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Dear Boo

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First family photo, 1 day old
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The boys

 

You have been ours for over a year now.

And while I had so much to say about your brother’s first year, I have less to say about yours. It’s not that there are less words but they are held closer to my chest. I don’t need to explain or prove every nuance to you because now I know who I am as a mother. You really benefit that way. And maybe it’s me, maybe it’s you- it’s probably both, but you are relaxed and flexible in a way I didn’t know a baby could be. I appreciate that. We needed someone to pull us together by coming along.

Some families come home with a new baby and there is jealousy or anger. I’m grateful14183930_10210146988856373_8276813118133776834_n that we didn’t experience that. Your brother loves you fiercely. He says you are best friends and that when you two grow up, you’ll each get houses across the street. I agree. You do too. You follow him around the house with your heavy sideways steps all day. When you reach him, you pet him and coo, “Brother” or “Lee Lee”; although, sometimes you pull his hair or try to shove your thumbs in his eye sockets. S You spend your day walking the house, stepping over and over and over the ledge of the baby gate, sucking your middle fingers, and playing “boom” ( you always expect someone to catch you). You love the outside and throw temper tantrums over the slide. When Daddy gets home from work, you toddle to him with calls of “Daddy, hullo!” Sweet Boo- the sound of your voice in the morning is a sweetness I adore. Your “good morning” or “Hullo” warms me enough to make me forget the 817 times you woke me up the night before. You walk through the house singing and identifying everything from elephants (“elah”) to “book” to “tissue”. Your smile when you do something hard and new bursts me wide open. And when you shout , ” I did it!” my pride matches yours.

Even writing this, I want to stop. Because your brother is at school and you are napping and I cou14317588_10210326350900312_6400312436189112984_nld be holding you. I guess that’s the thing: it feels like there is less time with you. Because all day long I’m divided between two boys who live in my heart. But I know that you won’t curl into me forever. That soon, your head won’t tuck onto my shoulder when your legs wrap around my waist. Sometime in the near future, you won’t look to me to  verify every new thing before you evaluate it for yourself. And my heart, I don’t want to miss anything. I don’t want to overlook opportunities to hold you and play with you and talk to you, just to write down how important it was to hold you, and play with you and talk to you.

 

The doing is more important than the talking. I learned that through your brother; I had to talk a lot because I needed to convince myself I was doing okay. But now I know we are. We are good parents. And we mess up and we fix things and then we do it all again. But I’d rather be doing than talking.

I’ll try baby, try to write things down, try to record your moments. But know if there aren’t essays to wax poetic about your many achievements and tender times, it’s because I was choosing to be next to you instead of in front of a screen. 13606822_10209698573566271_6779350964832903829_n

 

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At 4

At 4 ,

He is afraid of failure. Afraid to try and not reach perfection.

He is willing to fall asleep, but only if we stay near him.

He is able; able to brush and wash and put away and follow, but he still prefers some help, a hand, a reminder, even arms to carry him.

At 4,

He recognizes the force behind words; sometimes, he uses that force to build, sometimes to destroy.

He realizes that actions and words have consequences, but he doesn’t always have the foresight to realize in time.

He engages and connects with little boy tricks and antics: You’ve gotta see this” .

At 4,

He is a big brother, and still my little boy- and big versus little rolls across his face like storm clouds.

He is kind and considerate, and selfish and egotistical.

He is funny and clever, confident and unsure.

At 4,

He is my shadow- stretching away from me in the daylight and disappearing into me in the dark.
He is all things good and all things hard.

He is more mine and less mine than he’s ever been.

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Letter to my son’s first teachers

Letter to my son’s first teachers:

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His first day of school

A few short months ago, I handed my first born to you for five hours a week. Prior to this, he’d only been with me, his father, a treasured baby sitter, his family, and the church nursery. Then last September, I walked him into a classroom full of strangers, and I left him. He didn’t know anyone in that room, he was vulnerable, maybe scared and because of that, he probably wasn’t his best self for several classes. He didn’t listen , he cried , one day- he even hit ( a throat punch to be exact ) . I wasn’t there to intervene, to understand, to soften this first transition to independence.

You were. 

And while you’ve done this for decades ( I know because I checked ), while you and your school are licensed ( again, I checked), while you passed my very stringent mother’s intuition test ( I can’t explain it, but I know it when I feel it) — this was terrifying for me and daunting to him.

Because this is more than preschool…

You are his gateway, the way you approach learning, the way you treat him will forever impact his concept of education. I’m a teacher, I know. I have seen the kids who were damaged by a well meaning teacher who forgot they had charge of a precious son or daughter, and instead saw a parent’s child as a roster number.

And I was worried.

Worried that my precious son wouldn’t be so precious to you. Worried that his quirks would be annoyances, that his sensitive temperament would require too many modifications or pauses to the flow of your lesson plans. Worried that you wouldn’t see him and so you’d resent him.

So I prayed, each day.

I prayed that the Lord would watch between us when we were apart ( Genesis 31:49) for my boy, and I prayed for a compassionate, kind heart for his teachers, for wisdom in the lessons, for clarity in expectations, and forgiveness with failure. I prayed that you’d have unending patience in ways that I couldn’t even imagine when teaching 20 three and four year olds.

And I prayed the same thing for you that I prayed for myself before the start of every school day; that you would be Jesus’ hands and feet to each child you saw that day, that kids would see Jesus’ love thru you.

But still, I worried.

I focused so much on my concerns,

that I forgot that God had a plan for our boy, and that plan included this preschool and these teachers.

I knew I’d picked the right school when he came home on the second day of class singing the school prayer .

I knew I’d picked the right school when my boy missed the second week of class because he was terribly sick, and he was afraid to return on week three- you helped me make a plan to ease him into the classroom with minimal tears and lots of reassurance.

I knew I’d picked the right school, when my boy was terrified of the “Going on a Bear Hunt” song, and you stopped doing it. Even better, once he’d found his footing in school, you started doing it again but you gave him tools and options to feel calm during a previously scary situation.

I knew I’d picked the right school, when he started talking about his best friends at school ( even if he didn’t know their names). When he told me he loved his teachers so much. I knew he as comfortable, when he started acting up at school. I knew he was happy, when he ran into the school on his own instead of holding my hand as I escorted him into his class.

I knew because you treated him like a person, and so few people actually treat children like PEOPLE.

My son is better for attending preschool. He’s smarter, but more important to me- he’s more confident, more patient, and more secure in himself and his voice.

I know teaching is hard. I know you spend hours prepping the classroom, the lesson plan, the newsletter. I know you pour all of yourself into our children and then you go home to take care of your own.

And I know it feels thankless sometimes. I know it seems like no one notices that you went the extra step to comfort the little boy who was afraid of a silly song while simultaneously keeping all 20 children engaged in class. I know that somedays it feels like the extra effort, should go somewhere else because let’s be honest- how much gratitude do preschoolers show for all the ways you nurture and love them?

But I saw it.
I see it.
So do other parents.

Thank you.

Thank you for honoring my trust each day. Thank you for taking care of a piece of my heart. Thank you for showing my son that school is wonderful, that learning is exciting- that he is okay without me because teachers are good.

Thank you for loving my boy.

Blessings over you,

Andrea

Posted in Mom-ents

Attendance

As I was putting you to bed after a day full of itself, you struggled to calm down. I pretended to turn off the question part of your brain by patting the top of your head. You turned to me, and cocky, you explained that you are always in question mode.

And it was everything I could do to stop the sigh in the back of my throat. Because curiosity is amazing and communication is essential. But when those two traits combine in one small boy, they combust.

This, after you explained to your baby brother that his car seat cries were not an emergency because it was a short drive.
– “Nolan, we are almost home. Why don’t you understand it hurts our ears when you cry in the car.”

This after you melted down because we wouldn’t let you draw on your fancy menu at the restaurant.
– “But it’s making me boring.”
And based on the the fire and brim stone sermon you delivered, boring you in a sin.

This after I watched you stand your ground to a boy twice your size at the indoor playground.
– “Don’t push me!” you demanded, fully certain that the nine year old in front of you would listen in spite of, or maybe because of, your size. And because you were right, because you knew you were right, because you were so sure – he did listen.

And then, when you finally stopped talking about why raccoons were dirty and you succombed to the exhaustion of the day, your breathing slowed and steadied.

But then, a sleepy drawn out, “Mama?”
“Yes, baby?”

And nothing.

There was no topic that needed explained, no complaint to cite, no indignity to reckon.

You were taking attendance.

And in your final question of the night, I heard all the unspoken questions of the day ; I could hear all the ones that really matter, the questions that are hidden inside the outburts and cries and demands of the day that earns each minute of its 24 hours :
Are you still with me?
Will you be near me?
Will you stay till I sleep?
Will you come back if I wake?

“Mama? ”

All the inflection and only one word.

“Mama?”

Yes, baby. ”
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Paris

I want to react with the fear that I feel.

I want to watch endless streams of news; to see the images over and over, to scarf down new pieces of information — as if over exposure to the constantly scrolling ticker tape would calm my racing heart and stop the chant in my head : ” Please, God make it stop. It’s too much. It’s too terrifying. I can’t…”

I want to wallow with the hollow fear in my chest. Lend my eyes the tears they desperately desire, let them fall. Because I know that half a world away, a little boy is waiting for his mama to come home from dinner to tuck him in , and she isn’t coming. I want to weep over the husband who won’t return to his wife, the parents who unknowingly said good bye to their daughter for the last time, but I can’t- because there is a baby asleep on my shoulder, and my tears may wake him.

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I want to rage against the horror of it. I can’t understand such evil. I want action: to make emergency plans with my husband, check our wills, stay inside, keep those I love within a five foot radius – always.

As if hypervigilance is the ancedote to insanity.

But I can’t.
Because four blue eyes look to me to be their calm. Because the four month old needs held. Because the almost four year old needs cuddled. Because the safety they know trumps the chaos of the moment.

So we agree, silently, my brown eyes to my husband’s blue, that right now- we are fine. That right now, fear and chaos and evil aren’t welcome in our house.

Mortality makes the mundane beautiful. We find solace in brushing teeth despite the tantrum. We find comfort in holding the baby as he falls to sleep. We find familiarity in the 4th reading of the bedtime story.
And we find God, both in the prayers before we sleep and in the steady rise and fall of our loved ones’ breath as they fall asleep, safe and protected.

And this is how we conquer.
We conquer by going on.
We conquer thru bedtime stories, morning routines, kisses good night; compassion in our hearts and love on our lips.

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My Mother’s Daughter

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This is my favorite picture of my mom. To be fair, and honest, this is not the best picture of my mom; this is a pretty good one:

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So is this one:

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And here she is with two people I made:
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But I digress.
This is my favorite picture of my mom because this isn’t a picture of her appearance- it’s a picture of her heart.

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I took this picture on a Monday at 2am. She’s holding my second son, Nolan – he’s two days old and in the two days since he was born, he’d only slept a total of four hours (in 23 minute blocks of time). The previous night, my husband and I had taken turns with him, but now my husband was home with our three year old and it was GiGi’s turn to wait out the long night with me.

My mom is many things : a nurse, a wife,a perfectionist, a daughter, a sister,a comedian, a friend, but mostly- she’s a mother. She’s my mother.

I went into labor on Saturday at four in the morning, she’d had three hours of sleep, but when I called to tell her that my water broke– she got up, got dressed and drove the forty minutes to the hospital. She got there before the epidural and she helped my husband coach me thru the God-awful ( I mean REALLY! If you are reading this and had a natural childbirth, I am forever humbled by your ability to handle the animalistic pain and chaos of labor. If we ever get into an argument, you can simply say “natural labor”; I will submissively slink away because you are the alpha and I willingly lose to your greatness.)  contractions until the anesthesiologist finally showed up to put the needle in my back. When it took  six tries to place the epidural, I knew I didn’t need to threaten the anesthesiologist’s life because my mom already was.

And that’s the beauty of my mother’s heart- she’ll flat out threaten a medical professional if they aren’t doing right by her kids (yeah, this has happened more than once, so there’s precedent) and she threatens in such a graceful, civil way that it takes three hours to realize she’s even spoken harshly, much less threatened to harm you and your family in a untraceable way (yeah, precedent again) .

But again, I digress.

My mom is one of the strongest people I know. She gives everything all that she is. And she gives the most to her family.

I am a better woman because of my mom. The people in my life are better off because of my relationship with my mom.

My marriage benefits from the conversations I have with my mother. My jokes are funnier because of her – mostly we laugh at the exact same stuff, but it still counts. My relationships with my other parents, step parents too, is immensely better because of the lessons I have learned from my mother. My career, my students, are and will be better off due to the truths I learned from my mother’s lips ( not to mention she taught me to read–which is really important for an English teacher).

But no one has benefited more from my mother and I’s relationship than my children. Because I am my mother’s daughter, my sons have a mother who focuses on kindness, empathy, compassion, and patience. I wouldn’t be half the mother I am without my own.  My errors are mine alone, but the majority of my good decisions are strongly based in the woman who helped raised me.

Mama, it’s important to say outloud how amazing you are, but it’s far more important to make sure you hear it.

Thank you.

Thank you for taking care of me from birth to right this minute. Thank you for talking when you wanted to yell, explaining when you wanted to walk out of the room, saying no when it would have been so much easier to say yes. Thank you for that one time you spanked me when I stood on top of the chair to see the bunny out the window (you probably saved my life- I’m sure I was seconds from falling and crashing thru the window, we all know I’m not coordinated). Thank you for supporting my passions- even when they change, for pushing me to be a better person, for calling me out when it would be easier to stay quiet, for laughing at only things that we think are funny. Thank you for being there for the births of both of my kids, for being such an amazing GiGi but never forgetting to be my mother first. Thank you for spoiling me, for the sick blanket, for ‘I love you presents’.

Thank you for staying up all night with your daughter and her second baby, for somehow helping me find something to laugh at, and some air to breathe, when I was exhausted, overwhelmed and just wanted to cry.

Thank you for all the things you think I don’t notice- but I do.

I love you,

Panda

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Dear first time parents: Just you wait

Yes, this.
I love parenting perspectives that aren’t cynical or devoid of the truly amazing thing it is to be someone’s parent.

This Heart...

When it comes to parenting, there may be nothing more painful than child-birth. 

Actually, that’s not true.

Not long after feeling fully recovered from delivering my son, I realized something slightly disturbing: labor and delivery might just be the easiest part of parenting. 

That first year felt like both the longest year in the history of everything, and also the quickest. There were dozens of reasons why.

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Adjusting to breast-feeding, a lack of sleep, dealing with a sick infant for the very first time, bumps on their head when they became mobile, guilt for not enjoying every moment. 

I felt both lonely and overwhelmed, which I never thought was possible. 

Sometimes, when I tried to verbalize those feelings, I would get this in return, the three words perhaps no new parent wants to hear: just you wait. 

Just you wait until they’re walking. 

Just you wait until they’re RUNNING

Just…

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