Monday, December 17, 2012

be here now

I have been struggling all weekend with the need to write something, anything, about what happened on Friday in Connecticut.  Feeling so deeply that if I could just write something, process what happened, it would somehow make sense.  But it will never make sense.  And there are no words in any human language that can change that. 

All through the weekend I found myself drawn to the computer every hour or so, searching for new information, crying as the photos of the 26 began to appear, sobbing as I listened to a father talk about his Emilie.    After the boys went to bed I read & read... hoping for some kind of explanation.  As if knowing the why behind it all would keep us safe.

Like so many other parents, since Friday I found a little more patience, a little extra time and a whole lot of snuggles for my little ones.  Holding them close, knowing Monday would soon come and life would need to go on.  Dropping Quinn at school today I had to repeat the words, "Do not cry... do not cry... do not cry..." to myself more times than I care to admit.  With a kiss & an extra squeeze I said goodbye to my son and put my trust in the world that I would be able to pick him up in a few short hours.  Friday's events stay so close in my mind.  How could they not?

My heart aches for all those who lost loved ones.  For the first responders who saw first-hand what darkness looks like.  For the survivors who will have to find their way to a new normal, through sadness and fear and a loss of any sense of safe.  For all of us as humans, who are born, live and die exactly the same no matter where we live, what we believe or who we vote for.  One breath at a time.

As I looked around Quinn's classroom this morning, I took in the innocence, the energy, the wonder, of a room full of first graders.  I had to forcibly steer my mind in another direction... do not cry do not cry... focusing instead on the sweet smile and "hello Quinn's mommy" from one of his classmates.  On the patient and warm way his teacher greats each child individually every morning.  On the knowledge that these children have no idea what happened last week.  On the hope that they never will know, except perhaps as something they learn in history class one day.  About the event that turned our country in a new and better direction on the issue of gun control and support for mental health care.

Life moves forward.  Bad things happen.  Innocent people die.  All we have is this moment here.  Staying present and enjoying the hell out of it is the only way I can think of to keep moving forward.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

eyes wide open

To Soren on his first birthday...

Exactly one year ago today, my belly was fresh with stitches.  My body without you, still not yet my very own, was numb from surgery, my mind fuzzy with hormones and chemicals.  I very clearly remember feeling the need to hold you, from down deep within me, like an intense hunger.  The need was an overwhelming physical sensation.  My arms that had longed for just one more chance to hold new life, finally sated with the weight of you.  Holding you that first time I felt the final puzzle piece snap into place.  I remember taking a breath, marking the moment, admiring the whole picture, complete.

The geography of you is so familiar, yet brand new.  You are exactly like your older brothers.  You are completely different too.  A flash of Quinn, a glimmer of Remy and the sureness that you will make your way in the world as one-hundred percent Soren.

Your smile is like the brightest sunshine, the sweetest orange, the highest high.  One flash to a stranger and they walk away lighter, your impish grin contagious, their own smile taking hold where before there was none.  Waiting for your brother at school the kids pour out of the gates and nearly every single one who passes you stops a moment to exclaim, "oh, what a cute baby!" before rushing to their own families.  Even at your tender age, you have a spark that makes people take notice.  

Your body, once contained within my own, knows no boundaries now.   

You are constantly on the move, exploring, discovering, conquering.  Your tenacity and spirit for adventure both frustrates and thrills me. 

I have no doubt that you will be able to hold your own amongst your older brothers.  More likely, you will challenge them to keep growing, stretching, changing... a constant quest to discover who will get there first.

I've been doing this parenthood thing long enough to know that I can't persuade time to slow down, or freeze, or linger at any particular stage.  I can only sit back, relax, and marvel at the speed you travel from infant to toddler, pre-to-K-to-middle-to-high schooler, eventually into man-hood. 

What an incredible adventure we are on.
I promise not to blink, keeping my eyes wide open the whole time, even through the scary parts.

But now... now you are one.

You like bananas and stealing your brother's race cars.  You pull on your dog Dewey's fur and he never growls at you.  You can make it from the playroom to the bathroom in 5 seconds flat, slithering on your belly army-crawl style, hoping against hope that somebody forgot to put the lid down.  You love to play in the dog's water too. 

You wave hi & bye like a champ & have recently discovered clapping.  You like to point at things and say "dat."  You say "dada" sometimes & have said "mama" only once, in a fit of crying. 

Your voice is sweet. 
And loud. 

Your nearly-bald head is the perfect round shape... so tender, so touchable... friends and family, and even the occasional stranger, find themselves rubbing it like a Buddha's belly for good luck. 

Our family is so very lucky to have you.

Happy Birthday my sweet boy.
I love you more than words can say.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

In Deep

The weeks are flying by in a blur of school-routines and regular life.  Sunday evening comes quietly with the preparations for the week... print calendar, organize homework, half-assedly plan meals, fold yet another load of laundry.  Then I blink, and Friday afternoon storms in, filled with amped up/burned out kids and two very long weekend days ahead.

Most days I feel like I have a decent handle on this gig... on the mothering, domestic, grown-upy stuff.  In the past few weeks I managed to not only keep everyone alive, I also made several batches of baby food, finally took those bags to Goodwill that have been living in the back of my car for who knows how long, and made an ever-so-slight dent in laundry mountain.  We even made it to Quinn's walk-to-school week every-single-day.  (Which probably shouldn't be something I feel the need to brag about, but involved getting everyone out the door twenty minutes early, for FIVE days in a row... so, yay!)

But then there are still these moments, the kind that sneak up & blindside me, where I feel like I am really just working undercover at this adult-in-charge thing.... and someday soon, someone will notice that I have no idea what I am doing.  Days when I bumble & stumble and just can't juggle anything else.  When I am crispy and brittle around the edges, and if husband or a kid makes some otherwise quite reasonable request, I snap.  Days when the rising certainty that everyone else is way better at this than me, can no longer be pushed aside.

The realization that I'M THE MOMMY still takes me by surprise sometimes.  Jumping feet first into this parenthood gig is such an epic adventure...the kind that no one can really understand until they are already in the middle of it.  There is no break in sight... no running off with the husband for a week in some undisclosed location... no sleeping in or pajama days watching movies and napping... no skipping making dinner just because I don't feel like it.  

And yet, there is such a deep, bone-level understanding that this is all as it should be.  That these kids I am in charge of are both my students & my teachers.  They make me question everything I have ever thought I knew about myself.  They re-define me in the world.  Anchoring me to a deeper understanding of what it means to be alive. 

There is nothing sweeter than seeing Quinn's face light up when he sees me at school pickup... or how tightly Remy wraps his arms around me when he hugs... or the way Soren's head fits just so on my shoulder.  They turn to me for answers when they are unsure.  For balance when they are unsteady.  For comfort when they come unglued.  What an amazing responsibility it is to guide little humans in this world.

Monday, September 3, 2012

43 is a really big number

I went to bed early last night... something that doesn't happen nearly often enough even though sleep is one of my very favorite things.  Feeling virtuous & good as I peeled back the covers before 10pm, I nestled into our most comfortable bed.  Full of reflections about my birthday, sleep didn't come quickly.  When my phone bleated notice of a text at 10:15, I couldn't resist the pull.  The need to know stronger than my pillow.

Photos of a cute new puppy & a couple of back & forth messages made it 10:30 before I once again attempted sleep.  I first heard Remy on the monitor at 10:45.  Hoping it was just regular kid-talking-while-dreaming I put the pillow on my head & rolled over.  Ten minutes later it was the unmistakable "mommymommyMommyMOMMY" middle-of-the-night wail of a kid not feeling well.  A little Advil, cool water & mommy snuggle later he settled back down.  11:15pm doesn't feel like an early to bed night any more.

As fate would have it, the baby, my sleep-though-the-night since 3 months old little angel, decides that 5:00am is a perfectly fine time to wake up for a snack.  His soft cries penetrate my dream of riding in a taxi on my way to a fancy dinner... the driver has a baby in the front seat and I remember my dream self passing harsh judgement on his lack of baby-restraining safety.  I nurse him back to sleep and at 5:30 hear Quinn on the monitor talking softly to himself.  My attempts to get back to my fancy dream dinner are thwarted by a snoring husband, a snoring dog and the final straw that gets me up... a cat fight right outside our bedroom window.  Howls & snarls & claws ablaze... and bewilderment that neither husband nor dog wake up to this noise.

So here I sit, at 6:15am, now officially 43 years young.  Good thing old people don't need as much sleep, right?  Seems like the perfect time to put to words, in no particular order, forty-three (43?!?!?!?) things that I am grateful for...

1.  Simply making it this far.  I can't help but think of family, friends, colleagues that didn't.  Missing those who left far too early.
2.  All of my boys.  Not sure how this happened exactly.  How I now find myself entirely surrounded with testosterone.  It both overwhelms & comforts me.

3.  Where we live.  This warehouse with its high ceilings and open space has spoiled me for future houses.
4.  When we live.  Having Quinn now, when there is so much more support, acceptance and encouragement.  I often think of all the parents who came before us... ignoring doctors and "experts", blazing a trail so we can be where we are now.
5.  Bacon.  I mean donuts.  No wait bacon.  Bacon donuts?  Hmmm.
6.  Sitting here listening to the sounds of my family waking up.  Baby cooing, two little boys trying to snuggle with Daddy... each attempting to be closest to him.

7.  My completely awesome extended family.  We are spread across the country, but the love knows no distance.
8.  Having enough.  We might struggle each month to keep things afloat, and getting ahead seems an impossible dream, but we always seem to find a way to have enough.
9.  My body.  It has more bumps and curves and padding than it used to, but it made three new people.  How cool is that?!?
10.  My husband.  I never thought I would actually get to use that word in my lifetime.  So-very-very-worth-the-wait.
11.  Summer tomatoes.
12.  Watching my boys form their own relationships with each other.

13.  The luxury of being with my kids during the day.
14.  Saturday morning garage sales.
15.  My mini-van.  Yes, it's true.  It makes the list.  Never say never about anything... because it all comes back around.
16.  Long, hot showers.
17.  Watching the sun rise this morning.
18.  Laughing with my friend Laurie.  We bring out those just-can't-stop-snort-milk-out-your-nose kind of laughs in each other.  The kind of laughs that are rare, but cleansing and sweet.
19.  The feeling of being known by those I love.
20.  Girlie dinners with old friends.  Must schedule one asap.
21.  The support of the Down Syndrome community... both online and in real life.  Even though we are all so very different, there is such comfort in being understood and championed by those who have walked the same path.
22.  Advil.
23.  My parents.  All six of them.
24.  The way Soren, and his brothers before him, fits so perfectly on my left hip.

25.  The ability to type.  Even one handed.  (See #24)
26.  Quinn's classmates & their complete acceptance of him in their world.
27.  My friend Honey.
28.  Flash mobs.  They make me cry happy tears.  Every. Single. Time.
29.  Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed.
30.  The sound of trains... Metro, Bart, the freight yard outside our door... there is something I find comforting about the whistle in the distance and the power of the train itself as it whooshes by.
31.  The memory of my Grandfather.  The firefighter who taught me how to bake a cake.
32.  Remy's valiant efforts to get the baby's first word to be diarrhea
33.  Dewey the wonder dog.  My first baby.

34.  Remembering how very much I love writing... how much I need writing.
35.  My camera.
36.  Deciding to get up early and drag myself out of bed to go to the Alameda flea market on July 1, 2001.

Early days
37.  My friend Dawna.
38.  The smell of rain in the air.
39.  Having the space of the new playroom & huge bedroom for the boys.

40.  My siblings.  Two brothers and a sister.  Knowing them as adults feels like such a gift.
41.  Having a husband who cooks.
42.  Watching my man be an amazing dad.
43.  My sense of humor.  It saves me.  Every. Single. Time.

Friday, August 24, 2012

first grade

The house is uncharacteristically quiet for a weekday morning... Remy is off running errands with his daddy, the baby just went down for a nap and you Quinn... my biggest of big boys... you are at school having your first day of FIRST GRADE.  My mind is a swirl of worries about how you are doing, while my heart knows you are just fine.  Yesterday afternoon when we went to meet your new teacher & to check out the classroom, for the very first time I saw you being shy.  You have been stubborn & not wanted to talk to people plenty of times, but this was different.  This was a hold-a-little-tighter to mommy's hand and chin-tucked kind of whispery thing.  You know this is kind of a big deal, first grade and all.

First grade.
It feels so big, so grown up, so much the beginning of things.

In the early days when you were first born, I could not believe there would ever be a day when I would forget your baby smell.  Or how it felt to hold ALL of you in my arms.  These days your body is so long & strong & so very much your own.  Sometimes I think you must have hatched fully formed because there is no way my body could have ever contained you.

But still, on those restless nights when you just can't sleep, I squeeze myself into your narrow bed and snuggle up close.  Tangled together, my finger traces the contours of your face.  Willing to memory the slope of your forehead to nose, the gentle rise of your cheek & soft curve of your chin.  Locking it safely away for the not-so-far-away day when you will declare your need for more personal space.  When the mere presence of me no longer has the power to calm, soothe, sedate.  I only wish I could know beforehand when that last sweet good-night snuggle will be.

But now, you are in first grade.
You are smart.
You are capable.
You are at the beginning of a path that leads away from home.
You are exactly where you need to be.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

fate, love & cosmic pinball

I have always been a collector.  It's in my blood.  Auctions, antique shows, garage sales, thrift stores, even the occasional dumpster score... the thrill of the hunt never gets old.  From the "around the world" dolls when I was a kid, to cobalt depression glass during high school & vintage sheet music in college... throughout my life I have loved hunting, gathering & enjoying things that need a new home.

So one day, when a colleague told me about an amazing monthly antiques fair with over 500 dealers of all things vintage, I could not have been more excited.  I started going each month, and over the next three years decorated my little studio apartment with all the things that caught my eye & fit my limited budget.  I looked forward to that first Sunday morning each month.  Rising before the sun, driving easily through a sleeping city, across the water to treasures waiting to be discovered.  Little did I know, that on one such outing, I would change the course of my life.

Very early that still summer morning, the sun just peeking up from the edge of the world, I rounded a corner and saw my future husband in the distance.  A tall, dark and handsome stranger who felt instantly familiar.  My breath caught, and the sensation of the wind being knocked out of me stopped me cold.  My friend & fellow treasure hunter thought for a moment I must be having some sort of attack.  She quickly realized what I was looking at & urged me to go talk to him.  The direct approach was not something I felt comfortable with in the dating world, so I shook off the idea & quickly walked the other direction.

Thankfully, my heart trumped my brain that fateful morning eleven years ago, & I did go talk to the handsome stranger.  I sit here now, typing with one hand, as the other holds a squirmy eight-month old, the third in the line of children I thought I would never get to have.  Just weeks before meeting my husband I had made the decision to leave the big city in favor of a smaller college town in the mid-west.  I had interviews lined up with the local PBS station & had started the search for a new place to live.  Feeling the need for something different, I made plans. 

I never did make that move.  For three years we had both been at the same place at the same time, and yet had never met.  With one chance encounter, the possibility of staying put suddenly got much more interesting.  Although I would not change a thing if I had a do-over,  I can't help but wonder sometimes what my life would have been if I had made a different choice.  If I had stayed home that morning, or not found the courage to approach him.  Would I be married to my job & living with ten cats?  Married to someone else with three other children?  Or does the exact right love find us at the exact right moment, no matter what we think we control?  Throughout our days we make choices, big and small, that ripple out to alter the course of our lives, and others, in ways we rarely ever get to know.

My beliefs vacillate between deep surety in a grand master plan for each of us, to we are all just random bits of breath bumping around in a cosmic pinball game.  I am mostly a believer in Fate.  I see her as an often kindly, sometimes cruel, unseen force guiding us to "choose" whatever will keep us on our destined path.

When two people come together who are so clearly meant to be, well... together, there is no sweeter place to be.  I thank my lucky stars each day, even on the difficult ones, that I found my person, my love, my home.  Sometimes taking a chance with your heart is the best choice of all.

Celebrating two people who have chosen to love each other for the rest of their lives, is one of my very favorite kind of celebrations.  Combine that with a huge extended family, great food & a mid-west summer and I am over-the-moon.

I love seeing my babies be loved-on by those I love...

Cousins with endless energy plus a strong, young back... my boys are in heaven too.

Two of my very favorite people on the planet.  xoxo!!!

Sisters.... it took me awhile but I finally got one where you all have your eyes open.

And the wedding?  Perfection.  Every detail was beautiful... the home-grown flowers, gorgeous bride, care-packages for all of the little guests... and did I mention the cheesecake?!?  Ah-may-zing!

Congratulations you two!  Please come visit us very soon...

This little guy had a big crush on the bride... didn't want to let her out of his sight.

Soren has his first sink bath

Fishing at the pond on the farm

Um, got cute?  Why yes indeed.

Hello chickens!

With my beautiful cousins... I remember them both as babies... when did I get so old?!?

Seriously the world's worst group shot... who got a good one?!?

Hoping cousinpalooza can be an annual tradition...

One of my favorites...

Epic country sky on our last night at the farm

Traveling with three little ones is quite a challenge, but was worth every minute.  Feeling so grateful we could make the trip to be with everyone.