Category Archives: Reflections

Leaping back into things.

Siblings

It seems fitting on a bonus day (Leap Day!) to dive back into this unintentionally neglected space.

So here I am, diving in. Diving into what, I’m not sure. I’ve felt myself grow more guarded in recent months about the two wee folk sitting up there in Lightning McQueen, so I’m not entirely sure how much of them I want this space to hold. Surely they shape my thoughts, so they will be here…but how much of them I want here remains to be seen.

That said, I miss the thinking that lies behind these posts, the pondering that happens regardless of whether it winds up here for the world to see. When it winds up here it feels a bit different – slower and more intentional at times, rambling and free at others. Whatever shape it holds, I appreciate it for what it is, so here we are on Leap Day stepping back into a space that I’ve neglected for a while in favor of snuggling a new baby, toying with a toddler, wrestling with life’s questions.

We have some travel catch-up: a road trip to Maine, a week in Colorado, a long weekend in Mexico. That will come soon. We also have some life musings: thoughts on the big life questions of working vs. staying at home, finding one’s self (or, better said, finding MYself) when priorities (see Lightning McQueen) in life shift, and the joys (I mean that – the absolute joys) of parenting. Soon enough.

For now, I take this small leap with the intention of returning to this space on a much more regular basis.

To the brim.

We’re two days out from Thanksgiving, and I’m already full, full right up to the brim.

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Full of love for the little (albeit growing!) family of mine.

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Full of wonder at the force that is a two and a half year old little boy.

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Full of joy for a little girl who wakes me with a smile each morning.

evie may Full of pride – the good kind – at who Chris and I have become in the past couple years.

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My heart feels so very full at Thanksgiving this year, and while we’re not a family that generally voices our thanks around the table each year, I think this year I might push it. A brief moment to consider that for which we are so very blessed. A small notion in the grand scheme of things, but a valuable one. I’m curious what everyone will say, given a year of ups and downs (and given the subjectivity of one’s thankfulness). Where does the value lie for each individual? I want to know, to learn, to understand.

And I also want to know if a two year old can muster up an answer to a concept he might not fully comprehend. I imagine he can…and knowing this particular two year old, I imagine it will be funny.

siblings

Back seat chatter…

IMG_0840[1]James and I go through stages in our daily commute to and from daycare/the office together. In the beginning, we shared a peaceful ride as the car lulled him to sleep almost every time. That transitioned to a half sleeping/half screaming baby shortly down the line, and up until about a month ago, the ride to and from daycare became my least favorite time of the day. James hated the car, squirmed in his seat, called Mom-mom UP, and all around showed little appreciation for the world passing by his windows. Our commute became the worst kind of necessary evil.

But then, as things do, something shifted. Now we chat. The entire way to and from daycare. We talk about who he played with (Owen and Eve), who he danced with (Owen!), who he cooked with (Eve!). We call out Digger, where are youuuuu? Snowplow where are youuuuuu? We laugh. We talk about red lights and green lights and school buses and spoons and pots and whatever else pops into the mind of a 23 month old. And the drive zips on by, and before we know it, we’re talking about being hooooooome and what we’re going to cook for dinner and if we should play with Legos or trains while we chat on the phone with Wawa and Dad-dad.

I can remember when he was a teeny, tiny little thing, and thinking how everyone said time would fly but really the days never ended and time seemed to stand still…but at the same time they fly by…but really stood still…or flew. It was always so hard to tell! Anyways, I remember thinking that the stages lasted so long and the thought of ever getting to a few months down the line when whatever the next milestone was would happen seemed like an impossible feat. And now? The stages just barrel into one another, come and gone before we even realize that a stage just happened.

So the fussing car seat boy turns into the chattering car seat boy who all of a sudden turns into the who knows what boy. But with each passing phase I realize just how fleeting the prior phase was, and just how damn them, whoever they are, they’re right. Time does fly, and little boys grow up and ask for bikes for their birthdays and to go down slides with their cousins and to eat ice cream for breakfast, And so we do all of that…we contemplate the first bike; we find slides on which to play; we sneak bites of ice cream at times when ice cream shouldn’t be eaten.

All because the damn stages fly and I already find myself thinking back to the earlier ones with wistful sentimentality of what once was versus what now is. And there is joy – so much joy I can hardly stand it – at being along for the ride, sharing the adventure. So despite the fussy stages and the whiney ones and lord knows what other ones that lie ahead, I embrace the stages and find excuses to sneak in a little more time, one more snuggle, five more minutes in bed listening to a still tiny soul whisper, Hug, Mom-mom…Hug, because the only thing I have learned for certain is that each and every stage has an end.

Disappearing Act

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So I disappeared for a while. I think it has been a combination of winter and hibernation, with a side of turning my thoughts inward for a bit. It just that…we’ve had a big winter of so much snow we can hardly see straight and so much cold weather, combined with a huge bit of joyous news in that our days as a family of three are numbered. So yeah, hibernation and baby equals just as many thoughts as usual, but those thoughts have been focused inward instead of outward. It’s not a bad thing from time to time, I don’t think.

James is a little ball of loving energy these days. He’s 22 months and every bit a boy, but also every bit the snuggliest little thing I’ve ever met. He both energizes and exhausts me, but always soothes my soul. The innocence is incomparable. We cook together, him with his spatula, me with mine. We snuggle, and he pulls my arm around him as he says hug. He calls himself Deet-deet; he calls me Mom-mom. I don’t know how we got so lucky, and I also don’t know how times flies so quickly. He’s not a baby anymore.

And we’re making room for a baby, which makes him even more not a baby. He’ll be a big brother to a tiny little soul. And we’ll be a group of four instead of our cozy little clan of three.

So these days seem important, limited, precious. I find myself savoring the moments with James – just James – and the moments with Chris and James – just Chris and James – because I know that soon enough those moments will be rare. That notion is exciting, really exciting, and at the same time overwhelming and insane.  We’re growing, and I find so much joy in this time of our lives where we have our little family, but where we also know that the final family picture differs from what it is now. It’s eager anticipation for what we will become, but also sentimental nostalgia at who we are now and just how far we have already come.

It’s a lot of big thoughts. What life will look like, how we’ll adjust, who this person will be. How James will adjust, how I will ever find time for a run or a return to yoga, how we’ll find time to cook a decent meal. How our energy, our attention, our priorities will shift. How we will shift. Who we will be.

So many thoughts that make me turn inward, a ball of reflection, anticipation, excitement. A ball of sleepiness too, but mostly a ball of all of that good stuff. So we sit and wonder, watch the days tick passed into weeks into months. Wondering, wondering, wondering…who will we be?

The messy beautiful world of parenting

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We’re in this sweet spot right now of knowing that we’re growing our family but also having a moment to catch our breath and to think about what we’ve learned in the first 21 months as parents. Our little unit is incomplete and simultaneously so very complete. It’s a happy place. And, at times, it gives us those precious chances to stop and breathe. When I have those, I tend to reflect, so here I am, breathing and reflecting.

I have a few friends right now either right on the cusp of having a baby, beginning the process of thinking about having a baby, or floundering through those first few weeks as new parents. I avoid telling them how much their world will change and how little they will sleep and how there will be times when they feel like they have nothing more to give (and then somehow find more) and how every ounce of their world will revolve around this new little being for a while and…I could go on and on, but those things don’t help. Those things are everywhere the new parent looks, reads, walks, talks, goes. And, again, they don’t help.

What did…or does…help me is the notion that they will feel emotions they never knew existed, both good and bad. The good will include love beyond what they ever knew possible, the laughter of a tiny soul as it stares into your eyes, the pure joy of a tiny human. Daily adventures in the simple and new discoveries in the most mundane of situations. Supreme feelings of accomplishment over taking a shower. It all counts. The bad feels like your soul being pulled in too many directions, giving when there is nothing left to give, not enough hours in the day, not enough patience in the world, and the utter helplessness of just not knowing what to do for a sick baby, a crying baby, a tired self.

The emotions are raw and pure and far less controlled than we grow to be in our single adult lives. They are often dictated by situations outside of our power, tiny little people about which we know so much yet at the same time know so little. They test us. Challenge us. And allow for so much growth and learning in such a small amount of time that in retrospect it all makes sense that our worlds feel so frazzled at the time.

This morning on my drive to work, I found myself wondering when I last learned something new. My first thought brought me back to learning to drive a stick-shift (when I was pregnant with James), and immediately thereafter I thought, that was it!? The last time I learned something new was two years ago?! And then I laughed at the lunacy because the reality of my world right now – and the blessing and the curse of the first child – is that James and I learn something new every single day, and more often than not, we learn it together.

I think that’s something that struck me only recently: for the entirety of our shared existence on this planet, James and I will forever encounter new situations with each other for the very first time. There is no prior parenting knowledge from the first kid to guide decisions here. There is just the gut. And instinct. And, sure, prior experience with James. But in reality, there is just the two of us, plotting our own little course through the world (don’t worry, we invited Chris along for the ride too – sometimes we let him steer). And to me, there is so much beauty and joy and freedom in that notion: we’re both novices, and being novices is simply fine. In fact, in this instance, it’s perfect.

So we continue to flounder, some days less than others, but our floundering is framed with laughter and joy and a few tears here and there. It’s the story of our lives these days, learning as we go. It’s also the bit of parenthood – the messy beautiful so full of love rollercoaster of a ride bit that no one shares because the no sleep world flipped upside down oh the horror stuff is just easier to talk about – that messy beautiful bit is the best bit.

And that’s the part that no one tells you: the messy beautiful bit is the. best. bit.

For every…

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I looked in the mirror this morning (above picture is NOT from this morning), and the first thought that registered was, wow, I look tired, and then, whoa, where did those wrinkles come from?  And then I chuckled because…

For every missing ounce of sleep, there is a little boy snuggled up beside mom all too early in the morning whispering the sweetest Hi! I ever did hear. There are little eyes, so very open, peering at a weary mom who is hoping for just a few more minutes rest. And there is the declaration, Bed – all done! that invariably follows.

For every new wrinkle on my face (see above: missing sleep), there is so much laughter and joy. Some tears…sad faces make for wrinkles too…but mostly joy. The lines follow the expression on my face when I’m laughing, smiling, living. They’re not faint lines either…but they are a by-product of laughter and joy, and I would not change them for a second.

For every moment when I wish for a breath of peace and quiet, there is a little voice squealing with delight over a plastic tea pot, a spatula, a ball cast giddily under the cabinets to be retrieved with a ‘ockey stick (hockey stick).

For every cup of hot coffee gone cold, there are morning snuggles and sloppily shared bites of cereal, sticky pancake fingers and spilled milk.

For every missed yoga class or leisurely long run, there are monkey bars and slides and so very many playgrounds to explore.

And, perhaps most poignant of all, for every new day, there is the constant reminder of just how much joy one small boy can bring to the lives of two grown (albeit weary) parents.

So for every every, there is a trade-off. And the trade-offs I have made of late? I’m okay with them.

Because that early morning hi? It’s irreplaceable.

A Letter to 2015.

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2015, you will be a year in which I:

* Plan a sweet family vacation. Don’t know when or where, but hopefully something that rival’s this year’s journey to England/Spain. Can be close to home or far, far away, but it must include all of us and we must live it up.

* Add two new passport stamps. We have Mexico in February and nothing scheduled aside from that. The Caribbean? Bermuda? Somewhere, we’ll go somewhere, the whole gang of us.

* Gift myself at least one hour a week of time just for me. No guilt, no chores, no one but me. Yoga, a walk, a magazine, whatever. One hour for me.

* Bake more bread. I failed at this in 2014, but 2015 is the time. Sourdough, I have my eyes on you.

* Really focus on shifting the priorities. Figure out what works for our family in terms of hour worked, hours at home, etc. Which is to say, deal with life’s bologna.

* The camera: figure it out. Really this time.

* Run a race. I don’t care how long or when or where or anything. But run one. Just ONE. Doable.

* Shift the chores to mid-week so the weekend becomes ours again. This one takes a little refocusing, but I think it’s feasible.

* At least once a month, find time for just me and Chris. A pint, a movie, a walk – whatever it is, just the two of us. We make one heck of a dynamic duo, and I would like to keep it that way – focus on us is a very good thing.

* Bake more. Once a month, bake something new and share it amongst friends.

* At least once a month, enjoy my coffee not to-go. Sit, sip, savor. It’s a simple pleasure.

So that is all, not too lofty but goals nonetheless. Keep it simple, focus on my little family, and embrace the simple. Oh, and travel. Always travel, always learn, always grow. It’s where we’re at our best.

2015, I have high hopes for you.

2014: a year in review

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Looking back at where I set my goals. 2014, how did we do?

Practice patience. Not as much with James and Chris – I’m generally pretty patient with them already – but with myself. Be kind to myself. Whether I admit it or not, I’ve got a lot on my plate, and I’m my worst critic. Now is the time to take a breath and just let my world be.

I suppose I did okay. I let go of a lot in terms of letting the days guide me without thought of where they might go or why, but I still found myself trying to do too much all the time. I know some of it is the nature of life right now, but some of it is self-imposed. This one is a work in progress.

* Along the same lines as the a lot on my plate notion, evaluate what’s on my plate.  Get rid of the junk, savor the good stuff.  Find more time for the good stuff by minimizing time wasted on the junk.  I kid myself with no elusions of finding more time. 

Well, I certainly evaluated what’s on the plate, but I can’t say I was overly successful in changing much. I do take more time to soak in the good stuff…but the crap is still there. That might just be life as a grownup.

* Celebrate my son’s first birthday.  Bake him a cake (a wee one for a wee lad), buy some balloons, share in the joy. Reflect on what the past year has meant not only for him, but also for me and Chris.  Ponder just how far we have come, because, by god, we’ve come a long way.

Celebrate we did! With a sick little guy, but a celebration nonetheless. And a store-bought cake, but who cares, he was happy. There were balloons and a piñata and so much guacamole – we had one heck of a first fiesta. There was also a lot of reflection and joy in that we had a rough winter with a sick baby a lot of the time, and birthday numero uno marked a turning point to a healthier boy.

* Earn another stamp or two in the old passport.  One will be Mexico in January.  Where will the next be?

Mexico, bingo bango. And then England and Spain! We nailed this one. Absolutely nailed it with so much freaking travel joy it’s hard to describe. The little dude was incredible; we savored every second; and we finally found time to just be. 2014 travel did not disappoint.

* The four generations get away. Figure out how to make it happen. 

Please let this happen in 2015. We had lots of visits, but no getaways. Plan it!

* Hone the camera skills. Read about it, practice it…learn it.

A work in progress to say the least.

* North Dakota or South Carolina: make it happen.

Fail.

* Same with you, chicken coop. Make it happen.

Fail again. Boo.

* Sew. Cushions for the kitchen chairs. Curtains. What have you. Be domestic. 

Kitchen chairs: check. Curtains? Umm, nope. Moderate fail on this one.

* Run another half marathon. This one with the husband. Part of it with the kid.

Wishful thinking. Lots of running, just no half marathon. 2015?

* Reflect on what this body of mine has accomplished in the past few years, because goddammit, it’s impressive. Ponder what it will accomplish again in the next few years.

Check and check. Feeling good, proud, content.

* Bake more bread.  In the literal sense, not in the that’s-a-cute-metaphor-for-having-another-kid sense. NOT YET.

Fail. 2015, I’m looking at you.

* Yoga. At least once a week. Because it feels good. 

Moderate fail. Again, 2015.

* Smile. Laugh. Soak it all in (this should be an easy bullet to accomplish – I excel at smiles and laughter).

Yes, yes, and yes. One of my biggest successes of 2014.

* Think gratitude. Maybe even start writing about it. Three things per day. So far today I have my morning smoothie, a free cup of Starbucks, and one more to go. What else will I feel grateful for today? The sun on my back. An up-coming vacation. Practice gratitude.

Umm, ehh. I did okay but wasn’t as intentional about this one as I would like. Again, 2015.

* Likewise, practice kindness. Always, always, always.

Success on this one. Maybe not as much to myself as I would have liked, but overall, a pretty solid year.

So we met some goals and we missed some, but 2014, you were an adventure for sure. If 2015 shares half as much joy, we’re in for one heck of a ride.

Pondering…

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So it has been a while and now here I am, back pondering thoughts and scribbling them down on a screen (and staring at this photo I adore from sometime in July). Since we’ve been gone, we’ve given thanks and made our way almost to Christmas (a week and a day to go!). We’ve had adventures close to home, adventures at home, and adventures a little bit away from home. Weekends have been busy but nice, lots of time spent as a dynamic trio, me, Christopher, and Jamesey.  It has been a busy season, but also a quiet one, and quiet seasons tend to get the wheels turning.

There’s a level of discontent – or maybe discomfort? – right now. A lack of patience. These days feel important. I like to soak in the time with my little boy and my sweet husband and to enjoy the moments we have because we spend far too much time apart, click-clacking away at keyboards while doing our best to make our way in the world. But I often wonder…is all of that click-clacking necessary or is some of it just extra, invasive, unnecessary? I’m sure it’s the latter. But how to remedy it? How to take the first step away from the routine as we know it and define a new path? That’s what we don’t know. I’m not talking some grand change here. More like a small, subtle change. A change that feels a little bit like a hug for the soul. A change that means choosing my boys over some other silly things and feeling so very right about it.

The question, as always, is how and when to make that shift, and that is what remains unknown. So for now, I embrace the time with the boys, step away from the computer despite the draw to yap about all of our sweet adventures, and just be.

This season, do less stuff.

Just be.

A progress check on the Fall 2014 Travel Bucket List

IMG_0145We set out a while ago to come up with our Fall 2014 Travel Bucket List, and now that the days are short and the temperatures have dropped, it seems appropriate to check in with a status update.

Let’s see how we’ve done, shall we?

Local (a lot of these adventures have marked the return of the Sunday drivers):

  • New England Aquarium: we made it once and have plans to go back. Success!
  • Legal Seafoods: we tried but the place was a zoo. Still on the list, and boy will that chowdah taste good.
  • Russell Orchards. Fail. It might remain that way, but so it goes. Next year!
  • The beach with the singing sand: every Wednesday and tomorrow. The water still sparkles.
  • Appleton Farms.  Cheeeeeeeeese. And cows.  But really, cheeeeeeeeeese. Sunday?
  • Hikes, so many hikes: I wouldn’t say we’ve been on so many, but we’ve done a couple and they’ve been great. Moderately successful here.

Not-so-local:

  • Colorado! A whopping success. We had a great trip full of friends, family, and laughter. As always, the time passed too quickly, but we so enjoyed the time we had.
  • Vermont: Fail. Big, fat fail. It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen either, but we’re shifting it to the winter list.
  • The Berkshires because I (and we) have never been: couple weekends from now this one can have a big checkmark next to its name. Hurrah!

International:

  • England to visit these two crazy gals: So incredibly successful. We had the best time, the best trip, so much fun. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
  • Spain to relax by the beach, practice the Spanish, eat some tapas, enjoy the downtime: It was perfect, magnificent, everything we could have wanted. A true lesson in why traveling with a kid is simply the best.
  • And for an added bonus, I threw Nigeria into the mix. Not a planned adventure, but an adventure for sure.

I would say we have had a busy Fall of travel. Daunting to some, but bread and butter to us. Let’s hope the coming seasons share some similar flavor, because we have had FUN, so very much fun.