Friday, March 31, 2017

Hot Wheels

Andrew is into cars right now. We stand atop our hill and watch them drive by on the two streets that meet below. We wave at the mail truck each afternoon. I push him in his little red car. And he plays with Jack's Hot Wheels.

Rather than remind me of Baby Jack the way the Thomas trains do, Hot Wheels remind me of the last weeks I spent with Jack on earth. A smooth, tanned neck, a freckled nose, arms getting strong from push-ups, busy hands. A boy not yet a teen, but already getting phone calls from girls on the house phone, if that's not the cutest thing you've ever heard.

Hot Wheels are not a big kid's toy, so why did they make a resurgence at our house that summer, after years of collecting dust? Jack made up a game to play with Hot Wheels, and he, his friend Joe, and Margaret spent a lot of time rooting through the big orange bin in the basement, choosing the best cars for the game. The week before school started, on a failed excursion to replace a missing Latin/English dictionary, I treated Jack to a few new cars at Walmart. Another one, which he'd ordered online, came after he died. We gave it to Joe.

I don't know how long Andrew's passion for cars will last; I secretly hope it morphs into trains at some point so he can Jack's trains as well.

When babies turn one, as Andrew will on Monday, they don't need a lot of gifts. His gift from us is a 20-pack of Hot Wheels cars. They will go into the big orange bin, Andrew's first toys mingling with Jack's last.

Friday, March 24, 2017

On the Record

Yesterday was a LONG one.

Nothing too unusual in the parenting of an almost one year old. Emptying of drawers and cupboards. Refusal to nap. Foreign objects in the mouth. Long waits for a glimpse of the garbage and mail trucks. A stuffy nose that led to a cough, that started sounding croup-y by about 3 pm.

We had our cute moments, too. Like when Andrew leaned his face over the dog bowl and started lapping up the water with his tongue. Oh my gosh. After that, I started filming some of his antics on my phone: wiggling his hands in the water, dipping his foot in, then dumping the bowl on himself. Then heading over to a drawer in the laundry room and throwing the cleaning rags onto the floor, one by one, like it was his job.

I guess, in a sense, it is.

Exploration is what keeps this little guy active and learning, and I'm along for the ride to try to observe, protect, and sometimes redirect.

I showed Margaret the video when she got home. She noticed another video, with a blank screen.

Turns out, I'd left the camera recording by accident.

"It's like a nanny cam!" she exclaimed with excitement. "Now we can see if you are an abusive mother!" I kind of think she would have clued in on any abusive behaviors in my 15 years of mothering her. Still, I wondered what the audio recording "caught" of my interactions with Andrew. After all, it was hour 9 of a very long day, and the baby has been keeping us up at night for the past several weeks. My body ached from the lifting and wrangling, and I hadn't even managed to get dressed until 2:30 pm.

The audio is of my kissing away Andrew's tears as I change his 6th poopy diaper of the day. In a sing-song voice, I encourage him that I'm almost finished. I sound loving, even though my enthusiasm for yet another poop may come across as a bit forced.

I'm not sharing this to proclaim myself as world's most patient mother. Hardly. The audio could just as easily have captured the exasperation I felt about any number of things: the state of the house, his refusal to nap even though he was exhausted, the fact that I wanted to write so badly but it seemed impossible.

This incident made me wonder what different aspects of my life would sound like if they were recorded.


What about the curt one or two word exchanges between my husband and me when we've made it through the trenches of raising little ones, weathered the death of our son, but now find ourselves, again, sleep-deprived and stretched thin? Would the brittleness and lack of generosity come through in our voices? Probably.

What about the way I shore myself up to warmly (yet NOT TOO enthusiastically) greet my teenager, only to be met (again) with either silence or disapproval? Would the audio pick up my sigh or the immature "Ugh!" I let out as I turn out of her doorway, trying to remind myself, "It's not about me. It's not about me"?

Then there's the audio loop in my head. "You're almost 50 years old. Why didn't you maintain a career? Why don't you exercise? Are you ever going to write another book?"

Exasperation is okay. I'm human. You're human. So are Tim and Margaret. Even little Andrew had a heap of frustrations to deal with yesterday. Sometimes the recordings (on our phones or in our heads) will be more positive than others.

He and I ended hour 12.5 of the day (but who was counting?) with a warm bath, long-john pajamas, and my ruffling his hair, which is looking a little bit like a mullet. He smelled so good. I didn't know when I put him down whether he'd be waking us up at 12, 3, or 5 in the morning, but I was glad we'd made it through another day. Not because I'm trying to wish his childhood away, the way I think I did with the older two, but because that's what life is, a collection of days.

Some are beautiful, some are exasperating, and most are a combination of both.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


We made it through Jack's 18th birthday on Saturday!

It was a lot better than last year, when I was 8 months pregnant and Tim and Margaret were out of town. This year, we went on a road trip to our friends' house in the country, a place they have offered us so generously in the years since the accident. As is often the case, the anticipation leading up to the date was worse than the date itself.

After a restless night, Tim let me sleep in, we stayed in our pj's all day, spent some time outside playing 4 square, enjoying the pond, and letting the dogs run around. We caught up with a dear friend, her two girls, and my sister, who accompanied us on the trip. Later, we put on leftover paper party hats, Tim made fajitas, and we ate ice cream cake.

An article I wrote, telling a very special story I haven't shared before, was published in an online women's magazine that day.

If you haven't read it yet, I hope you will, and that it brings you comfort and encouragement.

Read the story here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Catching Up

Thought I'd give you a hodge podge update on what's been going on around here:

After a few weeks of balmy weather, we had our first snow of the winter this week. It was icy and the wind was CRAZY, so conditions were NOT ideal for playing.  We got our photo ops and ran back into the house.

Truly, this kid LOVES being outside. You know how some babies don't like the feel of grass on their bare feet? Andrew embraces the grass. Andrew is ONE WITH THE GRASS. He's also fast, which means I'm always trying to stay one step ahead of him, scouting out wayward dog poop, wild mushrooms and other hazards. Each afternoon we watch the airplanes fly overhead. We also spend a great deal of time waiting for the mail truck. Cars and trucks are his current thing, with birds still topping his list of favorites. I'm re-learning how to slow down and notice the little things again. Sometimes it's magical; sometimes it's excruciatingly boring. He's such an outdoorsy guy that he gets angry when the dogs get to go out and he has to stay inside.

Last week, Andrew started veering off down our steep, hazardous driveway, in search of cars, or freedom, or the mail, so I bought this online. It's still in the box, so I have no idea if it will make a decent barrier or at least slow him down. I'll let you know. While I was reading up on this product, I watched a video a reviewer left, and I was astounded. The little boy in the video looks just like Jack when he was little. I can't see his face, but his silhouette, gait, and gestures are spot on. Tim and Margaret agree! It's only 18 seconds long, but it's so sweet to watch (click on link and go to bottom of screen).

Another friend suggested parking my car sideways in the driveway to create a barrier to the hill, which could be helpful. This pic gives you an idea of how steep our driveway is. You can barely see the houses across the street from this vantage point.

Speaking of cars, Margaret now has her learner's permit! She will be eligible for her license in October, and we have a lot of practicing to do before then. She is doing very well, but the whole thing stresses me out. I mean, wasn't she JUST a little kid? She proclaimed, after about 2 whole weeks of driving, that she's a better driver than I am. She also said that her dad is a calmer driving companion. Sheesh. I'll concede that it's hard for me not to clutch the door handle, and that my attempts to regulate my breathing could be construed as annoying, but we live in the land of road rage and terrible traffic. I'm going to miss driving her around when she gets her license. One of my favorite things about the kids being in private school all those years was the time spent together in the car each day since there was no bus service.

It's hard to believe that one year ago I was very pregnant, and now this little (kind of big) guy is next to me in his high chair eating peas. He loves peas, bananas, hummus, avocado, strawberries, clementines and is currently obsessed with blueberries. Speaking of eating, he is bigger at 11 months than Jack was at 18 months, and Margaret at over 2 years. Related: my back is sore. I'd love to get you a pic of his two little bottom teeth that are finally poking up, but they are still pretty tough to see. The dogs are also growing, because Andrew loves to throw food on the floor for them.

Miracle Baby has also been waking up A LOT at night lately, which is killing us, but he still goes down very well at 7 pm. Tim does the bath and bedtime routine every night. I weaned him much earlier than the other two, so that Tim could help me more, but now we've created a bottle monster who wants bottles in the middle of the night. I know we should get a grip on this before his one year appointment, but we feel too tired and old to deal with it, so we just stagger through the motions.

Andrew on the inside, a year ago:

On the outside, today, watching the birds:

Did I tell you what we've been doing for dinner lately? I remembered those food assembly places I used to go to when Jack and Margaret were little. Lo and behold, they are still around! I found one that ASSEMBLES and DELIVERS frozen dinners to the house, so I'm basically doing nothing. All I have to do is thaw a meal and pop it in the oven, saute it on the stove, or put in the crock pot. This has been working better for us than the fresh box subscription meals (like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron)  we were doing before, because the fresh food in the fridge was stressing me out. If I couldn't get to it in time, I ended up wasting food.

I also need as little prep time as possible right now because Andrew is...busy. Last week I was chopping something when he pulled open our dish drawer and hurled a dish to the floor with all the gusto of a guest at a Greek wedding, all while clinging to my leg.  He can sense an opening when it arises. Today he opened Margaret's snack drawer and fed a sleeve of crackers to the dogs.

Have you seen The Shack? I saw it last week. Because it deals with the death of a child, you might assume I cried throughout it, but I didn't. I'm not a big crier, even though I recognize and appreciate the healing power of tears when they do come.

I read the book when it first came out, long before we lost Jack, so there was a lot I'd forgotten. I know the book has helped many, many people grasp the concept of God's vast yet personal love for each of us, and I believe the movie will too. I thought the movie was very well done and full of love.

The only thing that bugged me about the movie?

No, nothing theological. Sure, for some it veers too much from the Bible, and for others it doesn't veer enough into the mysterious ways our loved ones can comfort us after death. It is not going to be all things for all people. No, the only thing that bugged me was when the lead actor, Sam Worthington, kept slipping into his Australian accent during intense scenes. And there were a lot of intense scenes. I found it very distracting, because once you notice something like that, it's hard to un-notice. You're welcome.

As for my bedside table, I'm finishing up A Man Called Ove today, and The Kitchen House is on deck for next week.

I'd love to tell you what I've been writing (very little) and what creative house projects I have in the pipeline (stair railings) but this hodge podge will have to do today.

Sending you lots of love for whatever your day holds!

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