Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

A few weeks ago I went to get a haircut, and on the way back I passed by KMart. Since I had a KMart gift card and since KMart sells plants, it seemed like a good idea to get some flowers to put in my front flower bed. The one that, at the time, filled with weeds. So I wandered around the garden center and acted like I knew what I was doing. I scoped out the flowers, checked their leaves and buds, checked the soil type and sun preference. I like to think that I looked very knowledgable, but in reality, I was just grabbing things that I thought were pretty. I loaded them into my car and when I got home tackled the front flower bed. Three hours later, all the plants were in the ground and I was pretty pleased with myself.

Then last weekend Rusty and I bought a bunch of vegetable plants and seeds, and on Monday we got everything in the ground. Garrett is graciously making us a lettuce table, so once that gets here we'll slap some lettuce and spinach seeds in there and see what happens.

But here's the deal. I don't know the first thing about gardening. Which is strange, since most of my life has been spent around very successful gardeners. Successfully pulling weeds is about the extent of my knowledge.

However amatuer I may be, I am now the proud owner of both a flower garden and a vegetable garden. And I find myself strangely attached to these plants, like I am inordinately proud of how well my azalea bush is doing, and have not stopped worrying about whether my tomatos are getting enough sun. I've been out there everyday, several times a day, checking the water situation, the sun situation, and yanking any errant weeds that dare to sprout up around my new babies.

Hopefully my hard work will pay off later when I have tomatos and oregano and carrots coming out my ears.

Monday, April 27, 2009

In Case of High Cholesterol, Angel Identification, or Tooth Brushing

I love books.

I love to smell them, look at them, display them, think about them, and yes, read them. There are not many things that I like more than being able to spend an entire day devouring a book. Sometimes I love my school books, though not very often. I frequently love memoirs. I am a fan of short-stories and anthologies. I often enjoy poetry. But above all, I love fiction. Glorious, glorious stories.

Books are useful too. Some books are beautiful, and make good art pieces. Sometimes books can be used to prop up a wobbly table or chair, or, as I remember doing when I was young, righting a crooked Christmas tree. They make excellent presents. They are good for losing oneself, escaping a boring and disappointing day. And sometimes, they teach good lessons.

For instance, if one was considering one's outrageously high cholesterol, one could take solace in the words of Little Ozzie, the terrificly obese writer in the book Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz "With a dismissive wave of one of his formidable arms, Little Ozzie said, 'If you carried my bulk, your blood rich with cholesterol molecules the size of miniature marshmallows, you'd understand that a little righteous outrage from time to time is the only thing that keeps your arteries from clogging shut all together. Righteous outrage and fine red wine."


Or, if one was trying to determine whether someone else was an angel or not, one could answer these wise questions, supplied graciously from the Roman Church via Gabriel Garcia Marquez's A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings. "They spent their time finding out if the prisoner had a navel, if his dialect had any connection with Aramaic, how many times he could fit on the head of a pin, or whether he wasn't just a Norwegian with wings."

Wise questions, for sure.

And finally, when one is weighing the merits of brushing one's teeth before going to bed, one might read these words, from Greg Iles' Blood Memory, when speaking of trying to find a suspect who owns dentures. "Would he necessarily have to be old?" "God no, Lots of people have teeth so bad they rot out by their thirties."

I would hate to be that kind of person.

Currently I am reading a book called Wasted, a memoir about anorexia and bulimia, Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome, and getting ready to move onto Toni Morrison's Love. I wonder what sort of life knowledge I will gain next.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Different Tempo Now

I am going to do something wild here and write a post that has nothing to do with flying poop or Mama love. I'm going to step outside my sphere of knowledge, that is, the sphere of motherhood and pretend to be an educated theologian.

In one of my classes we are reading and discussing the book Whatever Happened to the Soul? At the center of the book, a collection of essays really, is the theory of nonreductive physicalism. That being the idea that, "the person is a physical organism whose complex functioning, both in society and in relation to God, gives rise to 'higher' human capacities such as morality and spirituality". Very simply, the book discusses the idea that, rather than humans being made up of two parts--the material and mortal part (the body, the brain, etc) and the immaterial and immortal part (the soul)--perhaps humans are just one part. This would mean that upon death, the whole person would go to heaven, not just the immortal "soul" part. And, this would mean the notion of "saving souls" would have to include the whole person. This would mean that redemption goes much further than simply "soul" redemption.

Yesterday in class, we came to the topic of evangelism, and what adopting nonreductive physicalism would mean for it. And invariably, the question was posed:

Ok. So if you have just 30 minutes with someone, should you preach the Gospel, or give them some clean water, or some clothes, or whatever they need.

Without getting into what I believe about the whole "What if you only have 30 minutes to be with someone and YOU are the only sight of Jesus they will ever see!!" business, this is what I think. I don't think preaching the Gospel is always verbal. I think the Gospel can be preached in actions. I said yesterday, "Well really, if I live in a situation where I don't have clean water, and my babies are dying because of parasites in the water, and you come up to me and say 'Jesus loves you!', well...ok, but my babies are still dying." Telling me that Jesus loves me does not fix the problem of the parasites in the water. So if we are going to be in the business of believing that more than just an immortal and immaterial soul is being redeemed, then offering clean water to people is redemptive. Offering clean water, even without attaching verbal preaching, is preaching the Gospel.

In fact, I would take that argument even further. I work at a children's shelter, and because we are not religiously affiliated, we are not supposed to share our faith, identify our faith, etc. Often, my work involves holding babies--just to hold them and give them some human contact and affection. They don't know I'm a Christian, and most of the time I am not actively praying for them while I am holding them. That work, I don't believe, is any less redemptive than sharing verses from the Bible with someone who asks me to. And even further, if a group of non-Christian people decided to set up a food bank and distribute food to the hungry, then that work too is redemptive.

I believe that God works through us, in spite of us, and without us to do his Redemptive work. I believe that we join in this work, when we strive to right the wrongs we see, when we strive to better this world. Redemption comes in many forms, and often from the most unlikely characters. And accepting the idea of nonreductive physicalism (which is really just a fancy word for "I think the whole person is worth saving") allows us to remove our ideas about hierarchies of redemption. Then we won't have to make a choice between spending our efforts preaching the Gospel to care for souls or providing clean water to care for bodies. We can simply care for people the way they need to be cared for.

I know that many people will not agree with me here. That's ok, my own high school self wouldn't have agreed with me. I guess that's just part of working out our faith. But there we have it...my dabble into theology. Tomorrow, we'll be back to flying poop.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

12 Months

Dear Norah

A few days ago, we celebrated your first birthday. The night before your birthday, I couldn't sleep. I was really tired, I had been tired all day, but for some reason could not sleep. And while I was laying there in bed I started to think about the night before you were born. I couldn't sleep that night either. I was tired then too, a deep kind of tired, results of carrying around 45 extra pounds of baby, water, and 9 months of haphazardly eaten cheese burritos and M&M McFlurries. But much more than tired, I was nervous and excited and anxious. I knew that the next day you would be born, that the next day would be the beginning of my new life with you. I had no idea what that really meant, but the possibilities kept me awake, in spite of being 9 months and 45 extra pounds tired.

I woke the next morning very early, and while it was still dark, your daddy and I drove to the hospital. Our bags were packed with all the possible things we might need. Your brand new car seat was in the backseat, still smelling like the box it came in.
I spent the rest of the day waiting for you to arrive. I was hooked up to lots of different machines, and had all kinds of tubes attached to me, which made going to the bathroom even more unwieldy than normal. I had to unplug myself from all kind of stuff, wrap the cords around my back, hoist my increasingly swollen self out of bed and waddle to the bathroom-all the while pushing an IV and trying to keep my hospital gown from showing all my parts. It was hard work. Thankfully I had some help, because I think I went to the bathroom about 800 times that day.

People kept telling me I should try to get some rest, but really, how was I supposed to sleep? At some point during the day I was going to meet my brand new baby! I had no idea if I was going to meet a boy or a girl. I had no idea if the names were going to work. No idea if I even liked the names we had picked out. I had to think about the inevitably increased contractions, water breaking, and...the actual birth. Oi. And, What Not to Wear was on! How could anyone expect me to sleep with all that?

You were born at 11:26pm, on April 7. When Dr. Crownover first held you up, upside down (they really do hold babies upside down right after they are born...) my first sight of you was the back of your thighs, the bottoms of your feet and your rear end. I just remembered that, Norah, just now as I typed the words. And its funny, because I can still see it: the green of Dr Crownover's scrubs, my puffy white legs, and your pink rear-end. Really, its kind of a hilarious first sight. They quickly wrapped you up in a pink blanket and laid you on my belly and Norah, I had no words. You were so beautiful. You had this glorious and clear pink skin, these black eyes, and black hair all over your perfect little head. I had nothing to say. I just stared at you, totally overwhelmed.
Sometimes I still do that. Sometimes, when you are playing with your toys or jabbering or laughing at me dancing in the kitchen or flinging your poop out of your diaper, I just there and look at you, overwhelmed. You're amazing. Your little brain is always working, you are always learning and watching and mimicking. These days especially it seems like you are constantly on the verge of something new. Its like you go to sleep at night and wake up having learned another trick.

When you were born, I could not imagine what you would be like a year later. I never could have imagined how beautiful and wonderful and sweet and hilarious you would be. I couldn't have thought up the way you cross your legs like me when you sit on the floor, or the way you cross your feet when you eat. I couldn't have thought up your maniacal little laugh, or the way you sometimes give me impish little looks when you are trying to get away with something. I couldn't have guessed at the way your mouth turns down and you wimper when your feelings are hurt. I couldn't have imagined the way your tiny fingers feel when you absentmindedly scratch my arm while we snuggle, or the way they seem to tear off itty pieces of my flesh when you pinch me. I also couldn't have imagined the incredible frustrations, anxiety, and craziness that have come with you as well. You are by no means perfect, Norah, and motherhood is one hard business. But at the end of it all, it is so worth it.

A few days ago, I swept the back porch. While I was pushing the broom in the space between the bottom of the house and the top of the concrete, sweeping out a giant pile of dried leaves and dirt, I realized that I had not cleaned off the porch in over a year. There are so many chores that I have just neglected for the past year, as I've tried to become accustomed to life with you. It doesn't seem like it should take a whole year to settle down, but it has. It has taken 12 months to get used to things. I certainly don't have everything figured out, but now, 12 months later, I'm ok with that. And tonight, I'm sitting in bed with a pile of your clothes and bibs at my feet, your monkey rattle on the floor next to the TV and an entire living room overrun by your mountains of toys, and I can't remember what the house looked like before you came and daily dismantled everything within your reach.

Norah, thank you for all the things you have added to my life. You are so fantastic, so special, so joyous and so very very dear to me. I love you in every way that I can, with everything that I can.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Look Out Tyra!

Back in January, we went to Roswell to visit my family. The weather was beautiful while we were there, in fact, warmer there in January than it has been here in April. It was so warm, you could go outside without any pants on. Norah chose to go ahead and take advantage of optional pants, because she is a baby and she can do that kind of thing.

Also, we had to take some pictures of her wearing these baby kneepads that my friend Katy sent us as a product test type of thing. I lived with Katy when I went to school at UNM. Now she has graduated and moved to LA and works for this fancy company that...well actually I don't know what the company does. But anyway, she sent us the kneepads, and then later asked if we would take some pictures of Norah wearing them and send them to her. Then maybe at some point they would use the pictures when they were building their website.

So we took the pictures, and sent them. And....here is the finished product! (Dude. My baby is SO a model!)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Keeping Me on My Toes

(Mom, you may not want to read this post. It involves poop. Love you!)

I had to take Norah with me to class today. I have taken her to all but one of my classes this semester, and I am so thankful to have professors who are kind and gracious and don't mind having a crowing baby in class every once in a while. Those professors don't know how much I appreciate their flexibility and understanding.

So. I took Norah to my Masterpieces of Literature class. I was prepared for 50 minutes of baby entertaining, equipped with: 1 bowl of cut up cheese, 1 bowl of graham crackers, 1 sippy cup, about 85 toys, and 4 diapers.

Norah was a doll. She was cute and charming and relatively quiet. And when she did burst out in baby monologue, it was perfectly timed, just as Dr. Stratman paused for class responses. She crawled around the back of the room, flirted, stood up and tried to walk, and only tried to escape once. In fact, there was only hiccup, about 25 minutes into class.

I was keeping one eye on Norah the entire time, and about 25 minutes in I noticed she was sitting very still and making her poop face. Great! I went through my various options, but pretending I didn't notice was not going to work because eventually someone was going to smell her and 25 minutes was a long time for her to sit in poop. I had to change her. So I, the intrepid mother that I am, gathering up the diaper change essentials and took her to the bathroom. I was undaunted by the lack of changing table. After spending 2 semesters pregnant and 2 with a baby, I know full well that JBU was not built to accommodate pregnant ladies or mothers with small babies.

There was someone else in the bathroom and I felt a little bad for her because I could already smell Norah's diaper, though I had not yet taken off her pants, so I knew that as soon as the girl came out of the stall she was going to be assaulted by Dorito charged baby poop. (Yes, I gave my baby Doritos yesterday, but come on! It was her birthday!) I took off Norah's pants, opened her diaper, blinked through my watering eyes because Doritos make for very pungent fumes, and reached for the wipes. And in the time it took me to reach for the wipes, Norah reached down between her legs and pulled at the top of her diaper. Quickly. She pulled it like you would pull a table cloth from a table, trying to keep all the dishes and silverware from flying off with the cloth.

However, that sort of pulling action does not work out the same way when you try it with a diaper full of poop. So while the dishes and silverware maybe would have remained on the tabletop, the poop went flying. Flying! A big ball of Dorito baby poop vaulted out of Norah's diaper and landed near her head, just barely missing her face. The girl was still in the stall and I would have felt like a colossal idiot if she walked out and saw a big ball of orange poop on the ground next to my baby's head, so I reacted without really thinking about it. I grabbed the poop, bare handed, and flung it back in the diaper. Then, the girl came out of the stall so with poop on both hands and on the floor I continued business as normal, apologizing for the scene as I usually do when strangers come upon my baby's naked butt in unordinary places. She left, and I continued the clean up process, wiping the floor and the baby and vigorously washing my hands.

Being a mom, its always exciting.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Very Merry Un-Birthday

Oh hi.

Yeah we are back. And by back I mean, "We drove all the way from Arkansas to pretty much California, then up to the Grand Canyon, then to Bullhead City, and then, to avoid the freak snow storms that blocked our whole way home, we drove to within one block of the border of Mexico on our drive back to Arkansas. And, I left all my motivation for house and blog keeping right there on that Mexican border".

We had a good time. We got some really incredible pictures of the Southwest. I read The Devil Wears Prada and got a sunburn.

But spring break is not what I want to write about right now, because I don't have to energy to deal with blogger's absolutely stupid picture upload business. What I want to write about is that momentous occasion known as The First Birthday Party.

Do you know what a big deal this event is? Do you really know? Because I didn't. I had no idea there was so much involved in planning a party for a one year old. I mean...the always fun guest list shenanigans, the invitations, the decorations, the goody bags, the gifts, the cake, the all-important smashcake. And all these things must be orbiting around the infinitely important THEME.

You wouldn't believe how many people, when talk of First Birthday Parties comes up, immediately ask "So what's your THEME?" to which I respond "Er. Hmm. Uh..." This THEME is important business. I was completely drawing a blank on a cool THEME so I went to one of my professors who has a baby about a month older than Norah. I asked what they were doing for their baby's birthday and he told me all about the cool party themes he and his wife had come up with for their older son's parties. Then he said for their younger son's first birthday (the one a month older than Norah) the THEME was Pupcakes. They were doing stuff with Puppies. And Cupcakes.

Ha ha! Get it? Pupcakes?

If it hadn't been a relatively boyish THEME I would have just stolen it. But I have dressed my daughter in pink every day since her birth and I am not about to break the Frill-Fest with a Pupcakes birthday party.

Then I asked Jasmine what she and Garrett were doing for Isaiah's birthday party in June. They are having a Brobee themed party, from Yo Gabba Gabba!. I would have stolen that theme were it not for the fact that I have only watched 1.25 episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba! because I think it's weird and creepy and I really wish that shows like Ahh! Real Monsters were still on. I have not earned the right to host a Brobee themed birthday party. Alas.

So, desperate to make some kind of headway on this whole birthday thing and feel like I am not a failure at being a mom, I dragged Rusty to Target to get some Stuff. Any Stuff. Whatever birthday Stuff we could find. And finally I found my THEME.

Spring! It's perfect because...it will be spring when it is Norah's birthday party because...Norah was born in the spring and...spring is pretty and happy! Hooray! We got some Stuff in bright spring colors, and none of it really matched because we are loosely tying the whole THEME around these spring-y napkins with butterflies and flowers but in Coordination 101 we fail.

I ended up with: two packages of invitations (which I never actually sent), two packages of napkins, one pink table cloth, one weird stripey table cloth that I have since returned, balloons, a banner, flowered leis, and some bendy straws. It has all sat in the Target bag on my table since we bought it.

Now, with Norah's birthday party just a few days away I was feeling the First Birthday Party pressure again and I went to order her cake. I took a THEME napkin with me so they could decorate it to match and I had every intention to get her a matching little smashcake too. Because, you know, the smashcake is essential to the First Birthday Party festivities. I successfully ordered the cake and was feeling very proud of myself as I drove away from Rick's Bakery, having completed a momentous task in motherhood, and with quite alot of stylishness, to be honest with you.

Three blocks later and Holy Crap on Burnt Toast! I completely forgot the smashcake! What kind of mother forgets the smashcake for her baby's First Birthday Party?! I mean, seriously. I drove a little further, mentally punching my own self in the face for doing something so characteristic of Me.

But I didn't turn around. And I didn't call Rick's in a panic, begging them to add a smashcake to my order. I just kept driving. Because you know what? Cutting off a piece of the real cake and putting it on a plate in front of Norah is going to have the exact same effect as putting a whole miniature cake in front of her. Except this way, we waste less cake which means I get to eat more cake. That sounds like a win-win to me.

I'm done with this First Birthday Party crap. This is who I am, Norah: bendy straws, uncoordinated decorations, and no smashcake. I hope that's cool with you.