Thursday, June 21, 2012

Katie Faces

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Katie has been with us on the outside now for nearly three weeks. She's putting forth her best effort to accommodate us, and Jennifer and I find ourselves in conversation after conversation trying to unravel her mysteries. She's utterly precious, but is she eating enough? Is she sleeping enough? Why is she crying? Should we put her on a schedule? What's that little bump? And on and on. Katie's crying causes a strange cocktail of responses in us: one part overwhelming sympathy,  one part stress, and one part humble admittance of ignorance. But each day passes and we are more and more assured that the parenting instincts are better guides than our minds at this point.  Each new day and Katie gains weight, gains more control over her eyes, her hands, her legs, her sounds. She's sleeping well, spending more time looking around, relaxing, or bouncing in our arms. Her features are becoming more distinct and her eyes brighter. And, in the midst of it all we are attending recitals, end of year graduations, gardening, and enjoying the summer.

Here are two videos of the girls performing their instruments at the end of year celebration for REACH (Resources, Encouragement, and Activities for Columbia area Homeschoolers). REACH puts on a lively and fun end of year graduation and invites performances from students. I would call the girls reluctant performers, or maybe its better to say they enjoy playing more than performing. Memorizing a musical composition requires great and enduring attention, patience both with self and instrument, dogged determination, a certain care for details, and the ability to find pleasure in such hard work, but performing requires all the aforementioned, and unless naturally a thespian, the willed courage and confidence to demonstrate what's been learned with others. Needless to say I was one proud dad and husband. Much of their musical practice on a daily basis is self-directed, but that's only because the scheduling, directing, encouraging, teaching, and caring governance behind it all is Jennifer.

The first week we had the baby was largely a blur. We were tired, a bit dazed, and couldn't have made it without Jennifer's mom (Mimi) who stayed with us for the first two weeks. She washed clothes, washed dishes, shopped, encouraged, cleaned, laughed, hugged, and just plain loved us through. She rushed me to urgent care when on the third  evening I sliced my finger cutting potatoes (imagine: "Hey, babe, yeah, I know you just had a baby at home but I sliced my finger with a potato knife and need to go to the doctor"), she stayed up at night with little Katie, she makes the girls feel like princesses, she attended recitals and graduations, a thousand things more, and I don't know how we'd have made it without her. 
No one can get these looks out of Ellen and Arianna like their Mimi. They have the best time together.

Grandad (my dad) also has been a huge support. Not only is he a constant friend, he's been Jennifer's unofficial health patron keeping us stocked with vitamins, he's Ellen and Arianna's biggest dance recital fan, and he's the reason we were able to get a dryer back in the house for rainy days with cloth diapers, and the wiring to run it on.  
Dad captured some nice shots of the girls at their recital. The first was from the back of a dark auditorium with no flash. Still not quite sure how that works.

A host of friends have organized dinners, brought dinners, supported us by having Ellen and Arianna over when we needed a break, surprised us with great photography, gifts, encouragement, help, conversation, and we feel very cared for. All of these folks have taken time out of their own busy schedules to give to us. We are beyond thankful.

Ellen and Arianna have taken this transition with all the grace and joy and help that one could ask for. Surely Jennifer and I have been rather consumed, and their world has changed greatly; but Ellen and Arianna have laughed, played, held Katie, changed diapers, held Katie, performed at recitals and graduations, held Katie, been patient with us, held Katie, and responded to every request for help around the house with a real enthusiasm. We have definitely looked to them to help us fill in some of the gaps while we integrate Katie's new life into our own, and they have been real partners with us. But of course there's been time to relax some too:
And if I'm sappy and long-winded regarding my daughters I'm gushing and speechless regarding my wife. And now I sound like Jennifer's mom. "She's an angel" she always says. Jennifer and Katie have an intense relationship right now. I'm in awe of Jennifer and her strength, peace, and how she has become again the mother of our infant daughter. She's the source of so much in my life that is beautiful and good.  
And the extent of my relationship with Katie right now can be summed up by defining it as "not-Mom". I am in that vast category of phenomena which she only responds to as "not-Mom". I'm the guy that's called when Katie just won't go to sleep. We've been doing a lot of gardening together, lots of walking, I'm a first rate swaddler,  but honestly I think she's most interested in getting my knuckle or my nose into her mouth.
And so, slowly, we make room for another life in the midst of us, and Katie, each day, introduces herself to us. We're all delighted. And we have such good people around us. The days are full, tiring, and at times we don't have answers, but the five of us are enjoying it all together.