It’s 2 am, and I can’t sleep. Norah is next to me, and her little tummy is moving up and down. In and out. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.
So many times these past few weeks, I have relied on my own breath to get me through a moment.
My mother always tells me a story about when my dad died in an accident and she had a 5 year old and a 2 year old. She couldn’t sleep or eat or imagine what to do the next day. She would repeat Psalm 46:10. Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know that I am God. It’s all I can do in these nighttime hours lately. I repeat it to myself like a chant and drift back to sleep for a moment.
I am not religious in the traditional sense. But I know someone is out there listening to me. I know there is a method to any madness we experience here. I know life is crazy and full of surprises, and something bigger than you carries you through. I know pain is wasted if you don’t evolve. Become bigger and stronger.
Sometimes I feel that presence lately. And sometimes I don’t. It’s so easy to be blinded by fear, doubt, sadness. It’s so easy to forget that there is a master plan involved.
I pray every night that my little life will look just the same in a year as it did two months ago. But I just don’t know. I feel it in my bones that the train is barreling out of the station, and a new destination is there. I don’t want to go, but it’s there for me – whether I choose it or not. But this life? This one has been so perfect in so many ways. It’s hard to see the past few years as anything other than the best of my life. But life doesn’t always ask our permission before moving to a new chapter.
Friends, if you are the praying type, I want to you pray for peace in my heart and in the heart of others. For love to prevail. And forgiveness and hope. And gratitude for the blessings I have.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I posted, so Halloween feels like old news now. But considering I use this as a journal of sorts… a few pictures of my Minnie Mouse and Luke Skywalker trick-or-treating around campus on Halloween morning.
And then we did it all over again on Halloween night and invited a few cousins to join us. It was unseasonably cold and eventually started drizzling a bit, so I was glad we headed out to the neighborhood earlier rather than later.
Life is settling down, and fall is settling in. The colors are perfect right now, and I finally got around to putting out the last of my pansies yesterday afternoon in the backyard. I had a couple helpers using their own little fingers to get flowers in the dirt.
I walked inside to fill the watering can, and when I returned to the back again, Jude was singing something I didn’t recognize. I asked him what it was and he said a “lullaby for the plants, mama.” It is never still with these two lately, but I do hope I can remember some of their little quirks and sweet comments. This journal helps me to stop and take notice. Jude has a favorite tree, he says. And he loves to study leaves this year.
The kids have been learning all about autumn and the details of the season lately at school, and everyday I drive home with turkey crafts or pumpkins or pilgrim hats. Early sunsets and chilly mornings feel inspiring instead of tiresome right now. Soup is on the menu at least twice a week. I love November.
This time of year is always busy, but this year is crazier than ever. On the one hand, I really want to take advantage of all the fun stuff going on around us, but at the same time, I resent it when life gets so busy you can’t catch your breath. Weekends are flying by faster than weekdays lately. Work is busy among piles of midterm grading, but it almost feels like the few hours I have at my quiet work desk are the only times I can focus and breathe a bit.
Jude started playing soccer this year, so that accounts for some of this. He LOVES it, and the fields are less than two miles from our house, so I obliged. It is cute to watch, and I love seeing him get the hang of a real team sport and cheer on his teammates. But this whole be at practice an hour a week and a game every weekend stage of parenthood is very new for us. It’s like the second you stop potty training and dressing them and waking up at night, you reach a new kind of busy. It’s not easier – or harder. Just different.
In addition to early morning soccer games, we’ve had fall fairs and pumpkin patches to enjoy.
Finally, our craziness is coming to a slower pace after this weekend closed with a preschool fall carnival and a neighborhood festival as well. The amount of face paint, cotton candy, bounce houses, and plastic prizes over the past few weeks might have lost its luster for me, but not for these two.
I’m looking forward the the revelry of Halloween, of course. But I’m most looking forward to the slower pace of November. The season is settling in, and even Georgia weather will resign itself to soup and sweaters in the next few weeks. My favorite vegetables are in season and the calendar is fast approaching Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. I’m hoping I can work on a little more mindfulness in the weeks ahead.
Happy week to you and yours. Fall is in full swing.
Five! I can hardly believe it. So many big things happen at five, and here you are. You are growing and learning, but the changes have slowed down a bit and are not as pronounced and obvious or as quick as they once were. So I have days – weeks even – when I lose track of how much you are learning until you say a reference or make a joke that seems far beyond your grasp of knowledge and humor. Suddenly I am reminded that you are a little boy, a school kid. There is no toddler left.
This has been such a fun year of watching your interests emerge and develop. You are obsessed with Legos as your toy of choice, and superheroes are your favorite subject. You create “projects” all the time – which, truth be told, are just bizarre creations of cut-up paper, glued on textures, and original drawings. But you see such stories and ideas in them, and I love to watch you create. At night you insist that we read three chapters from your books, and you call them “chapper books” instead of using the real word. “Chap” is a transitive verb for you, and you take pleasure in “chapping” the page by folding the corner down to mark your progress. I know I should correct your error, but I can’t. There are so few remnants of the baby inside that I find myself holding on to a few fading mispronunciations and childish assumptions. I know I’ll forget them one day, and that’s part of my reason for composing these letters for you. Most of all, I want you to know a little of what you were at these ages, but I want to remember these moments myself as well.
You are always doing, always thinking, always exploring. Your curiosity about the world around you, all corners of it, has me learning as well. You still don’t have a grasp on what it takes to go somewhere, so you’ll pause while brushing your teeth or putting on shoes to ask if we can go to Japan this weekend or visit Egypt soon. It’s both hilarious and inspiring that you don’t see barriers on this planet for what they really are. It’s a big wide world to you, and you share so much enthusiasm for other people’s landscapes and food and customs. Your curiosity motivates me to keep doing and dreaming and to stay curious myself.
For all of your funny misconceptions and kid-centered assumptions, you have the kindest heart, and everyone around you notices. You are one of the most energetic kids I’ve ever known, and you typically run at full speed – both literally and figuratively – at all hours of the day. But your outrageous energy is matched by such softness and kindness, and the contrast makes it all the sweeter. You consistently look out for your sister to be sure her voice is heard. And when I arrive to pick up the two of you from school, I usually find you both huddled at the fence that separates your two play areas, talking through the cracks and passing rocks and stickers back and forth. I know you might reach an age one day when you are annoyed to have a sister meddling right behind you, but right now you guys are inseparable.
Along with your kindness to Norah, you are still so affectionate to your Dad and me as well. You’ll huddle with him on weekend afternoons to watch a movie. You hold our hands because you want to. You hug like you mean it. You say “I love you, mama” at least once everyday for no reason at all. You won’t do these things forever, and it’s a gift every time.
In these past three weeks, I can’t help but notice that your age mirrors my own last days with my father, and it opens a new perspective for me. I’m here and watching you grow, and the best is yet to come. I feel so lucky just to have my feet hit the floor every morning, to wake up with the tasks of motherhood guiding my day, to have a healthy family and a list of mostly mundane worries. One day you will move on to lots of moments I won’t share with you, and I can’t wait to hear your stories unfold. But for now, you are mine to have for a bit longer.
So here’s to more exploring and laughing, more dreaming and doing. And to more special moments, even the little ones. Happy five years, Jude!
Jude’s birthday is still a few days away, but we managed to snag an October Sunday afternoon at a local farm, so we celebrated a little early. The weather has been up and down and often rainy lately, so I worried a little. But Georgia fall delivered in all its splendor, and it was perfect.
Jude enjoyed the day with cousins and friends, plus lots of wide open spaces and fall fun.
The kids got to enjoy a “corn pit” which was basically a sandbox with dried corn instead of sand. There were also a few bounce houses, playgrounds, and a small petting zoo. It made for such a memorable day. (Make the trip to Warbington Farms if you are in metro Atlanta. They are great!)
The highlight was a tractor ride where the driver had Jude stand up for a birthday serenade and took us on a scenic drive around the farm, stopping to call for and feed the cows.
We followed that up with some birthday cake under the tent and a little more playtime.
It was a perfect fall day to celebrate Jude’s fifth birthday. Five! I can hardly believe it. His actual birthday is another nine days away, so I’m sure the celebrations will continue this month. There’s so much to celebrate this season anyway. Apples, cooler mornings, pumpkin carving, local fairs, and Halloween dress-up around the corner. I am grateful for all of it – and for the people I get to share it with.
Happy October, friends! Thanks for reading.
I can’t believe it has almost been a month since I last posted. August was crazy and not that fun, to be honest. The bumps and changes of back-to-school combined with some heavy travel for Scott. And then my sweet grandmother fell and broke a hip. Again. It was major surgery for her and scary for all of us, and I’m glad the surgery was uneventful she is on the mend now, but she’s got a long road of therapy and healing ahead.
Old age is not for sissies – I’ve heard it said before. I read a memoir this summer that gave me perspective on life’s changes and how hard it is to age and watch those around you grow older. Maybe it’s because I’m getting a little older, or maybe it’s that I see family and friends around me who are aging. Whatever the reason, it’s been taking up a lot of my time and thoughts lately. It is such a hard truth that we grow wiser as our bodies grow older and weaker. I also received news this week about a high school friend of mine who lost her mother to ovarian cancer coupled with news of someone I admire professionally who was diagnosed with an aggressive liver cancer as well.
I’m glad that we live in an age of information and that I have the curiosity to read and learn. But sometimes I have to back off a little. It’s almost too much for one human heart to consider, I think. I’m trying to focus on what I can do to avoid physical trials and stay healthy – eat thoughtfully, make good choices, take notice of things I put on my body and in my home. But just as important, I think, is to use my healthy body while I have it and focus on how I can truly use my time to better my family, my children, and others around me, too. Day by day, we can make little choices and accomplish so many small things that make us feel like our time is worth something.
Life sends rude wake-up calls sometimes. It’s a finite thing we are doing here on Earth. I don’t want to take it for granted. In the meantime, these two are bringing lots of distractions and bright spots in my days.
Because it has been six months since I posted my birthday list and because I am writing a bit about how to really do something with my time, I thought I’d check in on my 33 goals to hold myself accountable a bit. I am already seeing some things that will not be done my next March. But I’ve made some progress, too.
Goals from the list that I’ve accomplished or made at least a little progress on….
- Get an actual physical. (I got this out of the way in July.)
- Establish somewhat regular exercise. (We joined the Y this summer, and my frequency has dropped since heading back to work in August, but I’ve made it in a few times. Hoping to get better at this, but it’s a start!)
- Travel somewhere I’ve never been before. (Our trip to Mexico in June filled that requirement.)
- Start using my camera again – not just my iPhone. (Baby steps. I used it last weekend for Jude’s first soccer game and when we head out somewhere special, I’m trying to remember to bring it.)
- Discover a new musician or two. (Loving Walk the Moon these days)
- See three movies in the theater. ( Only one so far, but I loved Begin Again.)
- Go on a few real dates. (Twice in recent months. None for the insane month of August.)
- Blog more often, at least 24 more entries before I turn 34. (Last month, I failed big time on this one. But on the whole I’ve increased my frequency around here.)
- Have some fun new experiences with the kids. (We went to Tellus this summer, a few new parks, and I’m gearing up for fall festivals.)
- Get to know our new farmer’s market this summer. (We went often in June and July. It was great!)
- Create more time for reading and finish more books. (I was good about this during the summer, and I just began Traveling Mercies. I love Anne Lamott so much, and it is just what I need right now.)
- Establish some flowers and vegetables in our back yard. (I was sad to see that a fungus ate my squash in July, but I was excited to have lots of fresh herbs and tomatoes! I’m hoping for some fall lettuces and greens soon. Grow Boxes are making it pretty easy.)
- Create a reading nook in our master bedroom. (We moved around a few book shelves and inherited some leather chairs from friends who downsized and moved recently. I hope to add some comfy throw pillows and an ottoman, but it is shaping up.)
- Get a better understanding of retirement savings and save more in general. (We’ve finally begun college savings plans for the kids and started using Mint recently. We made big strides in this area this summer. I feel good about it!)
- Go strawberry picking with the kids and enjoy the apple orchards again as we did last year. (Strawberry picking was so fun, and apple season is around the corner!)
- Make use of our screened porch and outside space. (We did this a bit this summer, and I hope to do more as the weather cools down soon. Fall is my favorite time for outside play in Georgia.)
So I’ve made progress on 16 goals which is pretty good. It’s been a fun project and I might repeat it next year….and have to move a few things to next year’s list if they don’t happen soon.)
Thanks for reading, friends. I hope September is treating you well as a new season is around the corner.
We were out the door bright and early on Monday morning, but I managed to take a couple extra minutes to snap some photos of the kids. Norah wanted to tell us she is “TWO!”
Jude was unbelievably excited about his new backpack (Star Wars!) but also pretty nervous about school, I think. He was a mess of tears the night before about little things completely unrelated to school. Then as we pulled in the parking lot on Monday, he said, “Mama, why does my tummy hurt?” Apparently he is old enough to get nervous and unlucky enough to inherit mom’s intense brain-tummy connection. It’s enough to make your heart sting when you hear fear in their little voices.
But the second we walked in the class, he ran to play side-by-side at the blocks table with a friend he’s been missing this summer. And as I picked them up on Monday, he said it was a “super fun day, Mom!”
It always feels good to see your kids do scary things or hard tasks and come out feeling proud of their work and ready for the next day. Here’s to a great school year and the thrill of new experiences!