Friday, October 21, 2011


This picture is from lunch today - the three of us had been sitting around the little table, eating our bowls of cereal and discussing what we'd done that morning (a full preschool report from Leo, including how he handled Mean Boy successfully; my attempt to explain the walk that Pax and I took with a new friend to Leo, who couldn't fathom we'd done anything besides sit and wait for him to return home....)

We were each sitting in our own chairs, but after I got up from the table, Pax started inching closer and closer to Leo. Unsatisfied with his progress, he finally got out of his chair and shimmeyed in next to Leo on his chair, bringing his bowl of soup with him. It was as if he couldn't stand not being close to Leo for one more minute. I grabbed the camera and got the above shot, before I was detected....

Here, they know they've been caught - and so they've turned into little hams, happy as can be to share this tiny chair, knowing that it is silly - and special.

I'm collecting these moments. I'm acutely aware of how fleeting my time with Leo is, since he'll be off to kindergarten next year. I'm keenly aware of how different life will be next year, missing two boys in the house, not just one. I'm immensely grateful for the time these two have together, for the bond that they've forged, for the joy they find in sharing an undersized chair, eating soggy cereal. It seems as Pax sensed it today, the ephemeral time we have together, and so he wanted just a little more Leo for himself.

And I'm struggling, too, with the realization that, while our family is perfect and complete, I'm not ready for this to be over. I'm not ready to give up this full-time, all day, every day career. I'm being outsourced of a job I'm not ready to leave. I knew, even when I penned this post, how fast the days would go, how soon I'd be collecting memories of THIS year, this year before my Leo Leo goes to kindergarten. And so I collect, and I savor, and I relish, and I revel, and I remember.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fondest Heart

I've decided it's good to find out what it feels like to miss your kids. Not often, mind you, but once-in-a-blue-moon, perhaps.

Jeff and I enjoyed our first-ever, kid-free weekend. It was marvelous. We rented a condo at a large lake not too far away from our own home, and another couple joined us for an unforgettable adventure. We left our children in the protective, capable, and loving hands of my parents, where we knew they'd have some unforgettable adventures of their own.

What struck me was the silence of it all. So much silence. Space to breathe and to think, time to let a complete thought carry out in my mind. Not that I did much of that - no worrying, no stressing, no thinking about to-do lists or upcoming school assignments. We lived very much in the moment, and we were very present that way. I can't remember a recent time when I've laughed so much or been so relaxed. It was exactly the time this tired mama needed - time alone; time with my husband; time with our dearest friends.

And yet by Sunday morning, I was excited to go home. Unused to sleeping through the night, I had awakened the night before and started missing my loveys something terrible. When we arrived home, I just kept thinking about how lucky I was. How lucky I am. These kids are MINE! These are awesome kids! They are beautiful. They smell so good. God, they are so freaking cute! And funny! And lovely! And they're MINE! I held each of them, inhaled their sweet, yummy scent...

...and fell in love, all over again.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Two: Snapshots

Pax Augustus Carter turned 2 years old just two weeks ago. We had a family celebration that started with gift opening, a favorite breakfast, a lot of time to play with new toys, and then a long nap. Rested again, we set out for Bounce n Play, a huge indoor "playground" of air-filled bounce houses, slides, and play sets. Exhausted, sweaty, and thoroughly filled with glee, we headed to dinner. Given his absolute love of hot dogs, naturally, we headed to the local hot dog joint that serves foot long dogs. Pax ate 9 inches out of 12 - no bun, just ketchup - and one might say he was in dog heaven. (get it? like hog heaven, but with a hot dog??) We topped off the night with delicious cake and ice cream, and Pax clapped and grinned each time we sang "Happy Birthday" to him.

So what does Two look like on Pax? Some Snapshots:

Pax has this wonderful, quiet way about some things. I absolutely love how his tacit determination has played out in several big milestone events. At 21 months, Pax decided he was done breastfeeding, for good. One night, he refused to nurse. Instead, he held my gaze steady, and seemed to say almost beseechingly, "I'm all done now, Mama. Is that okay with you? I'm done." Our eyes were locked on each other for a long minute, with silent understanding and acceptance passing between us. In that moment, I was reminded of the first time we locked eyes in that way - minutes old, holding Pax to nurse for the first time, he gazed deeply into my eyes as if to say "oh there you are, my mama. Here I am! I love you so much." It was a very full-circle moment: one long, steady, soul-deep gaze, bookends to the beginning and the end.

Just a few weeks later, Pax decided he'd had enough of his "baby" high chair. Instead, he would drag over the spare kid-sized booster chair, identical to the one Leo used. He would climb his way onto the seat while the food was being brought to the table, and he refused to sit in the high chair one more time. To his great credit, he made good on his end of the deal, and ate nicely without throwing his food or spreading it all over the table. I was thrilled to be rid of the hulking, bulky plastic chair, and even more thrilled at his place with us at the table.

Always a climber, Pax was not ready for nap one day and decided to climb out of his crib. Then, he did it because it was fun. Then he started doing it all the time, until I foiled his plans by turning the crib around backwards. That worked... for about a month. I knew Pax was careful when he climbed out - I'd watched him on the sly, and saw the graceful, almost poetic way in which he hoisted himself up and over the rails - but it got to be too much when he scaled the sides multiple times at night. I knew the crib days were over when I woke up to find Pax asleep next to me, having no idea when or for how long he'd been snuggled up in my bed. Out came the toddler bed, away went the crib.

Predictably, Pax lands himself in a bit of trouble, too. Hair pulling, biting, hurling small objects, and screeching are all part of his repertoire of "Two." Predictably, he often finds himself in time-out, as pictured here: the stove provides an oddly ideal location for time-outs (with Mom an arm's length away, of course.)

Finally, there was the pacifier. Oh, what struggles we had with Aidan and Leo when they had to give theirs up! Countless searches were conducted by weary parents when the pacifier went missing. And so it was with a deep feeling of dread one afternoon when I couldn't find the pacifier and needed to put Pax down for a nap. He did... fine. He didn't even seem to notice - his biggest concern at bedtime is making sure the scary cat isn't lurking under the bed. Still without the paci, I tried it again that night... and discovered how cute his little lips look as he's settling down to sleep. Pacifier? What pacifier? those lips seemed to say. I looked for the "easy button" to press on that one.

Oh, and he is a quiet little thing. He has almost no language, which is obviously a concern that we're investigating (although his receptive language is quite excellent). And perhaps because of his lack of words, the words he does say become all the more delicious to hear. My heart swells when he calls for me - Mama? Mama? because it is his best word - the one he's had the longest, the one he says most clearly - and because it means ME.

This boy has some mad skills when it comes to helping with dinner. Here, he expertly rolls the crescent rolls - I credit the many hours he's spent with play-doh for his developing culinary genius.

Pax is a budding musician. His favorite piece of music is - I kid you not - Carmina Burana. He absolutely loves the bombastic lines, loves the loud, crashing drums and the high trills of the piccolo, loves the chants and swells of the tenor and soprano. He listens to his Kindermusik CD and bops his head in time to the music; he thrills at using his new instruments to create all kinds of loud and satisfying sounds. Grandpa taught him "Itsy Bitsy Spider," and his favorite book at night is the Tomie dePaola's collection of favorite songs.

Half of the people we meet say that Pax looks like Aidan; the other half say he looks like Leo. Me, I think he looks exactly like... Pax. His gorgeous blond, silky hair; his chipped front tooth; his wide, open-mouthed grin and his crinkly, cresent-shaped eyes are only reflections of the person he is on the inside: sweet, happy, vivacious, loving, unique.

(He is also a Lollipop Monster, as evidenced here:)

Best of all - the novelty of Pax hasn't worn off yet, for any of us. We marvel at him. How cute he is, how sweet he is, how much we love him. How lucky we are that he is in our family, that he completes us.
Happy Birthday, Pax Augustus!

Thursday, October 6, 2011


In the earliest days of my career as Mother, I had one objective: survival. His and mine. Nursing him back to sleep late at night, I would feel great relief, thinking, I've gotten him thorough another day. In the seven years I've been at this job, I'm willing to bet I've had fewer than 100 nights of uninterrupted sleep - and yet, oddly, their wakings, much like they were in the the newborn days, are often a source of comfort for me. Soothing a boy back to sleep after a bad dream, tucking a boy back in to bed after potty-ing, and rocking a boy back to sleep, I'm comforted to know that I have helped him and been there for him, that I know, still, in the middle of the night, that he is okay.

Wistfully I remember what it was like to worry about whether time-outs should be one minute or two, or in what order I should introduce solids, or how to handle that mom at playgroup whose kids always seemed to be sick. Of course, I worried about bigger things, too. I worried about SIDS, and always felt relief as each kid outgrew the most "dangerous" SIDS ages. I worried about their growth, their eating. I worried when they were sick. But perhaps because they were in my watchful round-the-clock care, there was a lot I didn't worry about, either because it was not possible at the time, or because it was so far in the future as to be unimaginable - getting hit by a car while riding a bike; getting kidnapped; falling in the lake and drowning; not wearing a seatbelt in a fatal car accident.

Parenting is harder now. Now, I fight not to be consumed by these worries. Now, these fears are warranted, imminent. In the constant push-pull state of parenting, I want to push them out of the nest as I simultaneously want to pull them back under my protective wing. I want them to ride bikes in the street and explore the nearby woods - and yet I fear an accident. I want them to be social and friendly - and yet I fear that they will forget to be wary of strangers. I want them to be responsible and careful - and yet they are children, deserving a carefree life. I want them to be compassionate and empathetic - and yet I do not wish on them the heavy burden of worry and sorrow that are often bedmates of compassion and empathy.

I'm trying to find the balance - guiding them with the right amount of caution, without being frightening. The right amount of repetition of lessons before the words become akin to Charlie Brown's mother's dialogue. (wah wah wah wah wah). The right timing of my teachings, not wanting to deliver them too early to be understood, not wanting to be too late to be able to make any difference.

I've heard that the things that you worry about the most in life rarely, if ever, actually happen. It's why bad dreams, even recurring ones, are so reassuring. They can't really happen in real life. So I've toyed with the idea of systematically worrying about every single thing that could possibly happen to my children, and worry about each one enough that I would effectively negate the possibility of something horrific happening.

Does this make me a control freak? Nah. It's humbling, really, because just when I start to feel like I'm getting the hang of this thing called Parenting - diapering while breastfeeding; breastfeeding while cooking dinner; cooking dinner while supervising homework; supervising homework while separating the squabbling siblings - suddenly these same children are peering out of the nest. They are working to gain their independence, to take responsibility, to see the consequences of their decisions, to deal with bullies, to grapple with dead goldfish, and to continue to develop their own unique selves, very much away from the parents who have quite literally held their hands through their earliest years....

...leaving me to grapple with my own struggles and worries, constantly wondering what kind of harvest the seeds I'm planting now will yield, wondering if I've sown enough of them, sown deep enough. Planted them when the soil is eager to receive, when they will be watered and well-fed, continually nourished. Knowing that the farmer must be ever-attentive, ever-dutiful, ever-dedicated to the harvest. Knowing that the farmer must toil for many years, in gorgeous weather and in harsh storms.

Hoping that each act performed by the farmer, each seed planted will find its roots, will thrive, will be bountiful and plenty. Hoping that it is enough.