laws request, although Ruth and I could have skipped this.  Especially since we were still planning to try and take Ruthie out to dinner afterwards.  I could tell we were in for an unpleasant meal when she was holding her cheek and making tired noises on the way there.  True to form, Ruth was a tyrant from the time we plunked her into the high chair at the restaurant.  The other nuns didn’t quite know how to receive this behavior, and one suggested I try shushing Ruth.  It didn’t help that there was a one-year-old one table away eating puffs like a champ and drinking her juice box serenely.

I felt as though most of the energy during the trip went into planning and preparing for Ruth’s meals.  I used to see parents feeding their babies, all taught and angsty and I used to wonder what their deal was.  Why didn’t they just calm down.  And now I know.  There is so much going through your mind all the time, but especially at meal time.  Trying to feed a baby, who doesn’t like to eat, while simultaneously trying to keep her happy and from grabbing things off the table and eat a lunch yourself is like keeping a dozen plates spinning.  Add into the mix that people are trying to talk to you and give you pointers on what the baby might like or need, and you are lucky to make it through a meal with your sanity in place.  After every meal, I found myself heaving a great sigh of relief and consciously releasing the tension that had accumulated in my back right between my shoulder blades.

We worked to time our departure to coincide with Ruth’s nap mid day and managed to repack everything into the Escape while still leaving room for ourselves.  The ride back always seems twice as long as the ride there and by the time we pulled up into the driveway, we all exploded from the car.  Ruth spent the rest of the day bouncing around the living room and crawling around like a mad woman.  Greg had, in typical Greg fashion, neglected much of his thesis work to trim the shrubbery in front of the house and catch up on his sleep.

What I took away from the trip is a much greater respect and awe for single parents and wonder at how we are going to make our summer camping trip way up in the U.P., a ten hour drive, work.

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love is touching souls

today marks one week since my mom’s heart attack.  since that time, my own heart has been searching my life for the focus i promised to maintain beginning january 1st with the new year.  can it be almost april?  in a blur of coming down with, struggling through, and finally getting over a slew of viruses, three months have slipped silently away.  my daughter is now crawling, a feat i thought she might never attain, yet now seems the most natural of occurrences.  her first birthday is quickly approaching, and with it: spring.  the buds on the neighbor’s willow are grey and fuzzy in my driveway once again, and the daylight is lingering into the evenings, taking it’s leave only after a leisurely visit.

after perching, yet again, on the foot of one of my mom’s hospital beds, seeing her tangled up in iv cords, the phrase “heart attack” drifting in and out of the room and people’s mouths, i feel the weight of those three months.  her heart, pumping weakly beneath her hospital gown, seemed to be delivering a sort of Morris code in arrhythmical thumps.  what was it saying?  could my own heart understand?

ruth is a bull.  the world is no match for her youth.  holding her is holding a ball of exploding cells, possibilities and freedom.  every now and then, when i am her jungle gym and she is climbing on my chest, i can feel her little heart, hammering like a pulsating star, way out in some other galaxy, untouchable.  her face is free from any line, her hands are soft and pliable.  who will she be in this life?

it is a wonder to think that we all began as babies.  was i ever such an innocent thing?  was my mom?  and how did we get to where we are from there?

i have heard of the term “heart strings” and i literally picture strings attached to various places on your heart that can be tugged and pulled at.  i wonder if people’s strings can be tied together or connected in one long string?  i think so.  i know that my heart, ruth’s heart, and my mom’s heart are tied together.  when ruth cries, i feel it.  i imagine they can feel my happiness and hurt in a similar way.

we are in each others blood like holy wine, so bitter and so sweet.

a new beginning

a robin singing…that’s what i heard as i groggily dragged my feet across the wooden floor from bedroom to bathroom early yesterday morning.  it must have been around 5:30 or 6.  instantly, it felt like spring, the air around me suddenly grew warmer and more moist, things here are thawing out.  i don’t know where it was.  maybe on the fence in our yard or a nearby tree, i couldn’t tell.  it seemed to me that, more than just reacting to lengthening daylight, this bird was saying something that sounded full of excitement, like a child that can’t sleep as they look forward to the next day.  it was a bit contagious,  i will say, and i found it a bit hard to get back to sleep myself.

the same day, i found out that my uncle died, possibly at the same time that i heard that robin in the gray early morning.  when a relative dies it can be like cutting down a tree.  the landscape you have been so familiar with looks suddenly different, a bit barren.

yesterday, at the memorial service, i felt myself struggling to appreciate who he was.  people said a few words, everyone dressed in nice clothes and a few even sang songs.  i looked around at the viewing room, the track lighting, plush furniture and ornate artwork with indifference.  there was a table filled with pictures he had taken on his travels with my aunt over the years.  if i could have looked through the picture, into the lens, into my uncle’s mind as he snapped it, what would i have found there?

there were pictures of him, a family shot of him as a blond boy sandwiched between his parents, his senior photo, and he and my aunt at their wedding shower, smiling broadly, then dancing at their wedding.  my aunt stood nearby, telling the story of how they met, describing a side of him i scarcely knew and could only now imagine as i searched his face in these old photos.  i strained to hear his voice as he “flirted shamelessly” with my aunt when he was only twenty or so.  i wondered what events had occurred just before a picture was taken of him pointing aggressively ahead as he took a step off of the side of his parents boat, suspended forever in that awkward pose above the icy lake below.  in another, he was posed in a winter coat, holding ski poles.  where was this taken and what conversation had gone on between the picture taker and my uncle on this winter journey?  had they talked about their life goals and aspirations?  had they talked about love and family as they ate their peanut butter and jellies in a snow bank?  maybe they didn’t talk of these things.  maybe my uncle never ran in a sudden frenzy into the middle of a perfect snow-fallen field to christen it with a snow angel.  or maybe he had.  only my uncle gary and the picture taker would know.  and the snow.

a marriage should be three

i have a new appreciation for what makes a marriage work and what doesn’t.  the sacred union between two people and yadda yadda is great and all.  but, really, a marriage would work better if it were between three people.  i understand that some of you might be saying, “Whoa!  A marriage between two people is hard enough!”  and that’s true.  however, i think that with the right three people, you can find happily ever after.  the benefits of this arrangement outweigh the potential challenges.  here’s how i see it: one person goes out, works, and makes money.  another person takes care of the kids and other marriage members (making lunches and what-have-you).  this person is the main caregiver.  the last person cleans the house, cooks and is in charge of the social engagements, such as sports, and play dates.   the sexes of the three partners can be completely up to those involved.  i’m not convinced one sex is better than another in any one role.  plus, i think there is more room for interesting dynamics, because, really, how much can you have in common with one other person:)?

a giant desk calendar

that’s what i ventured out to buy yesterday after it became apparent that my brain is not capable of retaining the detailed schedule that i juggle for ruth.  this morning, i have written the next month’s activities out in my neatest print and i even scanned my meetup’s board for upcoming events to pencil in.  in the meantime, there is an even layer of dust growing in thickness on my shelves, the front room area rug is beaten down, looking defeated, with clumps of dog fur sprouting out in various spots, and my ukulele is still in it’s box from the day of my first lesson, a week ago.  my hair is sticking up like an emo teen’s might and i am already planning my usual “baby wipe under the armpits” shower for the day.  will i remember to take my vitamins?  will i get  a chance to brush my teeth?  it doesn’t look good.

today, we have mothergoose storytime at centenial library, which is one of my favorite events of the week.  mostly because i like to watch everyone else’s kids acting cute and doing crazy things like WALKING and TALKING, which i look forward to as Ruth progresses in motor and verbal skills.  i also get a lot of ideas for new books to look for.  two such books i have already invested in are “The Baby Goes Beep” and “Tanka Tanka Skunk”.  I have already gotten a lot of mileage out of the baby goes beep.  The room is crowded and hot, but who can get crabby when the Clifford puppet pops out to sing the welcome song?

after this, we may be visiting megan, mya and, ruth’s fiance, noah, whom she misses greatly.  i think it has been too long since they have seen each other:)  i worry that ruth has forgotten noah with all of the older and more mature male babies at gymboree and swimming:)  we’ll see if they still have that connection that they shared from day one: both very verbal and love to eat.

to end the day is greg’s surprise birthday pizza night, which is, of course, no surprise at all.  i told him when he left this morning, “Don’t be late to your surprise b day party.”  my mom is making monkey bread and hopefully i will be able to duck into some kind of store today to buy decorations.

i think there’s a yottle in my bottle

this tricky little character is one that spits your beverage back out at you through your straw when you lean in close for a sip and can be found in the board book pages of dr. seus’s famous work: there’s a wocket in my pocket.  this is one of my favorite books of ruth’s and i read it as many times a day as possible, even though ruth much prefers “that’s not my bunny” or “DOG” (we all have our small pleasures in this life).  what is it about this simple rhyming book that appeals to me?  i can relate.  there’s a bofa on my sofa who acts as if he doesn’t care and the nupboards in my cupboards are always moving dishes around on me.  the ghair beneath my chair is snoring contentedly as i type this and the zable on the table has a surprising amount of insight.  but my favorite of all is the zelf on the shelf.  she is such a calm and persistent presence.  i wish i had a zillow on my pillow, but, alas, all i have is greg snoring loudly:)

sick again

I can only assume that getting sick for the third time in a month is due to spending so much more of my time around preschool-aged children.  At the Gymboree, hand sanitation is mandatory, but really, you know the second they are inside the padded area, they are gumming everything in sight.  One-year-olds also don’t seem to grasp the concept of “cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough”.  Giving them dirty looks to hint at their social faux pas doesn’t work either and only serves to upset the parents who snatch the offending kids away with a scoff and an eye roll.  What?  Luckily, as an adult, I can understand what is happening to me.  I understand that the aches, pains, and chills are just a symptom of a virus and will soon pass.  I don’t have to spend the day as Ruth did when she was sick, crying out of fear, discomfort and frustration, not understanding why she couldn’t keep her head up and had no energy to play.  Also, I am able to grab a piece of paper towel and blow my nose from time to time.  I don’t think Ruth is even aware that she has a nose, much less that it is something that helps her breathe while she’s eating.  Also, I have the privilege of encapsulated tylenol that I have mastered the skill of swallowing with one gulp of water.    I don’t have to down a sticky liquid that tastes like barf and dribbles down my chin and chest, causing discomfort and, you guessed it: more crying. Although, I do have to say that I envy Ruth a warm lap to be snuggled in and a kind voice to narrate my favorite stories.