October 5th

I remember the day vividly. Of course I do.

Over time, its events have transpired into a movie in my mind, playing on a continuous reel that occasionally makes its way to the forefront. In it, I am watching myself as though I wasn’t a part of it, as though it wasn’t me living those moments.

I see myself as I get the news, as I cry, as I process.

I remember all the details; even the blurry ones.

So on the morning of October 5th this year, I was transported back to that day ten years prior, the day my Dad passed away.

There was my mind made movie, playing all morning as I recalled those things that I already know so well; the events of the day that changed everything.

This October 5th, I woke up in sobs and let the tears stain my pillow as the toddler slept peacefully beside me.

The anniversary of this loss is hard every year, but ten years seems so significant. Ten years. A decade. A milestone.

I miss him everyday. I grieve all of the momentous things he has missed in my life. College graduation. My wedding. Meeting my son.

But there is so much I have missed seeing of him. The way he would have loved seeing the Phillies win the World Series in 2008. The way he would have loved the historical election where Obama became President. All of the Christmas presents I missed getting to see him open and Father’s Days we never got to celebrate. Getting to see him be a granddad.

He is forever a part of me. I see it every time I look in the mirror as his eyes stare back at me. I hear him every time the Beatles song “Imagine” is played, even all of the bad cover bands. I feel him every time I say my son’s full name, because we gave our son my Dad’s name, Richard, as a middle name. I smile every time I pass a chess set, or watch my son play soccer, or stare into my son’s eyes, because, luckily, he has those same big eyes, too.

Yes, I remember that day. But I remember so much more of him as my father and I missed so much more of him in these ten years since he has been gone.

So on October 5th, rather than transporting myself back to that day, I let my mind movie play and I let my tears fall. Then I got my little boy dressed and we had a play date at the Botanical Gardens, surrounding ourselves with butterflies and flowers.

And then I think my family gave each other the greatest gift; we gave each other a weekend of each other.

Leaving the husband and toddler at home, my mom, sister, brother and I went away for a weekend to Charlottesville, VA. We immersed ourselves in laughter and conversation, scenery and adventure, and no shortage of extravagant food.

Nothing will change the significance of the loss, the way his presence is missed daily, the way my heart grieves eternally for the man that I was lucky enough to have as my father.

But this year, on this tenth year of the day we lost my father, we celebrated my Dad with love and laughter, just the four of us.

I know for certain that there were still five of us there.

“Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body, answer that the flower withers, but the seed remains.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

Spending time with my family, remembering and celebrating my Dad who helped create it.

My Dad

Heavy Grey

Clouds coated the sky in a blanket of grey, clinging to the sky and soaking into my bones.

The heaviness of the earth mirrored the heaviness of my heart, as my footsteps interrupted the calm of the puddles decorating the pavement.

I even mirrored my mood, ever so subconsciously, in an outfit of blue jeans, a gray and white striped shirt, and gray cardigan.

It’s almost here, isn’t it? This day that creeps up slowly and then presents itself quickly as it makes it presence known; this day that changed so much.

October 5th will be the tenth anniversary of the day my Dad passed away. It will mark ten years since I have seen his face, heard his voice, or felt his hug.

I don’t exactly dread the day, but I do feel it’s presence and it’s significance. It is a day that changed everything, a day that forces me to remember, but the moments that I miss my Dad are much more frequent and emotional. October 5th is not a cursed day for me like September 1st. October 5th was awful ten years ago, but the day itself has not been repeatedly bad, just saddening.

People say time heals all wounds, but I don’t think you ever heal from the loss of a parent. I think the intensity of the pain becomes much less, and time may distance you from the event, but never from the emptiness.

The best description was explained to me by my grief counselor who I saw for a few months after my Dad passed. He said losing someone is like throwing a rock into a calm lake. At first, the ripples are large and big and interrupt the calm of the surface. Eventually, the ripples calm, and if you watch long enough, you will see the silent stillness of the water once again. But the rock will always remain, sitting there, just beneath the surface, changing the foundation of the lake.

And so it is when you experience a loss. Time will take away the ripples. Time will distance you from the event. But time can not change the way it changed you, the way you miss them, the way you wish they were still here every second of every day.

This was my day of heavy grey  Of anticipation of a ten year anniversary. A day where the world gave me the gift of gray to mirror my thoughts. For it is only by my walking through the fog that I can once again return to the sunshine.

“When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose them all at once; you lose them in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and their scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in the closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of them that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that they are gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.” 
― John IrvingA Prayer for Owen Meany

The Fallacy of Time

Time is a funny thing isn’t it?

Always elusive; intangible and present.

Always continuing, despite the moments that feel too long and the years that pass too quickly.

It amazes me how long a minute can be and how short a month is.

It does not stop its steady pace, often conflicting with our own perception of significant moments.

I am sometimes lost between fleeting moments of beauty and impossibly long moments of difficulty.

Emotions can work like a time machine, as anniversaries of events can transport us back and make us feel that we are reliving it.

That’s what deja vu is isn’t it? The reliving of a memory except it’s time travel going forward, remembering something you have not yet encountered.

Time is a schedule, a measure, a constant count.

Time itself never changes, but it has the ability to change everything.

And that is the fallacy of time; for in its essence of consistency, it never accounts for the ways it stands still, moves too fast, and transports us back.

Long Days and Short Years

*I wrote this post sometime this summer. I am so terribly behind on blogging, but I wanted to share it with you today.*

These days are long.

These days like today, where this boy sent me on a roller coaster of emotions ranging from elated to exhausted to angry to proud to exasperated to in awe.

This boy who just today threw 3 temper tantrums, drank my Starbucks, opened and ate a watermelon in the middle of the grocery store, stuck modeling clay to his bedroom wall, stuck his penis through the hole of a CD, tracked poo throughout the house, dumped out an entire jumbo bag of cat food in the laundry room and then tried to put the cat in the bath.

Just today, I found myself apologizing to the grocery store cashier for the half eaten dripping watermelon he had to ring up so we could exit the store, and saying the phrases, “Please take your penis out of the CD.” “Why is there poo on your foot?” “How did this entire bag of cat food wind up on the floor?” “We do not put cats in baths.”

But on this same day, this boy said, “You are the beu-ti-est Mommy I eber seen.” And my heart smiled. Just today, this boy was thoughtful enough to pack a snack in his Daddy’s work bag and say, “Daddy, you can take this snack to work to share with your friends.” Just today, this boy and I shared a lovely evening walk.

Yes, these days are long.

But these years are short.

This boy will be three years old in September. In just three years he has changed dramatically from a helpless infant to a thoughtful, smart, challenging, adorable, child. He has formed complex thoughts and a personality all his own.

This boy has entered my life and it has been a whirlwind ever since. He has changed me completely, and my love for him at times is so intense that it feels overpowering. This boy has taught me more about life and love in the three years I have known him than I ever could have put together on my own. And I am so aware that my time with him is limited. It will not be long before his world expands beyond this one we have created together. It will not be long before he is old enough to make his own grocery store trips and buy his own Starbucks and take care of his own pets. It will not be long before Mommy and Daddy are no longer the center of his world and he is no longer my sweet little boy.

Yes, these years are short.

“The days are long but the years are short.” – unknown, but my favorite quote since becoming a mommy

Familiar Roles

This feels familiar, as though I’m tracing my footsteps, falling back into a place I’ve known in the past but haven’t visited in a while.

I have become rusty at being in the real world, because as  time passed and seasons changed, my son and I have been creating our own.

It has been a dance of intensity and beauty and I know that we are still only at the beginning.

But the separation is slowly happening. I know we are both finally ready.

As my son expands his world into preschool and friends and independent play, I dust off my “grown up shoes” and try to remember how to walk in them.

This year, I am the Parent Council Chair at my son’s preschool. And my goodness gracious, to those of you that told me to run away when this was offered to me last spring, I owe you a big apology because I really should’ve listened. This job is more of an undertaking than I realized. I had told myself I would not get caught up in it, but as I become more involved and aware of the behind-the-scene action at the school, the more I want to be a part of it. I may be new and I may not want to spend the next year of my life stressed out with this work, but I think I really have a chance to make a difference here. I think this position was put in my path for a reason, and as much work as it is going to be, I also think it’s a blessing. I have done leadership roles before; I have played this part of organizer, brainstormer, care-a-little-too-mucher. I know I can do it again.

I also took a chance this year. A chance I have not dared to take in a long time. I auditioned for a big Christmas production put on by a local church. Most churches do Christmas productions, but apparently this production runs like a Broadway musical. It is an original script each year and the story is told through song, dance, and theater drama. Over 200 people auditioned. Auditions involved dance, vocal, and dramatic. Only 50 people were invited to call backs and 6 women were being considered for the female lead. So here is my big news: I got the lead! Performance used to be a huge part of my life, but I have not performed since 2008, right before I found out I was pregnant.  My skills are a bit rusty, but I am oh-so-ready to bring performance back into my life. There will be costumes, there will be lights, there will be make-up, there will be me trying to learn choreography and lines…and there will be that little piece of my soul that gets fulfilled by being on stage.

I am not sure how all of these pieces will fit back together as I balance motherhood with bits of my previous self, but I know that they will. I am also fighting my own guilt with the fact that I have chosen these roles rather than choosing to return to work. I try to get my Parent Council work done while Noah is in school and all show rehearsals will be at night. These two new roles, though not paid, will still allow me a lot of time with my son. For now, I have decided to feed my soul rather than my bank account.

So as I re-introduce myself to the world of paperwork and pull my dance shoes out of the back of the closet, I also prepare for the beginning of what’s next and pray for guidance into this next round of “new normal.”

(If you will be in the Richmond area around Christmas and are at all interested in attending these performances, you can visit this site for more details. http://gloriouschristmasnights.com/)

The Curse of September 1st

September 1st is a hugely significant date for me. It is the date of my son’s birth. So while I feel like this should be a joyous and celebratory day, it has been overshadowed with unsettling events since 2009.

September 1st, 2009: The day my son was born. Also the day I had an extremely difficult labor experience resulting in an emergency c-section and a two and a half hour separation from my son after birth. Due to my exhaustion and an almost overdose of medication by the hospital staff, I do not remember meeting my son.

September 1st, 2010: My son’s first birthday. Though we were able to have a celebratory day with family, it was also extremely emotional for me since it was the anniversary of the difficult day he was born. The day of his party was also our very first trip to the ER with him and his first diagnosis of croup.

September 1st, 2011: My son’s second birthday. We had his party in late August, and the day of his party was wonderful. But on the day of his actual second birthday, we were in our home with no power and received an IRS audit and an $11,000 bill for a surgery my son had that insurance was refusing to cover.

September 1st, 2012: My son’s third birthday. This year, we held his party on his actual birthday at our home. And the curse might have been broken! The party was adorable, my son had fun with his friends, and after the party we enjoyed a relaxing day at home visiting with family.

He did wake up on September 2nd, 2012  with a 101 degree fever, though…

Maybe the September 1st curse will be broken in 2013?

The Third Birthday

After eventful first and second birthdays, and a lot of planning for the third, I had high hopes that this birthday party would be perfect. This year, his birthday fell on a Saturday, a perfect day to host a party. So on September 1st, we hosted a yellow birthday party at our house. Here is the big reveal; Noah’s third birthday party!

This year his birthday was all about his favorite color; yellow. Throughout the summer I diligently planned, bought, and made yellow items. We covered our home in yellow decor and invited his preschool class over for some fun. We were able to celebrate with my mom, sister, and brother-in-law, too.

The Yellow Birthday Party

Mommy, Noah and Daddy

The Invitation

The decor: kitchen chalkboard, living room streamers and balloons, entry table with pictures of Noah at ages 1, 2, and 3 and favor bags and birthday hats, dining room decked in yellow

Dining room. The food was all yellow: bananas, Goldfish, cheese, pineapple, doughnuts, popcorn, and yellow cupcakes and candy.

Beverage station featuring lemonade and lemon water, striped straws, and lemons. There are also homemade cookies shaped like the number 3 in the cake plate for each child to decorate with yellow frosting. Close up of homemade birthday banner.

Cupcakes and candy jars.

Cupcakes with yellow striped liners, yellow cupcake flags, and the number 3 candle, looking out into the back yard.

The back yard ready for the yellow party

The birthday boy.

Party details: my artsy shot, striped straws and lemons, the three cookie cutter and yellow icing…all of the 3 cookies were eaten!

There are a lot of pictures of all of the children and family at the party, but I’m not sure they would like being included on a blog. The children played outside on the swing set and I had set up bowling, bubbles, t-ball, and a yellow bucket of toys. They had a great time playing outside and decorating number three cookies. We all enjoyed singing Happy Birthday to Noah.

Happy Birthday Noah! Blowing out the candles and making a wish.

Look at that beautiful three year old.

The favor bags. Cat not included.🙂

A boy and his balloons.

After party cuddles

Mommy, Noah, and balloons. My favorite yellow birthday party picture.

The Yellow Birthday Party was a great success. Noah had a wonderful time and I was so happy to host a party at our home for his friends. I think the third birthday was the best one yet.

What Do You Do All Day?

This afternoon, one of the neighborhood kids stopped by. She does that occasionally, and she is very nice and good with my son. Although her visits are always unplanned, I never mind them.

Today, as she was telling me about how her year is going so far in 5th grade, I mentioned that my little guy just started school, too. She said, “Oh no! Aren’t you lonely?”

I politely said, “No, it gives me time to get things done.” To which my son added, “Yeah, when I go to school Mommy eats and drinks and cleans.”

And then she said, “What do you do all day?”

I told her a brief overview of our schedule, saying, “Well, after we wake up I drop him off at school and then come home to do some cleaning. After I pick him up we eat lunch and have quiet time and then play outside for most of the afternoon. Then it’s time for dinner, bath, and bed.”

She just nodded but I kind of felt like I was being judged for not doing enough. By a 5th grader.

So, here’s the breakdown of what I actually did today. It’s probably going to be really long and boring, so you can stop reading now if you like. I guess I need to write it down as much for my own sense of accomplishment as for needing to tell the story.

8:00 AM: Wake up Noah. Brush his teeth, get him dressed, get him downstairs and set up with a cereal breakfast. Note that getting a toddler dressed is not as simple as “getting dressed.” It involves a lot of coaxing, hands on work, and sometimes bribery.

8:30 AM: Return back upstairs to get myself dressed. Which means throw on something somewhat presentable and put hair in a ponytail.

8:45 AM: Gather up all needed supplies and go out to car to put child in car seat. I had packed his snack and school bag the night before.

9:00 AM: Drop Noah off at school. Drive to Starbucks.

9:15 AM: Go to grocery store.

10:00 AM: Get gas.

10:30:AM: Return home, unload groceries. Do dishes, start a load of laundry, scoop the cat litter, straighten living room. Notice that the china cabinet is leaning a funny way and rearrange its contents.

10:55 AM: Head upstairs to do some cleaning. Which involved: putting away all toys, dusting all surfaces of Noah’s room, making up Noah’s bed (which takes forever), vacuuming his entire room including baseboards.

Then I moved on to the bathroom and since I was in an organizing mood I re-organized all of the upstairs bathroom cabinets including wiping them down, designating things to other places, and throwing things away. Then I dusted all bathroom surfaces and the upstairs hallway.

Moving on to our bedroom, I put all of the clothes in the closet, made up our bed, dusted, and vacuumed.

12:20 PM: Quickly run downstairs, grab keys, and go pick up my child.

12:35 PM: Arrive at school to an excited toddler and listen to his stories about school and soccer. Drive us home for lunch and to let him watch one episode of “Peep and Duck” while I also try to cram in lunch in between switching the laundry load, making Noah’s lunch, and sorting through his school bag.

1:20 PM: Read Corduroy to Noah. He requests, “Again, Mommy!” We read it 3 times.

2:00 PM: After 3 stories and much arguing from the toddler I finally get him to lay down for quiet time. (We are past napping.)

2:20 PM: Noah decides he is done with quiet time and jumps up to play. I reluctantly get up.

I’m not sure of the rest of the time-table for the afternoon, but at some point the mailman comes and we read the mail. We play with leftover yellow birthday balloons. (Yellow birthday party pics coming soon!) We line up magnets. We pretend to fix computers. We have a chasing session. We also go upstairs briefly to get a book (I thought) but instead the toddler sees what I have done to his room and promptly unmakes the bed and arranges his blankets into some kind of fort on the floor. Sigh. We cuddle. We laugh. We marvel at the size of my son’s poot and I wipe his bottom. We vacuum the living room and I switch laundry again.

Around 4:00 we have a snack and then decide to go outside. That is when we run into our neighbor and she comes over to play. She plays with us while we ride tricycles, take a neighborhood walk, swing, slide, and ride scooters.

5:30 PM: Neighbor leaves and we come inside for dinner. Except that transition results in a MAJOR tantrum screaming fit and we do not actually make it inside until 6:00. Ridiculous.

6:00PM: Toddler has a personality change and says, “I will be nice now, Mommy.” What the….?

6:30 PM: I serve a lovingly prepared meal of hotdogs and grapes (for Noah) and a Healthy Choice microwaveable meal (for me.) Cooking is not my thing. I also prepare my son’s snack for school tomorrow.

7:00 PM: I put the toddler in a bubble bath. We make “party decorations” with wash cloths and play with a toy shark and lizard. I wash his hair and we sing silly bath time songs.

After drying off and putting on pajamas we brush teeth and cuddle up in my bed to read Corduroy one more time. There is no trying to get him in his own bed on nights when Daddy isn’t home. We also read Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See and an Elmo book. We then get all snuggled up, I turn off the light, and my little guy drifts off to sleep.

8:00 PM: I leave the toddler and come to my computer to catch up on email, which involves a lot of correspondence I need to deal with for my new role of Parent Council Chair at my son’s preschool. I alternate between working on that, checking Facebook and Twitter, and trying to catch up on blogging (which I am terribly behind on.)

8:55 PM: The toddler wakes up. I comfort him and am able to return to the computer work after about 15 minutes.

9:30 PM: The toddler wakes up again and this time does not settle easily. After rocking, singing, and getting him water he finally drifts off into a deep sleep right before 10:oo.

Before I can settle at my computer again I go to let the cats in that have been left outside in the rain that just started. Oops. They are ok. Just a bit wet and mad.

Now, after 10:00 PM, I am finally hoping to get caught up on Parent Council emails, some blogging, and some social media. I hope to be asleep by midnight.

Of course, this isn’t the way it is everyday. There are some days when I clean other parts of the house or run other errands or go shopping. There are some days I pay bills or make house administrative phone calls or deal with some pressing paperwork issue. There are some days when I choose to actually take some me time while Noah is at school. After today, I am hoping tomorrow might be one of them! There are some days when my husband is around. There are some days Noah does not have school and we do play dates or go to parks or the children’s museum. There are also some days I actually get adult interaction.

But most days, this is a good description of my life. This is currently day 11 of no husband home to help. He is a medical resident and his current schedule is a stretch where his shortest shift is 12 hours, but most days it has been 16. Either way, it means he’s gone before we wake up and home after we are asleep.

I don’t mean this to be list of complaints. I love getting to spend so much time with my son. I love that I am able to have such a clean house. I love that I can go get Pumpkin Spice lattes. I love evening walks and cuddles with my little guy. But days like today are the perfect descriptor as to why my life is both elating and exhausting.

And that, my friends, is what I did all day.

How did you spend your day?

The Difference A Year Makes

Last year, at this time, I was a nervous wreck.

I barely slept the night before. I tossed and turned and hugged my little boy tight throughout the night as he slept beside me in bed. I woke up early and dressed myself and my son and slowly carefully drove the 12 minutes it takes to get from our house to our destination.

It was my son’s first day of school.

He was only going to a two-day-a-week preschool program from 9-12, but it was the first time he had ever been away from me. He had never had a babysitter and I rarely even let family watch him. To be honest, he had never even been with my husband alone for more than 4 hours. The school separation was going to be a huge deal, for both of us.

When I dropped my son off in 2011, he screamed and cried and I finally had to leave him crying there while I walked out under the teacher’s advisement that he would stop crying and settle more quickly if I was gone. This, I knew was true. I used to be a teacher, after all. But it didn’t make it any easier for me to be the mommy that had to leave my crying baby nearly in tears myself.

With mixed emotions of apprehension and excitement, I drove away from the school and went to Starbucks. I ordered a Pumpkin Spice Latte, and made myself comfortable in one of the bar seats facing the window. I watched as people scurried to work or shopped at the outdoor mall. I felt pangs of quilt and frivolity for the luxury of being able to people-watch on a Thursday morning when most people were working or in school. I felt unencumbered and oddly uneasy with my new-found alone time.

After trying to enjoy my latte and spending a little too much time in my own head, I decided it was time to leave Starbucks. Except it was only 10:15. And so I drove to my son’s school and sat in the parking lot until noon, anxiously awaiting pick up time. I just did not know what to do without him for that long. I felt like a piece of me was missing.

This year, at this time, I was ready.

As it turns out, I got pretty used to my two mornings off a week last year. I spent most of last year re-discovering my identity outside of motherhood and I felt pretty exhausted after a long summer with very few breaks from constant toddler care.

The night before, my son slept in his bed while I slept in mine, (for the first half of the night anyway).

This year, my son is going into the three-year-old class three days a week from 9-12, but with extra curricular activities of soccer, art and gymnastics after school each day, so I will be picking him up at times ranging from 12:30 to 1:00pm. His school is no longer a new environment, but a trusted and nurturing one.

We were both excited for school and I may have driven a little over the speed limit to get us there.

I walked my son in and dropped him off in his new classroom. Though he was a little hesitant and a bit nervous when we arrived, he became distracted with washing his hands in the new (to him) big boy bathroom in the three-year-old class. I gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, said, “Mommy loves you,” and slipped away with no tears from either of us.

This year, I went straight to Starbucks, ordered my Pumpkin Spice Latte, and drove home to my house where I set up my laptop, lit a candle, and spent some time enjoying the fall weather, listening to music, blogging, and soaking up every second of my blissful alone time.

This year, I may or may not have been a few minutes late to pick him up.

What a difference a year makes.

First Day of School Pics

Noah’s first days of school. Left: 2011, 2 years old, apprehensive. Right: 2012, 3 years old, attitude.

Noah playing with play dough at school Left: 2011 Right: 2012

Little Moments

Things that have made me smile today:

  • Dropping my son off at pre-school for his second day in the three-year-old class, knowing that he will have fun and that he is in such good hands with teachers that will love him and take good care of him.
  • Driving alone in my car, listening to the radio a little too loudly.
  • Getting my first Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season today from baristas that know my name, ask about my little boy, and know my order.
  • Sitting on my back deck feeling the beautiful breeze as it floats the scent of the “Autumn Festival” Yankee Candle I have burning beside me into the air.
  • Surrounding myself with silence, typing, tastes and scents that relax me.
  • Taking the time to ignore the chores and choosing to listen to life’s little pleasures.
  • Remembering that before there were days of mommyhood, there were days of me.
  • Giving thanks for this life, this house, this moment, and all of the blessings that have gotten me to this day, this time, this now.

My perfect fall morning.