Flow

pc7

Today one of my best friends, D, had her second baby. She sent us a picture of her second little girl, bundled dry and clean, held up by a nurse. Baby girl looks like she is certain of the camera in front of her. I wish I could share it with you here, but if I remember my own commitment to privacy the first few months my kids were born, I know it’s not my picture to post. My mom described the image just right: you can’t help but see it and not laugh a little because there she is, a new baby girl all surprisingly alert and with the perks of a smile saying, “I’m here, guys.”

The ripple effect of hearing the news of a new baby inspires conversations along many households. My parents probably said something to each other like, “Remember when these girls were just kids sleeping over at our house? Laughing in the basement? Now they have two kids.” D, dressed in a blue hospital gown, still looks like that young girl in my memory. Maybe it’s because I didn’t consider my mom as a woman in her 30s the way I am today that I’m still in awe of my childhood icons being real adults.

In another household, maybe someone wonders if or when this type of moment will be one of her own memories or if there are other joys that are waiting to be born. In my household, though, the news created electricity as my kids stared eagerly into my phone. They loved seeing the baby held by their cousin, who Zade said with marvel is “not a baby anymore. She’s a kid now, Mama!” Their reaction brought to surface sincere memories of when Zade was born.

pc4

For example, D sent me a picture of herself right before getting to the hospital. I could tell she’d been crying; her adorable chin looked like it housed small rain drops beneath the skin. She said simply, “I’m excited but also feel bad. I can’t explain it…lots to process.”

If you’re lucky enough to have the chance to say bye to your first child before you leave for the hospital, you know that feeling. You know in your head that you’re doing something good for the family, that she won’t be alone in her life, that you’ll be back in a few days with memories. And yet you may fear you’re choosing something else over your child or that something so big is happening, and she is innocently left out of it; or even worse, you wonder if you’d been worrying about the wrong thing all along and that maybe things won’t turn out right.

When I left Layla to deliver Zade, I felt a hollow carve up inside, like when you swallow water too fast and there’s a bubble trying to force its way down. Like so many mother guilts, it’s not logical, but it is an ache you don’t forget.

And life goes on after those hospital days. It did for us, and now the kids are approaching birthdays. Layla will be 7 soon; she’d barely turned 2 when her brother was born.

Before my maternity leave was up in the winter, we went to Rosemary Beach. We snuggled in a green and white carriage house, all of us in one king size bed, the smell of steak still coming through the cool cracks. Beach winters are the best kept secret.

pc8.jpg

Last week we went to Panama City, which is close to Rosemary. Needing a family trip in the worst way, we rented a huge minivan and drove toward a tropical depression that was incredibly merciful to us.

pc1

On the only rainy day we had at the beach, we took a day trip back to Rosemary and visited our usual spots: the park at the town’s peripheral, the nooks between each unique, designer home, and a coastal book shop (it’s one of my favorites and never disappoints). The kids looked like kids and like grown people at the same time.

Seeing them up against the scale of memory, the scale of the swing Zade looked like a giant potato in a few years ago, made Kal and I start talking in tongues of the future. That type of talk where you plan and say God willing, where you try to face realities of what could be while also chanting why you’re so appreciative of what is.

Time is moving us forwards in whichever way it wants. Seems like I’m swinging backwards here in this post. I’ll keep that momentum going and end back to the first day at the beach.

After nearly 2 weeks that tested the Murphy’s law adage,  we thought we’d barely make it on our last-minute trip. We were so sick the night before our departure that we couldn’t pack or clean the house in preparation. Instead, we did all that in the morning and didn’t leave until the afternoon on the next day. Finally, we arrived to Florida at familiar surroundings. We dropped our stuff in the condo and went down to the beach. The kids who’d begged for the beach the whole summer were short of shrieking with joy when they felt sand.

pc5

Even though we’ve done many things as a family, this year felt different. As Kal drove, I crossed my legs out in front of me above the dashboard and looked out the window over familiar bridges, familiar long-leaf pines, familiar road stops, familiar faded homes. I told Kal that we used to sit in the back seat with my parents driving at one point in our lives, yet here we are in the front seat, making our way. I handed kids their snacks; he put gas in the car.

pc6

In this life of constant work and rotation, I’m grateful beyond measure for what the new brings and what the familiar holds. I can say with certainty that I’m curious about how things will look against today’s scales, markers that show us so much during the rippling ebb and flow of our lives.

 

 

Advertisements

Spikes


Seems to me on the days when the grind gets the hardest, I experience everything in spikes.

I drove to work this morning with one hand on the wheel and the other hand inside of a box of Oatmeal Squares. Cereal was all I could grab on my way out of the house. It was mercy I even managed that before I wobbled to my car with Layla’s breakfast, slippery water bottles—one tucked under my arm and the other balanced on a plate, two backpacks, and my make-up bag. It was 6:45 and I couldn’t squash my defeat. It’s so early, but I’m still so late, I thought dejectedly.

I tried so hard not to be—begging Layla the night before to sleep early and wake up without constant nudging; putting everyone’s clothes out and packing lunches; making dinner and ensuring enough for leftovers the next day; doing work for an hour after everyone else was asleep. Preparing. I tried to get it all done, but it wasn’t enough.

In fact, the last few weeks have piled on top of each other so much so that I have been glued to each monkey bar—aware of the metal lines to come but also only able to reach out so far.  Tasks are getting done, and lists keep piling up. Judging from people around me, it very well could be just that time in September.

Last night after everything was undone and done (maybe not even in that order), I had a hoarse throat and a weight on my chest. I was upset at how the kids bickered on and off all night, causing spikes of tension that hit me the way it feels when you stop abruptly after running fast, your body all confused and breathless.

My body couldn’t handle a single more argument. By the final time I told Layla to stop coming out of her room, that enough was enough, especially since I’d read the story and fixed the light and fed that last snack, I had nothing left to give. And then just as I had quieted, I saw her run out of her room. I was afraid that if I nagged or yelled one more time, I’d unravel. Instead, I sat angry, transfixed on why I couldn’t just let it go. She’s being a kid. I’m a working mom. This is how it is. You know this. Just put on Downton Abbey and screw doing the dishes.

Thirty minutes later, I found her asleep on the guest bed. I walked towards it to carry her to her own room, but a feeling spiked up on me. I sat on the edge of an ottoman in my living room instead and just cried.  So many women are familiar with that good-cry-in-the-shower moment, only this time I was just sitting in a quiet room, grateful for some relief.

So that was last night. And my Oatmeal Square morning was this morning. The rest of today brought me to a better place. It’s the last official day of summer, so maybe there’s something to that.

Vox hands-in pic.jpg

My student editors made smart calls; my classes are liking The Crucible.  I found my groove, so I felt the power to walk into the house with blinders on. We hung out in Layla’s room and loomed bracelets. Kal did his own thing while we held onto the moment.

Zade asleep 2.jpg

At bedtime, I told Zade stories about when he was a baby. His new orange and black bracelet glowed against his blue LED night light, causing curiosity and joy—so sweet on his face. I leaned against his little stomach and laughed genuinely with him. Parents’ emotions are insanity. I am so tired, but I want to wake him up and relive how he laughed, an extended laugh that pleasantly surprises me when coming from a child.

This morning I was certain this post would be only about how the struggle catches up with us some days. But then just a few hours ago, I put the kids, skin shiny from a bath, to bed and felt tired, yes, but also better. A spike of affection and appreciation replaced what I felt 24 hours before.

layla-asleep

So, I’ll leave you with this last anecdote if nothing but for my own memory:

My kids’ exuberance to see me come home from work is is really touching. They’re naturally loving greeters until it becomes a competition between who can run for the hug the fastest or hang on my neck the longest. Usually, my arms are filled with the same things I loaded my car up with in the morning, so the greeting becomes an awkward mashup of good intentions, the necessities, joy, and disappointment.

I decided two weeks ago that I’d walk into the house with only my car keys in hand. Arms open and able to reduce my own frustration with trying to make the scene what I want, I am able to give them what they need from the second I walk in. I gave up telling them to hang on and adjust. I just added a couple trips to the car. Something so simple solved one small element of the evening for me.

Tonight, I’m grateful to not end the night sitting on the edge of an ottoman. Those nights happen, and that’s life. But I’ll keep searching within for small adjustments that can help end the evening with an LED glow,  some time to write, and a little more peace.