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Baby

It seems odd to me, sometimes, when I look at my youngest and realize that he’s been with us for over two years. It was so long that we tried and tried, and then cried, that to see him now often seems a miracle. At two plus a few, his vocabulary is exploding. In the last few months he’s taken to calling himself Baby. As in, “Baby’s up!” when he wakes and “Baby’s alright!” when he falls. He even introduces himself to Baby, which often confuses my neighbors and others who know his name. He politely pretends not to notice and pushes off on his scooter. “Baby ride!”

I had thought that, as he grew, it would be a do-over from the youngest years with my Older. A time for me to reminisce, remember those things I had not been able to capture in pictures. In reality, this rarely happens. The moments with Baby, while they somewhat overlap the experiences of his brother, are so different as to be largely unrecognizable. I suppose that should not be surprising. They are separate people, despite the stark similarities in their appearance. But it has taken my brain quite awhile to figure this out, come to this truth. I consider myself fortunate that it has chosen this time to do so. Baby is inquisitive and exacting in ways his brother never was at that age. We have enjoyed many hours together, building elaborate block cities, pretend playing with action figures and dinosaurs, creating a toad paradise with rocks in my garden. Had I continued to wait for the days of deja vu to kick in, I would have missed this, all of it.

There may be a day when my boys are more similar than they are different. But I hope not.

When your sheep has to poo.

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Moving On

It’s come on slowly, but now that it’s here, staring me down, it’s hard to breathe. I’m sitting alone, listening to 90s flashback hits and the clack of roller skates at the last skate night of the school year. I am finding it more difficult to ignore the hideous black and neon starburst carpet than the gaggle of moms sitting ten feet away. Watching my oldest struggle to go around the rink once, twice, in his dingy rented skates.

He loves these nights. Talks about them for days, weeks, beforehand. Wants to know which of his friends will be here, and talks to me excitedly about who has confirmed their attendance on the way here. We’ve gone to several of these since starting school last year. The first time it was brand new, and we shared the excitement of me showing him something I’d loved as a kid. By the end of the night he had gone from barely taking a step to making it around the rink on his own. On the way home, I’d told him how proud I was of him that he had not given up, even when he fell so many times. He’d asked me if I was going to cry, and I did.

Tonight we’re early. We get his skates and I tell him I’m not feeling great, and won’t skate if that’s okay with him. He agrees, and heads out onto the rink. I watch him struggle for a while, waiting for him to find his rhythm. He never gives up, this kid. After while I decide to go out with him, bite the bullet and rent my own skates, plus buy a pair of socks since I lacked the foresight to wear any. I catch up and skate next to him for half a lap or so, helping him up after the 3rd or 4th time he fell. I give him a few pointers – one foot out and back to center, stay off your heels – and as I start to skate away from him I hear from behind “I was doing great before you came out.”

“Oh.” It’s all I can manage, just a single syllable. I leave the floor, sit further from the moms so they can’t see my face. They seem to blissfully ignorant of the fact that their kids don’t need them. That mine doesn’t need me. I’m pretty sure my heart is actually bleeding, I am consciously reminding myself to take breaths. In. Out. In. Out. Just keep breathing.

“Mom, will you skate with me?” Hell yes, baby. Yes I will.

 
 

The First of Lasts

The weeks have flown and I’ve tucked T in for the last time as pre-schooler. Okay, it’s not really the first time we’ve encountered a “last time.” But this is not like the last midnight feeding, the last diaper, the last time we used a stroller before graduating to riding on Daddy’s shoulders. This one stings with immeasurable intensity from which I’ve found no escape for months. It drags with it other lasts – various story times and sprout groups, Mommy and Me yoga, our routine of “projects” and planning our day over breakfast. There is a void that O can fill only partly, at least for now, since he’s still a bit young to partake in most of the activities that have crowded our calendar over the past few years.

My husband keeps reminding me that I was the wild one, the woman who traveled for a living and never wanted kids. I could not have known the joy I would get from going on “turkey hunts” and reading Pete the Cat with the sweet boy with light in his eyes. Maybe that’s why it hurts so much – in this case, T’s first comes with the excitement of a child gaining a new adventure, while my last showcases only what I’ve loved so much and have lost. Tomorrow seems both infinitely far and too soon to bear.

T.Backpack

“Fill Your Backpack” game courtesy of teachingheart.net (thank you!)

 
 

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Five

I never thought we’d be here. For so long, the days and months and years stretched before me, in all their glorious infinity. And then today I looked up into my sweet boy’s face, his big, blue, five-year-old eyes, and died just a tiny bit.

Five weeks to kindergarden. It makes my heart lurch every time I say it, think it, pass by school supplies in Target. Five weeks to the end of glorious infinity, endless days of story time and science center and play groups and trips to the zoo. Five weeks until my sweet peanut, with his quick smile and gentle heart, will sit at a desk for six hours a day. Alone. Without me.

Breathe mama, just breathe…

I’ve been fortunate to have a job that has allowed me the flexibility to keep T at home. He’s never gone to pre-school but is well traveled, well spoken, well socialized. He is just as comfortable (at five!) running around in his underwear (he is a boy) or wearing a tie (sometimes simultaneously). And yet I struggle with not just the idea of our flexible lifestyle changing – no more mid-week trips to the beach or spontaneous outings to Philly or NYC- but also with the question of whether our neighborhood school is even a good choice for a boy who sits still exactly zero hours of the day. I want him to love school, to enjoy learning, and my heart hurts just thinking about his natural energy and curiosity being stifled. And of course the pink elephant, my baby is growing up.

Breathe mama, just breathe…

Five more weeks. Five weeks to spend at the pool, watch movies outside, and lunchtime soccer games followed by pie. Just a tiny bit more time to sleep in and go to bed late, take a week or two to visit Grandma, or meet me downtown for lunch on the days I need to go into the office. Only five weeks left to be my baby, before becoming my kindergardener.

Fly, my son. I’ll be here when you land.

 

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Pie for lunch? Thanks, Mom!

 

 

 

 
 

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Sirens and Smoke

Tuesday. Primary day in New York, which meant I was hoofing door to door, trying to get a targeted list of voters to the polls. I was making pretty good time, too, when I became gradually aware of sirens, first one, then more, until the entire city sounded like it needed help. One by one, people started slowing down, looking around at each other as if one of us had the answer to the chaos. It was Howard Stern who finally filled us in, drifting quietly through an open window, and we collectively looked up at the sky.

I have never told this story. My husband knows that each year on 9/11 I shut down, avoiding work, the news, social media; he has no idea why it hurts, why I’m so “emotional.”  I left New York not long afterwards, the campaign trail sending me to the Midwest. I’ve returned several times to visit but still have not been able to bring myself to Ground Zero. There are still times when I pause upon hearing an aircraft, en route to a nearby landing strip, begin to slow for descent. And after all this time, I still look to the sky when I smell smoke.

It was T, in all his toddler glory, who made me pause, forced me to focus, to remember. We’ve been learning about the Star-Spangled Banner this week, which coincides with the festivities surrounding the bicentennial of the War of 1812. He cannot get enough of that song – we went through dozens of versions of it, listening and singing along, learning the lyrics line by line. “Try that one! What’s this one?” It was inevitable that we would come across footage from September 11th. I knew as soon as he picked the next clip what it would contain and I hesitated – it would have been so easy to tell him that one didn’t work, or distract him long enough to choose another. But I have never lied to him, and it was time for me to let go.

“We can watch this one, baby, but it may make me cry. I don’t want that to scare you.” “Okay, Mommy.”  So we watched together, with Alan Jackson playing in the background.  “Why is that building on fire?” “A plane ran into the side of it.” “What is that dog doing?” “He’s helping the police find people who were hurt.” “Why is that fireman so dirty?” “He worked really hard, it was very smokey and dirty.” “Who are those guys?”

Everyday Heros

Everyday Heros (unable to locate original photo credit)

“Heroes, baby. That’s what heroes look like.”

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2014 in Remember

 

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It’s a Sports Life

One of the many things we love about living in Baltimore is the wide array of sports – everything from Preakness to Orioles magic to professional soccer, even a few runs of the Grand Prix.  As I write this, I’m sitting with my boys watching a pre-season Ravens game.  Obviously I’m not the football fan in this family.  But I’m willing to make the sacrifice of a few hours out of a rainy Saturday evening for J, T and their dad to spend some quality time together.  J starts his junior year of high school in a few days and is, each time I see him, that much closer to becoming the man we’d hoped him to be – kind, compassionate, hard working.  And to see T emulate him, cheering on the good plays, shouting encouragement on the bad, makesi me proud for the part I’ve had in raising someone who’ll be another strong role model for T.  Just one more reason that, for us, sports matter.

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Brotherly love...

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2014 in family

 

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This Old House

It seems whenever there is too much going on, DH and I have the inate ability to just tack on more.  This go-round, we are in the midst of getting ready for vacation when DH gets the urge to finally finish the upstairs hallway.

A few years ago, on the eve of Hurricane Irene, we were hunkered down with then-five month old T when we heard the unmistakeable sound of dripping water.  We soon discovered the source, coming from the roof through the ceiling in T’s room, placed some buckets and crossed our fingers.  The aftermath of Irene involved replacing the now-soaked horsehair plaster ceilings throughout the upstairs, as well as the electricity that shorted when it got wet.  The final piece, a five by five section of hall, sat exposed to the roof rafters for THREE YEARS.

I love our house.  And hate our house.  I love to hate it, and sometimes hate myself when I’m in the midst of hating it.  But I absolutely cherish the history of our home and neighborhood.  I moved many, many times growing up and into adulthood; we are now blessed to live on a street with multiple neighbors who actually grew up on the same block.  We bought our home from a gentleman who was raised in it and still lives on the corner.  And I am beyond excited to celebrate the centenial of our house next year.
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Yes, the horsehair plaster that covered splintery pine lathing strips to create walls was beyond disgusting.  As was the black soot from the chimneys, which fell from the ceiling and covered EVERYTHING.  But it amazes me to see how these rowhouses were built, pieced together with the adjoining house.  To peel back the layers (and layers) of wallpaper.  Pull the floor to the original hardwood and wonder what long lost coverings filled the voids left behind.  Find little tidbits of the past in the walls and ceilings – square nails, broken china, a spoon.  My husband indulges me as best he can as I plead with him to “be careful!” pulling floor boards so they can be repurposed, or find a spot to put our found treasures- now carefully wrapped with a note to future owners – before he covers whatever hole he’s created.  It’s about karma, really, and respect – that Old Lady was there way before us, and will continue her reign long after we are gone.

For now, another project done.  If the pattern holds, the dust will have plenty of time to settle before my next chance to peek into the past.

 

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