I will admit that the waiting for this baby is becoming wearing. Don Marco reminds me this morning that today begins a lovely autumn week, a string of Days of Grace. There is every good day to have a baby in the seven that stretch ahead of us. And so we look with patience (please Lord, grant me more) to the day God has chosen as a time to be born.
My baby is sick. My first baby, that is. He's not just sniffly sick, he's totally wiped out sick. He's the kind of sick that has a very pregnant mother haul herself out of bed two or three times a night and go down two flights of stairs just to hover over his bedside. And then, because I'm so very pregnant and feeling way too maternal, I fight the urge to cry. Who will hover next year? Who will be there for this midnight vigil when he is living on a college campus? The convergence of new baby and "newly minted adult" is brought home to me at three in the morning with an overwhelming force.
Tomorrow is Michael's eighteenth birthday. As this baby stays tucked up tight, my husband jokes that we will never have eight children. Tomorrow, we will have seven children and a brand new adult. Someone decided that my first born baby is now old enough to vote, to go to war, and (joy of joys) to get a Costco card. What a momentous occasion it will be. We made it--the three of us: Michael, Mike and me. We navigated an entire childhood. And he's really a wonderful young man.
I remember so well the day he was born. I remember becoming a mother. And I remember every single lesson he has taught me since that day. The irony is that we are probably hours from beginning the adventure again with a new baby. And much of the reason we are so eager to do so is Michael. That first childhood entrusted to us was such a joy, let's do it again. And again. And again. Well, you get the idea.
I think that I loved being a mom and he loved being a kid because we lived a lifestyle of connected parenting (sometimes known as attachment parenting). We kept him with us. We answered his cries promptly and then, when they evolved, we listened to his every word. We respected the person in the child. We loved wholeheartedly. And we were so richly rewarded.
He talks often about how we fostered independence. But I think what we fostered was interdependence. We grew up together in many ways. I was barely older than he is now when he was born. And as Mike and I caught a vision of life, we naturally shared it with our child. We knew he was capable of great conversation even when he was very young. And so we talked. We talked and we talked and we talked. They say that you can't or shouldn't be a friend to your kids. That's probably true. Children need to see a clear authority. But the goal is to raise children whom you would love to have as your friends. So, you can and should be a friend to your young adults, right? Because this kid--I mean, young adult--is one of my best friends.
It's all good right? I can go out and tell the world how well attachment parenting--especially Catholic attachment parenting--works. I can shout from the moutaintops what a beautiful way it is to raise a family.
Well, yeah. Except I really should tell you about the tears, too. A couple of weeks ago, Michael sat in the seat I'm in right now and learned that there really isn't a place for him on the soccer team of the local university where he hoped to spend the next four years. It had nothing to do with his ability and everything to do with a quirk of numbers. They had long told him he'd be there, but there was a dawning realization that this year's kids weren't playing; there wasn't going to be room for more of them next year.
We live in an area that is flush with colleges and universities. He began to look at rosters of every school in the area--a wide area. And with every click, we learned together that there is an abundance of underclass defenders on the area's soccer teams. He looked at me, blue eyes wide and filling, and said, "I'm going to have to pick between my dream and being close enough to be an integral part of the lives of my little siblings." He pretty much hasn't slept since that night.
Nothing else was said. He is acutely aware of my pain. And I am aware of his. We are connected.
...and while I'm still firmly in denial mode (I like her in Virginia), I am enjoying all the goodies she unearths in the process. Se sure to visit the Bonny Glen today to read about how God brought a great good out of a tragic situation and the Martha books were born amidst the trials and sufferings of a young family fighting leukemia.
And since we're unearthing old memories, I remember when Lissa first reached out to me and offered to write the foreword to my book. I declined. I hadn't read any of the Martha and Charlotte books. As a matter of fact, I thought them heresy. How dare anyone try to further Laura Ingalls Wilder's own series?! The audacity! To understand my devotion to Laura, you must know that I consider those books an integral part of my childhood, a driving force in the formation of who I was to become as an adult and second only to my children's Bible when I consider how I survived some very difficult growing years. When I wanted an example of a strong, faithful, and compassionate father, I looked to Pa. When I wondered how to behave as a mother in a household full of chidren despite trial and tribulation, I studied Ma. I studied every nuance of Ma's responses to Pa and Ma's responses to her children. I even memorized Ma's housekeeping routine! And when I wanted an example of a confident child whose whole childhood was preparing her to be a writer, I had Laura. No one could mess with Laura in my opinion. But something nudged me to read Lissa's books, probably the loveliness of Lissa's online posting--I wanted to know what she could do with fiction.
So, for my "babymoon" after Stephen was born, I binge read them all. And I found that someone could take the inspiration of Laura Ingalls Wilder, honor her legacy, and write something even better. There. I've said it in public. I think the Melissa Wiley Little House books are even better than the Laura Ingalls Wilder originals. They are richer, more complex, more lyrical. They are finely woven tapestries. Every word, every page, every turn of the plot is carefully measured and artfully crafted. In a time when so many series for children are cranked out in the vein of Captain Underpants, Martha and Charlotte shine alone. For they are truly children's literature. They are art.
The Martha and Charlotte books, like the Laura books, are set apart because they respect children. They love children. Laura wrote during a time when children were prized and cherished. The Martha and Charlotte books are written during a time when children are prevented and discarded before they ever see the light of day. And, sadly, much of the publishing industry treats children as commodities but not as precious minds and hearts in need of art to be fed to their souls. The publishing industry churns out much twaddle these days, making lots of money off of children but hating them right along with the much of the popular culture. They offer fare that is stripped, dumbed down, and beneath the dignity of the child. Books like the Martha and Charlotte books are the exceptions--they respect children; they love children. They give them the rich experiences for which literature is intended.
They are books that can take a little girl in a sad home situation or a child in a leukemia ward and transport her to a place of hope. And once she's there, the books have enough depth and texture to keep her there, to stay with her, to carry her through. And one day, someone will ask that child--now grown up-- who influenced her to become such a good mother, to put so much emphasis on family and love and fullness of life, and she will stop and ponder. And then, she will reply confidently, "Martha Morse and Charlotte Tucker." Remembering that she is grown and that they are characters in a childhood book, she'll revise her answer, "Melissa Wiley. Melissa Wiley made my childhood good. Really."
With the very first cool breeze and the trial run of the school buses rumbling through my neighborhood the week before school begins, I take my cue to make a clean sweep. Never one for school shopping, I forego the crush at Target and celebrate the new academic year by deep cleaning our “schoolroom” and everything else within my reach. I find comfort in ordering and organizing our materials. I love to haul big bags of trash out to the curb. There is something beautiful about a fresh place to begin anew.
My children have been known to catch the bug as well. The ones who are naturally orderly love to line up freshly sharpened pencils on a newly scrubbed desk in anticipation of year full of academic adventures. And even those who are not so inclined can be persuaded to turn over a new leaf in honor of the new school year. The calendar is inscribed with the new schedule of activities. The pantry and freezer are stocked with autumn staples. All is prepared for the year ahead.
What a perfect time for confession! We can all line up in the quiet sanctuary and, one by one, sweep our souls clean of even the smallest specks of dust. Particularly for little ones, there are no big messes, no mortal sins, just small bad habits which lie like a layer of fine dust between them and the brilliance of the Lord. Sweep it away! Begin again, fresh and ready and shining for God.
It is not necessary to clean my house so thoroughly every autumn. We can and do homeschool in a messy house quite frequently. It’s not necessary to carefully pencil in the activities; I’ve flown by the seat of my pants before (though I don’t recommend it). It’s not even necessary to plan meals and stock the pantry. The grocery store is only a mile away. And, some will tell you, it’s not necessary to go to confession more than once a year, particularly if all one has to confess are venial sins.
But, if we believe in the real grace present in the sacrament, if we acknowledge that the priest can says the words of absolution and the Holy Spirit will shine away even the smallest speck of dust on our souls, why would we stay away? Why we would not take to the seat of mercy even our smallest failures? Is it fun to clean? Do I like to crawl around on my hands and knees and ferret out every last little Lego and stray crayon? Do I enjoy vacuuming under the desks and chairs and cleaning keyboards? Not really. But there is an immense sense of peace when the job is well done. And the house stays cleaner longer. It’s easier to avoid the near occasion of sin when one begins with a spotless soul.
Most people don’t like the actual act of confessing. They are not happy about spilling every shortcoming and imperfection. They don’t relish the idea of exposing the dirt. But they leave that confessional looking visibly relieved. There are fewer creases in their foreheads. Their shoulders are lifted a little higher. They have the hope a clean slate offers. They know the grace of being forgiven. They have heard those beautiful words of absolution . Clean and fresh and new again, they go forth to embrace all the goodness this new season and our great God have to offer.
as the season of fall begins, we are grateful
for the rich harvest of the earth:
for corn and wheat,
for apples and peaches,
for fish and fowl.
As the days grow shorter
and the nights turn colder
we rely on your love
to warm and sustain us.
As we are grateful for your gifts
make us mindful of others
and generous with what we have.
Bless this meal which we share
in the name of Jesus the Lord.
This was posted on the 4Real Message board over a year ago. I missed it the first time, but it just popped up again. Since I'm really not in a writing or sitting mood, I thought I'd post it here, so that some of you might take from it the encouragement that I did.
Thy Will be Done: Letters to Persons in the World by St. Francis de Sales
"It does not surprise me in the least to learn that you feel somewhat
dull-witted and heavy-hearted; after all, you are with child. When your
delicate frame is heavy with its burden, weakened by its task, indisposed by
all manner of pains, you cannot expect to find your heart as animated,
vigorous and ready to act as it used to be, but all that in no way
prejudices the activity of the apex of the soul; it remains as pleasing to
God as if you were brimming over with all the cheerfulness in the world. In
fact, it is far more pleasing because it demands so much more effort and
strugggle. However, the doer derives little pleasure from it, because the
soul's activity lies beyond the feelings, and so does not afford the same
"Dear child, we must not be hard on ourselves, or exact more than we have
give. When body and strength are impaired, we can only ask the will to
make acts of submission and acceptance of the travail, and add holy
aspirations uniting our will with God's. These are made in the apex of the
soul. As for our outward behaviour, we must plan what we have to do and do
it as best we can, and leave it at that, even though we have performed the
task grudgingly and with tired and heavy heart. If we are to rise above this
depression, dejection and despondency of soul, and turn it to use in God's
service, we must face it, accept it, and realize the worth of holy
self-abasement. In this way, you will transmute the lead of your heaviness
of spirit into gold, a gold purer far than any of your gayest, most
“Well then, be patient with yourself. See to it that your higher self puts
up with your lower. Make a frequent offering of the tiny creature to our
Creator's eternal glory, since he has chosen you to cooperate with Him in
forming your child. But take the greatest care of your health: don't put
yourself out or force yourself to pray at present. You must treat yourself
with the utmost gentleness. If it tired you to kneel, sit down; if you can't
pray for half an hour, pray for a quarter, or simply half that again.
"Dearest daughter, at Annecy, we possess a Capuchin artist who, as you may
imagine, paints pictures solely for God and the adornment of His house. When
at work, he has to concentrate so closely that he cannot paint and pray at
the same time. This worries and distresses his mind, yet in spite of it, he
sets to work with a will for the sake of the honour that it must bring our
Lord, and in the hope that his pictures will prompt many worshippers to
praise God and bless His goodness.
"Now, dear daughter, the babe being formed in your womb is to be a living
representation of the divine Majesty, but as long as your vigour and
physical strength are employed on the work, your spirits will inevitably
drop and grow weary, and you will be unable to perform your daily duties
with your usual zest and cheerfulness. Endure your lassitude and lower
spirits lovingly, and think of the honour God is to receive from your
finished work, for it is your own reproduction which will find a place in
the eternal temple of the heavenly Jerusalem, and will there give
everlasting joy to the eyes of God and angels and men. The saints will hymn
God's praises for what you have achieved, and you will join your voice to
theirs when you behold it. So be patient with the feeling of drowsiness and
dullness, and hold fast to Our Lord's holy will, who has thus ordained
things in His eternal wisdom."
Like in the bedrooms, all the furniture in the living spaces of our home has a history. Nothing in my living room and dining room was chosen by me. It was all "inherited." That means I have really lovely things, but that they're not quite what I would have chosen. They came from formal living spaces in other houses and we truly don't have those formal "no kids" rooms in our house. There are too many of us to designate that much square footage to adults only. My "loveliness decorating philosophy" is that children should live with and in love. That means we try hard to teach them to be good stewards of nice things. It also means that we accept with love the inevitable dings and dents and stains that go with the learning process. The same furniture that was in my mother's, my aunt's, and my grandmother's house sees a whole lot more action in my house!
But then, I recognized that this floor plan suits the way we use the space very well. We have GIGANTIC gatherings for holidays and birthdays and, if we move the table from the kitchen, this space can lend itself to this:
On the other side of the kitchen is our family room. It sees quite a bit of family every day and night! The centerpiece of this room is the table. I think it's perfectly lovely. It was rather formal once upon a time and then it was "loved" a great deal by some rowdy little boys. Finally, it came full circle, when Michael re-created it for Mother's Day and it was lovelier for having been loved. That's kind of the way the whole house should be isn't it?
It was time to wash the cover of the infant carseat. I'd procrastinated as long as I could, but knowing it was still on the task list was beginning to keep me up at night. So, I sat myself down on the floor with carseat in front of me and began to dissemble it, loosening straps in order to free the liner. I muttered something like, "I'm sure there are directions for how to put this together again on the web somewhere." I got that seat liner so very clean! And then I went to google. The carseat is too old. The directions are no where to be found. So, with my belly very much in the way, I wrestled that silly thing into submission all by myself. And as I was doing so, I remembered a column I wrote two years ago, when I really thought my carseat wrestling days were over for good. Tears came unbidden to my eyes. I am so very grateful for the chance to to do this all again.
For the first time in a very long time, I am neither pregnant nor mothering a baby. My "baby" is now two years old. And with a certainty that takes my breath away, I suddenly understand why wise women always told me that the time would go so quickly. To be sure, I’ve had more "baby time" than most women. My first baby will be 16 in a few days. I still think it’s over much too soon.
This column is for mothers of infants and toddlers. I am going to attempt to do something I never thought I’d do: I’m going to empathize while not in your situation. My hope is that it is all so fresh in my memory that I can have both perspective and relevance.
What you are doing, what you are living, is very difficult. It is physically exhausting. It is emotionally and spiritually challenging. An infant is dependent on you for everything. It doesn’t get much more daunting: there is another human being who needs you for his very life. Your life is not your own at all. You must answer the call (the cry) of that baby, regardless of what you have planned. This is dying to self in a very pure sense of the phrase. And you want to be with him. You ache for him. When he is not with you, a certain sense of restlessness edges its way into your consciousness, and you are not at complete peace.
If you are so blessed that you have a toddler at the same time, you wrestle with your emotions. Your former baby seems so big and, as you settle to nurse your baby and enjoy some quiet gazing time, you try desperately to push away the feeling that the great, lumbering toddler barreling her way toward you is an intruder. Your gaze shifts to her eyes, and there you see the baby she was and still is, and you know that you are being stretched in ways you never could have imagined.
This all might be challenge enough if you could just hunker down in your own home and take care of your children for the next three years; but society requires that you go out — at least into the marketplace. So you juggle nap schedules and feeding schedules and snowsuits and carseats. Just an aside about carseats: I have literally had nightmares about installing carseats. These were not dreams that I had done it wrong or that there had been some tragedy. In my dreams I am simply exhausted, struggling with getting the thing latched into the seat of the car and then getting my baby latched into the carseat. I’m fairly certain anyone else who has ever had four of these mechanical challenges lined up in her van has had similar dreams. It’s the details that overwhelm you, drain you, distract you from the nobility of it all. The devil is in the details.
You will survive. And here is the promise: if you pray your way through this time, if you implore the Lord at every turn, if you ask Him to take this day and this time and help you to give Him something beautiful, you will grow in ways unimagined. And the day will come when no one is under two years old. You will — with no one on your lap — look at your children playing contentedly together without you. And you will sigh. Maybe, like me, you will feel your arms are uncomfortably empty, and you will pray that you can hold a baby just once more. Or maybe, you will sense that you are ready to pass with your children to the next stage.
This is the place where nearly two decades of mothering babies grants me the indulgence of sharing what I would have done differently. I would have had far fewer obligations outside my home. Now, I see that there is plenty of time for those, and that it is much simpler to pursue outside interests without a baby at my breast. I wish I’d spent a little more time just sitting with that baby instead of trying to "do it all."
I wish I’d quieted the voices telling me that my house had to look a certain way. I look around now and I recognize that those houses that have "that look" don’t have these children. Rarely are there a perfectly-kept house and a baby and a toddler under one roof. Don’t listen to the voices that tell you that it can be done. It should not be done. I wish I hadn’t spent 16 years apologizing for the mess. Just shoot for "good enough." Cling to lower standards and higher goals.
I wish I’d taken more pictures, shot more video and kept better journals. I console myself with the knowledge that my children have these columns to read. They’ll know at least as much about their childhoods as you do.
I wish I could have recognized that I would not be so tired forever, that I would not be standing in the shallow end of the pool every summer for the rest of my life, that I would not always have a baby in my bed (or my bath or my lap). If I could have seen how short this season is (even if mine was relatively long), I would have savored it all the more.
And I wish I had thanked Him more. I prayed so hard. I asked for help. But I didn’t thank Him nearly enough. I didn’t thank Him often enough for the sweet smell of a newborn, for the dimples around pudgy elbows and wrists, for the softening of my heart, for the stretching of my patience, for the paradoxical simplicity of it all. A baby is a pure, innocent, beautiful embodiment of love. And his mother has the distinct privilege, the unparalleled joy, of watching love grow. Don’t blink. You’ll miss it.
Truth be told, I'm too tired to write and contracting too much to sit here, so I dug up the autumn reading list I used a couple of years ago when I was battling bigtime burnout. We were just talking about what to do when you just can't make the plan happen. These books and lots of outside time (for both mom and children) are a great place to start.
Although nature study is to be pursued every day, every year, one fall I gave over at least twelve weeks to the intensive study of the world around us and to the study of nature-related literature and biographies. We did a little math and everything else revolved around nature. My goal was to acquaint my children intimately with the natural world near our home and to develop a love for natural history writing and illustrations. Perhaps more importantly, I wanted to embrace with them the world God created for us, to be inspired and to rest in the comfort and splendor there. My sense was that we would head for the hills (the woods, the pond, the river) and never return to doing school at home again! Here are some books we enjoyed that autumn and a smattering of samples from nature notebooks. We get these books out every year as the evening air starts to turn crisp. Now, they are familiar friends with whom to embrace the season!
Read Alouds for Everybody
Level Three Readers
Picture book biographies to share
(note: We enjoyed this last book, with inspiring stories of young scientists. But, as a homeschooling family, were surprised?there is a specific bit of information the author did not include. Miriam Rothschild, for instance, never went to school. Why didn't the authors mention that her family believed that school was a waste of time, and that it stifled scientific creativity? And what of the early education of other women naturalists? Be inspired to use this book as a starting place, as an inspiration for more in-depth research. --MacBeth Derham)
(but good enough for everyone to enjoy):
More great picture books:
Not to be Missed
Resources and books for Mom and/or high schoolers
Peter Spier's Rain
We're stilll watching birds in the heart of my home. Goldfinches and hummingbirds are the favorite attractions, though the latter are certainly camera-shy. In honor of those tiny flitting, fleeting hummers, here are a few lines from Harry Hibbard Kemp:
The Humming Bird
The sunlight speaks, and its voice is a bird:
It glimmers half-guessed, half-seen, half-heard,
Above the flowerbed, over the lawn--
A flashing dip, and it is gone,
And all it lends to the eye is this--
A sunbeam giving the air a kiss.
I was going to post yesterday evening about the latest disappointment at my alma mater. The student press there might just have outdone itself. I wrote a couple of years ago about anti-Catholicism and the general promotion of sin. Since that time, after much thought and prayer and not a little doubt, a dear friend has enrolled at the esteemed University. She's finding it a bit of a culture shock. She's also taken on my mantle of protest. And since she's there and she's a very gifted writer (and since I'm days away from delivering a baby and can't seem to sit here for very long), I'll let her talk for me. Visit Courtney and hear what young Catholics are up against at secular univesities. Before you leave her site, please offer a prayer for her, too. I have a hunch it's pretty lonely in Charlottesville these days.
I am from a 13-year-old girl in a brown turtleneck and tweed skirt who somehow caught your heart forever.
I am from ooey gooey bars in your locker, from state championships in Charlottesville, and from apple fritters at the Dutch Pantry.
I am from a perfect Homecoming Dance and a perfectly awful Senior Prom.
I am twenty years from a sun-dappled autumn afternoon when you slipped a ring and a promise on my finger. I am from a wedding a year later, another ring, and more promises--always kept. I am from more time in my life with you, than without.
I am from hours and hours of long distance telephone calls (harbingers of things to come) and regular treks up and down 29, wearing your ring on my finger and a song in my heart.
I am from the a little dollhouse on Donegal Lane, full of cottage charm, lots of dreams, the epitome of “cozy.”
I am from the basil on the deck, impatiens (better known as “poppers”) in the front, a swingset in the tiny backyard. From stolen kisses at Lake Accotink to Pohick Valley Stream park outside our bedroom window, deer in the morning and a rushing creek after the rain.
I am from five anniversaries spent nine months pregnant, from Michael and Christian and Paddy and then a girl named Mary Beth. I’m from the “twins,” Stephen and Nicky, from Katie Bean the family queen, and a little miracle girl we can’t wait to meet.
I am from early lessons in “in sickness and in health.” I am from an IV push with wicked red fluid that made my hair fall out; raging fevers and no white blood cells; and you, always you, right there by my side.
I am from giggling children in tickle jail to “go far post” to “Love you Forever” every night into your cell phone since she was able to warble the words.
I am from far too many teary goodbyes, sweet, memorable reunions and everything in between. I’m from no honeymoon. I’m from Christmas in Hawaii, to a pilgrimage to Chicago to lay it all at the feet of St. Therese, to American Girl Place with our ladies, to filet mignon and fine art in Florida (just us this time—oh, and great Aunt Ida;-)
I am from twelve years of Campus Ministry at the best CCM in the world, Mass in the Lecture Hall, groundbreaking for the chapel, seven (eight) Fr. Bob baptisms, the excruciating pain of the local mission, the comfort of St. Veronica.
I'm from midnight rides to 4 different hospitals and quick labors and deliveries, from craving watermelon in January to “needing” Pho in July, from three precious babies waiting in heaven, to 76 total months of pregnancy (but who’s counting?).
I’m from humming nebulizers all night long, butterflies over stitches nearly always. From chiropractors and orthopedists and orthodontists. From the first time we sped to the hospital with a child who couldn’t breathe to the time you cut his finger with the hedgeclippers.
From buzzcuts in the summer and curly-haired Christmas pictures.
I’m from watching Michael take the PK and breathing again when he makes it this time, from crying when Mary Beth danced Clara, from blushing in the heat while people marvel over Paddy’s footskills, not knowing that he belongs to us.
I am from Christian’s perfect Little League Season, coached by you. I am from sending you all out to play family soccer and counting the minutes until I hear the latest competitive squabble.
I'm from finding Nicky's blinking and repeating very endearing and being amazed at his number sense.
I am from very late nights when all is quiet and the heartfelt conversation murmured in a hush, lest someone wake and come to sleep in the middle.
I am from seven nearly identical baptism pictures on the wall in the hallway (with space there for new additions), from seven birth announcements framed at the foot of the stairs,seven christening candles. I am from a hope chest filled with notes from high school, wedding shower mementos, teeny-tiny hospital baby bracelets, a few stray bald chemo pictures I can’t deny but don’t care to remember, programs from dance recitals and remnants of soccer tournaments, and hope—hope that our tomorrows are as rich and filled with love as our yesterdays.
I remember the first day I met him, the first day of college. He was wearing a blue polo shirt that made his eyes twinkle. I would later learn that they twinkled all the time. His name was Patrick--never Pat. He lived right below us and he looked like Tom Cruise. No kidding. This was shortly after Risky Business was all the rage and looking like Tom Cruise gave you some notoriety.
He had a girlfriend at home. When she came to visit, she stayed with me. (I think Patrick did this to make a statement to my roommate, who really wanted that girlfriend out of her way;-) My heart was 2 hours away; when I need a "duty date" to some function or another, he obliged. He wasn't a typical fraternity guy. Instead, he liked to shake things up a bit. So he started his own fraternity that first year.
His brother was in the cast of the then-hit TV show Dallas. We had Dallas parties in his suite every week. He talked about his parents all the time. And always, always, he made it very clear that when he was finished with this southern institution of education, he was heading home to New Jersey to work in Manhattan.
And he did, because if anything defined Patrick Sean Murphy, it was his strong will. Patrick loved to play basketball at the rec center behind our dorm. It didn't matter that he was only 5'9". He had that will--he willed himself to play tall. And he had quite the three point shot.
He also had a very strong sense of justice. The only argument we ever had was when he thought I'd overstepped the rules of sorority rush in a private conversation with his girlfriend (who eventually came to UVA too). In the end, I won that argument (which still amazes me) and he understood that I was careful not to break any rules, while still offering a sounding board to Cindy. I remember the conversation so well because I remember the sting of his disapproval and how much it hurt to think I'd let him down. And I think of the conversation often even now. If sorority rush rules evoked an impassioned discourse from him, what would he think about the people and politics that took him from his family? What would justice look like to Patrick Murphy?
He was the father of two children and a devoted husband on September 11, 2001. He died that day in Manhattan.
I remember you, Patrick. I see you holding court on a late summer day in 1983, on the hill in front of Balz, directing directing traffic, making every other nervous first year student laugh at their very nervousness, and I see you twinkling, always twinkling. Rest in peace.
It was midnight dance of sorts, that four-times-a-night shuffle I learned to do eighteen years ago. Awakened by the cries of my firstborn, I'd stumble to the bathroom to wet a washcloth with warm water. I'd take it to the nursery and lift the baby from his crib. I'd pass the rocking chair on the way back to my bed. (It was too big for me, it turned out, and I never used it.) I'd nurse the baby on one side, change the diaper, nurse him to sleep on the other side and then carry him back to the crib. I'd dump the wet diaper and washcloth in the diaper pail and crawl back into bed for an hour and half of sleep before repeating the dance. If I lucked out. More often than not though, Michael wasn't too happy about the transfer back to the crib and I'd have to nurse him to sleep again sooner than later.
I was committed to attachment parenting; it was the logistics that weren't working. So, desperate for sleep, we tried some things. We wedged the fullsized crib into our tiny bedroom. He hated the crib. We took the side off the crib and anchored it to our bed. He still hated the crib. I slept in the crib with him next to our bed (I was much lighter then;-). He slept; I didn't. Finally, we ditched the crib and put him between us in the bed.
When our second baby was born, we didn't even put up the crib. By the fourth, we'd given it away. Over time, our nighttime parenting and our bedroom design and decorating have converged. Furnished entirely with gifts and hand-me-downs, no other room in our house speaks so much to our lifestyle as our master bedrooms does.
Two summers ago, my aunt moved out of a large house and into a smaller one. She called to tell us that a van was coming to our area to bring some things from that house to a friend of hers. She said she had a few other things and asked if we would like them. Not sure at all what we were getting, we said we'd take whatever. Mike was out of town the day the truck pulled up and it was rather like reality TV to stand at the truck's door and make decorating decisions as previously unknown pieces were unloaded and carried into my house.
A massive desk ended up in the sitting area of our bedroom. I wasn't sure its purpose (and I still don't know), but there was no place else for it and I had vague plans for a desk all my own. It's so huge and was so hard to get upstairs, that whatever we do with it, it's going to stay right there.
A very comfortable armchair worked well in that space, too. The picture above it came off the truck and I knew immediately that I wanted it within sight of my bed. It is an Asian mother and two children. Before this baby was conceived, we were prayerfully discerning a Taiwanese adoption. When the picture arrived, I knew it would be a constant reminder to pray for Taiwanese women and babies upon awakening and before I went to sleep. Even though the adoption plans were set aside, the prayers continue.
The dresser for the new baby was rescued from Bobby's house before he left to play in England. It was falling apart and Michael rebuilt the back. It will serve nicely as both clothing storage and a changing table. The nightstand next to it is from a set my mother bought us when we were married. We moved it away from our bed to make room for baby's bed. Here it holds a stash of diapers and wraps.
And then there's the glider...I am so looking forward to having a rocking chair that's made for a petite person! My sister generously provided both glider and ottoman for the baby. She said that everyone assumes you have everything by the time you get to eight, but sometimes there something you never indulged in that will make this time extra-special. I am looking forward to spending time here. My girls have already filled the side pockets with their collection of First Little House books. And the little touch of pink, the piece that really says "Baby Girl," is the quilt, a gift from Donna Howey.
The baby will sleep right next to me in a co-sleeper purchased by grandparents four years ago for Katie. My mother updated its cover and bought leg extensions so it would work against our new king-sized bed (yet another piece of furniture that came off that truck). I love my co-sleeper and the midnight dance is completely eliminated. A small table my mother found in Amish country sits at the foot of the co-sleeper with a basket of nighttime diapers and wipes and my CD player. No need to get out of bed at all--just reach over, nurse the baby and leave her sleeping in her bed. Diaper changes are bedside business too. There is something to be said for the lessons of experience! Maybe they'll compensate for the fact that I'm forty, have seven other children to care for, and much less energy than I did at 22.
The hope chest was an engagement gift from my father. It survived a flood in my mother's house before I was married and my father-in-law rebuilt the bottom. The baby's scrapbook sits upon it and I sincerely "hope" to work on it in a timely manner.
Though most of our books are shelved in our library closet, each bedroom in the house has a bookcase for special books. Mine is no exception. I loved this bookcase in my parents' house growing up and I think it's perfect in this corner of my bedroom.
There, she'll find a dresser, rescued from my father's storage space and a closet festooned with flowers. The doors kept falling off, so I took them down and hung a curtain and some tulle.
The desk was a hand-me-down we painted (and need to paint again). The bed belonged to the set in my room but belongs to the girls now, who love to sleep together under the canopy. And the bookcase? The bookcase I actually purchased because I just couldn't walk away from it.
I have no idea how the baby will fit into this room, but it's a decorating project that could make for some summertime fun--next year!
I think that we don't often stop to consider how blessed we are in this country to be allowed the freedom to educate our children at home. Even in those states where we have to jump through way too many hoops, we are allowed to discern what is best for our children. I received an email recently from a friend who is temporarily living in Germany. She was asking us for prayers. In part, she wrote:
If you have a few minutes, I wanted to ask for your prayers over a serious situation in the city of Hamburg. A German family here has been trying to homeschool their six children. The authorities have now arrested the father and an application is in to take custody of the children which would apply in all the EU countries. From what I understand they are strong Christians and have been trying to fight the German laws in order to homeschool their children for several years. The father even attended the university here and got a teaching degree in order to try to make it work. Here is a news account.
It was difficult for us to read because it shows how serious the problems are here in Germany, especially with the mindset of the authorities.
So, if you could say some prayers that would be great. We feel so sorry for parents who want so much to not have to send their children into the German school system here but have no choice.
And add a prayer of gratitude for the many freedoms we have...