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.

 

 

 

 

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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5 am

I thought about getting up, fixing the TV so I could watch the early morning news, making coffee, using the bathroom.  Instead, I lay there, relishing the 8.5 pound bundle sleeping on my chest.  I leaned in for the thousandth time just to smell the top of his head.  I closed my eyes and rested my hands on him, one on his back, the other cradling his bottom, and I just felt him breathe.  That natural rhythm of breath that comes so simply to babies, to children, before they are burdened.. before they forget to breathe.

I lay on the couch with him on my chest and stared at the ceiling, feeling the parts of me that ached with exhaustion and the relentless reframing that happens from constantly accommodating the needs of an infant and a toddler.  There’s the nursing, the burping, the constant carrying (of both kids), playing on the floor, playing outside, pushing a stroller, getting up and down and up and down again and again, during the day, during playtime, bath time, dinner, at night.  My body aches.  Hips, knees, ankles, the back of my skull, my jaw; aches that only the passing of time and hours of yoga will heal.

Meanwhile, my husband gets less of me for now.  A smile as he walks out of his office during the day, tales of our adventures during dinner, the offer of a cup of coffee in the morning and the last bit of my energy to engage in conversation at night before I cannot keep my eyes open any longer, a passing touch, just the fluttering of my fingers against his arm or his chest as I drift off to sleep.  Then of course the muttering at night or in the early hours of morning as I pace the floor and manage the needs of a cranky toddler before I have my first cup of coffee.  One day he will get me back, one day soon we will laugh about these days and miss them and get to watch our shows at night again.

But for now, I’m going to continue to try to appreciate every moment of this sleep deprived time, remind myself that it won’t last forever and will be over too soon.  Try to breathe more simply, more deeply, in an attempt to call upon that hidden reserve of patience I know must exist within me somewhere.  And mornings like this, I will lay here and study the ceiling and linger as long as I can in chest time with this new baby boy; smell his head and feel his heart beat, match his breath and pat his back and ignore all else until day breaks and I am required to drag my weary body once more into the light.

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Unexpected Serenade

There are a million lessons that I have learned since having a child.

Becoming a mother has made me take a deeper look at myself.  It has forced me to asses my values and clarify the things that I hold dear in this world.  It has made me take a firmer stance on political issues, issues related to raising children and issues specifically related to raising a little boy.  I have formed stronger opinions about what I consider to be right and wrong and the things that I believe in.  The realization that you are responsible for passing such beliefs on to your children and raising them to be independent thinking, respectful and responsible human beings is a heavy burden.

In many ways, becoming a mother has made me more sure of myself even as I am forced to admit that there is so much more that I don’t know than I realized- but perhaps that is also simply part of becoming an adult.  I find that I am kinder and more tolerant towards people (except bad drivers) and while I still judge people, as we naturally do, I am more likely these days to catch myself in my judgement and evaluate where it comes from.

Some of my big learning moments come while doing such mundane tasks as folding thel laundry or driving home from the grocery store.  Driving around yesterday while trying to pick up dinner, I was overcome with the realization that I go through life constantly preparing for the worst case scenario.  Jumping to forgone conclusions and preparing myself physically and mentally to deal with the worst hand that fate can deal to me comes as naturally as drawing air into my lungs.  In some cases this is necessary and serves me well.  When we were recently faced with the possibility that our unborn son could have heart problems, I immediately did my research and was fully prepared to deal with the worst possible outcomes the diagnosis could throw our way.  I listed people I could call on when we would have to be away to visit specialists, I lay awake at night imagining what the emotional toll would be to sit in a hospital waiting while our tiny infant underwent open heart surgery, and I imagined what our lives would look like 4, 8, 16 years down the road as we dealt with any aftereffects.  To our great relief, everything looks normal and we won’t have to deal with any of that, but the realization that I was able to jump right in and stand firm in the worst muck, was an eye opener.

It is a huge relief to know that I am capable of preparing and dealing with whatever life throws at me.  It is also somewhat troubling that I do this in the daily circumstances that we find ourselves in every day as we live our lives.

Yesterday, while picking up dinner, I forgot that the restaurant was all cash so I had to run to the ATM while they held our to-go order.  I immediately imagined that we would not make it back before they closed, that I would not be able to get my son the hot dog he so adamantly wanted for dinner, or that something would go wrong as we were forced to make this unexpected trip.  I became angry at slow drivers and frustrated at every red light we were forced to stop at.  So caught up in disaster mode was I, that I almost missed the wonderful opportunity which this side trip afforded me.

It had been a long and, at times, trying day but this extra trip in the car turned out to be the reset button I needed.  For as we approached one maddening red light, I was unexpectedly serenaded from the back seat, as my 2 year old tried his best to sing along to “Uptown Funk” as it played on the radio.  Although I wouldn’t want him going around singing this in the grocery store (his annunciation of certain words needs some work), I would never have had this moment to laugh and sing with him if we hadn’t had to detour. Instead of being faced with the worst case scenario, I was reminded to stay in the moment and enjoy life as it comes.  Because if I am always planning for the worst, then there is a big possibility that I am also missing out on some of the best life has to offer.

Nothing New

I finally have time to myself and this is what it looks like: me sitting in a cold exam room, waiting. Things are backed up and I’ve been in this small room for way too long and it is freezing. I watch the fish in the tank on the wall opposite from me.  He must spend day after day swimming around his small tank with nothing but a single green and pink fake plant to hide behind, staring at these same beige walls that I’ve been looking at for close to an hour. What does he think about? Who feeds him?  Does he even have a name? How does he not go crazy?

There’s a poster on one wall- a beach scene showing two palm trees with a hammock hung between them. The word “Relax”  is written across the sand.  A taunt.  How can I relax with goose bumps running the length of my arms; with the cold dread that has formed in the pit of my stomach forcing it’s way upward and the hard plastic chair numbing my thighs?

For a moment I think maybe they’ve forgotten about me and I consider opening the door and peaking out, maybe walking up and checking in with the nurse.  I hear someone outside the door mention restarting some system.  I hear the door of the room next to me open and another patient is deposited in her own sterile, frozen pod, told that there are two people ahead of her and that someone will be in to get her just as soon as they are available.  I hope I am one of the two.

I flip through all the magazines in the rack, Fit Pregnancy, American Pregnancy, Web MD. Nothing new- what to eat, buy, say and do while pregnant, after your baby is born.  I have already prepared myself for our worst case scenario and have already stored our meeting with the genetic counselor in a back compartment of my mind.  Nothing new there either. Nothing they can tell us until they take another look.

Finally, there’s a knock on the door and the exam room opens slowly, in case I was perhaps standing directly behind the door needing time to move out of the way.  A friendly blonde introduces herself to me and I promptly forget her name.  We make our way into ultrasound room 2 and make small talk, go over why I’m there and what they’ll be looking at today.  Nothing I didn’t already know.  Nothing new.

Up on the plush chair, warm goo spread across my protruding stomach and then there he is on the screen.  A perfect arcing spine.  Amazing that he is already so perfectly and fully formed. Feet and hands- all the tiny bones in each digit already fit together just as they should be.  She points out his little boy parts, also clear and perfectly formed.  He doesn’t stop moving the entire time. He is constantly twisting and turning and reaching out, arching his little back and kicking his tiny legs around. He’s dancing and grooving in there and I can see each movement at the same time that I can feel him slurping and squirming and bumping around inside me.

The doctor knocks and enters and now it’s all business. She pulls up the close ups of baby boy’s heart in grayscale. He looks at the screen. She adds color. He continues to stare. I try not to hold my breath and look at the screen, trying to see what he sees as he sees it. “I’m not seeing anything here. No mixing of the blood. I’m looking at a perfectly formed, working heart. You’ve got a healthy baby boy.”

My whole body lightens as a weight I didn’t realize I’d been carrying around is suddenly lifted away. He takes another look, “Everything looks fine. You can stop worrying.” He barely glances my way, although he is not cold in any respect. He pats my leg reassuringly, turns and leaves the room. The ultrasound tech spends a few more minutes simply letting my see my healthy baby boy, weighing in at 1 lb 5 oz, and then she turns the machine off and everything else is routine. The doctor comes back in- paperwork, a few questions, a quick signature, I’m checking out, reaching for my parking pass as I exit the garage and then entering into the bright sunlight, singing as I wind my way home.

Nothing new. Everything. In an instant life resumes as planned. Less than a minute of staring at a picture on a screen and a quick signature signing off and everything is back to normal.

Nothing new. Everything.
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Everything

Kids give it their all.  Everything.  Whatever they are doing at the moment, it gets their full attention, all their focus.  If they are building a tower with blocks, that is all they are doing.  If they are collecting pinecones outside, those pinecones are their single focus- until they discover a flower or a bug and then their entire world hones in on this new object.   When they come running into your arms, they run full out, throwing their entire bodies at you without hesitation.  And when they are tired and you pick them up, they give their entire selves over to you, trusting their entire weight into your arms as they rest their head on your shoulder.  They give you their all.

We, as parents, have to work to give our children our all.  This isn’t always easy, it doesn’t always come naturally and sometimes it can feel downright onerous.  Some days its a breeze to sit on the floor and play with legos and cars and stuffed animals for hours on end, switching games right along with our little ones, laughing at the stories they tell and answering their endless questions patiently.  But other days, the hours stretch too long.  The games they play become …well boring and tedious to us.  It isn’t that we don’t want to give our all to our children every possible moment.  But as adults, we are molded to multi-task.  As a stay at home mother, one who doesn’t rely on day care or a nanny to help our during the day, I have a responsibility to not only give my all to my son but to my family and our household as well and I rarely get to take a break from this job.  I feel the weight of this responsibility keenly, everyday. While I want to be able to give my entire focus to my son all day long, with total patience and enthusiasm, I also have a household to keep up, projects of my own that I wish to get done, a constantly growing to-do list and the internal worries and nagging thoughts that play through my mind every day.

Older generations are always saying not to worry so much about the housework, that these years will pass by too quickly and we will regret not spending more time digging in the dirt, having tea parties, and playing reckless games of chase to the backdrop of children’s laughter.  I know this is true because I already feel time slipping away before I am altogether ready to let go.  But I also know that I am happier in a clean house, more patient with my child when I am also able to get through my to-do list throughout the week.  The days seem to pass easier when I am able to keep us both busy.  It is a constant balancing act.

But every day I remind myself to give Casey my all.  I work to slow down and be patient, to answer all of his questions as best I can and give him my full attention when he is trying to tell me something.  I try not to get frustrated when he wants to stop every few feet on a walk down the street.  Instead, I take a deep breath and sit down next to him and study ants, poke rolly pollies so they curl up into balls, hold the rocks and leaves and flowers that he collects along the way.  In other words, I simply try to be where he’s at.

Just be wherever your children are.  That is everything.

In the wee hours..

Fairy eyes flutter open-
delicate, veined blue.
Swiftly, soft fingertips
brush the skin above those hazel jewels.

In the dark I silently keep rhythm
with my breath and tapping foot.
The rocking chair is but the vessel
for my breath and tapping foot.

In the dark, the ticking clock
the only steady hand-
leading blindly minute to minute
the steady pace the hours command.

Fairy eyes now gently close.
Delicate, veined blue.
Still the rocking chair-
the vessel,
the breath, the tapping foot.