Photographs

My husband doesn’t understand why I can never delete any of my pictures.  He can take 5 photos, choose his favorite and easily delete the other 4.  I don’t have that gumph.  I like the off photos, the pictures that will never be posted on Instagram, that show people in the moments before or after they pose.  Some of my favorite photographs are those where the subject doesn’t seem to know they are being photographed, the photos that are slightly out of focus, blurred.

When I was little, my memories were made from the perspective of a little child.  I think about this as I go through the day with my boys; wonder what they see. I think about how much of the world they are taking in and what it looks like from their perspective.  I wonder what they will remember when they are older and I hope that their memories will be made richer from my photographs.

I treasure the few pictures I have from my childhood, especially the pictures with my mom.  Even the pictures that have long been lost to time and cross country moves but are kept in memory.  I remember her as I saw her from my childish stance.  I can see her hands, the pants she wore, the white moon shaped cuticle at the base of each nail.  I catch glimpses in my mind’s eye of the highlights in her hair that I noticed in the airport one time when she flew back to Arkansas.  I can see her stepping on a shovel as she works the dirt in her vegetable garden in our front yard on Elm Street, the curve in her back as she kneels next to the flower bed, pulling weeds.  I remember the feel of the tubes and dressings on her body, hidden by her tie-dye t-shirt, as I hugged her when she picked me up from day camp, and the stillness of her body, eyes closed, as she lay in the hospital bed the last time I saw her.  It’s harder to see her face, her eyes, to imagine her voice, her laugh, to remember many of the things she said to me, the conversations we must have had.

The few photos that I have of her inform me of who she was, how she felt, what she looked like.  My favorites are the photos that catch her in a laugh or a far off glance. They give me a fuller picture of a three-dimensional woman.  They are a clue as to the woman that I may have known had she been around when I was old enough to care about knowing her more fully.

So I keep the off photos, the blurry shots, the accidentals, the photographs taken when there isn’t really anything to see.  I cherish them, even though I don’t know what to do with all of them.  I imagine them in albums one day and until then simply look back from time to time and remember all the small moments that were shared among our growing family.

Here are some of my favorite, recent, off photos (most of which I think are better then the posed):

 

 

 

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Blueberry picking

I carried one boy on my back as I tried to convince the other one to put as many blueberries in our bucket as he was putting into his mouth.  The sun shone bright overhead and warmed our shoulders as we bent towards the bushes.  Cameron fussed from behind me, pulling small twigs and leaves from the bushes when he was close enough.  I wrestled them from his hands, blindly, relying on my three year old to make sure nothing had gotten into his mouth.  When he asked if he could give his brother a blueberry, I said  “Sure, as long as you bite it in half first.”  I watched him choose just the right berry and then pop it into his own mouth.  I bit a berry in half myself and peeled as much of the skin off with my teeth as I could.  “Hey, look at this little tiny one I found! Aww, it’s so cute.”  I reached back and put the peeled berry in Cameron’s open mouth as Casey gently put the tiny berry in our bucket.

We had started out picking Currants, finding vines dripping with the delicate, translucent balls.  Even though they are incredibly tart, Casey kept putting the few he picked into his mouth. With Cameron fussing from the stroller (which we ditched soon after) and lacking the concentration needed to collect the small berries, not to mention the sour reward for our efforts, we quickly returned to the farm store to exchange our small bags for a bucket and were pointed in the direction of the blueberry patch.

This was my first time picking blueberries.  I think I am in love. The color palette alone was enough to make me drool- the frosted blue and lavender berries, the brilliant green leaves, standing in sark contrast to the bright yellow hay piled around their bases.  It made me want to come home and paint our house; to rip up the bushes in our backyard and replace them with blueberry bushes. I had daydreams of a blueberry and lavender farm and I imagined the beauty and abundance of our crops for years to come.

The afternoon felt lazy.  We gorged on blueberry banana muffins while blueberry currant jam cooled in jars on the counter.  There’s still a pan of blueberries in the refrigerator waiting to be mixed into pancake batter, added to tomorrow mornings cereal, and eaten by the handful.  Still, we can’t wait to go pick more.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

hydrostatic equilibrium

The point of orbit

for this shining star

resides within.

The heart center

stokes the fire

kindling this tiny

everlasting flame.

I seek you,

blindly-

reaching out

squinting the depths

of this vast plane.

Your hand arrives,

steadying me

just in time,

leading me gently

back to truth

back to my self.

My reflection resides

in the depths

of cornflower blue.

How gently

grace whispers.

How gently

my sweet darlings

part their lips

in moments

of slumbered surrender

fanning the tiny flame

into a heart wrenching

blinding blaze.

The stellar center

holds true.

 

 

 

 

 

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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