Our Jack turns two tomorrow. What a boy he is! He’s the sunniest little fellow, almost always happy and smiling…at least when I see him! He sings to himself…a little personality trait I think he got from his dad…I often hear his dad humming…now that’s a sign of a contented heart! Little Jack is learning the alphabet, and his words are growing every day. He’s blossomed so quickly from baby/toddler to little boy. Love that little guy!
It’s a busy month for us. Stephanie, Riley, and Jack are up for a summer visit, so we’ve temporarily gone into kid-land. All the breakables and anything that looks likely to become a missile in the hands of 18 month old Jack have been moved to higher ground. He’s a climber, but there are still a few spaces out of his reach. Yesterday he disappeared into the kitchen for a minute. When I walked in, he was sitting in the middle of the breakfast table, and as soon as he saw me walking toward him, he stood up, quite proud of himself and reaching out his little arms for a lift down. Gave me a mini heart attack, but didn’t phase him at all. He’s fearless and fast, and a boy…always a dangerous combination! But he’s so stinking cute, we forgive him all the rest and just follow him around to protect him from himself.
Riley is in one of the golden ages of childhood. Four year olds are old enough to do a lot, still young enough to be funny without knowing why (endlessly amusing to the adults :). Her speech is clear as a bell, but she has a few Riley-isms that we can’t bear to correct…she’ll grow out of them soon enough. Princess doll gloves are “glubs,” and she asks if I “memember” something that happened yesterday. Sometimes she notices that we’re laughing at her, which we always deny immediately, but can’t help. She’s just too funny, in the sweet little-kid way of being funny-when-serious.
She’s a talker. With her gene pool, she could hardly escape that. We have long and interesting conversations that are wide-ranging. We discuss everything from princess fashions to the dangers of zombie attack (thanks, older kid at day care, for introducing her to the concept) to playdough creations. She’s learning to write the alphabet, gearing up for pre-school in the fall. She’s also standard issue first-born, bossing Jack around and clearly expecting to be in charge of life. But the other side to her personality is sensitive and affectionate, so just when you think she’s verging on teenager, she’s a sweet little girl again, charming and disarming.
I never really stood a chance. The grands have planted their flag.
It’s also a month of birthdays. I counted up, and between immediate and extended family, we have seven people celebrating in June. Today is Alex’s birthday, number 27. We sent several gifts his way already. I wish we had the gift of his presence so we could enjoy a birthday dinner together. But not to be this year. Still, it’s a moment to mark and remember. In his honor we’ll eat some bacon (his favorite) and have a family pass-the-phone-around conversation tonight. I’m always fantasizing that we’ll spend more of our big days together, and maybe someday we’ll be able to do that again. But for today, we’ll have to content ourselves with a digital connection.
Alaska is cooperating with some beautiful weather. The water is so blue when the sun is shining on it, and such a gun-metal gray when skies are overcast. We watched cruise ships yesterday, and float planes, kayakers, small boats, and fishing vessels, all from the front windows of the house. The Tongass Narrows is bustling this time of year, and my only complaint is the float planes start buzzing waaay too early in the morning. They’re out by 5:00 am, taking advantage of the extra hours of daylight this time of year. (Sunrise today was at 4:04, sunset tonight will be 9:31, with twilight lingering a little beyond.) And while float planes are noisy any time of day, they are particularly noticeable and obnoxious before coffee. That’s really my only complaint of summer here. Well, that, and the days that are summer on the calendar and fall by thermometer. But hey, as long as my heat isn’t kicking on, that’s a good day :) (Not many places that statement defines a good summer day!)
So, off to play, and rescue small people from high places, and feed, and strap into car seats, and make photos….lots of photos! We’re looking for bears, and fish, and a souvenir or two…because what kid ever visited grandparents and didn’t go home with a little something to show for it? Here’s hoping for blue water and clear skies!
To all the dads I know: may your day be wonderful and full of the good stuff: laughter, and words that touch the heart, hugs, and the moments that become snapshots in memory. The years fly by, but the good stuff somehow lasts, photos of the mind that take us back, connecting through time and distance.
I have those mental snapshots of my grandfathers, my dad, father-in-law, my husband, brothers, uncles, son-in-law. Watching these men over the years as they fathered…some in more traditional ways, others more hands on and involved…I’ve seen a breadth of styles and relationships. Above all, I appreciate their commitment and integrity. Just like me as a young mom, I’m quite sure they were making it up on the fly, figuring out how to be a dad in the midst of all the other demands life was throwing. Does anyone have the luxury of learning to parent at leisure?
There are a lot of words of wisdom that fly around on these days, and anyone can learn from the example of others. But words fall away in the face of actions. It is the actions of these men that I reflect on today. Watching them interact, sometimes at the high points of life, others in the valleys, I see men who were able to connect with their kids, be there when it counted, when the going was rough. I see men who have been quiet heroes to their families, not perfect, but trying. I see men who stayed, fathers who lived up to the name.
I see dads, and I see kids…young ones, adults, and everything in between…who have relationships. And they’re good ones. Thank you to these men, the men of my family.
But more broadly, thanks to the men everywhere who are fathers, and who make a difference, not just in the lives of their children, but in the lives of all of us. Fathers doing a good job make all of us stronger, and better, and healthier.
Enjoy your day, and celebrate the good stuff. And feel proud: you’re doing your job, you’re making a difference. And we love you for it.
So, thinking I would treat myself to a little face to face with my son, I flew to Denver yesterday. It’s not often that I get one-on-one time with my kids, and when I have a window of opportunity, I figure I should take advantage.
I reserved a car so I wouldn’t disrupt Alex’s work day with the need for an airport pick up. Since I’m by myself, I reserved a compact size. Imagine my surprise when I checked in at Hertz and was told they had a Ram pick up for me! Now, I’ve driven mini-vans, and I’ve driven a Suburban, and I even drove our Class C RV for a stretch of about 10 miles one time…my first and last time to do that. (I had a standing plan that if anything happened to Rob while he was driving it…death or stroke or any little thing that took him out of the driver’s seat, I would put a for sale sign out and abandon it on the spot. I am not comfortable driving 30 ft vehicles. :) )
The customer service agent assured me that I would like driving the truck…you’re up high, he said. You’ll have a better view, he said. I said it would be fine as long as it was an automatic. My upbringing did not include learning to drive a standard transmission. I was not going to admit to the rep that I would prefer a nice comfortable compact when I could get higher and better for the same price. No, no, I have my pride.
Well I was up high, all right. I’m short, and I had to do a little climbing to get in the thing. You know those running boards are not just cosmetic. I was a little insecure driving something that long. (This is a full size 2 ton truck…at least I think it’s 2 ton. Maybe it’s 1 1/2 ton. I’ve heard of those too. But what do I know? Vehicles with numbers are largely over my head.) But it’s true, I had a great view. I think the other drivers I passed just wanted to stay out of my way.
I proceeded cautiously to the interstate. Now keep in mind, I live in VERY SMALL TOWN Alaska, so I’m not used to driving in heavy traffic these days. I used to be pretty fearless, but now that I don’t do it that often…well, I’m a little intimidated. I can do it, but I prefer to maneuver with a vehicle that’s more my size. I felt like I was in a semi, barreling down the road, peering over the steering wheel.
I don’t have blue hair, and I don’t think anyone would call me a little old lady. But I’ll be ready when the time comes. I know what that feels like now.
I made it to the hotel, and I parked. Alex lives about half a block away, so he’s able to do the driving for the weekend in his car. I’m just glad I don’t have to get in the beast again until Monday, when I go back to the airport. Good thing it was a great rate. Cheaper than a cab or shuttle as it turned out!
And oh yes, the customer service rep mentioned the truck would be good in the snow. Snow? I didn’t expect snow this weekend! I did not pack for a Rocky Mountain spring storm. Guess it’s a shopping opportunity for a sleeve or two. Wonder what else is coming my way?
Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who wear that title and love, nurture, and parent. It’s not a task for the faint of heart. But it’s one of the best jobs around. And I’m glad to celebrate this one with Alex, even if it means driving a big truck. I’m funny that way…I’ll do anything to see my kids!
Counting blessings…remembering what’s real…
Baby-land…who can resist the magic of these little beings? Motherhood makes childhood sacred, forevermore. First with my own, and then with the children of siblings and now with these little grands…all these babies attached to my heart…or maybe I’m attached to theirs?…pure joy!
Baby Jack, and Big Sis Riley…
The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. ~ Rajneesh
Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~ Elizabeth Stone
So this week I get to be the proud mom in my blog posts: yesterday with a birthday wish to my son, and today, an announcement from my daughter:
Baby #2 is joining the family. Riley will be a big sister in January, and Stephanie and Matt will be in the thick of parenting with a not-quite-three year old and a newborn. The lucky guys! Lots of work, but wonderful, meaningful…the best stuff of life.
Watching this unfold is fun, almost as much as when I was in a leading role. It’s a lot more restful, from this vantage point! I can’t wait until Riley understands her new position. She’s already quite the little firstborn. I recognize the type you know, since I am one, I’m married to one, and I gave birth to one. Firstborns are a little bossy. We just can’t help ourselves. We like to make sure things are done. And Stephanie and Matt have exactly the same mix in family order that Rob and I had. Two firstborns married, had their firstborn, and now will add a baby to the mix.
I always say that any family dysfunction we had was the result of our mix of three first-borns and a baby, in birth order. Three of us always wanted to direct, and the youngest one marched to his own drummer. Well, maybe that was his best option, with three of us leading the way all the time.
Anyway, exciting, happy news! I got it as a mother’s day present, but it wasn’t my secret to share, until today. Today the little ultrasound image is up on Stephanie’s Facebook page. I’m a believer in letting the one with the big news share the big news. So now that’s done, and I can share it too.
Can’t wait for January and a new little to cuddle!
For a heartwarming story that has the perfect elements of Christmas…a child, animals, Santa…check out this link to Clarabell, the Christmas Cow.
For many years, my father-in-law read this story at Christmas family gatherings. We are not always with extended family at this stage in our lives. Some years the most we can do is attempt to get together with our kids. So now Rob reads this story for our little group.
If you’ve never heard of Clarabell, take a few minutes and get to know her. She’s quite a character, and more importantly, she has character. This is a story that teaches the meaning of selfless giving, and the reward of doing the right thing.
Happy reading, and Merry Christmas!
I saw Riley at the end of May, and she had just taken a step or two, but wasn’t really walking yet. Now she’s running, full speed, tilted a little forward most of the time, in true toddler fashion, and occasionally her top half gets ahead of her feet and she goes tumbling. But she doesn’t stop for long.
She’s a friendly little thing, not really shy (how could she be, with her gene pool?), and she’s a talker, even though we can only understand a word or two. Never mind, the child speaks in paragraphs (how could she not, with her gene pool?). And she uses the same sounds repeatedly. She knows what she’s saying to us, we’re the ones who can’t quite get it. I’m just waiting for her to interpret herself. I’m sure she has something important to share.
Her hair has grown long enough to pull back with a little barrette, if only she would allow that. But she’s not fond of things in her hair, lovely though they be. She prefers a natural look. She likes to go barefoot, pulls her shoes off almost as soon as they’re on. She sings. She loves fruit, doesn’t like meat, calls all liquid “juice,” likes to stand in the bathtub. She snuggles after a nap, needs a few moments to wake up, lifts her hands to be picked up, plays happily in the pantry, emptying boxes and stirring in an empty container with a long-handled spoon. She loves books, although her primary interest is in pulling them off the shelf. She can be a one-child demolition crew.
She rides her rocking horse pony, tools around in her little Porsche. She’s become a little girl since I saw her last. There are a few baby remnants, but they’re fading quickly.
I watched the expressions on her face, saw the uninhibited display of emotion, the pureness of a little personality that doesn’t hide anything. She’s transparent and genuine. That’s one of the pleasures of this age. Whatever you get, it’s the real thing. She hasn’t yet learned to filter her responses, or to temper her reactions.
After a short time of togetherness, I feel my heart connecting, feel myself surrendering to the joy of belonging. Riley is a part of me, and I’m a part of her. We are not primary to each other. No, that’s the parent/child role. But we occupy unique positions in the heartland, just as it should be.
My husband was reading a book recently that referenced a woman who routinely considers what she would do if she only had six months left to live. Of course, if you absolutely knew you only had six months, there would be some things that would be doable that you would never actually do, outside of a mental exercise. Unless I knew, I wouldn’t quit work. I wouldn’t use all my savings, either on travel or kids or good causes. I wouldn’t drop my health insurance, or skip making my next dental cleaning appointment.
But what would I do if I knew? I’m not sure I can define a timeline…how do you determine how much time out of a six month window is enough? Enough time with your spouse, your children, your grandchild, your family? How much time would I want for myself? I think there are a few places in the world I would want to see with Rob at my side. There are some friends I would want to connect with, in person. I would want to be deliberate and intentional in my choices, in how I spent my time.
Would it be possible to use each moment wisely? And what would I want to leave as a legacy? I want my children to know I am a woman of faith: faith in God, faith in them, faith in life. Life isn’t always fair, pretty, or happy. But it is wonderful, full of surprises. I’ve learned not to write the end of the story before its time, because the ending I think I see is probably not the end that will ultimately be. And so I’ve learned that it is worthwhile to watch and to wait.
There’s a quote I like from Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood, a movie about a dysfunctional family and a daughter coming to terms with the impact of the dysfunction in her life. In one scene she is with her dad, and she asks him, “Daddy, did you get loved enough?” And I think that’s the question I would ask the people I love. I know how I feel about each one. But I would want to be sure that each one knew, from me, in my words, how I love them.
This isn’t really a morbid thing to do. I actually found it enjoyable to think about what is most important to me; about who is most important.
I’m not experiencing end-of-life premonitions, nor do I expect to lose my house to a fire, if you read my previous post. I’m really in a good place. But I am 50, and several people have mentioned to me that this was a year in their lives of introspection, contemplation, and re-discovery. I don’t think I’m naval-gazing…I like to think I’m cleaning out and re-setting myself. It’s good to evaluate and get re-acquainted after years of “keeping milk in the house.”
So, if you’re up for some introspection, right after you finish contemplating what you would save if your house was on fire (see yesterday’s post), give some thought to what you would do in your last six months. Or play with the formula…give yourself a year, shorten the time frame…it can be your exercise to design as you choose. I think it’s worthwhile to consider. Just don’t get carried away and turn in your resignation. Chances are you’ll be around far beyond the time you allot yourself!