Heart-full.

I love watching my three year old run.  It has become one of my great joys in life.  He runs as if it is what he was made to do.  He runs fast and exuberantly, taking off a block away from the park, knees pumping.  His run is punctuated by involuntary skips and jumps, legs pushing their limits in a rush to get to the playground.   When he glances back at me, his face is pure joy.

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He has kid legs now, long and lean. I can see the muscle definition in his thighs when he runs and jumps and stretches; his arms when he carries, throws, reaches up for me to hold him; his stomach when I tickle him.  His little body is absolutely incredible- a work of art.  God’s perfection standing before me.

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Sometimes he runs just because he wants to, because it feels good.  He runs up and down the sidewalk, through puddles, laughing with delight.  He pushes his boundaries running down our street, glancing back to see how I am reacting as he runs in spurts, farther and farther down the sidewalk.  Someday he will be driving down this same street and I can already feel the lump in my throat, the blood pumping through my veins as I push back the anxiety of letting him go.

Meanwhile, my other boy is beginning to discover his capacity for movement and I can already tell he is going to keep me on my toes, just as he did during his pregnancy.  He shows a tremendous interest in exploring our house, loves holding onto your hands as he walks, constantly.  He’s been crawling for a few weeks, quickly picking up a three-legged crawl in his effort to move from place to place and follow his brother around. He pulls himself up onto anything that will hold him; standing at our toy shelf and systematically pulling everything off it.  I love watching the determination he displays when he moves from one place to the next.  I love seeing the automatic smile that forms when he claps and waves and recognizes my voice.

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I didn’t know what it would be like to form a relationship with another child.  As an only child myself, I didn’t know what it looked like for a parent to have a relationship with more then one child, to give themselves in different ways, depending on the needs of each child on a particular day.  I didn’t know it would feel so expansive, so awe inspiring, to realize during the small moments of our day that I am forming a separate relationship with Cameron that is so different from my relationship with Casey but just as big, just as loving.  I didn’t know that it would feel so good to have a second boy who found comfort in my arms, who just wants to lay his head on my shoulder or hang onto my leg or cuddle next to me in bed, just because I am his mother.  It gives a true meaning to the term “heart-full.”

 

 

Where the road goes.

I drive until my knuckles unclench and I am able to relax my jaw
I drive until the tears come and keep driving
long after they are dry on my cheeks.
I drive past acres and acres of farmland-
barns and silos, houses, separated
fallow fields of turned earth,
swaths of yellow wildflowers,
patches of purple and white flox
freshly mowed grass lawns and stands of forest,
patchy in the distance,
birds perched on the telephone wires
and on the broken stalks of last season’s dead corn.
Brown, yellow, green.
Midwest colors.
I can imagine running towards the distant trees
laughing as I squint my eyes
against the sun hot on my shoulders,
summer dress riding up my thigh in the breeze,
feet flying, plick-plucking their way across field
side-stepping stones and cow droppings-
The freedom and breathless excitement of exploration.

On I drive.

I drive until I am sharing the road with horse and buggy
and I watch the women, in their light colored dresses and bonnets
plow their land and prune their bushes.
I drive until the signs warn me that the road will dead end.
I drive until I can forgive and then rationalize,
acknowledge that forgiveness won’t erase the stain
that the pain of action can linger a long time,
that there are unresolved things
that still need long stretches of road to heal.

I drive until I can breathe easily and reach out.
until I can use smiley face emoji’s and winky emoji’s,
until I can laugh at the absurdity of it all
almost-
I drive until I can at least LOL.
I drive until “the road ends in 500 feet”
and keep going until I find myself, anticlimactically,
in a circle of concrete overlooking an interstate.
I turn around and head back, driving into the sun.

Later, at night, I am full of love and tenderness.
I don’t know where it goes during the day.
Sometimes, I have to drive to find it.

The Center Must Hold

I realized recently that I am the center of this family.  The point around which each person orbits; the axis around which this family unit revolves.  To my boys I am like the sun that lights their way during the day and the north star that leads them through dream land at night.  I am their home base- the place they run to when they are hurt, tired, scared, sad, excited, curious, bored.  I am the kisser of boo-boo’s, the righter of wrongs, their teacher, play pal and confidant all rolled into one incredibly tired and sometimes completely overwhelmed package.

When I wake irritable and cross with the world, the boys around me echo my sentiments (except sweet Cameron who is still young enough to wake each morning with a smile, happy simply to be awake again, glad just to see me and excited to begin exploring the world). The rest of them- their cranky footsteps, pouting faces and silent stares remind me that in order to teach kindness, I must be kind.  If I want a calm and happy home, then I must lead them there by managing my own anger, acting in ways that convey empathy, understanding and interest and displaying a loving and accepting self even, no especially, in those times when I would rather scream and shout and slam a door.

I am the center and the center must hold.

My husband is like a small island in the middle of this great big, often torrential sea, providing me with a place to land when I am in need of rest and a reminder of what is true.  Sometimes I lose sight of the island and become weary that we will not make landfall this day, afraid that I will be left to drift off alone in this vast expanse.  But then the tide recedes and there he is.  He is a great source of truth for me, reminding me of what is real, gently helping me to steer when I feel off course, always seeming to know what to say to reel me back to myself.  He sees me in a way that no one else does and he chooses to continue loving and supporting me day after day. There are few words in the english language which express the gratitude and comfort that I get from this.

My boys are the waves of our great ocean- coming at me full steam most days, forcing me to strengthen my strokes and take deep breaths before diving in.  But they are also the warm sand on which I rest, the sunshine that brightens my days and the heart-center of our foursome.  They give me strength even as they wear me out and fill me with joy and light even on the hard days, even when I wake irritable and cross and yell because wining doesn’t make pancakes cook faster and because one drop of chocolate milk spilled on our shirt dictates a huge laundry emergency despite the shoulders that are stiff with wiped off snot.  :::sigh:::

Choose what is most important in every moment
Listening to the voices in your head
And learn to hear your truth
Learn what feels good and what is right for you
Find ways to love those parts of yourself that have been undervalued

I see the echos of myself in my boys, in my husband and sometimes I don’t like what I see.  As the boys get older, especially Casey, it becomes increasingly evident and important to model good behavior, appropriate ways to deal with big feelings, right actions and deep empathy.  I don’t always manage to live up to my own ideal but I am learning.

I’m learning that it’s ok. It’s ok to not feel the way I think I should feel. It’s ok to feel the way I do. It’s ok to get mad, to be annoyed, to let them cry a bit, to not give in, to give in, to take alone time, to step away, to want to always come back, to want to hold on a little longer, and to grieve for the loss of a moment that just passed. It’s ok to want to just go inside, to just want to curl up and want quiet for a few moments. It’s ok to some days prefer one boy more then the other, to prefer on game over another, to get tired of playing with toys, to not get to the to-do lists. It’s ok to cry and it’s ok to laugh and to feel everything in between, sometimes at the same time and it’s ok to not know what to do with that. It’s ok to realize that I am not perfect, that I want to be perfect, that I can’t live up to this, that neither are they perfect. It’s ok to apologize sometimes and it’s also ok not to.  

I am the center and the center must hold.

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Our day in parts

Part 1: Science Experiment – Shaving Cream Rain Clouds

The original experiment, to drop colored water on top of shaving cream and watch it “rain” down into the water below, kept Casey interested for a surprisingly long time before we needed another clear vessel to just mix the colors in.20170329_102131

And a bowl to pour the water in.

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But of course in the end it all came down to being allowed to just play in the shaving cream!

 

Part 2: The Park

The walk over, pure attitude.

New Tricks!

 

Part 3: Home down time : Down home time

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Part 4: Disc-Golf

Late naps and decent weather = Get outside and wear them out!

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The Dance

When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor.
It’s to enjoy each step along the way.

I’m still getting used to “mother of two.”
Still learning the dance
and tripping over my feet.
Some days we waltz
we gaily trip through
Most days are improv jazz
riotous rhythms
and a staccato beat,
beat ing
keeping time
to an as yet
unknown song.

Equally surprised
by the ability to love
and the quickness to anger.
The music pulls me back.
The laughter, the tears
the screaming and shushing-
all part of the symphony
making up the soundtrack
of our days.

How astonishing, some days,
to look down and recognize
this second life
that has been added
to our company-
To look up and see
the little boy sharing
the spotlight-
To find a conductors wand
clenched within white knuckles,
a blindfold hiding bloodshot eyes.

Thank goodness for the friends who dance along beside me.
Thank goodness for the women who have already danced,
who remind me to forget about the steps and just enjoy the music.
Thank goodness for the tiny hands who hold onto mine
and the tiny feet that step onto my own
trusting me to hold them as we begin to move.

Thank goodness for the wind that carries us
and the earth that holds us up,
for the heaven above that promises us.

– for baby giggles and sweet smiles,
unbridled laughter and silly made-up songs,
late night talks and the ability to forgive,
for a marriage that continues to grow roots
and take shape, solidifying a foundation,
creating the stage upon which we dance.

The tide of parenthood.

I’ve been swimming against the tide all day today.  Each wave crashing over me, leaving me tumbling end over end, fighting, reaching for light and gasping for air.  

I felt my anger rising this morning, almost from the moment I opened my eyes.  It simmered just underneath my tired sigh as I peered at my wide awake, smiling 4 month through one eye, hoping that he would go back to sleep and knowing that he wouldn’t.  It bubbled up over coffee as I negotiated a cranky toddler and dealt with the nagging guilt of not being able to give myself fully to the baby, content in his crib.  A hesitant moment of negotiation broken by screams and shouts of “no!”  Moments of excited reconciliation ending in sighs of frustration and fierce, defiant wails.  

Finally, I couldn’t fight the tide any longer and I let the next wave carry me under.  A final kick (to my shin) and my anger burst forth ferociously, uncontrollably. I yelled with the voice of a mad woman, so loud my voice cracked with rage and tears began to leak from the corners of my eyes.  I yelled with all the rage of a hurting heart; pushed past my breaking point, I lost my self-control.  I was tired of being kicked, tired of being defied at every turn, tired of having to say everything 5, 6, 7 times and still not have it done.  I couldn’t take any more and I let the waves carry me.

It is not a good feeling to let your anger get the best of you and act out towards your child. Even when they are hitting you and kicking you and they don’t stop after you ask again and again, it does not feel good to act in anger towards a tiny being who is as much an extension of you as your arm.  It’s as if, in that moment, you can see their light dimming in front of your eyes.  And in the back of your mind, even as you are gasping for air and fighting the urge to hit back, to throw something, to just start running and keep running until your lungs burn and your legs give out beneath you, you know that their behavior stems from being over tired, that if you could just have a minute to calm down, everything might be ok.

I got both boys secured in their car seats and they were asleep within a block of our house. And when I was finally able to take a breath again, it came out in sobs.  I cried so hard that I almost had to pull to the side of the road to keep us all safe.  But each mile that passed allowed me to breathe deeper and gave me the space I needed to forgive myself, to begin to understand, to allow the waves to settle and the sea to calm.

Their lights are so bright, my boys.  I never want to dim that.  I want to be their home base, the one they run to when they are hurt and tired and in pain.

Having children opens your eyes to the areas of yourself that need work, the areas that are strong as well as those that are weak.  As Casey navigates these new waters of big emotions and increased autonomy, I sometimes find myself wading in muddy waters, trying to figure out better ways to handle my own big emotions, trying to identify the places where I need to exert more control and where I can give a little.

It’s not easy, this mothering thing.  I am not perfect.

When he woke up from his nap, I got down on his level and apologized to Casey, told him that it was mommy’s job to help him when he felt angry or out of control, instead of becoming out of control myself.  I gave him a cake pop from Starbucks.

“Thanks Mom,” he said as he reached up and wrapped his body around mine, resting his head on my shoulder and sighing with release.  I felt his light then, felt the brightness return. Children forgive so easily and so completely.  They give themselves so entirely to us when we allow them to.  My job now is to forgive myself, to continue to work to allow Casey to give himself to me, to accept him and guide him in his every step.  It is my job every day to work to turn myself towards the horizon and move with the eternal rhythm of the tide of parenthood.

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These moments when both boys are napping are like nuggets of gold tucked into my day. Half the time I don’t even know what to do with myself.  I always have a to-do list floating around and a running mental list of things I want to get done, but the last two days the name of the game has been “I can’t even…just do it.”

I’ve had a terrible head cold for the past few days, following a brief overnight flu that came on quickly and left me aching and tired. Even small tasks like picking up the used tissue I just dropped on the floor seem harder when my head is heavy and my eyes are watering. Combine this with an almost three year old who can destory a room like a tornado and a 4 month old who delights in diaper changes- I can’t even… With a sigh I mentally coax myself into action. Just do it! One foot in front of the other; trudging through

Yesterday was my birthday and although I spent it with a stack of kleenex tucked into my pocket, it was a lovely day full of moments of relaxation, surprise and joy.  Birthdays are a good reminder for me of how lucky I am to be surrounded with so many people who care about me.  I got cards and gifts in the mail. My husband took me on a mini shopping spree at TJ Maxx and a few other places.  Just the fact that he went shopping with me at all was enough to show me his true devotion.  We had nachos and drinks ( I had water) before going back to my Mother-in-law’s to pick up the boys.  I walked in to a lovely surprise party complete with birthday balloons, a birthday banner and a cake covered in m&m’s that Casey had helped make.  At Casey’s prompting we lit all the candles and he helped me to make a wish and blow them all out.  Then he used the ice cream scooper to help himself to a scoop of cake 🙂

It’s these moments in life, the moments that are only shared with a close few, low lit by birthday candles and punctuated by giggles and hugs, that make the days of trudging through worth it.  These moments make my heart sing.

Welcome, 32. I hope I have many more of these moments with you.