People Move, Things Change, Families Matter: Thinking through the issue of immigration

Given last week’s confusing stream of Trump-related immigration news and the candidate’s announcements that today he will both travel to Mexico to meet its president and give a major immigration policy speech in Arizona, I thought I’d offer my own thoughts on the issue.

It is, of course, a really tough one – one that seems to be ever-controversial, ever-divisive, and ever able to lose you friends and win you enemies. It can take misunderstandings, resentments, fears, frustrations, and economic and cultural insecurities and tie them up into tight, tricky knots.

Yet I think the issue is one that is especially worth pondering.

Read the rest at the Catholic Review.

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Putting Out Fires

I’d forgotten what it was like to live like this — running nonstop, spending my entire day putting out fires.

Inching out from under the sleeping baby to nominally prepare myself for the day. Making the Kindergartener’s lunch. Preparing bottles for two, sippy cups for two. Waking and dressing three (except one never needs to be woken — he’s always squawking in his crib before I’m ready to get him). Feeding everyone. Cleaning up each in turn. Dealing with the inevitable spit-up and leaky diapers as they (sometimes literally) come at me. Brushing teeth and hair. Hugging and kissing my loves as they walk out the door.

Washing dishes, changing diapers, breaking up fights, nursing the baby, making bottles, preparing meals, wiping counters, attempting laundry, emptying the trash, stealing the spilled-over recycling back from the toddler. Over and over again.

Anticipating a break because everyone has finally been fed and the littlest ones are finally napping, only to have them both wake up on you. Rejoicing at getting all three boys to bed, only to have the baby wail for hours. Soaking in the quiet after everyone else in the house has fallen asleep, only to find it impossible to keep my eyes open.

The Kindergartener keeps asking to do his math games on my computer, but I’ve hardly turned it on in weeks, let alone taken the time to figure out the login his teacher sent home from school.

I’m not sure I’m feeding or bathing or holding the baby enough. This morning I left her in spit-up-soaked clothing for hours because she fell asleep before I had time to change her.

One child has been manufacturing drama to get my attention, another has been going overboard in telling me how much he loves me. The third just wants to be held. (Also, he’s about to turn two and expertly playing the part already.)

I’m edgy — worn thin and anxious about how little capacity I’ve had to tap out my thoughts (presidential campaign! drama at my alma mater! life with a new baby!) on the keyboard. Hence this quick attempt at a blog post via smartphone.

I’m tired, but the wired sort of tired where you hardly sit down for fear you won’t be able to get back up again. Brennan is more tired than I am — migraine tired, asleep-on-your-feet tired.

Yet it is good, living like this.

I’d forgotten how delightfully smushy a newborn feels in your arms. I’d forgotten how they smile in their sleep and splay their hands out in front of them. I’d forgotten how a baby’s big siblings will fall over each other to be close to her.

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I’d forgotten how much easier, despite all the work and all the rushing, it is to acclimate to having a new baby in your home when you’ve done it a few times already.

I’d forgotten how nice it is to hand off your baby to a room full of eager family members and then how much sweeter it is to get her back from them when the party’s over.

I’d forgotten how generous people can be.

I’d forgotten about all the looks of love and longing you see aimed in your direction when you carry a new baby around with you.

Yes. It is good, living like this.

(Even when you need to remind yourself of the fact as you run from one fire to the next.)

It is good.

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Saturday Morning Sneak-Peek

I shouldn’t be up right now.

I should still be sleeping, soaking up those last few minutes of sustenance before what is sure to be a busy day. I should be trying to hit the six-hour mark of sleep after a late night of birthday party preparations.

Instead, our (almost four-year-old) birthday boy appeared at the side of our bed. He’d had a nightmare. Up he went to be nestled in between us, sniffling and wiggling and keeping me awake.

Or my mind did that. Too much on the to-do list today: bake a cake, fill goody bags, make some chili, clean up the remaining messes, vacuum, build a dinosaur.

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Yes, I drew this free-hand. Yes, the Internet helped.

(What? Isn’t that a standard part of any worthy to-do list?)

I’ve been running a little ragged this week – or rather, my mind has. I’ve mostly been home, but I’ve been absorbed in party prep, the Pope’s visit to the U.S., my region’s effort to celebrate and reflect on it, and other mentally-draining chatter in the blogging world. It’s really been pretty exhausting.

So I should be sleeping right now.

Instead I sit here at my laptop, a bowl of cereal before me, tapping out a few words. I want to say hello and welcome to the new readers I picked up this week. I want to tell my existing readers that I’m here and alive and very much missing writing to you. And I want to say to my mom that no, I didn’t get very much sleep last night, but I swear it’s not my fault.

So I’ll take the opportunity to point you to the fruits of my labor this week – a compilation of writings on Pope Francis’ U.S. visit to the Mid-Atlantic. Members of my regional blogging group have attended or are attending nearly every one of his public events during his visit, and over a dozen of us are writing on it, whether we’ve been able to see Pope Francis in-person or not. We’ve a load of great post so far (22 posts from eleven bloggers), and I’d like to take a moment to highlight a few of them.

A Walk In Words With Pope Francis

From Abigail Benjamin:

“I almost stopped my 8 year old kid from buying a souvenir Vatican flag because we had already brought a large Vatican flag from home to wave during the parade. As the Mom of many children, my default answer to any child’s impromptu spending request is usually “Let’s not buy it now.” Somehow outside the security gate of the Papal Parade, I hesitated before saying no. My hesitation was enough time for my 8 year old daughter to offer to spend her own allowance money to buy a flag. Then my husband to suggested adding another $5 from his wallet so that her younger siblings could share in the joy. If I had a metaphor for that impact of the Papal Parade, it’s that we came to the Parade with a one large family flag to wave for the Pope and we left with 5 of my children waving individual flags inside their heart for our Pope.”

From Rita Buettner:

“I had the opportunity to attend the Pope’s Mass on Sept. 23 in Washington, D.C., with 25,000 of my closest friends. If you were there too, I’m so very happy for you! If you weren’t, I wish you could have been, and I wish we could have crowded together against the barricade as we waited for the Popemobile to pass. For now, I thought I’d reflect on how the experience has made me think about the beauty and richness of our faith.”

From Brigid Hogan:

“I was lucky enough to see Pope Francis twice this week. On Tuesday, I was part of the relatively small delegation that greeted his first steps in the US at Andrews Air Force Base. On Thursday, I stood shoulder to shoulder with thousands, watching him address Congress and bowing our heads as he blessed the crowd – especially the children. On this week’s Catholic Stuff podcast, cohost Fr. Michael O’Laughlin said: “Expect good things… Whenever the Pope comes, amazing things result.” I’m not expecting Congress to heed the warnings and instructions the Pope gave them. I don’t expect them to even realize how excoriating his remarks are to the priorities both parties have set for our nation . . . But already this week, I have witnessed people side by side, joyful in their faith, renewed in mercy and vigor. I have seen Facebook posts honoring him . . . from people who haven’t considered themselves part of the Church for years.”

From Erin McCole Cupp:

“I wasn’t sure I had much to say about the World Meeting of Families . . . Nothing helpful to others.  Nothing that would be anything but navel-gazing.  Seriously, have you seen my navel?  No?  Then give the good Lord a nice, big “Thank You.” Then this morning, someone on Facebook asked a friend, “What’s so great about Wawa?” Hold the popephone. I may live on the border of Sheetz country these days, but I spent the bulk of my first thirty years under the warm glow of that golden rectangle emblazoned with the sleek silhouette of a Canada goose. You mean to tell me there are people who don’t know what’s so great about Wawa?  That is when I realized that I have something to say about next week’s events, something important, even something unique.  I may have left Philly and its suburbs, but Philly and its suburbs certainly never left me.  I, dear reader, have been called.  I have a mission. I have, my friends, found my WMOF blogging voice.  And thus I bring you… Seven Things You Need to Know About Popeadelphia: Your incredibly unofficial guide to the 2015 World Meeting of Families”

From Abbey Davis Dupuy:

“My hands are full, people say-
busy slicing grapes in half
strategically placing Band-aids
peeling the pink crayon to make it last a bit longer
busy steadying a wobbly bike
rebraiding flyaway hair
washing wiggly feet.

His hands were full, too-
busy breaking bread (somehow stretched to plenty)
busy drawing in the dirt
touching ears, heads, foreheads
busy not casting stones
grasping a hand and pulling it back to life
flipping over tables when necessary
washing reluctant feet.

I examine my hands and wish they were more like His-
less afraid to touch a stranger
more willing to reach across a fence or a language barrier
less concerned with my own comfort.

They’re full, yes, but they’re lacking.
I could always hold a little more.”

I hope you’ll stop over there to check out all the contributions. How lucky we are to have such talent in our region!

And on my way out, one more sneak peek of my little guy’s “Night at the Museum” birthday party later today:

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Yes – we’re in for a good time.

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Last Week of Summer

This week I have: Cleared away probably 30 pounds’ worth of papers from my kitchen “organization” center; gone to an ob appointment (baby’s heartbeat sounds good); taken three small boys to the MALL for new shoes; taken said boys to restaurants for lunch three days running; gotten two of them back-to-school haircuts; attended a parent orientation for one boy’s school and a volunteer training for the other’s; gone late-night grocery shopping; met up with two of my girlfriends to take our combined seven boys to one of those crazy indoor bouncy house places; taken the 3-year-old to his Pre-K open house and the 5-year-old to his Kindergarten orientation; spent an afternoon swimming with my three boys and a girlfriend and her three girls; and – joy of joys – discovered a (several times over) leaky bathroom ceiling and a roaring, sparking air-conditioning unit.

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This week I have not: Written another installment in my “What This Catholic Wants in a President” series. Oh well.

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I have high (and probably unreasonable) hopes for our schedule once my oldest begins school on Monday. For one thing, we’ll be getting up at an actually reasonable (meaning early-to-us-but-probably-not-to-anyone-else) hour, so we’ll have to be able to fit more into the day, right?

For another, I have this brilliant plan to do housework in the mornings (the only time of day when I reliably have energy), rather than frittering away those hours with coffee and Facebook and Diane Rehm. Productivity makes me so happy.

But really, my hopes hinge on that wonderful, almost-unknown-to-me, shimmering mirage that people call “nap time.” Because my biggest challenge in the napping department, the one who would creep into my space every five minutes rather than rest his beautiful head on the inviting (to me) sofa pillow – he’ll be AT SCHOOL. And I’ll be left with (1) the baby who naps for up to three hours a day and (2) the preschooler who falls asleep all over the place.

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I don’t think it will be that hard to trick him into falling asleep at a time and place of my choosing. (Yes, yes – I know: unreasonable hopes.)

At any rate, I’m hoping that as we settle into the school year and a schedule, I’ll have more time to dedicate to writing. At the very least, I know that I’ll have charge of my three-year-old for five fewer hours per week and my five-year-old for THIRTY-SEVEN AND A HALF (sob!) fewer hours per week and that has got to count for something.

We’ll see how it turns out.

‘Till then, I’ll be recovering from this exhausting-but-mostly-fun Last Week of Summer Vacation and haphazardly trying to prepare myself for the First Week of School. Wish me luck! (And maybe pray for some greatly multiplied sleep?)

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FLOP {pretty, happy, funny, real} (Vol. 19)

{pretty,happy,funny,real}

{pretty}

I thought it would be nice to do {phfr} this week, so I reviewed my phone’s photos (no idea where my regular camera is at the moment) to see what I could come up with. And I found, like, three shots that the average person would consider {pretty}. Which are pretty much duplicates of each other:

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See?

Otherwise, all I have to show you are scenes that are “boy” pretty, if you will. You know, like pirates and scaffolding and a jungle’s worth of animals gathered around a single model tree.

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Such is my life these days: a slice of regular pretty frosted with a thick layer of the boy variety.

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Those boys are so sweet, though. They make me so {happy}. This weekend they earned their own money for the first time. Their cousin had lost a small toy she’d brought with her to my parents’ house, so my oldest son asked his grandma:

“Can I do some work so you can give me some money, so I can give it to Caroline, so she can give it to her mommy to buy a new Mikey?”

My preggo heart was full to bursting – my boy (sniff, sniff) wants to earn money so he can (sniff, sniff) buy his cousin a replacement for the toy she lost? (Sob!)

Both boys did a little cleaning around the house (just toys – not much of a feat) and when they’d finished, my mom paid them each SIX quarters. Man, oh man – were they proud of themselves!

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No, they’re not begging for food — they’re showing off their hard-earned quarters.

And all’s well that ends well: My niece found her toy, so the boys get to keep their earnings. Now to decide what to do with them!

{funny}

Though my morning sickness is tapering off a bit, it still won’t let go entirely. Which is mostly annoying, but once in a while makes for some {funny} when it has the effect of keeping me on the sofa. Because sometimes when I sit on the sofa, my boys decide to do my hair. With tools.

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{real}

I’m kind of cheating here – I grabbed this pic out of my files from a couple of years ago and doctored it up to fit the following {real} thing around here this week:

FLOP

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Yep, my “7 Posts in 7 Days” was a flop. Sigh. Why do I do these things to myself? There was no way I was up to publishing a post every day this week. No way, no how.

Morning sickness is still hanging on. Baby hasn’t been sleeping well. We’ve had commitments. Brennan’s been completely occupied with the roof. Boys have been bickering. I keep walking into the kitchen to find the baby on the table. Then I turn around to find him back up there.

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But I’m going to take Heather’s advice and try to KEEP GOING. I’ve blogged more in the past couple of weeks than I have in months. I have another post partially-drafted on paper and more in the beginning stages in my head. I have some wind behind my sails. So forget the 7 in 7, right? I’m going to KEEP GOING.

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Thanks for joining me, all! Be sure to head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for more {pretty, happy, funny, real}!

Working With My Weakness

Last week included a higher-than-average number of meltdowns at our house. Not my boys’, mind you – my own.

One day I informed Facebook of my misery by announcing that I was researching au pair programs. (I was about 95% joking, but the remaining 5% was engaged in some serious fantasizing about how amazing life would be with live-in help.) Later that night I ushered in the boys’ early bedtime with a plea for cocktail recipes. I was tempted to follow one friend’s advice and just take a swig of each bottle:

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Another day I ran around in a serious (and probably very scary) frenzy, shouting and shooing the boys out the door to an appointment. I was nearly wild from the pressure of getting everybody dressed, feeding lunch, brushing teeth, loading bags, wiping bottoms, and pinning down a certain (screaming, thrashing) baby in order to change his poopy diaper. In my mind, I screamed “I DO NOT UNDERSTAND PEOPLE WHO ARE ABLE TO ARRIVE ON TIME!” In the car, I forbade the boys from speaking for the first few minutes of our trip so I could focus on calming my bad self down.

Yesterday evening, I put an end to hours of (my own) agitation by plopping the baby in the stroller, taking the boys over to my husband (who was working in the garage), yelling “I’M GOING TO LOSE MY MIND!” and running back to the house empty-handed. (I literally ran, waving my arms and jumping around like some sort of madwoman.)

They deserve better.

They deserve better.

I’m not cut out for this.

It’s all I could think as I came back inside from the garage: I’m not cut out for this. I love my boys. I love being a mother. I love taking care of my home and my family. I believe that I’m the right one for the job. But I am not cut out to do it every hour of every day.

My brain can’t handle that constant stimulation. There comes a point in any given day around here, on any given task, when I just shut down. I sit surrounded by my work and by others’ needs and I fail to see a single thing I could do to make the situation any better.

I feel paralyzed.

I’ve already said it about a million times on this blog, but I am very easily overwhelmed. For heaven’s sake, I can hardly function in Target – let alone a shopping mall – I’m so affected by the overabundance of sights and sounds. So a day’s worth of demands and arguments and diapers and meals and chores and interruptions and interruptions and interruptions… they often put me on what feels like the brink of sanity.

Like this. And this. And this.

Thank goodness for sweet boys.

Thank goodness for sweet boys who bring flowers to their mama.

Goofballs

Goofballs.

Not that it really matters, but I’m beginning to think that this thing about me is maybe an actual, diagnosable thing. (Lately I keep hearing about adult ADD. Could that be it? I’m honestly not inclined to find out.)

Why doesn’t it matter? Because whether or not anyone else views my thing as a thing, I have finally accepted it as a part of who I am – just as inseparable from my personality as my love for people or my inclination to broadcast my opinions. And after years of being frustrated with myself for my highly-distracted, easily-overwhelmed ways, I’ve finally (mostly) stopped beating myself up over them.

I’ve stopped telling myself that my personality is my fault. I’ve stopped convincing myself that I can just get over an elemental part of who I am.

I’ve started to figure out how to work with my weakness.

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How? I’m giving it – them (I have many) – a lot of thought. I’m trying to understand how my weaknesses interact with my experiences and responsibilities. I’m strategizing ways to minimize their effects.

I’m paying attention to my triggers – the things that shut me down or heat me up. I’m doing little things to address the little ones. I’m chewing on how I should resolve the big ones.

I’m recognizing that clutter and unfinished tasks are deadly powerful (and harmful) stimuli to me.

I’m acknowledging that when I don’t take care of myself, I’m ill-equipped to handle not only the stimuli, but also the people I love.

And (after my week of meltdowns) I’m finally accepting that I indeed need help in caring for my children. I don’t need a lot of it, but I do need a few reliable daytime hours a week when I’m not ‘on.’

So I’m working on it.

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Tomorrow, I’ll provide some examples of how I’m going about this work. (You know – in case any of you happen to share my particular weaknesses – or enjoy watching the sideshow that is the frazzled, overwhelmed, procrastinating, perfectionist, impatient, stay-at-home mommy trying to deal with herself.)

But until then, I’ll ask you this: Is there a part of you that trips you up? If there is, do you face it head-on, or do you wish it away?

The Blue Sky Day, Revisited

I wrote this post last year as an attempt to deal with my memories of September 11, which continue to trouble me. I re-post it now because I find that it still represents my feelings about that day. And because I don’t know whether I’ll ever again be able to bring myself to write on the subject. Maybe I’ll simply re-post this piece every year, until this little blog is done.

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Twelve years ago this morning, I was sitting at my desk in Crystal City, Virginia, about a half-mile south of the Pentagon. I was a month into my first job out of college, working in a government office, in a block of buildings filled to the brim with government and government contractor offices. I’d joked to my friends that I’d never frequented a more polite place in my life: Everywhere you turned, there were military personnel and former military personnel who held doors for you, offered you their seats, and called you “Miss” or “Ma’am.” To a nervous, small-town girl alone in a big city for the first time, it was reassuring.

The weather that day was absolutely gorgeous. I had noticed it on my metro ride into work. I’d blinked at the bright sunlight as my train emerged from its Washington, D.C. tunnel and climbed across the bridge over the Potomac, into Virginia. I’d searched the brilliant blue sky for a cloud and couldn’t find even one before we descended again, the Pentagon looming on our right.

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Thank goodness today’s sky has a touch of cloud.

I had watched people get off the train that morning at the Pentagon station. I’d recognized a few of them; you start to do that when you commute on public transportation at the same time every day.

Sitting at my desk, happy and proud that I was settling into a real, grown-up job, I was unprepared for the horror and fear that the day would bring. Who wasn’t?

Along with the rest of the country, I soon began to learn, bit-by-bit, what was happening. First in New York. Then again in New York. Then horror turned to fear: There was an attack in my own backyard. Then – was another one coming? Would it hit the White House? The Capitol? If it aimed for the Pentagon, could it overshoot and get us instead? No, that one went down in Pennsylvania. Guilty relief. Are there more?

My boss made his way back from a meeting at our main office, near the White House. Roads were blocked and no public or private transportation was moving anyway, so he walked. He walked for miles, at midday, an overweight man nearing retirement-age. He looked so red-faced, exhausted, and stricken when he arrived that we were sincerely afraid he would have a heart-attack. But I suppose that’s what you do when structure breaks down, when you fear that the place you’re standing in at the moment might soon be under attack: You walk. Even if it’s from downtown Washington, D.C., across a bridge, to Northern Virginia. You walk a route that is normally only driven at high speed, in much traffic.

And then there was the heartache of the World Trade Center collapsing. The slow realization of the enormity of the event that was unfolding around us. The tears and the near-hyperventilation. The world turning upside down as I watched the streets outside my building fill with people, the highway clogged with cars that wouldn’t move for hours, police with big guns emerging from what felt like nowhere. And worst of all: the acrid smoke that hung in the air. In it, I felt the horror physically – stinging the back of my throat.

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And there were the questions. Not just “Who did this?” but “Is it over?” And “Will our highways or our bridges or our metros be attacked next?” “Will we be able to get home?” “Should we scrounge for food and prepare to stay in the office overnight?” “Should we evacuate?” And the loneliest question: “Where will we be safe?”

Much later, when it had been hours since the last attack, a touch of the normal came back. The metro reopened, allowing me to return home, albeit via a detour. We were rushed, without stopping, through a Pentagon station that smelled strongly of smoke. All were numb, quiet. It was beyond strange to know that every single person I saw was thinking about the same thing. It was awful to know that our glances at each other were both sympathetic and suspicious. We didn’t know who was at fault, or if they were done. The weight of it all was oppressive.

But still, that sky was blue. It was blue and horrible and sickening. It shouldn’t have been so pretty. It should have cried.

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That night I stood outside in the dark next to my uncle, looking at the big sky from the vantage of his small farm, where I was living at the time. He’d brought me out there to make me look at that awful, clear expanse. “Look; there are no planes in the sky. You’ll never see this again,” he told me.

I went back to work the next day, because We’re not going to let those terrorists get to us! I crossed that bridge over the Potomac once again. The sky was still blue, but this time I saw large white clouds of smoke or dust or steam billowing up from the Pentagon. We sped through the station again, smelling the smoke. We would do so — speed through without stopping — for days, perhaps weeks. Every time we did, I thought of the faces I’d seen getting off at that station that morning. I wondered where those people were, whether they were safe. I never saw them again.

The following day, I stayed home. I was exhausted and I needed to process what had happened.

I think I’m still working on it.

I know that my experience is nothing compared to that of those who escaped the Twin Towers, or who were injured in the Pentagon, or who searched frantically for information about their loved ones on that awful day and the ones that followed it. I don’t forget that thousands of people were lost and that thousands more continue to feel those losses acutely. I know that countless people feel like their lives were ripped apart that day.

Mine was not. I lost nothing more than some peace of mind.

And yet, to this day the sight of a clear, cloudless sky just about sends me into a panic attack. I don’t dwell on the yearly memorials, because I can hardly handle them. Re-reading my journal entry from that day, hearing a mention on the radio, seeing a “never forget” bumper sticker or Facebook meme – even just thinking about September 11th – it causes the anxiety to mount. I have to switch gears before it overwhelms me.

Why do I write all this? Because oddly enough, it’s countering the anxiety that always rises to the surface this time of the year. And because it’s my way of saying “never forget” without relying on the memes that sucker-punch me. Never forget: that day was real; its impact lives on; those lives were valuable.

I suppose it’s some long-overdue processing.

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God bless those who were lost that day. God bless those they left behind. God have mercy on those responsible.

And please? Don’t forget the Pentagon.

Twenty-Three

In the interest of not completely neglecting my blog during this busy season of preparing our home for two new additions (not twins – just one baby and one mother-in-law), plus the actual welcoming of the mother-in-law and the ongoing prep for the new baby, I thought I should at least do a little catch-up post. But all I can muster is a list, so that’s what you get – a random collection of 23 goings-on, thoughts, and questions from the past week or so:

1)  We’ve been working very hard here – harder than we’ve worked since we moved into this house a year-and-a-half ago. May this (please) be our last push of purging and organizing and moving furniture for some time. (For years. Plural.)

2)  Everyone is very, very tired.

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3)  Pregnancy insomnia is one of the stupidest, most nonsensical things ever.

4)  On Saturday, a few of my lovely girlfriends took me to a lovely lunch to celebrate the impending arrival of baby boy #3. I felt just about giddy to be getting out of the house on a beautiful, spring-like day to hang out with my friends and eat delicious, wood-fire pizza. Mmmm… Thank you, ladies!

5)  There was absolutely nothing spring-like about yesterday, however. It snowed for something like ten hours straight. On March 25th. Will this winter never end?

6)  Change is hard. Or, at least it is for me. Every first day of school, every move, every new job, every new phase of life, every new child – every big change, no matter how wonderful – has been difficult for me to process. I know this about myself and yet I’m always somewhat taken aback when a round of change triggers its inevitable, big, emotional, revelatory moment (which necessarily involves tears). This round’s moment came to me on Sunday afternoon in that most glamorous of places: the driver’s seat of my minivan in the middle of the Safeway parking lot. Boo-hoo.

7)  In the scramble to get preparations wrapped up before Brennan’s mother’s arrival on Sunday evening – and the stress, and the exhaustion, and the pregnancy-related discomfort, I didn’t get to mass this weekend. I hate that. There’s no feeling of Catholic guilt quite like that of missing mass. Beyond the guilt-driven regret, though, I feel like I suffer a loss each time I miss Sunday mass. (Fortunately, it’s a rare occurrence.) Missing mass makes me realize how much I depend on it. Whether or not the little ones (or my own distracted brain) have let me pay attention to the readings, whether or not I’ve been wrestling a jumble of little arms and legs, whether or not I’ve been stressed out or agitated, the mass feeds me. Without it, I feel like I go into my week empty-handed. Missing this Sunday’s mass certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to go into this week of welcoming-the-mother-in-law and maybe-giving-birth.

8)  All that said, Hilde’s move into our home went just about as smoothly as it could have. She’s got quite a way to go to get things unpacked, but she’s safely here and we’re all getting acquainted with one another.

9)  Just about overnight, I have gone from feeling good-but-tired to feeling very uncomfortable and full-of-baby. I feel like this baby is coming soon – like, really soon. But what do I know?

10)  I had my weekly ob appointment (and sono) this morning and all went well. My doctor offered to go ahead and schedule my induction for 39 weeks on the dot, which is… next Friday! As long as the hospital’s got room for me, it looks like I should be having this baby by the 4th!

11)  I still think I’ll go before then, though. My discomfort level has been prompting many a game of “Is Julie in labor?” The answer so far has, of course, been “no” – but I’m making good progress on the dilation front, so… it could happen!

12)  Last week I bought the boys a copy of Frozen to occupy them after the baby is born. Yesterday afternoon I totally cracked and popped that sucker into the DVD player. I may regret it later, but at the moment I was glad to have bought myself precisely 108 minutes of quiet time in which to (finally) pack my hospital bag and (too soon) fret about whether I’m going into labor.

13)  Instead, I started writing this post. Priorities.

14)  Note: when you’re 8.5 months pregnant and threatening to go into labor at any minute, you should probably give your husband a little warning before venturing out at 6pm to give your mother-in-law a tour of her new town. Because when he arrives home from work to find no minivan, wife, boys, or mother on the premises, he’s likely to panic. Just a little.

15)  Another note: eating dinner at 5pm is waaayyy nicer than eating dinner at 9pm. I mean, it gives you actual free time in the evenings that doesn’t involve falling asleep on the sofa.

16)  I’ve got a little poll for the mamas out there: While in the hospital after having a baby, do you (a) change into your own clothes or (b) wear the hospital gown provided to you? My best friend and I were having a conversation about this yesterday. On the one hand, we’ve seen pictures of ladies in real clothes in hospital beds and all the cool mommy bloggers seem to dish out great advice on the comfiest clothes to pack in your overnight bag. But we, ahem, don’t understand the logistics of such a move. Real clothes seem awfully inconvenient for all the checking and prodding and poking everybody seems to want to do to you, like, every 20 minutes. And then there’s the not-wanting-to-ruin-our-clothes thing. Are we alone in going the practical, dowdy route or are there more mamas in our camp?

17)  One more important question: Is gorging oneself on delicious, home-made (but not by me) bar cookies a sign of imminent labor?

18)  We really enjoyed the brief visit from Brennan’s sister and uncle, who drove Hilde here from Minnesota. The boys especially enjoyed their aunt and uncle and were beautifully, pathetically disappointed to learn yesterday morning that they’d left before dawn. It was so heart-breaking/cute.

19)  I had to carry my two-year-old (under my arm – just about the only way the belly will allow) out of his big brother’s preschool classroom yesterday, literally kicking and screaming, because he didn’t want to leave. It was also heart-breaking/cute.

20)  Last week my three-year-old said two particularly cute things before heading to school. One morning, as soon as he woke up, he said, “Today is my wucky day!” Me: “Why is today your lucky day?” Him: “Because I get to go to school today!” His teacher loved that one.

21)  Another morning, on the drive into school, he said, “I’m going to have so much fun at school today! I’m going to be happy and be nice and behave…” Then, to his little brother, he said, “I pwomise not to do bad sings to you anymore. I won’t kick you or hit you ever, ever, ever, ever again. Okay? Okay? Okay?” Finally, his brother gave the obligatory reply: “Otay.”

22)  Big brother’s “pwomise” didn’t last long.

23)  Fortunately, the little one’s tough. Fierce, we call him. He can take it.

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Think Of Your Closets

If I had to choose one piece of advice to offer young people at this very moment, it would be: Don’t be a pack-rat. And if you absolutely can’t resist the urge to be a pack-rat, make sure to be an organized one.

Because one day you might find yourself eight-months pregnant, with two small children to care for, sifting through box after bag after box of your worldly possessions to make room for your mother-in-law and all of her worldly possessions.

You might find yourself putting all of your (admittedly, modest) energies into this work (and laundry – there will always be laundry), only to look around and count no less than 20 boxes and bags left to go. Just in one room.

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It looks more organized than it actually is: that cedar chest is packed full of junk.

And you’ll know that you can’t simply chuck all the boxes and bags, because for years you had no discernable organizational system and you have no idea what’s in them. You might recall that you once found your high school diploma in a box of junk mail.

You’ll likely realize that you won’t actually finish the task on this, your 26th round of attempting it, but you have to try, because with the impending addition of the mother-in-law and the baby, you’re running out of places to hide your stuff.

You might, ten years or so down the road, finally learn to rein in your pack-rat tendencies. They might not even be obvious to your future friends, because you’ll be so determined to be rid of them (the tendencies, not the friends) that you’ll refuse to allow clutter a permanent home in your main living spaces.

But your spare rooms and attics and closets will tell on you.

For once you build up that backlog of stuff, only moves and additions to the family and New Year’s resolutions will push you into tackling it.

Take it from me, the so, so tired pregnant lady who’s done eight loads of laundry today (in case it makes me seem any less ridiculous, please know that some loads included things like basinet and car seat liners) and who has at least another ten loads waiting in the wings.

The same tired pregnant lady who needs to figure out where to temporarily stick a dozen boxes and bags o’ junk (plus a big pile on the floor) so that furniture can be rearranged tomorrow. And who will, once all the furniture is in its proper place, still need to either sift through the junk or find permanent hiding spaces for it.

Trust me, this is not how you want to be spending your last days before welcoming a new baby (and a mother-in-law) into your family. This is not an oh-so-sweet round of “nesting.” There’s nothing fun about boxes of credit card offers, old magazines, and expired coupons.

Do yourself a favor and take my advice: Don’t be a pack-rat. Resist the temptation. Think of your future moves and babies and mothers-in-law. Think of your closets.

You’re welcome.

Sweet, Sweet Progress: {pretty, happy, funny, real} Vol. 12

I thought I’d take a brief break from the land of Making-Preparations-For-The-Impending-Arrival-Of- Mother-In-Law-And-New-Baby to sit down and type out a little progress report on that whole thing and a couple of others.

The good news is that we are, in fact, making progress. And oh, how sweet it feels. There’s nothing like productivity to tamp down the sense of panic rising in my chest.

We found out about the change in Brennan’s mom’s move-in date (from the end of May to the end of March) the weekend before last. At the time, our house was pretty much a wreck. The future nursery was so full of stuff that you could barely walk through it (which was problematic, as you have to pass through the room to get from one end of our second floor to the other). Our bedroom was overflowing with baskets of clean, unfolded laundry and my (absurdly large) handy-dandy laundry sorting unit was overflowing with heaps of dirty laundry. Our long-dead Christmas tree was still up and mostly decorated. And the rest of our main floor was also decked with dusty Christmas décor.

But now…

{pretty}

Look! Nothing Christmasy! This room is as ready for spring as I am.

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The tree is down and out, its ornaments have been packed and stored, and nearly all the rest of the Christmas stuff has been put away too. Thank goodness. How good for the spirit, to not be constantly dragged down by seasonally-inappropriate reminders of just how behind you are.

{happy}

Our Room O’ Junk has been turned into… a room o’ less junk. In just over a week, it (the future nursery, that is) went from this:

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To this:

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Laundry has been washed and folded and put away, too-small children’s clothing has been sorted, baby clothes have been pulled out (still awaiting their own turn in the washer), items have been removed to their proper places, (some) papers have been gone through, and (most of) our baby gear has been stacked in one corner of the room. I’ve got a couple more days to finish clearing out the space before Brennan’s buddy comes over this weekend to help him shuffle furniture between four different rooms on three different floors, and the garage.

Speaking of help… though I really, truly didn’t intend my last post to be interpreted as a plea for help (I meant it more like a, “Hey, people to whom I write about my life, guess what BIG things are going on in it right now?”), several dear friends offered help anyway. Krista and Mary and lovely, non-blogging others offered to occupy the boys so I could get things done. Betsy watched my two-year-old (yet again!) while I helped at my three-year-old’s preschool – and she even did my dishes. Another friend brought us lunch and carried heavy, bulky things up and down the stairs for me. She and others will take care of the boys during my slew of upcoming doctors’ appointments. And yet more folks will help us with the grunt work of moving things around before and after Brennan’s mom arrives.

These people are wonderful.

I admit that receiving so many offers of help makes me feel a little awkward and uncomfortable. It’s humbling. But it also fills me with so much gratitude. The fact is, I really am tired. And we really could use the help. When I offer help to others, it’s because I really want to help them. I’m genuine in my offers and I want them to be accepted. So I figure I should assume the same of others. (Note: Never offer me help just to be polite. Ha!)

I am so happy to be part of a family and a community of friends who don’t hesitate to lend a hand when one is needed. Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear ones.

{funny}

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This is the antique dresser we bought the same weekend as the boys’ beds. Due to Brennan’s mom’s impending move, we’ve had to rethink a lot of furniture placement in the house. One of the funny (but really, very happy to me) results was to put what was to be the boys’ dresser in the dining room. (To which I say “Yay! It looks so pretty in this room! And Yay! Storage for dining room linens! And YAY! A non-plastic surface off of which to serve food!”)

The dresser’s marble top has been sitting upstairs in the Room O’ Junk ever since we bought it. I’ve been asking Brennan to bring it downstairs so I can just check this room off my list, already, but he doesn’t seem to think the task is anything near a priority. So the other day, I set this lamp on (in?) the dresser, hoping B would get the hint.

I think I’m going to have to just ask again.

{real}

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It’s all how you look at it, isn’t it? I still have so, so much to do.

{more progress, more phfr}

There has been progress on other fronts too. For one, there’s this very pretty, very happy little scene:

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How could I help but include it? I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see crocuses in my life. I’ve certainly never before waited on spring with such anticipation. This week we had days in the 60’s and even the low 70’s. I don’t care that today was blustery and back into the 30’s. Progress is progress!

Of course, there’s also the pregnancy. Here’s my latest belly pic – 35 weeks, taken last Sunday after mass.

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Besides the obvious size and weight progression, I’m really starting to feel like I’m getting close. I feel good,* but close. At yesterday’s ob appointment, my doctor reviewed my most recent sono results (big ol’ baby), noted the (big ol’) size of my last baby, and said that as long as I’m sufficiently dilated, they’ll plan to induce me at 39 weeks.

Exciting stuff! (I’m totally fine with an induction. I needed Pitocin for both of my boys and did just fine with it. I honestly won’t know what to do with myself if contractions begin on their own this time around.) Also – ACK! I’ll be 36 weeks tomorrow, so I’m facing the real likelihood that I’ll be having this baby within the next three weeks, or thereabouts.

Between Hilde’s arrival in just over a week and that news from my ob, this is all starting to feel very… real.

*I think it’s funny that I’m still feeling (mostly) so comfortable this go-round. Though my weight is tracking right where it did with the other two pregnancies, and though I popped out very quickly this time, I feel like my expansion has slowed recently. Or at the very least, I must be carrying this baby and much of my weight differently than I did with the other two, because I just don’t feel as large. I can turn over in bed, I can sit comfortably, I can (even 50 pounds up from my wedding-day weight) still wear my wedding rings, I can cross my legs, and (this is the real kicker) I can still breathe. I swear, this still-breathing-normally-at-36-weeks thing is just… amazing… liberating… wonderful.

Thank goodness. It’s hard enough slogging through most of your random, pushed-aside possessions while you’re dragged down by fatigue. What a relief that my body is otherwise cooperating!

Okay, that’s enough from me. Head over to Like Mother, Like Daughter for other, less rambling looks at the {pretty, happy, funny, real} this week had to offer. And take care!

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