Monday, September 30, 2013

Day 8 (sort of)

So much for "every day for a month," eh?  Oops.  Oh well.  I'm not going to give in to the OCD side of me that says to quit since I've already blown it.  I'm going to just carry on and pretend it never happened. :)
Justin made me sit down while he does the dishes this evening, and when I argued that he's just as tired as I am he said that's not true because he's not making life.  I thought it was usually the wife using that excuse?  He really is the most thoughtful, kind man I've ever encountered.
We were talking about how active Louise is last night and marveling over how easy she is.  Seems like an oxymoron, doesn't it?  Justin mentioned that by todays classification system, she would be deemed a difficult child because she's so incredibly active.  Always bouncing from one thing to the next, never sitting still for anything except books.  She's definitely a challenge to keep up with and keep occupied, but really is the easiest baby.  There's another oxymoron for you.  I wouldn't change a thing.  "Intense children grow up to be intense adults."  I've never known a more polite 2 year-old, and she's been saying please and thank you unprompted since she was 18 months.  Now she even says sorry when she bumps something or drops something on you or thinks she's hurt or inconvenienced you in any way.  She's pretty good at listening, not always minding, but what 2 year-old is?  She goes to sleep every night at 6:30 or 7 and sleeps solidly until 8 or 8:30 in the morning, and still takes a solid 2 to 2.5 hour nap every afternoon.  She's the happiest child.  She LOVES to dance, thanks to those good Nuckles genes.  I adore how uninhibited she is. :)  In nursery she never gets upset or offended when another kid pushes her or takes her toys, just stares at them in confusion.  She's so friendly to everyone she encounters and frequently says 'I love you' to people in the store.  At the library the other day there was a mother reading a book to her daughter on her lap and Louise just trotted over and plopped on her lap, too.  We're just so grateful for her and the joy that she is in our lives, and grateful that we've been entrusted to be her parents.  We're so excited to see what new dynamic little Cora brings to our family. :)  That's enough for tonight.  Time for some Doctor Who.
Louise with the random lady at the library.

She found some goggles and wouldn't let them out of her sight for a couple days.

This is one of her recent favorite dance moves. :)

Hard at play.

She asked me to take this picture. :)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Day 7: The Art of Being a Mother- Part 2 of 2

Selfless: I've never seen an example in selflessness to compare with the mother of my children.  She is so incredibly capable and wonderful; she would excel at anything that she decided to set her mind to.  In almost any other pursuit that she could have chosen, there would be accolades and honors, praises and promotions to accompany and recognize her hard work and sacrifice.  Instead, she's chosen to work full-time in a setting that many today openly ridicule and belittle.  Rather than take a position outside the home, she has elected to raise our children herself, all day, every day.  There's no paid time off, a sick day is just that: a day where she's sick.  Incentive programs consist of hugs, kisses, and sticky fingers reciprocating her handholding.  Benefits are few and far between, and pay... let's face it: the ledger is nearly always in the red.  From a purely pragmatic standpoint, it's a nightmare: it makes no sense.  And yet, I've never been so happy and content as when I get to watch and participate in this endeavor in action.  My wife has expressed to me numerous times just how grateful and selfish she feels, getting to stay home with our children.  Each time, I think how incredibly grateful I am, that she feels that way.  There is nowhere else she would rather be.  I can see it in every decision she makes through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year, as Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are, 1963) put it.  She chooses motherhood.  It's so incredibly evident, as I look for it.  It's not as if she is a social recluse who has no friends, seeking social fulfillment in her children.  On the contrary, she makes great effort in ensuring that she has friends, takes time for herself, and keeps doing other things that she enjoys.  I think she knows that by doing these things, she refreshes her outlook, renews her dedication, and rejuvenates her passion for being a mother.  I can see it in the last look she always gives us as she closes the door as she heads out; her eyes say that she's taking time for herself, but she lives her life for her children.  I'm certainly a beneficiary.  I'm the luckiest man alive.  

Playful:  A child's work is play.  No matter the context, the time, or even the species, the young utilize play as the primary method of learning who and what they'll become as they grow up.  I'm infinitely grateful for my wife: she takes her role seriously enough that she plays with our children.  It's certainly the longer and more difficult road.  Anyone who has experience with children knows that it's so incredibly easy to turn on a television set, a video game, or a smartphone, and get hours of quiet, nearly-uninterrupted time to oneself.  It takes so much more effort to encourage and fully engage young children in play than merely providing them with a set of toys.  Young children are passionate little beings; they feel everything so fully and so completely.  To fully engage them in play often requires meeting them at an affective or emotional level.  This means that, for as long as my wife wants to really hold our toddler's interest, she acts as a reflector, mirroring our daughter's emotions and thereby her experience. Claire does it in such a way that our girl recognizes it as reflective of her own experience, yet it is different enough or "marked" enough that she realizes that Claire is not literally simultaneously sharing in her experience.  Imagine the comfort this affords, and also the anxiety and concern it also avoids.  To learn, through repeated and early experience, that your mother is capable of understanding minutely what you feel as you live life.  Simultaneously, to know that she is not consumed, upset, or even thrown off by the difficulties of your life; it's a precious gift, and one that every child deserves to receive.  A brief verbal description paints a vivid picture: my toddler is heaving around a bucket that's nearly as deep as she is tall.  She has an obsession with carrying anything that has a handle draped neatly over the crook of her elbow as a purse.  She also like to fill this receptacle, no matter its size, to capacity.  This leads to trouble more often than not.  This time can be no different.  She struts into the living room, the oversized bucket swinging wildly and empty, at this point, on her arm as she twirls and dips in a shaky yet exuberant dance.  "And you're dan-cing!"  You can hear the smile and the joy in my wife's voice, just as you can see it in the toddler's dance.  The grin and the loving eyes from my toddler tell Claire that she's painted an accurate picture.  A few moments later, the dance has ended, and the toddler is in the kitchen, emptying the measuring cup drawer into the bucket.  Unfortunately, the bucket is too large, and the contents too heavy for the toddler to lift when completely full.  She grunts and complains for a moment or two before stamping angrily and dissolving into cries and tears.  There's no mistaking the frustration and defeat in that little, passionate body.  "Is it just too heavy?"  There's still a smile in the voice, but it's different somehow, communicating a sense of sadness and commiserating, rather than the ecstasy and enjoyment that were evident earlier.  Claire strikes a delicate balance.  Too little emotional involvement tells the child that her experience is irrelevant and unimportant.  Too much tells her that it is shared and experienced identically by everyone and everything around her, and is therefore to be feared and avoided.  I am so grateful for the fact that my wife chooses to be playful.  

Trusting:  Last of all, my wife is trusting.  It is not always so, but I try to make myself available and present with my family as often as I possibly can.  It may seem laughable, but, on the far side of a Master's degree in Child Development, and a certificate in Infant Parent Mental Health, I have yet to feel like I am Claire's equal in my capacity as a parent.  In spite of my awkwardness, my bumbling, and my inability, Claire chooses to trust me.  She trusts me as a father, and as a parent.  She takes the time to share with me her ideas, thoughts, and impressions, then takes equal time to listen to my own.  She sees and treats me as an equal in our cooperative role as parents.  When she decides to go out, she doesn't ask me to babysit: she expects me to parent.  I've been fortunate enough to be blessed with a wife and mother of my children who trusts me enough to include me in not only the decisions to be made, but the acts and service to be rendered as a full-time parent of young children.  

I'm so incredibly blessed.  I could not have asked for a better woman, or a better mother for my children.  She may not act like every woman thinks a successful woman in the 2010's acts, but she's everything I've ever wanted or wished for in a woman.  I'm privileged to know her, better for loving her, and blessed to be married to her.  

End of Part 2

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Day 6: The Art of Being a Mother- Part 1 of 2

There's something to be said for the iPhone.  For all my protest and raving against it, I have no choice but to admit that never before, in the history of humankind, has it been so simple to capture the magic of a single precious moment.  Unfortunately, the camera has to be pointed at you in order for this to take place.  Historically, and some would argue anciently, this was accomplished by asking a random stranger to take a photo of you and yours, so that you might be a recognized participant in the moment, rather than merely the ghostly suggestion and absent presence of the mysterious photographer.  No more is this the case: the "selfie", for good or for ill, is apparently here to stay.  But what about those among us who choose not to engage in the now commonplace practice?  Does this mean that there are whole worlds of interactions, moments, and experiences that are left unshared by the rest of the world?  Can this really be the case?  It is, and I, for one, feel that it's exactly the way things should be.

My only misgiving is that, the above being true, I have little by way of visual evidence to lend credence to the following words.  This is not an apology.  There would be very little to see, in any case.  What I'm about to share is not the sort of thing that makes headlines and garners great attention.  In fact, quite the opposite, I believe it's all too easy to shrug off and leave, forgotten, lying in some corner of our consciousness.  The point to which I wish to speak is the art of being a mother.

Being a man, myself, I have no experience, no qualifications, no credentials that give me authority to say with conviction what others should or should not do in fulfilling this most catalytic role.  What I offer instead are observations, brief summaries of thousands of hours of watching and studying one single mother, throughout a thousand points of time and interaction, developing in skill and ability.  I wish to share, in words, a few moments that have not been captured by camera, but only by my own eyes.  Reflecting now, I realize that, having done the capturing myself, rather than capturing the moments on camera, in capturing I have become captivated; acting as captor, I have become the captive, and this not unwilling.

Patience: It seems to me that all mothers must, of necessity, be saints.  Like Job, my wife is dealt trials and tribulations that are awesome and terrible in their scope.  First, she is married to me.  Lest this be misconstrued, let me explain: she has had to endure the constant waffling, crest to trough, in-again out-again, back-and-forth method of "decision-making" that makes up my life.  She has done so with a steadiness of faith, conviction, and all-around cheerfulness that has been the tiller and sails to my little boat of dreams.  It's a wonder she hasn't been seasick.  Though, maybe we don't call it seasickness; maybe we call it morning sickness.  Goodness knows there's been enough of that.  Still, she endures it without complaint, asking merely for some company and mild assistance, throughout it all.  Twice now, and, by her own admission, more times in the future, she has and will continue to endure it with patience I could only ever hope to have.  Also, if you know nothing else about toddlers, know only this: repetition is learning, messes are productivity, and stubbornness is growth.  A mother must have patience.

Tenacity:  If I learn no other lesson from my wife, I will have learned this: the answer to the question never asked is most certainly "No".  A mother is an advocate, from the first moment of birth.  A wise man once said that with the birth of a child, comes also the birth of a mother.  From that first wonderful cry, the child stands or falls on the ability of her mother to meet her needs.  Nowhere have I seen such passionate pursuance of necessity and nicety as in the meeting of a child's needs, real or imagined, by a mother.  My Claire is nothing if not tenacious.  In Chicago, the popular opinion is that children, from the earliest time possible, should be in preschool programs.  In almost every interaction with mothers, professionals, or peers, she is constantly bombarded and beleaguered as to when and where she'll be enrolling our daughter.  Claire's desire has always been to stay home and be with our children herself; she's expressed that she would feel jealous of any other person who got to be with and care for our children day in and day out.  She never thought that this decision was one that she would find herself fighting for.  And yet, she's waded into the fray unwaveringly, never swaying in her decision or her conviction.  She is nothing if not tenacious.

Repair:  Life is not always rainbows and butterflies: conflict is real and normative.  However, being a mother requires the skillful navigation both into and out of troubled waters.  Setting limits with an almost-two-year-old can be exhausting, difficult, and not without casualties, for reasons mentioned above.  I've watched my wife set limits with our daughter that were met with bouts of literal kicking and screaming.  Through this, Claire manages to remain calm and firm; see both of the previous traits.  When the tantrum is over, however, I have never seen Claire fail to take the opportunity to reach out in love and care for our little girl, and that little girl equally reaches out in love and appreciation for the constancy that is in her mother's capacity to love her, no matter how she acts.  It is through the experience of conflict and disorganization that we rise to higher levels of complexity and organization.  In relationships, this directly applies to love.  The more my daughter sees her mother stay available and adoring no matter how terrible her own experience of anger or frustration, the deeper she will come to love Claire for her constancy.  This does not happen on its own.  I have watched time and time again as Claire creates the opportunity for repair to take place.  It's her responsibility to create, not to coerce: the ultimate decision must be our daughter's.  Rupture in relationships is a certainty.  So too, should repair be.  Let us not forget that after rain, come the rainbows, and after the cocoon, which seems wholly devoid of life, come the butterflies.

End of Part 1

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Day 5

This is a sight we happen upon quite regularly in our home.  Almost daily, Louise will disappear into her room for about 5 minutes before we notice that she's being awfully quiet.  We peek in and she's either sprawled on the floor looking at books or sitting in her window with books all around, just perusing the pages.  I absolutely adore it.  She'll sit there for 15 to 20 minutes alone with her books.  If she notices us peeking she'll gesture for us to come sit by her and she'll hand us our own book, not to read to her, but to read to ourselves while she reads. :)  I love it.
Notice the ever-present blankie and binkie.  Her "neenees."


Monday, September 23, 2013

Day 4: Bam.

     Well, I've done it 4 days in a row, even if they were pointless, disjointed posts.  I've got to hurry and get this one out of the way because last night I fell asleep in my clothes on top of my covers at like 8:45 because I was so tired, and tonight feels a lot like that.  Justin and I haven't gotten our Doctor Who in about 4 days, so I need to make sure I leave enough time for at least an episode. :)
     Today I had a doctors appointment (what is the proper way to say that? Doctor appointment?).  It's my 2nd ever for this pregnancy (long story, stupid Illinois insurance), and I was kind of looking forward to it for two reasons: 1. I like to know everything is going ok, especially since I waited so long to go to the doctor in the first place and 2. because I was really looking forward to some help with this pain.  I was utterly disappointed.  I made the mistake of bringing Justin and Louise with me because Justin couldn't come last time and wanted to hear the heartbeat and I thought Louise would enjoy hearing it, too and getting to see the doctors and play in the waiting area with the other kids and stuff.  Well, she would have, but by the time we got to see anyone we had been there for 2 hours and she was done.  Poor thing.  I don't understand it, but they have a "No food or drink" sign in the waiting area.  How can they expect pregnant ladies and children to wait for 2 hours without anything to eat or drink? I ignored the sign after the first hour.  Then when we finally got back to see the midwife (I decided to go with a midwife because I had heard that you would get more personal care than with a doctor.  Maybe in Utah) she and the student midwife asked some questions about my history and if I had an epidural with my last birth.  I told them yes, and that I was planning on it again.  They asked some more questions and I mentioned that I have a really high pain tolerance and the contractions before I went to the hospital never actually hurt, they were just really close together, so we went.  They clarified that I had a really high pain tolerance, but still had an epidural.  When I said yes, they exchanged looks and mutters, obviously judging me.  Then I brought up that I'm 99% sure I have SPD she didn't even check or ask questions or say anything compassionate or anything, just typed on her computer and gave me a referral to physical therapy.  She said they'd figure it out there.  Then she left to get some papers on hospital tours and the student measured my stomach and listened to the heartbeat.  While we waited for the midwife, the student, in an effort Louise kept showing her her instruments and lotion, then snatching it away when she reached for it, leaving a confused and frustrated 2 year-old.  The midwife came back, asked what the numbers were and that was that.  We were done.  Two hours of waiting for a 5 minute appointment.  They didn't even mention the baby, or really even the fact that I'm pregnant.  They simply couldn't have cared less.  With Louise, regardless of if I saw Dr. Lunt, the other doctor, or the midwife, they would always tell me what was going on with the baby developmentally, what I might expect that month, ask about my well being and family, they really cared, or at least pretended to.
     There's my rant for the day. :)  I feel better now.      

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Day 3:

     Whew!  Three days in a row!  This is going to be difficult for me, I can tell already.  I just can't think of anything to say.
     Sundays are hard with kids, there's no two ways 'bout it.  There's no convenient time for a nap, they have to be quiet and still for a whole hour in the same room, you get home from church late, which puts dinner late and their whole routine is thrown off.  Today for some reason, it was particularly hard for Louise.  She's grown particularly fond of her friend Riley's mom, Callie, and when she came to take Riley home from nursery Louise had a full on melt down.  Not the mad, stubborn kind, but the heart broken, gut wrenching kind.  I've never seen her fall apart quite like that.  It was adorable in a very sad way.  I guess we need to have more play dates. :)      

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Day 2: My incredible find

     Today I'm feeling especially grateful for Justin.  You know how you just have those days every once in a while?  You know the're grateful for them and you love them all the time, but some days, for no particular reason, you just feel overwhelmed by how much you love them?  Well, today is one of those days.  :)
     Even the prospect of trying to write about him is overwhelming because there's just so much.  I don't know where to begin.  I'll try anyway.  Maybe I'll talk about just today.
     This was the only day all week where he didn't have to get up early for something, but he still got up at 7 and did his morning scripture study, and then when Louise woke up around 8 he went in and got her, being careful not to wake me up through all of this.  Of course, since I'm pregnant and uncomfortable, I was awake anyway, but I was just so grateful.  Then when Louise ran in to greet me and I needed to get up he came in and carefully swung my legs out of bed for me. :)  This sounds fairly odd, I'm sure, but for the last few weeks I've been struggling increasingly with SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction), which means it's excruciatingly painful to move in any way that my hips aren't perfectly aligned, getting in and out of bed being one of those.  Then we (mostly he, I was just there for moral support) made french toast while he held 23 month-old Louise in the Ergo because she needed a little extra cuddling this morning and we had breakfast as a family.  Today was a day where we didn't really have any pressing plans until the evening, so we kind of just played around all day.  I love days like this because I feel like it's so much easier to be a good parent when you're not in a hurry and you don't have to be anywhere.  You have time to actually let your child stop and smell the roses and perhaps even investigate a few along the way.  I feel like Louise learns so much and makes so many connections when she is left to explore in her own way.  We played in the covers of our bed for a while, read some books, played with Louise's kitchen, then Louise took a nap.
     During her nap Justin and I read from a book called Einstein Never Used Flashcards (a fantastic book that I highly recommend to all parents) and had a great discussion about how we're doing with our parenting.  One thing I've come to realize and feel so blessed for in the last few months is just how much of a hand Heavenly Father had in our courtship and marriage.  Justin and I didn't really talk about anything important before we got married.  We just kind of knew we liked each other a lot, then knew we were supposed to get married.  We never discussed where we wanted to live after we grew up, what kind of parents we wanted to be, when we wanted to be parents, how we wanted to raise our family, how we wanted to live financially, nothing.  I realize now how lucky I am to have found him.  He's truly one in a million.  There's no way I could have been even remotely this happy with anyone else.  We agree on everything important, without even having to discuss it first.  The main thing I'm grateful for is our parenting.  Our style isn't exactly typical, in fact, I would venture to say it's fairly uncommon, especially in a big city like this one.  I won't get into the specifics now, I'll just say we're pretty modern in an old-school way when it comes to a lot of developmental things (keep in mind, he is getting his masters degree in child development from the top child development school in the country.  We're bound to learn some things along the way).  Besides all of that, I'm just so grateful for the kind of father he is.  We're truly equal partners.  He's masculine, but not macho.  He's not afraid to be a goof ball and play with his daughter.  He's tender, sensitive, and emotional with her, even in public.  He leaves Louise and I with no doubt in our minds that we are his #1 priority.  I feel so bad every day because I know how much he longs to be able to stay home with us, yet he goes to work and school anyway so that I can be home with our child.  He loves being a father and playing with Louise as much as I love being a mother.  Louise adores him.
     I'm just so grateful for everything Justin does for us.  He's truly my best friend, and I love him more every day.  Living here alone in Chicago, we've really had to learn to depend and rely on each other, which is a beautiful thing.  I'm so blessed to have found him.  This post can't do him justice, but it's an attempt.  He's the most wonderful man I've ever known, much like my own father.      


Friday, September 20, 2013

Accepting the Challenge

     Justin's cousin mentioned on Instagram that this time last year she took on the challenge of writing a blog post every day for a month, even if it was just a sentence or two.  She said she was really grateful that she did it because of all the special moments of her sons life she had recorded and she's doing it again this year, so I decided to do the same thing.  Our blog has really been suffering as we've become more and more busy with an active toddler, school, work, moving, traveling, pregnancy, and everything else that comes up in every day life.  Here goes:
     By way of a quick bit of catch up...we moved and couldn't be happier about it, we're having a girl in December, we went home to Utah for a month, Louise's vocabulary has exploded in the last few weeks, and Justin is doing extremely well with school and everything.  More on all of that later.
     Firstly, our move.  We moved at the end of April, and are 100x happier with our apartment than we were with our last.  Especially with me being pregnant.  Being sick in a clean apartment is so much more pleasant than a dirty one and having an elevator is magnificent.  I'm so grateful to have laundry units in our apartment, and I have a feeling I'll be even more grateful once the baby comes and we have even more washing. :)  I'm so happy at the prospect of parking in a garage and not having to shovel the car out of the snow when it comes time to have the baby or when I'm trying to corral a toddler and carry a newborn.  Also, our utility bills have been astronomically lower.  That being said, for the first several months here we didn't do a whole lot of decorating or even finish the unpacking completely.  I think we were resisting the idea of being here for so long when we so ardently wanted to be in So. Utah with our families.  We finally decided that for our own sanity we needed to go home, so we booked our flights and Louise and I flew out, joined by Justin two weeks later.  That trip was just plain good for our souls.  We felt like the city was choking us and the wide open spaces were just what we needed for a quick pick-me-up.  We resolved while there to make a more concerted effort to be happy here in Chicago.  To make our house feel more like home, or at least a home away from home, and to make more of an effort to make friends.  Over the first few weeks when we got back we finished unpacking, hung all of our pictures, bought and hung some curtains, moved our bed to a place where I could actually make the bed, hung a lamp and some mirrors, hung a copy of The Family: A Proclamation to the World, and framed and hung our crowning purchase: a gorgeous print of the St. George temple.  We decided that we needed our home to feel more spiritual and to be surrounded by heavenly things, so we wanted to invest in a beautiful piece that would bring a nice spirit into our home for years to come.  My brother's friend Phill Monson posted a picture he took of the temple during monsoon season on Facebook a few months ago that we loved and bought.
     To make a long story longer, we feel much more at home in our home.  It also helps that I've been feeling a little better and have been able to keep up with the housework more.  Life is good.  Really good. :)

This picture portrays the emotions we felt at finally being home much better than any words I could say. :)

This is the picture by Phill Monson.  So gorgeous.  We love it.

This is the only picture from the ultrasound that actually resembles a baby.  Sort of, anyway.  I think she's sucking her thumb.  It's a girl. :)  Cora Dixie.

Louise Facetiming with Grandma and Grandpa and giving them "bites."

My new curtains.

Our picture wall.  Ignore the one that still says Merry Christmas.

Louise and her bestie Riley reading.

Louise is a little obsessed with shoes, regardless of size or fit.

25 weeks.  Sorry about the look of concentration, those belly shots are hard!

Doesn't she just look elated?  This is what we got her for her October. :)