Friday, February 12, 2010


My husband and I are in the middle of buying a house. I'm in the middle of organizing an upcoming conference at my church. My girls and I are in the middle of recovering from some kind of infection that has filled our lungs and sinuses with mucus; I've been up with one or both of them in the night for going on two weeks. Besides that, I'm in the middle of being pregnant, which I haven't been keeping enough in the forefront of my considerations, obviously. I am terrible about putting myself to bed. Even with being sick, once I've put the kids to bed, I want to read a book or watch reality tv online or write a blog entry. I do crave that alone time, but it makes it so I get precious little sleep, and that is bound to hurt the immune system after awhile. Overall, I've just been going going going, lifting without too much discretion, pushing myself to keep the house [somewhat] clean, not really making a point of acting pregnant. For some or all of these or other reasons, I went to the midwife's office yesterday morning with some worrisome cramping. She gave me a "z-pack" (antibiotics) for whatever is causing this hacking cough and put me on 1-2 days bed rest.

I didn't know how that was going to work out since Shep had left just that morning for a five-day ski trip to Colorado, and my parents were running around preparing to go on a cruise the next morning. (This timing was really just coincidence; my family is not always running off on luxury vacations.) Bless them, Mom and Dad dropped practically everything to take the girls off my hands for the rest of that day and overnight. I couldn't believe my good fortune - all day in bed with nothing to do but sleep, read, write, catch up on my Bible study, and who knows what else? I was going to get so much done!

But somehow it didn't really work out that way once I lay down. First I tried sleeping. After sleeping very restfully for about 20 minutes, I woke up and thought, "What next?" I thought about delving into my Bible Study Fellowship homework on John, chapter 13. Or maybe I could work on my blog; I'm always ravening to get more time to do that. Or I could start The Curate of Glaston by George MacDonald. I had possibilities just stacked up beside me on the bed - too many possibilities. I ended up watching a two-hour online episode of The Biggest Loser, then configuring my Netflix account (after first joining Netflix). Then I couldn't find a movie I was just dying to see on Netflix, so I looked into renting a movie through Amazon. After about two hours of deliberations, I finally decided on Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Five minutes into it, I realized it wasn't worth even the five minutes I'd already spent on it. By this time, I'd been in bed six or seven hours, it was already past my bedtime, and I was starting to get depressed because I'd wasted all my precious alone time trying to make up my mind what to do with it. I felt better when I got out of bed and did my toilette. I think it was just the routine of it that made me feel happy, sane, and productive again. I washed my face, going through all four cleansing steps, brushed and flossed my teeth, rinsed with Listerine, and took out my contacts. After that, I spent an hour reading recipes in Bon Appetit magazine and went to sleep a couple hours after I really should have.

In the morning, before leaving for the port, Dad came by to set up a pallet for me on Grace's floor and brought their tv/vcr with a bin full of kids' movies, and I settled in for a day of lying around turning our brains to mush. I anticipated a lot of fussing and discontent at being stuck inside and immobile all day (I mean, on the kids' part.) But it was amazing how happy they were. Maybe it was because I was so patient with them and so accommodating. Whatever Grace wanted to watch, I let her watch, and even at three years old, she could watch uninterrupted all day and be perfectly happy. I did impose a couple of intermissions, for lunch and dinner and maybe one more for a short period of mind-expanding creative play. Later in the day, I even suggested going outside, but Grace said, "No! I don't want to go outside! I want to watch!" And besides, as she pulled me to her window to show me, it was pouring rain.

Even Emma was contented. She's 18 months old, and can be quite energetic. But she spent almost the whole day with us in Grace's room. She watched a little, played with the dollhouse, played legos, climbed on me, laughed while I tickled her.

When we did leave our camp and venture into the rest of the house, I tried not to look at the dog hair clumping along the baseboards (I sent Max to the kennel for the weekend, but his hair had not yet been similarly banished), the lack of visibility in the kitchen sink, the dirty sock that was still lying outside the bathroom door from four days before, and all the countless other things that had been pulled out randomly by little hands and not yet picked up by these bigger hands. Cleaning was off my to-do list for the day, by doctor's orders (actually by licensed midwife's orders.) I felt bad for them to have to live in such a mess, but they didn't seem to feel bad about it. They were exceptionally compliant all day.

It made me think about what kids actually need. You think they need an orderly environment and a predictable schedule. But it turns out maybe they just need me, and a me that is more relaxed and not always rushing them out the door or on to the next task or putting them off while I do what I think I should be doing or what I think I want to be doing.

I didn't lift and carry them much today, so instead of changing Emma on the changing table, I sat with her on the floor to get her ready for bed. After I changed her diaper, I tickled her and tickled her, and she crawled away and I grabbed her and I hugged her and nuzzled her soft skin. I squeezed her squishy body in my arms and burrowed my face in her satiny neck, oh glorious satiny skin, and she giggled and squirmed. I smelled her clean hair. (I had felt up to giving them a bath.) I took my time.

Tomorrow I think I'll be ready to ease back into the swing of things. I haven't felt even a hint of cramping since this morning. We'll go to the Y, or better yet, the grocery store. The cupboard is dreadfully bare. But maybe we'll just get up first. Maybe in the morning I'll crawl back to my pallet and those little arms will cuddle me, that fat little body will scrabble over me, Grace's smile that is a light from the interior will shine out at me, Emma's grin with all those teeth yet to come will light up my day with its brilliance, and I'll bury my face in that soft soft skin. Maybe I'll just take another day camping out, rendering our brains on tv like fat over a flame. Maybe I'll just drown in the presence of my children, just for one more day, just one more morning even, staying at that snail's pace, forgetting the grimy state of the floors and toilets, letting loose all the busy checklist things that rule me like a military headmistress, just edging along, nudging, nuzzling along in the presence of my children, not hurrying on by just yet. And if I could only stay here forever. Why is it so easy to forget the joy of staying on the floor handling pieces of molded plastic just because it's what they like to do?

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