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!

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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.

Temper tantrums & Teaparties

I got Casey to fall asleep for a nap today ALL BY HIMSELF.  That is a big win around here. There was a little yelling, some wall kicking and his pillow definitely got thrown across the room as he stood on his bed screaming.  There was a lot of me sitting in the rocking chair with the baby (who was also crying) while I gently coaxed him to lay down and pull his cover over himself and in a calm, quit voice told him I would lay down with him when I didn’t hear any screaming.  Finally, I managed to put the baby down for half a second while I molded my body around Casey’s as he lay, now exhausted, under his blanket, and held him, whispering how important it was that he learn to fall asleep by himself and how proud I was of how helpful he’d been all morning.  Then Cameron started up again and  I told him I would come back in his room once I found a toy for the baby. “Ok, mama” he said in his soft baby voice.

I listened on the monitor for a long time while I walked around the house with Cameron and here we are two hours later and he’s still sleeping.  He needs it.  We’ve been batting around the stomach flu over here and it’s been a topsy-turvy couple of days and nights.  Parenting with a fever is no fun.  Thank god for family, who took Casey for a few hours Monday while I slept off some of my illness.

Someone asked me recently, in an email, how I manage temper tantrums, especially the increase that have flared up since bringing another baby into the mix. Honestly?  It’s different every time.  Sometimes there is a lot of yelling from both of us.  Sometimes things get thrown, doors get slammed.  Sometimes I have to leave the room or lock him or I into a room so that we can both calm down.  Sometimes, I get down on his level and there is a lot of hugging and holding and just letting him “get all his angry and sad out.”  Most of the time I just try to wait it out, talk him through it, be reasonable (even when he is completely unreasonable), take deep breaths.  I don’t mind that he sees me get mad or frustrated.  I do apologize when my temper flares and I don’t feel it was really justified.  I don’t spank but I have swatted his butt a few times when he has done something truly horrendous or scary- like when he ran away down the street and then darted across the street and then did the same thing on the other side of the street, crossing it twice without a thought and making my heart pretty much take up residence in the top of my throat.  I was so scared I could hardly breathe, let alone speak, and a swat on the butt and a tremendous hug was all I could manage to get my point across.

It’s hard for a toddler to adjust to sharing their parents attention with another child.  It’s difficult for the parent to have to divide their attention in a way that makes everyone happy.  At 3 months, things are beginning to level out.  I try to incorporate Casey into everything I have to do with Cameron: diaper changes, baths, picking out clothes. Sometimes he really wants to help, sometimes he could care less.

I tell him all the time that I understand that it’s hard for him “when mommy has to give her attention to Cameron but you are wanting me to play with you.”  He nods his head. Sometimes he starts to cry.

But now there are beginning to be more moments when I’m holding Cameron, burping him on my lap and Casey passes by and gently caresses his hair.  Moment’s when we are sitting on the couch in the morning watching Cartoons and Casey spontaneously looks at me and says “Cameron is the best isn’t he?”  It makes me feel all warm and teary inside as I just nod and say that he is, “and so are you sweetheart.”

The other day, Casey had a tea party for his teddy bear and a doll that was mine when I was a child.  He really wanted Cameron to join but I told him Cameron couldn’t really sit at the table. “That’s ok.  You can sit at the table and he can have your otherside (his term for breastfeeding) so he gets big and strong like me and then we can both have a tea party right?”

Absolutely my boy.  You’re absolutely right.

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Brothers, chillin

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Sometimes I tell him he’s being too rough and sometimes I let him just hug it out. 

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Sweet Baby boy 🙂

Moments

Both boys are napping!  It feels like a miracle.  I used the time to finish laundry, eat lunch and sit down to try to write a little bit.  I didn’t get much writing done but I did find this. This was a blog entry that I had written and never published.  I wrote it before Cameron was born- I’m guessing I didn’t have time to go back and edit it and forgot about it, had a baby and never gave it a thought until today.  Reading through it I remember each of these moment with instantaneous and fleeting clarity, each rushing across my memory like a slideshow of snapshots.

sidenote: i didn’t do much editing here.

Moments:

the soft skin of his forearm beneath my thumb as I rub it absentmindedly

standing in his doorway watching him sleep, his face turned towards me, lips puckered open, cheeks puffed out as he exhales

the scent of his hair as he struggles to snuggle closer to me as we sit on the couch

“thank you mama” he says when I bring him more pancakes.
“looks nice in here, good job mama,” he says admiring the rearranged back porch.

singing his made up song as he clangs away on the xylophone “hello apple, hello mango, hello arm, hello eyes, hello dresser, hello apple and mango,” and turning his head, laughing, making sure I am watching  

watching him peddle his tricycle up the driveway, he turns his head to make sure I’m staying put: “mama stay!”

the sound of his feet as he runs through the hall and into our bedroom in the middle of the night

following him into the kitchen as he cries because he can’t reach the pan he wants to get down because he wanted to “make mama breakfast” 

his arm flung over my shoulder when he turns to me in the night as I lay, facing away from him.

so many more….so many unremembered.


Losing my mom, when I was ten, taught me the value of time and memory.  How quickly time passes and how precious are the moments that we have with out loved ones!  It was easy when I was younger, in grief, to turn away from others and to sever ties rather then take the chance of experiencing loss all over again.  It made me uncomfortable to get too close.  Except that inside, I yearned for those deeper connections- for loving, supportive arms to encircle me, comfort me when i needed it and keep me safe when I felt vulnerable.

It’s taken me most of my adult life so far to realize that I alone hold the power to return the gesture when others reach out and that embracing others is the only way to protect myself from feeling alone.  It took having a child to realize how much we need the community of people in our life.

I hold on tight to the moments I have with Casey.  These precious moments that are so beautiful they hurt.  It tugs at my heartstrings, watching him, knowing that he will grow up some day and be big and that I might not remember this moment, or the next, or maybe the next one.  I wonder if I will remember all these tiny moments when I am old and he is grown?

I am elated that I get to do this all over again- babyhood.  Watching another tiny child reach milestones, encounter and conquer his firsts.  I know there will be hard moments and moments of frustration but I feel so much more prepared this time around even as I feel overwhelmed with the knowledge that i will have two boys growing up before my eyes, two boys worth of memories to store and cherish and wonder if I will remember in five, ten twenty years.  I feel more able to find that balance between holding them close and letting them loose without guilt.

~~~~~

(in response)

It has definitely been a challenge some days, to keep up with two boys, feeling like I am running on empty and completely overloaded trying to accommodate the growth and needs of each boy. Finding a balance is easier some days than others.  Most days it feels like we are walking up one of those balance ladders you find at a fair, trying to ring the bell at the top.  Just when I think I’m making some good forward progress, the ladder starts to shake and I loose my footing all over again. 

~~~~~

I peeked in on Casey this morning.  He slept so soundly last night.  Not a peep all night and still serene, on his stomach, his head turned so he faced the doorway as I stood leaning against it watching it, taking my first sip of coffee.  I wondered if I would remember this moment in five years, ten, twenty? I wondered if it would matter then as it does now and then I wondered if the fact that he slept so soundly through the night meant that I should do away with daytime naps, and I shuddered at the though.  Not ready for that day yet.

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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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Stardust

Stardust came down and filled her-
Coalescing into a tiny bundle,
a shining secret ball of glowing, growing energy
that she had to carry for nine months.

Nine months of waiting and wondering,
of loving intensely,
of dreaming and feeling heart-full
even as her heart broke open
again and again,
bursting into a thousand tiny pieces
shimmering and expanding
to clear space
to make room.

The heat can make the afternoons drag on but the days seem to be passing all too quickly. It seems like it was only yesterday that I gave Alex this hastily made Valentine’s Day card, announcing our good news:

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Now, here we are ten weeks away and I am steadily working my way through a list of projects.  I haven’t felt much of the “mom guilt” that I hear other women talk about but I am making sure to savor every moment I have with my son even when he is difficult and over tired and I walk out of his room, after putting him to sleep, wondering how I am every going to manage two.  While he sleeps, I use the time to enjoy my moments alone, knowing they will be few and far between in a few short weeks.  I spend the time reading, napping, dreaming, sewing, painting, preparing…

In my heart I am ready: ready to give birth again, ready to meet this little boy growing inside of me, ready to see what he looks like, ready to have two little boys to hold in my arms and in my heart, ready to watch our family of three become a family of four and experience what that is like.

But until October, I will be enjoying the last days that I have as a mom of one.  I’ll enjoy every hand hold and every laugh, savor each sweet cuddle, every hug and kiss, take advantage of every moment to connect.  I’ll remind myself again and again to smile and breathe when I am feeling frustrated or tired because I will never get these days back.   Each night, when he cuddles in as close to me as he can get and we read book after book, I won’t rush through them or put a limit on how many we can read.

Change is inevitable but I am ready to embrace it because it is scary but it is also beautiful.

We took a vacation!

It was too hot for poetry.

The midday sun in Texas is scorching.  It’s as if a thousand angry hands are pushing you down, reflecting off the burning asphalt and returning to pull you towards the earth.  Your whole body feels heavy.  The short walk from our car into a grocery store one afternoon leaves me feeling used up, depleted.  Any thoughts I ever harbored about the possibility of living in Texas fly away as I remember the cool midwestern breeze that blows in the afternoons.  I could never live in a place where I couldn’t take my children outside in the afternoon to let them run off all that excess energy they harbor.

In the late afternoons though, the hot sun touches my bronzed shoulders as we laze in the pool, our bodies distorted by the ripples on the surface of the water.  I relax into the two pool noodles supporting my back, my legs held up by the noodle under my thighs and turn my face to the light.  This is heaven.

In the two weeks we were in Texas, Casey became an independent, confident little fish in the water.  Using a round yellow float with ducks on it, his “floaty thing”, he jumps from the top step of the pool stairway and kicks his way over to whoever is waiting.  Such a huge change from the first day we got here when he had to be held the whole time we were in the water.  It didn’t take long- testing the water (literally) each day as he tried something new, slowly letting go of our hands, determining that he could hold himself up and return to ‘home base’, aka the steps, when he needed to.  Soon he was on his own, requesting his squirt guns and letting us know when they were “out of juice” so the epic squirt gun battles could come to a halt while we reloaded.

Taking vacations with a two year old, the very meaning of the word “vacation” changes. No longer are the afternoons spent laying around relaxing, reading a book, taking naps and enjoying time doing nothing (though we certainly fit that in).  There is another person now, someone who must be entertained and taken care of.  He does not understand yet that a vacation should be that different from daily life.  There is the difficulty of adapting to a different time zone, getting used to new rhythms and finding that balance that allows you to relax and enjoy a vacation while simultaneously continuing to be a full time parent. But it also means watching your child explore and thrive in a new environment.  Seeing the look on their faces when they see something new for the first time and discover that the world is so much bigger then what they previously imagined.

Our two weeks in Texas was the longest vacation we have been able to take as a family since Casey was born and it was fantastic.  It was a much needed break from our daily routine and a wonderful way to spend some time as a family of three before we welcome our second boy into this world and discover life anew as a family of four.