21 March 2011

Iris Mae

This is Iris Mae, born at 5:20 am on March 10th. We feel so blessed to have her here! Her name is important to me: Iris means "Rainbow," and while that in itself is not a terribly profound meaning, God created the rainbow as a promise. Because we felt that God had promised us that despite all of the hubbub around this baby and her well-being, it was all going to be okay, it seemed natural to choose a name that reflected His fulfillment of that promise. I also liked the link with Iris as a part of the eye--and the connection that our baby girl was in God's eye the whole time. Psalm 139:16 says "Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them." Also, I think the name Iris is simply unique and beautiful. Mae just seemed to go well with Iris--but even more significantly, it is my grandmother's middle name. A lovely heritage.

Here's the story of the delivery, if you're interested. I document it here mostly for posterity's sake.

I started having consistent contractions at about 5 in the afternoon on Wednesday. Strangely, though, they weren't intensifying or increasing in frequency, so I just wasn't really sure what was going on. You'd think that, this being the fourth time around for me, I'd know if I was in labor or not, but I just didn't. They say that every childbirth experience is different, and I can definitely attest to the veracity of that statement. So by about 8:30 or 9 pm, we shuffled off to the hospital, where I was hoping they could tell me definitively if I was in labor. Unfortunately, they were on the fence, too. They had us walk around for an hour (a very boring hour) to see if the contractions would pick up. They did seem to come faster and faster while were were walking, but when we stopped, they slowed down. They rechecked me after that hour, and I hadn't really progressed much. Even so, they decided to keep us for a while to see what was going on.

The next stop was the tub. The tub is great, because no only is it warm and relaxing, it seems to answer the "Am I in labor?" question for you; lounging in a warm bath will either kick your labor into gear if you're really in labor, or shut it down if you're not. I guess that I had progressed enough after an hour or so in the tub that they felt confident this was the real deal. By this point, it was midnight. And while I had progressed "enough," I hadn't progressed a lot. This labor was unlike any of the others because with the others, I seemed to whiz right through those centimeters towards the finish line. This time around, I was moving so slowly that they'd say things like, "Now I'd say you're a GOOD three," or "Let's call it five and a half, okay?" With each check, I'd secretly despair. I was exhausted and the contractions were starting to become very serious indeed. They were contractions that should have had me progressing like a champ, only they didn't. I was mad at my contractions for not getting the job done.

Around about 4am, I started to get really miserable. I was totally wiped out. I'd been able to doze a bit between contractions, but I didn't know how much longer it would be ("You're a VERY NICE 6!!"), and I was ready for some relief. I had a completely natural labor with Charis and Judah, and had had an interthecal (read: one-time dose, and short-lived) epidural with Ruby because of my kidney issues. I had decided that I did not need to be a hero this time. I asked Abe if getting an epidural would make me seem like a wimp, and he looked at me like I was a crazy person. I decided I'd go for it. So, at 4 am, I asked if it was time YET for the epidural. They'd apparently been waiting until I was progressing consistently until they started the process, but the sticky wicket was that I never really did that. But I was measuring around 6 at that point, so she started the saline drip that is apparently a precursor to the epidural. By this point, my contractions were such that I was actually seeing colors and spots before my eyes during them. I asked the nurse if I could have any pain meds at all to take the edge off until my epidural arrived, and she gave me Stadol. It made me incredibly drowsy, which was good--it made it easier for me to doze off between contractions--but it also made me a bit loopy. I started imagining dancing bears and elephants riding the exploding waves of colors that I saw in my head with each contraction. Not normal, I tell you.

At around 5 am, I began to moan. That is also unusual for me. I am a silent laborer, and I manage pain by counting during contractions. Counting not only keeps me from focusing on the pain, it also helps me know that time is passing and that the contraction is nearing its end, and it helps me keep my breathing measured, and not panicky. This time around, near the end, I couldn't even count. The contractions were so intense that I wasn't able to put one number next to another. I knew things were happening when I became snippy with our wonderful nurse. "TELL THAT ANESTHESIOLOGIST TO RUN FASTER!!" I said to her. Then I turned my attention to my husband, who had been dozing on the couch. "At least sit up as a sign of SOLIDARITY!!!" I snapped.

And then, I knew. I knew it was almost over. And I knew I wasn't going to have the chance to have my epidural. "She's coming! You'd better get someone in here!" I said to the nurse. She told me to take deep breaths and not push. Which, YEAH, RIGHT. About a minute later, the midwife was in the room, and I told her she'd better hurry up and get ready, because "SHE'S COMING!!"

"Hold on just a minute," she said. UM, OKAY.

"Now?" I begged.


And approximately 20 seconds later, Iris was born. She was wriggly and purple and slimy, but in her own way, gorgeous.

She does not appear to have Down syndrome. In fact, she appears in every way to be "normal." The pediatricians have mentioned that we may see a geneticist and get some testing done to see if she does indeed have any chromosomal abnormalities, but we're just not feeling rushed to do that. We figure that if she's healthy, we'll just keep on keepin' on. And if someday we have questions about her development, those doors will still be open to us.

Last week, I discovered Iris has a plugged tear duct. Judah and Ruby also had this, so nothing new there. More significantly, Iris didn't pass her hearing test in the hospital, so we're being referred to a hearing center. It may turn out to be nothing, but one never knows. Be in prayer for that little matter if you happen to think about it!

Iris is squirming and starting to wake up from her nap, so I'm going to end this post here. But I'll leave you with some photos of our family all united for the first time in the hospital after Iris' birth.
Charis kissing her "so cute" sister.

Daddy telling Judah that they were going to have to stick together to take care of their girls.

Ruby relinquishing her role as baby of the family and looking so grown-up in the process.

Our family is now complete!

10 March 2011

She's HERE!!

But you'll have to wait for a more detailed post later. :) Our beautiful, healthy baby GIRL arrived safely this morning at 5:20. We never did hear how long she is, but she weighed 6 lbs., 13 oz. Not bad for 38 weeks and 1 day! We are, of course, thrilled that she is here. We'll post pictures (and whatever name we select) when we can!

05 March 2011

Just Waiting

Well, I promised I'd keep you updated, so I am. Right now, I am 37 weeks and 4 days, which means it has been 5 weeks since my last post. Time flies when you're enjoying leg cramps and frequent trips to the bathroom! In the in-between time, I've had several midwife appointments. In fact, one week after my last post, my midwife noticed that my belly was measuring SGA--Small for Gestational Age. I'm no newcomer to this situation; in fact, during my pregnancy with Charis, I did monthly ultrasounds for the last four or five months because they were concerned she wasn't growing as she ought to have been. In reality, she was just fine--not an especially large baby, but well within normal ranges for size. In fact, when she was born at 37 weeks, 3 days (nearly a month early), she already weighed 6 lbs., 3 oz. Just fine.

It felt a little funny to be going to yet another ultrasound when I'd already had--what was it, four?--several, each indicating that our baby was growing just fine. But whatever. In these days of 3D ultrasounds, it's always fun to see more pictures of your yet-unborn baby. Not only did they measure for size during the ultrasound, they also did some sort of biometric assessment to see if the baby had adequate muscle tone. Apparently, some babies with these chromosomal abnormalities show low muscle tone. Of course, our baby looks fine and healthy, fit as a fiddle. If they'd asked me, I could have attested to the fact the baby's muscles were fine, as evidenced by the semi-violent kicks and squirms I feel at all hours.

Admittedly, though, these most recent pictures of our little one aren't my favorite--I think things are getting a little bit cramped in there, so the baby's face was a teensy bit smooshed. Ruby was totally enamored of the pictures, though, and carried one in particular around with her for several days. "My baby!" she'd say every time she looked at it.

Speaking of Ruby, she is absolutely in love with this baby right now. She very, very frequently comes over and lifts my shirt so she can "hug the baby." She'll even kiss it, or ask if she can "see" the baby--sometimes I think she wants to make sure the baby hasn't disappeared. Also, lately, she has been so drawn to our friends' small babies--wanting to cover them with kisses and stare at them and generally hover over them, making me (and probably the babies' mothers) a tiny bit nervous. But she has always been so gentle, if overly attentive. She's just fascinated by the thought of a tiny human, which bodes well for us!

I have been in full-blown nesting mode lately. I go to bed at night achy and sore, and usually wake up at some point during the night because it has been painful to switch positions, but it is as if I am possessed with the notion that my house must be in order before this child arrives, and nothing can stop me. Abe keeps encouraging me to sit down, but I don't think he understands that in my mind--however silly it may be--these things MUST get done. And I know that if I sit down and rest, no one will pick up the slack and clean the things I feel it's necessary to clean. Who else will scrub underneath the upper cabinets in the kitchen? Doesn't everyone in the house realize this task must be completed before we can bring another tiny person into our home?

Of course, as any mother with small children knows, keeping the house clean with little kids running around is like--as I've said before--trying to plug a volcano with a cottonball. It is always a losing battle. Always. So I continue to sludge about in a way that my non-nesting self would find ridiculous.

I mentioned before that I am now 37 weeks 4 days, and Charis was born at 37 weeks 3 days. Ever since that first delivery, I've greeted week 37 of my subsequent pregnancies with a certainly-this-must-be-the-week attitude. Judah was born at 38 weeks, and Ruby at 39, so I don't know why I still feel like week 37 is the magic time. But even this time around, when I entered week 37, I viewed every contraction as the beginning of labor.

Alas. No baby yet.

I'm sure I will post on Facebook when we deliver--that takes ever so much less time than constructing a blog post--but rest assured that I will continue to update here. In the meantime, I continue to take every measure at my disposal to hasten labor. Hopefully, between that and my back-breaking, completely out-of-control cleaning, labor will begin sooner than later!

24 January 2011

And Baby Makes Six

Hello. Have we met?

I won't even pretend to make excuses for not updating the blog. It's terrible, really. I even missed blogging about Ruby's 2nd birthday, which I think makes me a horrible mother.

And I missed telling you about Charis' first day of school. And Thanksgiving and Christmas. And lots of stuff in between.

But what I really missed the boat on was telling you that we're expecting! Again!

And the kicker of it all is that I'm nearly 32 weeks along, which is to say, almost done. Yep. Expert communicator, I am.

Of course, some of you already knew this, so it isn't news. But many of you who knew about Baby don't know what the past few months have entailed, so I'm going to give you a brief rundown.

First of all, perhaps fewer of you know that this past Spring, we had a miscarriage.

You know, my pregnancies with Charis and Judah were so uneventful, and then my pregnancy with Ruby wasn't--for those of you just joining us, at 31 weeks along with Roo, I had a stent put in to be of some "help" with the kidney stone I'd developed. Shortly thereafter (and linked with the kidney trauma, I think), I went into pre-term labor. At 32 weeks along, we believed Ruby Belle was about to be delivered via emergency C section. Long story short, we avoided the C section, but I was not able to get out of 7 weeks of total bedrest. Ruby was born about a week before her due date, healthy and happy.

When we discovered shortly before Christmas '09 that we were expecting again, my biggest worry was having to endure another kidney stone, which for me, seem to be linked with pregnancy. "Certainly," my Midwife said at my first prenatal appointment, "you've had enough drama with pregnancy! I'm sure this one will be a breeze!" And then we couldn't find a heartbeat for our baby with the Doppler or on a low-tech ultrasound.

Minutes later, I was speeding down the highway to get a higher-tech ultrasound to determine the status of our baby.

The fetus, at that point 8 weeks old, was fine. The heartbeat was a lovely 142 beats per minute. I wept with relief. The ultrasound did find a cyst they wanted to monitor, so I scheduled a follow-up ultrasound a month down the road to check up on that finding.

Just an hour before that next ultrasound, Judah began throwing up. Abe and I had planned to take Judah and Ruby with us to the ultrasound, but that plan was cancelled when All The Sickness began, so I went on my own.

That meant I was alone when the ultrasound technologist told me that she was very sorry, but my baby didn't have a heartbeat. She went to get the doctor as I tried to piece together what had just happened. I wanted to scream and throw things. I called Abe, sobbing, and he couldn't even understand what I was trying to tell him. I begged the ultrasound tech to look again. Were they sure? Could they have made a mistake? They asked if I'd be able to drive home.

I drove home, screaming and sobbing.

At that point in my life, I was not walking with the Lord as I ought to have been. I spent so little time with Him in prayer or in His Word, that at that moment, even though I know He was with me, I was so far away from Him that I felt alone. I was angry and bitter, and remained so for longer than I wish to admit.

The real kicker was that three of my friends were also pregnant, due within weeks of my due date. Sweet. I'd get to WATCH them get to be pregnant and be constantly reminded of our loss. Then, about a week after the miscarriage, another dear friend of mine, with whom I'd shared all of our pregnancies (all three of our kids are just WEEKS apart in age), told me she was expecting.

I shut down. I avoided her, because it was just too painful. I was horribly jealous that she, of all people, would have a baby when I wouldn't. I realize that sounds infantile and horrible, and it was both of those things. But, like I said, I wasn't spiritually right then. I was too wrapped up in my own sinful self to see anything else.

I won't go into all of the specifics of her story, but just a month or two down the road, that same friend, Megan, and her husband found out in an ultrasound that it was likely that their baby girl had Trisomy 18, a chromosomal abnormality that is incompatible with life. As time progressed, that likelihood turned to certainty. She finished out her pregnancy knowing that she would not get to raise that little girl, might not even get to hold her while she was still alive. Unlike me, though, Megan had a peace about the whole thing. That doesn't mean she wasn't sad, but she felt God's reassurance of his protection and plan, and she knew He'd be with them as they walked the painful road ahead.

In short, her response to the impending loss of her child was everything my response hadn't been: she blessed the Lord, and I wallowed in my own misery. She proclaimed His goodness; I locked myself away.

She carried that little girl, Josie, to full term, and delivered her via C section. She and her husband (and their three little girls) enjoyed 12 days with Josie before Josie went back Home to heaven.

In the meantime, I'd discovered I was pregnant again, and, more importantly, I'd gotten back in touch with God. I was spending time in the Word and in prayer. We scheduled my routine 20-week ultrasound for a Tuesday. That turned out to be the very day of Josie's funeral. I called and rescheduled my ultrasound for the following day.

Now, here's the part of the story that many of you don't know.

That Wednesday, Abe and I took Judah and Ruby with us to the ultrasound. It was uneventful, which was a relief to me.

After the ultrasound, I took the kids home for naps. While I was putting them down, I missed a call from my Midwife, who requested I call her right away. I tried to call back, but got the office voicemail saying everyone was at lunch. Just a few minutes later, Abe came home unexpectedly from work. I knew right then that though she hadn't said so, my Midwife was not calling with good news. I knew God had sent Abe home because He knew I'd need some support when my midwife called back.

He was right.

When she called, I turned the phone to speaker, and Abe and I sat down to listen as she explained that they had some concerns about our baby. They were worried that, because of some things they saw on the ultrasound, our baby might have some sort of "chromosomal abnormality."

Keep in mind that just the day before, my friend had buried her 12 day-old baby who'd had a "chromosomal abnormality."

I was in complete shock.

It was a week before were able to get in to see the Genetic Counselor and Fetal-Maternal Medicine Specialist. They interviewed us about our family medical history. They did a thorough, high-powered ultrasound. We waited.

Then they told us that they were noticing some markers consistent with Down syndrome or Turner's syndrome. Those, coupled with my age, made one of those possibilities seem likely.

Abe and I were completely not worried.

Having lost a child already and having watched friends of ours lose theirs, we were a) relieved that this abnormality didn't appear to be life-threatening, and b) familiar enough with God's grace to know that whatever the problem was, He'd walk us through it. I still had occasional moments where the weight of the situation was heavy, and I'd cry. Or I'd start to Google those syndromes and have to walk away from the computer because I didn't yet have the strength to face those things. But by and large, I felt a total peace.

Still do.

We went in for three follow-up ultrasounds with the Fetal-Maternal specialists, and after the last one, two Mondays ago, they informed us that the baby looked healthy and was growing well. Two of the three markers they'd been monitoring had disappeared. They told me they didn't see any need to follow up with us anymore.

Now, because those markers were ever there, it still means that it's possible our baby has one of those chromosomal abnormalities. But to be completely candid, I have for so many weeks felt God telling me, "It's going to be okay."

I know God well enough to know that "okay" doesn't necessarily mean our baby will be "normal" (as much as any of our other kids are "normal!"), but it does mean that whatever is in store for us and our baby, God has it under control. He will give us what we need to walk that road, day by day. Psalm 139:14-16 says,
"I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully
and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in W)">Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them."

So, you see, God knew the end of this story before there was even a beginning.

We ultimately decided not to get an amniocentesis to confirm the perinatologist's suspicions. We felt that it was an unnecessary risk to acquire "peace of mind"--especially when we already felt like we had peace of mind. We are encouraged by the fact that those markers have vanished, and encouraged even more by the assurance that our little one looks healthy. We'd love it if you'd pray for our little one as we count down the days to the arrival!

I PROMISE that, my spotty blogging track history notwithstanding, I will keep you posted on the well-being of our baby. I look forward to posting pictures and sharing the news of the arrival!

16 July 2010


This is our new puppy, Hazel.

For most of my life, I considered myself a Cat person. Dogs require so much more energy and attention, they chew things to bits, and you can't leave them alone for a few days with a big bowl of food and a supply of water, while cats are mostly self-sufficient. Dogs need extensive and consistent training to be able to function well with humans, cats only need to know how to use the litter box and hide under the bed when strange characters come around. For a person like me who is by nature a wee bit on the undisciplined (lazy) side, cats are a much better fit.

But then we got Muirne. And while I know that not every dog we have will be as great as she was--maybe none will--she gave me hope that there were dogs out there worth putting forth all of the effort for. I also came to realize that dogs are great for kids, and kids are great for dogs. And that I feel safer at night with a dog in the house if Abe is gone. And that a dog is a great companion to take on a walk with you. And they're ever so much more fun to play with than cats: Muirne would spend hours fetching sticks in water, Radley will claw your face off if you try to give her a bath.

So when we lost Muirne, I knew we'd get another dog. In James Herriot's books (All Things Bright and Beautiful, All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Wise and Wonderful, etc.), he always counsels his veterinary clients who have lost a dog that they should get another soon, and I figured this was wise advice. I started scouring Craigslist and the classifieds for a suitable dog for us. Most of what I found were purebreds, and we are really mutt kind of people. So when I saw this listing for a littler of "Lab mix" puppies, I knew I wanted to call. Turned out the mother was a Lab/border Collie mix, and the father was unknown. Still, both of those breeds are highly intelligent and good family dogs, and the price was fair, so after twisting Abe's arm (just a little bit), we drove up and picked ourselves out a good one.

She was without a name for a while. We have almost impossible (and oddly indefinable) standards for names, and we knew that any "typical" kind of dog name was out. I made several lists with names from movies we enjoy, literature, and various mythologies, almost all of which got tossed out. Even when it came down to the final list of 6 (Ailis, Harper, Teagan, Tierney, Zora, and Hazel), Hazel didn't stand out to me at first. But then I had the kids vote for their favorite, and had Abe vote, and Hazel was the clear winner; it's different, it's cool, it's old-timey, we know no dogs with that name. I do think the kids believe her name is really Basil, which would be fine, too.

We've only had her for three days, so it's impossible to tell where she will fall on the list of Great Dogs We Have Known. But so far, so good!

She's Hazel, and we love her!

Note that she's wearing a red collar and using Muirne's red leash. It's our way of nodding to our dear girl. I still think about you all the time, friend.

10 July 2010


I don't even know how to write this post, but I feel like I need to. I created this blog as a way to stay in touch with far-flung loved ones and to chronicle the events in my kids' lives. This dog is worth chronicling.

We first met Muirne in Knoxville, TN. Some friends of ours had a dog with a new litter of pups, and they asked if we'd like one. Abe and I had been married a little less than a year, and were still living in a tiny little apartment. We already had Radley the cat, and even she was a violation of our landlord's no-pets policy. It was folly to think we'd be allowed to have a puppy as well, but look at her--even with the blink, she was just the most precious ball of fluff ever. We told our friends we'd take her as soon as she was ready to be weaned.

When she was ready, they brought her up to us, along with her pudgy little brother. They didn't want her to be lonely on the car ride, so her brother, the only other chocolate dog in a litter of mostly-black golden lab/rottweiler/german shepherd pups, was simply intended to be good company. But Abe's sister came with us to pick up the puppy, and she was enamored of the little boy pup, so long story short, she kept him. I chose the name Muirne for our dog because it means "Beloved" in Gaelic, and we chose Fisk for the little boy dog because he was a lot pudgier. Pudge. Carlton Fisk. Fisk. It was about a month before Abe's sister could take Fisk, so in the interim, we kept both puppies as the cutest contraband ever in our tiny apartment. Every time the dogs needed to go out, we'd scan the street first to see if the landlord was hovering around, then dash out as quickly as possible.

The day we got Muirne, we looked at a house that seemed perfect for us. The next day, we made an offer, and it was accepted. We moved in about four weeks later. About two weeks after that, we learned we were expecting our first child, which would turn out to be Charis. Just like that, in the span of a month, we had gone from newlywed apartment-dwellers to dog-owning, mortgage-paying expectant parents. We were a family.

Of course, Muirne went through the chewy puppy stage. We have one chewed-up leg of an otherwise beautiful coat tree as evidence. Other than that, though, she was smart as a whip, full of energy, and easy to train. We taught her using verbal and non-verbal commands, so even if she was at a distance, she could sit and stay. We taught her the boundaries of our yard, and she nearly always stuck to them, wandering only in the woods out back. When I was about 6 months pregnant with Charis, she did wander over a street to have a playdate with another dog. It freaked me out, but we got her back shortly thereafter, and forever after that, she came with a call or a whistle, no matter where she was.

She was the fetchingest dog you ever met, and I mean that quite literally. If you threw a frisbee or a ball or a stick even once, she was bound and determined to fetch until you were worn out. She treated it as her job. She especially loved fetching sticks and things in water. We never had to teach her to love water.
For a long time, until we had multiple kids, we'd take her everywhere we could with us--snowshoeing, to various fairs and parades, on hikes, to ponds and lakes, everywhere. She was always so well-behaved, and so beautiful to look at. On more than one occasion, random strangers offered to purchase her. I'm telling you, there never was a better dog.

She was the absolute best dog with kids. We trained her from an early age to adapt to little people who might tug at her, jump on her, or periodically try to take food out of her mouth. She was docile, she was loving, she was infinitely patient with everybody.

She loved nothing better than hearing the jingle of the leash and knowing she was going exploring. I took a lot of walks with her recently. It all started one evening when I was frustrated and needed to go blow off some steam. I decided to go for a walk, but opted to take my faithful dog with me, knowing she'd protect me if need be. She peed about 20 times during the walk and sniffed at every mailbox, but it worked for us. For weeks, I'd take her on two or three long walks a week. I don't have any pictures of that, and as I scanned through hundreds and thousands of pictures looking for snapshots of Muirne for this post, I was saddened to notice that over the past couple of years, I have taken very, very few pictures of Muirne. I suppose it's because she just always looked the same. It's probably also because I used too much time taking photos of my children, and maybe it's partly because we didn't take her quite as many places as we used to. Sure, she always went with us to play with Fisk at Tim and Beth's house, and to play with Quigley at Abe's folks' house, but there were regrettably fewer outings of interest to her. I regret not taking more pictures of her.

Oh, but there are more regrets.

Three weeks ago, we left for a week to visit my brother and his family. Muirne stayed with Fisk for the week. We were home for a week, then, this past Friday, we left again to vacation with Abe's family. Some friends of ours watched Muirne for us. We got a call from them on Sunday evening saying that they'd gone out for pizza and when they left, Muirne was on our back porch, but was nowhere to be found when they returned. They drove the neighborhood calling for her, asked neighbors if they'd seen her, but to no avail. But Muirne has never given us a reason to be concerned, so we figured someone had picked her up or she was through the woods at the pond. We figured she would show up.

I regret so much not specifically telling our friends to lock her in the house when they left. We always put her inside when we're gone, and I figured they knew that, so I didn't think it even needed to be said.

We got a voicemail from Animal Control on Monday morning saying they had a message about our dog. In my frame of mind, I distinctly heard the woman say that they had Muirne, and she was in their shelter. When Abe listened to the message, he heard no such thing. Frantic, I called back to animal control and left a message begging them to call me back with any news. When they returned the call, the message was not good. Muirne was gone. I sobbed and sobbed and screamed angry words and ran and ran just because I didn't know what else to do--and am still sobbing, days later. She was only 7 years old.

I regret not doing to math to realize that it was the 4th of July. Muirne has always been skittish about firecrackers, so around the 4th, we always end up keeping her inside. This year, we were gone on the 4th, and she was wandering outside by herself. The only thing we can figure is that she was wandering when she got scared and disoriented by the noises and ran. A policeman picked her up the next morning and gave her body to Animal Control. Oh, how I wish we would have very explicitly told our friends to leave her inside.

I haven't taken photos of Muirne recently, in the past couple of years. So that's why it is odd that, almost exactly a week before we learned we had lost her, I snapped this picture. You have no idea what a treasure it is to me now.

Abe came home late in the evening on Tuesday and picked up our sweet dog on Wednesday. She is buried deeply in our woods, her favorite place to wander, and her grave is marked by three logs. I wish I had been there to help bury her, I wish I had been able to stroke her fur once more and say goodbye. I suppose this post is my way of saying farewell to my good friend. I am hoping to get a puppy soon--not to replace Muirne, because there will never, ever be a replacement for a dog like her, but because we need another buddy to train and grow up with our kids, to take to the fair and to the pond. We need a friend to guard our house and family, to play fetch with, and to snuggle up with on cold evenings. And whatever color or size our next dog is, she will always wear a red collar, as Muirne did.

Muirne, you were the best dog, and I miss you almost more than I can bear. You were our first baby, our finest and most loyal friend, an endless source of entertainment and pride, and there will never be another you.

Goodbye, dear girl. I love you.

30 June 2010

Charis Turns 6

Dear Charis,

It's official. You're six. I vividly remember purchasing a new pair of footie pajamas when you were 18 months old, holding them up to get a good idea of how large they were, and thinking, Well, she will never be that big. Boy, was I wrong, and it didn't take long. You are now wearing size 6 clothing, a size 11 shoe, and you weigh 40 pounds. That's a far cry from the 18-month-old you.

It has been a big year for you--this year, you started school, and, for the first time ever in your life, went away from me every day. I didn't even put you in Preschool because a) I figured it would be pretty easy to teach you letters, shapes, numbers, and patterns, and b) I just wasn't ready to let the world have you yet. I am 34 years old, and have been married to your dad for almost 8 years, and all of that flew like the blink of an eye, and I knew that just like that, your childhood would also be gone, and I'd regret it if I didn't savor every moment. If I stop and think about it too much (which I try not to do very often), it makes me sad that I no longer know that 18 month-old Charis, with the footie pajamas and sweet blond curls, that I will never again get to hold the 6 month-old you, who loved to be cuddled at all times and who I could wear in a front pack while I did my grocery shopping. I will never again delight in hearing you say for the first time, "Mama," and I will never again watch you sing in front of church for the first time. Looking back at pictures, I try hard to remember what it sounded like when you cried and babbled incoherently, try to remember how you walked and ran, and what you liked to eat best. You won't remember that stuff, either, so I feel like I am the sole repository of those precious early memories, and if they're lost to me, then they are irretrievably gone. That makes me sad, because I cherished the tiny you.

The saving grace is that I have the Now you, the six year-old you who is independent, who loves to sing and draw (it's your talent, you informed me recently), who is (generally) very kind to Judah and Ruby, who has a sweet, tender, vulnerable side, and who can (Oh, how I have waited for this day!!!) READ. One of my new favorite things in life is to have you read me a story before bed. It is an absolute wonder to me that your brain can sort out the jumble of letters that is the English language, decode it into things that you can say out loud and even comprehend. You are so SMART. Even though you were one of the very youngest kids in your Kindergarten class, you were academically right on track--you end-of-year tests put you in the mid-to upper 90th percentile. In fact, you did even better in math than in reading, which I cannot understand. you did not get those math genes from me! You yourself are a wonder. You've always been a happy, well-adjusted child, and now you can tell us all about it, and even write it down. And it's slightly miraculous to me that, even though I can no longer hold the tiny version of you, the kind whose whole body fit in my arms, you love to cuddle with me still. Sure, your gangly arms and legs spill out of my lap, and you're about half as tall as I am, but hugging you is still one of the best things I know to do.

You are an absolute character, a total live wire in Sunday School. In Kindergarten, it was a bit different. You were decidedly shier. I thought you would have a best friend on day one, but it was actually a rough year for you in the friend department. Sometimes I suspect it is because your personality is so big and because you like to lead, not follow. Whatever the case, it broke my heart when you came home from school some days and announced that you had no friends. I'll be your friend, I said. It helped to know that Mrs. Newton loved you dearly, and that she took every opportunity to tell us that you were her very favorite. I knew that even if you didn't have a good friend your own height, you were still going to school with someone who thought you were special enough to love on. And someday, maybe this coming year in Mrs. Bell's class, you'll run home to tell me about your new BFF, and the next day you'll have another BFF, and the sadness you felt in Kindergarten will evaporate. Until then, I'd be happy to read you books and take you to the store with me and have you help me in the garden. Anything so that you know just how much you are loved and enjoyed. And you know, there's always Judah. You guys are pretty much the best of friends anyway. Who needs anything but a good brother?

The 9 month-old Charis smiled and laughed more or less constantly. The 2 year-old Charis could spend hours looking at books. The 3 year-old Charis loved to help me in the kitchen. The 6 year-old Charis is all of those things and more, a smart, funny, delightful girl that I am always proud of. I may no longer get to enjoy the babyish you, and you outgrew those 18 month footie pajamas long ago, but the big you is such a wonder, such a mystery, such a treasure, I wouldn't trade you for the whole world.