Sunday, November 16, 2014

Grateful

A few days ago I heard a news story that a young woman age 32 passed away from cancer.  I did not know her but she was on television and I watched parts of her life because it was reality television. She seemed to lead a very interesting full life and in many ways has seen and done many more things than I will likely ever do.

Still it haunts me. Her death. The thing that strikes me is she was not married and did not have children. She mentioned wanting that at some point and when I was watching my two boys giggle at each other making silly faces I welled up with tears at the fact that I am so very lucky to experience these moments with my boys.

Lately I have been struggling with a loss of self that many parents of small children go through. I don't really sleep well. I don't see my friends too much. My husband and I don't get to go out on dates anymore. Still I am reminded how lucky I am.

I am alive. I experience motherhood on a daily basis in all its puke and poop filled glory. In all the tears and tantrums and very unglamorous moments where you hope no one is watching you shove the kids in the car mumbling under your breath or are on the verge of collapsing in a heap yourself after another toddler fit over attempting to pee on the potty.

All of this is erased when I think about the blessings of seeing their faces look at me or my husband or their grandparents or each other adoringly. Being pregnant and having them live with me for 9 special months. I got to experience it all with them.

Now I have bath time when they laugh and splash. There is that time on the couch watching television covered in small children so engrossed they forget they have their foot on your face. When they tug your arm and ask for some juice or a snack and you know you will get that special smile when you hand them the item of their desire.

When they clap. When they look up at you with sleepy eyes after nursing before bedtime. Rocking them. Washing their hands. Wiping their noses. Getting them dressed.

That look of surprise. That smile. That laugh. That voice. Those words only they say in the way only they say them. It is all priceless. Those moments with your children that everyone who has them gets but are unique in their own ways and no one would trade.

Looking at the lives of others is relatively meaningless when you compare yours to theirs. Every once and a while you get the privilidge of looking in the mirror at your own life and being pleasantly surprised. For all the pain and disappointment in the world I am incredibly lucky. Each moment I have is so precious. Nothing strikes me in my heart more than the fact that I am just incredibly grateful for all of it each and every day.

Big Rawr!

As Halloween approached I asked Brenton what he wanted to be. His response...big rawr. This is code for dinosaur his new favorite thing. He can say dino but why say that when big rawr is so much more fun?

Of course this was Emerson's first Halloween so he went as little rawr to match his big bro. I was lucky enough to snag a triceratops costume on my online yardsale site to go with the T Rex Rolston obtained for Brenton. They were quite the cute little pair.

He sure was excited and when Brenton really had an understanding of the candy aspect of trick or treating he was all for it. We worked tirelessly on the perfect way to say trick or treat. Usually he just said trick or the word treat. Can you blame him? I can't. He was the sweetest T Rex I had ever seen except on Halloween.

After so much excitement and even a trial run at the local library in his Elmo costume with his father the sith Lord and little yoda, he cried when it was time to put on the costume we had to hide so he wouldn't wear it out before the big day. He did not want to be a big rawr not anymore. Instead he wanted to throw himself on the floor and cry.

Well somehow I got the costume on him and he did not want to wear the hat and he did not want his brother to wear his hat either. He did not want candy he did not want anything. He definitely did not want me to take any pictures.

After all the fuss we decided maybe we should scrap it and then in that moment as if it was magic I said once more are you sure you don't want candy. It was if I had flipped a switch and the light bulb went on. He put the hat on and got his bag and said simply "yes tandy". I said I wanted to take a picture and he agreed as long as I promised there would be candy.

We set off and the first few houses there was no luck and Brenton gave me the side eye. No one was home and there was no candy. Then we ran into the neighbors we had not yet met and they have two boys. Older boys who were also very excited about candy. They were so sweet to Emerson and to Brenton as well.

It was about 3 more houses up the street when the candy promise was confirmed and then Brenton began to run with the older boys. This was quite clearly the best night of his young life so far. I have never seen such a big smile in his eyes as he ran past me to get to each new door.

Still in all the excitement he was sweet and kind. He tried to give some candy to his brother. Occasionally he was slightly frightened by the large inflatables some have on their lawns. He was brave and mostly pushed past the small fear all for the candy.

Then we made the loop back to the house and the younger neighbor boy asked to take Brenton with them to grandma's house. We said our farewells and told Brenton he could have some of his candy when we got home. He buzzed with excitement. It was time!

We spilled the bag on the table and showed him his haul. He carefully selected 4 pieces.  Kit Kat his favorite and 3 others twix, snickers and some skittles. It was such a fun night after the slow miserable start.

I was so happy watching them both still in their dino costumes minus hats and gloves. Emerson content chewing on his teether and Brenton so happy with his candy. He looked at me he was eating his kit kat and smiled and said "tandy big rawr tandy". Yes big rawr it is all for you!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

On the Neuse


Brenton absolutely adores his GiGi. She has a special place in his heart and not only because she lets him eat cookies for breakfast.  He asks where she is almost every day and we responded for a long time by saying she was at her house.  This was insufficient for Brenton, so GiGi explained during one of her visits that she lives in north Carolina on a river called the Neuse.

One morning GiGi explained it and asked where do I live?  And he responded “Neuse”.  It was quite spectacular to all of us and he just loves it when we ask “Where is GiGi?” and he responds Neuse.

At some point I was called to go to work in Charlotte for a 4 day training session, so we decided to make it a family affair and then head out to visit Papa and GiGi on the Neuse.  For weeks we told Brenton he was going and he was filled with excitement for the journey.  I explained he had been there before when he was about Emerson’s age and showed him a few pictures.

When we got into the car to drive all the way to Charlotte the very first thing Brenton said was “Papa GiGi Neuse”.  This would become his mantra for the journey and we would respond yes each time he said it.  He was thrilled.  We had to explain that Charlotte was first, but he didn’t care.  He was headed to the Neuse.

In Charlotte, my parents joined us and I went to work and the rest of the family went to different attractions around the city.  First was the Discovery place where Brenton got a dinosaur sword that lit up.  He watched a science experiment presentation and even sat still the whole time.  He was enthralled. Even Emerson was intrigued and was good the whole time or so I heard and saw from pictures and video shared with me later in the day.

Then it was the NASCAAR Hall of Fame!  Oh this was a place where even Rolston was able to have fun.  I have a picture next to his bed from our first time in Charlotte. Brenton in his infant seat and Rolston with a huge smile at the NASCAAR Hall of Fame.  This time Brenton could enjoy it while Emerson was in the infant seat.  In a few years we will have to return so everyone can enjoy it.  The pictures this time were priceless.  Fun was had by all while I was at work.

Then work was done and after swimming in the hotel pool and eating lots of pancakes from the free hot breakfast each morning it was really time.  We were headed to the Neuse.

When we arrived it was as if I had arrived home.  Brenton felt it too.  He was calm and it seemed as if he was comfortable immediately.  Even Emerson who had never seen the house on the Neuse was relaxed.  Papa and GiGi got Emerson his very own jumperoo.  He was spoiled from the moment he arrived and so was Brenton.  We all were. I think the reason we all felt so at home is because the house is so my mom in the decorating scheme.  It just feels like GiGi’s home.

Family dinners and relaxation and lots and lots of play time and hugs were the plans for each day.  I was on vacation after all so I deserved the break from the routine.  Admittedly I slept quite a bit on the Neuse.  It was luxurious and so warm and comfortable.

We did have a few high points of the visit.  The boat.  My father has had so many boats and going out on the new boat was so much fun for Brenton.  He even got a turn to take the wheel.  The bike.  My mother got a new bike and there is a basket on the back perfect for a small boy to fit right in.  The beach.  My parents have a small beach across from the house right on the river.  It is perfect for a small boy to dig in the sand and wade and swim in the water.

There were other things too.  The dinner with my parents friends for burgers at the Toucan.  The fallen chocolate cake that we all could not get enough of.  The coins Brenton hid in every possible cushion on the couch and in his hands and in jars and glasses and under the coffee table.  The trundle bed where Brenton slept in a real bed for the first time on his own.  Mornings spent with GiGi making “taff” which is his word for coffee. Emerson trying sweet potatoes.  It was all splendid.

We got in the car on Wednesday morning in the pouring rain and said good bye to Papa and GiGi and the Neuse.  As we rounded the corner the rain tapered off.  The sky was only crying at their house. We would miss it, but we will be back.  The plan is to return in April.  Brenton will be so happy to be back there...on the Neuse.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Happy

My sweet Brenton has a speech delay also known as expressive language disorder. Now at almost 3 he is really blossoming. He can not only say a word or two, he can express his emotions. It is a new world of lower levels of frustration for all of us.

A few months back we were in the car and of course he was in the back seat and said, "Brenton happy." It makes my heart melt when he tells me anything. Even when he says poop or something that perhaps parents of more verbal children would be embarrassed by, because he has come so far I am proud of him. To hear him articulate that he is happy is enough to bring me to tears of joy!

Instead of weeping and causing any confusion, I smiled and asked so you are happy and he said yes. Then something magical happened. He asked me. He said in a questioning tone, "Mama happy?"

I was so ecstatic at the prospect that he can understand what it really means to be happy, I did a little dance in my heart. It has always been my hope that we would raise empathetic children who are self aware and emotionally intelligent. The world can be a tough place but it can also be filled with warmth and kindness.

Now he is concerned with the happiness of those around him. He asks if Gigi and Papa are happy after he asks me where they are. He talks about his brother and when he smiles he points and says happy. He does what he can to get that smile from his brother. He talks about his friends. When he sees them for playdates now, he says he is happy.

I hope he surrounds himself with happy people as he grows up. I hope he finds joy in many things. Right now he loves the movie Frozen, the TV show Zou and lollipops. Visits with Gigi to see his Nana where they play in the garden, playdates with friends and even simple trips in the car can bring exultations. He smiles great big smiles about playdough, wearing the Superman costume, swimming in the pool, big hugs and eating apples and cheese. Juice on a hot day has also made him very happy or so he told me. The happiness of others also makes him happy.

As he gets older the prospects for happiness will increase and I can only hope he embraces them.  What I want most is for him to be happy. Now I can ask if he is happy and he can tell me and that makes me really happy!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Outrage

The first time I heard about Trayvon Martin I was completely and totally in a state of raw emotion and outrage. This was before the trial and before the acquittal, but my eyes were open and I was paying more attention. Then came Jordan Davis. Now it is not only at the hands of certain fearful white men with guns, but the police with the murder of Michael Brown. I have now seen a borage of articles about the clear discrepancies with which unarmed black men are killed by police in comparison to white men. In certain communities it is astounding. All this time there have been statistics that have been clearly swept under the rug regarding these incidents.

When Obama was elected, I had a rush of emotion as a white woman who loved a black man that if we were to one day have children I could look them in the eye and tell them they can be anything they want to be just like I could if I had married a white man. Recalling tears of joy streaming down my cheeks and taking a deep breath and embracing with hope the new world we lived in. I believed times were truly changing and I like to believe they still are and this time it is for the sake of the two sons I have had since the election in 2008.

Not knowing what to do with my anger and frustration that has been bubbling since Trayvon Martin’s killer was acquitted as the murders continue and more mothers bury their young sons, I have chosen to do my best to keep my sons safe. We moved from a place where I worried they may be in danger of experiencing racially motivated incidents. I do not wish to shelter them, but I certainly do want to do all I can to ensure their safety. In our new town they require police to wear cameras on their uniforms. A measure that should be applied everywhere, but until that happens we will have to explain the realities of being a black man in America.

Also we will have to have conversations with our children that in some ways are almost more complex than the children of parents of the same race. Not only do we have to explain they may face bigotry, prejudice and perhaps overt racism and fear for their lives or perhaps lose their lives, we must explain that this could happen at the hands of someone who looks like me. This powerful realization has brought me to my knees with the force of a punch to the gut.

I have always been open and honest about my fears about intolerance and racism and willful ignorance toward the existence of both. Not knowing how they will impact my children is very difficult. I am struggling a lot with my emotions as tensions escalate in Ferguson, MO after the murder of Michael Brown. I am compelled to speak out and ask for people to pay attention to these events. Mostly I am asking white people, my family and my friends, to read articles or to look at video of these events with empathy. Saying things like if this was your child or something similar to induce understanding and concern. Instead I feel a push back from white America where they would prefer to not be faced with these issues. Some go so far as to deny their existence overtly, but others simply prefer to turn a blind eye because it is simply too painful to believe that someone who is unarmed could be gunned down without some sort of reason.

I do not have that luxury to ignore. In this awareness I am compelled to find other mothers who have an understanding similar to mine. I know black mothers and white mothers primarily, but I do not know any white mothers of black children. I say they are black only because the world will regard them as black. No one looks at Obama and refers to him as interracial. To the world he is black.

Lately I am seeking out mothers who share my experience in a way that is deeply personal. I look for them in articles, in blogs, and on Facebook to see them speaking up in a way that makes me say…yes that is exactly how I feel. So far I have not found them, but I will keep looking. The truth for me still remains I am a white mother to black children. I am afraid for them, saddened by these events and most of all outraged!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Big Beefy

Emerson is even bigger than Brenton was at the same age thus he has been donned with the nickname Big Beefy. He is simply big and beefy and therefore it fits. He has also been called Smiling Tiny Man II. Because he is very smiley.

Baby nicknames are so much fun and Brenton had so many. Some stuck others did not. For Emerson Big Beefy suits him. When we say ot and bounce him he smiles a big toothless smile and almost gives a nod that says yes I am Big Beefy.

Big Beefy is so many things aside from big and Beefy and it is miraculous just how much personality a four month old can have. He has a smile that starts at his toes. He pulls it all the way from there almost wiggling it out of himself as it spreads through his body all the way across his face. It is bold and lights up the room. I can't help but smile with him.

He is always on the move. He can do baby sit ups and he rolls back and forth and scooches all around the floor or the bed or the crib. He bats and grabs. He has an incredible grip. His strength is amazing.

He babbles nonstop. Talking seems to come naturally and he is very vocal. Ah goo is his favorite but he also has chirps and wookie sounds as well that continue into his quirky but infectious laugh. Just like Brenton his voice is music to my ears.

My heart melts as I watch him jump in the jumper, play on his gym mat or sleep in my arms. When he nurses I catch that look of satisfaction and sometimes he even flashes me a smile. I sing his big beefy song and bounce him. I just can't help myself. He is so lovable and huggable. Even Brenton loves to hug him. We all play on the floor together and they snuggle and giggle with each other. I am so surprised how well they get along. Brenton's favorite chore is to make his brother happy. If he cries I say go make him happy and he does. Big beefy also returns the favor and makes Brenton happy as well. Brenton never laughs so hard as when his brother gets him going. Big beefy and B have a special bond already. I think it is because Brenton is empathetic, warm and kind and Emerson is as well...even his heart is big and beefy!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Overwhelmed

As a working woman and financial provider, wife to a wonderful man who is a stay at home dad and the mother of two young children, I find myself almost constantly overwhelmed in some way. First I am overwhelmed by the amount of love I have for these two beautiful creatures born from my body. Taking nothing for granted in each moment, I know that this love is the most powerful thing I have ever experienced. It brings me to tears regularly. Emotion is raw especially in the first few months post partum. I am overtaken at times by the power of what I am feeling.

Throwing changes into the mix has been emotionally overpowering as well, but in many different ways. Giving birth. Moving. Renovating. Going back to work. More renovating. Organizing. Settling down. Finding routine again and feeling some relief even as the changes continue. I am overwhelmed by the changes in my surroundings and my circumstances.

Being the mother of two is different than being the mother of one. There is a sense that there is less of me to go around and it is irrepressible at time. Worries about my divided attention not only between them but throw in work and other tasks, the feeling can be enormous in the moments when everything feels like it is crumbing before me into a heap. The other day as I was on a conference call for work in my home office while the baby screamed through the wall with my husband attempting to comfort him prior to his nap and the workman were nailing down our master bath sub floor. It was a constant borage of activity that left me reeling. In the memory of it I still feel panicked and exhausted by the uncontrollable enormity of the moment. All I wanted was for it to stop and to be alone, but it was impossible.

No longer free to pick up and go without worries about the last nursing session or pumped milk, a stocked diaper bag, a change of clothes, snacks or toys. Losing some of the independence I once knew and realizing the trip to the grocery store when I am alone can be a liberating experience is a compelling notion. I am bound to the ways of tiny humans with my once flowing long hair pinned in a pony or bun to avoid the grasp of tiny yet powerful fingers. I would not change it, but I cannot deny that it has changed me.

Even when I am alone I am reminded that they are the most important people with each step as I shop. Carefully remembering the squeezies and the soy milk and bananas and raisins, I forget the reason I came to the store in the first place was to get something for myself. Remembering the probiotics for my husband and the sweets, I still search the aisles for something that I can no longer place. This is the reason moms make lists, but in my rush to get out and back before the baby woke again to nurse the list was not a priority.

So I wandered the aisles and somewhere I found what I was looking for. It was a moment of peace and solitude. Taking a deep breath I slowed my pace and began to enjoy the moment. And then I remembered…avocados!

This is what I now know about being overwhelmed. When I am overwhelmed I need to stop. Just a pause because that pause can allow for things I never imagined to happen in just a moment. I can breath and I can relax and I can see why what seems so large isn’t large at all but rather fleeting. Taking that pause, that breath, is essential because if I don’t I am worthless to those around me, but also to myself.