Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Carpe Diem, Five-Year-Old Style

Benjamin is on the cusp of riding his bike without training wheels.
On the cusp of skiing a real mountain.
On the cusp of swimming.
On the cusp of sitting with a book for hours on end, hopelessly seized by a story.

All this latent potential, this ability waiting to be possessed, realized...

He has it.  He's growing it.  Little by little.  Day by day.

But he waits for it.  He works steadily.  He rushes nothing. There is no frustration, no impatience, no impetuous stomping of feet.

"I love riding my bike," he says as we put his bike away to head in from the cold.  "It's fun to learn."

"I love learning how to ski," he tells me at the foot of the bunny hill.

After he finishes our bedtime story, he says, "Learning to read is fun."

The outcome, the goal, the skill itself is secondary to the joy of acquiring and building and improving.

I get his perspective, understand his love of learning completely.  But I am amazed he has such insight at five.

May he always be so wise.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Thermometer Phenomenon

I remember times in high school and college when friends would ask me to feel their forehead to see if they seemed feverish.  I remember obliging them but insisting I had no sense of what felt normal versus hot.  "Maybe you're a little warm?" I'd offer, unsure.  "Do you have a thermometer?"

My hands were untrained then.  This knowledge of what feels normal comes only from time and experience and a relationship where touch is so routine, so regular, any variation is instantly recognizable.

I've become a remarkably accurate thermometer.  With my kids, I know immediately when something is amiss.  I wrap my hand around their foreheads and have a sense of whether they run a low fever or one that rages.  "They're probably under 100," I can say to Josh, and I'm right.  "I'm guessing he's around 101," and he is.  Or, like yesterday, I can hold Abby on my lap and feel the heat radiating from her little body and know she's very, very sick, know that when I get the thermometer, the reading will be well over the typical temperatures that accompany run-of-the-mill viruses and infections.  104.5, to be precise.  

This skill is a gift of motherhood.  With the arrival of my kiddos, my body became so intimately acquainted with the bodies of my babies that I recognize every change, every anomaly.  Nights of feedings, days of snuggling and soothing, hours of carrying and bouncing and hand-holding and hugging have left me expert in the feel of them--and this expertise is absolute.  

So this morning when I felt Ben's face, I knew that his low fever hadn't changed, that it hadn't yet spiked into the harbinger of the flu that Abby's body fights so fiercely. And when I felt Abby's head, I knew her fever was still high but that it was no longer alarmingly so.  And later this afternoon, when I returned to the house after the kids' naps, I felt Ben's forehead and knew his temperature had finally spiked.  The thermometer read 103.2, confirming that he, too, was coming down with the flu.  Conversely, Abby's little face finally felt fine--and sure enough, the thermometer read 98.8.  

It's one of those aspects of parenthood you don't think about until, one day, you're amazed at how refined your sense of touch has become, how sensitive your hands are to even the slightest difference.  I could never put this skill on a resume, yet it's an exclusive credential, one that only a select group can boast, evidence of the hours logged loving and knowing and being present.

The thermometer phenomenon: just another of the invisible wonders of motherhood.




Friday, February 18, 2011

This Morning's Gems

All the World's a Stage

While I brushed her hair in the bathroom, Abby said, "Walking is like dancing!" And for her, the two generally are synonymous.  

You Know You're from Colorado When...

...your five-year-old says, "It's warm like summer here," and the temperature is 47 degrees and sunny.

Beauty Everywhere 

"Ihs this mih albutiful?" Abby asked while we did her nebulizer treatment.  When I said, "Yes, this is your albuterol," she said, "Ih cahn't say al-bu-ter-fall."  I like her interpretation better anyway.

The Scientific Mind at Work

While driving to the doctor and discussing possible reasons for the forest fire at the end of Bambi, Ben suggested, "You know how when you rub two rocks or sticks together for a long time it can start a fire?  Maybe when the two big deer were fighting in the movie, their antlers rubbed together and made a spark that started the fire."  Sounds plausible to me.

Best of All

On the card Ben made for me after breakfast, he wrote: "to mY Best mommY EveR."

Sometimes, I just want to squeeze them for being who they are.  I love those kids.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Inventory of Week:

Saturday: trip to ER where Josh is diagnosed with kidney stones
Sunday: skiing with the kids
Monday: Ben wakes at 4 to throw up and spends the day home sick
Tuesday: school cancelled due to near-record low temperatures; we spend morning in urgent care because Josh's pain is unbearable
Wednesday: school cancelled again; the kids and I visit the Denver Museum of Art
Thursday: full day of school, spin, volunteering in Ben's class, and ski lessons, punctuated by Abby's cries of pain through the afternoon and night due to ear pressure created by lingering congestion and elevation changes on our mountain roads
Friday: doctor's appointment for Abby (no ear infection, at least) and pancake dinner to celebrate Ben's completion of another box in his reading series
Saturday: quiet day of play and errands
Sunday: skiing with the kids

It's been quite a week.  Epic in its absolute lack of reliability, predictability, stability, stasis, or any other semblance of normalcy.

And yet all the more memorable for the moments of fun and sweetness in between the crises.

After soothing Abby back to sleep for the third time Thursday night--her tears upon waking nearly inconsolable as she waited for the latest dose of pain medicine to take effect--I lay in bed exhausted, yet thankful.  I found myself praying, gratitude overflowing from my heart: that our challenges are temporary, that our family is generally healthy, that I have the freedom to be home to take care of my family when they're sick, that I was able to find subs for my spin classes, that even though it had been a hard, hard week, we managed to ski and enjoy the art museum and read books together.

That when the pain in Abby's ear grew intolerable as we drove down snow-packed Squaw Pass from Ben's ski lesson Thursday, Benjamin--concerned and desperate to help--counted down the minutes until she could take more medicine in his most empathetic, big-brother voice.

Seeing someone you love in pain is all-consuming: it taxes every emotion, focuses all your energy to survival--theirs, and when it's over, depletes you of everything but overwhelming love, and gratitude that it's over.

It was an easier week for me than for them.  I did not have to feel the pain; I merely witnessed it.  Yet we all shared in this experience of family, of bearing together the sorrow and frustration of not being able to fix it, of not knowing what's around the corner, of not being able to count on the daily routines upon which we rely.  We lived minute-to minute, hour-to-hour, day-to-day, holding our plans loosely, not knowing whether pain or illness or weariness would topple our finely crafted agenda.

Instead, we said, "Maybe we could...if everyone's okay...we'll see how we're feeling..."--and then accepted each moment as it presented itself.  It felt strange, almost irresponsible, to cancel plans one afternoon and hit the slopes the next. Yet this was our week.  One day we're rushing to the doctor, and the next, all is tranquil again.

Only one thing was constant: in each circumstance, we shared life in all its messy glory.

And at the end of this tenuous week, my heart aches and bursts with love so fierce, I know I can slay life's dragons with it.  For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, they are mine, and I am theirs--and this is enough.
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