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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

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.

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):

 

 

 

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.