Meredith: 36 Months

Happy Birthday, Sweet Meredith!

IMG_9370

You’re three. It’s amazing you’re so big. It’s amazing how you changed this summer from my baby to this crazy kiddo I’ve got living in my house. The pictures from this month tell a lot of the story. It’s pretty crazy how much we packed in, and how far we came: A month ago I was still mostly convalescing on the couch with our newborn and you were hanging out most days with Maddie, my 11yo helper who spent much of the summer at our house. Along the way we’ve 100% moved out of our old apartment, 100% moved you into your room in the basement, and even had a week-long visit from Gramma & Grampa. No grass growing under these feet!

IMG_9337

It’s becoming apparent that all the transition is a little more than you know what to deal with, and you are pushing some buttons around here and getting yourself into a little trouble. It fascinates me how differently you manifest this kind of upheaval in you little heart from the way your moody, obsessive, introvert brother does. For you it looks like getting into all kinds of mischief with your people, and by people I mean mostly The Baby and The Dog. I’m constantly nagging you or rebuking you or restricting you about how you treat these two defenseless subjects. I can hear it in your voice and see it in your clenched jaw when you’re feeling a little crazy towards them, and in these moments I have to un-invite you from touching them at all, pointing out to you how your body is feeling. It’s not consciously spiteful, the way you squish Joshua or get in his face and the way you push on the dog or pull her leg. I can tell it’s your feisty spirit trying to reorient to this new world and its members.

IMG_9384

But then sometimes you are downright mean, and I think that’s all part of the upheaval, too. The other day at the pool you were up in Joshua’s business and it was bugging him and me so I redirected you and told you to leave him alone. You’d also gotten his hat a bit wet and when I made it clear that I didn’t want it wet you grabbed it off his head and stuffed it down into the water as fast as you could, your whole body and soul engaged in this act of meanness. It made me feel really sad to see you poke at your people with so much spite. Moments later you pushed Jacob’s button and when he reacted to you, you slapped him right on the belly. (Child, you could be less cliche.) I made you go sit on the poolside chair for five minutes before you could play again. Tonight in the car getting back from church you were snarking at Jacob about something as Daddy was in the middle of calling you his pet name, “Goose.” He paused and remarked what a fitting name it is for you since you’ve got the same kind of mean streak as a goose.

IMG_9418

You’re also relating to me and Daddy a little weird, swinging back and forth between clingy, teary, snuggly and downright combative. You completely ignore what I say often, choosing to move forward with your own wishes in direct defiance of what you’re hearing from me, and – what I find bizarrely cute – just looking right back at me and saying “No” or “I don’t want to” in response to an instruction. It’s not rude, it’s just you trying on your independence for size and being frighteningly good at it, and stereotypical in a way that Jacob never was. Apparently I have discovered which one is not my compliant child. The other cute thing you say is “Hey!” in a protesting reaction to things you don’t like – cute because you leave off the initial H.

IMG_9430

IMG_9431

But for the most part you are just growing one day at a time into this hilarious, darling, smart, fun, caring person. I love watching it so much. I love how confidently you demand to “nuggle” and how dependent you are on these precious moments. I love how you sing everything and anything. I love your incredible command of the nuances of the English language. I love more than anything the way delight flashes across your face at an idea you like and you shout “Yeah!” with your whole forehead raised to reveal your big round brown eyes shining. I love how long and beautiful your hair is and how you take initiative to put clips in it and how they make it stick up on end because you’re so bad it, and I love how you insist on having a pony tail instead of pig tails. I love what a big damn deal your birthday has been the last few weeks and how proudly and affectionately you move through each day never too far away from your new Eiffel Tower fleece, your first present, picked out one morning when Jacob was at school, after a year of promise that when you turned three you could get a big-girl blankie like Jacob’s Monkey Fleece.

IMG_9350

Today was your birthday but we’re waiting till Friday to celebrate when we can involve the whole family for the whole day. This weekend was full since I was busy playing a wedding and a church service. You went with me this morning, still in your jammies as we walked into the sanctuary at 7:00 a.m. to prepare for the 8:00 a.m. service. They were your favorite Calvin Klein purple jammies – the same ones you decided all by yourself to wear all day long the other day as a jammie day. We’ve had a few birthday songs and birthday phone calls today, and one tiny present between church services, but we’re saving the real fun a few more days, and finally, finally, finally your dream will come true and, as you’ve been anxious for all summer, we will “go to BUGS for your present.”

IMG_9442

There will be a lot of other good fun as well, and so very many presents, not least of which a lab coat and doctor’s bag of tools from Nana and Papa, inspired by our trip to the doctor last Friday for Joshua’s 2 month check up. Feeling that the honeymoon had worn off, so to speak, and that you were now seeing Joshua more as competition and threat than darling miracle, I thought I’d try to involve you, so you came along as my “helper” to the doctor. We had so much fun taking care of him together and you were a big helper. As we sat and waited you decided to pretend doctor, and we took turns being on the doctor’s stool and the exam table as we waited to be seen. Your 3yo check-up is actually on Friday morning, the day we’ll celebrate your birthday, so I expect you’re going to be pretty excited about this present from Nana & Papa.

IMG_9591

Your baby is still your favorite thing in the world and you take meticulous care of it. It’s always around and often an important member of our expeditions. The other day you were sitting at the piano (brilliant child, you swapped the bench for your rocking chair so you could reach the pedals) and there in Joshua’s cradle beside you was your baby, whom you sometimes refer to as “my Joshua Levi.” I’ve given you a collection of newborn-sized onesies and you are constantly changing his clothes and I keep finding them mixed in with our laundry. Because obviously your baby’s clothes get dirty too…

IMG_9352

You also love to color and play play doh and, the newest thing, cut with scissors and sometimes even play with glue stick. You’re starting to do more than scribble and I can’t wait to see what skills will begin to emerge in my tiny little artist. You were telling someone tonight who asked what your favorite color is that you like “all the bright colors.” That is so you, and so true. So for your birthday cake we are assembling mini cupcakes with white frosting in the shape of a princess dress and then we will decorate it with all the colors of sprinkles.

IMG_9425

As I mentioned, we’ll be going to BUGS for your birthday. It’s the local gymnastics training facility and they open their gym to tots one hour each day. It’s not free but it fills your soul all the way up. We’ve set aside some cash to be able to take you and Jacob once a week this year, and I’m so excited to see you grow into this. Awhile back I was watching things waiting in my Netflix queue and came to the biographical documentary of Gabby Douglas, the young girl who won Olympic Gold a couple years ago. The next day I let you watch the performance sequences from the movie and you were in awe. Then you went over to the carpet and furiously danced and jumped and tumbled and somersaulted. I love cleaning up our play space and putting on loud music and letting you guys dance your little hearts out, and I love that it’s something you’re starting to take ownership of and choose on your own, and I love how you get the ribbon hand kites out and dance with them and take turns being the leader like I’ve shown you.

IMG_9680

One of the most beautiful things you’ve been up to lately is singing. You sing to yourself all day long, your stream of consciousness coming out in these tiny tunes. The best part is seeing all our recent work to acclimate you to the Sunday morning liturgy beginning to pay off. The past year you’ve been disengaged in church a lot, kind of a loose cannon. The days we’ve paused for worship as a family at home have been few and far between and we’ve seen the need to cultivate that discipline in you. But we’ve been regular about it again in the last month and you are growing into it so well. You quote Psalm 127 by heart right along with Jacob – it’s the Psalm we’ve opened our worship with all month – and it’s so fun to hear you taking this whole chunk of text in stride, sweetly managing the tricky sounds like “anxious toil” and making Daddy and me look at each other over your head with such pride and joy. You and Jacob like to grab your tiny Gideon New Testament that sits on the shelf in your room and take turns “reading chapters” and I hear you talking about Abraham or Joseph or not murdering and it’s so adorable and funny and earnest.

IMG_9533

Best of all, all day long I hear bits and pieces of the Gloria in your songs, and sometimes I hear you making up your own songs about God, often singing about how he is “Grace-iful.” Mostly this is just precious and profoundly meaningful, like today when we got home from church and I realized you were sitting at the organ in Daddy’s office having your own personal worship. But sometimes it is purely hilarious, like when I heard you sing to the dog, “Mocha lie down in the highest!”

IMG_9675

One of the cutest moments this month happened at bedtime when we were all talking and snuggling in your new room in the basement. Your beds are next to each other and the space between them is no more than about six inches. Once we put the carpet down and build your beds back into bunks there will be more room but for now it almost looks like a massive wall-to-wall king-sized bed. So Jacob suggested that someday when you grew up the two of you will share a big bed like Mommy & Daddy share a big bed. “No,” we explained to him. “Merry is your sister. When you grew up you will get to choose your own wife, and Merry will get to choose her own husband.” “Yes!” you piped up, “I want Patrick to be my husband!” We grinned and tried not to laugh at you and I suggested perhaps you could call him and ask him the next morning. (Because he’d get such a laugh.) “OK,” you replied, “Can you call him on the phone for me?”

IMG_9746

Last but not least, I have to tell you about the new wisdom you are learning. It’s a tricky concept – truth and lies – but I think you’re grasping it. A few times recently I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that something has happened even though you are denying it. Usually it’s a situation where you fear I will be displeased with you if you admit to something. Sometimes you’re right, but sometimes not, and it makes me sad to see you worrying that you need to pretend and lie in order to have my acceptance. So we’ve been talking about it. It’s hard to explain the difference between lying and true words to a preschooler but I can see you’re getting it because sometimes I watch the gears turn as I ask you an incriminating question and you catch yourself on the verge of a lie and, absolutely exuding bravery from every pore, you change your answer. Then I smile at you and you smile back and I think maybe things are off to a pretty good start with your little heart.

IMG_9705

I’m so glad I get to be your Mommy. I think that almost every day. It’s interesting how you amaze me. There was enormous affection and gushy, motherly, warm feelings in the earliest days of both your brothers’ lives that was strangely missing when I first met you, and I worried about that lack of felt affection. But now it’s there in a way that i isn’t for your brothers: I’m used to them. I adore them and delight in them but they don’t really surprise me. With you it’s like I have my mind boggled all over again as I wonder to myself “I get to be that amazing person’s Mommy.” Daddy and I have been talking a lot over the last year about what we see our family looking like when all is said and done, and it’s a good possibility that this is it, the five of us. We aren’t ready to call it yet, but if this is how it ends up being, it would mean that you are our girl. End of story. And I just think to myself, “Why would I need two girls? This one is pure perfection.”

IMG_9712

Happy Birthday, my perfect little person. I love you like crazy. Seriously, I can’t get over you.

IMG_9723

IMG_9722

Love,
Mommy

IMG_9674

Joshua: 2 Months

Dear Joshua,

IMG_9280

The results are in, and you are a big kid. 12 pounds 10 ounces three days ago. You’re such a champ, and such a darling little sidekick. You are still sleeping well, eating well, snuggling all the time. We’re still muddling through each day oblivious to the clock. I really don’t know how many naps you take in a day, how often you eat or for how long, how many night feedings you need, or what’s the longest stretch you’ve slept at once. (Actually, I think your first “Sleep Through The Night” happened last week when you went from about 10:00 p.m. to 3:30 a.m., but as luck would have it that was the night Jacob and Meredith decided to rouse us at 1:30. GO FIGURE.) I do know what your eyes look like when you’re sleepy, how your body feels when you’re hungry, and how you like to be held. This seems to be enough for now.

IMG_9336

It’s a summery Monday afternoon and you are playing on your little quilt, kicking your legs and looking at the toys hanging above you. Underneath you is my yoga mat, the carpet, and the soft layer of gym mat that makes our play space such a comfy, inviting spot in the center of our new home. I’m so thankful for all this, and thankful to think how you’ll grow into it. Today as we drove from Jacob’s preschool to the library we waved hello to our old house. It was a good place and holds fond memories, but I’m hoary it’s done. It was too cramped for our now-big family and you’ll never know that chapter.

IMG_9319

You spent your fair share of time in it, and almost always you spent it screaming. We’d go back to do laundry and pack our remaining belongings in those early, crazy weeks of your life. You hate your carseat, so those visits always started badly. And you hated that I couldn’t hold you. I hated it, too, and tried to compensate with ridiculous attempts at “packing” while snuggling you in a sling or a wrap. It was never very efficient and it was always sweaty, and I think that made you hate it even more. I hated it, too, and it was only worse when the water heater exploded and the basement flooded and everything began to mildew and stink. Then we abandoned hope of order and purging and just started evacuating as quickly as we could.

IMG_9302

That flood and the chaos it imposed and the improvisation it demanded and the hidden strength it called forth was a small-scale tale of the whole experience of your arrival into our world. I had intentions and convictions about the calm I felt would be necessary to add a Number Three. That’s why we handled the matter of where we’d move in the fall, when we first knew of you: That way by the time you arrived we’d be snuggled into our new home with everything in its place and plenty of time to spare for lying on the couch. What a fairy tale! Instead the house we bought turned into an epic project, the scope of which was easily ten times what we projected in our ignorance. So there I was six feet up a ladder, paint all over me, furiously rolling our new ceilings as fast as I could, just a few weeks before you were due. And then while Daddy worked literally around the clock on the modern luxuries of plumbing and electricity (we moved in with no shower or tub and lived for the first two weeks with no power to the bedrooms) I did the absurd: single-handedly moving us from The Old House to The New House one van load at a time, nine months pregnant, in sweltering summer.

IMG_9296

I spent many moments deep in my most private thoughts contemplating the meaning of all this. These moments of surprised submission were woven into the hours and hours of stress and anxiety, as I kept downgrading my expectations. Nevermind a prepared nursery by third trimester; drywall was all I really wanted. Nevermind settling Jacob and Meredith into their new room in the basement so the upheaval of a crying baby wouldn’t distress them; being nestled snuggly into the soon-to-be office by our bedroom would keep us all feeling safe and cozy through this big transition. Nevermind having a couple months to sink into new rhythms and conquer potty training (again!); a week would be plenty. Nevermind laundry being essential for moving in… or for you being born… or for the postpartum helpers’ departure… Perhaps this week we are finally going to hook up those luxury appliances most people think they can’t live without, but only because we’ve decided drywall and tile aren’t strictly necessary, actually.

IMG_9396

I’ve wondered over the last year what the meaning of all this might be for you – for your story. I thought your story would be the one where, finally, Daddy and I had learned to live with margin. I wondered how we might see you come to embody that in your own life; how you’d flourish and grow into this gift of sanity we were giving you and ourselves.

IMG_9367

IMG_9361

IMG_9358

Instead, in our long marathon towards that goal of margin and sanity, we were in deeper and crazier than we’d ever imagined before. I feared this and grieved it. It’s not what I wanted for you. Even my whole pregnancy was an endless frustration: I went into it strong and fit, with visions of staying healthy and keeping the excess weight off. Instead I was sick almost nonstop through the first half, even in the hospital once with a kidney infection resulting from too much stress to take care of myself, and I put on almost twice the weight I wanted to. From the first weeks with a mysterious arm injury that sabotaged my running and yoga routines until I lost all momentum, I began learning that I was not going to be the boss of this venture in any way at all.

IMG_9351

So then I wondered (and I’m wondering still) how perhaps you will be gifted with an ability to survive beyond your own estimations of yourself, to roll with the punches and go with the flow instead of enjoying the luxury of calm order. Maybe you will know how to improvise, a skill I am only now internalizing.

IMG_9340

Maybe all this will come as a surprise to you since finally we are settling into those ideals I presumptuously imagined we could attain simply by desiring them. So there you are: playing in the middle of our quiet, beautiful margin. I’m happy about it. Happy for the lessons I’ve learned in humility, in patience, in perseverance, in letting go. Mostly I’m happy that we finally found what we were looking for and that perhaps you will be the better for it. I know I will.

IMG_9584

I’m happiest of all about the time I finally have to love you and Jacob and Meredith, and the contrast I’ve experienced amidst the craziness and how it’s given me a taste for doing nothing, and an appreciation for the chance just to be with you. This, too, is a luxury, though I could argue equally well that it’s a necessity and a choice; somehow these things all get muddled together in the real world. Anyway, the Number One thing I’ve discovered this year is affection for my people: a preference to just be with you instead of being busy doing All Of The Things. Maybe the cultivation of this new desire (to do nothing) was the key to attaining margin. Maybe all along I just had to want it.

IMG_9595

The best thing in all this is that your darling presence and dependence and uncomplicated sweetness has reminded me what my other two little people are made of and how very fond of them I am, down under the calcified layers of failures and imperfections and irritations and limitations and expectations unavoidable in the relationship of parent to preschooler. More than just managing them, I am remembering that I love the silly stuffings out of them – that they are as adorable as you are and that I have ridiculous names and even more ridiculous songs for them just as I do, now, for you.

IMG_9573

I’ve never been good at affection. I’m a Type A person with unending interests. That side of me sees a happy baby (or a sleeping one) as a perfect chance to sneak away to iron another shirt, send another email, maybe take on a new project like a huge non-profit start-up, an epic professional trip to Europe, or the renovation of a big old house. But what I’ve discovered this year is that I don’t like all that stuff as much as I like to be with my people, so the last two months we’ve spent mostly on the couch, as close and boring and happy as we possibly can be, and if I’m not snuggling you, it’s a good bet that I’m snuggling Baby #1 or Baby #2.

IMG_9453

It’s good this way. This is something I’ve learned, but it’s not a fact (those are a quick study) it’s a feeling. It’s a new appetite. More than the value of margin or minimalism, more than the importance of perseverance and patience and the power of the human spirit, affection is what I’ve learned by your arrival.

IMG_9449

I love you.

IMG_9663

IMG_9628

IMG_9667

Love,
Mommy

IMG_9284

IMG_9290

IMG_9288

Jacob: 52 Months

Dear Jacob,

IMG_9190

This morning when you got up you requested that we sing He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands. Last night as you went to bed we recognized that you were feeling a little nervous on the eve of your new adventure and we talked and prayed together about it. This morning you were all eagerness and it spilled out into this urge for a song.

IMG_9206

Today you went to school for the first time. Since I am intending to home school you (for the early grades at least) this is your rite of passage.The start of 1st grade will feel anti-climactic. We want you to experience the rhythm of “going” to school and the discipline of a teacher and a classroom and peers – all things we want you to learn to respect. And (let’s be honest) I want to experience a little breathing room; this is partly for me.

IMG_9214

I wish I could’ve captured the private look on your face as I sang from my station flipping pancakes: “He’s got Mrs. Gebhardt in His hands…” It was a delightful idea to you – that God’s hands were for your teacher, too – and I witnessed it, quiet, not drawing attention to the moment, just treasuring the opportunity to see your heart just a tiny bit.

IMG_9327

Saturday morning we went to Target for school supplies. We went at 8:30 a.m. so we wouldn’t have to shop amongst crowds. We went two days before the local First Day of School because your mom was homeschooled and it only just occurred to me to read the teacher’s email carefully and marvel at the concept that you would be responsible to bring school supplies. Apparently, in this world they call School, kids come to class on that first day loaded down with the things they’ll need. It’s not the teacher’s job to acquire the glue stick and markers. Since I’m from this weird planet where I never stepped foot into a standard school building on a standard school day for standard school purposes any day in my life, I found this surprising. Who knew? So there we were, picking from the dregs of the marker and glue stick selection.

IMG_9344

I was proud of you there in Target: We walked in and your eyes took it all in there in that first $3 aisle of enticing clutter. You wanted all of it, and each request was qualified with “for school,” as in “Mom, I should get THIS for school.” It was not a good start, and I paused to explain that you were being greedy, wanting everything you could see. I showed you our list, and how your teacher – the leader in this situation – had prepared it for us. Our job was to find everything on the list and to not show up to class with a bunch of miscellaneous ideas of our own. And like magic you took the responsibility in stride, calmly making decisions about what sort of markers and what sort of pencils. Then there we were, standing in the Lego aisle, and you studied the pictures on the boxes with easy contentment, not feeling the need to own, just to observe, and you didn’t even notice me pick out a present for you and slip it into our cart.

IMG_9347

(Congratulations on your first set of Legos, by the way.)

IMG_9348

So you had your first day of school and it was all very relaxed. You proudly wore your orange backpack, asking me to remind you what the characters on it were. (It’s Star Wars, baby boy.) You smiled for a few too many pictures. Together we found your teacher, found your locker, found our places. It was a unique moment: I was as baffled as you about this “school” thing, wondering where a locker would be, wondering whether to ask questions of the teacher or stay out of her way, wondering when I was supposed to leave. I unpackaged all your markers and crayons and put them in the pencil box she’d prepared with your name on it. I helped you write your name on a paper and then marveled at how well you traced it. I kissed you goodbye and walked down the hall to the front door in awe of your eagerness and calm. And then three hours later I was back, trailing Patrick behind me – a spontaneous surprise – enjoying your accounts of the playground and learning about the beginning of the world and the days of the week, and discovering (no surprise) that while you didn’t remember any of your peers’ names, you did remember that there were 13 of you in total.

IMG_9554

I’m loving watching you grow up. I’m a sentimental mommy, always grasping at what’s fleeting, always leaning in for one more snuggle before you grow ANOTHER day bigger. But I’m realizing what a treat it is to watch you get bigger, and I’ve seen a lot of it this month. You’re taking responsibility for so many things, you’re learning to communicate so well and to manage yourself. You understand your little world and you are thriving in it. (Never mind the return of Potty Phobia; at least this time you’re still using it, just trying to get out of flushing it.) When you want a drink, you get it for yourself. When your hands are dirty, you wash them for yourself. You are even learning to manage your own daily chore – emptying the waste baskets and taking the trash and recycling down to the garage.

IMG_9516

As if a first day of school weren’t passage enough, I got to witness another beautiful moment in your unfolding world this week. Friday we had an all-day visitor, a 6yo boy who needed a place to be while his mom was at work for the day. Somehow his mom and I recognized immediately that the two of you were wired the same, and I am so thankful for your presence in each other’s lives. The three of us and our temporarily-adopted dog Mocha headed to the park in the middle of the afternoon. As I walked behind you, managing Mocha on her leash and pushing the double stroller with Gabe’s scooter in it, I watched the two of you team up to get your bike up a big hill and I was in awe at that moment: You have a friend. Someone you want to be with for no reason, just because you enjoy being in each other’s company, even if it involves dumping handfuls of sand down your shirts together.

IMG_9335

I stood in the parking lot of our local city park on Friday, shouting-distance from the two of you – the fulcrum between you. You were there together but separate, an introvert’s playdate. You were tired of the team work and each had your own idea of what to do. So there I was, watching you, and I got to thinking about this new way of motherhood, so different from the intensely involved, physical season of the first few years, which is all I’ve known yet. Being a mom is about silently facilitating and witnessing: sitting on the sidelines with the stroller and the dog, doing nothing while you ride your bike around the empty basketball courts to the left and your friend digs his toes in the sand of the volleyball pit to the right. I was there to keep you safe but just out of reach, letting you grow into yourself by yourself. You’re doing your own thing and I’m just here, essential but so unimportant.

IMG_9508

I love you.

IMG_9501

Love,
Mommy

IMG_9557

Meredith: 35 Months

Sweet Meredith,

IMG_8970

I thought maybe I’d leave this letter unwritten. It would be ironic: The only month I’ve ever missed writing to Jacob was when we moved from Minnesota to Indiana. Over and over I intended to sit down and do it but there was always something I was more anxious to accomplish. That’s how it’s been this month, only on top of a move is a newborn to hold.

IMG_9089

IMG_8911

Maybe the only thing that salvaged this letter is that on the appointed day I dutifully selected the pictures to publish here, and their potential has called to me day after day. And now after a totally exhausting day I need to sit and unwind. The house is silent and dark; I’m the only one awake. It’s mostly clean, too, thanks to Gramma’s presence this week and the unpacking progress I am making.

IMG_8872

The other reason I’ve thought not to write is that I don’t know what to say. Over and over I think of words, ideas, reflections. In an instant, though, they are gone – casualties of postpartum sleep deprivation.

IMG_9234

I have only to say that you are beautiful, so beautiful. We are delighting in you every day. We are amazed at how you are growing into a lovely little girl; at how smart you are – how full of determination and ambition and patient persistence. And how full of affection – not only for your people but for the whole world. You possess this joie de vivre that infects everything around you. I can see it on your face, how your eyes get big and you agree to some great idea; how eager you are for things like little walks in your “Wittow Merry Stroller.”

IMG_9210

Not only is the newborn and the moving distracting to me this month, but the planning and scheming for your birthday is taking up a fair amount of time and attention. I have assembled your cast of birthday presents, selected a cake, and have begun to ponder how we might spend the day, and I’m enjoying your constant queries about when it will be, and your constant declaration that you want to go to BUGS for a present.

IMG_9022

IMG_9020

Sunday while you slept I sewed you a little baby carrier so you can wear your baby like I wear mine. I’m totally busting to give it to you.

IMG_9305

IMG_9306

IMG_9308

I love you.

IMG_9034

Love,
Mommy

IMG_9042

IMG_9037

Joshua: 1 Month

Dear Joshua,

IMG_8509

Welcome to our world! We are completely in love with you – all four of us. You are such a snuggle-bug and I hardly know if I’ll have time to write this letter before you beg to be held again. I love it that way. I’ve done very little aside from hold you for the last thirty days, and it has been very good. The times I have to be away from you are, I think, almost as frustrating and for me as they are for you. Your first week I don’t think you were ever put down for more than a couple minutes at a time. Every time you slept, you slept in my arms. It’s hardly changed since then except that you are doing well sleeping in your cradle at night, falling asleep in our arms sometime around 9:00. We lay you in your cradle when we go to bed and you sleep till 12:00 or 1:00 a.m. After that you are out like a light again and usually quiet in your cradle till 3:00 or 4:00. And on a particularly good night you’ll go back to the cradle one more time after that. Otherwise I bring you to bed with us and you sleep in the crook of my arm until the day begins. I love it this way, even though it means I wake up in pain from not moving all the while you’re in my arms.

IMG_8651

IMG_8816

IMG_8647

This week you’re changing fast. Two days ago was my first solo flight, the only grown-up, alone in the house with my three people for several of the day’s longest hours. It was like you knew, because for the first time you settled for watching (or sleeping) on the sidelines without fussing immediately. The next day was your first adventure, crashing Mommy & Daddy’s date on Daddy’s birthday, accompanying us to shop the outlet malls for school clothes for Daddy and charming everyone in sight at a restaurant afterwards. It was your first long car ride, and consequently also your first long screaming fit, but you managed well enough and the next day, yesterday, was another impressive feat: I put you down, drowsy and swaddled, in your cradle, hoping to get ten minutes of work done. You slept and slept until, four hours later, I finally decided to fetch you because I missed you so much.

IMG_9014

IMG_9192

IMG_8868

You’ve grown newly alert this week, I imagine equal parts growing brain and developing vision. You are clearly watching the world now, and interested in what you see. We joked a lot in the first few weeks whenever we had a rare “eyeball sighting.” Our first impressions of you were three: you liked to snuggle, you had as little interest in being awake as your daddy does, and (last but not least) you were fully aware of your rights. We laughed so much at how you’d make your particular desires known or protest when you weren’t attended precisely to your wishes. Not that you are a cranky baby. You are very calm and content. The only thing you hate with a fiery passion is your car seat.

IMG_8932

The reason I hold you so much is that you are important. We are so glad you are here. We wanted you so much, looked forward to you so much. We dreamed of you together, your brother and sister and Daddy and I, and prayed for you. One thing four years of mothering two already-so-grown kids has taught me is that there can never be too much love, and that there is always not quite enough. I’ve learned, too, that this is my weakness – showering affection (time and undistracted interest) on my special little people.

IMG_8864

I can’t presume at this moment in time that you’ll never know this about me, but I can hope and intend. Your arrival in our lives coincides with a chapter of my story that was unusually transparent in its meaning. I remember the earliest days of motherhood for me. Until about 18 months ago I had plenty of time to give my kids, even if I chose to spend it ironing or writing or giving them space to be independent. But my plate got too full last year and things reached a frenzied level in the spring as I prepared for a professional trip to England, practicing long hours, taking on extra work, and saving every penny we could. There was the non-profit work I’d taken on besides, and one day it was like I woke up all in a moment and I remembered my principle, abstract before, real now: that I wanted to be a full-time mom when my kids were little. Instead they were the part of life I tried to “manage,” keeping it going just effectively enough that I could do the “work” I had each day.

IMG_9003

I hated how this felt and loved the way I began to miss my kids. Those were the moments of clarity. There were many other moments of selfishness and frustration and anger when I saw my kids as if they were in the way. The best thing I learned last year was to hate this feeling, and the best thing I did was to re-imagine life until this point we’ve arrived at with your arrival. I still have commitments and obligations here and there, but life is different now: you are here. And I am here, too. Not just for you, but for Jacob & Meredith too. And I’m praying for wisdom to see you – really see you – each day. And to love you, and to remember how important you are, and to create for you a world of happiness and peace and a self-confident sense of your own value.

IMG_8614

So, dear “Doshua Weevi,” as Meredith has taught us to call you, welcome to the world. Now please can I hold you again?

IMG_8835

I love you.

IMG_8527

IMG_8526

IMG_8536

IMG_8534

IMG_8532

IMG_8530

IMG_8490

Love,
Mommy

photo-2

Jacob: 51 Months

Dear Jacob,

It’s the middle of summer, though you wouldn’t know it for all the cool, rainy weather we’re having. For the second year in a row it’s gotten the better of our tomato plants, and in two weeks of rain they’ve lost all their promise, the dense, deep-green foliage now spindly and pale from drowning.

IMG_8875

The other day I sent you and Merry out in your rain boots to play in the pouring rain. The temperature was in the mid-70s and you played happily together for an hour until you finally felt chilled and came in, dripping wet, to a warm bath. I hope you’ll have many more chances to go out in the rain this summer. I’ve been remembering my early ambitions as a mother not to say no to fun for risk of a mess, and I’m afraid this past year or so I’ve been too overwhelmed and distracted to let you get properly dirty often enough.

IMG_8727

At the moment you’re down in the basement where Daddy’s almost finished framing the new rooms. I told you your quiet time could be spent helping him and riding your bike. You have a brand new orange bicycle with training wheels and a helmet. It was a gift from Nana & Papa upon the arrival of Joshua, and you’ve taken to it like a fish to water. You’re so good at riding it, and so strong, that you hardly need the training wheels, except that you would have trouble navigating how to handle stopping, or slow moments like tight corners. You love your bike and I’m so proud of you for how well you remember always to park it in the garage with the helmet on the handlebars whenever you hop off even for a moment.

IMG_8882

These days we are laughing often at your developing sense of humor and mannerisms. The first two weeks after Joshua was born you attended two VBS camps in a row, leaving home every morning and coming back around lunch time. I think maybe it was the time you spent hanging out around so many other kids, most of them bigger than you, but somehow you seem to have a more big-kid take on things these days, right down to your facial expressions. Combine this with your fresh haircut and how fast you’re growing and I have a genuine big kid.

As if all that weren’t growth enough, I have to tell you how proud I am of your growing ability and interest in handling yourself: you are pretty much potty trained finally (FINALLY) and pretty good at taking initiative for it. In fact, we’ve started the next phase of this process: getting you up just before we go to bed at night to have you go potty in hopes of eventually training you to stay dry at night, but for now to at least not wet through a diaper by every morning. (Little victories.) The best thing, though, is how competently you can get yourself dressed or washed up or even bathed with almost no help or coaching. This is such a help to me since my hands are full with your baby brother so much. And you seem proud of yourself, taking delight in your achievements. I love how eager you are to help with chores, and how you take ownership of the things I ask you to do. It still hasn’t occurred to you that these little tasks are a pain in the ass, and you feel special when I ask you to carry out the recycling or trash.

IMG_8558

Of course, if I ask you to work on a big task like cleaning up the toys – anything that takes extended, repetitive involvement – you sing a different tune, making big claims about how tired you feel, way too tired to do all this work all by yourself.

Your vocabulary these days often includes generalizations such as “all this work” or “all the time” or “every day.” I’m finding this interesting because it reminds me of me. You experience the world vividly, enormously, dramatically. Let me try to explain what I mean.

IMG_8636

Often we have to rebuke you for your attitude at the end of a thing. You make these sweeping complaints like “I don’t EVER want that to end!” or “I want to stay at the park ALL THE TIME” or “Why do I not get to do that NEVER EVER?!” The flip side of these statements is when you say something like “Miss Nicole, I want you to come over EVERY DAY” or “I want to have this kind of food EVERY TIME.”

IMG_8807

Before I go on, I must include a tangent on the subject of rebukes. See, you are a stubborn man, and one of your biggest challenges is your unwillingness to receive correction or instruction. We talk about it often, explaining the difference between wisdom and folly when you all too frequently whine this ridiculous line: “I don’t love it when you say serious words to me.” It’s not often that an instruction or rebuke gets met with anything but struggle, us continuing to press an issue until your will bends reluctantly to ours, but a few times, and increasingly often, you’ve been different and there’s very little that makes me feel more delighted with you and proud of you than when you turn at my instruction and look me right in the face and cheerfully, without being compelled, respond the way we’ve labored to train you. It’s a joy to see you beginning to bear wisdom’s fruit already.

IMG_8962

But back to the issue of your dramatic perception of everything, and your huge capacity for appreciation or disgust. Everything in your world is a big damn deal, and while it drives Daddy and me crazy most of the time, I can see beauty here too. And while we want to teach you when it’s not appropriate to care (like when the kitchen faucet is resting over the right-hand basin instead of the left-hand one – about this issue I have begun to teach you the concept of Being Obsessive) and when something is legitimately, objectively No Big Deal, I don’t want to think we should or even can change the size of your heart.

IMG_8961

You are a glutton for all things good. You’d never be able to decide how many cookies is too many, and you never want to switch gears when you’ve got a good thing going. Never is this more apparent than at bedtime, which you earnestly protest. When you finally accept it you begin a series of stall strategies, asking for a reading night, or a story, or a chase-and-tickle, or ice water (you claim your throat is tickly).

IMG_8712

The other day as I listened to you go on in this fashion, and perhaps as you responded to my customary question “What do you want to do tomorrow?” with “I want to read books ALL DAY LONG”, it reminded me of the birthday card my very wonderful uncle sent me a few years ago. I was in college and I was surprised and touched to receive his greeting in the mail. When I read the message on its cover I was awe-struck at his choice of that card for me. How did he know? And beyond that, how did this random person being quoted get inside my heart and verbalize it? That card stayed pinned to my desk throughout my years in college and I saw it and felt my heart resonate with it every single day.

IMG_8712

I think this greeting card’s claim is yours, too, as it is mine, and I love that we have this passionate, perhaps even gluttonous personality in common. As for how to harness it with wisdom…? Well, that’s something I’m still only beginning to try to figure out. I have no idea who John Burroughs is, but I know he belongs in our club:

“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.”

IMG_8698

I love you.

Love,
Mommy

IMG_8715

Meredith: 34 Months

Sweet Meredith,

IMG_8317

This morning you are at Bible camp with Jacob and lots of friends from our church, learning about Pilgrim’s Progress. The most I could discover of your assimilation of the materials last night as we talked over dinner was that there was a dinosaur. Further inquiry suggests you are referring to Apollyon, the dragon. After VBS yesterday and today you’re spending the day with Mr. Haxton, or “Haxton” as you call him, as in “Haxton, I’m wearing big-girl panties!” or “Haxton look at my booviful dress!” or “I want to go sledding with Haxton and Madi.” Mr. Haxton is a single dad from our church whose 11yo daughter you love. He’s kind of a local grandpa for you and he has shown us so much kindness this year, especially in helping us with you and Jacob.

IMG_8282

You’re adorable as ever and then some. Your speech and vocabulary is one of our favorite topics of conversation, and you surprise everyone with the unexpected detail and complexity of what comes out of your little two-year-old mouth. Two of the cutest stories from this month have a common element: baptism. It’s become very real to you not only because of the font at the entrance to our sanctuary, where we touch the water and I remind you “You belong to Jesus,” but because we’ve seen easily half a dozen baptisms this year.

IMG_8369

The other day when we were at the pool with Nicole you offered to baptize her, or rather, informed her of what was about to take place: “I’m going to baptize you.” Then you put water on her and said “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Amen.” This basic scenario happened repeatedly and included the baptism of our baby (my belly).

IMG_8343

But even cuter than this was the tiny instant as we entered the sanctuary for church two weeks ago. I almost missed it, it was so understated. I lifted you high enough to reach the water in the font and you touched it to yourself, saying “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” But instead of the sign of the cross – an admittedly confusing ritual for a toddler to internalize – you touched first your head, then your shoulders, then your knees, then your toes. Those were not easy giggles to stifle.

IMG_8370

You’re loving summer – popsicles and swimming and long hours outside and lots of friends to play with. A couple weeks ago you spent an entire Saturday outside digging in the dirt while Daddy was digging a trench to lay a drainage system through the yard. I barely saw you and Jacob all day and when you came in you were dog-tired, sweaty, and covered in dirt. I threw you straight in the bath and then put you in jammies for the rest of the day.

IMG_8427

That was less than two weeks ago. It’s hard to believe. Things feel so different now, and those final days of pregnancy are like a distant memory from a former life when I could pick you up and run up and down the stairs to check on you. When we would snuggle in your bed together and you would poke my belly or flop onto me and giggle “I’m squishing the baby!” Now he’s here and you are taking it very seriously. Squishing him would never occur to you now. Now you are in deep, blissful love.

IMG_8626

I am, too, but I’m also missing you. Seeing the pictures of you from a few weeks ago makes me nostalgic – a little achy for how it felt when you were my baby. You’ve been replaced; there’s no disguising it. It’s not a bad thing, this beautiful new person in our family, or the new rank you have as a big girl, more than you ever were.

IMG_8630

What I see in those pictures is my baby who I always came to defend and what I see these last few days – when I see you, which is pretty rare with all the playdates and hospital days – is a little ragamuffin with a snotty nose and a self-administered hair clip who is fending for herself quite nicely. A couple more days of healing for my broken belly and I will be looking for some serious snuggles from my girl.

IMG_8625

But as I said, you are in love. The excitement built for you in those last days before the baby arrived. Your eyes would get wider every day as we talked about it: “Two more days!” And then the moment came, and you came running into the room looking for him. I’ve hardly seen you sad since. Your whole world is a big grin and you can’t get enough of him. You proudly announce to everyone, “His name is Doshua Weevi” and you tell them “When he is sad, I give him his paci.” You love to hold him and kiss him and burp him and you’re so good at it, so gentle. I love your air of easy self-confidence around him, no doubt that you have a right to this little baby – that he belongs to us. To you.

IMG_8549

Your attention to your own babies has developed and increased, and you treat them with such earnestness. You push them around the house in your baby stroller, put them to bed with blankets, rock them in your rocking chair, sometimes buckle them into Joshua’s carseat. But my favorite of all is watching you hold them. You put them up to your shoulder and stroke their heads and pat their backs. I kept my hands busy crocheting through the winter and spring, making two blankets for Joshua. I had leftover yarn and a few leftover days when I’d finished, so I made you a little dolly afghan to match his, out of the same stitch I used in your own baby blanket three years ago, bordered with the same shiny white yarn. I finished it two hours before I left for the hospital.

IMG_8572

Probably the biggest challenge we’ve been dealing with recently is Whining and Complaining. Maybe it takes a back seat to Not Listening Ever, but since that is as much my fault as yours (I need to actually secure your attention before I talk) and not nearly as inspiring to write about, I’ll pass over it. Whining and Complaining happens because you have very clear, specific notions of things. I get it, I really, really do. Not only do I want the couches to be square with the walls, I want the blankets to be square on the couches. It matters to me. And while I’d like to claim to be as invested in my appearance as you are, I get the need for that certain pair of shoes. Some things are better than others.

IMG_8559

The way you handle things when they aren’t right is Whining and Complaining. You’ll say absurd, squeaky things like “I don’t like my pink cup,” to which I’ll say “Yes, you do. You just want your straw cup instead.” And then I’ll suggest that perhaps instead of thinking about your straw cup in its absence you should remember that God gave you your pink cup, and be thankful for it.

IMG_8798

This business of being thankful is really the ticket. Let me explain, or more accurately, sum up. I’ve been thinking about it a lot the last couple weeks, and especially the last couple days. When you were a newborn I hit a wall. I know it was post-partum depression because it felt like All The Crazy and because there was a day when you were around 10 weeks old when I woke up and it was like someone had finally readjusted the filters on the world and there was everything, normal and OK again. Let me be the first to tell you: hormones are evil little beasts.

IMG_8689

Recalling my experience during your first weeks has made me a little on edge about the weeks upon me now, and it was only the second day of Joshua’s life when I first felt the rising craziness: mourning that his first day was already over or waking from a nap to feelings of guilt for being unconscious to his beauty and the beauty of the afternoon sky out my window. Crazy talk. My heart felt like all your squeaky negativity, but with a sober, disturbing dose of grown-up sorry and anxiety.

IMG_8618

I called it immediately, voiced it to people who love me, admitted both the absurdity and the reality of these feelings. And while there are various measures I’m taking to ensure that I come through these next few weeks with joy and peace and a few shreds of sanity, hormones or no hormones, the primary one is thankfulness: choosing to see the world rightly, as a worshiper who’s been given so much.

IMG_8616

The key to deciphering the crazy things I feel is often to re-interpret them: a crumpled blanket on the back of the couch is evidence that my kids are happy, a long line to use our tiny bathroom is a reminder that we are in our new house, a fussy baby is a ticket to snuggle, headaches resulting from medications is an invitation to rest, and the sound of Daddy’s music and power tools in the basement (and the dust up here from his shoes) is sweet token of the fact that he is HERE during these days, which is more than I can even begin to be thankful for. So I’m taking this season as a chance to practice the discipline of seeing the world this way and I can already tell it’s helping.

IMG_8631

I’m looking forward to seeing you tonight – to seeing you bounce right past me to Joshua. Tomorrow I’ll be with you all day for the first time in ten days and I can’t wait. I hope we can snuggle a lot and color with your new markers. And on Sunday there is another big surprise in store for you: that purple bicycle you’ve been saying so much about, a big-sister present from Nana and Papa. I can’t wait to see the look on your face!

IMG_8461

I love you.

IMG_8474

Love,
Mommy

IMG_8460