Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Horror

At the risk of alienating 90% of the population, I have to say I don't really like Halloween.

I get the fun of costumes and pretending to be someone or something else for a day, especially when those things are brave and noble like a knight or sweet and lovely like a princess. It is a day when a child (or adult's) most grandiose visions of themselves can become a temporary reality. And I think it is good to dream big dreams like that.

I also get the candy. Without question.

And since living in our neighborhood for the last seven years, I have grown to truly appreciate the community that this "holiday" creates. Our neighborhood has thrown a giant street party nearly every year, complete with jump houses and chili cook-offs and ugly cake contests and pumpkin carving competitions. All the neighbors join the festivities and enjoy a night of conversation, camaraderie and fun. It brings out the best in everyone: participation in something bigger than daily life, a communal spirit, a celebration of childhood. It is delightful to walk from house to house with our children, knowing the names of most of the folks who open the door to share in this event with people who have become friends as a result of our common residence.

What I don't like is the ugliness, especially now that I'm witnessing it from the naive eyes of a four and two year old, and especially when I have to anticipate how to answer the inevitable question, "Why?"

Several weeks ago, before my Halloween radar was even activated, we walked into the mall entrance closest to the children's stores in search of shoes for the kids. We were greeted by a Spirit Halloween: there was no way we could avoid it. And right in front of the store--practically in the walkway--was a fully-automated, haggard, ugly, witch-like manequin lying on the floor with an oustretched hand that reached up over and over as she made awful pleas for help.

Ben, of course, asked, "What's that?"

How do you answer this question? What is it? A woman trying to escape unimaginable evil? A woman, evil herself, attempting to lure innocent people into her grasp? A miserable soul, regardless. Yuck. Ben does not even have a frame of reference from which to understand this kind of, albeit pretend, suffering. Nor should he at this point in his life.

I scrambled to come up with an answer and settled on "a creepy doll."

"What's 'creepy'?" he asked.

Again, how do you answer this question? He doesn't know what creepy is--why would he? At this point we were past the store and coming up on the toy vehicles that offer kids a ride when filled with quarters. I think I replied with something like, "yucky or ugly," words that do exist in his vocabulary, and then breathed a sigh of relief when his attention turned to the race car.

To some degree, I've been holding my breath ever since, as we drive through the streets and see light-up zombies peering through windows and skeleton wreaths adorning front doors and giant insects crawling up the sides of houses and cackling witches beckoning from grocery store displays. Each decoration is so innocent in its intention, I believe. But each represents such nastiness. Sometimes I'm amazed that we could glorify death and horror and outright creepiness with such little thought or awareness. What do I do when Ben asks why a person's skull is hanging from a porch? What legitimate answer could possibly satisfy his curiosity? Any casual response will most certainly be followed by "Why?" and then more "Why's", and the answer to some of those why's are far too disturbing to be shared with a four year old navigating the territory of security and fear, literal reality and metaphor, good and bad.

I know no harm is intended by this celebration of the scare. And it's not that I want Ben to waltz through the world thinking everything is happy and light. I think it's that these caricatures of evil represent, on some level, real evil--these scary images and haunting effects are founded in real fear, true horror, awful realities.

We may not be haunted by actual shimmery white ghosts, and we may not encounter zombies or witches in our everyday lives. But many people are haunted by the hurt and horror inflicted by others. Many have skeletons in their own proverbial closets. Many have been cursed by a careless word or flippant comment made in anger or frustration. Many walk the earth resembling a living dead person. The line between fiction and reality is too thin here for my liking. The pain is too real. Perhaps I'm overthinking the whole thing, but I can't bring myself to enjoy its glorification.

So I'm hoping it will be just a matter of days before this ugliness is packed away for another year. In the meantime, I will try to create a day of innocent fun for the kids. Ben will enjoy the neighborhood festivities as a firefighter, his costume matching his father's actual fire-fighting bunker gear. This emulation of valiance I adore. Abby will prance through the street as a ladybug, replete with sparkly tutu, darling polka-dotted wings, and red and black snow boots. We will catch up with the neigbhors, exchange stories about the snow storm and our travails with H1N1, jump in the bounce house, admire the ugly cakes and expertly-carved pumpkins, and generally enjoy being together. We will celebrate community and children and fantasy.

And I will pray that the kids are blind to the creepiness so that I don't have to tackle these very difficult issues. At least for another year.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Making of a Snow Day

It is the strange misfortune of Colorado to receive a serious dumping of snow every year around Halloween, and this year will be no exception. Last year was the first in the seven we've been here that the temperature didn't mandate parkas and gloves and other outerware to mask the costumes masking the children. It looks like we'll be back to trick-or-treating in snow boots this year.

We've received well over a foot of snow in the last twelve hours. Before we went to bed last night, I told Josh something would have to change significantly for the schools to call a snow day today, as was rumored in talk of the eminent storm. Sure enough, we woke to a forest of white and to news that all the major districts were closed. When Ben looked out the sliding glass door this morning, he said the neighbor's roof looked like a Christmas cookie, the layer of snow mimicking the smooth frosting of the treats we make for Santa.

So this morning, the kids and I bundled up in our snow gear to trounce in the powder. Abby kept getting stuck--she'd lose her balance in the knee-high snow and find herself up to her shoulders in more of the same, unable to gain the leverage she needed to right herself. Fortunately, this didn't seem to bother her much. She'd simply call, "I neeh hep, Mama." I'd stand her up, replace her glove, and return to my task of shoveling the driveway until her next call. When she wasn't stuck, she giggled in sweet baby cackles at our little neighbor girl who was free-falling backward into the snow over and over. Ben spent his time digging himself into deep holes with his shovel, getting pulled in the sled by our neighbor boy, and helping me shovel the light layer of snow that began to cover my progress before I'd even finished the rest of the driveway.

Now, the kids are upstairs resting: Abby sleeping, Ben "reading" books in his rocking chair. The house is quiet. The cats are snoozing in front of the fire. Outside, the trees are swaying 'round and 'round under the weight of their snow-laden limbs. They look dizzy, disoriented from the constant swirl of white flakes.

When the darlings get up from their naps, we'll make cookies to enjoy with our hot chocolate. We're creating memories, traditions. Ben and Abby are reaching an age where they can appreciate these treats in the context of circumstance. Our small rituals are beginning to assume meaning so that, soon, the mere mention of a snow day will conjure all kinds of comforting images: playing, sledding, shoveling, warming, drying, resting, baking, sipping, nibbling...snow day.

The magical part for me is that I get to make it so.

Friday, October 23, 2009

My Muse

It is strange indeed to find myself completely at home on a spin bike. Thanks to our adventures with H1N1, I haven't been able to go to class in two weeks, but with Grandma in town, I was finally able to go on Thursday, and it was glorious.

I was afraid it would kick my tush after such a long break (and I had hardly been consistent since our trip to Mexico anyway), but instead it welcomed me back like an old friend, reassuring me I hadn't lost a year and half of investment in two measley weeks. I pedaled hard and exchanged niceties with a few of the other regulars and downed my water and thought.

This is the best part of spin class: complete mental freedom. There is something about having my body so completely engaged that releases my mind to go to places it doesn't otherwise. It's a crazy twist on the mind-body connection. I get the body busy--going so hard it doesn't have the energy to be in its own way--and I lose myself in the music, reflecting on everything from the kids to recent sermons to how brilliant my husband is to So You Think You Can Dance (I'll confess: I love that show). In fact, most of my blogging ideas or epiphanies occur on that bike.

It's like my muse. Or at the very least, it gets enough of my "flesh" out of the way that I can actually hear the Muse.

Whatever the case, that stationary bike is good for more than just my body: I walk out of there refreshed, at peace, feeling strong and capable, filled with the clarity I need to handle the next preschool or toddler crisis.

Sometimes I wonder if we were made this way--with a need to expend our physical energy in order to maintain perspective, with a wiring that requires us to come to the end of our tangible self in order to understand our inner self. I don't know for sure, but I do know that I have never felt as fulfilled or whole as I have since getting active. This, I think, is why I've been able to stick with it, why I actually crave it. It's like getting a fix for my entire being.

No wonder the proverbial "they" say that exercise is so good for you. But "they" really ought to tell you it's about so much more than BMI's or scales or physical strength or endorphins.

At least for me, it's about being well with my soul.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Beyond the Literal

I've found myself falling in love lately with these little independent movies that, on the surface, look "immoral" or shocking or like they glorify all kinds of deplorable behaviors but that actually contain these beautiful and profound morsels of truth. I think it's because they're about these sincere, earnest characters making their way through an immoral, shocking, and deplorable world in search of truth, and beautifully, they find it in the imperfect people around them.

It began with Little Miss Sunshine, a movie that has probably become my favorite movie of all time. If you watch it through purely literal eyes, you might assume that it's a movie about drug addiction or pornography or suicide or dysfunctional families. I argue adamantly that it's not, anymore than The Great Gatsby is about the joy of wealth and grand parties and drunkenness and debauchery.

Rather, it tells the story of a homely, chubby little girl who dreams of becoming Miss America. She begins her journey toward the crown with the Little Miss Sunshine contest, one of those freaky, intense beauty pageants for kids. The pageant, however, doesn't even occur until the very end of the movie, and instead the story focuses on the hysterical family road trip to the pageant with her parents who are on the verge of divorce, her brother who has vowed silence in homage to Nietzsche, her uncle who was just released from the hospital after attempting to take his life, and her drug-addicted, skirt-chasing grandfather. Along the way, it becomes clear that her father, a motivational speaker peddling a "think like a winner and be a winner" philosophy, is the most screwed up of the bunch while her grandfather, the seeming loser in the family mobile, actually knows this little girl, sees her heart, and speaks the greatest truths into her life. The correlation between behavior and value is turned on its head, and in the end, love--true love--is found in the least likely place: a racey dance the grandfather teaches his granddaughter for the talent portion of the competition that appalls the judges but brings the family together in recognition of the truth of who they are. Through the dance and the understanding that comes from it, the spirit of the grandfather lives on in this truly "dysfunctional" family, and I would assert that his spirit is that of the living God, because it is Love.

Then a few weeks ago, we rented Adventureland, the story of a sincere college student with high academic aspirations who is forced to take a summer job at the local amusement park. Once again, all kinds of "unsavory" behavior abounds among the staff of the park, but a few genuine relationships flourish in this surreal caricature of hometown life. In the end, he reconciles with his summer-long crush who left town in shame after hurting him with her infidelity. In one line of an exchange that plumbs the depths of love and life and relationship, he summarizes my entire theology: "I think you see yourself differently than I see you." It was as if God were speaking through him to her--and to anyone else who feels any fear or shame or guilt in the presence of someone they've wounded. He affirms the profound truth that a person is separate from her behavior. Though real pain was inflicted by her actions, she is not identified by her screw-ups because of his love.

And just this last Saturday, we watched Away We Go, an endearing movie about a young couple without much worldly success but with an honest love for each other who find themselves expecting. They embark upon a journey to find "home," making several stops to visit friends and family across North America in an attempt to find a fit. Each scenario illuminates a different kind of family and parenting philosophy, often in an awful, though comical, representation of extremes. Still, all stops reflect real people and real ideas and real motivations and real fears. In the stop they think will become home, they dine with a couple who has created a beautiful, energetic, authentic, creative, come-as-you-are family through adoption. As the couple speaks of what makes a family, they talk of love and patience through the small insanities of family life. After laughing and sharing knowing glances with her husband about the crazy situations they've survived with those simple ingredients, the wife/mother says sincerely, "You have to be so much better than you are."

Yes. Yes, yes, yes. This is the truth of it, isn't it? No matter what, you have to be--desire to be--sooooo good, so much better than you know you actually are. But for the love of your children or whoever else you are blessed to share life with, you try anyway in faith and hope that you can do justice to the beauty of who they are.

In the end, this couple lands somewhere else with a heavy but genuine desire to do right by their baby and with an unwavering commitment to stick with each other through whatever life may bring.

So I love these movies. I see so much of Jesus in them, regardless of--or perhaps because of--the rough surface. (And I would be remiss if I didn't offer the disclaimer that these movies definitely push the boundary of uncomfortable-to-watch to its limits). But this roughness is part of what resonates so deeply: truth found in the mess, good people stuck in the midst of confusion and chaos, real love welling out of the least praise-worthy characters.

Jesus in us. Amen.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Carpe Diem (at the risk of sounding cliché)

Tonight I heard a story that made my hands fly protectively to my heart, as though this small gesture could somehow ward off the kind of pain I was hearing described in such tender, heart-wrenching detail.

It is the story of a nine-year-old boy who was killed this summer in a freak accident during a road trip home from a family vacation. From what I understand, the family's trailer, which was hauling jet skiis and other recreational gear, somehow broke down, and while the family was pulled off the side of the road to unhitch it (in an official pull-out), a young driver asleep at the wheel managed to fly her car across the opposing lanes of traffic and strike the trailer. This young boy was hit by debris, bringing his life to an end in his father's arms fifteen minutes later.

The agony of it takes my breath away. It is horrific, tragic, unfathomable.

To have known and loved this little boy for nine years, to have dreamed about and worried about and wondered about his future, to have assumed his presence at evening dinners and holidays and grocery trips and all the other moments that comprise a lifetime as family--and then to be left with a void, an absence, a giant, aching hole...

It made me want to run home and hold my children forever. It made me want to take back every second of their presence I've ever taken for granted--or worse, resented, or tried to escape.

I asked myself: if I knew they wouldn't grow up, would I do things differently? Would it change how I parent? Would it alter the focus of my energies, of my efforts, of my corrections and praise? If I weren't so concerned with raising model citizens of the adult world, would it change how I treat them as children?

I'm thinking hard about this, and I think the conclusion I'm coming to is yes, yes it would change things.

Because I would be more apt to revel in the nuance of their temperament and personality without worrying about how it will work for or against them later on.

Because I would treasure--with genuine gratitude--the everyday moments of meals and car rides and play time and night night time rather than looking for my next break or worrying about my e-mail or trying to do a dozen things other than sitting on the floor and paying attention as they change before my eyes.

Because I would stop disciplining them out of some faulty subscription to worldly expectation and instead discipline out of my love for who they are and my belief in who they can be.

Because I would never, ever find it acceptable to only half listen or half watch when one of my cuties honors me by sharing joy or fear or frustration or accomplishment.

Because I would focus far more on our relationship than on our achievement of some set of values or behaviors or skills or experiences for their advancement in the world.

Because I think I would give up trying to "make" my kids into something and rather receive them as perfectly designed someones to be discovered day-by-day and savored moment-by-moment in our fleeting time together.

I think what I'm saying is that I would be more likely to surrender my expectations and aspirations, accepting instead their lives as gifts from Someone bigger with purposes beyond my understanding. Without the weight of their impending academic challenges and career decisions and family responsibilities and spiritual journeys, I might just open my hands a little bit more and let go of their outcome--and enjoy.

I wish I could remember where, but I once heard someone say that we spend so much time worrying about who our children will become that we forget they are someone today, now, already.

I want to know Ben as a four-year-old, not as a prospective twenty-five-year-old.

I want to know Abby as a two-year-old with H1N1 and reactive airways on Sunday, October 18th, 2009.

I want to play the games and listen to the stories and answer the questions of my children now. I want to love them in this moment, not in some hypothetical moment down the road of life.

I grieve for this family who had their son snatched from them too soon. I wonder what they think, how they feel, what dreams died with their little boy that day. I wonder if they would have done anything differently if they knew they'd only get nine years with him.

I hear Abby coughing--it's her asthma flaring. It seems to be worst at this time of night. So I'm going to go get her nebulizer and the albuterol, and I'm going to pick her up out of her crib and appreciate this extra ten minutes of snuggle time I don't normally get in the middle of the night. I'm going to hold her close and kiss her head and smell her freshly washed hair and tell her I love her...

And tomorrow, I'm going to spend less time checking e-mail and more time building legos. I want to live fully in this time with them because it's precious, whether they live nine years or ninety.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our 21st Century Village

We're riding out the storm of H1N1, our mountain community seemingly paused as mothers keep their sick children as comfortable as possible at home. I'm in touch via e-mail with other moms playing nurse to feverish, lethargic loves--comparing temperatures and symptoms, exchanging news from schools or pediatricians, and generally providing what support we can for each other as we remain hunkered down in the isolation of our own homes. It seems everyone is affected: families from school, families in the neighborhood, and families we know from our activities around town.

There is an air of communal crisis in the air, akin to what we experience in the midst of blizzards or other large-scale disasters. People check in to make sure everyone's doing okay, offering what limited help or information is available. While there's little or no fear related to the "pandemic," the simple disruption of routine necessitating the halt of all activity is enough to create a sort of fellowship of the flu-afflicted.

It's the proverbial village at work, 21st century style. And there's something sweet and comforting about it. It's a reminder that when needed, our busy world of perpetual motion can still slow down to offer the kind of support humanity has depended upon for centuries.

So we all snuggle in close with our little ones, waiting for the fevers and coughs and general misery to pass, and we connect with each other in the few minutes after bedtime or when we're not needed to wipe a nose or administer medicine or rub a back. We check-in with each other, and we are reassured that we are not alone in the work and worry of motherhood.

And just as our physical presence as parents somehow makes it all better for our kids, our "virtual" presence as friends makes it better for each other: this is the gift of community, whether the relationship is forged through genetics or circumstance.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Don't Panic!

Well, it's pretty certain: we have swine flu here in our newly painted house. At least, it's certain we have the Type A flu under which the dreaded H1N1 is categorized. This is unfortunate, but as far as we can tell, the sky is not falling nor has the earth crashed into the sun, as we were so helpfully warned by the national and local news outlets for the last six months.

Thus far, the swine flu has manifested as a high fever (102-104.5) in Ben accompanied by a worsening cough and lack of appetite. However, the high fever lasted less than 48 hours, and while he still has a low-grade temperature, he's regaining some energy and spunk.

Of greater concern is Abby, who is also running a low temperature. For her, though, the worry is that the flu will trigger her asthma, that unfortunate condition lurking beneath every viral and bacterial infection, threatening to turn even the most mundane cold into a serious illness. Once again, we've tuned our ears into the slightest changes in her respiration. This morning, her lungs sounded clear. This evening before bed, she teased us with a single, brief coughing spell that had the tight, high tenor of concern. We'll see how she's doing in the morning. I pray we don't hear any coughing through the night.

Which brings me to the real "danger" of this flu: its contagion factor. Approximately sixteen kids in Ben's class were out sick today, many with the same symptoms: fever, cough, general crumminess, and many of them have siblings exhibiting these symptoms. This, of course, is the problem: the more people who get it, the greater the chances that someone will suffer a complication or distress. As with any flu, it's the exception that's of concern, not the general populace.

In the meantime, I can't help but feel like a sitting duck. Josh and I have spent all weekend hugging, kissing, cuddling, wiping noses of, and generally keeping ourselves close to our little germ-ridden kidlets since the the physical presence of Mommy or Daddy is the only panacea on the planet. There is no conceivable way we've escaped exposure, and that's okay. So now we wait--and see if our immune systems are strong enough to fight it off. So far we haven't experienced any signs of illness and I haven't heard of any other parents coming down with it, but I'm not convinced we're through the period of vulnerability yet.

And that's a bummer, because when the kids get sick, the world can come to a temporary and welcome halt while we all snuggle in and ride out the storm together on the couch. In spite of, or perhaps thanks to, Ben's illness, we had a sweet, sweet weekend together. But when we grown people get sick, life continues with or without us. There's no one else to fix the meals, entertain the kids, or handle the logistics of the household. Alas, responsibility calls, swine flu or or not.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

You Can Give a Girl a Tissue...

We seem to be fast-forwarding through fall here in Colorado. We've all but packed away our summer clothes, trading our sunscreen for mittens and wool hats. On more than one occasion I've thought, I really need to get Ben's snowsuit, so that he has it for the wet and snowy days at school. Yesterday morning when we walked out of the store to the car, Abby said, "Ihs chih-ee today, Mama." In an effort to escape the chill in the air and the snow on the ground, everyone is heading in where it's warm--including the creepy-crawlies.

The last few days when we've gone down to the basement to play, we've discovered crickets and spiders and other insects of both the live and post-live variety. This afternoon as Ben filled his train-masquerading-as-school-bus with little plastic people, he noticed a small spider crawling off one of the people and onto the carpet and asked me to kill it.

Let me just stop right here to say that squishing any sort of critter possessing eight legs or an exoskeleton is not my specialty. Generally, I grab the closest empty cup I can find, turn it upside down, and trap the intruder until Josh arrives to dispose of it properly. That's my system. Cage it in plastic. No messy squishing for me.

But today, Ben was insistent, and my powers of persuasion were unable to convince him that he should let it run off to find another home. I was also unable to coax him into doing the dirty work himself. So I took a deep breath, pretended it would be no big deal, and asked him to grab me a tissue, which he did gladly.

When he returned from the bathroom, however, he brought me only three measley squares of toilet paper, an amount I found insufficient to protect my fingers from any byproducts of the smooshing. I asked with my nicest manners if he would grab a little more and Abby, perhaps sensing my discomfort, trotted off immediately to get some. She, however, returned with a piece of tissue smaller than a postage stamp, which she held in her fingers while crouching close to the spider as though she were going to handle it.

I promptly shooed her away and swept in for the spider before she grabbed it with her practically naked fingers. Once it was wrapped neatly in the tissue, Ben carried it to the garbage, and that was the end of it.

Until we began picking up the toys and Ben found two dead crickets by the sliding glass door. I had used all my bug-ridding energy with the spider, so I was going to leave them for my kind, kind, understanding husband. We continued picking up the toys and putting things away, and while we returned the little people to bins and put puzzle pieces in their rightful places, Abby asked for a tissue. I assumed her nose was running.

"You can go get a tissue, Sugar" I told her and continued orchestrating our basement-tidying efforts.

A minute later, Abby walked up behind me and said, "I gaht duh bugs, Mama," and held out her tissue with not one but two dead crickets tucked neatly inside. I was simultaneously amazed and appalled, carefully taking the tissue from her hands so as not to drop the contents. I tried to wipe all traces of horror from my face, thanked her sincerely, fussed over what a big helper she is, and threw it away.

Once I got past the intial shock, I found myself feeling so immensely proud of her for being unphased, in spite of my own squeamishness. And relieved that she would not grow up to be paralyzed by critters the size of her fingertip like her mother. She's two, and she's already exceeding me in qualities like bravery in the face of an arachnid.

It's stunning, thrilling. It gives me so much hope. This little girl who is completely separate from me, her own little person already--who will she become? What dragons will she slay? What mountains will she climb? This afternoon, as totally ridiculous and sappy as it sounds, I felt truly honored to know her--and grateful for the privelege of answering to the utterly endearing title of her "Mama."

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Pendulum Shifts

Until this summer, I felt as though the parts of me unrelated to my relatively new role as Mommy had gone dormant, like they had hunkered down deep somewhere inside where they could wait for the all-consuming chaos and storms--and joys--of infants and babies and toddlers learning to master the basic eating, sleeping, communicating, and pottying functions of this world to pass, or at least to settle down into a recognizable rhythm, a semblance of calm, a relative stasis.

During this time, my days were filled with sustaining life. This is no small task when it comes to two entirely dependent little people and leaves little time for the simple pleasure of productivity. All ambitions related to my own life were shelved in order to mark the hours and days and months and years of my babies as they grew like wildflowers and transformed before my eyes and accomplished astonishing feats of childhood.

Without my conscious awareness, it was, as I suppose it must be, a refining process for me, chipping away at my selfishness with every diaper to be changed and meal to be prepared; sanding away my judgments of them and me and others with the revelation of the temperaments and dispositions and personalities of my loves both because of and in spite of me; reforming my heart as I experienced the sincerest delight and fear and compassion which comes only from loving someone as deeply as I love my children; and ultimately revealing the truer shape of me, even as it seemed to bury me.

It was a time of little balance, for what does an overwhelmed newborn thrust into this bright, noisy, unfamiliar world or a frustrated toddler or a sick child know of taking turns? There is no trade-off of time--time for you and time for me--as with adults. For a little person still developing a sense of "others," everything is an immediate and essential need.

Which is why nap time is such a blessing--and necessity--for all of us: two precious hours of uninterrupted, quiet, alone time to think about something other than them.

I should say that I know this time has afforded me opportunities I would not have had were I "working" in the traditional sense of the word. I've enjoyed play dates and spin classes and farmers markets and long conversations on the phone with friends near and far. I've enjoyed the sun on my face and impromptu walks around the lake and tasty lunches at the Indian buffet in the company of the munchkins.

Life is all about trade-offs. Opportunity costs. We sacrifice one set of pleasures to enjoy a different set. We assume a new set of responsibilities while relinquishing others.

For some reason, this summer marked the advent of another season, a season wherein the kids, now more independent and self-sufficient even at the tender ages of four and two, no longer require every ounce of energy I can muster in a day (well, sometimes). I have discovered I have some energy left over for other pursuits. Like cycling. And writing. And photography. Those parts of me unrelated to my role as Mommy are venturing out into the world again--though I'm discovering that they are utterly colored and informed by the perspective of motherhood. It is as though they were cocooned for this time, and now something new, even in the old pursuits, is emerging.

It's thrilling.

But I also find myself walking an increasingly fine line as I try to balance these new endeavors and opportunities with the responsibility I believe is most important: loving the kids, playing with them on the floor, listening to their stories, responding to their requests for help.

I slide Abby's butterfly wings onto her arms in the space between the last paragraph and this.

The two hours of nap time is becoming too short. My time is leaking into their time. But the cost of their childhood is not a price I'm willing to pay, so I'm figuring out how to be more efficient, how to steal minutes that don't matter, and recognizing that a little imbalance in my favor is okay every once in a while. Sometimes, it's even a good thing.

It's novel to be on this side of the fulcrum, to have the balance swinging in my direction for once. I feel full of hope and excitement and renewed enthusiasm for all of my roles, including, or most especially, motherhood. Balance is still elusive, but this is the closest I've been in a long while. And I'm not wasting any time worrying about perfection. I'll do what I can because it is what is, and there's too much joy to be had in the nooks and crannies of our imperfect lives together.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


This morning at breakfast, Josh and I were asking Ben about his field trip to Mt. Falcon, where the kids hike every fall with their classmates, identifying the rocks and trees and shrubs and flowers as either living or non-living while they marvel at a section of forest that was burned in a forest fire, conquer a hill that would leave any adult winded (though perhaps not at the ambling pace of these easily-intrigued three, four, and five year olds), and collect acorns from the ground around the oaks.

Curious, I asked Ben who he played with during the hike, and he mentioned two boys in his class. One of the boys shares a name with a new boy who joined the class this year, so Josh asked which one he meant.

"The old one," Ben replied.

Attempting to make a joke, Josh quipped, "How do you keep them straight?"

Ben looked at him with a bit of confusion--as if the answer were obvious--and then explained in all sincerity, "They have different heads."

At which point Josh and I glanced at each other with silent giggles and then responded with a serious, "Oh, of course."

Life through the lens of a four year old is utterly charming.

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