Friday, November 30, 2007

Evening Prayers

Eight o'clock in the Wilcox home. One bed. One Bible story book. One Daddy. One Mama. Two kiddos. Time to pray before bed. And so it goes...

Daddy: Dear Father, thank You so much for...
Meg: (loudly, to Matthew) HI!
Mommy: Sweetie, we're talking to God now, okay?
Daddy: Yeah, can you talk to God too, Meg? Say, "Hi, God."
Meg: Hiiii, Dog!
Daddy: Say, I love you, God.
Meg: I luuuuuuh Gah... duck! (pointing to the appliqué on Matthew's sleeper)
Daddy: Yup, that's a duck. God, we thank you for so much for this chance to pray together as a family.
Meg: No, no, no! (This in response to Matthew, who is not quite responding to her attempts to hold his hand)
Daddy: It's okay, Meg.
Mommy: Matthew doesn't know how to hold hands, Sweetie. He's too little.
Daddy: And Father, we thank you for...

Note: Meg was not being irreverent by saying "Dog" when we asked her to talk to God. She just gets confused like that. In her vocab, "doggies" are "god-ies", so it only makes sense that God ends up getting switched around too sometimes. Good thing the Lord sees the heart!

At any rate, you get the idea. At that pace, it takes a while to get through a prayer, as you can probably imagine. But we wouldn't want it any other way. How kind of God to make up this wonderful thing that we call the family.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mealtime Talk

Yogurt Face

Despite the fact that life with Meg presents many challenges right now, there are also moments of great triumph. Her breakthroughs in communication, small as they might seem to an outsider, are huge to us. Let me try to explain what I mean.

Several weeks ago, Meg was just beginning to understand that she could answer our questions verbally. Prior to this, she would answer questions like, "Meg, what does the owl say?" and "What's Mary riding on in this picture, Meg?". But questions with more practical application, such as, "Meg, do you have a dirty diaper? " were answered only by confused look.

The trouble was that, initially, the answer to most of our questions was, "No." See, Meg understood that "no" could be the answer to a query, but she was unsure what "no" really signified. You could tell this from the way she usually said it: "No?". So we would have conversations like this one, which is the actual transcript from one of our breakfasts.

Me: Meg, are you all done?
Meg: No?
Me: Oh, well, would you like some more grapes?
Meg: No?
Me: Some more oatmeal?
Meg: No?
Me: Do you want more banana?
Meg: No?
Me: Are you still hungry?
Meg: No?
Me: Oh, well then, are you all done?
Meg: (after a bit of thought) No?

Comical, but not very helpful, and a teeny bit frustrating. After our dead-end conversation, I decided to just end her meal, even though I really wasn't sure she was full.

But, oh, this morning! What a difference in her understanding of questions and answers! She still doesn't always use "no" appropriately, but she's so much more communicative. Here's what was said today at breakfast:

Meg: (pointing somewhere across the room from her high chair) Chee?
Me: (thinking she was indicating the block of Monterey Jack on the counter) More cheese, please?
Meg: Nooo. (Pointing this time to the cabinet where we keep cereal.) Chee-o?
Me: You would like some Cheerios?
Meg: Yes?
Me: Okay! That's great asking, Meg! Do you want your Cheerios with milk?
Meg: No?
Me: (Setting a handful of dry cereal on her tray) You want them dry?
Meg: (Shaking her head vehemently) No! (Pointing to the dishwasher full of clean dishes.) Boo?
Me: (Absolutely delighted to understand her at last.) Oh, you want to eat them with your spoon! Okay, then I'll put them in a bowl with milk.

And Meg nodded happily, as if to say, "Now you've got it Mommy."

Well, praise the Lord now someone's got it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Fairy Birthday

"When the first baby laughed for the first time, the laugh broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies." -James Barrie

I'm not sure what Mr. Barrie believed about all of the babies who followed that very first one, but, personally, I think that some brand new fairies were hatched this evening. Because tonight in the bathtub, Matthew laughed his first laugh.

Meg was in the bathroom while I bathed our baby boy tonight. She had been eating bunny-shaped crackers ("hops" in Megese) out of a tiny Pyrex dish, and when she set the dish down on the floor, the sharp clatter of glass on tile startled Matthew. It startled a wee chuckle right out of his surprised mouth, and I looked at him in delight and amazement.

Welcome to laughter, little Matthew. Your world--and ours--just became much, much sweeter.

Simple Words

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you all enjoyed wonderful celebrations of gratefulness to our good God.

Our holiday ended this morning, as Dave headed back to work today to prepare for church tomorrow. Here at home, it was a rough morning with Meg. We are not sure what's going on with her lately--maybe all of that infamous "terrible twos" sin is heightening as we draw toward the actual 24-month marker. Several times today I have choked back bitter anger welling up in my heart, fighting to respond kindly and gently to my writhing, whining, rebelling little girl.

Then at lunch time, as we sat together slurping leftover Brunswick stew, I asked Meg if she liked her food. "Num-num soup, Mama," she replied, pushing another potato chunk onto her spoon. "Num-num soup, Mama."

I told Dave about it, and he said it was Meg's small way of fulfilling Proverbs 31:28. Her children arise and call her blessed. Maybe so. Whatever it was, those few words--mumbled through a mouthful of shredded chicken and lima beans--made my whole morning worthwhile.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Two Months Old (by Matthew)

2 Months 6

Well, here I am--two months old already, and Daddy and Momma feel like I've always been a part of the family. (Dad can never remember exactly how old I am anyway. "He's, uh... about six weeks. Oh, nine weeks? Wow, that went fast!") I think Meg likes me too. She's very compassionate toward me and says, "Oh, shamahoerrr!" when I cry (which, when translated, means, "Oh, sad Matthew!") She always tries to hug me and give me kisses and share her stuffed animals with me and put the pacifier back in my mouth when it falls out. Sometimes her hugs can be a little... um... crushing, but I know she's just lovin' on me, so I take it like a man and never cry.

I visited the pediatrician on Thursday and weathered my first round of immunizations. I screamed like bloody murder when the nurse stuck me, but as soon it was over and Mommy picked me up again, I pulled myself together and was fine from then on. As far as Mom could tell, I never developed a trace of fever or anything--I just slept A LOT for the next 24 hours. My weigh in put me at 11 lbs., 8 oz., which is about the 50th percentile, and I am now 23 1/2 inches tall, which is the 75th percentile. The doctor looked me over and pushed on my belly and legs a little. Then he said I'm lookin' good and that he'd see me again at four months. So that's that, I hope!

2 Months 2

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you already know most of what's happened to me this month. Mostly I met a lot of family members, all of whom looked very nice. (But they were a little blurry, so I could be wrong about that.) I think my folks felt bad because my grandmas and grandpas never got to hold me for very long. It's not that I don't like people! It's just that I'm not yet awake for very long lengths of time, and when sleep calls to me, I get cranky! So Mommy whisks me upstairs for some quality time in my crib, and that's the last that anyone hears from me for a while.

The other news is that I graduated from a pack 'n' play to a real crib this month. My big sister was kind enough to vacate the nursery for my sake and go to sleep in a big girl bed. So now I have my very own room and a great big crib with lots of growing space!

2 Months 7

I'm still a very happy boy in general (for the brief times between naps), but when I do cry, boy, I really do it right. It's not that I'm loud, so much--anyone can do volume. No, I try to imbue my wails with a note of true desperation, as if I have absolutely despaired of ever being fed again. It's hard to explain. I guess you just have to be born with the gift. It helps that I have the knack of crying real tears. (Meg never shed tears until she was 18 months or something, so my parents aren't beyond the point of being moved by this trick.) Anyway, I find that the histrionics really help to light a fire under Mom, which she seems to need fairly often. Sometimes when I get going pretty good, Daddy shakes his head and says to Mommy, "Man, we have the most dramatic kids." Mom says she has no idea where we got it.

Here's what I look like when I'm calm and alert...
2 Months 3

...and when I'm starting to feel tired.
2 Months 4

Sleeping on my Mommy's shoulder:
MommyMatthew 3

MommyMatthew 2

Breakin' it down:
2 Months 1

Plain old happy:
2 Months 5

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Date Night: Books and Fireplaces

Used Books = Romance

That's my idea of good math.

Last night, my husband did something wonderful. For our weekly date night, he took me to Second Story Books, a gigantic Rockville warehouse that is packed with rare, antique, and plain old used books. This was not the first time we have been there, but it was the first time in about four years. To me, walking through the door of this place is like stepping into fairyland. You have to understand something about me--I love books. Not just "I love reading", though that is true as well. I. Love. Books.

Books 1

In fact, last night I found a Eudora Welty quotation in one of these used books that almost perfectly describes my own feelings: "I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with [books]--with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and earned off to myself. Still illiterate, I was committed to all the reading I could give them." Does that resonate with you even a little bit? If so, then you will know what I mean when I say that the smell of this used books store--the very smell which Ms. Welty mentions above, multiplied by a hundred thousand or so--makes me sigh and say, "Ahhh, I've come home."

My husband, knowing both my love of books and my love of reading, hatched a brilliant plot to bless me. He took me to the store and allowed me... I don't know how long... an hour, perhaps, to wander around and browse and scan and dip and bliss and ooh and ahh. Then, after I had collected an armful of books that would cost me all of (but only just) my spending money for this month, he led me in completing our assignment. The assignment, created by Dave, was to choose a book to purchase and read together. This book had to meet the following criteria:
1. It had to be fiction.
2. It had to be something that would justly be considered a classic.
3. It had to be something neither or us had ever read.
4. It had to be of a length that we might realistically expect to
complete in the odd free moments we have together during the next
year. (Car trips, while he waits for me to get ready for bed, etc.)
This assignment thrilled me, because I have always wanted to get into the rhythm of reading with my husband, and I've envied (in a friendly, admiring way) couples who do this regularly! Somehow, previously, it has never worked out for Dave and me, but perhaps now...?

Books 3

We headed for the fiction section (aisles and aisles worth--we got no father than the "D" authors). After brief debate about whether or not Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey and Dickens' The Pickwick Papers really constitute classics (Dave: I'm not sure that qualifies as a classic./Cara: But it's Dickens!/Dave: But I've never heard of it./Cara: (desperately) That's because you're uncultured!) we settled happily on Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Then we headed for the fireplaces (i.e., La Madeleine and Caribou Coffee), where we got initially somewhat distracted (by conversation) from our goal of making a good dent in our new book. Eventually, we did manage to make it through the preface and first chapter. (Only 29 chapters to go.)

Okay, so even though that's the end of the date night story, I simply must rave a bit more about books. Including Mr. Defoe, I walked away with 11 books last night. This is a major triumph for me! Building a personal library is a lifelong project of mine--something I have been and will be busy with for all of my days. Purchasing books is something I can do with great relish; no agonized should-I-reallys or guilty buyer's conscience for me! Oh, and used books are marvelous because, in addition to being inexpensive, they have history. They have souls. Even though I will never know who owned and read a particular used book before me, I love the idea that it has traveled to places and spoken to people before it came to me. Perhaps--lucky book--it has even been loved.

Books 2

Okay, so here are my picks from last night, in no reasoned order:
- Milton's Paradise Lost. Some books I set out to enjoy and others I set out to conquer. I have a feeling that Milton will fall into the latter category, but I am determined to fight it out one of these days!
-The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford. You know, the one about the two dogs and the cat trying to get back to their owner. (The movie was called "Homeward Bound," I think. My sisters and I loved it.) We had this little book sitting on our bookshelves as I was growing up, but I never opened it. When my kids are a little older, I think we'll make it a read-aloud.
-Tennyson's Poetry. One of my great fictional heroines, Anne Shirley Blythe, references Tennyson often, and I have never read him, save what little was force-fed in high school. But I mean to change that. Perhaps I will at last understand why Anne floats down the stream in the Barry's flat while pretending to be Elaine!
-Wine From These Grapes, by Edna St. Vincent Millay. She's a poet I have heard of and never read. I picked up this little volume last night, read one poem, and was instantly head-over-heels.
-Scarlett Saves Her Family: The Heart Warming True Story of a Stray Mother Cat Who Rescued Her Kittens From a Raging Fire. Sounds sappy, I know, but I picked it up for some reason and was touched by the synopsis. I think this one has read-aloud potential too. I mean, what child doesn't love heroic felines?
-The House at Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne. This was the #1 find of the evening. It's a 1943 hardcover edition with the original, adorable illustrations and sun-fading on the dust jacket. Milne dedicated the book to her mother with a little poem that made me choke up. And sampling from the text made me giggle so that I had to read that bit to Dave, who didn't seem to fully appreciate it.
-Selected Poems of Robert Frost. Robert Frost and Carl Sandburg are the first "grownup" poets I can remember reading. I still love Frost, but owned nothing of his writings until yesterday!
-To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife, by Caitlin Flanagan. Doesn't quite sound like your typical book on biblical femininity, does it? But from what I understand it's a lot more in line with the Bible's perspective than you might guess! And though I personally am not burdened with the loathing part of the title's equation, I am intrigued by the author, whom I heard once on Dr. Mohler's radio show.
-If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff. A kid's classic. It was 60 cents. It now belongs to Meg.
-My First Cook Book, also for Meg. A big book with life-sized photos of all the ingredients and very simple, cute recipes. I can't wait to tackle some of them with Megger.
-Awakening Your Child's Natural Genius: Enhancing Curiosity, Creativity, and Learning Ability, by Thomas Armstrong, PhD. The title may sound a little bit psycho-babbly, but the book seems great so far. (Yes, I've started reading it.) It contains lots of fun ideas for helping kids to learn naturally, and I think it will be a useful reference tool for Dave and me as we make future decisions about how to educate our kids.

Walking out of that place after making my purchases, I could not keep the grin of satisfaction off of my face. I could not help gloating over my two shopping bags of literary treasure. I could not tell my husband too many times how much he had delighted me.

He knew taking me to the used bookstore would be romantic to me. And it was. Because he knows me. He loves me. And he's willing to do things that interest me more than they interest him, just because they bless me. My Darling Man, that's a little piece of Christ reflected in you. It makes me love you more, and it makes me love Him more. And that's a pretty good piece of work for one date night.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Louisville Wilcoxes

Last weekend Dad and Jan (Dave's folks from Kentucky) made the 10-hour drive to meet their newest grandson. We had a great time hanging out with them, even though Meg was recovering from a cold and Dave was coming down with one. (Dad and Jan were great sports and took it slow for our sake.) As usual, I forgot to take our camera with me when we went out to do things, but we did get a couple of at-home shots...

Here's Dad and Matthew being sad together.
DadMatthew 3

Here's Dad laughing as Jan and I try to pose him with Matthew.
DadMatthew 1

The fruition of our bossing:
DadMatthew 2

A cute, if somewhat blurry, shot of Dad, Jan and Meg.
(Isn't Jan a stylish lookin' grandma with her hip new glasses?)

Our one big day trip was a visit to the National Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport. Dave and I have been there several times and always enjoy it. It's a little bit unique as museums go; it's basically a HUGE (very nice) airplane hangar with a hundred or so airplanes inside. It also contains a real space shuttle (The Enterprise), a couple of flight simulator rides, and an IMAX theater.

We got to see one of the latest IMAX films (all except Dave, who removed a whining Meg from the theater about 15 minutes in), called "The Alps". The movie was very cool--lots of truly awesome, dizzying panoramas of the Swiss Alps. Seeing them in that setting put me in mind of God's mightiness--how great He must be who made those soaring heights just by speaking a word! And what a mystery it is that He placed within man this desire to subdue the earth and rule over it! How else to explain people like the movie's main character, a guy who wanted to climb one particularly terrible, very dangerous peak? (I won't say more or I'll have to include a spoiler warning,)

On a related note, this museum is one of my favorite places to see IMAX films, because at the beginning of each feature they do this amazing demonstration of the whole IMAX system--projector, sound system, etc. I know, I know, this is something that only the wife of a technical director would be interested in, right? No, really--it's so cool! My favorite part is when they show you where all of the speakers are located--mostly behind the massive screen, but also behind you, the audience, so that you get a serious surround-sound experience. Then they play this piece of music to show you how the system really works. It starts with just one speaker playing a simple melody line, then they add harmonies and rhythms one speaker at a time until you're literally enveloped by this lush, layered song!

Okay, enough rhapsodizing. Back to real life--and real life says that my baby is crying and my little girl is smelly.

We love you, Dad and Jan! Thanks for making the trip!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Elementary, My Dear Cara

I stopped by a friend's blog recently and found a link to this site that proclaims itself "The Blog Readability Test" ("What Level of Education is Required to Understand Your Blog?"). So I typed my own blog's URL into the site and--extremely promptly-- received the following diagnosis:

cash advance


So the fact that it took less than two seconds for "The Blog Readability Test" to asses my blog seems a teeny bit suspect to me. I mean, I know we have a very fast internet connection, but really.

Laying that aside, I still have questions. For example, on what criteria is this test based? Vocabulary? Themes? Number of words in a sentence? Number of pictures per post (or lack thereof?) How many posts you have archived? Does anyone else have any ideas?

But my primary question is this: should I take the elementary-school level thing as an insult? 'Cause it sorta feels like an insult, though I'm not really sure why it should. Is this thing saying that I have the intelligence of an eight year old and should really grow up? Is it saying that my blog reads like an elementary school text book? ("Cindy and Lulu are having a picnic. If Cindy brings two sandwiches and two bananas to share and Lulu brings two apples and four cookies, how many pieces of fruit will they...?") Should I be irritated? Devastated? Or should I just roll my eyes and move on? The website itself offers no clues, that I can find, as to its intended purpose or diagnostic methods. And it doesn't make any recommendations based on its results.

In my mind, this lack of information leaves me free to derive my own meaning from "The Blog Readability Test" and its cryptic evaluation. I think I shall muster up all of my magnanimity, all of my Christian charity and assume the best about this test. Instead of taking the results as a stinging critique, I shall wear my "elementary school" stamp as a badge of honor. (In other words, I shall practice the fine old art of spin.)

As someone who considers herself "a writer" (that, in my mind, is distinct from being "a blogger"), I'm going to receive my "elementary" label as high praise. After all, good writers try to write simply, in ways that just plain folks can understand. Good writers know that big words and complex sentences are not necessarily marks of good writing (although they certainly can be included in good writing). So a fourth grader could tackle my blog and come away with a good idea of what I'm getting at? Great! So it doesn't take a PhD to enjoy my posts? Hmm... I think that's okay. Because I'm pretty stinkin' sure that no one with a PhD reads my blog!

All the same, I am rather curious to know what it takes to achieve, say, a "college reading level" stamp from "The Blog Readability Test". Maybe if I start randomly sprinkling my blog with phrases like "quantum mechanics" and "Galilean relativity" and "the geometrical theory of gravitation" I could get bumped up one or two levels. (Pretty good, huh? I found those in the physics article on Wikipedia.)

Do I rate yet, Mr. Readability Test? Do I, huh, do I?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Way With Words

Meg's vocabulary has been growing by leaps and bounds of late. Almost every day she surprises us by using a new word, or using a word in a new way, or putting words together into miniature sentences. Much of what she says now is intelligible, though she still has adorable bouts of babbling in her own private tongue. Then there are those times when she only thinks she's being intelligible. She's entered that challenging stage where she looks at you and utters something, expecting to be understood, and you just look back at her, completely mystified as to what she's getting at. "Sorry, Sweetie, Mommy doesn't understand what you're saying." You can only say that to a child so many times before she starts to get frustrated...

Anyway, here are a few of the terms Meg has recently conquered and added to her army of words. I'm dividing them into categories, just for fun. And I've tried to give a phonetic spelling of her pronunciation (so you can try to speak Megese for yourself), followed by the actual word.

The Confusing Words (These are the ones where the same pronunciation is used for more than one word and you just have to figure out what she means based on context clues.)
"Up": up
"Up": off
"Up": help
"House": house
"House": mouse
"Nana": her maternal grandmother and one of her favorite people
"Nana": banana, one of her favorite foods
"Coze": clothes
"Coze": close
"Coze": open

Animal Names
"See-wuh": seal
"Pooh": formerly used in reference to the beloved A. A. Milne character, this word now serves for any and all bears that Meg encounters
"Jee-jeh": giraffe
"Zhee-ah": zebra
"Chiten": chicken
"Hop-hop": bunny

"Jiiiinz": jeans
"Pats": pants
"Kots": socks
"Shooooooz": shoes

Astronomy (Our screen saver is a rotating series of amazing satellite photographs of various planets and such. After many months of asking "Wuh-sat?" about each picture in turn, Meg can now name the following bodies without prompting.)
"Joo-puh": Jupiter
"Marsh": Mars
"Errrt": Earth
"Meensh": Moon
"Schtaah": star

"Kuh-tee": cookie
"Kee-tay": cracker
"Kah-do": avocado
"Juuuuuuice": juice

"La-la": umbrella
"Huh-woah": hello
"Muh-muh": more (This one is tricky because it sounds almost exactly like "mama", but she sometimes helps us by using the sign for more.)
"Kuuuh-wuh-wuh": movie (This is the most bizarre one. We have no idea what word she thinks she is approximating, unless it's "computer", since we watch DVD's on our Mac. But every time she wants to watch something, this is what she says.)
"Die": what you do with a towel

(By the way, today leaves exactly one month till our big girl turns two years old!!! Yea, Meggie!)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Me Dear Sainted Mudder


Today I am writing a seriously overdue post in honor of my momma, pictured above with our Megger. This shot was taken before Matthew was born, on a day when Mom drove up here to take care of Meg so that I could ready our home for a new baby. That is only one of the ways she has served us in the past few months. There are so many more that I know I've lost count.

On the night I went into labor with Matthew, Mom answered the telephone when we called around midnight. I believe she was just about to get in bed after an unusually long day. Instead, she and Lena headed over to the hospital, where they hung out in the waiting room until Matthew was ready to receive visitors. After getting to hold her new grandson for a while, Mom went right up to our house (at about 4:00 a.m.) to take over for our renter, who was monitoring Meg over night. I think Mom was able to sneak in 2 hours of sleep before the new big sister woke up that morning. Later in the day, she took Meg home with her and cared for her until we were released from the hospital the next afternoon.

The first week we were home, Mom spent most days with us, helping with Meg and doing our housework, not to mention cooking us dinner. And let me not forget--she made me several batches of her yummy banana cake! (I love it because it quenches my longing for sweets but, in Mom's doctored up version, is not nearly as bad for you as the original recipe.) Meg was in heaven having her Nana around every day. And we were so blessed to have someone taking care of us as we learned to take care of our new boy! After that first week, Mom wasn't able to be with us as much, but she still made trips up to bring us treats, throw in a load of our laundry, or spend an hour with Meg making up for the attention she was missing from her newly distracted mommy.

More recently, Mom hosted my husband's folks. Since my own home lacks a guest room right now, my parents graciously opened theirs to our favorite Michiganers during their stay. We know that (Dave's) Mom and Tom were much more comfortable there than they would have been if we had squeezed them in here. I'm so grateful for my mom's and my dad's hospitality, as well as Lena's and Cubby's. However, we all know that most of the work of preparing for guests probably fell to my momma. :) And soon she'll be gearing up to extend the same kindness to my other set of in-laws, who will visit us later this week.

My days are sprinkled with other gifts from Mom--phone calls, offers to pick things up from the store, babysitting for our weekly date nights, invitations to dinner on nights when Dave works late, etc. My darling mommy helps me more than I even know, and I do not have a clue what I would be doing without her tireless care and support. What a servant you are, Mommers! Have I ever mentioned that I want to be just like you when I grow up?

(An extra shout out to Dad and Lena, as well as Cub, lest I appear to minimize their contribution to all the ways that Mom serves Dave and me. You guys have first dibs on Mom's time and energy, and you are so very good to loan her to us on occasion--and to help with the babysitting!)