Friday, December 22, 2017

A Place of Grace

Discovering that our child was the target of a group of cyber-bullies brought with it a whirlwind of emotions.  The first was anger.  Mama & Papa bear were ready to tear them limb by limb.  Sadness came next and the desire to run away and embrace off-grid remote living far from the modern world.  Guilt made a brief showing, and the stab of how we failed to protect him.  Among this swirl we surprised even ourselves by landing firmly on resolve.  Resolve to push harder for changes in our son’s school and our larger community.  On the realization that this is an incredible opportunity to bring the discussion of cyber-bullying in particular & kindness in general to the forefront in our world. 

Due to privacy laws we do not get to know exactly who the group of boys who targeted our son are.  But we do get to respond. 

An open letter to the families of the boys who bullied our son.

We get it.  Parenting is hard.  It is the hardest job we have ever attempted.  Some moments you get things right & other go oh-so wrong.  At the end of the day, you can only hope that the former far outweighs the latter.

When we first discovered that there was a social media account created to bully kids with special needs & that our son was among the targets, it broke our hearts.  It infuriated us.  The erosion of trust within our child’s school community is devastating.  The duplicity of pretending to friend, but really mocking our child & others like him, hurt the most. 

But…. the larger injustice would be to let this moment pass without attempting to change the bigger picture.

For far too long, kids like our son have been relegated to separate schools or classrooms.  Although some families feel this is best for their children, our family & our son are working every day to change this.  By having our son included in regular classrooms & school activities, we want to open the dialogue about how our kids are more alike than different.  They have joys & heartbreaks, fears & dreams… just like your children.  They want to fit in & find their circle of friends… just like your children.  This is an opportunity to build bridges between groups that have so much to offer each other.

When people are set apart as “other” it makes it easier to mock, tease or treat them as less than.  We now have an incredible opportunity to break down barriers & bring kids together who can learn more from each other about compassion, empathy & kindness than any lecture or assembly can ever teach them.  This is an opportunity to change the culture of our community for the better.

As much as we want to, we know we cannot protect our kids from every bully.  Sheltering our son from the realities of the larger world is simply not possible, nor is it helping him build the skills of resilience he will need throughout his life.  We can, however, empower him, & all kids, to stand up for themselves & to know their own worth & strength.  To have the courage to speak out when they see injustice.  We can build a community around them based on respect & kindness.  It is what we all need as humans to thrive in this world.  To be seen, known & valued.

We hope you can also see this opportunity.  To reflect on how you & your children can be a part of this change.

All are welcome.

The parents of an incredible kid

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A Love Letter To My Boys

At the start of a New Year, my favorite tradition I adopted several years ago is choosing one word to set the tone of the coming months.  A word that represents one thing that I want to keep front & center as the holiday glow fades into the regular busy of the months that follow. 

The word I have chosen for myself this year is:  PRESENCE

Our life these days flies by at such incredible speed.  United by sameness (feed kids, drop off, work, pick up, feed kids, repeat) yet each day brings new & unexpected challenges.  Running two businesses, raising three boys, nourishing a marriage and finding a moment for myself, is often very overwhelming.  It is easy to get lost in all of the "things that have to get done" of each day.  When I do find a second to take a breath & actually be still, I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade any of it.  The chaos, the squabbles, the endless lost shoes/glasses/library books… the weight of all that frustration dissipates the second one of you says “I love you” or does something kind or at the beautiful fleeting sound of my boys having a deep down belly laugh together.  I don't want to miss any of it, the good, the bad, the whole messy business of being a family.  My word this year is meant to bring me back to this center, to bear witness to each day I have the gift of being with the four of you.  

For you, Quinn, I choose the word:  INDEPENDENCE

In the first days after you were born, I found myself in a new world.  I was unsure of how to be a mother, let alone a mother to a boy who may need things I didn’t yet know how to give.  What I kept coming back to, whenever the swirls of doubt would find a way in, was that as long as you were in my arms, I knew deep down that everything was going to be okay.  Now that you are almost ten, I find myself in a whole new stage of motherhood.  Still uncertain (hello puberty?!?) and unsteady in so many areas, I know that the job I am faced with now is to prepare you to leave me one day.  Just thinking about this makes my eyes sting with tears even as my heart fills with pride, certain in the knowledge that you are meant to do great things in this world.  Things that will have nothing to do with me.

My dear Remy, the word I picked for you is:  ABUNDANCE

You turned eight years old this past weekend.  Eight amazing years of pushing boundaries, learning new things & teaching me the true meaning of the word patience.  I imagine it is really hard for you sometimes being in the middle.  With your older brother getting extra attention for having Down syndrome and your younger for being the youngest, it must feel like sometimes there isn’t any extra for you.  I want you to know that I see you my love.  I see your full heart and beautiful soul.  I witness how proud you are when Quinn does something he couldn’t before.  How you want to help Soren to learn new things & to be a good example for him.  I know that we sometimes hold you to a higher set of expectations because we know you can reach them.  I want to teach you to see the glass overflowing.  To show you the incredible capacity of the human heart.  You face the world at such incredible speed, I want to be certain that you feel loved enough, that your tank is full when you leave the house each morning. 

Sweet Soren, the word for you is:  SHINE

My rascally, snuggly, silly little one.  You remind me each day to make time to drink the pretend coffee, to play rocketship on the floor and take every moment possible to savor your smallness.  I know it doesn’t last.  That I won’t always be your “most favorite girl in all of the land.”  That one day soon, you won’t automatically climb up on my lap to read a story whenever you find me sitting down.  In the not-so-distant future you won’t even fit on my lap anymore.  For you, my littlest little, I wish you the same brightness you bring to my days.  To watch you continue to grow in exactly your own way, gaining new skills & knowledge with an ease that astonishes, I am filled up.  I marvel at your luminous heart, ever-growing body & incredible mind.  I know you will set yourself apart from your brothers, even as you follow in their shadows.

William, heart of my heart, for you I choose:  ENOUGH

How did I get so lucky to meet you that long-ago day?  To be on this adventure by your side is my most favorite thing.  To grow & change & push each other to be better people, and yet also see & embrace the undersides of our human frailties.  To me, that is the beauty of partnership.  I know how hard you work, how much you push yourself to do more, to be more, to live up to the high expectations you set.  My wish for you is to see that you are already there.  You are enough.  You do enough.  The certainty you seek is right here.  I know you want to provide more for us financially, to be free of the worry & debt that comes along with our chosen professions.  But that is only one small part of the picture.  Being deeply certain of your love is all the security we really need.

Counting each blessing… my heart is full and cup runneth over.

Friday, September 4, 2015

time capsule 46

46 years ago, I started this adventure.

36 years ago, I lived in Alaska and read books like crazy and dreamed of all that was possible in the world.

26 years ago I worked on finishing college and starting life.  Dreaming of world travel, adventures & all the roads ahead.

16 years ago, I worked hard and traveled and enjoyed.  Ever grateful for the friends and family around me, but dreaming of finding my one special person to share this life.

 6 years ago, my world contracted down to all that was most important... three people and one black dog.  Content, learning to navigate calm in the sea of chaos and find the beauty in every day things.

This is 46.
One more little person joined our circus.
I pack lunches, drop off, pick up, repeat.
I have more wrinkles, new glasses and little pains that don't quite go away.
Facing the challenge of learning how to carve out my own space & time from within the center of my ever-spinning world.
Discovering that the more ordinary my life becomes, the more interesting things get.
Counting every blessing... and dreaming of what adventures await my children in the big wide world.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

catching up with words

The longer I am away from this space... or from writing in general... the harder it is to just jump back in.  By this point, it has been so long it just feels silly.  But, like most things that are stuck, a deep breath & just jumping right back in is probably the best thing to do.

There were many drafts & bits of thought these past nine months that started out, but never made it to an actual post... a few random bits:

April 2014
An unexpected treat of breakfast in bed started my morning off right.  Cozy under covers that are still warm from sleep heat, eating a breakfast burrito and sweet oranges, reading posts by a new favorite blogger... the most delicious start to an ordinary Tuesday.  Marking these little happy bits with a notice and a burst of gratitude is my non-resolution resolution this year.  It is so easy to get mired in all of the have-tos & shoulds that anchor my day.  Homework projects loom, laundry mountain grows higher, floors are heavy with dust & the crumbs of our busy days.  It can feel like too much if that is where I put my focus.  It is still too much to all get done in one day, but shifting attention to the many rays of pure beauty that also run through my days, helps keep things  in perspective.  Little boys won't always be little... their bodies growing longer, lankier and more their own with each sunrise.  The realization that what I am doing here is not just the seemingly endless service to these little people, but a much larger task, teaching them how to be humans in the world.  How to navigate the big stuff like anger and sharing and dealing with defeated expectations.  How to start from a place of gratitude, full-glass, full heart with every situation.  (Is that even possible?)  As the "baby", who is so not a baby in any way any more, learns to exert his will in more of the boys play, I find myself as referee more often than I like.  But these are the places they learn how to be kind, how to stand up for themselves, how to negotiate a way to get what they want and need.  No wonder I am so tired.

May 2014
Imagine you are just two years old.
Your entire life experience to date has passed within the dingy walls of an orphanage located in a neighborhood of extreme poverty, desperation and decay.  You have kind caretakers that have gotten you this far.  They are all you know.  It is beyond your scope of understanding that there is so much more that awaits you.  The couple that is now smiling and crying at you, the ones that are taking you from the only reality you have ever known, they already love you.  They share your genetic condition and understand first hand the challenges that await.  They will become your foundation, your family, your best chance at a long, healthy, happy life. 
But all you know in this moment, is that something scary & beyond your control is happening.

Although I was not raised with organized religion in my life, I have always been a person of faith.  Purposeful in choosing the half-full glass, finding silver-linings in a sea of clouds, at my core has always been the steady knowledge that all is as it should be.  Each experience fitting into a bigger picture, one that exists just outside of my current view. 

Recently I had a moment of clarity about this in the most unlikely of places.  Watching a tv show about a couple adopting a 2 year old little girl from India, I realized that sometimes what seems most frightening, the end of life as we know it, is also the moment we are most alive.  How often does this happen to us as adults?  Things occur that we have no control over, that we struggle against with all our might, but what if these disturbances really are the exact right thing that leads us to what we need?

Often, the things that we struggle against the most, become the most important markers when looking backwards.

August 2014
This summer I attended a five day writing retreat in one of the most beautiful places on the planet... Big Sur.  For hours, precious uninterrupted hours, I listened to writers talk about the craft and wrote my heart out onto the page.  It was amazing.  And humbling.  And somehow left me without any words for the months that followed.  Life with three boys and two businesses moves along at an insane pace.  I keep thinking if I could just "figure things out" I might be able to find more time for myself... but the reality is that there just isn't enough time in a day to get "everything" done.  All I can do is hang on tight & surf the wave of busy.

December 2014
 And here we are again... nearing the close of another year.  To say that time flies is such a cliche... but oh-so-very true.  So many different things to juggle each day, but when I remember to step back & get a glimpse of the big picture, life is so good.  Our three boys continue to grow & change & challenge us on every level.  They are strong in body & opinions.  A few days ago I experienced one of those parenting milestones they don't really tell you about in any baby book... I actually got to take a shower, a whole shower, while all three boys were awake & in the house.  Probably sounds silly if you haven't been around little kids for awhile, but oh man, it feels like a little glimpse of light at the end of this raising little creatures tunnel.  We have miles to go, but I can start to kind-of-sort-of see how I might get some of my own time back.

Raising kids, the days can run into each other with such sameness... feed everyone, get places on time (ish), pick everyone up, feed them, bathe them, to bed and repeat.  But, when I can get myself to pay attention, to really see what is happening before my eyes, there are always those little moments that shine through.  The way the light hits the hills in the distance, that perfect drop of rain splatting in slow motion, hearing little brother say "I love you" to his biggest brother (who is not always the nicest), watching the two biggest boys hug each other after they have been apart... those little golden bits keep the sameness from feeling like too much the same.

Monday, March 17, 2014

being here in the middle

Sometimes it feels like Death circles closer than other times.  The end of life sweeps near in a very real way instead of the theoretical seed that lies quiet within each of us.  I used to be okay with the thought of leaving.  I had a full life and adventures and lots of love around me.  But this was long before I had small people who depend on me with every cell and breath.  

Now when I feel the wave of inevitability wash past, I have that burning hard-pit feeling in the base of my stomach.  Oh how I would miss all of the things that drive me crazy on a daily basis!  Sticky hands and endless questions and the soft sweet puppy breath that wakes me in the (very) early mornings.  I hope that I can see my boys through their years.  That I can be greedy and have an end of life that is after a long road of raising them, seeing them thrive and standing on solid ground.  But it isn’t up to us, is it?  We make choices that may or may not steer us in a certain direction, but mostly we just bump around and hope for the best.   

These are the thoughts that wake me this morning.  Feeling fragile and human and finite. 

And then the morning routine kicks in… and the boys want green eggs and ham, the lunches must be made, green clothing procured and it all starts moving so quickly.  Maybe that’s the point?  That if you spend too much time sitting still and worrying about the end you miss the middle, where it is meaty and messy and full of delicious chaos.  

Sending love & light to the Vargas family.  You are in our thoughts.  xoxo

Thursday, January 30, 2014

remy being six

Dear Remy,

Today you are six.
I remember six.  It felt so grown up and important.  
You, my dear, are an amazing, caring, stubborn, smart, all-around incredible person.  

Watching you grow & stretch & change is one of my most favorite adventures.  I feel so lucky to be here to guide you along your path.  To push you to try new things & to have hugs ready when you need to retreat.

You know your own mind... a mind that is filled with such amazing questions and dreams.  I love the questions you ask.  "If grown-ups start as babies, and babies come from gown-ups, when was it all just babies?"  Or, one of my favorites, "Is love stronger than death?"  Your brain rocks.

I love seeing you & your brothers develop your own relationships.  You are an awesome brother.  I know it isn't always easy being in the middle... I hope you know how important the middle really is.    

I love being able to help you try new things.  And to cheer you on to meet the goals you set.  You were so determined to ride on that chair lift this year... and felt so very proud when you got to do just that.  Your greatest wish with skiing is to be old enough to use poles.

I love our movie-dates and garage sale time together.  You are good company.

I love your silly side and the sound of your laugh when it is deep down & in your belly.  I  know sometimes I forget & get too serious with all that goes on in our house, but I promise to make sure we have as much silly times as possible.  

I love seeing how your relationship with Quinn has evolved.  And that even though I try to talk with you about Down syndrome, all you see is your brother.  You two fight like puppies, but there is such fierce love there too.  Knowing you will be with him after I am gone eases my worry a little bit.

I love that you share a birth-date with my Grandpa.  He sure would have loved knowing you.  When you asked for carrot cake this year, I pulled out the card with his recipe, written in his handwriting.  Making it for you feels like passing along love from him.

I love that you are still little enough to want snuggles at bedtime.  And write notes to fairies.  And believe in magic and the possibility of it happening every day.  You fill my heart.

Happy 6th birthday my big grown-up boy! 
I am so lucky to be your Mama.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Two is BIG

To Soren on his 2nd Birthday,

You, my dear, are a force to be reckoned with.

In your two short years, you have grown faster & stronger & surer than any of my babies before you.

You are the piece that completes our family... the one makes us whole.

Your quest for independence astounds me with its ferocity.

You don't want hands to hold, or to have anything done FOR you.

You've got your own way of doing things.

Sometimes I miss the weight of baby-you, sleepy & sated after a feeding.

You are so very busy stretching, growing... testing limits and finding your place.


You learn so very quickly, taking in new things with an appetite for adventure that makes me nervous for your future years.

I struggle to make those special moments just the two of us.  As the third child you often get dragged along in your brothers' wake.


I promise to help you explore your own path too.

 But now you are two... you love your big brothers, your dog and stealing whatever toys any of them might currently have.  You love the itsy-bitsy spider song and move your fingers so carefully making your spider crawl up that spout.  You love bananas and crackers and have a wicked sweet tooth just like me.  More than anything else you love to dance to Daddy's loud music.  Swinging your body round and round and round again... until you wobble and fall in a heap of giggles.  I love dancing with you.

Happy 2nd Birthday my sweet Soren!
I love you so very much.