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!

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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.

I do

How do you stop when you are already at the breaking point? How do you talk yourself back from the ledge before you take the step you know you’ll regret? How do you accept the balance of the universe, knowing the good will always be balanced by the bad? The positive will always be equal with the negative. Or can you somehow spin that- change your perception enough to see the negative as just another momentary occurrence, no better or worse than those moments you perceive as positive?

Today, backing up from the ledge meant getting both boys in the car and driving until they slept; parking and listening to Tchaikovsky’s moody violin concerto. Finding a way to give myself a little breathing room until I was able to appreciate the beauty of the rain falling gently on verdant ground, until my heart was full of joy at the beauty of my growing family. With the dulcet tones of the violin and the accompanying melodious piano chords as a backdrop, I was able to give myself over to the balance of the universe.

It was a challenging day for us. We all threw temper-tantrums at different times. Yesterday I wrote in my journal that “my patience seems to have increased as of late” and, as children will, today both boys found a way to push my patience to it’s newly stretched limits. But too often, our bad days find a way to bring us down. It’s so easy to feel anger and resentment, when you are having a tough day, especially towards those that are having a better time. What if instead we chose to see our rough days as a blessing? If the universe truly finds balance in every moment, then our bad days are allowing someone else to have a good day. It is a blessing to have a bad day every once in a while, not only to keep us grounded and remind us of our own humanity, our own limits, our own strengths, but to also allow the universe to use us as a tool in it’s balancing act.

Today, my sister-in-law, whom I love dearly and consider a true sister, got married to a wonderful man who she loves with her whole being and who I am proud to consider a brother-in-law. I couldn’t be happier for them. I was thrilled to get the pictures from their private, awesome New York wedding through texts today and I was thinking about them and what an amazing day they were having the entire time I was dealing with one of the rougher days that I have had with both boys. I think it was the universe aligning itself- allowing them to have the most beautiful, magical, wonderful day ever by balancing it with a less then stellar day here. And I feel fine about that. I feel honored that in some small way, I could shoulder a bit of burden so that they may have none on their hallowed day

Thank you universe. Congratulations Emily and Preston. I couldn’t love you both anymore….and I couldn’t have been more happy to toast you ( a few times) this evening. I hope today was magical and by the same token, I hope tomorrow is even better all around!

Saturday

I’ve seriously been sitting here for the past hour and a half with two boys napping on top of me and I couldn’t be any happier!!

Here are a few recent videos:

Walking

Lest anyone think I forget about my youngest son, I’m here to assure you that although motherhood is quite different the second time around, watching child grow in their first year is no less amazing or delightful.

Cameron took his first step about two weeks ago, right around 10 months, same as his big brother. I forgot what it was like to watch a baby walk for the first time; that first time tottering off balance and instinctively putting a foot forward, the surprise at finding themselves still upright, the immediate plopping down onto their bottom. Their delight at being able to do it a second time, the joyful laughter when they can put a few steps together and walk from one parent to another. That look on their face as they begin to look down and study their feet and realize that it is their own feet making them walk.

I relish all of Cameron’s toothy grins and infectious laughs as he conquers this new feat. He doesn’t walk independently all the time- still in shorter, usually prompted bursts. He loves holding onto one hand as he walks next to you, always stopping to pick up a toy car or a block so he is holding something as he walks. We do exhausting laps around the house but just as I am ready to deal with the inevitable angry tears at making him stop, he looks up at me and grins his snaggletoothed grin or stops and claps at something and I can’t help but just get down and give him a squeeze, tell him I love him.

Motherhood is decidedly different the second time around. No less amazing but no less hard either. It is a heartful/handful kind of constant that wears me down and fills me up all at the same time. It’s big and confusing sometimes, usually overwhelming, and a lot more sleepless. It’s also joyful and playful and lighter then it was the first time around. There is more yelling but also more laughing, less sleep but twice the snuggles on a daily basis.

First Day Jitters

I constantly battle the feeling of not being enough; wonder if I have done enough, given enough. Those moments when I have felt lacking plague me. The yelling, the times I have not paid enough attention, feeling annoyed and tired, not giving my all to my boys- those moments sit heavy on my shoulders sometimes. After all, it wasn’t their choice to be born. It was my choice to bring my children into this world and as such it is my job to do right by them, to give them the very best that I can give. And then, just like that, they are grown up into little tiny humans and they’re off, even if it is just for three hours in the morning. It’s a little like watching a baby bird take that first step off of the branch, hoping they can fly, or letting a kitten outside for the first time, waiting for them to return home. The thing is, I know he’s fine. Even as I sit here with my heart a heavy lump in my throat, I know that Casey is having a blast in his new school. I can’t wait to hear about all the friends he makes and the things his teacher says and how he interprets everything he does and learns. I know there will be the inevitable time when he comes home after getting his feelings hurt for the first time or does something that causes him to feel embarrassed and, although those times haven’t yet come, they already weigh heavy on my heart. For now, it’s quiet and I barely know what to do with myself. It feels like I have to learn how to parent all over again, with just one boy to take care of for the next two hours. It’s exhilarating and terrifying and mostly I simply can’t wait to pull to the front of the car line and get my big (baby) boy back!!

Let’s Celebrate

It is quite popular today, at least in the mommy blog-o-sphere, to write articles highlighting that life isn’t merely the beautiful highlight reels we display on our social media; to admit to the fact that life is hard, that it takes strength and courage to walk the path of motherhood and marriage and friendship.

I am totally in with that crowd because raising two little boys is hard.  Raising independent, loud, demanding children is a hike through the wilderness that is all it’s own.  And it does take strength, courage, grace and a lot of coffee to walk it every day.

I want to take a moment, however, to do the opposite.  I want to suggest that we all take a moment and call out those times that are beautiful and awesome.  Let’s celebrate and commend ourselves when things are going well and we are groovin’ through life to the beat of our favorite song.

Life has been awesome for me lately. Not every moment is full of sunshine and rainbows (we’ve been watching a lot of Pixar’s Trolls lately, if you get the reference) but in general, we are in an upswing. I’ve been rocking nap times and mealtimes.  I’ve been connecting with my children- laughing with them and enjoying such sweet moments of play and conversation; watching them begin to play together and care for each other.  My husband and I have been talking about the issues that matter and taking on things as a team.  We’re getting projects done that have been put off and balancing the care’s of our daily lives in a way that is comfortable for both of us.

Maybe it’s the beautiful weather.  Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve been getting enough sleep.  Maybe it’s just ok to say that life is awesome right now and leave it at that.

It’s so helpful to reach out when things are hard, and it is equally comforting to be able to speak up when things are going swell.  Life has a balance, a rhythm and the only thing that we can be certain of is change.  Things aren’t going to be rainbows and unicorns all the time. The upswing will eventually give way to a downswing before it heads back up again.  So let’s do more of showing up for each other when things get dark, when our friends and neighbors need a hand held out to them.  And let’s do more celebrating when things are awesome.  Let’s cultivate joy for ourselves and for each other when life hands out opportunity and success and be grateful for all the sweet beautiful moments.

I sure am grateful for all the sweet beautiful moments I’ve been experiencing lately.