Four

I’d just finished giving you a bath where I watched as your long skinny legs, covered with bruises and scrapes, stretched the length of the tub.  And, in front of me, I saw the boy who used to be dwarfed by the porcelain, take up the entire thing – toes at one end, head at the other.

“You’re growing up too fast,” I said as I toweled your head.

“Why am I growing up too fast?”

I should have known you’d ask.  Why is almost always the first word out of your mouth when someone tells you something. You. Always. Must. Know. Why. Period.

“Because, before you know it you’ll be going off to college.  And then getting married.  And then having children of your own…” I trailed off, fighting the tears.  You just turned four but I’d already sent you down the slippery slope of adulthood.

Your lip turned out and tears started welling in your eyes.  It was the same look I’d seen a few weeks earlier when the nurse gave you your four-year-old immunizations.  You’re one of the strongest kids I know so when something bothers you, it must be bad.

A tear rolled down your cheek.  “I don’t want to leave you, mommy.  I don’t want to get married.”  It was the first time I’d ever seen you this upset over something I’d said.

I hugged you as hard as I could.  “Don’t worry baby, it’s not for a long time.”

“Please, don’t make me leave, mommy.  I don’t want to go,” you said timidly as you looked up at me with painfully sad eyes.

I sat there in the bathroom, held you on my lap and cried.  I cried because I hated to upset you.  I cried because I hate to see you grow up so fast.  I cried because I knew my days of holding my little boy in my lap while swaddled in his yellow lion hoodie towel will come to an end sooner than I’d like.  And I cried because my little tiny baby boy is already four.

You make me gush with pride.  Daily.  You’re probably one of the most stubborn children I’ve encountered and won’t do anything unless it’s on your own terms.  But once you do, you do it right.  When we tried and tried AND TRIED to get you to ride a bike or tricycle, you refused – foot stomping, vehement objection, no-way-no-how refused.  Until one day, in an effort to show us you could, in fact, ride a tricycle, you jumped on it and pedaled like a pro.

Legos are your latest obsession.  Or, better stated, having Mommy and Daddy build you stuff with your Legos.

Your mastery of the art of bribery has served you well.  You learned your address and how to spell your name in 10 minutes flat when promised the beloved aforementioned Legos and it will cost us a quarter (to be deposited in the Lego fund) whenever we’d like to hear you repeat them.

Your sister is just that:  your sister.  You love her fiercely, always doling out comfort, kisses and tickles.

I know I should correct you when you call an ambulance an ambicen, an ATV and ABT or a fire truck a sire truck but I can’t bring myself to do it because it would mean one more step away from baby and, truthfully, I’m not ready for it to all be gone.

Our attempts at a low-key, simple birthday party for you made us realize that we’ll never be able to do low-key and simple for our kids.   Instead, your fourth birthday was celebrated by you, your friends, your grandparents and your Aunt Ellen and Uncle Luke decorating (and racing!) pinewood derby cars and swinging at a race car pinata.

And, when you ask me to snuggle or send me to work with drawings, crayons or cars, those are the moments that make every bit of work, every moment when I’m stressed out trying to juggle everything, so incredibly worth it.

I love you fiercely, my little “soor” year old.

 

 

Gregg

 

Gregg’s son is one of my son’s best buddies – they met last year at school and I’ve encouraged the friendship because, while I adore her son, I think Gregg is pretty awesome too.  So, when she told me she needed a few headshots, I was excited to help.

The light this time of year is amazing.  I’m sure there’s some scientific explanation for it – something about the earth’s rotation and the planets’ alignment – it all escapes me.  I just know that this time of year the sun seems extra golden.  It’s the time of the year when, every afternoon, I grab my son by the arm and drag him outside, insisting that he play outside while I fire off way too many photos of him.

Naturally, on the day I planned to shoot Gregg’s headshots, that perfect light was nowhere to be found.  The sky was overcast:  grey, flat and boring. So, I went through the exercise of assembling my home studio:  setting up seamless, light stands, umbrellas, strobes… But my gear wasn’t working, our boys decided running circles around my setup was more fun than playing with cars, and the otherwise calm baby decided to have a full-on meltdown.

On to Plan B.  We ran outside and, within two minutes – between raindrops – I shot these.  Award-winning?  No.  Perfect for what she needed?  Absolutely.

Definitely a  lesson in adapting and going with the flow – just what I needed.

Life Right Now

 

To my dear children:

I wish I could be one of those people who writes monthly updates to her children:  posts detailing life’s ever-so-rapidly changing nature.  I make lists of things I should do to help remember life as it exists right now – photos I should take, baby books I should update, anecdotes I should record.  But, given that I can barely find time to shower and get dressed each day, you will have to settle for periodic letters.  I’m sure this will be a source of great joy when you’re a teenager – the knowledge that your mom doesn’t have the time to record every detail of your life – but I assure you that once you are married with kids of your own, you too will fight as hard as you possibly can to preserve the moments, to keep them from slipping like sand through the proverbial hourglass.

I want to capture the way my son amazes me.  How he remembers everything and has me searching the internet for new puzzles because, after doing them once, the kid puzzles (even the big 48-piece one we just purchased) no longer pose a challenge and are completed in less time than it takes me to brush my teeth. Or how he uses words he’s heard once with absolute proficiency:  words like properly and absolutely.  Or about how, once he realized requests for Christmas presents could be replaced with requests for the much more immediate birthday presents, the requests have come fast and furious – almost exclusively for toys involving modes of transportation or methods of building.

Miles, you love your sister – just as fiercely as you promised you would while she was still in my belly. You dole out kisses and hugs frequently.  I’ll never forget the time you called her a “little angel” or how you try to console her using the same words I do, in your sweet little three-year-old voice: they’re rewarding moments of the greatest magnitude.  You’re her leader, her protector and her guardian and I couldn’t be more proud.

And I want to remember how much my daughter is growing, each milestone she’s reaching and how time races by even more quickly the second time around.

Ava, you change daily.  Literally.  While I doubt there’s anything about your father’s or my DNA that could produce a laid-back, chilled-out child, if we ever had a shot at one, you’d be it.  When we had your brother, we were ready for sleepless nights.  What we weren’t ready for were sleepless nights AND sleepless days.  With you, we were ready for anything – we’re forever grateful that you over-delivered on our expectations.

You’re a big puker and had horrid infant acne and cradle cap – just like your older brother.  You’re alert and ready to go:  I suspect that you’ll walk early –  again, like your brother.  And I’m thankful for EXIF data because otherwise I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to tell your baby pictures from your brother’s.  But the similarities end there.  You sleep:  most nights for a stretch of 7- 8 hours.  It hasn’t taken long for us to get back into a groove and you’ve fit into our lives with ease.

But the biggest event in your almost-two-months of existence – the one I want to remember forever – are the smiles.  The huge, wide-eyed, mouth open, all-gums smiles – the ones that, even when it’s 4 am and I can barely remember my own name, make me feel like I could lace up my shoes and run a marathon.  Those are the types of moments I wish I could bottle up and save forever.

Last week your father and I celebrated the 10th anniversary of our wedding day: a day spent outdoors, surrounded by friends and family in which we toasted, we laughed, and we danced.  It was perfect celebration.

And in the past 10 years I’ve learned so much.

Marriage is hard – that’s no secret.  But what nobody ever tells you is that it’s not always great.  Those Hollywood moments, filled with starry-eyed gazes and a perfectly scripted soundtrack, get replaced with errand running, bill paying and child-rearing.  To be totally honest, there may be moments when you don’t even like the other person.  But, ultimately, after the chaos subsides, marriage is being able to look at that other person and can say, “My life is better with you in it.”

I read an article recently that compared child-rearing to climbing Everest:  a daunting task that isn’t particularly enjoyable every single moment but that has very intense, incredibly rewarding payoffs.  I think it’s the perfect analogy for marriage as well.  You stick with it because of those summit moments – those glimpses of joy and satisfaction that wash over you in such a surreal way that words will never, ever do them justice.  And, surprisingly enough, they’re never when you expect it.  They’re the Saturday mornings when your father and I are on the couch, in our pajamas, snuggling with you or when we’re at the park on a perfect Sunday afternoon, holding hands while we watch the sun shine on our two perfect kids that we made together:  those make the I’m-ready-to-throw-the-contents-of-your-closet-into-the-street-and-light-them-on-fire moments in marriage worth it.

I hope that one day you can find that: that you can have a day spent with friends and family, laughing and celebrating the fact that you’ve found your life partner.  And that, after that day, you share many, many years with someone who, no matter how hard the struggles, you can know is your biggest advocate and best friend.

I love you both.

xoxo

Ava Grace

 

December 12, 2011, 6:57 am

6 pounds, 12 ounces

19 inches long

There are a million things I want to write but right now I can only think of one:  perfection.

 

An Open Letter to My Children

To my yet-to-be-named daughter,

It’s Monday, December 5 – four days away from your due date.  Honestly, I didn’t think I’d get this far.  At some point in my pregnancy I was issued a warning about low fluid and told that it would likely only continue to decrease which would then mean bed rest and, again, likely, an induction.

For the past three weeks, your fluid has been in the 13 range – not only satisfactory but high. Take note world:  nobody tells my daughter what to do.

You’ve been stubborn:  fighting our attempts at determining your gender during early ultrasounds and, later, causing us to worry about what we would do if you arrived early – how we would manage taking care of your brother while still attending to you, how we would manage without having your room ready, how we’d juggle the unknown.  I’m grateful we didn’t have to learn.  Your grandparents arrived yesterday, your room is done, my bag is packed, the car seat is installed, the diapers are all prepped, and your clothes are all sorted.   I can’t believe I’m able to write these words but… we’re ready.

I hope the intensity and dedication that I’ve attributed to you really is part of your personality.  I hope that you’re strong and sweet, gentle and proud, and smart but compassionate.

Naming you has been an adventure and has made me reconsider many names I swore I’d ruled out just because of their popularity.  I’ve learned that being unique isn’t about your name: it’s about you.  Silly conclusion but a distinction it’s taken me 37 years to make. And, while we still haven’t made a decision on your name, we’re closer than I ever thought we’d be.

I’m sure I will learn many, many more lessons as I travel down this path.  Like how it’s possible to love two children as intensely and deeply as I currently love one.  And how sometimes the universe smiles upon us and grants us everything we’ve ever wanted.  I know that’s how I feel right now as I get ready to welcome you into the world.  I’m so excited to meet you.

And, to my son,

I get a little weepy when I think about the past three and a half years.  Possibly because I know the chaos we’ve experienced is about to be multiplied (according to most accounts, exponentially) but mostly because of the amazing times we’ve shared together.  Your father and I have had the chance to devote our full attention to you and, while there have been moments that have made us look at each other as if to say, “Is it too late to give him back to the hospital?” – those moments are nestled between laughs, kisses and, as cliché as it may sound, moments of awe as we wonder how it’s possible to love someone so intensely.

While I make no secret of the fact that you were a miserable little infant, allergic to everything, a continually puking, refluxy, colicky mess, you’ve turned into an amazing little boy.   The word that comes to mind most often is proud: you make your parents so proud.  You’ve developed into an easy-going child who loves to share, remembers everything, never complains, smiles often, and loves life.

I’m grateful that we had Thanksgiving weekend to ourselves – just you, me and your daddy.  We spent the days relaxing and enjoying our time together, watching the Thanksgiving parade, cooking stuffing and cookies and snuggling on the couch while we watched way, way too much TV.  It was the perfect way to enjoy our last holiday as a family of three.

I hope the excitement you have about meeting your sister – the sweet way you point out babies and want to love them – continues after she arrives.  I hope that you always share a special bond – that you lead by example and love generously.  I hope that you’re the closest, most supportive, most loving kind of friends and siblings.

Most of all, I hope you know that through all of this, you’ll always be my little man, my firstborn, the one who taught me so many lessons.

 

I love you both.  More than is ever possible to put into words.  You make my life complete.

Love, Mama