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.
Tag Archives: Family
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.
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.
It’s been a long, crazy weekend here. Grateful for sun after three days of rain and the coolest spring I can recall since moving here, we kicked off the weekend with strawberry picking at one of my favorite farms. Saturday morning was a raucous game of soccer, or as close as can be had with a bunch of three-year-olds. And still drunk on blue sky and warm breezes, we came to realize that nothing would make the weekend more perfect than a night spent under open skies.
Really, there was no “we” in that realization. I have this idealist vision of camping, memories of my mom cooking a huge breakfast on a griddle while my dad helped me and my brother find worms and nightcrawlers for fishing. When I was a kid we spent a lot of time in campgrounds and took first our truck camper, and later Winnebago, all over the country. I’ve either blocked out the bad parts, or it was AWESOME. I dream of a pop-up camper; so far the furthest I’ve gotten is convincing my husband that sitting around a campfire and sleeping in a tent a few times a year won’t kill him.
Anyway we packed up Big Blue, got the dogs and kid in the car (J, at sixteen, was just way too cool for camping), and headed outside the city. Of course by the time we got there, set up camp, scavenged enough wood to start a fire, made dinner and made our way back and forth to the communal bathroom several times, T was so exhausted he was crying to go to bed even before making “fo fo’s” (marshmallows). As the fire started to burn out and the temperatures dipped, we noticed we didn’t have the tarp for the top of our tent. We huddled together on the air mattress that managed to spring a leak since the last time we used it, staring up at the stars through our unimpeded view. And finally, finally, the squirrels, deer, bears, mountain lions, and other guests stopped their partying long enough for me to fall asleep…only to wake and repeat the chaos of toddler-caring, fire-making, food-preparing and the rest of it.
By the time we packed up I was more than ready to go. T had been whining non-stop for nearly two hours, I found myself repeating and REPEATING simple directions such as “stop throwing rocks!” and “stay away from the fire, it’s hot!” and I wanted nothing more than to be home and the sweet solace of T’s naptime. And I’m sad to say that, while I strive to use kind words and toddler-level reasoning with him every day, by the time we got in the car my frustration and short temper were starting to spread like toxic mold.
We did make it home, an uneventful trip except for the ginormous spider I found crawling on my shirt (seriously, I almost died). A too-quick nap and T was awake and still acting up, incapable of listening out of shear exhaustion. But as I tried to get some of the laundry started and dishes washed and camping carnage put away, I kept passing him lying, quite peacefully, on the couch, watching a movie. And I recalled that it can wait, all of it. I have not doubt that pile of greasy pans will still be in the sink after he goes to bed, or even tomorrow morning. But for this moment, of T being three-and-a-few-months and just the two of us lying together, watching Toy Story, still smelling like campfire and sunshine, I have no such guarantee. So I took it, and he put his hand on my head and smiled, and life was good.
My sweet son –
Happy birthday! You turned three today…it hurts my heart a tiny bit just to say it. You are tall enough now that I can rest my hand on the back of your head and kind enough to permit me to do so. You are changing so fast, every day brings something new – words I can’t fathom how you know, skills I can’t believe you mastered so quickly, and play I can’t figure how you imagined.
I’d like to tell you every day is perfect, but you are old enough now to realize that’s not true and tell us when you are hurt or scared or mad, and acknowledge when one of us feels the same way. There are moments of incredible frustration, like when Daddy and I took you to the National Air and Space Museum to see “rocketships” but you were having none of it, pitching a fit on the floor while school kids milled around. But those times are balanced by moments of such gentleness and love; one of my favorite times of the day is when you first wake and come in to snuggle with us, smelling like lavender and sleep. We yell and cry, and are by no means a quiet family. But there is love to spare and you are so quick with yours that it sometimes takes my breath.
You’ve accomplished so much in just one year. Within weeks of turning two you Houdini’d your way out of your crib, grinning at us as you monkey-climbed down the other side. You learned to ride bike, made friends at the park, spent hours reading to yourself and us, helped mommy cook, discovered a love of superheroes and baseball. And your language….one day during the summer I found myself staring at you, trying to decipher your baby tongue, only to realize you were speaking in entire sentences. You have such a way with words and I am so proud to see you try them out, it sometimes looks as if you can almost taste them on your lips. You take on each day with bright eyes and infectious spirit, and I find myself inspired.
As I tucked you in the night before your birthday you pulled my hand down and whispered “You make me happy.” You have no idea, my son. No longer a baby, my heart will not yet allow me to call you a big boy. But you are, without a doubt, my Sweet Boy, and I wish you the happiest of birthdays.
Dear T –
What a difference a year makes! You turned two today and greeted me, as usual, with a smile and a “Hey!” I lifted you out of your crib with the realization that this time next year you will more than likely be in your big-boy bed and the hope it would be the only change to our morning routine. We headed downstairs and I recalled, as you asked for milk and jumped on the couch and helped open your gifts and tried to stick your entire face into your cake (yes, for breakfast!) that this time last year you had just taken your first solo steps. When we spent the afternoon at the National Zoo, you pointed to and named the animals and it reminded me that age one you fell asleep every night with your giraffe. And tonight, when I tucked you in and you blew me a kiss for the very first time – well, that was just perfect.
For you each day is an adventure! You took your first steps in the days before you turned one and have been non-stop action since. You’ve learned to jump, climb, and run, and scared the crap out of your father a few weeks ago when he found you half-way up a 6′ ladder.You smile and say hello to people we pass on the way to the market, ask “what’s that?” or “hear that?” a thousand times a day, and your eyes light up when we head to the park or the zoo or even somewhere new. And it is so exciting to see you running around the playground, making friends and kicking the ball around. You are curious and inquisitive and do not shy from new experiences, and I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.
You already have quite a way with words. Most mornings your Daddy and I wake up hearing you talking or reading to yourself, and with the exception of nap time it’s pretty much non-stop until bedtime. You started using your signs asking for “more” borsch (of all things!) in July; since then you’ve learned hundreds of signs and words and each day it seems you know a few more. You have questions for EVERYTHING, usually more than one, and there are days when I am grateful for the silence when you’ve fallen asleep. But I would not trade it for anything else, and I pray you retain your excitement for language.
And perhaps most incredible is that, at the age of two, you are the first to notice if someone is upset, or sad, or hurt, and ask “you ‘tay?” and offer a hug or a hand on the arm. I don’t know where you learned that compassion, but my wish for you is that you never lose it.
You’ve accomplished so much in the days since you turned one and are, in a word, amazing. I say that knowing, if you ever read this, you will be horrified and embarrassed and may go so far as to deny me as your mother. But it’s true, so there it is.
Happy birthday, my sweet peanut. I look forward to seeing what the next year will bring.
From the pause when I answered the phone, I could tell something was wrong. The caller ID told me that my husband was wondering if I was ready to be picked up from work. The woman on the other end had a different inquiry.
“Your husband was brought in by ambulance. He’s still talking but…how soon can you get down here?”
I spent the next thirty minutes enveloped in the sounds that, as a city dweller, I usually find comforting – the honking of irate rush-hour drivers, yells of greeting and farewell from kids released from school, the screech of the buses lining up to take commuters home. And of course sirens, which grew increasingly louder as I approached my destination.
That was the last time for many days that I would find comfort in sounds. The caustic smell of a city emergency room greeted me, along with wails of varying length and pitch from its occupants. The electronic swoosh of the doors as I was escorted into the sanctity of the “you really need emergency services” section of the emergency room, followed by a steady stream of questions from the team of doctors already preparing my husband for surgery. “When did he eat last?” “Any allergies?” “What medications is he taking?” “Does he have a health care proxy?”
I followed the clicking of the gurney toward the operating room, the rhythmic pattern set off by one wheel with a mind of its own. For the next several hours, the inane banter of talk show hosts and infomercials in the waiting room. And then, finally, the ring of the telephone to say the surgery was over and the patient was being transported to the CSICU for recovery.
In retrospect, the fourteen days spent keeping a bedside watch seem barely out of the ordinary. The ever-constant beeping of the monitors assured me that my husband was still alive, even when he was not awake or even conscious. My vigil was broken to eat, sleep, and attend the sonogram for our unborn child. Even as I heard the fast thumping of the baby’s heart, it did not occur to me that we would go on without a father and husband.
The night he was released from the hospital, my husband and I climbed the stairs, pulled up the down comforter, and positioned ourselves in bed around the dogs and baby-belly as if nothing had ever happened. Only the eight-inch gash in his chest told the tale of what we had been through. My husband was asleep in seconds. It was not until that interminable silence between his breaths, anxiously waiting for the next, that I asked “what if?” and allowed myself to cry.
[I originally wrote this for a local literary magazine but ended up submitting a different article. We are forever grateful to Baltimore City Fire/Rescue, Johns Hopkins Medical Center and their CSICU for their part in this story having a happy ending. – CP]
My brother is nothing if not a sentimental fool (and I mean that in a good way). He would deny it, but I have information in good faith that he actually teared up when I asked if he would perform the ceremony when DH and I got married. Happy anniversary to my husband, and many thanks to my brother, who is the best internet-ordained minister this side of the Mississippi.
Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens. A good marriage must be created. In the Art of Marriage, the Little Things are the Big Things. It is never being too old to hold hands. It is remembering to say ‘I love you’ at least once a day. It is never going to sleep angry. It is at no time taking the other for granted: The courtship should not end with the honeymoon, it should continue through all the years. It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives. It is standing together facing the world. It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family. It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy. It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways. It is not expecting the husband to wear a halo or the wife to have wings of an angel. It is not looking for perfection in each other. It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humor. It is having the capacity to forgive and forget. It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal. It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner. A marriage ceremony has but only so much power; it may legalize the status as husband and wife, but the decision must still be made, each and every day, that you want to be married. Make such a decision and keep on making it, for the most important thing in life is to love and be loved.