Journals

Journals

Friends,

I know some of you read these letters to my children religiously, and I’m sorry to keep you waiting. Your delight in witnessing my kids grow, and perhaps even your encouragement through my ponderings, is a happy by-product of this practice of mine, and it’s important to me. So consider this an almost-promise that you will see these journals again, probably soon, and probably even the ones that I’m not posting these days. (I am still writing them.)

I’ve wondered now and then if the publicity of this forum is appropriate. I’ve imagined that in future years it might not be, and I’m still open to that possibility. I’ve  even talked the issue out with several of you and that’s been helpful. It’s also been surprising to hear just how much you love these rambling epistles. For the most part, I’m still in the game: still intending to offer these letters up not only for my kids in the future but for you in the present. But I’m finding myself in a season where it seems good to try out stepping back and writing without anyone looking over my shoulder, so please be patient with my silence for a little while. You can think of it as summer break for Wednesday Grace.

Susan

13342898_10100175394849515_5142206115274599259_n-2

Joshua: 11 Months

Joshua: 11 Months

Dear Joshua,

IMG_4857

Big things have been going on this month, and big things are going to happen in the next one, too – like learning to nap through the sound of Daddy’s summer practice schedule here at home, and making peace with your confinement in the pack ‘n play outside while we work on landscaping. You are growing up in some fun ways lately and you just tickle me to death.

IMG_5251

IMG_5250

IMG_5253

You love making a bee-line for the bathroom, especially if you can get as far as pulling yourself up to look in the potty, or if there’s a bathing sibling to say hi to behind the door. You love getting into whatever Meredith and Jacob are doing, and you think you’re one of the pack.

IMG_5507

I love how much Jacob makes you giggle, and I love how you’re learning to give Meredith’s abuse right back to her and stand up for yourself. It’s all just cute and fun. It’s not so fun when you whine and yell and fuss, but I get how that’s important, too, because it’s your way of standing up for yourself. So I’m trying to listen, and stop to spend time with you when you’re needing love.

IMG_5296

IMG_5300

IMG_5299

IMG_5297

IMG_5302

IMG_5301

It was really fun to have you as a traveling buddy in April as you and Meredith and I drove across the country to Colorado to retrieve my Nonnie’s furniture. I was amazed how well you did on that trip (with the exception of the first night, when you spent more time crying than sleeping) and especially amazed at how you learned quickly in the car that when you were bored you could just go to sleep. We passed those dozens of hours of driving largely through those boredom naps, punctuated by stretches of time where I’d reach my hand back to offer you one of the toys from the bucket I kept in the front passenger seat. You’d play with it awhile, then drop it on the floor. When you’d start to fuss I’d hand you another toy, and we repeated this until all the toys were dropped, and then stop for a driving break to put them back in the bucket. We made it from Lawrence, Kansas to Denver, Colorado that way with only two quick gas station stops, which makes you Roadtrip Baby Champion, hands down.

IMG_4876

IMG_5198

IMG_4898

The first day, the day that ended in Lawrence, was the hardest, since you weren’t used to this particular form of parent-inflicted torture yet. When you’d finally had your fill of travel, around the 12-hour mark, you started to scream. We were just about 30 minutes from our destination so I kept driving, trying in vain to console you. To add insult to injury, we were on a toll road, and when I stopped to pick up my ticket you stopped crying, feeling sure your torture was over. The rage when I started to drive again was something to remember, and we continued that way through the final toll booth and several stop lights before you finally got rescued from your misery.

IMG_5261

IMG_4962

On the drive back we passed through Lawrence again, and Meredith got to choose whatever her little heart desired for dinner. Ice cream was the choice, and so we went to Coldstone Creamery and found their simplest ice cream, “Sweet Cream.” It was your first ice cream and you really thought I was trying to kill you upon your first bite. You did not approve of how cold it was. But you warmed up to it pretty fast, and then Meredith got on your good side by sharing pieces of her cone with you.

IMG_5361

IMG_5376

IMG_5374

I think my current favorite thing this month is your relationship to the birdies above your bed. I made them for you last spring before I ever met you and they’ve hung there, silent witnesses to all your sleeping and a lot of your fussing. But suddenly they’ve come to life and we are getting a lot of use out of them. What I see on your face when we play with them is joy and wonder, undiluted, uninhibited.

IMG_4887

When you’re ready to go to bed (or when I come to get you after you wake) I ask if you want to make the birdies dance and then you look at me with something that’s a lot more than a grin. I spin the birdies and you grab them and sometimes I hold you up so that they hit you right in the face. You cackle with laughter and you look back and forth between me and the birdies like if you could talk it would be to say “Isn’t it your favorite, Mom? It’s definitely my favorite.”

IMG_4836

You’re growing a lot lately and getting stronger. You like to cruise around the furniture upright and you pull yourself up to stand while holding onto my legs a lot now, every mother’s favorite part of the dinner-making obstacle course. Mostly you crawl, but you don’t waste any time at that.

IMG_4949

You’re now a champion stair climber though I can’t get you actively involved in climbing down them. I just pull you down one knee at a time and say “Feet first” over and over until we’re at the bottom. You’re totally just along for the ride and completely disinterested.

IMG_5641

IMG_5638

IMG_5639

You’re starting to really understand “No” and it’s sweet to see you beginning to grasp the idea of obedience. Maybe you’re not going to be quite as strong-willed as your brother, because you acquiesce pretty easily now that you’re used to it. “Joshua. No stairs!” almost always sends you pushing back onto your butt and looking right at me. It takes a few tries sometimes, and occasionally a tiny little flick on your hand, but the last few days that’s been rare, too. You just don’t bother approaching the stairs much anymore, because you know what to expect. It’s a comfortable, easy boundary for you and you’re happy with it.

IMG_5501

IMG_5505

I was marveling with a friend the other day at the value of this life-lesson in the world of a baby. A lot of parenting wisdom these days discourages using the word “No” for babies and toddlers because it makes them feel frustrated. Instead you’re supposed to distract or redirect or use “positive language” like saying “Stay on your bottom” instead of “Don’t stand up.” I get it, but I disagree. You just can’t get through life (let alone childhood) without dealing with that word and its surrounding concepts head-on.

IMG_5499

What I’ve seen now in three tiny lives is that introducing it at an early enough age is the trick. (I think it’d be too late by a first birthday.) It means you’re at peace with the idea of boundaries and authority before you’ve really developed your own intense set of preferences. Right now your identity and mine are still so completely wrapped up in your perception that you’re too young to get upset at being told “No.” You just feel proud of yourself when you put a big smile on my face and I give you a big “Good job, Joshua!”

IMG_5495

That doesn’t mean you’ll never begin to rage against those boundaries, but it does mean you don’t necessarily always have to feel discouraged by their intrusion. “No” is just a reality you’ve grown accustomed to.

IMG_5511

But your will is beginning to emerge, and the first clue to it is this hilariously cute little squeak-grunt that’s just developed in the last couple days. Sometimes when I tell you “No” you insert that once or twice and it’s obviously your version of “I don’t like your choice.” For now, it’s adorable and endearing, and just completely funny.

IMG_5666

You’re sharing more and more of our food with us at the table, and that’s the place where your will and preferences are most strongly present these days. You yell and fuss for food if it’s not being delivered fast enough, and we constantly have to remind you to say “More please” with your hands instead. You just get so excited about eating that it exceeds excitement and becomes stress and it seems like that’s why you yell. You’ve got some pretty strong preferences when it comes to food, too, and you’ve been really immovable on those, even if they change from day to day. It’s hard to trick you into eating something you’ve decided to reject.

IMG_5404

One of the funny stories from this month came a few weeks ago while we ate a picnic with my aunt. You were positively screaming to try to get your message across and I offered you every different kind of food I could think you might be wanting. You rejected known favorites and kept hollering, so I took you out of your chair and offered you milk and instead of nursing you screamed about that, too, a completely unprecedented behavior. I don’t know what finally clued me in, but it turned out that what you wanted was potato salad, and you had completely fixated on it. My mind was blown. I just had to laugh at how grown up you’re getting, to have such a fixed opinion.

IMG_5065

IMG_5064

You’re a handful these days, as you emerge into my not-favorite stage of development. I am cherishing all the ways and moments in which you’re still my baby because you are moving so quickly toward toddlerhood. Of course you will be cute and darling and I will be 100% in love with you every single month, but I’m going on record right now to say that toddlerhood and this mommy are not a very good pairing. Maybe the third time around I’ll have learned a few things – mostly learned not to fight it but just to settle in for the fun, even if I’d rather be reading Winnie-the-Pooh than board books, writing music while you do your own thing than stacking towers for you.

IMG_5078

But anyway, we’re still sufficiently in the babyhood zone for me to be always head-over-heels, and I’ve been hoarding a lot of snuggles lately. And maybe it’s not that you’re still a baby. Maybe I’ve finally learned that being with my tiny human is the best and I’d rather be there than anywhere else. They do say the third time’s the charm. However you explain it, the bottom line is that I love being with you and I secretly like it when you have a hard time going to bed at night because it often means I get to come in and pick you up and rock you for awhile. Those moments in your dark room are some of the best I’ve ever had in my life and I’m in no hurry to move past them.

IMG_5063

IMG_5062

IMG_5061

That’s part of why I haven’t pushed you to sleep through the night yet. You do, once every month or two. And most nights you wake only once to nurse quickly and then go right back to sleep. Once or twice a week you’ll wake more than once, and those nights can be hard for me to recover from, but I’m satisfied, and I love crawling out of bed and walking across the hall to your room to find you and kiss you. It’s become so routine and uneventful, and even so brief, that I hardly remember anything about the night the next morning, which seems like a pretty huge win.

IMG_5068

IMG_5067

IMG_5074

I told someone this morning that you are, so far, the Class Clown in our family. I love that about you, and the amazing twinkle you get in your eye when you know you’re being funny. You’re quite popular with our friends these days for your preposterous laugh, which is manufactured at great cost to your person. It takes so much effort and comes out forced and throaty, but it just makes us all giggle. You’re a “social laugher,” meaning you’ve reached that hilarious age when you can tell someone else thinks something is funny, so you laugh on queue because you think it’s appropriate.

IMG_5082

The other thing you’ve been doing for laughs is blowing raspberries, and you have completely mastered your technique on this. You do a lot of it, and this leads me to the best moment of the month, just this past Friday, when Daddy talked you into saying “Mama” for the first time. We’ve been having a recurring competition lately, trying to get you to say our respective name before the other. Well, I won that competition, but when Daddy brought you over to me to show off your new skill, prompting you again to say “Mama” your answer was to look right at me and blow a big raspberry.

IMG_5072

I love you anyway.

IMG_5071

IMG_5069

Love,
Mommy

IMG_5085

Joshua: 10 Months

Joshua: 10 Months

Precious Joshua,

IMG_4406

You’re really coming into your own. It’s amazing to watch you developing quickly and seemingly without effort. I’m convinced it’s your relationship to Jacob & Meredith that’s doing the trick. You relate to them and you see them. You connect with them because they’re so nearly your size and down on your level all the time, and it seems natural for you to just jump in with two feet. Which is very much what you’re trying to do – you keep landing on them when I set you down like you think you don’t need your hands and knees. You do, still, but not by much. You’ve started to cruise around the furniture and I don’t think it’ll be much longer before you walk.

IMG_4503

IMG_4516

We’re in awe of your communication skills, too. We nagged at you for a long time and then finally you caught on to the sign for “more please” at the dinner table. Of course it was Daddy who finally succeeded. Somehow you take him more seriously than me. Probably because you know I’m a pushover. But now that sign is yours, and several more, too.

IMG_4790

IMG_4524

It took us awhile to realize that you’d adopted the hand-waving that means Hi, Bye, and All Done. I don’t think we tried to teach it to you. But you wave when we come to get you from your crib and you wave when we tell you to say “Bye bye” and you wave when you decide to obey my “No Stairs” instruction. You even waved this weekend when Daddy was gone and I asked you “Where’s Daddy?” You seem pretty proud of this and pretty entertained by yourself. And we’re just scratching our heads that you didn’t even need to be taught. Or maybe Jacob & Meredith taught you without even trying, without our even noticing.

IMG_4744

IMG_4739

Another thing I’m loving lately is that your preferences are emerging, and I can tell what your favorite toys, things, and places are. You love the wooden peg dolls that I am forever pulling from between your teeth. You like to watch cars out the front storm door. You have your favorite tiny bean-bag giraffe that hangs from your mouth often, or the wooden penguin train car with a pull string which you also like to carry around hanging from your mouth by its string. There are other favorites, too, and they slip my mind at the moment, but it’s just fun to see that you are developing your own little self-selected culture of what life should be about in your ideal world. It’s so fun getting to know you.

IMG_4158

IMG_4155

IMG_4170

IMG_4166

IMG_4161

We were home alone this weekend, just you and me and Meredith and a terrible head cold while Daddy & Jacob hit the road for some fun. Two epic milestones fell on this weekend, the first being the other night when I lost my chance at some miraculously good sleep by staying up almost till midnight while you were sleeping twelve hours straight for the first time. You can go ahead and do that again soon if that’s OK.

IMG_4347

The other was the hilarious reaction I got by offering you some small chunks of tomato at lunch the other day. It’s official: the first food you genuinely despise. You spat it out every single time with a face of genuine disgust, like if you’d had words you’d have said “Mom. Seriously. Are you trying to kill me with this stuff? Who eats this?!”

IMG_4210

IMG_4211

IMG_4212

My story for you this month is a hard one to tell. I like the story of that Monday morning right after Easter when we ditched the kids for four hours instead of three by signing them up for school lunch and we wandered the town on a perfect spring morning. I like feeling like you’re my sidekick. I like sitting in a coffee shop with you nomming cheerios beside me. I like running errands with only you strapped to me. Somehow being my third means you’re my bestie. You’re the one that feels like I don’t have to parent right now, just hang out. Being with you feels strangely like solitude, and we’ve been enjoying a lot of those moments.

IMG_4269

IMG_4422

IMG_4734

But this story is about a Sunday afternoon last month when I thought I was going to lose you. And it’s about every single day since that weekend, when sometimes the only thing that gets said as a bedtime prayer as I lay you down by faith and walk out of your room by faith (and by faith I mean courage and chosen sanity) is “Jesus, this boy belongs to you.” I was standing in the kitchen washing dishes with Hannah (affectionately known lately as your girlfriend) and articulating to her how terrorized I was feeling by the fragility of life when I looked over at you in your high chair with some pieces of apple and saw that you were choking. The next few minutes are a blur now of panic and adrenaline and shock. And you are fine. We didn’t even call 911 in the end, though the phone was in our hands. You were breathing as often as not, but there was apple in your lungs. You were lethargic and your skin was bluish and you were just very, very quiet.

IMG_4241

(I was not quiet.)

IMG_4244

Maybe it was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. I completely lost my shit that night after finally putting you to bed. I’m not sure how to chronicle the whole thing satisfactorily except to put it in terms of what I read and sang and understood in the days and weeks surrounding it. And somehow I know I need to chronicle it.

IMG_4254

I have this obsession lately with the topic of the resurrection. With how the force of life is woven into everything in the world because God is life and because Jesus is the first in a series of resurrection miracles. But the week before Palm Sunday a college friend died suddenly. She died the same day I sat alone in a dark doctor’s office and listened to him say “cancer” in discussing the growth on my thyroid. (At this point it is unreasonable to presume it’s cancer, and the nature of the growth renders me almost completely without risk to life or health. Still, you don’t want to have these conversations.) While I processed my own test results, my friend went from healthy and whole and full of life to the grave in a week’s time, simply from pneumonia and a subsequent infection. It should never have happened. It shook Daddy & me up really badly, even though she was more acquaintance than friend. Still, she had a place of her own in our story, and more to the point, we knew her to be such a beautiful, remarkable person. The world is worse for her absence.

IMG_4256

That’s what I was talking about at the kitchen sink. About how I’m struggling to live my life because instead I want to control the whole business: I want to do whatever it takes to ensure that life will flourish. But while lately my ideas have been woven through with the awareness of life’s resilience, last month it all evaporated in a single event and all I could see was the fragility. And that was before I watched myself take your tiny body out of your chair and uselessly try to fix it. I saw myself powerless and I felt mocked. The only thing I could do in those moments was to wait to see if you were going to be OK.

IMG_4259

The only thing I can ever do is to wait and see if you are going to be OK.

IMG_4260

That’s where I’ve arrived, and that’s what life has consisted of lately: of this epic struggle for courage to wait, courage not to control. I’m a free range mama normally. My kids do all kinds of things others would be horrified by, like walking down the sidewalk unsupervised or playing with actual garden shovels or spending months existing in a construction zone. But lately it’s been all the strength and courage and focused conviction I can muster not to control. This is the power behind terrorism: terror destroys life because it sends you inside to hide. You cease to live because the danger feels too strong. I have experienced this this spring. I experienced it that night when five hours later I still wasn’t convinced you were going to be OK and I uselessly, aimlessly couldn’t-wouldn’t put you to bed. Once I did I had to keep going back to listen at your door. (After I stopped crying.)

IMG_4393

That very morning I’d been standing in worship contemplating the climax of the Jesus narrative on Palm Sunday, leaving for a private place and fresh tissues when I would begin to sob for Claire all over again. And again. My body felt a magnetic pull towards the floor, a feeling common for me in recent months, that makes the Psalmist’s language about prostration so resonant for me. I knew it wasn’t my business, Claire’s death. I heard “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away” in my inner ear. I knew it, but I couldn’t get to the next part: “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” In a few sane instants I was there, and I am convinced those are the truest, wisest places we creations can be. It’s called worship. A few times in my life I’ve experienced it undiluted: the knowledge that I belong to God. That everything belongs to Him and He is 100% within His rights to give and to take away. When you find yourself standing before Him acknowledging that: that is worship. I was there, like I said, for a few sane instants. And that was before you choked on the apple.

12888493_10153556599887773_7129308353233916938_o

Since then I have been there a thousand times, but it hasn’t been an automatic experience. It’s been a labored choice, over and over again. It’s the choice I make when I lay you down to sleep every night. It’s the choice I make when I buckle you into your carseat. It’s the choice I make when I let my kids play outside. No one would be able to tell by looking that something has happened to mess up my free range heart. But I’m telling you, lately it’s all muscle. I could lean into the fear. I could live it. I did that day, and it looked like paralysis. Paralysis as a manifestation of terror and anger.

12719623_10153556600052773_2810484009799261579_o

I didn’t want to say life was God’s by right. I  was angry that Michael’s marriage had ended in death before he was even my age. I was angry that God had shown me how powerless I am for your good. I decided my job was to be God: to do everything in my power (funny, this ironic idea of Human Power) to guarantee life. I lived there long enough that you went to bed pointlessly late that night.

12901413_10153556599807773_686424688482232933_o

That night after I laid you down and I finally had the privacy to recount what actually happened to Daddy I lost control and sobbed a long time. I couldn’t pull myself together. I couldn’t get out from under the weight of that hypothetical. It was like those days in college when I felt PTSD after having witnessed (and almost been able to intervene) as my roommate fell head first out of her high bunk. She was fine. I could only see the alternative every time I closed my eyes for days.

12901294_10153556599682773_931854535268850373_o

To say I reached for the Bible beside me for comfort paints a skewed picture, because it wasn’t an act of faith, more a matter of pre-programming, and of a desperate need to calm down. The only thing I had faith in in that moment was my experience: the Psalms had worked before in my worst moments, and if anything was going to work now, well, that’s where my money was. I found Psalm 3 and 4:

I lay down and slept. I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

IMG_4196

These lines and the Psalms they belong to afforded me calm, but to call it comfort wouldn’t be accurate, because I felt hounded by it, terrorized. Terrorized by God, if that is possible. To acknowledge that only God can make you dwell in safety is humbling and on that particular weekend I wasn’t feeling too appreciative of His recent efforts. That night as I went to bed I knew that my chief desire was to be God. To control. I felt I’d do a better job of it, anyway, if I had the chance. I recognized that God had the power for safety, but I wanted it.

IMG_4197

Comfort came the next morning, as I sang you that song that for some reason rose to the surface of my repertoire when I first had you in my arms. It’s been your song since then and I sing it to you almost every day. Maybe now I know better why.

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

IMG_4199

The words “helpless soul” and “other refuge have I none” and “defenseless head” made sense in a new way. To be honest, “Other refuge have I none” fit in my mouth more as an accusation than an acknowledgment. But these words have become my mantra in the last few weeks as I try to live in a way that is constantly choosing fresh faith, saying yes to life instead of the outcomes I can see with eyes closed. Somehow there has been comfort here. I trust in God’s willingness and wisdom to uphold. I experience the shadow of His wing.

IMG_4201

But three weeks later maybe I have the full picture, and it is a picture that only emerges from the context of love. I heard those words again from the Psalm last night as Daddy and I sang a choral Evensong downtown. It is part of the chanted responses of the liturgy:

For only in thee can we live in safety.

IMG_4203

It resonated, and I thought on all this again as the service drew to its close, there in the context of worship.

IMG_4204

What finished the narrative was the night prayer that I love so much. As we began it I felt its comfort. It fit in my mouth. It gave words to my desires.

Keep watch, Dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give Thine angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for Thy love’s sake. Amen.

IMG_4206

There it was, in the last line, the confidence that I’d lacked. This asking we are doing by the very breaths we have the audacity to presume upon – asking for God to keep watch – why should we have any expectation that His answer will come back “Yes.” Why should we trust God to uphold us? Perhaps all we can have is the calm and comfort I’d felt from the Psalms and the next day from Welsey’s hymn. That, too, is a place of worship, but it doesn’t feel like enough. But here it is: love, and in that, confidence.

IMG_4207

There is a difference between submission and trust. Between trust and love. Sunday morning with hands raised in tears, aware that “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away” – that is submission. Agreeing to choose life – that is trust. But finding confidence to replace fear again? To grow out of the daily experience of terror? That is love. Not so much my love for God as His for me. But isn’t it somehow the same thing? We love because He first loved us. Our hearts respond. And he keeps watch all for His love’s sake. Put another way, because this is what His love wants.

IMG_4208

All of these places (submission, trust, love) can be worship: a humble and rather mathematical recognition that God is the Creator and King and our lives are His by right. Slowly in these past few days I find I’m coming back (but have I ever really been there before?) to a place of love, to an estimation of Him and a desire for Him that leads to relinquishing control because I know I would rather be in His care than mine. Because He loves me.

12901435_10153556600177773_5524962141175429361_o

And he loves you.

12890970_10153556600182773_6871524126136963827_o

And I love you, because somehow that still matters, even though it pales in comparison.

IMG_4830

Love,
Mommy

IMG_4832

Joshua: 9 Months

Dear Joshua,

This month you’ve grown so much. I’ve put away most of your 6-9 month sizes and now you’re wearing a lot of 12-18s. It’s so fun and cute seeing you in all Jacob’s old clothes.

IMG_3992

You’ve been great fun this month but also a lot of work. You finally mastered crawling and now you are quite purpose-driven about it, and you move pretty fast. And if that isn’t enough, you’re now working on pulling yourself up to standing. You practice this a lot at the bottom of the stairs and the other day you almost had your knee up onto the first stair. Not OK, baby boy.

IMG_4009

We often find you standing up in your crib now, and it seems like when it’s dark in your room you lose track of how to get down from that position. You’re emerging into the stage of skipped naps, including the one you were supposed to take this morning but spent its entirety playing in your crib because it is no built-in fun to stand up and sit down.

IMG_3984

Since you started crawling I spend a lot of time crouching at the top of the stairs with you saying “Joshua, No… No stairs… No, no, Joshua… Danger.” You always stop to look at me but you don’t seem to think this conversation matters in any way. I lift you back to the carpet to play and sometimes you get distracted or sometimes you swivel on your little butt and head right back for those fascinating stairs.

IMG_3937

I’m torn about whether to gate them or not since I think the narrow doorway of the gate with its lip at the floor would result in multiple occasions of preschoolers (or mommies – let’s be perfectly honest) tumbling down those steep stairs, especially since we are up and down them all day long because of how our house is laid out. So at this point I’m opting for vigilance and training you and removing you from the location entirely when I can’t be constantly vigilant. I’d rather you learn to be competent on them very early anyway. But knowing me I’ll probably change my mind a dozen more times in the next couple weeks.

IMG_3604

I also spend a lot of time trying to stay ahead of the tiny hair rubber bands and marbles and random pieces of bite-sized crap on the floor. We big Powells have gotten lazy in the years between Meredith and you and now we’re having to institute new practices about what we do with marbles. The other day I was teaching a piano lesson and you’d finally given up sitting under the piano looking at me and fussing and you were happily playing by the stair rail next to me, content with your pile of toys and the quilt you’d pulled off the rail. I stood up to go check on the big kids and as I turned to walk away from you I noticed you were gagging on something. That was the WORST feeling ever: realizing that I’d almost walked away from my “safe” baby, leaving him with an inexplicable piece of foil wrapper in his mouth.

IMG_3909

Meanwhile your ability to grasp tiny objects and successfully bring them to your mouth when they are actual food like black beans or cheerios remains quite paltry, and I spend a lot of time inserting things for consumption with my thumb and finger while you glow approvingly. Go figure.

IMG_3889

I love when you crawl to me. You aren’t quite reaching for me with arms yet, but I can see the feeling there in your body, the quiver of approval when you realize I’m going to pick you up. And most of the time now “Come here” makes sense to you and you come trailing behind me.

IMG_3709

You spend most of your time playing on the rug next to the kitchen, but you also enjoy being down in the basement on the carpet, chasing balls around. And you play in your room a good bit or by the stair railing where you can watch the stairs without actually falling down them. Sometimes you get to play in Daddy’s office while he works and you have earned your stripes at the organ pedalboard already, though you have yet to actually climb onto it.

20160220_183330

One of your favorite spots is at the open front door, where I put you to watch cars on hands and knees at the glass storm door. You live for passing cars, and one of my favorite things these days is the most-nights’ addition to our bedtime ritual, which involves standing out on the front porch snuggling and saying “Hi” and “Bye” to passing cars and listening to the birds in the tall trees overhead.

IMG_3572

You really are the sunshine of our little world. Jacob lives for you and spends a large percentage of his time trying to make you laugh with completely unsophisticated and disorganized antics. Meredith is slowly swinging back to the affection end of the spectrum and now approaches you with tender interest sometimes instead of a jaw set with alarming passion. She likes to sit right behind you and put her arms around her waste, and sometimes if she’s feeling particularly playful she leans back to lie down, taking you with her, just like Daddy does to her sometimes. You usually think this is hilarious, and I’m glad for her sake that you’re getting big enough to play like this.

IMG_3854

I am loving the first opportunities to get outside as winter melts away, especially when we get a chance to spend time on a blanket together on the lawn, which has happened on two separate Sundays this month. This pastime was one of my favorite things four years ago when Jacob was a baby and it was just the two of us for hours at a time outside. I’m enjoying your company now instead and it’s sweetly reminiscent, and so precious to have these moments with you.

IMG_3827

IMG_3830

IMG_3829

IMG_3834

IMG_3832

It’s fun having such a gap between you and Jacob and Merry because you feel like your very own event to me. Bedtime is a separate thing, and your material needs are 100% different from theirs. I love snuggling with you and playing with you. I love how you get excited and open your mouth wide to hyper-ventilate just like Jacob used to do. I love how you kick your legs when I hold you in the air like you’re furiously trying to swim up through the atmosphere. I rather think you’re going to be stuck a baby in my heart for a long time thanks to birth order, and I hope you won’t mind all the attention.

IMG_4021

You’re having a difficult week right now thanks to teeth. It’s not your first tough week, though you had a reprieve last week after the two right front teeth popped through on the top. Now you’re working on their left hand counterparts and they are giving us both a run for our money. Many nights you’re waking every 2-4 hours just like a newborn, and sometimes you wake only a couple hours after put you down between 6 and 7 and cry until we give you tylenol. But I’m not sure who’s experiencing the most discomfort here because you have turned out to be a biter. Yesterday was particularly bad and you just needed to chew. Every time you latched to nurse you bit me and I was pretty traumatized by the end of the day. So hopefully you sort that out pretty fast or maybe you aren’t going to be a baby for so long…

IMG_3599

We’ve been trying to catch your post-bath quirkiness on video lately without much success. You love your bath, and I’m calling it a win that you, as a third child, are actually getting a bath at bedtime at least 2-4 times a week these days. It’s becoming increasingly needful because of your presence at the dinner table with us, and I can only imagine how important it’s going to be in a few more weeks when we start our landscaping projects outside. You love to play and splash (and stand up!) and smack the silver wall drain disc. But when it’s time to get out and get dressed all you can think about is how cold you feel. I think it’s Daddy’s favorite thing about you, how you pour forth this gurgle-shiver-lament while he dresses you. Usually when I try to video it you just degenerate to crying and fussing right away, probably because of the presence of your food source.

IMG_3734

IMG_3717

I think my favorite things you do right now are your two primary sound effects, rivaled only by babbling “Bah bah bah.” You make these sounds at your happiest, silliest moments and are almost always happy to imitate me if I coax you to. The first is blowing raspberries, which is always a very bubbly affair, and the second is a little “Pah” sound you make, also quite bubbly. I think you learned it by imitating me, since I often make you laugh with a little popping sound but it’s now evolving into a kiss, and whoever you do it I say “Kiss? Kiss?” and lean in hoping you’ll actually bestow one on me. I think we’re getting close to this monumental occasion…

IMG_3774

IMG_3780

IMG_3777

IMG_3783

IMG_3781

Actually, my favorite is probably the middle of the night these days. I was so zealous to sleep train Jacob and so deeply sleep deprived with Meredith that I don’t remember their nights sweetly. I know the easy, convenient comfort of your nursery across the hall from my room has to be the biggest factor. But I love the middle of the night when I wake to your crying (more like calling) and nurse you in the dark. Lately these brief moments have ended with you falling halfway asleep again, upon which I stand up and cuddle close to your face and kiss you and lay you back in your crib. You don’t let out a single fuss, just gather your blanket into your fist and sink into sleep.

IMG_3630

Saturday night as I sat in your dark, quiet nursery at bedtime I found myself singing “Savior, like a shepherd lead us. Much we need thy tender care.” It was an impulse and an urge, and it was less of a song than a cry. I didn’t get past those first two lines, actually. They were the ones in my heart.

IMG_3628

Two of my sweetest sisters answered me with the same reply on Saturday when asked on separate occasions “How are you?” “I’m exhausted. Just completely emotionally exhausted.” There’s a lot going on in our various interwoven worlds that is emotionally exhausting and by Saturday it seemed that there were a lot of people who had exceeded capacity. In fact, only a few minutes after singing this and rocking you I was in the car driving home from a closed pharmacy without an antibiotic, coming home to vacuum up glitter, wondering why in the world I was involving myself in the lives of totally messed up people. (We are hosting a tiny newborn for Safe Families and it is not a simple, hopeful situation.) What good will it do anyway? Past my capacity, I used the confines of my car to say the things my children aren’t ready to hear, lamenting to God about how totally pointless it all feels, and how exhausting, and how I so often feel totally over it.

IMG_3644

Our pastor preached on prayer a few weeks ago, preached about how our prayers interrupt the goings-on in heaven, like a little child with the audacity to go sit on her father’s lap, regardless of what he’s busy with. He preached on the reality that our prayers are God’s means (somehow!!) of working in the world, and on the reality that when we pray we are engaging spiritual forces of good and evil, entering into actual battle.

IMG_3632

Some weeks that feels very easy to believe, and these have been those weeks. It’s not only my own life, though waiting on a broken (actually not broken anymore) foot and a follow-up to an inconclusive biopsy after an ultrasound…and waiting on things to not all feel broken anymore – Well, I’ve got enough brokenness (I use this term in its most mechanical sense) to go around. But then there is the friend with a husband in a wheelchair as he recovers from a car accident that almost left her a widow with two tiny girls. There are the broken relationships all around me and the attempted suicide and the dysfunctional families and the woman younger than my own mom with rapidly growing lymphoma taking over her brain and that’s before we start discussing the whole topic of foster care and Safe Families, which I’ve discussed a lot in the last couple weeks.

IMG_3631

There are forces of evil at work in the world and even in our hearts. Of course we are exhausted and crying out “much we need thy tender care.” Of course we are sitting in Bible study, we women who love our town so much, discussing the sense we feel that there is spiritual darkness right here.

IMG_3926

As I rocked you I thought of seeing again the new setting of Psalm 130 I’ve just finished, a lament on my lips all the times these days. But another song came to mind, a melody I wrote for my dear friends, for babies they never got to care for, a sad story of not-adopted-after-all twins. I didn’t tell them I’d written it for several months afterwards until their forever little boy was safe in their home finally. The text comes from hundreds of years ago in Germany, and this past Saturday the words were not at all hard for me to comprehend:

IMG_3930

Lord Jesus, since you love me,
Now spread your wings above me
And shield me from alarm.
Though evil would assail me
Your courage shall not fail me
I rest in your protecting arm.

My loved ones, rest securely,
For God this night will surely
From peril guard your heads.
Sweet slumbers may he send you
His angel hosts attend you
And through the night watch over your beds.

I love you, sweet boy, and Jesus does, too. We are resting in his protecting arm and he will keep us.

IMG_3750

Love,
Mommy

IMG_3751

Joshua: 8 Months

Dear Joshua,

You’ve grown up way too fast, my precious one. I’m serious. I see you wiggling on the floor, spinning around on your little tummy-axis and rocking back and forth on hands and knees, and then you grin up at me and your face is just so lovely. I love your completely dorky, horizontal, one-dimensional smile that comes from sucking on your two little teeth that you’re so proud of. Your eyes are huge and round (and your ears are even huger).Your hair is dark and soft and fuzzy and thin and your hairline is the same as Daddy’s. You kick the floor with your happy feet and sometimes your whole body reaches for me.

IMG_3270

IMG_3269

IMG_3271

I know I’m going to be this in love with you a year from now and five years from now and fifteen years from now. But I’m not ready for this now to go away, and sometimes I go crazy thinking about how fast it’s going. I feel like I want to freeze you so that I will always see you spinning around on your tummy with your foot keeping time behind you. But there’s that matter of basic biology and the growing nature of live organisms. Humanness.

IMG_3486

Sometimes I have the good sense to stop in the moment and be all here, all now. But sometimes it all just looks like sadness and this weird guilt-regret that at any moment I’m doing anything but fixating on you. I’ve gotten wise enough now to know that this guilt-regret is destructive and not truth and all I should do is ignore it, tune in on you like a tall drink of water to quench my thirst, and move on.

Motherhood is a lot.

IMG_3312

Then there was the night this month when I put you to bed and you screamed. It wasn’t that out-of-the-ordinary, but it had literally been one of the most nightmarish days of my adult life. I was sick with some sort of weird flu/cold thing, and that was only the tip of the iceberg. Every time you needed me my whole heart groaned: I didn’t have the capacity to care for you that day. It hurt to hold you, to let you wiggle on me. The days leading up to that one I’d let you share food with us at meals, tasting applesauce and oatmeal. You loved it. But that day you didn’t get anything and so when you were crying in bed after the day we’d had, I told myself that you were neglected and hungry and that I didn’t have the capacity to be a mom. Not just because of that day, but because of all the days that I notice you just enough to remind me of how much I haven’t noticed you because my mind is somewhere else.

IMG_3245

I’m realizing a lot these days that being in the now is of the essence. It is the only way to be awake enough to form the memories that will create multi-dimensionality to this beautiful life I get to have. What I mean is this: If I am not in the now today I will not be able to remember today in twenty years when I miss your childhood years, and I will experience that as sorrow instead of sweetness. I’m working on wisdom here.

IMG_3259

IMG_3256

Your day this month falls on Ash Wednesday, and that’s got me thinking on some pretty weighty things. I’ve put a lot into preparing our family’s Lent this year, after completely disregarding it last year. (We were rather up to our eyeballs in Lenten experiences without looking for them.) I’ve been looking forward to it in part because it is always a re-orienting, centering time for me. The introduction to our collection of Lent readings resonated with me this morning:

Lent is the season in which we ought to be surprised by joy. Our self-sacrifices serve no purpose unless, by laying aside this or that desire, we are able to focus on our heart’s deepest longing: unity with Christ. (–the editors of Bread and Wine)

IMG_3276

I expect in the later years of my life, if I ever take the time to sweep together all the written fragments of thought and reflection I drop these days like so many shreds I can’t keep tidy I’ll notice that 2016 was the year I began to think through the implications of our humanness not only for life but for faith. I’ll save the unpacking of this for the book I suspect I’m going to write, but for now I want to expand on those Lent words above: laying aside loud desires focuses our hearts not only on our deepest longing (unity with Christ – another 2016 theme, it seems for me) but on what’s really happening in our hearts in general.

IMG_3277

One of the practices I’ve turned to in the past few years is a self-imposed silence on social media. A lot of people give up Facebook for Lent, but that doesn’t feel practical or useful to me, so I give up my own voice there instead. The way it re-oriented me to others the first time I did it was beautiful and powerfully cleansing. I could feel the noise of my self-orientation quieted and my heart opened to truer things: the beauty and value of others. In the emptiness of my own silence, I found space to notice them as I wish I always would.

IMG_3306

Here’s how this relates: In general I am finding that disciplines are useful for quieting the self, which brings me back to where I began here: If I want to be in the now for the sake of fully enjoying you, I have a lot of self-noise to quiet. So I’m glad for Lent not only because it makes me a deeper, truer, wiser Christian, but because it makes me a deeper, truer, wiser human. It’s that wisdom and depth, that quietness and presence and peace, that I know is the essential ingredient in cherishing you now and in remembering you in time to come, since I can’t seem to stop your march toward table food and mobility and adolescence and adulthood.

IMG_3355

That march is a force to be reckoned with, and I couldn’t help but reflect on that this afternoon as I sat in church, you sleeping on my chest with your very first ashen cross smeared across your tiny new forehead. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” is a heavy thing to tell our children. A few weeks ago your brother’s teacher marveled at his easy grasp of death, the same way I marveled at your sister’s perfect choice of words for me upon the death of my Nonnie at Christmas. I think it’s wise and appropriate that we be able to speak of the reality of death even with young kids, and I’m glad for the opportunities that have brought that about for us: one being living for four years a block from a historic cemetery and another being our practice of quoting almost daily the line from Heidelberg “…body and soul, in life and in death…” These things make death a simple presence in our family conversations.

IMG_3353

But it is not a light or easy presence, and today I was impressed with its heavy reality as I looked at your skin; those ashes. In the two hours before that moment I had – not once but twice – been in conversations with friends regarding infant death. I’m not speaking of an abstract concept: I know the names of these children. Dust to dust.

IMG_0413

Dust. Is that what you are? I thought about humanness and all I’m learning about it, all I’m owning up to, taking into account as I learn to live wisely. I’m acknowledging and embracing our physicalness these days. Your body is a scientific, quantifiable, explainable, biological thing. I know how it grew and I know the scientific mechanics implicit in our simple affirmation that we will return to dust. These bodies. Yours. You.

IMG_0412

IMG_0406

I hope you will forgive the darkness of these reflections, and accept them as appropriate to the day. I want to say that their use for me has been in inspiring me toward this true, wise now-living which cherishes you, that I was trying to explain above. Their use has been refreshing my deep faith, hope, and joy in the historical, physical, real framework of resurrection that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians, because Christ has been raised and it is for this that our dust is ultimately destined. We are not, after all, to be pitied for this dust: You and I, we belong to Jesus. Even our dust belongs to Him and is caught up in the story of the world He made and re-made. Really. Biologically. Physically.

IMG_0414

IMG_0416

IMG_0409

For now I will take whatever I can find to lead my heart to notice you, treasure you, feast on you. Because you are amazing. Because time is elapsing quickly. (How is it almost spring!?) Because you are growing so very, very fast.

IMG_0425

IMG_0424

IMG_0427

Because I love you. So, so very much.

IMG_3386

IMG_3384

IMG_3380

IMG_3379

IMG_3392

IMG_3401

IMG_3393

IMG_3394

IMG_3400

Love,
Mommy

IMG_3527

Joshua: 7 Months

Joshua: 7 Months

Dear Joshua,

IMG_3190

Oh, what a good buddy you’ve been this month. It’s been quite eventful for you, chiefly because of your first two teeth, which you tenaciously worked on finding under those gums for several weeks before they finally popped through on the day we travelled home from our holiday adventures.

IMG_3092

(New Years’ Day was the first time you decided to bite me with those almost-erupted gums. On the airplane. Rude. You are still exclusively breastfed at seven months, though I’ve been handing you carrot sticks and apple slices and the ribs of kale, and this morning you got a little taste of my oatmeal. But, boyfriend, you better watch yourself or Big People Food is gonna get real important real fast. …I’m kidding. But still.)

IMG_3145

You are sitting like a champ now and just barely beginning to move. You still do the “bridge” pose and then launch with your feet in a rather alarming backwards scootch that makes me fear for your little neck. Now also you can swivel around 360 degrees on your tummy or travel in the beginnings of a backwards army crawl. It’s enough to keep you entertained but still not very effective for actual travel. But I know this will be the month I have to install a gate at the stairs.

IMG_2634

IMG_2637

My favorite new thing you’re doing is bouncing on your butt. It’s mostly a display of happiness or excitement, like when you spot me walking towards you. I just love how your whole body bounces up and down. I love how each of my babies has had a different innate way of expressing excitement at this age. You’re doing the Butt Bounce right now, on the carpet next to me, and you’re positively cackling love at me, open-mouthed, your head wagging back and forth for the joy of it all. You are just the happiest kid.

IMG_3155

IMG_3157

IMG_3153

IMG_3158

Your first Christmas was a happy occasion. I think that barely-half-a-year age must be one of the easiest in all of childhood, and everything about you felt serene around Christmastime before the teething started and the travel upended you. You were always either happily sleeping in your bed or happily watching the world go by alongside us. Your first Christmas present ever was a set of eight two-inch rubber stacking blocks in bright colors, and we’ve been having fun with them every day since Christmas. You love to knock down the towers we stack for you or fiercely gnaw the corners of the blocks. Mommy kind of enjoyed indulging in some new baby toys for you. There was a stack of cardboard nesting blocks too. And you got a new toy from Nana & Papa, too, a darling little hard plastic lion, about six inches long with clicking, bending legs and a twisty head and a swiveling mane. It’s adorable, and golden yellow – the signature Joshua color.

IMG_2794

IMG_2791

IMG_2810

The day after Christmas was your second marathon road trip, this time to Kansas City to meet your Papa for the first time and reunite with Daddy’s side of the family for a post-Christmas celebration. You were a champ on our car ride and that fateful day was the last easy one we’d have with you for quite some time. Being in a strange environment – and one which involved five large dogs and fistfuls of dog hair no matter how much sweeping could be done – messed with your universe pretty drastically. Add to that the small quarters we were co-existing in and the thin walls between you and the TV and all the excitement of a family reunion… Well, for the week we were there you basically never slept unless you were in Daddy’s or my arms. Not only that, but you basically never left our arms, because even when you were awake it was hard to carve out a safe, calm space for you to play on the floor in the bustle, and I didn’t think to bring one of your chairs with us. So you were in our arms endlessly, and you became shockingly over-tired, which was good in a way because it meant you’d actually sleep in our arms instead of just freaking out all the time. But I was awake feeding you at least every two hours around the clock, and you spent much of each night in our bed with us, and at bedtime you’d scream for an hour or more and usually I’d end up just getting you up again and letting you hang with the grown-ups. In this fashion you rang in your first new year, smugly sitting on Daddy’s lap like it was high noon while we watched Tommy Boy, our ritual end-of-year hilarity.

IMG_2978

Anyway, que sera sera, as they say. From there you and I flew to Florida for your Uncle AJ’s wedding, your very first plane ride. We got up at 3:00 a.m. to prepare for our flight. We were pretty great traveling buddies, you and I, and we had a grand time. You did well on our flights, sleeping most of the time, charming most of the people, and only causing a scene as we landed, when you’d scream in pain until your ears would pop, then be cute again until the next wave of pain hit. It was rather pitiful and completely endearing.

IMG_3058

We made the trip accompanied by our trusty new toy, the Ergo. It’s a soft-structured baby carrier instead of the Moby wrap I’ve always used. It became clear to me last fall that I needed a quicker way to go hands-free with you, not only for daily business like grocery shopping with three babies, but for the looming solo air travel on the calendar. So I snagged a hand-me-down Ergo for $50 and I am in love with it. I navigated those airports like a ninja and got all kinds of impressed looks from gawkers who watched me effortlessly produce my boarding pass from the zippered pocket at your back while shouldering our four bags. (I pretend it was all glamorously easy and inspiring, but to be honest there was a lot of residual pain to deal with later, and the trek clear across Miami airport in swarms of internationals on our way home last week was one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life.

IMG_3057

Our visit in Florida was shorter than the one in Kansas and there was plenty of calm floor space for you to occupy, and you managed to successfully take half a dozen naps on your own in a crib, a welcome respite for me. Still, my bedtime was your bedtime, and you were up over and over every night. You spent lots of long evening hours hanging out with your gluttonous aunties (and Gramma and Grampa), entertaining them with your awesomeness.

IMG_2659

Our return home was overwhelming, as I already alluded to, and as I headed for the baggage claim carrying all but the rolling suitcase and the carseat, you strapped to me, coffee in hand (which I chugged) I dropped your little yellow blanket. Yes, the magic one that makes sleep irresistible. But I was feeling too exhausted and overwhelmed to notice. I watched the baggage carousel go around dozens of times before finally concluding that your carseat was nowhere to be found. Sure enough, it hadn’t made it onto our plane in Miami. So we were sent home with a loaner carseat and a promise that ours would be delivered to our door. Only upon putting you down for your first nap in your crib at home that afternoon did I discover the absence of the magic blanket. I was horrified, but managed to keep my head. After half a dozen phone calls I felt reasonably certain that your blanket was in the hands of someone who would put it with your carseat and send it to us (our home is over an hour’s drive from the airport) and then I just had to wait. Sure enough the next morning, there it was in a bag with my name on it, brought to our door with your carseat.

IMG_2519

IMG_2511

IMG_2513

I have rarely felt so relieved. Also triumphant. And smart, for making all the right phone calls and saying things like “Would you please have someone check in the family bathroom at Gate B9? I’m guessing it’s on the floor in there.” So then I washed it and it changed back from the color of mustard to the color of sunshine (you’ve been hard on it in six months) and once again it goes wherever you do.

IMG_2896

Not that it is that magical anymore, because you emerged from those twelve days of 100% Attachment Parenting into that wonderfully unavoidable phase every kid experiences sometime before Age 3 called Separation Anxiety. The day we got home I set you on the carpet to play with your blocks and as I walked away you looked at me like “Are you kidding me?” and started to weep. And the next morning I put your whiny butt in your Daddy’s arms while he was hanging out with Meredith and I was trying to Do All The Things and I headed back up the stairs and you looked at me like “You cannot actually be serious” and started to scream. And so it has been for the last week. And even on the hopeful moments where the blanket triggers the thumb to point toward the mouth, you get almost there and you stop as if to say “Wait. I choose NO. This is not what I want” and then you scream. Occasionally your over-tiredness will serve up a marathon nap, but mostly it just looks like short ones all over the map, angsty bedtimes, and two or three night wakings. I’m seeing progress back towards sanity in the last day or two but I feel like I may’ve forever ruined my Perfectly Easy Baby by disrupting your beautiful, satisfying, blissful normal.

IMG_2677

Oops.

IMG_2674

The upside to the separation anxiety is that bouncing butt when you see me coming. It’s fun to be The Awesome One and I don’t mind that you’re in love with me.

IMG_2485

IMG_2477

IMG_2483

And even though you screamed your head off yesterday for 45 minutes because I wouldn’t hold you while I packed our bags for a busy day out of the house, I’m in love with you, too. I know because when I went to bed last night across the hall from where you’d been asleep alone for three hours already I heard myself say to Daddy “I miss my baby.”

IMG_2923

IMG_2920

IMG_2928

Also, for the record? For as exhausting as our trip was and as frustrating as it was to see you unable to sleep unless I held you, it was also really special for me. I’d been missing those early weeks of perpetual snuggles and I got a reprise of that. I treasured the time with you immensely. And I guess that’s why I find myself missing you at 9:00 on a Wednesday night while you’re sleeping across the hall.

IMG_2707

IMG_2710

IMG_2717

IMG_2703

I love you.

IMG_3108

Love,
Mommy

IMG_3116

IMG_3113

Joshua: 6 Months

Joshua: 6 Months

Beautiful Joshua,

It turns out you are very literally my sunshine. We’ve reached the depth of winter solstice, and there’s not much sunshine to be had. (Though who am I kidding? In my college winters it’d last from 8:30 to 3:45, so 7:45 to 5:15 is plenty even for me.)

IMG_1943

At any rate, it’s still true: You have been making my world go around, little guy. You’re incredibly easy and cheerful and wonderful. You’re the only thing in my world these days that doesn’t feel too hard.

IMG_1948

Including writing these journals. I’m over two weeks late, and there are plenty of reasons, most of them having nothing to do with obvious things like finally being ready to move in to our newly-renovated basement. But I write to live, and living is one of those non-negotiables for me.

IMG_1945

It turns out it looks different, always, than I thought it would. Living, that is. I am one of those enormous souls that can’t quite find enough time to fit everything in. I’ve written a lot about this to your brother because he’s the same way. Who knows, maybe you will be, too. (It doesn’t seem like it.) The complicated thing is that I want to do all the things.

IMG_2057

Until I don’t. And that’s where I’ve been the last few weeks. Tired on a level I’ve never before experienced, and I’m not only talking about the fact that you’re sticking to the textbook and serving up some big-time sleep regression as a side-effect of starting to teethe.

IMG_2010

To live, I think, looks like planning feasts (and executing them) and making sure to read the Advent & Christmas devotionals I love in the quiet moments before my kids wake (they’ve woken me basically every day of the last couple months). It looks like creating this grand procession of Advent & Christmas memories not only for you but for me. It looks like rearranging the ornaments on the tree after the kids finish their handiwork. It looks like singing and playing the hymns I love and making sure to watch A Christmas Carol and read good literature instead of just Love Actually and, to be completely honest, Arrested Development.

IMG_2013

In another year that is probably what living will look like, and it’s lovely to see all across Facebook the joy of every other family in the world getting their Christmas on and being sure to take a family picture at church, but this year it looks like brushing it all aside and saying “No Thanks.” I think when I look back on pictures from 2015 and don’t see our family all smiling in our church clothes I’ll remember how we wrangled ourselves out the door at 4:55 (I dressed four people in under 15 minutes), snarfed Chick-Fil-A in order to be with Daddy between his 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. services, and then wrestled tiny bad attitudes and big sparkly hairbands all through our two churches, and that was enough family-life without a photo shoot. We were together, there’s no mistake about that, and there’s no need for photographic evidence. I know because at bedtime I had to tell Merry “sorry” for being grumpy at her.

IMG_2015

This year Advent has actually felt like Advent, not eclipsed by the bustle of Christmas Joy and friendship. It’s been lovely. We haven’t party-hopped or even sat down to decide which party to go to. (Answer: None.) We went to church last night (twice of course) and I almost left fifteen minutes into round two. (Almost is big for me.) I haven’t kept my house spotless and this entire Christmas week your foodie-momma proclaimed she was not going to cook, and so we’ve been living off snacks, finger food, and the abundance of holiday treats that make their annual migration onto every kitchen counter. Daddy’s church members are on the ball with this, let me just say.

IMG_2001

I guess this is just me listening to myself for a change, and I don’t know why it’s all coming out so far away from normal. I didn’t even tune in to Lessons & Carols from Kings. Just trolled my friends’ Facebooks for a bit of sports-style reporting while I hid in a quiet coffee shop.

IMG_2056

I forgot to buy egg nog.

IMG_2141

The beauty of all this is that it feels OK. On one level I feel a little bummed, like I’m “missing Christmas,” but on a deeper level – the same one that’s learned not to feel guilty when I’m not outdoors to enjoy every beautiful day; the one that’s learned to gently say “Hush. Rest. Peace to you. Another year it won’t be an ordeal to walk out your door. Days will still be beautiful then.” – on that deeper level I’m good. Everything is fine.

IMG_2279

In the middle of all this is you. I don’t want to say that you are supporting me emotionally. That it’s OK to look to my children for the emotional highs I need, because that’s not what you’re there for. I hope it’s not true, either: I hope listening to myself and resting is effectively sparing you (and me) from that dysfunctional dependency, because I want to give you a me that is happy already, not just happy because of what you bring to me.

IMG_2062

But you do make me pretty happy whichever way you look at it. I just can’t believe how amazing you are. How big your smile is and how good you are at going with the flow. How you get fussy because you want to be put down alone in your crib and then I hear you in there talking and laughing instead of sleeping. (Daddy got himself an introvert-offspring.) How you choke on your milk and have to stop to splutter, but how you always splutter through a grin, like you think the whole thing is hilarious. (It is.) How entranced you are by the sight of a car driving past the broad south side of our house with its 180° window-view. How well you learned to trust the big bathtub on your first adventure in it, despite your initial horror. How much fun we have sneaking away for neighborhood walks just the two of us and a Moby. How shockingly early you go to bed at night (usually before 6:00). How you started to teethe and sit up EXACTLY on your half-birthday, like you’d been sneaking the textbooks to bed with you at night.

IMG_2024

Speaking of nights, you are the most darling sleeper ever. I’ve actually invited a friend or two to come watch the whole thing go down: I feed you in the rocking chair. When I stand up you arch your back and scream at me in disgusted protest. I walk three steps to your crib and set you down, grabbing your yellow blanket and pulling a corner of it up to touch your face. Like gears in a clock you respond, grabbing the blanket with your right hand and rubbing it on your face, putting your left thumb in your mouth, curling your legs up into a little L as you roll to your left side, and shutting your eyes in perfect peace. This is how you do it 95% of the time. At least.

IMG_2061

You could give lessons to babies everywhere.

IMG_2191

You are this one magical thing in my world that is so easy and rewarding and life-giving that I never want to run away from it or hide for a few minutes or a few months. I love you no matter what (this is a promise), but I do love you for that. And I will do what it takes no matter what to be happy for your sake and without using you to attain that happiness (this is also a promise), but I do wonder at how part of that happiness just comes from you anyway, like a straight-up Christmas Miracle.

IMG_2196

So to quote one of the quotes quoted in one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time…

“Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.”

IMG_2203

Merry Christmas.

IMG_2204

I love you.

Love,
Mommy

IMG_2054

IMG_2040

IMG_2046

IMG_2041

IMG_2051

IMG_2042

IMG_2047

IMG_2043

IMG_2044