Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rooted and Grounded in Love

(Mom, these pictures are for you...)

In need of spiritual renewal, I recently turned to these verses:

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:16-19)

Somewhere between birth and 22 months, I forgot how humbling and awe-inspiring it is to have a baby. Others may experience birth differently than me, but with both of my girls I missed out on that "love connection" that many mothers describe. Even delivering Alice Virginia naturally, sharing with her a moment of sweet recognition when she heard my voice and turned her newly awakened eyes to mine, the bond was not instantaneous.

Love was there, of course, but it felt more like duty or obligation rather than overwhelming joy, unspeakable bliss. Love born from the weight of carrying another life for the previous ten months.

The love connection with my girls, instead, has developed over time, a process of learning their ins-and-outs and allowing them to learn mine. Of learning each other. Appreciating over two years with Meggie and two weeks with Allie V what makes them similar and different from me - acknowledging who they are AS PART of me and APART from me.

As I read the words from the verses in Ephesians, I recognized my own process as a parent. Unable to be all, do all, love all, create all for myself, husband, two girls, I ask God to strengthen my inner spirit, invite Christ to be all, do all, love all, create all for myself, husband, two girls, and in doing so, I am rooted and grounded in love.

This rooting and grounding in love happens everyday at my house - if I only look up long enough to realize it as it takes place. Changing diapers. Nursing one-handed while I play play-doh at Meggie's high chair. Swaddling blankets. Running a load of laundry and forgetting that it's in there for days. Dishing up Meggie's tenth snack ("Nak") of the day. Finding a lost paci. Gazing into bluebonnet eyes, two weeks in the world.

These actions root me and ground me. In love. These actions claim me for my girls and my girls for me, together dwelling. In love.

And, oh, how richly rooted, grounded, dwelling we are.

"Who eeeest?"

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Peek into our New Normal

Meggie's never had an interest in playing with baby dolls. Until her own real life baby doll came home from the hospital.

Today, after breakfast I put Alice Virginia down in her bassinet and made a special effort to play with my Meggie girl. After a few puzzles and animal sounds game, she chose to play with a baby doll that my mom brought with her from South Carolina. She rocked the baby, shushed the baby, and then told me in about 200 different ways that the baby had a "Whooo-weee poopy" diaper. We borrowed a real diaper from sissy and changed the baby doll's diaper over and over for about 45 minutes. For real. Her movements were quiet and precise, tender and practiced. She gingerly wedged herself as far back as she could go in her rocking chair to make sure that her baby doll was safe and protected as she pumped her feet. I loved watching her work out the recent changes in her life through play. She's my little mother.

"Whoo-wee Poopy"

She and I have had way too little quality time together recently. As evidenced by her frantic voice crying, "Maaa-maaa!" the couple times I had to leave the playroom to answer a phone call. And her crying at naptime and bedtime...and the tantrums and the screaming nos. And the flinging her "treat" (popsicle) on the floor - only to retrieve it from the trashcan when I wasn't looking after "Mama took it bye-bye." Only, by then it was half-way melted and spewed a crescent-moon shaped spray of juice all over the couch and carpet. Sigh...and choosing today to take off her diaper during naptime and smear poop all over her sheets. Seriously. I'm surprised Kyle even wanted to hug me when he came home from work today as I was lathered in every bodily eruption imaginable: spit-up, breastmilk, pee-pee, poop. Yes, today, I made it through my first day solo covered in everybody's poop.

We're so off our schedule it's not even funny. It's difficult to maintain an eternal perspective when I feel like all I did today is wrangle girls between messes (except for my sweet stolen moments this morning with Meg). I see Meggie acting out her confusion about all the changes when I'm nursing Alice Virginia and I feel guilty for introducing the upheaval. When I'm rocking Meggie to sleep, I feel guilty for not holding Alice Virginia more, for sticking her in her bassinet while I give her sister my undivided attention.

But, then I remember that at this point after Meggie was born, Kyle was still on baby leave and his parents were here helping out. Real life has come a whole lot faster this time around and we're all in need of extra grace.

Praying for extra grace tonight. And for the new normal to settle down a bit.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Here I am

I've gotten some questions about where I am in pictures...well, here I naturale. And the first day not in pajamas. After Meggie was born, I made myself take a shower every day, put on real clothes, and make-up. The whole act made me feel more normal, more like my old self pre-baby. This time around, after Allie V, Kyle and I are tag-teaming with #1 while somehow trying to remember exactly what time #2 was fed and changed. Now, taking a shower is quite the accomplishment - no time for make-up anymore, at least for now.

Kyle also caught a cold from Meggie, who started coughing and sneezing soon after we got home from the hospital. On Tuesday, I began running a fever and was doubled over in extreme pain. Pain worse than labor almost. Almost. We went back to my midwives and found out that I have a bladder infection and possibly a uterine infection. Regulated to the couch, with a sick husband and first baby, I don't know how we would have made it without the help of my mom who arrived last Monday. Such was the unhappy part of our first week home with Allie V.

My mom says that she loves this little quirk of Meggie's. We think it's pretty precious, too. Whenever the phone used to ring or a text would go off, Meggie would run to it and call, "Daddy?" Now, when she hears the same tone, she lifts her arms and says, "Who is it?" Sounds more like, " Who eeest?" right now.

Alice Virginia's first visitors: my cousin, Kaitlin, and her husband, Adam. They are expecting their first baby girl in October. We can't wait to see these girls together! Based on how they were with Allie V and already are with Meggie, they'll make natural parents.

Wow, I look exhausted. :)

So far, Allie V seems to have a sweet, easy, laid-back temperament. Despite being a little confused about days and nights, she mostly eats, drifts to sleep, and cuddles - happiest when held. She gets worked up over gas bubbles and dirty diapers, but that's about it...and we've even identified her "gassy" face. Very like how she was when I carried her.

We often say about her, "Oh, she's just the sweetest, cutest, gentlest...awww...just look at her, she's so sweet."

Meggie's always been our spirited, full-of-life child, and when she was a tiny babe, we would marvel at other new parents who could still eat out late and take the baby or who were participating in life outside of the house with 2 month-olds. We would wonder, "How do they do that? We just don't get it?!?"

Well, now with Allie V, we do get it. And it's wonderful. We even made it to church today. :)

Alice Virginia snoozing before church this morning. My friend and neighbor, Megan, gave Allie V her lovey, wubanub. You can see how she loves it!

Our matching girls


Friday, June 24, 2011

Sisters are for...

sharing toys. unprompted and surprising.

does it get any more precious than this?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

To Remember

A daddy's hands, cradles in slumber

My 3 beloveds

A big sister's delight in her "baby"

...the way she runs to bring sissy her own bah-bah and paci when she's crying, the way she follows me saying, "Uh-oh, uh-oh" if sissy kicks off a sock, the way the last word on her lips tonight was, "Baby?" Why isn't she here with me, who has the baby?, the way she asks several times a day to hold the baby, the way her spirit accepts the new member of our family with such gladness.

Her tender care even when Alice Virginia cries in hunger.

Days and nights all mixed up.

We didn't make it to bed before 5 am the last several nights. I don't remember this phase of parenting with Meggie...perhaps that's a good thing? We.are.sleep.deprived. But love abundant.

Her "I'm beginning to get hungry" face.

Her "You've waited too late and now I'm REALLY hungry face."

She's the hungriest baby I done ever saw.

She's a fantastic nurser, but takes about an hour to eat. Leaving me, oh, about a half-hour before she's ready to eat again. But, ever since Meggie's nursing struggles, I've been praying for a good feeder the next time around. Not only did we get a good feeder, we got one who was born to nurse.

Big sissies get to play with special play-doh.


Little hands.

Yes, we've been doing a lot of this.

Tiny body, nestled close.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Alice Virginia

Alice Virginia Van Heest
10 pounds even
22 inches long
6.16.11, 10:26 am
sweet strawberry-blonde peach fuzz

Surprised? So were we - at her fast labor, incredible birth story, stunning weight. We love: her peachy skin, her soft, newborn hair, the freshness of her smell, the feel of her in our arms and out of my belly. She enraptures us more every moment and we look at her and see in some ways a tiny Meggie, in other ways, the very first and only Alice Virginia.

Alice Virginia, Daddy and I took extra time picking out your special name because when we saw you for the first time you looked different than we expected, more beautiful, and not quite like the names we thought you'd be. If you had dark hair like your sister, you would have been our Eleanor Louise. If you had fair hair like the O'Connells and a wee thing like predicted, you would have been our Norah Blythe. There you were - uniquely crafted - and we needed a name more fitting.

Alice comes from two of your great-grandmothers. Who were named after their grandmothers. Who, on your Daddy's side, were named after their grandmothers all the way back into your family's Netherlands history. Your two great-grandmothers are two of the bravest, passionate, loving, and strong women we know. You've inherited a dynamite legacy as their namesake.

Virginia comes from our love of Grandmama and Grandaddy's farm and because combined with Alice, we think it sounds magical. Grandaddy also had a sister named Virginia - but they called her "Boo," short for "beautiful," because she was and so you are.

We'll call you both Alice and Virginia as is fitting with Southern tradition...we've always wanted a little girl with a big double name. As your Uncle Peter proclaimed, "she would fit right in here with me at school in South Carolina!" :) That was our idea, our sweet Southern miss.

For right now, it's a great big name for such a "little" we foresee many nicknames in your future - the frontrunner being our darling "Allie V."

oldest baby meeting the newest baby "Sissy."

We'll forever remember how Meggie announced, "BABY!" and then promptly ran to play in the sink for the rest of her visit with us. :) Hopefully, her heart's been prepared well for this arrival.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grandaddy's Garden

Just in case you thought I had gone into labor and was busy having a baby...I'm still here and she's still in there. :) In the middle of trying to keep the house clean for baby, moving forward with our schedules because we can't guess when she'll be here, and comforting our other crying baby (who mysteriously has been up every 1/2 hour for the last.three.nights.), we're doing our best to make lasting memories of just the three of us.

And practice our patience. At which I failed miserably yesterday. Kyle came home (thankfully early) from work to find me crying on the floor to a dear friend whom I called in desperation for some "quick encouragement." But, after that and a night off from dinner and bedtime duty thanks to my sympathetic husband, I felt much better. :)

I had another appointment today and there's been some progress since last week...slow, but noteworthy. I keep telling myself, "she will come out, she will come out, she will come out." After 40 long weeks, though, each day feels like an eternity of waiting.

In the meantime, waiting for Baby Girl, I recently applied to a writing class focusing on writing for children and teenagers. I wanted to share the essay that I submitted to them as part of my application - the prompt was "write about something that stands out from your childhood." When I think of my childhood, I think of my grandparents and summers spent at their house. Out of my rememberings came this piece:

“See these things right here?” The honeyed-tones of southern Virginia made my grandaddy’s teaching sound more like: “See these thangs ritch - heah?” I peered from beneath my crumpled straw hat at the tomato plant he held nestled in his farmer’s hands. Two distinct branches grew in opposite directions. Where they diverged, a tiny version of the two stuck straight up, a baby vine waving at me, moved by the sweet, honeysuckle breeze. “That right there is called a ‘sucker.’ Your job is to get those suckers before they take up all the good water that’s supposed to go to growing the tomatoes.”

I felt emboldened, bigger somehow, by his trust in me. I worked steadily behind him down the rows as my grandaddy bent to stake up the tomato plants and brush off the bugs. I could hear birds cooing, a sly rabbit rustling near by; the sun made the sunscreen my mother so lavishly pooled on me run in sweaty rivets down my neck and my ruddy curls grew even tighter with the moisture. All year, I lived for these summer lessons in my grandaddy’s garden, and nothing breathed summer to me like the unique odor of his truck as it bumped its way to the fields with me in the back - all leather and oil and tobacco.

In my child’s mind, Grandaddy knew everything to do about just about anything, but you had to be quiet and listen real hard to learn. He was a silent, peaceful man, a teacher by nature, a farmer by birth, and his greatest lessons came at times like these, when both of us were absorbed in our work. The lessons, then, would come rolling out: when the soil’s ready for planting, the best remedy for beetle bugs, how to keep rabbits out of the garden, when the fruits of our labor are ripe. I listened as hard as I could, soaking up his wisdom just like, I imagined, those tomato plants slurped up the care in his practiced fingers.

More than just about gardening, though, these lessons he taught me were about love. He tended to my growing heart through the time spent with him in the sunshine and the earth in its bounty. Those summers in my grandaddy’s garden meant that I was cherished and worth the time it took to till through the muck of pre-adolescence. At the end of every garden visit he would have me pick a bouquet of zinnias for my grandmama, and, oh, how I adored the smile she gave when we got home. That’s how I felt at the end of each summer: the work was over, the blooms plucked, and I was left a little prettier, a little more sure of myself, and a little bit wiser - with a smile as long as those rows of tomatoes with which to face another school year.