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Oh, Finley, you are 3 years old today. It sounds so trite, but I just don’t even know how that’s possible. You, more than either of your sisters, have grown up in the blended community of real life and online. This keyboard is so much a part of how I explored the months with you inside of my belly and the days and months that followed. The day you were born I knew that there were so many people already loving you.

Photo Credit: Grandma, 4/29/11

Somehow it seems absolutely appropriate that people who’ve never met you adore you. You have a way about you that is so easy, able to create bonds that seem to have been in place for a lifetime, after just moments. I remember having the same worry with you that I did with Avery, how could I possibly have the capacity to love you like I did your sisters. I can laugh about it now, you with your knack for shimmying into my every thought and emotion. There was always room for you.

The thing is, you’ve done so much more than find a place for yourself in our family. You have shifted everything we do. You made Avery into a big sister and in doing so, revealed a confidence and kindness that has allowed Ave to taste victory. You push Briar, oh how you push her. Watching you literally take her on toe-to-toe, the veins in your neck popping as you demand what is yours and, honestly, what is not at all yours. Dad and I could not do that for Briar, your competitive streak has ignited a fire in Briar that is going to keep her from so much hurt. It’s hard for me to explain what you did for dad and me. There’s something you say, “Dere, perfke-tect,” which covers it pretty well. You made our family perfke-tect.

Dad and I are trying to avoid the pitfalls of birth order ruts, but you are my baby. I can’t apologize for it or change it. I worship you. This last week we’ve spent, foreheads touching and fingers interlaced, has been perfection despite the incessant vomiting and diarrhea we’ve both suffered. The touch of your nose against mine, the gentle murmurs of “I just hope you get bedder,” sustain me. I am trying to do the same for you. We read the Elmo book over and over again, we watch Caillou, I do the special cuddle each night on whichever side of the bed you tell me is mine. I play Never Say Never on repeat.

Last night I crept into your bed and told you that it was the last night that you’d be two. You beamed at me, clutching my face in your soft, little hands and declaring that in the morning you’d be “free” years old. And it’s true, today you woke with the dawn and you were a vibrant 3 year old, easily taller and more slender than the night before. Your sentences seemed more maturely crafted, even the timbre of your voice seemed changed. I am so proud of how much you’ve done in these three wonderful years. I know that the summer ahead is going to be filled with so much wonder because you are a part of it.

I just have one little secret, sweet Fin. Today you are three, but in a little space in my heart, you will always be two and holding my face in the glow of your nightlight.

Happy Birthday, my Fin-didlle.

Cookies = Tossed

The great sick of 2011* continues with colorful ferocity. I discovered today that, while I can, under normal circumstances, manage the roundabout of Glens Falls, it is considerably less navigable whilst tending to the spontaneous vomiting of a not-yet-three-year-old strapped into a seat very close to her not-yet-five-year-old sister.

I wish there were something else to say.

Oh.

Wait.

That’s right.

Ave has a fever.

My stomach is cramping.

That about covers it.

*Thank you for the flowers, the food, the calls, emails, visits and more. Briar was back at school today 🙂 Here’s hoping the other two quickly follow suit.

Mercy

Twenty minutes ago I reached for the white flag.

I am too tired to cry.

Too tired to be angry.

Too tired to do anything but stare out the window until the next plea for help.

My hands are raw, cracked and bleeding from the incessant hand washing. I am, probably hopelessly, trying to prevent the spread of the bug that has battered Briar to but a wisp of her self. I’ve laundered everything, scrubbed, and then scrubbed again, every surface. Neither my cleaning nor my attempts to soothe are making a bit of difference for Briar. Her underwear balloon around her shrunken pelvis, her lips are split and scabbed and her body is so weak she literally cannot brush the hair from her own eyes. The ER visit and subsequent IV gave me hope that she would rally.

As I sit here about 36 hours later, she is still dry heaving off and on, what little she is able to ingest is expelled involuntarily into her pants which bruises the wee spirit beneath her tiny form.

Finley is sick again. The same blasted head and chest thing that she has had 3 times this winter. Her eyes are rummy, her nose is runny and her skin is blotchy. She cannot sleep as the coughing fits threaten to gag her. She clings to me, railing against any comfort other than my arms and my attention.

Avery is forlorn, desperate for attention, unsure how to get it and grimly worried that her sisters are going to die.

I am questioning my fitness as a parent, reflecting on this stretch from September to April in which we have had a mighty sickness of one sort or another throttling our family.

They’re watching a movie now, yet I find myself tensing, exhausting every part of me in anticipation of what will come next. I realize that in the grand scheme of things we are very blessed, but as I get clumsier from exhaustion and the edges start to fray more on our little family, I just wish we could be healthy again.

I am weary, so very, very weary. I am mired in the desperate need for help and the sense that I have to do it all myself. I know rationally that I need to care for myself, but when the night is pierced by Briar’s screams for help, when Fin’s hacking morphs into a garbled gag, I cannot be still. I have to be the one holding Briar and stroking her brow, my arms must be the ones to prop Fin up as she hacks, I scoop Avery up and cuddle her. I know that I am wearing myself out, but I cannot stop. But I need to.

DIY Timber

Last summer we kind of took a pass on yard work, between moving and my accident, it just wasn’t a priority. Recently we realized that between the long, hard winter and the pecking birds (Finley’s word for woodpeckers), the yard needed attention. Sean made it clear that he wanted to cut certain trees down and when I say that he wanted to cut them down, I mean that literally.

Saturday we put the girls down for a nap and gathered the necessary tools to cut down the trees. Jokes danced on the tip of my tongue, but with the exception of one little aside—

I stayed on task and what a task it was.

It is better told in pictures.

Here is the terminally-injured-by-pecking-birds Birch tree, with Sean at its base, saw-in-hand, and me on the other end of the rope. Dubious.

Here is the look he shot me as he prepared to kick down the tree. Still kind of dubious.

The look I sent back when he hollered, “Are you ready to run up the hill?”

These photos were immediately followed by grunting, pulling, cursing and

what I seriously feared was a torn right butt cheek (mine). Then this happened.

Let me just tell you, should you have any doubt, when a tree falls that you cut down yourself,

it makes a noise so frightening you yelp. And maybe pee just a tiny bit.

Seeing the state of the wood made me grateful we didn’t let a strong wind take the tree down when our girls might’ve been playing.

Curious fact #32 about me: I love stacking wood.

I mean I really, really love stacking wood.

Next up, making benches and stools out of the healthy bits of Birch we salvaged.

Anytime

Yesterday I changed my approach. Fridays are always a work-from-home day, which, loosely translated means failing-as-an-activities-director and also ill-equipped-to-accomplish-much-beyond-frantic-email-replies. I’d worked all week to cross things off my list, not so much from anticipation of a different Friday as it was a fatigue from feeling inadequate. I’d come to expect the ping of new emails and the “Amanda, line 2” announcements to be bad things; dissatisfied clients, cold-caller requesting things I cannot give. I was dodging things that never materialized, which is exhausting because when they don’t arrive you don’t stop worrying, in fact you worry more.

When I’m not fretting over work I am fielding requests from the girls:

Can we go swimming?

Can we go bowling?

I have a play date.

Can I take dance classes?

When can we do yoga at the Y again?

Thursday I found out that a stomach bug was dashing through Avery’s school, so I let her know she’d be staying home. I worked with Briar on her Earth Day project- makes something from recycled items (we made a sail boat using a Lucky shoe box, a Hillshire Farm lunch meat container, hard plastic wrap from a Disney Fairies hair package, an outlet cover, keyring loops and string. No photo, but folks, it rocked!). The fridge was a wasteland of uneaten left-overs, wilted greens and nearly empty containers. The cabinets were littered with stale snacks and unopened boxes of things I’d tried to incorporate into lunches and snacks to spectacular failure. I won’t even mention the laundry other than to say: holy skunked load and blasted reproducing matchless socks.

Thursday night the only things left to do required a response from someone else, so I put them on a soft hold and prepared to spend Friday in a recovery of sorts. Briar scooted off to school with her S.S. Spartan in hand, while the little girls and I headed to the store. My gas tank was past E, I had butterflies thinking how the day might take nosedive into total failure if we ran out of gas. I drove with crinkly eyes and hopeful heart. Two and half hour later, the groceries were put away in organized cabinets and a scoured fridge, the girls were napping and the panicky weight that had been pressing on my chest was gone, though I was peeking around corners imagining its return.

Two emails came through that allowed me to officially finish my work. It was just as I finished that the girls came down. Here’s where my euphoria braids itself into simple accomplishments. They wanted lunch, so many things would have been easier, but they wanted grilled cheese. I made the sandwiches and watched as they disappeared from the plates faster than I made them. We went outside and played with the chalk we’d bought at the store. I prompted them for things to draw; never once did they suggest something I couldn’t draw. We hula-hooped, raked, romped and laughed. We basked in the sun and in the worry-free time.

I did all this because I needed it and they needed it.

What I realized was that it shouldn’t wait until then.

Bad things can happen at anytime, but so can good things. And really, the powerlessness we feel is so foolish, because at the end of the day, we’re steering the happiness.

I say we take the wheel more often.