Monday, November 8, 2021

Two Huskies

When you’re young, with no concept of how your world will change in the future, it feels like your life will continue on like it is in that moment forever. You don’t give thought to what may come or how life will be different. When you’re young, it takes no effort to be mindful of being present … for you, everything is in the present. 

This morning on my walk, I saw an older woman and an older man, walking together with two huskies. The sight of those dogs immediately took me back to my childhood home, our two huskies in the backyard, both of my parents young and full of life. As I walked and let the memories of those days flood through me, it occurred to me that back then I couldn’t even conceive of a time when my Dad wouldn't be here. It was an odd reconciling of my youthful self who couldn’t imagine him being gone (and never contemplated even a world in which that would happen) and my current self who lives that reality every day. A self that only lived in the moment but thought that moment would last forever and a self who desperately tries to live in the moment because she knows that’s all we’re guaranteed. 

In the months following my Dad’s death, it felt like I was submerged in a sea of sadness. The grief was inescapable. I remember thinking there is no possible way life could ever feel like it did before. The innocent hope and joy that lived inside of me would always be tinged with the sadness of losing him and the frightening knowledge that I could lose anyone at any moment.  

I wasn’t wrong. 

I am no longer submerged in grief, but all of my joy and hope and excitement carries with it a streak of sadness. A beautiful new home he’ll never see or sit in. A hilarious, clever little boy and two smart, creative pre-teens he doesn’t get to laugh with. A wise, confident and grateful daughter he didn’t get to witness transforming. 

I also carry the knowledge that the line between life and death is razor thin and I could lose anyone at any moment. Except that knowledge isn’t as frightening as I imagined it might be. It’s actually quite comforting to feel mortality’s presence. The flip side to that knowledge is immense gratitude that accompanies me wherever I go — grateful to see another change of the season, grateful for my health and the walks it allows me to take, grateful to hug and love my family, grateful to see beauty of the sunrise and the sunset. 

I find it exceptionally beautiful that life’s greatest heartbreaks are inextricably intertwined with life’s greatest beauties. You can’t have one without the other. 

Friday, November 5, 2021

Another Reckoning

I gave Henry the five-minute warning. We’d be leaving the park soon, so he needed to get in his last swings, last slides and last climbs. 

After the five minutes was up, I walked over and told Henry it was time to go. I instinctively braced for impact. Any second now he’ll be shouting, “No!!” On a good day, he’d cross his arms and scowl at me. On a worse day, he may cry, kick his feet or try to make a run for it. What angry response will it be today? 

Instead, and much to my surprise, he said “Okay, Mom,”  and hopped up, leaving behind the Tonka trucks and tractors another kid brought to the playground. He walked right to me and I held out my arms. He jumped up as we’ve done since he was tiny, and he wrapped his arms around my neck. He let his feet dangle as we walked and hugged. His shoes gently bumped against my shins. 

Then the tears came. But they weren’t his. 

This isn’t a new feeling for me (as I'm sure you know). Over the years, I have felt these feels — the feels that come when you realize your wee ones aren’t so wee anymore. Lately, it’s been a bit more intense. My girls started middle school this year and are stretching their umbilical cords. They want autonomy and freedom, and rightfully so. But it’s a reckoning for me as I come to terms with this next phase. 

I was in Target the other day. It was a Tuesday morning. As I leisurely scanned the aisles for what I needed, I saw a mom pushing her kiddo in a cart. A few minutes later, another one passed by. As I walked past yet a third mom pushing a cart with her wee one buckled in, it hit me — I’m not a Tuesday morning Target mom anymore. In the old days, after the girls loaded up on the school bus, Henry and I would make plans for our morning. We’d often go to a park or on a walk. On Tuesdays, you'd likely find us at Target. Sometimes we had a purpose, other times we were just meandering. But the other day, as I walked alone through the store, I realized gone are the days of me pushing that cart with the wee one buckled in. There are those tears again.   

I’m not romanticizing things (well, maybe I am), but I remember CLEARLY the struggles of the Tuesday morning Target mom. The whining, the tantrums, the incessant talking, the desire for just two minutes inside my own brain. It wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine. But there were many rainbows and sunshine, and lately I’ve been missing those moments.  

I’ve come to learn that these moments of reckoning come and I’ll process my way through them, but until then, you’ll find me scrolling through old memories. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The Season of Tween

When the girls were little, and doing something sweet like telling me how much they loved me or wishing we could be “beff friends” forever,  I remember closing my eyes and silently moving those memories to the long term memory lockbox. Not only were they worthy in their own right, but I knew one day I would need them. I knew someday they’d roll their eyes or slam their door or scream at me to leave them alone. I expected my future to hold at least a few cold, silent stares.  

Y’all, the time has come. 

This morning’s drive to school: 

Me: I hear you. And I understand. But just another perspective: we are only going to be two minutes later than if we left when we intended. You won’t actually be late to school. 

G: Uggghh! You don’t understand! 

Me: Can you help me better understand? 

G: NO! You just don’t get it. 

Me: So, you don’t want to talk about this anymore right now? 

G: NO! 

Cue the memory of her crawling into my lap with her triplet baby dolls. She’d snuggle her little head right into the spot under my chin, the spot that seemed to be made for kiddo snuggles. She’d whisper, “I love you, mommy.” 


All better now. 

Those moments of tween exasperation have been happening more frequently, with an especially noticeable jump this summer. I had been expecting it — I remember my own exasperated self at this age. But here’s the thing I didn’t expect. Those moments don’t bother me like I thought they would. I don’t shrivel or cry or really take it personally at all. Sometimes it ticks me off and their explosions cue my explosions, but most of the time I look at their frowning faces, crossed arms, rigid shoulders and feel grateful to be walking through this stage of life with them. 

Whether it’s a baby screaming at 2am, a toddler tantrum on the kitchen floor, an exasperated tween, a sharp-tongued teen, a college-aged unraveling or a 40-year-old midlife awakening, it’s truly one of the greatest honors of my life to walk alongside them through all those moments. I’m not here just for the couch snuggles, although those are magical. I’m here for everything — eye rolls and all. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

The Last Thanksgiving

For eight years, we have raised our babies within the walls of one home. We arrived here with adorable twin two-year-olds, a huge, slobbering Great Pyrenees and two young-ish cats. We built a life and a family with each meal, game of hide ‘n’ seek and backyard adventure. This is the only home our littlest has known. We’ve changed diapers, washed endless sinks of dishes, painted hundreds of pictures and dirtied/cleaned each room millions of times during these eight years. This home has provided the walls for our family to grow and bond. It has contained our chaos and protected us from the chaos of the outside world. 

It wasn’t just a house. It was home. 

For years now, nature has been calling to me. As I became more aware of my yearning to live among the trees and feel closer to nature, I put it on my to-do list for later in life. After watching my Dad die within months of finding out he had cancer, I realized to-do lists for later in life are just wishes and hopes, because nothing is guaranteed. I knew then that moving closer to nature needed to happen sooner than later. 

A couple of years passed. We found the house unexpectedly. I had no intentions of moving, but I liked seeing houses for research — to help me create a clearer picture of what I wanted. But once I saw it, I couldn’t let it go. I couldn’t chalk it up to research. Demand was high, so we had to make the decision very, very quickly. 

To decide whether to leave behind our beloved home, our beloved neighborhood and our most beloved neighbors — all in the span of 12 hours — was extremely stressful. I almost said no. The stress of that decision and everything else going on in life was just too much. I kept searching for the right answer, convinced there had to be one. 

And then I remembered the enlightenment I had after my Dad died. There are no promises for later in life. So, we made the leap. 

Due to unforeseen circumstances, our move has been delayed these past two months. Up until today, I was irritated at all of the obstacles that have prevented us from getting into the new house. But today, I understood. 

I needed one last Thanksgiving inside these walls. One more big memory for the mental scrapbook. A day to honor the home that has held so much love, so many moments of joy. Of anger. Of sadness. Of hope. Of relief. Of connection. Of family. 

Today, we gave thanks to our home.

A few moments from our Thanksgiving: 

Friday, June 12, 2020

A Blogging Resurgence

As you know, Claire found my blog a while back, and I’ll find her reading it every now and again, digging into her early childhood antics. Grace knew the blog existed, but was more indifferent to it. Until a month or so ago. We were arguing about previous Halloween costumes and used the blog to settle the dispute. We read a couple more entries and then she spent the next few hours soaking it all up. I opened the door to their room one night and she looked up from the computer, sighed a heavy sigh, smiled and said, “Mom, I LOVE your blog.” 

Not gonna lie — the tears sprung to my eyes and a little lump formed in my throat. When I first started writing, it was equal parts wanting to share our lives with friends/family and wanting a record of all the little memories I knew I would forget. And now, 10 years later, I am so grateful I wrote it all down. 

I want them to know how silly they were. I want them to see how close they were. I want them to read about moments they’ll never remember. But most of all, I want them to know just how loved they are and have always been. When I became a mother, I remember thinking about all the sacrifices my mom must have made for me. I came to understand how much she must have loved me in order to keep me alive all those sleepless years. Not only will my kids understand that sentiment if they decide to have kids, but they have 500+ blog posts that paint a pretty full picture of my love. 

And now I’m feeling a revived motivation to start writing again. One of my biggest regrets these past five years is the lack of posts. So many amazing stories that I never jotted down. So much has transpired in life that we’ll forget in the next decade. Of course, I also have compassion for myself. Life is hard. And busy. And sometimes you just want to escape into bad television instead of recapping how your four-year-old son ran around outside in his birthday suit. 

So, we’ll give it another go. With the girls’ rally cries for more blogs and watching how much joy it’s bringing to their older selves, I’m giving it another go. Their 20-year-old selves will be grateful. Probably.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Happy 5th Birthday, Little Buddy

Five years ago today, I was sitting on the back patio eating peanut butter and chocolate ice cream. I was 9 million months pregnant, had just visited the OB earlier in the day and was feeling quite uncomfortable. Except for that ice cream. It hit the spot.

Later that evening, Henry made his grand entrance into the world. 

At the time, it had been five years since I had an infant, but I wasn’t too worried because we had already climbed this mountain before, times two. And this time, I was going to have two eager five-year-old helpers. How hard could this really be? 

Ha. Ha. ... Ha. 

If you’ve been following the blog/our lives for a while, you know exactly how hard. 

Henry lives life at full-speed. He wakes up early and full of energy. He spends his days (and many of his nights) squeezing out every last drop. He loves hard and without restraint. He feels the full range of emotions at their extremes. When he’s joyful, you can feel it warming up your insides just from being near him. When he’s sad, your heart breaks alongside his tender feelings. When he’s in a comedic mood, you’ll find yourself laughing out loud, too. And when he’s angry, it’s best to clear the room until the storm passes. 

To put it mildly, I wasn’t quite expecting such a full-steam-ahead approach to life. My experience until that point was with the girls who were more go-with-the-flow. They had their fair share of tantrums and obstinance, but I could eventually bend them to my will. Henry’s less interested in bending. To anyone. Ever. 

That’s not completely true. At preschool, he was a delight. He listened, corrected his behavior when necessary and loved all his friends fiercely. So, basically, he is capable of being civilized. My neighbors may be surprised by that as he often gets the mail in just his underwear. And the newspaper in his underwear. And will stop to chat with them as they walk by … in his underwear. You win some, you lose some.  

The other day I was talking to my mom on the phone, and Henry was starting to push the limits of my patience. I sighed loudly and said, “This child is my greatest challenge.” She laughed because she had one of those, too. 

Oh, Henry. 

He still loves his sisters to the moon and back. He loves them so much, he wants to be just like them. He wants to play what they’re playing, eat what they’re eating, talk like they’re talking (I’ll apologize now to his kindergarten teacher for all the “buttheads.”) Some days, they get along famously. Some days, they fight like arch enemies. Most days, there’s some of both. I was always worried about having a boy so many years after twin girls. I was worried he’d get left out of their sister/twin relationship. But so far, they have managed this tricycle pretty nicely.

Henry and Scott still have a great bond. They both LOVE cars and will look through Henry’s collection again and again. He can identify almost all makes on the road and Scott’s working on teaching him the models. Scott puts him to bed each night, and they have a sweet routine that’s usually full of Henry giggles. 

And Bubs and I? We’re still like PB&J. Sweet and sticky and stuck together forever. He has started calling me “boo-boo,” which is just about the cutest thing ever. He still loves to snuggle in the mornings, although he doesn’t do it quite as often as he used to. We have our moments, of course. Moments where the words “boo-boo” aren’t uttered, and instead he’ll yell something like “You’re not my family anymore!!” Moments where his anger is so big, it comes spilling out of him. Moments where he hits and kicks. But like waves on the rocks, I just try to stay steady and consistent and smooth out his sharp edges. 

Some days the challenge of raising a strong-willed kid feels overwhelming and I doubt my ability to handle him saying “no” even one more time. But if you’re lucky enough to have a kid like Henry, you know that he not only challenges your sanity and your calm, he stretches you. He stretches your patience so it’s bigger and more consistent. He stretches your compassion and empathy. He stretches your creativity and problem-solving. He stretches your ideas of parenthood and what it means to be a good one. And most importantly, he stretches your capacity for love. Just when you thought you couldn’t possibly love anymore than you do, he grabs your hand and says, “Come on, boo-boo. Let’s go play together.” 

Happy 5th birthday, Henry-doodle. I hope it’s been as spectacular as you are. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Best Memorial Day Ever

By Claire

On Memorial Day, we usually have a family reunion with some family members I don't know and some of my besties. But this time, we had fun going to my grandmothers' side of the family.

My favorite part was seeing the people grandma has told me so much about. She told me who made all these historic quilts and pillows I found. I got to put roses on almost all of our family members there.

My second favorite part was when we got out of the car at the cemetery, their dog Chloe jumped on me. My grandma also was happy when she saw me finding loose flowers and putting them on people's graves that didn't have any flowers.

The cool part was my great great aunt and uncles grave had flowers on it even though they died a long time ago and nobody in our family we think puts flowers on there graves. That means that random people put flowers on them.

Another fun part was we got to sweep all the dirt off of Aunt Molly's grave.