loss in waves

Last October we lost my cat, Louis.

It was an incredibly painful journey for me since he had been my best friend for 17 and a half years.

Eddie was only two when Louis died.

the last picture we have of Eddie with Louis. Sept 2011

Louis’ health was going downhill quite rapidly and we had an appointment to put him down on a Monday.  We just had to make it through the weekend with him.

Unfortunately, Louis had other plans.

Early Saturday morning while Cort was gone to class and Eddie and I were still sleeping, Louis had a stroke near the island in our kitchen.  He was lying there unable to get up when Eddie and I wandered into the kitchen after snuggling in bed watching cartoons.

Eddie sat on the couch and watched TV while I texted Cort, called my brother and his wife, and called the vet.  In the meantime, I wrapped Louis in a receiving blanket to preserve some of his dignity (he had pooped in his fur) and to keep him warm (he was shaking).

When my brother and his wife arrived, my sister-in-law stayed with Eddie while my brother and I took Louis to be put down.

When we got back, Cort was home from class and we placed Louis in a box to be buried at my parents’ house by the rest of our childhood pets.

And that was it.

It’s been over a year.

We have not avoided talking about Louis.  In fact, we talk about him frequently–especially when cats come up in conversation.

Eddie has asked lots of questions over the past year about where Louis was and how we don’t have a kitty can anymore, but I was not prepared for what happened last night.

Around 9:30pm, long after Eddie should have been sleeping, we heard a thump and a couple minutes later we heard Eddie sobbing in his room.  I mean SOBBING.

I thought maybe he hurt himself, so I hurried down to him.

When I opened the door, he was sitting up in his bed, tears streaming down his face, trying to catch his breath through his sobs.

“Honey! What is the matter?” I asked expecting him to say he bumped his head or something.

“I MISS YOUIS*!!!” he wailed.

It’s like time stopped.  My heart fell down to my feet and tears welled up in my eyes.

“Oh buddy,” I said as I sat down on his bed and pulled him into my arms. “What made you think about Louis?  Did you see a kitty cat?”  My mind raced trying to think of what in the world we had done that day that could have possibly made him think of Louis this late at night.

“I was reading dat book ovah de-ah,” he sniffed as his little finger pointed to a large book on the floor next to his closet.  A book that had clearly been tossed (the thump we heard).  A book that was published in the 50’s and that my grandma used to read to me at her house.  A book that was held together with tape.

A book with large pictures of cats and dogs.

A book with a picture of a group of kittens that look identical to Louis.

“It has a pi-tuh that yooks jus yike Youis!”  He leaned into me and started crying all over again.  “I miss him, Mom. I miss him a yot. I want he come home. come back hee-ah.”

It had been a whole year.

I didn’t think he could possibly have that much connection to a cat he only knew for the first couple years of his life.

But he was crying like it just happened.  Like a wave of loss and sadness had collapsed on him and he was fighting to stay afloat and understand.

I didn’t know how to comfort my little boy.  Louis was one thing I couldn’t bring back to him.

So, because I was crying now too, I pulled the blankets up over us as we held on to each other, and I told him the story of how Louis came to be my kitten.  How he took care of Eddie by laying on my tummy when I was pregnant.

How he paced and meowed whenever Baby Eddie would cry and cry, and wander the house meowing at Eddie’s toys when the baby was sleeping.

How he would find a spot just out of Baby Eddie’s reach to sleep…and keep an eye on Eddie.

or you know, ON the sleeping baby.

How Eddie was the only child in the entire world who could touch his face and pull his fur and tackle him and yet he wouldn’t bite.

and Louis gets away again!

“You-is nevah evah bite me,” Eddie agreed, “but sometime he bite daddy.”

And we giggled.  Because it was true.

“And he run and run in duh house, member, mom?  Member dat?”

“I do remember that, Eddie. I do.”

“Why he can’t come back?  Why he yiv with my Papa and God? Why God want a cat?”

I explained to him that Louis was so awesome, he is the perfect cat for God…who loves awesome stuff.

He had stopped crying by now and was asking some pretty big questions about heaven and God and forever.  In a moment of thoughtful silence he asked me, “Mom? You yay by me for a yittle bit?  Just a yittle bit?”

And I did.

He cuddled into me and told me, “I yike taw-king a you, mom. I yuv you, Mom.”

“I love you too, Eddie.  And you can talk to me anytime. about anything.”

“Tanks, mom.”

As we cuddled and both processed our conversation, I couldn’t help thinking about this mom thing.  Just when I think I have it handled–that I know the in’s and out’s of momming a little boy–he throws something new at me to remind me that I am still new at this.

With each stage, milestone, and new question, I will be newb with Eddie.

From the minute he was placed in my arms, I started to learn, and until one of us is gone, I will always be learning.

I hope I am doing right by him.

I hope I am giving him the comfort he needs.

Have you dealt with a loss with your children?  How did your kids handle it? Was there anything that seemed to make the process easier on them?

I am all for suggestions.

*words are written just like they sound when Eddie says them.  If you need a translation, let me know!

**************

Don’t forget to enter my Babies R Us gift card giveaway here.

And I totally did a craft with Eddie.  And it didn’t suck.  You can read about it here.

he was for real

It was a beautiful Tuesday afternoon in June.

I had just survived the second day of a four-week, seven hours a week, writing workshop that I had to commute an hour each way to get to.  I was sitting by my computer organizing the “homework” I had for the evening–prioritizing the writing against the reading against my final writing presentation work.

I was really, really tired.

As usual, Cort came over shortly after I got home.

“You know,” he said as he walked through my door into my teeny house, “we never take walks anymore.  Let’s take a walk.”

“Um, I take a walk almost every day.  YOU never take a walk WITH me anymore.  And no. I don’t want to take a walk. I am tired.  This 9-hour a day commute/class thing is tough.  My body hasn’t adjusted yet.”

“Come on. Let’s take a walk. It’s so nice out and you’ll feel better.”

“Dude.  Really. No. I don’t want to. Can’t we just hang out here?”

“Yeah, but I want to take a walk with you. Come on.  COME ON.”

I will save you all the time, but this back and forth went on for more than five minutes.  Finally, I agreed.

I stomped crabbily into my tiny room and pulled off my clothes from the day to change into athletic shorts and a t-shirt.  I pulled on socks and found my sneakers in a pile in the corner of the room.  I didn’t stop my grumbling even to pull my hair into a pony tail.

As I was sitting on the floor in the living room, crabbily tying my shoes, I looked up to Mr. Happy Take A Walk Pants and got even more annoyed.

“You’re not even wearing walking clothes.  You’re wearing jeans.  You hate to take walks in jeans.  You always bitch whenever I get you to take a walk with me and you’re wearing jeans.  Are you even serious about this?  Why do you want to take a fracking walk in jeans?”

“I’m fine.  Really. This will be totally fine.”

“Whatever.  This is stupid.  But I’m going. See? Are you happy?  Let’s go already.”

He opened the door for me and I stormed past him determined to make our 2-mile route go super quick…and make him wish he wore walking shorts…or didn’t make me do this.

As our shoes crunched down the gravel of my driveway and we turned on to the road, he tried to make small talk.  He mentioned something about getting a shipping notification about the new computer he had ordered me and how it would be here within the week.

I just grunted and kept walking.

We paused at the corner while we waited for cars.  He was still talking.  I was still ignoring.  I’m good at being crabby and pouty.

I had to admit it was a nice day.  Of course, I didn’t admit it out loud.

I lived in a nice neighborhood and we had mapped out a 2-mile stretch that took us down to the deadend of my road, over a really beautiful wooden footbridge, up a hill past the ice cream place, down into another neighborhood, down a large hill into yet another neighborhood, and out onto the road we cross at the beginning of the walk and back to my tiny house next door to my grandparents’ place.

They own the little house where I lived for four years and they only charged me $200 a month. Plus my grandpa came over and fixed things anytime they needed fixing.  The roof, the toilet, anything.  He even mowed my lawn.  It was a great deal for a single gal right out of college.

Cort and I had started dating just nine months prior.  By the time of this story we had fallen into a comfortable routine of seeing each other almost daily.

But back to the walk at hand.

I was still pretty pissy about the whole thing as we approached the footbridge.

About halfway across he stopped to tie his shoe.  I walked to the side of the bridge and rested my arms on the rails.  There was a bunch of trash in the creek (pronounced “crick” in these parts) down there.  It made me more annoyed.

And all I could help thinking was, “Good grief, Cort.  Really?  Your shoes are untied?  Maybe if you wore your good walking shoes this wouldn’t happen.  Or better yet, if we were watching TV at my house? Your shoes wouldn’t be on and we wouldn’t have to worry about this at all.  Stupid walk…”

“Hey Kate?” Cort said, interrupting my inner monologue of crab.

“What?” I demanded as I turned around.

And there he was. On one knee with a ring.

Oh shit.

“If you’re not doing anything next summer, wanna get married?” He asked with a goofy grin on his face.

“SHUT UP! IS THIS FOR REAL?”

And then we laughed because I always said I would never, ever say either of those two things when he proposed.  Because, duh.

I put the ring on my finger, and burst out crying.  I was saying yes and apologizing for being the world’s biggest bitch.

He just laughed, “I almost didn’t do it.  You were one more grump away from me calling it off and putting the ring back in my truck until a less crabby time.”

I just smiled shyly at him.

“Oh,” he continued, “and we don’t have to continue the walk.  We can go back home.”

And then he took my hand, and we slowly wandered back to my little house, excitedly talking about how we couldn’t wait to tell everyone.

We were getting married.

************

Don’t forget about my giveaway over here for a Babies R Us gift card.

the penny reminder

Tuesday after dinner I had to go out to our local Mejier (much like Wal-Mart in the whole department store thing, but unlike Wal-Mart in the whole skeeze thing) for some supplies for a baby shower I am giving this weekend.

As Cort cleaned up dinner, Eddie announced he wanted to come with me.

Cort told him, “That’s up to mommy. ”

Normally, I would say, “no. it’s too close to bed time.  I won’t be gone long and you’ll have fun with daddy and Charlie.”

But since it was only just after 6pm, I said, “finish your dinner and you can come with me. But only if you can be a good helper. Can you be a good helper?”

“Yeah, Mom! I can! Let me go wash my hands and face!”

So off we went.

For anyone who has been around for awhile, you know I have a generalized anxiety disorder along with PPD/PPA.  After Eddie was born I was paralyzed with fear to go out with him alone.  Not because I thought he would get hurt, but because I was afraid I couldn’t handle it.

It was easy to avoid going out alone with Eddie.  When he was 4 months old, Cort lost his job and became a stay at home dad for a year and a half.  He did most of the errands during the day and had no problem taking Eddie with him.  In fact, he planned it so they would get out of the house at least once a day.

If I went out for anything, it was to pick something up on my way home from work.  Alone.

When I had Charlie, I had over a year of therapy to work on my anxiety and I had discovered baby-wearing. Charlie and I got out about once a week to do all sorts of things.

It was still rare that I took Eddie out alone though.  Not because I was anxious, but because we didn’t have tons of alone time.

So Tuesday night when he wanted to come along, I figured it would be good for both of us.

When we got to Meijer, Eddie insisted on holding my list.  As we held hands through the parking lot, he peered down at it and said, “yet’s see…hmmm.  what is first?”

I almost melted right there.

Once we were safely inside, I crouched down and asked if we could look at it together.  I pointed to the first thing and I said, “this says we need eggs and strawberry soda.”

“Hmmm,” he replied.  “yup, mom. You’re right! It says it riiiiight here.”

(I should remind readers that Eddie is 3 and cannot read, but we “pretend” to read often as a form of “play learning”.)

So I let him help me pick a cart and off we went.

I let him run a bit ahead of me and didn’t get panicky or yell to him to slow down or wait.  I trusted that he would.  And he did.

He would get a certain length ahead of me and then stop, turn around, and wait for me with a smile on his face.

I let him choose which package of sausage we would buy.  And then I let him “fix” the rest in the display so they were nice and neat.

He put strawberries in the cart and helped me pick the “right” paper plates.

It took longer than if I had zipped through the store on my own, but it was so SO much better this way.

A few people commented on how it was nice that we worked together to do the shopping instead of my just having him be there.  Each time we found something on the list, I would get down on my knees in the aisle so we could look at the next list item together.  He held the list the whole time.

At checkout, I let him unload the entire cart (except the eggs).  The belt was not as neat and organized as when I unload (I have a method of what gets grouped together for bagging purposes), but he did it all on his own.  Luckily for us, the cashier smiled and talked to him and told him what an awesome helper he was.  She said it was nice to see someone using a trip to Meijer as a “learning” tool instead of a battle between mother and child.

On our way out, he wanted to ride the penny pony, but I didn’t have a penny.  I felt sad for him as I watched him hang his head in disappointment because he had been such a great helper and he deserved a spin on the pony.  Just as I was telling him that I promised I would bring TWO pennies next time, a lady in the check out next to us bent down and handed Eddie a penny.

“OH THANKS YOU!” he beamed at her.

“You are very welcome, young man.  I saw you help your mommy.  You are quite the gentleman!”

“You too,” Eddie replied.

To which we both chuckled while I thanked her.

As we approached the pony, we saw that someone had left three pennies next to it.  Eddie asked if he could use one to take a second ride, and I let him.

When we were done, he asked about the other two pennies.

“Are those for other girls and boys?”

“Yup, someone left those there for good boys and girls so they can ride the pony too.”

“If they don’t have pennies they can use them?”

“That’s right.”

Just then a little boy, smaller than Eddie, walked up.

“You has a penny?” Eddie asked him.

“no. I can’t wide it.” The little boy said, “I just looking.”

Eddie reached down to the extra pennies, and handed one to the little boy.

“Der you go. Now you can ride too!” And he patted the horse.

As the little boy ran back to his mom to show her his new treasure, Eddie and I walked to the car.

“That was very kind of you, Eddie.”

“Yup. Dat boy can ride duh pony now too!”

“That’s right.  Thank you for being such a great helper and such a kind boy.”

“I yuv you, mom.”

“Aw. I love you too, Eddie.”

I am beyond stressed out and way overly exhausted.  But these small moments…just 30 minutes out of my day on Tuesday, made me smile.  It made me forget the deadlines and the calendar conflicts and the have-to-do’s for 30 minutes and just focus on my older son.

I was able to spend quality time with him encouraging his fierce independent streak in a positive, healthy way.

I am an overworked working mom.  But I am a good mom.

My son is kind and helpful not because he just knows to be that way, but because we have modeled that for him.

We have taught him to share what he has, even if all he has in that minute is a penny and a helpful nature.

These small moments also remind me that I am not raising boys, but men.

Men who I hope will bring good to this world instead of sadness.

Watching my son share a penny made me hopeful that I am achieving this goal.

loved from the start

You know those picture slideshows they put on repeat at high school graduation open houses, funerals. wedding receptions, funeral visitations, anniversary parties, retirement parties, any gathering that celebrates someone’s life?

That is what it looks like behind my eyes when I try to think of my first memory.

It shuffles through stills of settings and objects from the first house I ever lived in, which means I was somewhere between 2 and 3 when I started “remembering”.

Gold carpeting. Sitting under the blond wood of our dinner table.  A stool with a handmade cover in a corner for timeouts.  Pink milk from the neighbor lady.  A pretty purple room.  My Raggedy Ann doll.  The nursery with an ABC theme.  The Muppet Show with my dad.

We moved from that house when I was 3 years old.  Eddie’s age.

Yet, I remember it.

my little brother Chris and me when we were Charlie and Eddie’s ages.

I’ve searched old photos for the things that reside in my mind, but have not found many of them.

I’ve asked my mom what rooms in that house looked like and was rewarded with descriptions I was already vaguely aware of.

I realized that my first memories are of things. Not people.  Not events.  Not relationships.

For instance, I remember watching The Muppet Show with my dad.  I don’t actually remember sitting with my dad, though.  I just know it was with him and not anyone else, though I don’t know how I know that.

All of this makes me wonder…what about our house…our life…is Eddie’s little mind going to cling to and manifest as his “first” memory?

I don’t remember my brother being born when I was 2 1/2 (the same age Eddie was when Charlie was born), but I do remember the nursery being his.  It was mine first, but I don’t remember it as “mine”.

Will Eddie think of the green walls and jungle animals and always associate it as Charlie’s?  Despite the two years it was his?  Despite all the time he spent with me an his daddy rocking in that very room?

I don’t remember eating at our kitchen table or my mom cooking, but I do remember sitting under the table for whatever reason.

Will Eddie remember our high top kitchen table and his own place mat?  Or will he only remember things that were eye-level?

Will he remember running up and down the hall at top speed? Or will he only remember the end of the hall where he was sent to time out?

Will he remember wrestling and “pig piling” on the living room floor?

Will he remember the “toy room” downstairs?

Will any piece of our furniture stick in his mind?

What about his Big Boy room?  Will he remember the colors? The monkey theme?  The rock star stuff that he loves so much?  How particular toys sit? Maybe he will remember how he asked daddy to take the giant bear out of the room because it was “spooky”.

Cort and I don’t plan on this being our forever home, but we are not anywhere NEAR ready to move anywhere.  Maybe being here longer will make the house and it’s contents stick in the boys’ memories better.

All I know is this:

I hope they remember the laughter, not the tears…

…the smiles not the arguments…

…what it felt like to laugh so hard they were gasping for air…

…that if they called, we came…

…the spontaneous dance parties in the kitchen…

…forgetting our indoor voices as we sing ridiculous songs at the top of our lungs…

…”bothering” daddy because it’s funny to get him to giggle when he is tired…

…laughing at toots…

…dinner table questions about what heaven is like and why people poop…

Eddie and Charlie showing me how they dance.

I don’t remember much from being 3 years old, but I am sure the house I remember was filled with love and smiles.

I consider myself lucky to be able to say, “my first memory is of being loved.”

I hope that is what my boys can say too.  That as far back as they can remember, they were loved.

Fiercely.

This post is linked with Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop.

The Birdman Groweth

Dear Charlie Bird,

You are five months old today.

Over the past couple weeks I have been painfully aware of how quickly you are growing.  You are suddenly not a tiny little infant anymore.  You have entered the smiley baby stage.

It’s getting harder and harder to get a picture of you holding still.  Something is always blurry from movement and motion.

Hand waves and foot kicks.

Turns of the head without warning.

Shaking a toy like a Polaroid picture.

And of course now there is the struggle to get you to even look at the camera.

I can be dancing and making raspberries and just generally being a complete fool and you will. not. look.

Your concentration is intense.

It is really something new every day.

More and more you can “play” on your own.

You bat at the things hanging from your activity mat and learn to hold them. You have figured out that if you kick the supports of the mat, the music will start playing.  You know that if you push your feet on the ground, you can turn yourself.

However, your least favorite position is lying down.  Oh, you’ll be happy for a little while, but you really want to be able to see what is going on.  And as this new month starts, it’s obvious that you REALLY want to be DOING what everyone else is doing too.

You dig on sitting in the Bumbo and the bounce seat, but not for long.  It’s almost as if you are frustrated that you need assistance to sit.  But you can’t do it on your own yet.  And you get frustrated when you can’t do it yourself too.

We busted our the exersaucer this month.  You were wary at first, but after a couple weeks of getting used to it, it’s growing on you.

I can’t help but notice all the ways you are different from your brother, though.

By five months with Eddie, we put the bounce seat away, because he WOULD NOT LEAN BACK in it.  You are perfectly willing to chillax in it…for awhile anyway.  Also you prefer to be at face level with us if you’re in it, which means we are either on the floor with you, or you’re on the counter/table while we stand.

Eddie thought the saucer was the best thing ever created.  You are taking your time to fully enjoy it.  Sometimes I wonder if it’s because you can see Eddie running around doing stuff and you’re all like, “WHY AM I STUCK?  WHY CAN’T I MAKE MY LEGS DO THAT?” Because you LOVE to stand if we are holding you, just not as much in the saucer.

Eddie was sitting on his own {sort of} by give months.  You’re not quite there yet.

Eddie had cereal before five months.  We let you try oatmeal and bananas yesterday.

You were not impressed.  At all.  In fact, you still have the tongue thrust thing going on and other than tasting it, I am fairly certain you didn’t actually swallow much.  You just didn’t understand opening your mouth.  This is also way different from Eddie who, when we gave him his first taste, lunged forward, mouth open for his second taste.

You just gave me stink eye.

Maybe we will hold off on solids for a while longer.  We did switch you to #3 nipples on your bottles, though, and you seem to get less bored with your bottle now, and actually eat it.

One way you are like your brother is that you both got your first two teeth almost exactly on the day you turned 5 months.  Eddie got his the day after and yours came in the couple days before.

You  handled it differently, though.  Eddie would get a little crabby, have a bit of a fever and some diaper rash and then, POP, a tooth.

You just got pissed and pushed everything on your sore gums.  And then gave us stink eye like it was our fault.

So we got you an amber necklace.

Boom. No more crabby baby.  Just a slight fever for the past week and over the weekend you were rewarded with two little teeth that finally cut through.

Oh baby boy.  You are growing.

I held you in my arms tonight when I guess I could have been writing this post.  But I knew that writing this post was not my priority.  Yes, I want to record these days and times and feelings for you…for your kids…for…history.

You are what people refer to as an “easy” baby.  But that ease means that the last five months flew by so fast I hardly  noticed.

And then there was this baby boy–so different, yet in so many ways the same as the tiny bird that was handed to me in the hospital in March.

I traced my finger over your face and you didn’t flinch.

Your little bird legs have a plump layer of baby fat over them.  Your fine little arms now have the tell-tale baby chub that looks like someone put rubber bands around your wrists.

I found myself wishing I never had to go back to work.

I’ve never felt that before.

My chest tightens thinking of not cuddling you and smootching on you all day every day.

Of taking naps with your warm little baby breath in my face because you love to nuzzle up close to fall asleep.

Of memorizing your facial expressions and responses to absolutely everything.

Of knowing you better than everyone else.

I didn’t have that with Eddie.  He stayed home with daddy after I went back to work.

You and I are like one person still, my Charlie Bird.

Knowing that by the time I write you your six month letter I will be back working and you will be at Renae’s full-time sort of kills something in my heart.

You have healed me from so much hurt.  So much pain.

Eddie made me a mommy by being first.  He will always have that.

But you?  You let me be the mommy I always knew I could be.

And I am so not ready to give that up to only evenings and weekends.

I love you, sweet Bird.

xx oo

Mommy

hands

Once a upon a time, a boy held a girl’s hand.

There are many places I could begin Cort and my story, but that is one of my favorite beginnings.

His holding my hand when I needed him.

With no romantic attachments.  No expectations.  No ulterior motives.

He held my hand because he knew in that moment that I needed my hand held.

His thumb gently rubbing the top of my hand. Softly and slowly.  Reassuringly.

This would be the way he held my hand from then on.  He may not remember, but I do.  When he proposed, he took my hand and his thumb started moving as he asked me that all-important question.  On our wedding day, when the pastor instructed us to hold hands, his thumbs moved deftly over my the backs of my hands.  Every night as we fall asleep, our hands entwined, I know he is drifting off when his thumb becomes still.

*************

When Eddie was born, I looked forward to his little hands.  I would dream of holding my son’s hands as he learned to stand, and walk, and as we crossed the street.

His hands were big for a newborn.  You know how large dog breeds will have puppies with HUGE paws and you know the dog is going to be HUGE by they size of the paws?  The whole, “well crap!  just think when he grows into those!” idea?  That is what everyone said when they caught a glimpse of Eddie’s hands.

In fact, Cort’s Grandpa Sluiter made the comment that Great Grandpa Edward (who Eddie is named after) had huge, powerful hands.  He was a farmer and he made things with his hands.  This made me smile.

I longed for my baby to grasp my finger in those “big” hands.

I had visited many friends after they had babies, and my favorite thing was to slip a finger in the palm of the infant and feel the reactionary squeeze.

This was not Eddie’s thing.

I would sneak my finger to Eddie’s palm and he would recoil his hand like he had touched something unpleasant. I thought it was just a phase, but it only got more noticeable the older he became.

He was…and is…fiercely independent even when he was just a few months old.  When he discovered he had hands, I joyfully watched him concentrate on bringing them together in front of his face.  I watched with pride as he slowly grabbed for the toys hanging from his activity mat.  But when I would put my hands or fingers out for him to grab, he would ignore them and fuss until I gave him a toy to hold and explore.

As a toddler he had to be carried through parking lots and into stores.  He simply would not hold our hands.

Even now, when he gets up from nap and joins me in our chair for some wake up cuddles, if I try to hold or stroke his hand he involuntarily pulls it in to himself.  I can rub his leg or his arm or run my fingers through his hair, but the hands are off limits.

If his hand dares to rest on mine, it is short-lived and usually done unconsciously.

*************

For three days and three nights Charlie and I melted into each other while I waited to be released from the hospital after his birth.

The first thing I did was put him right up to my face so I could absorb his new baby smell.  Then I put my finger in his palm.

He grasped it.  Tightly.

At feedings I would tuck my pinky into his hand while I held his bottle to his lips.  His tight squeeze remained for the duration of the bottle, only letting go when I wiggled it out so I could pick him up to burp him.

He found his hands in the same way Eddie did:  one day lying on his back, BOOM he realized he had hands.

It is one of my most favorite milestones because you can actually SEE the concentration and a-ha moment happen.

From that moment on, his favorite things to grasp are his own hands or one of our hands/fingers.

Oh, he will be entertained with a toy for a while…and a blanket or lovey for a bit longer.  But what he wants is contact with us. When he gets tired, he wants to cling to something.  That something is a hand.

The past few naps/nights I have scooped him up when he is getting fussy out of need to sleep and whisked him to his dim-lit room.  I have turned the humidifier on to block out house noises, snapped his nightlight on, and cuddled into the chair.

He quickly calms.

His tired eyes stare widely into mine and both hands take hold of my hand on his chest.

I start to hum and rock as he struggles with wanting to stay awake and needing to surrender to sleep.

Slowly I take my hand out of his clutch and watch as his hands find each other.

my michigan adventure

Seventeen years ago I was a high school junior.

I was taking physics.  The class was all seniors except for me and two other junior girls.

Each May, Michigan Adventure–an amusement park here in West Michigan–has a “Physics Day”.

Each May, my teacher, Mr. Janssen, took the physics class to participate with other area schools, but my junior year, we got rained out.

May of my senior year rolled around.  Physics Day was during the seniors’ last week, and I got it in my head that I should be able to go.

Throughout my four years of high school, I had Mr. Janssen for three math classes and for physics.  We were tight.

(Ok, if you know Mr. Janssen, you are rolling on the floor laughing at that statement.  I simply do not know how to describe him other than and introverted math teacher with an incredibly dry sense of humor. Who stands in front of class tossing the chalk in the air saying, “ah, umm…well…” when he is answering questions because he is so much smarter than you are, dummy. But he would never say that.  And he smirks, but never all out smiles.  I loved that man.)

Anyway, because I loved Mr. Janssen, and for some reason I decided we were tight (which he found humorous.  shut up, he did), I went to him and begged requested that he get me out of class for the day and let me come along to Michigan Adventure with his physics class.

I totally expected him to say no.

I mean, it’s not like I would be doing the packet of physics problems…I wasn’t in the class.  It would be nothing but a super fun day off from school for me.

There was zero educational value in having me go.

Also I was absolutely math dumb.  I, to this day, do not know how I even passed physics.

But he said yes.

And this is when I realized I had no idea who was in the class or if I would even have fun.

It just so happened that about a day after he said yes, I had to go to his classroom for something for a teacher.  I walked in to what happened to be the hour he had his physics class–mostly juniors, but some seniors.

And ALL dudes.

Not one girl in the class.

What had I gotten myself into?

But I wasn’t going to back out of a free day to ride roller coasters instead of being in school.

So on Physics Day I showed up to the bus, climbed those black tread steps, and stood at the front surveying the possibilities.

Which of these lucky dudes was going to be my new best friend for the day?

As I made my way down the long bus aisle, I flashed a smile, gave the obligatory “dude nod” to a few of the senior guys, did the finger point at a couple fellas who had zero chance of having me sit down, and finally stopped next to a seat with a junior in it that I knew a little bit through mutual friends.

He smiled back and I said, “move over, Curly.  You’re my friend for the day.”

He shoved over to the window and I plopped down next to him.

Before we were even out of the parking lot, I broke the ice with the big question the answer to which would set the tone for the rest of our day: “So, do you have a girlfriend?”

“Sort of.”

“How do you ‘sort of’ have a girlfriend?”

“Well, she doesn’t go here.  She lives 45 minutes away.”

And from there we chatted for the entire hour drive to the amusement park, deemed ourselves “Coaster Buddies”, and made let his lab/project partner do all the work on the packet problems.

Curly was one of the nicest guys I have ever met.

We became super great friends very quickly.  I met his girlfriend, Trisha, and loved her too.

Fast-forward approximately 14 years.

New Year's Eve 2009: Ben & Trisha with pregnant-with-Eddie Me (don't worry that is non-alcoholic) &"Curly"

I’m so glad Mr. Janssen said yes to my going on the Physics Day field trip sixteen years ago.

 

sweaters and smiles

Of course after admitting to the world that I have nothing to blog about, I have jotted down a thousand things.

But they all feel a bit weighty or mooshy for a Monday.

So instead, you get a glimpse at our Easter.

The day was beautiful.  Sunny skies and mid-50’s when we left the house for church at 9:30am.

I even got all of my boys to wear sweaters and smiles.  Plus we were able to take Eddie’s crazy curls with a load of tangle spray and some heavy brushing.

After an absolutely lovely service, we packed up and headed to my parents’ house for Easter baskets for the boys.

Eddie dived right into his asking, “mommy, you open this for me?” about everything…mostly about all the candy (thanks, mom)…chocolate in particular.  Seeing as we hadn’t had lunch yet, I only let him open his brother’s m&m’s (let’s face it, Charlie won’t miss them).  But that little stinker found a loophole in my system.  Grandma had chocolate eggs in a bowl.  No need to open his candy when he can shove Grandma’s chocolate in his mouth.

Oh well, it’s Easter.

And he wore a tie and sweater for me.

And stood nice for this family picture:

Eat up, bud.  In fact, here’s some more m&ms.

After my parents’ we went over to Cort’s mom and stepdad’s house for dinner, and egg hunt, and more Easter baskets.

My mother-in-law’s Easter dinner might be one of my favorite holiday meals all year.  I am not even a ham fan, but hers always has this yummy crust on it.  Plus she has all the things I deny myself otherwise:  green bean casserole, rolls, and cheesy potatoes with potato chips on top.  Don’t worry, I ate a strawberry too.  You know, to be healthy.  Or something.

Anyway, I was too busy stuffing my face and making Eddie eat try at least a bite of everything on his plate to take pics of the food.

Cort and I learned that our older son is quite cut-throat when it comes to Easter Egg hunting.  He knew his 11 month old cousins could not get around to find the eggs, so he ran and grabbed almost all of them, despite our yelling for him to “share with the babies, Eddie!”

Why yes, Eddie did outrun his aunt Kenzie because he knew she was weighted down with his cousin.  And yes, he DID ask her to hand over the eggs she had collected for Kingston.  The boy meant business.  I think he is going to be disappointed next year when those tanks cousins of his can team up and push him off the eggs.

Thirteen eggs collected probably equaled about $2 in change, but it was the fun of getting them in his basket.  And of course “feeding his pig” (piggy bank) when he got home.

Granny sort of out does the whole world when it comes to Easter baskets.  So many fun goodies, but the annual ones are swimsuits for the boys.  Charlie got a shark suit with  matching water shoes this year.  Yes, I may have swooned.

And how did she know sticker books are Eddie’s favorite?  He even showed Great Granny how they work.  I think she was impressed.

After all that fun, it was finally time to go home for naps. For everyone.

Because remembering our loved ones who have passed on and praising God for giving them (and us) eternal life through Jesus is exhausting.

Or we were in food comas from Granny’s cooking.

One of those.

Dating 101

With Valentine’s Day only 14 days away, a lot of people are thinking about romance and date nights and mooshy stuff.

Or not.

I was interviewed by Care.com about how Cort and I keep the zing in our relationship.

Hint:  it has nothing to do with jewelry or roses.

You should also read the rest of the interviews by some of my very favorite bloggers like Meredith, Jenni, Beth Ann, and Kelly.  I am pretty honored to be among these talented women for this round up of interviews.

Plus they all have great stories and tips for keeping the dating flame alive.

See you over there.

So THIS is Christmas?

I don’t usually like to post about “hot topics,” but Galit convinced me a hot topic is better than no post at all.

Like most of my posts about “controversial” topics, this stems from something I saw on facebook.  It never fails.  This time of year brings out the copy/paste status updates that claim that Christians are under siege and that the government is out to de-christianize Christmas by making everyone use the phrase “Happy Holidays.”

This is one of those cut/past updates that caused me to “hide” quite a few people:

WHAT A CROCK ….. We can’t say Merry Christmas now …we have to say Happy Holidays. We can’t call it a Christmas tree, it’s now called a Holiday tree? Because it might offend someone. If you don’t like our “Customs” and it offends you so much then LEAVE …I will help you pack. They are called customs and we have our traditions …If you agree with this please post this as your status!! I AM …

Yesterday I saw this blog post (you may have to scroll to the exact post.  This site is actually blocked at school, so I can’t get you the exact link) and in turn, I shared it on facebook.

I knew I would catch some grief.  And to be honest, I don’t agree with everything the post says, but I do agree with the sentiment.

I believe that Jesus was more than just a “good guy,” however, I concur about the whole nonsense of people getting their panties in a bunch about semantics surrounding the holiday season.

It bothers me to think that people really believe that there is some sort of coup going on to destroy the Christian part of Christmas.

And to go so far as to call Christmas “ours” (um..whose? ) and that they are our “customs” (why is in this in quotes and again..whose customs?) and to call for people who don’t believe to “get out” (get out of where?  The USA?  But we have more than just Christians here…huh.), is simply not, well, Christian.

I could go on and on here giving you the history of Christmas.  I actually know quite a lot about it since I went through a very long doubting and questioning phase, but I’ll just give you the nitty gritty.

But what it boils down to is this:  December has been a month of holidays (yes, plural) for thousands of years. WAY before Christianity even existed.  In fact, Christians placed the celebration of Christ’s birth in December rather than when he was probably born (September or March) because there were already celebrations going on and this way they could justify all the celebrating.

In fact, Christmas celebrations became rowdy, drunken very immoral events throughout Europe and part of the “religious persecution” that Puritans came to the Americas to avoid was due to their disgust with how un-Christian and corrupt these practices became.  The Puritans did not celebrate birthdays or Christmas.  In fact it was outlawed.

Christmas celebrations went in and out of favor right through the American Revolution because Americans didn’t want to celebrate something that was British (since we were trying to find our own identity).

The actual revival of Christmas, which lead to Christmas as we know it, mostly had to do with Charles Dickens’ novel in the mid-1800’s, A Christmas Carol (which is where the phrase “Merry Christmas” came from).

Christmas didn’t become a “legal” holiday in the USA until close to the end of the 1800’s when the Christmas card was introduced.

Up until the twentieth century, with The Night Before Christmas  (which is where Santa first appeared as we think of him today), Christmas in the USA was small and religious.  It was with the re-introduction of pagan symbols as part of marketing that Christmas is what it is now.

Sooo…what does all that historical stuff mean?

Nothing if you are celebrating Christmas because you are celebrating the gift of love and hope to the world.

But what about the other “holidays”?

Well there is Kwanza (a strictly USA holiday started in the 60’s) and Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice.  People who celebrate Kwanza do not necessarily NOT celebrate Christmas.  Kwanza is a celebration of culture and community for African Americans.  Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday–and not necessarily their biggest (their new year, Rosh Hashanah, is actually bigger for most Jews), but has been made big by the media and marketing effects of the overall season of trying to be inclusive.  And the winter solstice is a collection of many holidays both pagan and religious from all over the world and in many cultures that happen around the same time in December.

What do ALL of these holidays have in common?  They celebrate a new hope.  New beginnings.  Something better for their culture/community/religion.

They celebrate a miracle of newness that brings hope and joy and goodness for this world.

Is it important to recognize that there are more holidays than just Christmas in December?  I think so.

Is it an attack on Christmas to recognize everyone?  No.

Nobody is forcing you to say “Happy Holidays!” I know I tend to say “Merry Christmas!” because that is what my family celebrates.

We focus on the birth of a baby that brought hope and joy and love to so many.

Do I get offended when Target tells me “Happy Holidays!” in their commercials?  No.  It IS the holiday season.  Some I celebrate (Christmas and New Years) and some I don’t.

But that isn’t the point.

The point is that we spread cheer and love and kindness.

The point is hope.

And my hope for you is a beautiful season filled with love and joy.  But mostly hope.

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