Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Journal Entry for Judah


Dear Judah,

You are 2 and a quarter right now and you are... difficult.

I know, it's hard. It's hard to be the middle child and to be 2 and to know so much but be so limited in what you can or are allowed to do. But I love you dearly even though you are difficult right now and I know we can make it through this time together!

Your dynamics with your brother Moses the 4-year-old are difficult. You are close enough in age that sometimes it is really fun to play together. But when you and Moses and Sissy play together you are the little one and that can be hard. Do you feel like you have to stick up for yourself or you'll be taken advantage of? Is that why you hit and bite and pinch so much? Does Moses try too much to get you to do things his way? Is that why you say "NO!" so much? I know, it's hard.
You beat up Moses a lot. I think you have an advantage over him in that you are very tough and stoic, and Moses is very emotional and FEELS everything so DEEPLY. But you have to stop hurting him. Please come get Mama if you are mad at Moses.

Judah, underneath your stoic little exterior I know you feel things very deeply too. You observe so much. You understand more than your limited speech abilities would have us believe. You KNOW that you know how to do things. I am trying to have lots of patience for you, so you can try to do things by yourself, even if I think you can't do it. You always let Mama do it for you if I give you a chance to try it first. But if I preempt you and don't let you try and tell you you can't... well, there's a huge eruption with a lot of screaming and crying and falling to the ground in distress. I understand. It's hard. I will give you a chance to try for yourself.

I really love the goofy, silly side of you, Judah. You like to make us laugh. Sometimes you use comedy to cover your distress, but don't we all do that sometimes? If we tell you, okay, that's enough silliness now, you will try to keep the laughs going and we will get firm and you will cry. It's hard to know when to stop sometimes.
You are a little parrot and you mimic anything your comedian brother does. One day when we were walking home from the park, I was pushing you and Moses in the stroller. About a block from our house Moses asked me to stop, then he jumped out, handed me his sunglasses and asked me to hold them, then said, "This is going to be great!" and took off running for home. You watched for a second then jumped out of the stroller, took off your sunglasses and asked me to hold them, then told me, "Dis gonna be gweat!" and took off running after Moses. This is the perfect example of what you do all the time. You admire and imitate Moses while also being very independent and aggressive with him at times. It's hard to be two and have all those conflicting emotions and roles happening. I know.

You can be very demanding, whiney and aggressive sometimes, Judah. We are working on asking nicely and waiting. You are learning "please". You are learning to wait for what you want and I am learning not to overlook you or disregard your requests. Just because you're an independent and capable little person doesn't mean you don't need attention! And many times it seems your demanding and forceful way of communicating comes from a fear that between the needs of the older kids and the demands of the baby, you will be overlooked. I am glad we are still nursing and have special times together each day. It keeps us connected. And I am sure that we can get through this hard time together, you and I, Judah.
I love you so much, you are a sweet boy, full of observations and insights, ready to have fun and join in the activities of your family. You add so much joy to our lives and I am glad you are my boy!

Journal Entry for Clementine


Dear Clementine,

You just turned 8 months old and you are very, very fun.

It is summer out and you love to sit on the back deck and watch your brothers and sister run around the yard, yelling and playing. Are you wishing you could run too? By next summer you'll be joining them! You fell off the side one time and now you crawl to the edge but you haven't fallen off again. I do think you are a genius.

Each night I have to pull a dozen tiny slivers out of your very round, obese, squishy knees and thighs and the fat pads on the tops of your feet. Neither one of us likes this bedtime routine. I think you'll have to start wearing pants and shoes outside!

You have completely mastered crawling and "scaling". (I just read this term in a baby development book. It means pulling up on things, like my legs and the couch and anything else you can reach.) Better yet is that you can sit back down again without falling over backwards. You're even pretty nonchalant about only hanging on with a couple fingers of one hand. I'm guessing it won't be long before you let go completely and are standing on your own! Despite being about the chunkiest baby I've ever seen, you really get where you want to go with ease.

I love what a happy baby you are. So often you are content with watching your sibs or playing on the floor while our busy lives go on around you. You eat Cheerios in your highchair while I cook dinner, or you pull out the pots and pans, or you toss all the folded laundry out of the basket and onto the floor. You just seem happy to be a part of this family.

Of course, there are times when you aren't content to just do your own thing and you want - need - to be held, mostly by Mama. You come crawling after me as I whisk around the house doing things, wailing to be picked up, totally desolate until you're in my arms. This is when I'm most thankful for all my baby carriers. I just pop you in and you're quiet as a mouse, content to view the world from the vantage-point of Mama's hip.

You and I are almost inseparable. We go everywhere together. We went out for coffee and DQ the other night with Aunty Trish. We go shopping together lots (but not all the time - if you're napping I leave you home.) We are attached at the hip, pretty much. It was like that with your brothers too, but look how they're always off doing their own thing now. Is that going to happen with you too?? Promise me you'll never leave me, Clementine! Oh alright, fine, you may grow up.

Have I mentioned how chunky you are? You are super, incredibly, lusciously, edibly, obese. I love it. Babies should be fat, in my opinion. You have rolls of fat covering your knees that look like little butts. You have these thunder thighs that are incredible. Your calves are like marshmallows but they taper down into petite feet and adorable tiny toes. Your arms are so soft and squishy I just have to nibble them. Your cheeks are plump and dimpled when you smile and when you're crawling around naked, well, you look like a little pink piglet sans the curly tail. I can't get enough of you, baby!!

You are developing a sense of humor that is pretty fun to watch. You recently started shaking your head "no". I'm not sure how you picked up the habit but your sibs love to encourage you in it! They shake their heads and you watch and then shake your head. They laugh like crazy and you laugh and you all do it again. Sometimes when you're just sitting in my lap or playing on the floor you will stop and shake your head vigorously and then smile to yourself. Are you practicing for being a 2-year-old?

Here's a few other things:

  • You smile and laugh a lot.
  • You love hearing your name and I love singing it and saying it.
  • You are very tolerant of me changing your clothes a lot and making you wear dresses and headbands and hats and all sorts of cute things.
  • You are sensitive and cry when someone yells or if you bump your head.
  • You don't like Papa's whiskery kisses but if he's just shaved his top lip you will sometimes kiss him back.
  • You nurse a lot.
  • You've just started trying to nurse and talk at the same time and I'm a little ambivalent about that.
  • You like to be swaddled still and sometimes won't fall asleep unless you're wrapped up like a burrito.
  • You nap well but you still wake up a lot at night. I'm okay with that.
  • You sleep partly in bed with me and partly 2 feet away in your crib.
  • Your hair is starting to grow, and it looks light-goldeny-brown. I hope it curls.
  • You look like your brother Moses.
  • You haven't eaten a lot of solid food yet, besides Cheerios. You didn't like the pureed food I made very much, and in fact I think that's where you learned to shake your head "no".
  • Last night we grilled and you ate about a pound of watermelon and some pre-masticated pork chop. You like meat! Maybe I was just feeding you the wrong stuff.
  • You are really, really fun and sweet and you light up my life and I adore you!!

(This is from April when she just learned to crawl.)

Journal Entries for my Kids

I am way behind in journaling in my kids' baby books. Part of the problem is that I can't find their books and part of the problem is that I'm always behind since we added Child #3 and #4 to the family.

So... I decided to journal for them on my blog and then "transfer" to their books once they show up. Actually I should probably be unpacking boxes right now anyway....

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Big 4-year-old

This boy is Four!!

He is soooo fun,
(no Mama, it's "handome!")
and all around a JOY.

I am SO thankful that he is our boy and that he is who he is.
We love him in all his funny ways and
every day it is a joy to see him blossom and grow
into the completely unique little person
God made him to be.

Happy Birthday, Moses!!

Here's a little glimpse into the personality of our Mr. Moses:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I'd Rather Be with You!

The song is called "Italy, France" by Jade Lundgren and can be purchased here:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What? I Don't See Anything...

Although my husband works in sewage collections for his job, I sometimes wonder if I don't spend more time dealing with "sewage" than he does. It seems like with two kids in diapers and one who needs at least some assistance on the toilet, I've grown pretty accustomed to dealing with messes of this type.

Judah is potty training right now, and I've of the school of thought that instead of focusing 100% of your attention on potty training for like a week and doing nothing else (who has time for that, after the first kid, anyway?!), just let the little buggers run around naked from the waist down and be willing to clean up a few (daily) accidents until they figure out how to go on the toilet. Okay, well it's not quite that primitive, but you get the idea.

Anyway, Judah is potty training. He's been going pee on the toilet since about 18 months (I know that's not some sort of record but it's pretty good for our house) but the poop issue is... challenging, shall we say. Thankfully he's a pretty regular "morning pooper" so I know if we get that business taken care of first thing in the a.m. we should be good for the day.

Well the other day I had put him in underwear before his morning job had happened, intending to take him to the toiled later. You know where this is going, right?

I got distracted (what, me? Distracted? Never!!) and next thing I know I'm hearing,

"Mama, poop! Mama, poop!" I run outside (the kids were playing in our lovely new yard) and see a hefty-sized "deposit" on the front steps. Right on the mat, boom. Like how your cat sets a dead mole on your mat, "here, this is for you!"

I grab Judah and bundle him into the tub, mumbling something about "we always go poop in the toilet, right?" but knowing it's more my fault for not taking him earlier. As I'm bathing him I hear the dog start barking and someone knocking on the door. Yes.

I run to the door and there's two Comcast guys, come to install our cable. Standing at my front door, politely pretending not to notice the um, "specimen" on the mat or the pungent fragrance. What do I do? Explain what happened and hope they have kids and understand? Pretend I don't know anything about it? I opt for the latter and show them to the back yard where they have to dig. Then I quickly clean up the pile and put some paper towels and a rock over the residue so Richard can spray it off when he gets home. (The hose was not hooked up yet and I didn't even know where the spigot was, nor did I want to look for it. I did the pile, right? The least Richard can do is clean off the mat...)

So yeah, that's my day. Sometimes I wonder when poop will stop playing such a starring role in my life. Not only is it gross, it can be really embarrassing too, I'm finding out.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Difficult Topic

I wanted to write about something that I read about today, and it's a very difficult topic. I read a Pulitzer Prize winning article about parents who have killed their baby by accidentally leaving the child in the car. It's called "Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime?" and it's by Washington Post staff writer Gene Weingarten. He won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing with this article, and after reading it I frankly think it's a horrible piece of journalism.

Of course, the nature of the piece is horrifying and heartbreaking, but that's not why I think it's a poor article. I read the whole thing, and as hard as it was to read the details of these awful accidents, what was worse was how sadly the author avoided the real issue at stake and instead drew conclusions to fit his personal assumptions. This in no way can be called journalism! And the fact that he won a journalistic award for this article is ludicrous.

I'll explain. I originally read this article because I've heard reports on the news every summer for the last several years about babies dying when a parent forgets them in the steamy back seat of their car. It's unbelievably sad, and I've always asked myself, "Could that happen to me? Could I actually forget my baby in the car?" I have come to the conclusion that no, probably not; but if you read this article you'll see that the author thinks yes, without a doubt, it could be you.

He asks the question, "what kind of person forgets a baby?" and answers it by saying,

The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. In the last 10 years, it has happened to a dentist. A postal clerk. A social worker. A police officer. An accountant. A soldier. A paralegal. An electrician. A Protestant clergyman. A rabbinical student. A nurse. A construction worker. An assistant principal. It happened to a mental health counselor, a college professor and a pizza chef. It happened to a pediatrician. It happened to a rocket scientist.

Do you get the idea? There is no common factor here. It's no more likely to happen to one parent than to another. So why does this happen, according to the author? He talks about
the "Swiss Cheese Model" which explain[s] through analogy why catastrophic failures can occur in organizations despite multiple layers of defense. [British psychologist James Reason, who coined the term,] likens the layers to slices of Swiss cheese, piled upon each other, five or six deep. The holes represent small, potentially insignificant weaknesses. Things will totally collapse only rarely, he says, but when they do, it is by coincidence -- when all the holes happen to align so that there is a breach through the entire system.
You go on to see that all of the parents the author has interviewed are loving, conscientious parents who simply have a day where all the "holes" line up - stress, lack of sleep, a change in routine, distraction... and then the unthinkable happens. The quality of their prior parenting is irrelevant. It could and does happen to anyone: it could happen to you.
There is no consistent character profile of the parent who does this to his or her child. The 13 who were interviewed for this story include the introverted and extroverted; the sweet, the sullen, the stoic and the terribly fragile.
But when we look a little closer, it seems there is a consistent profile to these parents. They are all working parents. They all either forget to drop their child off at daycare or forget that they picked their child up, and leave the baby in the car while they work all day or go home and sleep. Several even drove back to their daycare center at the end of the day to pick up their child, not even aware of the corpse in the back seat. None of the stories I read about or have heard about involve a parent who is at home full-time with his or her children.

So this kind of tragedy is a newer phenomenon, hardly known 20 years ago. But what changed, according to the author? Airbags in cars. Babies moved to the back seat and pivoted to face the rear. Parents can no longer see their baby, so of course they're going to forget about them from time to time.

No mention is ever made of the increase in families with two working parents and the number of children in daycare.

I'm not saying this to vilify families where both parents work or where the children are in daycare. I myself was a single working mother for 5 years and Grace was in daycare on and off for that time. I know sometimes there's no other option.
BUT, what I think this article makes crystal clear is the need for us as a nation to examine our lifestyles and our attitudes towards children and family.

Do we really need two incomes? Do we need two cars, huge houses, expensive vacations? Is daycare really good for children? Are our lives too hectic, stressful, and focused on a million other things besides our children? Is it okay to just fit kids into our already busy lives or should we focus our lives on our children while they're young?

My point is this: although the bereaved parents in this article all loved their children very much, they were all so used to NOT being with their babies that they left them to cook in the back seat of the car for hours and hours while they focused on their jobs. Their jobs were the main focus of their day and their week, not their child. And I could have been one of those parents when Grace was young because for a while this was true of me: I was more used to being without her than with her.

Of course something like this could happen to a parent who's home full-time with their children, of course. But it's terribly unlikely, as I've seen for myself. On the handful of times I've gone out without a single child, if I'm distracted or tired or just not thinking, I'll usually go open the back door of the car to get the baby out. I'm so used to my little one being
with me that I forget when he or she is not. It just feels weird the whole time I'm out without a child with me.

With this glaring omission on the part of the author, I thought about writing to him and asking about his failure to make this obvious connection. But then I came across the transcript of a Q&A session the author did about his article. One person wrote in and asked this:

I noticed when reading your article that all the families discussed had both parents in the workforce, and they all seemed to revolve around day care or child care pick-ups of some kind. That I think is at the heart of the problem. We as a society now delegate the care of our children out to others and in the mornings as we rush out of the house, the children are not the focus of our day, but one of a myriad of "small" details we check-off in our rush to the most "important" focus of our day," our jobs. What is really sad about the Balfour case is that the babysitter, not a parent, was the first one to realize the child was missing. The fact is the babysitter had more involvement in the baby's weekday life than the mother had, so it makes sense the babysitter would notice the baby's absence. Forty years ago, parents were not perfect, but at least, they didn't delegate the care of their children in such large numbers to non-family members, and the child's life wasn't filled with so much stress and hurrying. I often read criticism of the past, such as "this is not your grandmother's PTA" or "this is not your father's automobile," in praising ourselves; however, in this instance, it is unfortunate that we don't follow more our grandparents' method of child-care, "hands-on" care in the home. Why didn't Mr. Weingarten mention more about how this problem often results from having both parents in the workplace?

Exactly what I was thinking! Mr Weingarten's response is very revealing:

Because Mr. Weingarten is prejudiced.

I don't mean to sound cavalier or dismissive. Yours is a reasonable question, but I believe it is based on an erroneous presumption: For many or most of us, daycare is not an option but a necessity. I am, in fact, prejudiced in favor of daycare -- the way it socializes children, they way it helps support and encourage economic equality in two-career households, and the way it can work splendidly to let loving parents provide loving homes.

I never intended this story to a condemnation of daycare; I think that argument is as spurious as saying the problem here, obviously, is cars. If there were no cars, no children would die this way. It's true, but beside the point.

Is it about simplifying our lives, and reducing stress? Probably. I just wouldn't make daycare the scapegoat.

You know what it might be about? It might be about making sure that daycare centers ALWAYS call the parent if the child doesn't arrive one day. I'd like to hear from a daycare provider if he/she thinks this creates an excessive burden, because I don't see how it would.

I'm not even going to address the major logical fallacies in Mr. Weingarten's reply. The bottom line is that the author believes having two working parents and children in daycare is a good thing, and despite his research and talking to heartbroken parents whose stories are evidence of just the opposite, he refused to make that connection in his article. Is this journalism?! Because I've always thought true journalism is presenting the evidence and facts no matter what your own personal opinions might be. Not only does the author fail to point out that all these tragedies happened to working parents, but he seems to actually disguise that fact by talking about how there are no common factors, it happens to all sorts of parents, etc. (I noticed in his list of parental jobs he never says, "it happened to a stay-at-home mom.")
Here is a clear case of a journalist presenting a biased piece because of his own presuppositions.

Again, I don't want to come across as demonizing these bereaved parents (or working parents in general!). They deserve our pity because not only do they have to live with the pain of losing a child, they have to live with the guilt of knowing it was their fault. I can't imagine anything worse as a parent. I hope and pray that these people would turn to God and find in Him the mercy and hope He gives to all who are deeply wounded.

The point of Mr. Weingarten's article, it seems, it to show that these parents are loving, responsible parents like you and me who should not be prosecuted for these terrible accidents. I agree with him that these aren't crimes. But instead of focusing on how these poor parents are not criminals, he instead could have made this article a call to all Americans to wake up.

Wake up and start examining our lifestyle! Examine our priorities, what we think we need, what it looks like to be "successful."
Most of all, examine our views about family and children. This growing epidemic of stressed out, working parents who forget their children long enough for them to bake inside a car should make us ask, "where are we investing ourselves? Where is the focus of our lives?" Our children are literally taking a back seat and some of them are paying the ultimate price.