Monday, December 8, 2008

St. Nicholas Day

A picture of the girls with St. Nicholas at the celebration at St. Mary's in Merrillville.

We thought the girls would be shy - especially without their cousins who were home sick - but both girls kept inching closer as he spoke about the life of the precious Saint who sacrificed his inheritance for those in need around him.

Granted, Isabelle particularly, remains somewhat confused about the details (does St. Nicholas have a sleigh?, etc.) but I feel, at least, that we're moving in the right direction!

Joyous Feast!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This is one of my favorite pictures of Bobby - for several reasons. First, I love that smile. It's really what first attracted me to him - I told him it was his eyes - and they are beautiful - but really it was that smile: a little crooked, full of confidence, just about to emit something unexpectedly hilarious. In college he was usually the center of things - so full of energy, life and witty remarks that people just wanted to be near him.

In this picture, my daughters and my husband look like triplets (which makes me chuckle in and of itself) but to see the three of them together like that - so happy, natural, and united - it makes me see the past differently.

It's just that was so hard on Bobby during the "baby stage." I wanted and expected him to have the exact same skill set I did - I, a woman who bore the children, who was the oldest of six kids, who baby-sat nearly every day from age 12 to age 21 and then went on to become an elementary school counselor - I expected him to be right there with me - interperating our babies' cries and anticipating their every need (in addition to understanding mine). No wonder transition to parenthood was a little rocky! I never allowed him to transition (or myself, for that matter).

I know my husband is a great father, now. I am reminded of this by my two year old daughter who says incessantly, "I need my DADA." And by my four year old who reminds us all how big and strong Daddy's calf muscles are (that's a huge compliment in her world, by the way. Apparently only those with big calf muscles are capable of keeping the mean men away).

If only I could have seen ahead a little - maybe I would have been a little kinder; a little more patient. Looking at this picture I see though, how even then - in the midst of baby time - Bobby was an amazing father. My girls look so happy and safe - as though they are in best place of all, their Daddy's arms.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I have often lamented our decision to postpone starting a family. Bobby and I were approaching our tenth anniversary when our first little one was born. If only I'd known how important this family thing was to me - I feel sure I would have skipped some of the superfluous choices of my 20s. But - like many 20 somethings - I believed the myths: 1) that I would stay young and energetic forever 2) that there would be a time that I would become (magically, i guess) emotionally, financially and spiritually ready for children 3) and that establishing my career would be more rewarding, more true to myself, more financially savy then preparing for a family (after all - what would I do would all my spare time after the kids started school).

Now, $100,000 of school loans later, I see things differently. Hindsight, right? But, God is good, and this weekend I experienced a hidden blessing in my decision to wait.

When my sister, Erin, was born I was 4 1/2. Her little person punctuates my earliest memories. Petite, silly, and outgoing, she was a huge hit among my friends. My daughter, Jane, reminds me of her in many ways. As a little girl, I felt a fierce loyalty to and responsibility for Erin - I can remember repeatedly praying that she wouldn't have bad dreams. Ellen was different. Born when I was 8, I never really thought she liked me. She was quiet and introspective - it wasn't until I left for college and received many letters from her that knew how she felt - to this day, those letters make me teary.

My little sisters flew to visit me this weekend. They loaded up strollers, carseats, purchased coats for their babies (who were used to Tx weather) and made the trek to Chesterton, IN. See, there's this weird gap that exists, now - without Tiffany - I always feel I'm going through life stages way ahead of my siblings - putting us in different worlds. That, combined with the distance between Austin and Chesterton can really feel isolating. But, as these beautiful young women sat on the rug in my living room - their babies, my babies all mingling toys, blankets, nums I felt a special closeness. I felt like I had my children at the perfect time. How lucky I am to be surrounded by a loving family - how lucky my girls are to have such wonderful cousins.

I always feel a tightness in my chest and a lump in my throat after one of my family visits (yes, Zach, you too) - it's hard to watch them leave. But it's somehow easier now that my kids love my family, also - as though we are all intricatly connected. I miss Youcie (Lucie) and baby Knox my little Jane told me this evening. "I know, I do, too," I replied. "We'll see them again soon."

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Romanovs

It is the shallow fashion of these times to dismiss the Tsarist regime as a purblind, corrupt, incompetent tyranny. But a survey of its thirty months' war with Germany and Austria should correct these loose impressions and expose the dominant facts. We may measure the Russian Empire by the battering it had endured, by the disasters it had survived, by the inexhaustible forces it had developed and by the recovery it had made. [Nicolas II] made many mistakes, what ruler has not? he was neither a great captain nor a great prince. He was only a true, simple man of average ability of merciful disposition, upheld in all his daily life by his faith in God.

He is about to be struck down. A dark hand, gloved at first in folly now intervenes. Exit Tsar. Deliver him and all he loved to wounds and death. Belittle his efforts, asperse his conduct, insult his memory; but pause then to tell us who else was found capable.

Winston Churchill speaking of Nicholas II

It his remarkable book, Nicholas and Anastasia, Robert K Massie brilliantly untangles the historical tragedy: "Why Lenin triumphed, why Nicholas failed, why Alexandra placed the fate of her son, her husband and his empire in the hands of a wandering holy man..." Such an amazing portrait of corruption, loyalty, suffering, self control and humility.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Yes, this weekend I got to go on "holiday" with my friends. Sister-in-law/friend, Molly, detailed the adventure beautifully on her blog: from anticipatory packing, to luxurious weekend away, to returning home grateful that our children were not only surviving, but thriving under our husbands' sole care.

Having been back several days now, I keep thinking about how grateful I am to feel so comfortable and "at home" with these precious friends.

My initial excitement about this trip had a superficial element. Living in Chesterton, IN is wonderful - I realize it more every day - but I do occasionally spot a plane zooming across the sky and secretly wish I was aboard. I love to travel - love car trips, maps, airports, foreign languages, different foods - I even vary my route home from the grocery store to see different houses and streets. I also, being a southern girl at heart, love to dress up and go somewhere pretty. My husband teased me by poking fun at the receipts from the girls weekend. I guess stores like "Oh my darling" and "Chocolate Cafe" sounded a bit "girly" to him. "Who cares," I replied, "What's better than champagne and chocolate cake?" Apparently wine from a box and white castle, but that's another story.

All of this to say, that I was delighted that this little trip was happening. I had visited some of the wineries and small Michigan towns with my husband, parents and little ones. I thought then that it would be so nice to go with girlfriends - take our time - eat good food - drink nice wine - read - talk....

We stopped for lunch on the first day at Tabor Hill winery and restaurant. Feeling especially fancy, I ordered a glass of champagne with lunch. It was at about this point - the height of my fanciness (dressed up, drinking champagne in a nice restaurant overlooking a vineyard, and discussing the latest books we were reading - mine was the historical biography Nicholas and Alexandra) that I - well - snotted. In my defense, I was coming down with a terrible head cold, but it would have been a bad thing to have happen on a first date. Not to be too graphic, but it was like I sneezed- I didn't actually - I think I sort of coughed - and much mucus came out of my nose. At the table. While drinking champagne.

And that's when I realized just how much I love these girls. They all went to college together and have weird, embarrassing stories about one another that never fail to crack me up. In fact - I've heard them so many times now, that they are apart of me and my history. I think the reason that they are so precious - these crazy tales of awkward calls to "boyfriends," strange outfit choices, and big (or little) hair dos is that I was so competitive and insecure in college I did all I could to prevent that side - my "real" side from showing. No wonder my relationships were shallow.

As women, these goofy, girls are intelligent, pure of heart, and extremely beautiful. I am honored to be one of their friends. But most special to me - is that over the years, their genuineness has helped me heal. Their ability to be real and vulnerable has allowed me to experience true friendship - and that (please excuse the Sara McLaughlin/Bridget Jones cheesiness) is definitely better than chocolate cake.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


A year ago I got sick - crazy, excruciating pain, ER kind of sick. After a couple of long visits to the local hospital, I was referred to a specialist in Chicago. Several x-rays and CTs later I received the diagnosis from the surgeon. I had a slow growing cancer. He told me and my husband, Bobby, that we should go to MD Anderson cancer center in TX so that I could be close to my parents. He said I would need the support.

It was such a surreal few weeks - that gray time last October. One moment stands out to me very clearly, though. I was in the shower (the only relief from the pain occurred if I stood - slightly bent - under scalding water). I remember saying to Bobby, "Do whatever it takes." What I meant was, "Do whatever you need to do so that we don't have to live like this any more."

The thing is, I wasn't referring to the pain, the diagnosis - or anything concerning my crazy condition. It was as though the illness itself was a magnifying glass - allowing me to clearly see the ridiculous way I'd been living my life. Right then-as the hot water began to run out - and the pain escalated, I knew things had to change.

It's tough to explain how exactly I'd been living - or what what so ridiculous about it. To an outside observer, the problems may have been undetectable. How do you know when someone's just crossed that line - the line that separates a righteous thought from a sinful one? Or even a sinful act - how do you know when a day shopping with friends crosses over to greed - or sharing a meal turns to gluttony?

For me the problem was subtle - but quite real and destructive. It was a non-spoken mantra (kinda like in DH Lawrence's Rocking Horse winner) I needed to be more. Thinner, richer, better job were some of my ambitions - but there were "good" ones too - better mom, cleaner house, "better Christian."

It's not like I consciously acknowledged these goals - also - it's not like I was "succeeding" in any of these areas. I mean - you'd think I was Sarah Palen or something. No, the ambition manifested in silly ways throughout my day - trying to be just a bit busier than my time would permit, live a slightly more expensive lifestyle than my budget could allow, be a little bit thinner than was comfortable for my body. And living like this for the past 20 years was about to kill me.

It turns out that I didn't have cancer. A week at Mayo clinic revealed that I had a benign swelling of tissue - quite a wonderful diagnosis to hear in comparison to the first. So I lived for several months in sortof a dream state. Like Scrooge on Christmas Day. I was so greatful to be alive and not going through chemo.

But this afternoon- a year later - I became overcome with thanksgiving again. Not because I didn't have cancer - but because that crazy perfectionism that had eaten away at my soul for so many years had been shattered. This afternoon as the crisp fall air energized me, I cleaned my house made some bread. Let it be clear - I am not bragging here. Many people everywhere clean their house and make food. Many days I did these exact tasks - pre illness. It's just that it felt so different today. Today I wasn't panicked or rushing or trying to suddenly wash windows/curtains/clean out the garage and other manic tasks in addition - I was just living. I think you'd call it peace - and it felt amazing.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Birthday Lunch

Jane turns 2 today! To celebrate, we went for pizza with grandparents, great grand-parents and "the cousins." This is a video of Jane holding her beloved new baby, "Lucie." Thank you, Mom and Dad - that doll was the perfect gift!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Go Team Go...

"Momma, why don't you know any cheerleads?" Isabelle asks, accusingly. Well...Mommy didn't make cheerleader because she was too serious and ridiculously uncoordinated. In fact, Mommy entered high school denying the fact she ever tried out, becoming more cynical as high school progressed preferring to wear black and listen to the Smiths. But Mommy's just delighted to revisit all of that now - in fact, let's do cheerleads all morning!

Of course, I did not answer my sweet Isabelle like that. To the contrary, I spent this and several other mornings pulling cheers out of my Georgetown, Texas, memory. It's not like it's that taxing - to play "cheerlead" - the weather's beautiful and my girls are precious - it's actually pretty fun. My friend, Beth, gets to play "starwars" all morning. I think that would be tough. It's just another one of those parenting situations, like pacifiers, birthday parties, and preschool that I have to ask myself: Is this about them or me. Do I cringe because of my own pride and insecurity or because I'm genuinely concerned for their little souls? Am I pushing this to help them become independent people or to make me look like a good mom?

So, we're going to keep cheerleading over here at the Maddex home; pompoms, megaphones and all. I'm not saying I don't tense a bit when Isabelle says she wants to be a cheerleader when she grows up (I keep picturing the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders with their makeup and midriffs), but have put it into perspective. I mean, she used to say she wanted to be a motorcycle driver! Therefore, beautiful Mom, Bethany, Molly, Beth (and all other former cheerleaders), this picture's for you.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Back Home"

I love Chicago. I loved it from the first time I heard my uncle talk about it - an arrogant professor from the university of Chicago - he made us deep dish "Chicago style" pizza and talked about taking taxis. I didn't even really like the pizza -it was "too much", I thought, but loved that there was a "Chicago style." Next to my Texas upbringing it seemed so...urban. The first time I saw it - age 17 - visiting Wheaton college sans parents...I remember taking the metra train into Northwestern station from the suburbs...I was completely smitten. A Wheaton friend recently reminded me of our freshman year - where we were picked up by undercover cops on our way to a Ukranian restaurant. Apparently we were "between two projects." I really didn't know what that meant, or care - it just seemed exciting - and a better story than who got "wasted" at a bonfire in my hometown.

Today - a million years later - I took my daughters and niece to meet a college friend. We took the Metra "into the city." I felt determined to be unaffected by my move to the suburbs (or worse, Indiana)- I mean, we lived in Chicago for a long time - in Roger's Park, Humboldt Park, Lincoln Park, the Gold Coast - we paid our "urban dues," right?

At first it was wonderful. It was as though everyone in a 50 mile radius was out to celebrate the clear blue sky on this last day of summer. And the museum was great - the girls loved each exhibit more than the last - from sponge paint to a three story ropes course - Isabelle especially, was exhilerated.

And then we were hungry and tired and our feet hurt and I realized I had become a suburban/small town mom. I worried about germs on the train and needed to get home and check on my chili in the croc pot. So on the train ride home I felt sort of disappointed in myself. When had I gotten so soft? But then I opened the door to my cozy little home - a wave of cumin and chile powder wafted towards my nose. "Back home!" yelled my two year old enthusiastically and we all four knew how glad that we were.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Family Night

So we had planned to have "the cousins" over for MOVIE night, tonight - I mean Parent Trap (the original) was on pay preview - and the girls and I got icecream and miniature M&Ms in preparation. Ofcourse, I'd never actually received confirmation from the cousins - just assumed their availabitity - forgetting their scheduled trip early the next morning. My sister in-law broke it to me gently -"I think I'm going to keep the kids here tonight so they're rested for the drive - will Isabelle be too disappointed?" "No, not at all," I lied. Just that morning Isabelle suggested we set various stuffed animals and baby dolls around the table so that we could at least, "pretend" we had a big family. I thought another comment like that might dampen my festive "family night" mood.

As I prepared myself to share the news with Isabelle, I decided to cushion the blow. "But," I said bluffing like a Vegas pro, "Daddy and I have planned an adventure!" It was Friday night and we needed some break in the routine - I mean, we are all four here ALL of the time...

So I went to Bobby's office (in the the basement) and frantically shared the new plan. "Take us on a family adventure," I pleaded/demanded. Long pause. "What exactly do you have in mind?" he questioned (married to me long enough to know to just ask out right).

The thing is, I didn't really know what I was hoping for. A walk down the street for Thai food? A stroll through a used book store? Maybe a trip to Giardelli's for hot cocoa. While viable options in the city (on the weekends, baby Isabelle would start asking for "crab rangoon,") none of these seemed right or even possible out here in NW Indiana.

So, after some internet research, we ended up at Innman's Fun and Party Center. Northwest Indiana at its finest! However, it turned out to be the perfect diversion. After getting through the initial crisis of not having socks (we didn't immediately realize that "fun" meant bowling) we bought new socks and picked out our bowling balls. There was a time I thought that Isabelle would never get over the excitement and stimulation of the city. Turns out that I was wrong - and needed look no further than the local bowling alley. She tied Bobby and badly beat Jane and I. We (and all the other patrons) laughed hard as Bobby slipped on the lane's wax and fell flat on his, "bobum.

On our way home, the girls sang songs together. "Mom," said Isabelle who only sings when she's peaceful, "Tell me another song to sing." "You are my sunshine?" I offered. "Mmm no...not one of those cutsie ones...oh! I know," and then she begins to sing, "The wheels on the bus..."

Within seconds, Isabelle is Joined by Bobby's deep, articulate voice and Janes's tiny one. I listen and feel full and content. My little family is so big, I think to myself; and for the first time, it feels complete.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Even to me, this feels like an obnoxious amount of writing about my girls - "they're cute, aren't they?" - I feel I'm begging with each post. While that may be the slightest bit true (first rule of therapy - know thyself and all) I really have another agenda in mind:
1) Document (for the sake of incomplete baby books) - I mean it's sad when you only have two children and they ask - "what did I do when i was a baby?" and you just look back at them sort of puzzled.

2) Update my parents. They live within an hour of their other grandbabies - I need to do something to level the playing field!

3) Avoid doing laundry. At present, my dryer is not working - and it's quite rainy. Hanging wet clothes all over my house seems like a nightmare. In fact - I have washed the same load 3 times as it keep cycling through stages of clean, musty and then moldy.

So - all of that to say...jane has some new words and phrases.

1. (I'm into lists today - I think it relieves the guilt caused by avoiding my "todo"). Anyway, her first new word is, "pothead" as in, I wear a pot on my head.

2. "Sure." This she picked up from her cousin, Mary. They both say it casually, as though they are fifteen and may have time for you if there's nothing better going on.

3. ""Super," as in I'm "super-cold," or "super hungry (hungee)"

4. "Privates," pronounced, "pie-vits" - as in "don't see mine," or "Happy Birthday to you, pievits." Hmmm.

5. This one, she says with her sister - they hold their hand next to their ear, imaginary phone style and pretend to call the "Tickle monster." "hello (hey-yo) tickle monsta?" Wherein the other sister attacks with tickles.

6. This last one is my favorite, "Nope, nope" as in, although I'm smiling, I absolutely refuse to do whatever it is you're asking of me (ie, come brush teeth, pick up toys, etc.) - and you can tell I'm serious, because I'm saying it twice.

Alright, Mom and Dad - this one was for you. Wouldn't want you to get the wrong idea and think Janie is all sugar and no spice!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

My Sunshine

My daughter Isabelle has had quite a summer. We moved within walking distance of her two favorite things: the Y swimming pool and her cousin Priscilla. Yet after Labor Day weekend, Isabelle has a new favorite: the lake. "I'll never swim at the Y again," she exclaimed, jumping off a big yellow raft into the deep, murky water. I don't know what it was exactly about the Wisconsin cabin - the woods, her cousins, the sand on the beach, the nonstop swimming, the bonfire - probably everything combined, but Isabelle was in her element. As we turned into the dirt driveway, surrounded by pine trees, Isabelle started bouncing in her seat. "I'm so excited" she squeaked. She was actually shaking with anticipation. "jane scared.." whispered my sweet little one, not quite getting the magic of a forest.

So often I am hard on Isabelle. She's really shy - to the point of being impolite - a trait that grates against my Texan hospitality. She's also incredibly intense: she has big, loud feelings (including a temper which sortof frightens my husband and i into submission), a healthy appetite, and tons of energy. As a toddler, I would worry about her hurting other kids - she was that strong. But as I saw her play at the lakehouse, totally invested in the moment, I was filled with awe.

As I child, I would have played with the other kids - pretending to enjoy the dirty lake water, the races "back home" and the impromptu soccer games. But the truth was, I'd much rather have been talking with the adults, showing off my social skills. During the weekend at the lake, I realized (again) just how special Isabelle is. I don't want her to be me (what a weird, overly verbal, physically awkward kid I was anyway). I hope I can encourage both of my daughters to embrace themselves - with the minds, bodies, strengths and weaknesses they've been given - learning to use their unique little selves as His instruments rather than the world's (or mine).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Sweet, sweet, Jane..."

In Jr High, I lost my backpack - turns out, I had left it in the middle of the hallway. Some kid turned it into the counselor's office after tripping over it. Since then, I have lost my tennis clothes, my homework, my car keys, my house keys, and even my husband's wallet (as he recalls, it was before a three day weekend and we had to exchange wedding presents for food in order to survive, but he tends to exaggerate).

I have gotten much better. However, last night I lost my youngest daughter's green "bampet." She received this blanket from her grandmother when she was three days old, and has slept with it ever since. I say I lost it, because blaming her seems a bit cruel since she's not yet two. 

Anyway...lost the blanket and feared a long night ahead. We lost my oldest daughter's blanket once and after a night of screaming, I shelled out the $40 needed to replace it (I could only locate it's replica at the sortof pricey, Neiman Marcus). 

Well, there is no Neiman's in Chesterton, so I prepared myself to break the news about "bampet." "Janie, Mommy lost Bampet, you'll have to sleep with something else tonight," I braced myself.  Jane's face scrunched into a pout. "Jane's sad-mad," she said softly and then promptly picked out a fluffy scarf to snuggle with. This picture was taken about two seconds after receiving the news. Hmmm....either I'm getting better at this, or Jane's a pretty laid back kid.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

2008 ART DAY

Our theme days basically involve taping a few signs to the door and inviting over "the cousins." Today was "art day" - an excuse for me to go to Michael's and purchase new craft supplies (I can barely resist new markers, crayons and paper this time of year). My girls and I have fun preparing for theme days - even one year old Jane gets into the mood, "Da cousins will yove deese," she exclaims, carefully handling the new packages of clay.

Today's events went well. We painted a mural in the back yard, read a children's book about Monet (which 7 year old Priscilla read with a foreign accent), and ate peanut butter cookies. We even interviewed a live artist. My sister, Bethany is a senior at Old Miss. She is an art major, interned this summer at a gallery, and spent a semester studying in Paris - pretty "art-sy" to me.

The interview took place via speaker cell phone. My phone leaves much to be desired. Add that issue to the confusion of six small children talking at once and miscommunication can occur. "Bobby," I told my husband later, "It sounded like Elijah asked Bethany if her teacher is a whore." "Surely not," he said dismissingly. It really sounded like it, though. When my sister asked the kids what kind of art they liked to do, Pricsilla said drawning, Isabelle said she preferred painting, Elijah said that anything using his imagination was fine, and Ben said he liked to drink lemonade. Hmmm.

Next, I think we want to do a music day, but Isabelle told me we must purchase a violin and a piano first - so it may be a while. That's ok, though, because it may take that long for the mural's 17 coats of paint to dry.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What a difference a year makes...

Two years ago, my little sister Ellen and her husband, Grant hosted my entire family for Christmas. This was no easy undertaking. My family is really big and when you add spouses and my two tiny but boisterous baby girls, you have quite a party. How generous (and daring). True to form, Grant and Ellen surrendered their bedroom to my husband, girls and I. They slept on tiny sofas in the living room.

The week was perfect. We got snowed in: beautiful clean, fluffy snow you could play in for hours without freezing to death because you were in Colorado rather than Chicago or Detroit. They had homemade fudge and peppermint sticks for our hot cocoa. We laughed until we couldn't breathe playing B.S. (some crazy board game) and everyone brought gifts for my daughters. We even got to go skiing for a day. In fact, by the end of the week, I think my oldest daughter (then not quite three) thought that Grant was Santa Claus - I know my husband did!

Then came the climax. As we gathered around the kitchen snacking, drinking, and talking, Grant and Ellen told us that Ellen was pregnant. My sister's face was mix of modesty and mild panic, but I could see behind the fear a confidence developing. She was ready and excited.

Well, I returned home daydreaming about cousins playing. I was excited, too. In fact, I was beside myself because they had asked me to be an advocate for them in the hospital. They decided to have a natural childbirth and constructed a birth plan with the assistance of their Bradley coach. I reread articles from Mothering Magazine in preparation.

As the nine (or ten - whatever) months drew to a close, My husband, girls and I prepared for our visit. We humbly accepted Grant and Ellen's financial assistance for our plane tickets and I packed Jane and Isabelle's impossibly small baby clothes to pass on to the new tiny.

Ellen's labor started beautifully. Mild contractions gradually intensified throughout the day. My sister is stunning to look at. At 5 foot 9, she is slender (the perfect kind of thin - not bony - just naturally a size two - no hard feelings) and always impeccably dressed. That afternoon, though, she looked absolutely breathtaking as she quietly weathered one contraction after another, gathering strength for a long night ahead. As we moved "the party" to the hospital, I proudly watched my shy little sister rise to the challenge. She endured each pain with quiet resolve, although I do think I heard her whisper to our youngest sister, "You don't want to do this."

Before I thought possible, (although I'm certain Ellen felt plenty of time had passed) she was dialated to a ten. "You can go ahead and push," we heard the nurse say. The precious couple wanted a bit of privacy at this point. We were ushered into the waiting room with the rest of the Grant/Ellen cheerleaders. I bit my lip in anticipation. A new baby was soooo wonderful.

And then, at least in MY mind, something went terribly wrong. Thirty minutes passed, and then an hour and then two. My mother and I exchanged glances. What kind of pain must Ellen be in - pushing for two solid hours?. The coffee in the waiting room tasted like dirty water and I remember wanting to make a quick jaunt to the Sarbucks at the next exit. How could I advocate properly without a decent cup of coffee? I was beginning to feel nauseous. After the third hour, the waiting room phone rang. It was Grant. "What's going on?" I demanded, (my panic stricken voice fortelling the type of "advocate" I would become that evening/morning). "They're going to do a c-section," he said calmly, "Ellen's doing ok, but she's really tired. I'll let you know more as soon as I can." He hung up. My mind took off, "Damn hosptal...did they read her birthplan? Did the doctor let her move around/change positions? All that time suffering through contractions..." My heart pounded.

"What did he say?" The entire waiting room, parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, sat looking at me. "They're going to do a C-Section," I stuttered, trying to talk over the lump in my throat. I had to do something, I mean, I was the advocate! So I started to sob.

The next couple of hours were a blur. I remember snapping at my sister, Erin, and formulating vague schemes of overthrowing the hospital staff. I also recall a lot of crying. Would the baby be able to nurse? Would Ellen recover? My questions were endless. Towards the end of the morning, even my ever patient mom seemed tired of me.

"It will be ok, Paige," Grant's father reassured me, "as long as the baby's healthy." Wait, was he helping me? Yes, he was trying to calm and comfort me! What kind of crappy Doula would I make? As I looked around the waiting room, I saw my reflection in everyone's eyes. I was not Norma Rae, I was hysterical Harriet Oslen from Little House on the Prairie. I was out of control.


Lucien Elise Demers was born August 19, 2007. She was perfect. Because of the C-section, her head didn't have the smashed birth canal head that most newborns have. She breast fed without missing a beat. Because of the C-section, her father, who would have to work long hours in the weeks and months ahead, got a chance to bond with little Lucie from the start. When we were allowed to see Ellen, she looked as calm and peaceful as she had the days before. "Lord grant me to greet the coming day in peace..."

As we drove back to my parents home after the birth, I felt exhausted and weak. In the movie, "When a man loves a woman," Meg Ryan struggles to parent her daughter while combating a hangover. Her husband, played by Andy Garcia calls it like he sees it, "Honey, I think you've got all you can handle with your coffee and your little spoon." I felt like a joke. I began to mope in my powerlessness. The rest of the trip was painful for me. I tried to support Ellen, but I felt I had let her down. On some level I was embarrassed to be around them all.

It wasn't until several months later, that I began to see things differently. Ellen and Grant merely wanted me to support them . They didn't expect me to interface with the doctors! What sort of grandios lens was I viewing myself through? As soon as I jumped off that pedestal, I experienced immediate relief. It wasn't my fault that Ellen had a c-section any more than it was my fault that Tiffany started drinking or I became sick. "In all unexpected occurrences do not let me forget that all is sent down from Thee." My own responsibilities became more clearly deliniated. "Oh Lord, grant me the strength to endure the fatigue of the coming day and all the events that take place during it." It became easier to monitor what came out of my mouth (or what went into it, for that matter). For the first time in years(?) I felt peaceful.

Lucie will turn one next week. Like her parents, she is beautiful and well adjusted. These days, I still try to control others and my surroundings, but it's out of habit rather than responsibility. In fact, it's something I confess! Each morning, I pray the Last Elders of Optina prayer with desperation, "...Direct my will. Teach me to pray, to believe to hope to be patient, to forgive and to love," and I am happier than I have ever been.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I love my little sister, Bethany. Of course now she's "all grows up" and fabulous - well traveled, fluent in French - an art major no less. She has more friends than I can count and these days I pine for her hand-me-downs.

As a little girl, Bethany was profoundly perceptive. The youngest of six kids, she learned to relate to (and connect deeply with) all of us; always eager to listen, to support and to encourage. My husband remembers his first visit to my family's home when we were dating. He says he was nervous sitting there - wanting to please my "scary Texas father." Bethany, seven years old at the time, seemed to sense his anxiety and sat down on the sofa beside him. "Can I get you a sandwich," she asked, smiling her genuine smile, turquoise eyes sparkling.

The thing is, fabulous Bethany has retained that sweetness, that innocence, even in the midst of a vain, self- absorbed culture (I know - it isn't entirely disposable - I mean Jack White is pretty amazing). But for the most part, I think, to be genuinely concerned for others and to be true to one's faith (morals and all) is to stand a part. In college I was about as secure as Kurt Cobain (sans musical career), my choices almost as poor. So it astounds me to see this beautiful young woman acting out her Christianity.

Bethany's birthday is August 15th - which is Dormition in the Orthodox Church - the day we celebrate the Virgin Mary's falling asleep in the Lord. The Dormition icon pictures Christ standing behind Mary in the funeral bier, waiting to receive His Mother's soul into heaven. How beautiful is that? My "Building an Orthodox Christian Family" invaluable handbook states that like us, Mary needed to be saved, but we celebrate on August 15th, that, "what happens to Mary happens to all who imitate her life of humility, obedience and love."

My prayer for my sister, as she begins her senior year in college, is that she looks to Mary as an example of faith, obedience and strength. I know the road will not be easy and I ache for her because I know she will experience pain in the process. But, I rejoice with her as well, because I know that Christ promises, "peace that surpasses understanding," and through Him lies our hope.

Happy 22nd birthday, sissy. I love you more than you know.

Friday, August 8, 2008


Five years ago, I was awakened by the phone. It was the day of my 30th birthday party - we had out-of-town friends staying with us. I assumed the early call had to do with the festivities. It was my dad. I will never forget the tone of his voice - calm, strong, yet gentle. He relayed the delicate news with clarity - becoming in that moment everything I had ever needed in a father.

"Paige," he began, "The Lord decided to take Tiffany last night." I remember feeling confused (take her???) and then as the news began to settle in, it seemed almost logical. A co-worker at a social work agency had told me once that he, too, struggled with alcohol. "You get better," he said matter of factly, "or you die." Tiffany didn't get better.

I have gone through the grieving gamet of emotions in the past five years and spent much of the first two feeling angry and annoyed. It is true that Tiffany spent many years struggling with addictions and depression; chaos seemed to surround her. But what about all of those other years? Shortly after her death, it was too painful for me to remember all of those years, but now I do. 

As I watch my own little girls play, I think of that silly, quirky, frizzy haired Tiffany. By my four-year old, I am reminded of Tiffany's physical energy - how when the weather got too hot to play outside she would run the perimeter of each room in the house or do handstands up against the wall - much like Isabelle jumps repeatedly from couch to chair and ends with a sommersault.  By my little one, I am reminded of Tiffany's desire to please and to make people laugh. I keep picturing her dressed up as a "hobo" - kleenex stuffed in her mouth to change the look of her face (think Marlin Brando in the Godfather) ringing our front doorbell and pretending to be a "stranger." 

Isabelle told my husband and I that we couldn't die because we were, "too real." When I think about Tiffany now, that's how I feel, too. I remember the way her skin smelled, her crooked little teeth, and her shy smile. She seems too real.

Ironically, I had a funeral to attend this morning.  As I sat watching the young girl whose boyfriend (and baby's father) was tragically killed in a car accident, I felt nauseus thinking about the days, weeks and months ahead of her. Death hurts so bad. I began to wonder who would be next in my own life and how I could  bear it. Oh God, how?

But as I sat there thinking morbid thoughts, the Paschal Troparion began to play in my head - every word a response to my question. "Christ is risen from the dead," it whispered, "trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life." I am beginning to realize that we do not sing this over and over because it's pretty, but because the resurrection message is the answer - and if we believe it, there is peace - especially - in the pain of death. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I've avoided writing  Christmas letters, rarely take family photos, and have never attempted any form of scrapbooking. The reason, I think, is the same one documented in my 1st dairy at age 7, "It is my birthday today. I hope no one sings to me at Sunday School." Well I don't know if it's the thousand miles separating Indiana from Texas or the fact that this week's Madmen is not "on demand," but I am desperate to share my life with my loved ones. 

My fancy sister-in-law/author Molly has 16 blogs and updates her, "Snapshot of the day," each weekday. I'm telling you right now that this will not be that kind of blog. In fact, it took 5 times to correctly copy the "authentication code" so that I could even log in. Frequent posts would mean that my husband, Bobby, would have to quite his job to watch our girls.  

Anyway, my hope is simply to fill you in on our lives here in Chesterton. Maybe it will help bridge the gap between visits. All my love, Paige