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It’s been my habit for years. Every night before I go to sleep,
I pull an index card out of the top drawer of my bedside table. I jot down the “to
do’s” floating around in my head. When I’m done, the card might include
appointments for the next day. It might note errands or phone calls or emails I’m
afraid I’ll forget to write. And, generally, it will include ideas for blog
posts as well as notes–revise chapter 12 or brainstorm magazine pitches, and
the like.

This past week, I’ve tried to resume the pattern. But when I
pull out the index card, I don’t quite know what to write. I’ve written all the
blog posts I need for the next few weeks. The manuscript of my book is in the
hands of my editor. Everyone knows I’ve had a baby and might take a while to
return emails and phone calls. There are a few obvious items: Order baby book. Birth announcement. Thank
you notes.
But nothing pressing. Nothing that really must get done soon.

It struck me, as I considered my desire for the orderliness of a to-do list, for a structure to these days that are so out of the ordinary, that caring for a family cannot be summed up on a 4×6 card. Caring for a family, and especially a newborn, is unpredictable. I couldn’t have known that Marilee would have her first poop explosion and require a bath at 6:48 one night last week. And I couldn’t have planned for Penny and William to be in the bathroom, with their dad at just that time. I couldn’t have organized our little gathering–all five of us together, with Penny and William gazing at their naked little sister, asking questions about her umbilical cord and her cries, looking relieved when she was wrapped in a towel and quiet again. I can’t predict when she will sleep. I don’t know her patterns yet. My job is not to order her days. It is to be attentive to her in the moment.

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Beyond that, of course, lies the truth that love cannot be summarized
by a list of tasks. Yesterday, I found myself so focused on tasks that I
ignored William and snapped at Penny. But this is a time when I don’t need to
get the laundry done or wash dishes or accomplish something at the computer.
This is a time when I am invited to actively love our children, to not only

welcome Marilee into our family, but to welcome Penny as a big sister and
William as a big brother. Now is the time to cuddle on the couch and read
stories, the time to talk about school and who brought what for show and tell
and admire an art project and allow plentiful kisses for that little bundle,
Marilee, content to sleep in the midst of our noises, every so often gazing
with her big blue eyes at the lights above. Now is not the time for lists or
productivity. It is the time for active, patient, spontaneous expressions of

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