Shine

My children shine when I look at them-
as if their light is so bright it can’t be contained
within the boundaries of their excitable bodies.
They look out at me through glimmering eyes,
their vision highlighted by the brightness spilling
over their soft edges. Their world is full of possibility.

Sometimes, at night when I lay beside them,
when I hold them in my lap, savoring,
I smell their light through the tops of their head.
It takes on shape and color, texture, form.
I can see it when I close my eyes.

Their light lives inside of me-
although I could never describe it to you.
But give me blindness any day,
so I might collect their light, hoard it
until the world before me shines again.

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ROAR

I’m sitting in the boys room. Casey is ensconced in his tent and Cameron is enthralled with watching his reflection, in his little mirror, as he threw a ball. We’ve recently rearranged their room and I’m quite happy with the results. Casey declared that he “has the prettiest room,” which is pretty high praise from an almost 4 year old. Although this is the same almost four year old who declares enthusiastically every time he farts, as if it’s never happened before, then becomes downtrodden if you don’t respond with equal enthusiasm. Still, I take what I can get these days as we move into what I hope is the end of the “threenager” phase. It’s a real thing- google it.

Casey’s newest game is to gather every single toy he can find into a huge pile somewhere. I’m not sure what he imagines when he looks at it but I find that it resembles a large trash heap inside my house, a sight which sets my anxiety into overdrive whenever I walk by.

I’ve been trying to become more mindful recently, more relaxed in my reactions to the events that life throws at my during each day. Possibly, this is some unconscious response to Casey’s new hobby, or it may stem from the brief article I read on mudras and meditation in a Yoga Journal I picked up at Whole Foods. It has sat largely untouched on our TV stand since bringing it home, save the one time I opened it and chanced upon the article. Either way, I’ve begun down this journey of becoming more mindful and it’s led me to a few startling discoveries. Like the other afternoon when I was standing in the kitchen and discovered that I could have cookies and kombucha at the same time without any guilt. Turns out I have all these unconscious rules that govern how I live my life, what I consider right and wrong; rules which, apparently, can be broken without earth shattering consequences.

Actually, over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed that many of these “rules” actually interfere with my ability to stay present and feel happy. When I am held rigid by a rule, like “no mess in the house,” I can’t relax enough to be present with my child as he gathers every toy and stuffed animal into a “fort” around himself and let’s not even talk about being present to what he is thinking, feeling, seeing. What a huge loss it would be to not understand this, to never learn to relax within this tension just enough to open a keyhole to peek through and catch a glimpse of his world.

Practicing mindfulness, a little bit more each day, I find that inspiring thoughts seem to rise up out of no where:

You are not responsible for other people’s emotions.

Things are changing all the time. This too will change.

If you’re not sure what to do, do nothing until it presents itself

I am sure that I have read all these quotes somewhere- in books, on pinterest, posted on facebook. But all of a sudden they seem to appear when I need them, like little drops of fairy dust helping me to learn, slowly, to fly.

It’s not to say I don’t have my bad days. Sometimes, like yesterday, I feel like a shitty parent because I wake up in a bad mood and I’m immediately thrown into the trenches of motherhood, losing my patience and reaching my daily quota of butt wiping before I’ve even finished my first cup of coffee, which is now cold. I yell at my children to much, I yell at my husband too much and I stomp around the house muttering about all the injustices of life, feeling overwhelmed and ignored and wanting nothing more then for someone to throw me a rope and help me find the strength to climb up and out of it all.

Then I leave the house and drive and drive and drive until I can think straight and get myself in order and find enough distance and breath to regain a sense of balance and lightness. And wouldn’t you know it, these inspiring quotes spring annoyingly to mind, reminding me that this is just one day, that I can not control what other people do, and also that it is unreasonable to expect people to read my mind.

Upon returning home, I find not a thing has been done and no one else’s mood has changed but I feel better equipped to handle it all. I have taken myself away to find my own rope to climb and I realize that this is good parenting. For my children to see me have a bad day is just a part of life. The important thing it that they also see how I am able to get myself out of it- at least I hope that one day they will see that. For now, I make jokes about how the tiger ROAR’s like mommy did this morning and take comfort in my boy’s laughter.

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Body wars

My body is a temple
and temporary housing.

She is a battlefield
and a field of wild flowers.

A triage center
and a place of refuge,
carrying nourishment
to the weary young
who batter around her feet.

She is bruised and blushed,
hugged and hallowed,
held aloft and dragged down,
tickled and touched
and tugged on,
stuffed full and left empty;
surviving on the crumbs of the day.

My body is a battle ground.
My body is a temple.
My body is worshipped and forgotten,
gently coaxed into flame
and often left to fizzle.

My body has been at war
and found peace-
we’ve learned to trust each other.
This body.
She is mine and I
I am hers.

Both boys are sleeping on the couch next to me. Their bodies have been battered by a stomach flu the past 24 hours but it feels like the worst is over. Or perhaps we are in a calm between waves. I hope not. I hope that we have made it to quiet after the storm.

I was plagued by a case of the should’s; all the usual suspects: laundry, kitchen counters, sleep, toys. But I ignored them all and did what my body wanted. I sat. In one of my big blue arm chairs, with a fresh cup of strong coffee on the table next to me, I sat with my feet up, fuzzy slippers trapping the heat of the sunshine coming in through the front window. I finally put our good curtains back up this morning. They used to be our “old curtains,” wanting replacing, but then I got worse curtains and now they are our “good curtains.” I like them. They are easy to pull open and closed and don’t crease like starched notebook paper.

The thing about sick kids is that on the one hand you savor the sweet cuddles, the neediness that sickness manifests, but then there’s the vomit and the clean-up, the extra laundry, the sleeplessness which only generates further tears and irritability. You worry about them eating and not eating, being too hot or too cold, hold them until your arms ache and you have to remember how to tighten your core so your back won’t give out. You fight with your husband just because- because you are tired and wearing your fourth outfit covered in puke and just want someone to take it all away so you can just disappear for a few minutes to remember who you are.

Yet, sick days are the moments when memories are made. The days of cartoon marathons and sleeping on towels with a boy on either side, small hands gently holding you in place. One day we will look back and laugh that we literally went through every towel in the house in one night and finally found a reason to throw out that ugly throw pillow after Cameron threw up on it. Thanks Cam.

But for now I’ll savor the silence, the unfolded laundry, the sweet faces on the couch next to me, this momentary rest in which to catch my breath, and enjoy the wait for whatever happens next.

Frozen

The world is frozen outside. My almost four-year-old told me,”when there’s snow outside, it is quiet inside and it is quiet outside.” Yes. In the stillness of the morning I can feel the fullness of our home, the quiet exhalations that fill our house with life.

Driving to school this morning a blur of shadows flew across the road ahead and startled me out of my reverie. It took me a minute to realize it was a family of deer, at least 6, and I was so excited that I cried out without words, ecstatic when they turned to run parallel to our car for a moment so I could point them out to the boys, and suddenly tears sprung into my eyes. So brave and bold and foolish, those deer. Life in adundance, where so often it is chased out.

And twice in the past week the sky has taken my breath away; the low clouds reflecting the colors of the setting or rising sun so staggeringly that I look away but raise my gaze again to take it in, to make sure i dont foeget. Once the colors were brilliant orange and purple as the sun set to the West and the laughter of friends and children echoed through the halls. This morning the colors are more subtle- the pastel yellow and pink, blue, purple and peach; colors of a child’s room. The backlit trees are not deep black shadows but soft painted gauze draped with the white snow that is frozen and holding the world captive in its silence.

My Second Son

Cameron-

This time last year, I was anxiously awaiting your arrival, heading to story time with your big brother, wondering if this would be the day.

This time last year, you were getting ready, beginning your journey to the light.

This time last year, the autumn leaves were in full spectrum. The air was crisp and the sky big and blue and clear. The sun warmed our shoulders and our bare arms. It was a perfect day to meet you.

Now, you hold my hand and rest your head on my arm, in your silly, sweet way.

Now you bounce and dance. You love to dance and you love music. How you love music! It seems you were born knowing what a piano was- reaching on tippy-toes, tiny fingers tapping sound from the black and white keys. When we play downstairs, our favorite thing is to sit together and explore the sounds of each instrument in our music box, the sounds of each rattle, drum, bell, tambourine, triangle- all clamoring together in a raucous composition.

Now you are one.

How quickly the past year has gone. I remember so clearly holding you in my arms for the first time, the way your tiny fingers grabbed onto mine, sleepy eyes looking up at me, adjusting to the light and the cool air of the world for the first time.

This past year has been so full- full of laughter and tears, finding our balance, dancung to new rhythms and adjusting to new schedules; of worry and anger and wonder but most of all so very full of love. I can’t believe how much love my heart can hold.

I spent a lot of the last year worrying, wondering if I was giving you enough- enough time, enough love, enough of me. I worried that I wasn’t giving you everything your brother got, worrying that I was somehow short changing you, wondering how I would divide my love and my time between two boys. Some days my worry manifested in anger. Sometimes I could see that anger scaring you, scaring your brother, throwing us off balance. This past year was full of learning new ways to think, to cope, to find myself and sit in the midst of chaos without losing my footing.

But a year in, I find that it all happens naturally. My heart opens to you one day at a time as we experience life together. There have been times of anger and yelling but so many more moments of tenderness and laughter and togetherness.

Cameron, here is my promise to you. I will not parent you the exact same way that I parented your brother and that’s ok. You are a different boy then your brother. The things you need from me are much the same but very different than him. Our lives are different than they were when your big brother was born. I am different. I am more confident as a mother. I have more trust in my abilities as well as in you.

I will love you to the ends of the earth and raise you the best I can and I promise you that it will be enough. I will accept you as you are and help you whenever you need it and give you as much space and as many cuddles as you need. And I will kiss you and tell you I love you a thousand times and then a thousand more.

Cameron, I love you. You make me laugh and remind me to slow down and, in this next year of your life, I promise to do more of both. I promise to worry less and relax a little. I can’t wait to see what this next year will hold. I can’t wait to discover the world with you and watch you grow into the little boy you will be a year from now.

Happy Birthday Munchkin!

Hot heat

His hot heat rolls into me,

a ship on fire, seeking

finding safe harbor.

Open armed, I am unafraid.

I know all the tips and tricks now-

Cool breath and a damp cloth

comfort us both.

 

In the hours between dark and dawn,

this hot heat brings me life.

Where days drag,

when dawn beckons,

hope is reignited.

The path ahead is hazy

in the hot heat,

cracked earth being

the only next right step-

Open mouthed, parched lipped

Seeking to quench this thirst.

 

My body feeds him-

the milk of life

brings his hot heat to a

simmering warmth.

Sleep sets in

worldly cares filed neatly

away, hidden in ever deepening

heart folds.

 

His hot heat brings me alive.

His body rolls to me and I

guide him into safe harbor

open armed, unafraid.

I drop anchor here.

No matter how hard the gales

or how high the waves,

our ship will hold.

His hot heat is hope

reignited.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The year I become me

I took the photo below yesterday, as I drove home after dropping Casey off at school because it reminded me of him. All I was thinking about was my children; my baby boys. How lovely and simple it is to get so excited pointing out the trucks and cranes and construction vehicles of every sort as we drive…anywhere.”

Here’s something you may not know about me: I really like country music. Much to my husband’s chagrin, he often turns on the car, after I’ve been driving it, to find the local pop country station blaring from the speakers.

I like the optimistic heartbreak, the simplicity offered within the crooning lyrics. The picture of a simple life accentuated by a great pair of cowboy boots. It’s a welcome distraction from the world of NPR or CNN where we are constantly bombarded by the heaviness of the world- one that I am increasingly fearful of letting my boys loose in.

Waking up to the tragic shooting in Las Vegas hit me deeply. It’s the kind of event I could picture myself at with my boys when they are a bit older, albeit at our local 4-H fairgrounds. The children mentioned sitting on their parents shoulders took on the faces of my own two boys as I pictured their terror, felt the heart wrenching fear the parents must have felt. Even though the shooting happened on the other side of the country, it hit too close to home.

Maybe this is the same feeling that people have when they “get woke”. Something deep inside of me felt frighteningly fragile as the news broadcast sunk in too early yesterday morning and I felt hot tears unexpectedly falling. A great rage roiled in the bottom of my gut and a tremendous sadness seemed to settle into increasingly weary bones.

It’s not as if I haven’t been affected by past mass shootings or the injustices occurring around our country on a daily basis. I empathize with the hurt and fear of others. But here I am- a white, 32 year old, midwestern liberal. I live in the suburbs with my husband and two children, a dog and a fat grey cat. I don’t hide from the hard questions. I support my friends in the LGBT..Q..I community. I support people’s right to protest for fair and equal treatment. I fight hate and injustice by teaching my boys to love and treat everybody with the respect regardless of race, class, gender, age, weight.

My truth is that I spend my days changing diapers, encouraging naps, making snacks and trying to convince my oldest that our furniture is not a series of trampolines.  I wake up early, with an aching back and drive my boys to and from school and story time, haul them in and out of car seats as we go grocery shopping and on Target runs. 

But deep in my heart I long for a simple life away from the crowds and noise. I am comfortable on cities and enjoy exploring them but I feel most myself in wide swaths of open country. When asked if I’d rather live on a beach or in the mountains, I instinctively picture myself somewhere in between, surrounded by rolling hills and green pastures. My bucket list includes spending a summer working on a ranch in Montana and traveling by horseback to seek fields of wildflowers. In my wildest dreams, I imagine us moving somewhere and living on a small farm where I can expand my vegetable garden, grow and harvest lavender and raise goats, chickens and perhaps a small hive of honeybees.  I close my eyes and imagine waking up every morning to a quiet, picturesque and peaceful sunrise. Dreams, I know, but I have every right to them as should everyone who lives and resides in our great nation.  Yesterday, it felt as if the right to dream was being taken away; the right to yearn for a simpler existence was being stamped out with every bullet that tore through the crowded concert venue.  I have a great fear that my children’s right to dream is being taken away from them before they even know they possess it.  

So yesterday, still reeling from the shock of the morning’s news, I did the only think I could think of to combat the growing fear inside of me.  I picked Casey up from school and took the boys to the park, let them run around and be kids.  We sat at Dairy Queen for lunch telling jokes, singing silly songs and laughing over french fries and ice cream. I told them I loved them over and over. When I finally pulled into our driveway with both boys asleep in the backseat, I carried them in one by one, put them both in my bed and laid down to nap with them in my arms.

I will be 33 in a few months and just a few days ago the thought “this may very well be the year when I become me” fluttered through my brain. I actually laughed when this thought appeared. What does that even mean?

When I was 15 I remember having a very clear picture of the woman I wanted to be. She was a far cry from the awkward, self-conscious, slightly depressed teenager I embodied. Yet 17 years later, I have become her. And now I feel the last few protective layers falling away. T he last few pieces, like patches of dead skin, are itching to be sloughed off.

Maybe I’m woke. Maybe I’m just sick of it all, sick of feeling so fearful, angry that the simple world of country songs, a world highlighted by love and heartache, easy living and nights staring up at the stars from the back of a pick up truck, doesn’t seem allowed to exist anymore. The terror of the world is beginning to close in and it’s pissing me off.

Maybe 33 will be the year. Maybe it will be the year I fight back, rail against a world that I can no longer stand and begin to build the world I picture my boys growing up it. Maybe it will be the year I become me.