Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Poor baby

Gabriel has had a case of "metatarsus adductus", basically feet that curve inwards a little bit too much, to match his little bowed baby legs, ever since he came out of the womb. We've been going to physical therapy to try to stretch them out, but we finally had to just bite the bullet and put his feet and legs in casts for a few weeks to straighten them out. At first Gabriel thought his casts were fun new toys--he seemed to be elated when we came home, laughing and bouncing and playing. He was less excited about them when bathtime came and they didn't come off, but he slept okay so I don't think he was too upset by them. That was Monday. Tuesday it was my turn bathe him and the darn things can't get wet....and they did. A lot. Oops. So we had to pull them off. He loved this and spent the rest of the evening clinging to his feet and gurgling happily. Then we had to go back Wednesday morning to get them put on again. Lots of hysterical crying this time as he lost his legs' freedom for the second time. He was onto our schemes and lots of kicking and screaming ensued. I felt so sad. Hard to explain to a baby temporary discomfort for long-term good. But there was hope--a little guy in the office with us who was about 18 months old was there to get a cast off his arm. He was happy, talking to his mom, playing with the toys in the office, until the cast had to come off. He wasn't afraid of the scissors they cut it off with...nope, he was sad that the cast was gone. He just kept staring at his arm and turning it back and forth, whimpering and looking around forlornly until the nurse gave him the empty shell of the cast back, at which point he immediately became completely happy. So there's hope for Gabriel. He's already figured out how to kick wildly with the casts during diaper changes and I think my forearms are actually bruised from it. I'll post a photo when I snap one tomorrow.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Of squirrels and snacks

If you happen over our way any time in the near future and see squirrels lying scattered about the courtyard with bloated stomachs and a look of dazed satisfaction in their little beady eyes, it's our fault. Yesterday we provided the fixings for a scavenger's feast: a whole bag of Buttered Caramel Toffee and Almond Popcorn, open on our porch. I think we were hoping to get rid of it in a friendy way than sending to the landfill in a plastic bag. And maybe we were curious to see just exactly what the neighborhood squirrels would do after having to pick at the meager remains of our neighbor's birdfeeder for most of the winter. Well, the squirrels disposed of the whole bag in less than 12 hours, and this morning we awoke to find them cleaning up the last crumbs off the porch and munching them down as though they hadn't just eaten half a pound of the stuff already. Not much later I was sitting on the couch nursing Gabriel before church when another squirrel bounced onto the porch, sniffed around, then jumped to the windowsill and stood on its hind legs, with front paws up against the window. He just stared at me. I think he was silently pleading for more. More popcorn, that is-- I tried Soy and Flaxseed Cluster Cereal from Trader Joe's, which I couldn't stand, but it sat untouched on the railing of the porch for a week until the rain washed it away. Guess the squirrels have a soft spot for junk food too.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Long time, no blog

Here I am again, back in the saddle for a little post on the old blog. Typical excuse, I know, but we really did have a busy couple of weeks. After the Christmas holiday and finally getting the new house in quasi-order, I decided I needed to actually do some house chores. Bathrooms, laundry, and vacuuming. Which I learned takes about a week to actually complete, with breaks for nursing, baby naps, walks outside so Gabriel can get a change of scenery and not become Mr. Uber-Fuss, and meal preparation, with Gabriel grabbing at all the fun and interesting things I am chopping and sometimes hitting the jackpot and getting to gnaw on some of it (like the apple above). Seriously, if we lived in a house with more than two bathrooms right now, I would make some of them off-limits. I don't mind cleaning them--actually it's rather satisfying, especially cleaning the mirrors--but it is just so tricky to entertain/hold/pacify Gabriel while contorting myself into all sorts of strange positions to, say, bend over and scrub the tub, that it is sometimes a daunting task that gets put off again and again!

The next week was filled with lots of "Christmas gifts" to give--we gave "coupons" for lunch dates, movie afternoons with popcorn and cider, etc. And I discovered once again that one "little" activity can take an entire day when it is interspersed with Gabriel, even if it is a fun one. This week I had the blessed experience of going to the dentist for three days in a row for a cleaning, and then two days of cavity filling, one day without a local anesthetic and the next day with--except the dentist didn't wait for it to kick in before drilling, despite my comment that I could still pretty much feel everything. After going through labor without meds I thought I could handle anything, but for some reason this cavity drilling was just awful. To top it all off, my mouth went totally numb as he was finishing up and stayed that way for four hours! Oh well. My mom got a chance to bond with Gabriel in the waiting room of the dentist's office for three days in a row, in any case, and I think Gabriel enjoyed the change in cartaker for a little while. Be back soon!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Sitting...! (Almost)

Gabriel spent some time playing while quasi-sitting today. He would sit for a few minutes and then lurch forward onto his stomach, at which point he would flail his arms and legs wildly trying to scoot towards his toys and grunting. No luck yet...I'll keep you posted!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Be still and know

A talk I heard at a Catholic “Mothers Group” a few months ago has been slowly filtering through my brain until it was drawn to the surface again by a comment Michael made to me the other night. Gabriel has been getting increasingly wiggly when we sit down to have dinner, and rather than sit calmly on our laps and play with a toy, he insists on standing precariously on our legs (a feat for which he still needs support), leaning over the table, and burrowing his face into the toy/napkin/shiny object with which he is currently enthralled. Not only does this make it impossible for the person holding him to eat, it also has the pleasant effect of forcing out any lingering burps and spit-ups which might be floating around in his stomach. Suffice it to say, meals of late have not been the peaceful, idyllic family moments one might hope they would be. Reflecting on Gabriel’s behavior, Michael commented that we’re going to have to figure out a way to teach Gabriel to be still, to be silent, to contemplate, in age-appropriate ways, of course, and not necessarily at dinnertime, but certainly in the context of prayer time and church visits.

All this brought back to me a quote the speaker at the Mothers Group shared with us from Josef Pieper’s Leisure, The Basis of Culture: "The greatest menace to our capacity for contemplation is the incessant fabrication of tawdry empty stimuli which kill the receptivity of the soul." Since the topic was the music and media that we expose our children to, he commented that he himself did not own a television, as he wished to keep his family away from the empty stimuli that it provides. Perhaps inevitably a mother asked, “What about VeggieTales? Or educational TV? That’s okay, right?” The speaker replied that although VeggieTales may have a moral message, and Christian content which is good, the vehicle for this content is still “tawdry, empty stimuli”–in other words, the method of delivery is also problematic. Full of loud sounds, raucous singing, quick scenes, silly humor, etc, VeggieTales is not quite designed to build a child’s capacity for contemplation; rather, it may contribute to the short-attention-span disease which plagues so many children today, which is not only detrimental to their ability to learn but also more importantly to their ability to pray and thus to relate to God.

His point certainly got me thinking. In the context of the talk, “contemplation” doesn’t mean floating-off-into-a-sea-of-mental-nothingness for relaxation purposes. It means consciously, lovingly, putting oneself into the presence of the God who gave and continues to give us life. This is, in effect, what prayer should be, which is basically a “dress rehearsal” for what heaven’s going to be all about. Eternal, joyful adoration of God along with the whole communion of saints and hopefully everyone we’ve loved here on earth. And the only way we can even begin to contemplate in such a manner is if the “receptivity” of our soul is fine-tuned. I can only imagine that one whose soul is “receptive” would, among other things, be able appreciate beauty in all its forms, particularly in the created world, would be highly sensitive to (and responsive to) the joys and sufferings of other people, and would be open to discerning God’s will for them through Scripture as well as the events of their lives.

It seems avoiding television may be one way to nurture Gabriel’s ability to contemplate and be still. (For us that is pretty much a no-brainer since we don’t have a TV.) I’ve spent time thinking more about other ways to do this, I’ve realized that teaching him this will require learning how to do it myself–to allow for silence in our day to day lives and resist the temptation to fill every moment with words, narration, music, movement, and other forms of stimulation. We’ve spent long moments looking at the squirrels scurrying through the courtyard, feeling the texture of different objects around the house, and quietly playing with toys. For myself I’ve tried to spend less time Googling and more time reading worthwhile books; less time talking and more time listening (in daily conversations and in prayer); less time adjusting things around the house and more time dwelling in it. It seems like a big jump from a rather everyday “secular” things to the much more profound matter of how our souls are formed and how we relate to God. But that’s the way life works–in reality, nothing is “secular” if that word is used to mean not pertaining to our relationship with God.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Ringing in the New Year

I have rounded a bend in the road of life, I think, marked by the nature of our New Year's celebration. Our New Year's celebration consisted of a dinner with family, a movie, and going to bed. I happened to look at the clock when we were turning in, and said "Oh, look, sweetie, it's midnight. Happy New Year!" I think Michael made a comment about the clock being five minutes fast, and that it was not yet in fact midnight, but I think I was falling asleep by that point so things are a bit fuzzy. The funny thing is that I didn't mind any of this one bit...I am either officially "old" or perhaps just the tired mommy of a baby who still wakes throught the night.