Monday, December 09, 2013

The Start and the Continuation

As we prepare to say our final farewell to a father deeply loved, I am reminded of how desperately I hate goodbyes. I am convinced that goodbyes were never meant to be a part of the creation as it was intended, so we should expect the inevitable pain and sorrow that accompanies the unwelcome parting each time it is inflicted upon us. Perhaps in my resentment of this goodbye, I have spent the past several days reflecting upon the past 13 years of sharing in the life of this father-to-so-many; I have been celebrating (as I know he would) the reality that life is beautiful, even in this fallen world, in our less-than-completed form.

My journey with Papa Ross began over 13 years ago as I prepared to marry Kris and become a part of this heritage-rich family. Not unlike the experience of countless others, my first impression of Papa Ross was rather daunting. I was on a college break and visited their family over Thanksgiving. I knew this was a "vetting" interview to see how qualified I was to marry the eldest son, but I nevertheless managed to be fairly unprepared. Papa Ross began to engage me in intense discussion, whilst the rest of the family progressively disappeared into the other rooms of the house. Once everyone else was gone, he said, "So, Eryn, tell me about your theology". Every girl's worst nightmare... I know what I believe, sure, but I was terrified of articulating it to a man who I perceived to be incredibly adept at needling out the details of a person's theological background and how it was applied in their life. So, as I grasped for some starting point by which to lay out my theological history, I said, "Can you tell me about your theological background, first?" Saved! Four and a half hours later, with barely 20 words spoken on my part, he had come to the satisfactory conclusion that I had a reasonable grasp of what was important and that I would quickly learn the rest as I was submerged into the culture that is the McGary family - a culture rooted in truth, shaped by love and shared with everyone.

We, as a family, have shared in many joys and sorrows, since that day, and my life has been forever changed and molded in that process. I noticed very quickly that Papa Ross articulated the foundation this family was built upon and that Mama Lynn lived out those ideas in very practical, tangible ways each day. They deeply complemented one another in that way, and their appreciation for each other never ran dry. They were hopelessly in love and the nearly 5 years of separation that was forced upon them in death were most clearly the greatest trial of Papa Ross' life. In losing her, he struggled to live, and I think something I found remarkable is how (through his sorrow) he reached out to nearly every person he encountered, engaging them in meaningful conversation, probing into their lives and investing himself into their well being. The hospital room and memorial service filled with people is testimony to that fact. The ideas and the remarkable understanding of this man will continue on in the countless lives of those he invested in, and in his children and grandchildren.

So many sweet memories have been a part of my thoughts - but now is not the time to recount that list. Suffice it to say that my greatest joy in these days of reflection, is knowing that Papa Ross is finally dancing again with the love of his life. Such sweetness does much to ease sorrow.

Papa Ross, Hun-Hun and Madigan

Kris, Uncle David (Mama Lynn's brother), Papa Ross

Papa Ross and Paugie

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Unrestrained barfing and smiles

It's safe to say I'm looking forward to this coming week, if only because it absolutely cannot be as bad as last week. When the unwelcome bug made it's way into our household, attacking the three smallest members of our pack, I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. I realize (again) why God does not allow us to see ahead in our lives to the days to come - it would both spoil the outrageous joys/surprises/beauty/breathtaking moments of love and laughter that we encounter, and it would make us seek any possible escape from those challenges that we despise. I'm still a firm believer that challenges are twofold - a result of this fallen humanity and (hence) the fallen world we reside in, but also that they are an opportunity for us to learn what we are made of. So, as I gaze over the 8 loads of previously-barfed-upon laundry that is piled into a heap on my kitchen table, and listen to the relatively unstrained breathing of my sweet boys (finally), and watch as the milk is being consumed once again at it's usual rate, I am thankful. I'm thankful that the week is over, and that a new one has begun. And I'm still utterly mesmerized by the little men in my life (and the big one too, if truth be told).

Madigan's observations on life around him are entertaining. His perspective is unique, to be sure, and because he states all things with such authority, it can be immeasurably amusing - or terrifying.
As Madigan helped me fill a water bucket for one of the horses at the barn, a couple drops splashed in his general direction. As I prepared to carry the bucket into the stall, his usually helpful person was strangely absent. When I requested his "assistance" he stated emphatically: "No Mommy, it's too dangerous. The water splashed." Compelling argument.
He often picks up my phone when it's ringing, but since he doesn't (yet) know how to answer it, he just hands it to me and says, "Here Mommy she (he always assumes it's Ankie Tae) is calling." One day, I set the navigation system on my phone and put it in the console of the truck while I ran upstairs to grab something for our upcoming road trip. As I headed back down the stairs, he met me with the phone in his hand. He handed it to me and said, "I talked to her for a while." I probed further as he headed back to the truck; I figured his dialogue with my GPS system must have been challenging. He turned around, hands clasped behind his back, and thoughtfully said, "She wasn't very talkative".
As Gumpai and I returned to the truck after feeding Devany, Madigan announced, "I cleaned it all up for you Mommy!". With trepidation I asked him what he had cleaned for me and he said, "My pee!". He had decided it was too dark to get out of the truck to take care of business in the grass, so aimed for the cup holders instead. After much growling and a reminder (on how things "ought to be"), I'm mildly confident that he will remember the proper place for such actions in the future - i.e. NOT THE TRUCK.

Paugie's language is developing rapidly! Not only is he speaking in articulate sentences, but we can even understand him most of the time, much to his delight! The greatest challenge I face when interacting with him is when he refers to something by the nickname he's given it. Example A: Measuring Tape = "stick". Example B: Crazy White Dog = "Reena". Example C: Wash hands = "Mo. Han(d)." Example D: ANY body of water, including lakes, ponds, streams, bottled water = "Mo", which is also the word designated for Milk.
Recently he came running in to get me, and with his hands stretched up, he said "Mommy, refresh!". I asked him if he wanted a baby wipe for his hands and he nodded enthusiastically. Refresh? Where did he get that?
Today I found Declan stroking Sabina's head... when he looked up and saw me, he said, "Loving on Reena." This guy has such a big, beautiful heart.

My Jevy has been going through some rather significant separation anxiety of late. He's still the happiest guy I know as long as we're touching, but if I appear to be making a move in any direction but his, that wondrous world comes collapsing down around him. He falls into a fit of despondency, prostrate onto the floor with his head in his hands. Last night I sat on the floor and he and Paugie intermittently crawled over to me for hugs and kisses then back to their trains, then back for more snuggle time. Those are the best minutes of my life! During one particularly difficult night of his sickness, he slept upright in my arms with his head buried into my chest. He kept reaching up and patting me, even while sleeping. It's hard to stay annoyed by the exhaustion in those little moments.

Even when he's sick, he's still lighting up the world around him. Paugie Boy:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Unexpected Conviction

As we made our way down to Costco, Madigan started doing the "potty dance" in the backseat - usually gives me a minute-by-maybe-two-minute window until unwanted activities result. As we careened into the parking lot, I frantically scouted out the most secluded parking spot on the lot, whisked the boy out of his seat and helped him take a leak in the parking lot. My shoe was the only casualty in the event, but that's certainly not a first. So, with wet shoe on one foot, one crabby baby, one fitful 2 year old and one hungry 3 year old loaded into the shopping cart we headed into Costco.

I handed Madigan a yogurt sample and after putting the first bite into his mouth, he choked (to say he was grossed out by the flavor would be putting it mildly) and proceeded to vomit down his shirt, onto the floor, across my pants and over my clean shoe. As I attempted to remove Madigan's button-down shirt, Lochlan started screaming in protest to being in the basket, relatively ignored. In an act of sheer desperation, I handed him my keys with the sincere hope that it would entertain him long enough for me to finish the (disgusting) task at hand. Lochlan wistfully tossed my keys under a nearby display - perfect. Thank you, cherub. After successfully removing the puke-covered shirt and retrieving my keys from the obliging display, I headed to the clothing section to see if I could find a sweater to fit the half-naked boy sitting in the cart.

As I hunted for ANYTHING that might fit, an elderly woman stopped to smother the boys with adoration and upon discovering that Madigan was shirtless, proceeded to inform me, "Honey, it's too cold for him to be without a shirt!". I explained why I was currently scouring very large sweaters to find something suitable and she finished her admonishment by exclaiming, "Honey, your child should be at home if he's sick!". Dully noted. And, Granny, if my child was sick, I would be at home, I can assure you.

Sweater procured and fitted onto the boy, we headed toward the checkout, at which point Declan decided to hang his head out of the cart and whack it against an obtrusive pole in the middle of the isle. As he wailed in disbelief that I had allowed such an incident to occur, another helpful lady walked by and said, "It only gets worse." As I tried to formulate a response, she followed up with, "I'm so glad mine are all gone." My attitude had admittedly been spiraling at a progressive rate, but when she made that comment, I stopped the cart, looked at my three incredible little men and thought to myself, "I'm so glad you're in my life. I'm covered in throw up and and pee, but I wouldn't trade this day with you, for anything." My previous frustration (and escalating blood pressure?) was replaced with contentment and thankfulness for these days I'm given.

I wish I could say the challenges ended there, but alas... this is life after all! I decided to get a piece of pizza for us to share on the way home and as the employee handed the pizza to me, Lochlan snatched it off the plate and promptly lost it to the floor. The employee didn't hesitate to offer me another piece, much to my gratitude. After buckling the hungry chaps into their car seats, I glanced over the receipt and realized that they had failed to scan the tag for Madigan's newly obtained sweater. I re-loaded the protesting crew into the cart, and went to the returns area to explain what had happened. The lady looked at my disgusting pants and my starving children and said with a wave of her hand, "It's on the house. Go home." You are my new hero, Costco employee!

On the bright side, Costco shopping outings can only get better from here! Right???

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Brothers Mac

While standing in the kitchen, I overheard some curious chatter in the front room. When I peaked my head around the corner, I saw little "Jevy" standing against the chaise lounge chair, leaning into his big brother, with giggles bubbling out of him. Madigan was patting his back and saying, "I love you, I love you, I love you, Lochlan James." Later, I overheard the big(gest) brother trying to comfort a distraught Pauge, by reminding him: "I love you, Paugie. Don't cry." And, then, as if I wasn't already practically diabetic from all this sweetness, he held up two fingers (his attempt at "I love you" in sign language) to me from across the room. I'm toast... utterly smitten.

Watching these boys interact with one another and grow in their understanding of each other and the world around them is truly remarkable - I'm constantly learning! Of course, they have their ever-so-human moments periodically throughout the day, and benefit from the reminder that life does not revolve around any one them, whether or not a favorite toy is at stake. However, what keeps me constantly marveling is their sincere love for each other and trust in one another. They want to spend as much time as they can, together - there are so many more adventures to be had in the company of one's brother!

And, in adding to this pack of wonderful, small (not for long) people, here is a photo of our beloved Baby Mac #4, for any of you who might have missed our previous announcement. This photo was taken at 12 weeks, and our next scheduled "sighting" will be next week, when we are hoping to discover if Mommy is outnumbered 5 - 1 or 2 - 1. :-) Stay tuned for more headlines on this special feature we're adding to our family!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Loneliness, thou dost stalk me...

We started Potty Training 201 today. We figure we completed the 101 class with kid 1, and are now at the beginning of class 2 with kid 2. Paugie is being the model student and has so far been willing to try very hard to listen to his body and use the potty accordingly. He, unlike his eldest brother, would rather not have the attention, so we're finding that minimal praise is preferred... he wants to succeed with as little adulation as possible. Such a sweet boy this is.

Learning to stand comes with it's drawbacks, our Jevy has discovered. Most often when we hear some desperate wailing coming from our youngest, we will find him standing up, clinging pathetically to something, unable or terrified to let himself sit down and move along on his own. This morning I found him white knuckled, gripping two of the support rungs on his crib, as if the crib was holding him captive. When I walked in and laid him down he sighed with relief, put his thumb in his mouth and closed his eyes to sleep. Wrestling with a crib is exhausting! We are slowly training him how to sit down without "crashing" down and reiterating his terror.

Madigan has started Awanas, a Bible club that meets once a week. He loves it! After the first evening, however, he informed me: "there weren't any awanas." I informed him that the club is called Awanas. After re-stating our points to one another a few more times, he emphatically said, "No, mommy, there isn't one." Finally, I realized his confusion... earlier that day, we had been to the zoo and seen Iguanas. And you know what... he was right. There weren't any iguanas at Awanas.

In these past several months, I have felt the loneliness that I think often must accompany this stage of life. The sometimes necessary isolation of having small ones (even if they are energetic and robust they still need naps, a lot of one-on-one time, almost-constant clean up and supervision, etc.). My life schedule is intrinsically less flexible and my ability to "go out and do other things" less probable. I definitely savor the weekends, when Daddy often gives me some much-needed time with my horse, or coffee-date with a friend. My boys' devotion to snuggling is a constant ray of sunshine on those less-than-sunny days in my heart. Caring for them and teaching them each day is the delight of my life, but every season, no matter how spectacular, is sure to have it's challenges.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Snippets of today

My 5:30 wake up call this morning was not a welcome one. I rolled out of bed with a grumble, but as I stood outside the door listening to the chitter chatter of the two youngest brothers, I giggled out loud. Lochlan was doing his Tiger growl imitation, which he started mimicking last night. We've been trying to encourage the Tiger in this household to growl (as a good tiger should) to express himself instead of the high pitched screech he (and Lochlan) seem to defer to. The growl is much kinder on the ears. The mini-growl from "Jevy" is positively loveable.

I signed "I love you" to Paugie this morning from across the room. He smiled, jumped off the couch and threw himself into my arms for a hug. Why, oh why, dear boy do you have to be so universally charming? Of course, those weren't my thoughts yesterday afternoon when I wrestled him into his car seat following a particularly trying run through Trader Joes. Life with Paugie is like one big wave... as long as you know how to surf well, you'll love it! To say nothing of my surfing skills, I do love participating in the process of this boy growing into manhood.

"Mommy you need to take me to the hospital in your truck." Going-to-sleep stalling technique number 4 from tonight. When I asked the Tiger why he needed to go to the hospital he assured me it would make his perfectly robust body feel better. Yeah, because hospitals do that.

On the discipline front, there has been some frustration with the "slipping standards" of regulation. Yesterday, Paugie got in Madigan's way when he rolled his car across the train track being so delicately crafted by the Tiger. Madigan walked over to grab the spray bottle ("Memory water", we call it - helps remind household members to be obedient when they are teetering on the edge of naughty choices) and headed in Paugie's direction. After removing the water bottle from his paws, I reminded him: "Only Mommy and Daddy will remind Paugie when he needs to make better choices. When I think Paugie needs a reminder, I will make the decision to do so." Madigan looked at me with his hands clasped behind his back, and waited a few seconds before saying, "Well, Mommy, are you going to make the decision?" The impatience in his voice made it clear that I was not meeting his expectations, by a long shot.

Well dear friends, we are headed out to take Lochlan to the car factory (chiropractor).

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Woes and wonders

This week has been both painful and unsatisfying in many ways, and yet I cannot count it as a complete fail, thanks to the little (and big) fellows in this household who have shined through my puddleglum as only they can. Tuesday was cloudy inside the house and outside the house, thanks to the rain and the departure of our beloved Ankie Tae, who had come to visit for the weekend. Every housebound soul that day was edgy and upon the 6th pooper of the day I did indeed cry. Disobedience was rampant in the ranks, energy was in overload due to being stuck indoors, and I'm pretty sure I spent the entire day tending one mess upon another (milk, dried beans, leaky diaper, dog vomit, more milk, water, overflowing toilet, to name a few). When Tiger woke up his brothers from their coveted (by me) nap after only 35 minutes, I decided the most effective method of discipline would likely be administered 15 minutes later, when the boiling I felt in my heart had simmered slightly. I sent the big cat to bed (sort of a trade, since his brothers had missed their time in bed) and promised him a "reminder not to be so unkind in the future". As it turned out, the mere waiting period was torture enough for the wee soul and I found a very penitent heart awaiting my return at the 15 minute mark. After putting the boys to bed that night, I confided in George that I had not mothered my sweet charges as I would have wished... that I felt like my mothering abilities were being held by a thread that day. He helped remind me that tomorrow is a new day, God is a God of forgiveness/restoration and that my boys do know that they are loved. I suppose every parent faces their own ugly limits at some point, and for me it was humbling. I awaited the coming day with mild trepidation ("please help tomorrow be a better day than this day has been"), and with deep anticipation ("I cannot wait to love on those little critters fiercely tomorrow"). The past two days have been rich, filled with much activity, as usual, but I have faced them with far more gratitude and delight than I was able in the earlier part of this week. Thanks to the men in my life.

"A couple highlights?" you ask:
Madigan mastered the removal/replacement of his trike seat. He announced this afternoon that replacing the seat in the backwards position is "much more practical". When I queried him, he demonstrated (as seen in the photos below). No questions, please.
"Jumping onto the couch from great heights was not my idea." Madigan's explanation as to why he was still jumping on the couch after I asked him not to. Hun-Hun's idea?
I heard whimpering in the living room and when I went to investigate, the Tiger was sitting with a pillow over his face. I walked over, placed him in my arms and asked him if he was alright. The tears poured, quite suddenly and he told me he had run into the gate and hit his head. I discovered a rather large scratch/bump on this head below his hairline. He snuggled into my arms and let me comfort him for over 20 minutes (a record for a Tiger on the go).

Paugie is a super tender heart. During this last round of "the plague" I got a nasty cough. Every time I cough, he runs into the room to find me and says, "You okay, Ma?". I am now!
When I ask Paugie to do something, he usually responds with "no" and a twinkle in his eye. If I give him "the look" he smiles and quickly acquiesces to my request. He's got spark, but not enough to burn you. :-)
Paugie pulled me over to the couch this morning, climbed in my lap and laid his head on my chest. When I kissed him, he reached up and touched my cheek. Oh my word...

Lochlan has FINALLY started sleeping through the night!!! At 5 months he stopped sleeping through the night, so after 6 long months, this is a welcome relief. We took him to a chiropractor and within two weeks, he's like a new man. He's also moved into the room with his big bros, much to his delight, so I think that's helped him on the sleeping front (social butterfly loves company).
Paugie refers to Lochlan as "Jevy" and Madigan has taken it a step further, so he is now affectionately referred to most often as "Jevy James". Kinda' kills me.
Our Jevy has a tinge of the dramatic, it turns out. When he's fussing and I call him to come over to me, he dramatically tosses himself onto the floor, placing his head in this hands and wailing pathetically. He looks up periodically to make sure the display is being fully appreciated. What a character!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

August Ponderings

For those of you who need your fix, here are Tiger tales from this week:

"Paugie was born in the ambulance. Taco (Lochlan), Hun-Hun and I were born in the hospital." Mommy: "I think Hun-Hun was born in a factory." "No, Mommy, Hun-Hun was born with me at the hospital." Naturally.
As I was giving the "little boys" a bath, side by side in the kitchen sink, Madigan assisted in washing their hair. He patted Lochlan's head and said, "We are making memories my sweet brother." Can he be for real?
As we left the grocery store last Monday, Madigan turned around in the stroller and SHOUTED: "Goodbye my friends!" Touching. And slightly awkward. :-)
After putting the smaller men down for their naps one afternoon, Madigan slid next to me on the couch, placed his paw on my arm and said, "Mommy, would you like to have tea together?" Dear boy, how could I say no?
"Mommy, what happened to the sunflowers?" "They died." Pause. "But Mommy, they don't have batteries! They didn't die." We still have a few things to learn in this life.
We took Daddy to the park this morning (you know how restless he gets when he doesn't get his outdoor time!), so that Madigan could prove his climbing wall skills. After we had departed from the park, however, the Tiger realized that he had forgotten to swing whilst at the park; a thorough meltdown ensued. When the wretched mother refused to return to the park, Madigan looked at Declan and said, "Paugie, we're ruined!". The drama may be hereditary.

Paugie has been taking time to "chill out" (in the refrigerator) on these balmy August days. We can be frequently heard calling out: "Paugie, please get out of the refrigerator." This little man has one of the most grateful hearts I have ever seen. He faithfully says: "Thank you Ma!", or "Thank you, Da", followed by one of his mesmerizing smiles. He loves to read with me at night, while Daddy is playing with the Tiger in the front room. He is very particular about where I should sit, where he should sit, and which blanket should be involved in the process.

Lochlan is the happiest guy in town, while simultaneously running for the record of "man who sleeps least in this world". An impressive feat to be sure, but he is a truly remarkable boy (as I have always said) and is indeed accomplishing both successfully! His smile brightens up the world around him, no matter where in that world he happens to be. He still loves to be hunkered down in my hip-pack, which makes for a lot more convenient outings during the week. Then, I have only 2 critters to corral at any given moment!

We made 24 quarts of organic applesauce this week. The project seemed to take the entire week long, but I think it actually only took about 6 hours total. The results were inspiring!

And Mommy's accomplishments for this week? 6 loads of laundry washed, line dried (still don't have a functioning dryer), folded AND put away by Friday evening. I'm counting it all as victory!

Man on the fly!
Can you tell I love my big brother?!
I mean, they just LOVE each other!
Paugie, Chillin' Out.
Preparing to "chill out"
Rainy day snuggle bugs.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wetter is better

Paugie has a passionate love of rain. He is boy wired after his mommy's own heart! If it's raining, he comes to grab my hand and waves for me to look outside. He says, "Rain, Rain!" If there is no eminent risk of thunder and lightning, I usually acquiesce, much to his delight. He is most thoroughly delighted when I join him to splash in the puddles, but he is quite content to just bask in the drops himself.

One of Kris' and my first dates at Bryan College was one evening when Kris asked me put my "rain gear" on and join him for a walk in the rain. I waltzed out the door in my rain coat and rain boots only to find a very wet boy/man in shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops: his idea of rain gear. He converted me to his understanding part way through our jont by hoisting me into a VERY large puddle, rendering my rain boots and rain coat utterly useless. Alas, our perspective of appropriate rain attire/activities appears to be genetic.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Propulsion Part III

It is with entirely too much propulsion that we have approached the second birthday of our "Paugie Boy". I have reflected a great deal this week on the incredible person that this little man has been/is/is becoming. So full of (his own) perspective, assured in his opinions on every matter, passionate in his expression and consistently thoughtful - and all this behind those honey brown curls and sparkling eyes.

This spectacular person touches the heart of everyone he knows or meets. His extraordinary attention to detail(s) gives him insight into the emotions/feelings of others and he cares deeply about other people (starting with his brothers), which is something I know to be unique. He is often misunderstood, usually because his verbal communication has been misunderstood, but often because his reasoning is (simply) complicated. His frustrations often make perfect sense if we take the time to understand them/hear him out. And sometimes they are simply the rants of a 2 year old with a will of iron. :-)

This boy adores his brothers! This morning when he saw Lochlan, he ran to him, wrapped his arms around him in a rough smother and kissed him abruptly on his face. Lochlan has grown accustomed to these "tender" moments, and his whole face breaks into a happy grin. Declan looks to Madigan for many cues, though, being the independent thinker that he is, he is highly motivated to branch into his own fields of exploration/experimentation. When given a direct admonishment/order, he creatively works the possible angles available to him and certainly is disinclined to acquiesce to any particular request without first exploring alternative options. 

A WWII veteran (according to the cap he was wearing) was standing in line behind me at Costco last week and Declan started talking to him. The mostly-deaf hero was clearly enjoying every minute of the interaction and when he looked at me, his eyes had small tears. He said, "that is a very happy boy right there. His whole face says so." When I thanked the veteran for his service, Declan chimed in, "Hee hee!" When I translated Declan's sentiment to our new friend, I could tell that a not-quite-2-year-old boy had left his mark on the heart of an old soldier.

I thank my God, daily, for this marvelous person who has shown me the beauty of tender affection, quiet moments of just being together (with a cup of warm milk and favorite blanket, of course), and heartfelt joy in the "little things". I know the past 2 years are reflective of what is to come as this little man becomes all that he is destined to be... and that brings me great delight.