A Quick Hello and Some Thoughts About What We Love

Hello Everyone! Apologies for posting this half finished this morning!

I haven’t been online much lately for two reasons:

1) I’m visiting my parents in another state and helping my kids adjust to being away from home and their Dad. Wow, babies really feel the lack of routine and familiarity. I guess I do as well.

2) My heart has been pondering a lot of things that I haven’t found words for yet.

In the meantime, I’ve been watching my kids and play and noticing how they are entirely driven by the things that they love.

I’ve talked to Dr. G some about how growth comes from pursuing what we love rather than seeking approval.

Here is what I remember loving as a child:

Mud, flowers, poems, history, stories about wilderness survival, stories from my parents childhood, picking things from the garden, climbing trees, creeks and rivers, books, hunting for seashells and rocks.

Here is what I notice Welly loving right now:

Wheels, equipment and tools, word play, silly books like Dr. Seuss, telling stories about his day, finding hideouts, climbing and hanging.

Pearl is still so little but here is what she loves as best I can tell:

Gentle swaying, squatting while pulling herself up, fingers in dirt, leaves in her mouth, things that clink together or crinkle, snuggling faces together.

What did you love as a child?

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Credit for putting this quote online in this particular format: Sun Gazing Facebook Group.

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Friday Confessions

Today we went out for breakfast and I let my baby crawl all over the dirty floors.

As we were leaving, I realized we had left a huge chunk of food sitting on the table. This is the type of place where you clear your own table. The trash can was across the room so I glanced around, grabbed it and shoved it into my jeans pocket. Squishy pork hash.

Pearl was eating egg yolk and then decided she wanted to nurse so she lunged toward my breast. I have a mouth shaped, egg yolk ring on my shirt now and I probably won’t change.

Oh but we the best time!

Ok, what do you have to confess today?

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Honey Bee and the Window

I’m sitting here in my living room nursing Baby Girl to sleep and feeling sorry for the poor little bee trapped in our house.

She is buzzing and buzzing against the same place on the window, and getting herself all banged up in the process.

Meanwhile, just two feet away is the open window where she entered. She’s been trapped too long already to remember how she got here.

Dear little bee, I get it, I really do. You’re too busy fighting and you’re wearing yourself out in the wrong places. I know you can see the trees through that glass, but that’s not the same thing as a way out.

I know when you feel stuck, it’s easy to just keep flying; faster, harder, until you’re too tired from beating your wings against your own reflection.

You can fight it all day but you won’t be free.

Stop and take a look around. The answer might be closer than you think.

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Tomato Dreams & Imperfection

One day, I sit in my yard and whisper a prayer, half heartedly and without direction. It’s just me and the tomatoes out there, green from a mid summer cold spell, and struggling to grow through the windy tangle of morning glory weeds.

I think I’m ready for something outside of my kids, I say. What could that be?

I move on, step inside to make dinner, and for once instead of spinning my wish around in my head I let it rest. Meanwhile there is plenty of work right in front of me. The endless chopping of vegetables in hopes they will reach the little tummies they’re meant for, the sitting on the floor, watching toy trains.

Days later I duck into the bathroom and sit on the cold tile and start typing words on my iphone. When I finish, my thumbs are cramped and my husband is calling for me. An hour has passed without notice.

My three year old pauses his dinner spoon in mid air, bursting with his own story of how he has been looking and looking for me. To him, when I’m in the bathroom with the door shut, I may as well be dancing on Venus. I’m that unreachable. I rumple his hair and then swoop in to scoop up the baby just as she tries for the millionth time to eat fuzz balls from our furry rug for dinner. Note to self: buy a vacuum.

I wrote something about us, I say to my husband who is busy with the last little dinner tasks (potholders, napkins, one ice cube or two).

Once the kids are tucked in bed and the baby monitor buzz buzzes fuzzy white noise from the bedroom, I sweep the kitchen and he reads what I wrote.  You have to post this, he says when he’s done. It’s for everyone, not just me and you.

Feeling brave and tired, I go ahead and post it.  Mentally, I calculate my vulnerability level, thinking that my post might be read by forty of my friends with time on their hands. Then I watch stunned, for days and days, as my words keep spreading over the internet.

People comment about their own experiences with love and I read each comment like a gift: words about long and faithful marriages, about short and regretful ones, about time wasted, loved ones lost, running away, hoping to meet the right one. Each one blesses me in it’s honesty.

I tumble for awhile in the self doubt that inevitably follows huge doses of praise. Some people become regular followers of my blog and I panic, realizing that means they’re expecting me to write words again someday. Preferably words that don’t suck. I think of my readers and ask the same, age old new relationship question: now that I’ve got you here, what will make you stay?

I’m terrified they’ll realize that I never learned how to use punctuation properly, that I’m really just another mom blogger, that I don’t know what to write about next and don’t know how to find the time.

But day after day as the numbers climb, I’m brought back down to earth. People begin stopping me in town to share their own vulnerable places. They say: you’re not alone, or, thank you, I thought I was the only one.

My kids aren’t impressed with my stats and still need me to stay present in the moment. I walk in the grass, I turn off my phone. I turn it on again just for a little peek. I change a few diapers. I whisper the number of page views to a few close friends and we laugh. I write to a successful blogger friend and she talks me down a little bit, commiserating about how wonderful and terrifying it all is.

Eventually something shifts in me. I remember why I love writing so much and I feel the spark in my heart that means I’ve really hit on something.

Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams,”  and I suppose that’s really great advice, him being Thoreau and all.  I’m almost positive I had that hanging in my locker in middle school because it’s so inspiring.

And sometimes you can take a good hard look at your dreams and go confidently in their direction. Sometimes you have to! Other times (like me, barefoot and praying in the garden) you’ve lost your sense of direction, you don’t have a map, and you’ve forgotten how to dream in the first place.  At that point you better hold on tight, because your dreams might start chasing after you instead.

What I’ve learned this summer is that you can wait all your life trying to get things right, or find something that seems worthy enough to show the world. In the end, it’s your struggles and imperfections that are the real story you need to tell. When brought into the light, they are transformed.

You realize that in the midst of your daily living, being lost and found a million times, losing your breath and catching it again, you have already turned into something beautiful. The only thing left to do is keep hitting publish.

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A Letter to My Son on His Third Birthday

Dear Little Wild Man,

This weekend you’re turning three years old and it takes my breath away that I’ve had you in my arms for that amount of time.

Speaking of you in my arms, I wish I could count the times you’ve collapsed into me, because that’s the way you hug. At first you hesitate, waiting, waiting, waiting to feel safe enough and then your eyes light up and you run full speed ahead. You spring-jump-leap-pounce-pummel-into me until I sink back on the floor from the sudden weight of you. There is no half way. Parenting you has always been like this.

Soon your sister will be old enough to appreciate your big leaps of love. For now, she cries when you hug and tumble her to the floor. But I see the twinkle in her eyes every time when you coming running. She lights up with her whole body, flapping here arms like she’s ready for take off. I hope you can see the light you’ve put in our eyes too, your dad and I. There really is a sparkle to the world that we didn’t have before you.

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Right now you are a beautiful mix of big boy and baby, all wrapped up in straggly curls and blueberry eyes. You make up songs, like to have three different beverages available at all times, and prefer to not ever change your clothes. I love how your fingernails are full of dirt from our garden and your shirts are usually colored with a mixture of water color paints and juicy dribbled tomato.

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You used to be so slow to scale or slide, but now you scramble up to heights way higher than we can reach. I watch from the ground below and know this is just the beginning.

I’ll always try to give you enough space to roam freely, but just between me and you, I’ll be hoping that you run back to me with a startling hug. At the end of the day dear boy, I’d rather be knocked down from the love of you than standing tall and sure on my own two feet.

Love, Mama

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Hello and Welcome!

I want to extend a very warm welcome to those of you who
have decided to follow my humble internet space. I hope we can get
to know each other better in the days to come. A couple of weeks
ago I tentatively shared the story I had written about my imperfect
marriage. The words had been swirling in my heart and I typed them
up quickly while hiding from my kids in the bathroom, using my
thumb to punch out the letters on my phone. Sometimes we create
something that we’re afraid of because it doesn’t stay within the
lines that we’ve carefully drawn to keep us safe. It flows and
moves and has a life all on it’s own. My kids are like this
for me and that piece of writing was like this. Not just for
me, not really about me. A piece of the bigger story we’re writing
together. When I step into that place of pure potential, I can feel
it sweeping me away to a better place. A place where one housewife
going crazy in her kitchen can remember to go outside and take a
look around. I don’t have to get it right, or even try to. All I
have to do is press “publish” on the things that I see. I don’t
know how often I’ll be able to write in the months to come. I can’t
promise that I’ll have any deep insights for you or that my grammar
will be polished. What I can do is keep telling you the truth and
believe that since we really aren’t that different, my struggles
will somehow strike a chord with you. Thank you for giving me an
audience to write to and the inspiration to make writing more a
part of my life. It’s a huge gift and I’m awfully glad you’re here.
I have a new facebook page if you want to join: www.facebook.com/flysoftlymylove
Until
next time, here’s a picture of my two kiddos who have been going a
bit bonkers today. I blame the full blue moon which will rise at
about 6:45 pm in my part of the world. Image

The True Story of a Seven Year Marriage

I used to scoff at those who simply made it work, couples who lived long and tedious years together even if the fire had died. Life is too short I thought, to spend it with someone who doesn’t kindle your passion.

That was before I knew that passion isn’t something that floats around and lands on you like a lucky butterfly (at least not all the time). It needs to be tended, like a fire in your heart, by breathing life into a spark over and over. You choose where you build your fire, and your heart listens to your choice.

When our turn came to meet and marry, I wondered how we might avoid the boring fate of the uninspired; the settlers who had aimed high and fallen short.

What made us special, more right for each other than the others? We fooled ourselves and listed off the reasons.

Years came and went in a blur of working hard and spinning our wheels. We filled our days with what we thought we had to do, passing each other on our way to office jobs, college classes, cafes where we did our homework.

No one did the dishes, I scarcely remember what we ate, and our tiny apartments never really felt like home.

We were careless with our love, sending out sharp words and criticisms and then rushing out the door to our next obligation. We thought we were building a life for our future. We didn’t see the cracks in what we were building.

A few months before my graduation, we got the best news of our lives. Our little boy was already growing inside of me.

We looked around at the pieces of our life together so far, the noisy apartment by the railroad tracks, the stacks of books and papers, the eighty hour work weeks, the anxiety and stress headaches. We knew it wasn’t what we wanted for our precious child and we dreamed bigger.

Envisioning a garden, a sandbox, a home, we bought a beautiful old yellow house and settled in. We brought home a beautiful, perfect child and hoped to give him the peaceful start he deserved. We didn’t realize how much work we had to do.

Pipes broke, the baby screamed, work piled up, and I grew into a sad and lonely version of myself. My heart sank lower and deeper, knowing this wasn’t what we had hoped for.

We looked to each other for the answers, and only saw more confusion reflected back. “Can you save me?” we asked each other. “I would if I could, but I think I have to save myself.”

We both cried about where we had ended up. We were hoping for a soul mate and found that we barely even knew our own souls, let alone another person’s. Taking a long hard look at the age old question, we dared to ask it and listened for the answer, “could it be that you weren’t the one?”

That question echoed high in the ceilings of our one hundred year old house. It bounced off fir floors where our own babies crawled. We noticed the bare places where the wood had worn and splintered. How many years did the forest grow before it could be cut to make floors that would last beyond a century?

We knew we were sinking fast and that more years spent in battle would only pile up and add more weight until we reached the bottom.

So we put a solid foothold down, somewhere to stand still and look around. The foothold was our commitment to each other, our desire to love the person across the breakfast table.

The question of “one” seemed foolish now and we quickly brushed it aside. We placed that question firmly in a box labeled “myths and lies.” What makes you “the one” is the extent to which your heart belongs with the other person. The one, the two, the three, the four of us. It’s all the same now really: family.

We gained new skills, started owning our feelings, and dared to believe in each other again. Most of all, we started listening and each moment of listening piled up until we could start climbing right up and out of our hole. We added laughter when we could muster it and that made the climbing feel lighter.

We let things go, saw with new eyes, and stood in the other person’s shoes. Most importantly, we stood in our own shoes and examined where we had lost ourselves along the way.

One day I opened my eyes and really saw him again, or maybe for the first time. I saw him pull out his entire tool box to fix a five dollar broken toy train because it meant something to our child. I saw him water fragile seeds in tiny plastic cups, set them by the sunniest window, and then finally plant them in our dirt where he grew them into food. These hands knew how to build things that would last.

This week I sat with our three year old while he worked long and hard on building block towers. He had to come to grips with the laws of physics, that you can’t put a huge block on a tiny foundation and expect it to stand. Each tower crashed and the blocks rattled on the same ancient floors. I held him while he cried and then watched as he bravely tried again.

This is the sum of what I hope he learns about loving another person. Before you can make high towers, it’s best to build a good strong base. It comes from laughter, empathy, forgiveness, accepting the other person’s struggle, and knowing yourself.

But sometimes without knowing it, you build too high and too fast. Things get shaky and start to wobble.

There is alway a way to rebuild if you’re willing. Always new and different blocks to try, always time to take a few steps back and build the bottom stronger.

So these days, I honor the builders. Those who have made high and lofty towers or those still limping along at the base. Those who have built once and decided to start again, and those who have been building for decades, creating a shelter for the rest of us.

To those whose love I dismissed so easily because it didn’t look fulfilling to the untrained eye, I see you now. I see how you walk through days and years of knowing another person, of letting go of who you thought they were and holding on at the same time to who they are and who they will become.

If you’re going through the motions, I see the art in that. I now know how foolish I was to think the motions were boring and uninspired.

Motion brings movement and life when things have gone dry.

You water the dry ground and something grows that surprises you. You sweep the floors and life flows through a room. You bend over hot skillets, and your children eat the food and become strong. You build your life the way you want it, and spirit comes to breath life into what you’ve made with your labor.

I honor you and follow in your solid, shaky footsteps.

Once, on a long evening walk with my friend, I asked her about her own marriage. “Why are you together? What makes your love stick through all the years of change and growth?”

She took a few careful steps over a cracked sidewalk and then laughed her answer. “I’m with him because he’s my home.” Those words echoed in my heart and rang true for my own life. Yes, I’m finally home as well.

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Six Months of Pearl (Month One)

In January I was so full of you I thought I would burst. But I didn’t, and we waited, warming ourselves with pots of soup and all our hopes for you.

At night I held my huge bulge of belly and felt the places where your bones pulled my skin tight.

In the day, I felt the round of your head between my legs and wondered how you could be so close when I couldn’t see your face.

I asked you to come out soon so I could hold you, but I also asked you to wait for the right time. I knew that the few inches you had to travel might feel like ascending a mountain for us.

When you finally decided to come out, you didn’t hold back. I tried to breath while you dropped through my body and tore out with lightning speed. But when I held you for the first time you were all softness and glow, nuzzled on my chest like you’d been there all along. I knew we had chosen the perfect name for you: Pearl Luciana, our precious light.

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Portrait of a Meltdown

I’m laying on the bed with both of my kids fast asleep. We’ve been here for about an hour and a half while they both took turns crying.

Actually screaming. And the older one did some kicking.

It started out as a fun morning at the park, but I overbooked our schedule which makes me feel tense. I’m not as patient then with three year old explorations and questions. On days like this, my mind wanders far away, distracted with adult worries. I start feeling the clock ticking in my mind on all of my responsibilities while they are blissfully unaware of it.

Then when they’re both needing some extra time, extra patience, extra explaining, I don’t have it because I’m stretched too thin.

It creates a bad cycle of tension with me just wanting them both to cooperate with my agenda for once and them both just wanting me to stop stressing and be their mommy.

So when rest time comes, I start having visions of my book and a coffee pot, but the reality is that we’ve got STUFF to deal with. They both need to offload the tension from the day and thankfully they persist until I create a safe place for them to do it.

At first I really fight it. Inside I am desperate for the crying to stop and for everyone to just quit needing me. I know that I am the adult here but I don’t always want to be. I’m mad at myself for letting the morning get chaotic and frustrated that my stress affects them.

Then I remember: I am human, I can have a hard time too.

I repeat a little mantra I learned: this is a moment of struggle. Struggle is a part of life. I can be kind to myself in this moment.

I try to mother myself a little and say, “It’s ok Leah. You’re trying your best. You’re right where you need to be.”

Then it clicks for me. That is all they need too.

I stop wishing their hurt away and just let it be. I take turns holding them and saying, “it’s ok, Mama is here.” I talk to the three year old about the moments I got frustrated and spoke sharply. I tell him, “you don’t like it when Mama talks to you like that.”

He stops the whining and writhing around long enough to open one soulful eye and look right at me.

I pick up the baby and snuggle her close. I feed her again and don’t feel guilty that there isn’t two of me and that sometimes one has to cry while I’m tending to the other.

They both melt into the comfort a little. Sweet feisty baby unclenches her tiny fists and relaxes. Tender three year old makes himself a blanket nest and falls asleep.

Afterward I tiptoe around the house and smile at the aftermath of our chaos; abandoned lunch plates, smashed crayons, a suitcase I had packed that became a fort instead.

It all looks comical to me now and almost sweet. My acceptance helps me see it in a different light for awhile.

I know this will happen again. There will be more tears, more mornings where I didn’t get our routine quite right, times when I forgot to refuel my own heart before beginning a day of mothering.

But in this moment I know we’ll be ok and I try to make a mental road map of what it feels like.

Maybe next time I can read that map and help us find our way there a little sooner. Or maybe not, maybe I’ll get lost again and have to forge a new path. But in my heart, I hope I can know that all the paths lead us home.

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Crawling Lessons

I’ve just spent the past hour watching Pearl try to army crawl across the bed. She fell asleep at her usual time but then suddenly opened her eyes, rolled over, and popped up on her elbows. It’s like some little baby alarm clock went off in her head and said, “time to get moving sister.”

It was so precious and a little bit sad watching her process. She started out all smiley and giggly, just perched on her elbows and so proud of herself. Her cheeks were jiggling and her toes were curled from excitement.

Then she started flailing and got really frustrated with the lack of traction as she tried to propel her body forward. She would struggle for a while, then spit up a little from all the pressure on her tummy. Then with a dramatic sigh she would face plant into the spit up and wallow around and wimper. I guess learning new skills is not always glamorous.

I asked her if she wanted to be picked up, but she eventually raised back up and continued.

This cycle repeated several times and if I hadn’t watched closely, I would never have noticed that she was making progress. There was no discernible movement but eventually she was about a foot farther on the mattress than where she started.

After she fell asleep I started thinking about how beautiful it is to be able to shamelessly struggle like that; to laugh and cry and rub your face in your own throw up (ok maybe skip that part) and not worry if anyone can see that you’re moving.

I keep waiting for my life as a mom to stop being a struggle, but it never does. Some days things seem effortless and the babies seem weightless. I can stay in the moment and keep myself open to them.

But more often I am taking huge belly flops and trying to propel myself forward oh so slowly.

I’m trying hard to know my own boundaries, to stay present emotionally, to set empathetic limits, to be kind to myself and respectful to them, and to speak my mind. But the progress is slow. It’s hard that I’m not the easy breezy dream mom that I thought I’d be. Honestly I’m a bit weary of the emotional work that parenting has been for me and impatient with the steep learning curve.

But tonight I’m taking a lesson from my courageous little four month old and remembering to let myself flail and flounder. I’m remembering that the. struggle itself is progress, and all I can do is show up every morning and expand upon what I know.

I guess if my kids lived in a perfect world then they would need a perfect mom to show them how to live effortlessly.

But since their life, like mine will be full of fumbles and falls, they need a mom who can say from experience:

yeah, I see how you work so hard and feel like you’re not moving, but think how much stronger you’re getting each time you try.

And hey, look behind you. Can you see how far we’ve come?

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