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.

 

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.”

 

 

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 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.

32

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.