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

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Turning Three: A Birthday Letter

My sweet boy,

The first year of life brings so many changes, but it has been this year between two and three that I have seen the most growth in you.

It has been this year, my sweet boy, that you have stopped nursing, have fully potty trained, and started sleeping in your own bed. (Some nights.)

It has been this year that you have stopped referring to yourself as “baby” and instead say “Noah.” You have even learned how to spell your name and proudly walk around saying “I am N-O-A-H Noah!” You have even learned to write the letters “O” and “H.”  My heart swells every time.

It has been this year you have decided you want to be a “digger man” when you grow up, and in the last few months you have changed your aspiring profession to “actor.” I will be proud of you no matter what you choose.

It has been this year that you have gone to your very first year of preschool, two mornings a week from 9 to 12. It was the very first time that you had ever been away from me, and though it was hard for both of us at first, we have both thrived with the expansion of your world.

It has been this year that I have seen you develop real relationships with your friends as you have moved from parallel play to interactive games.

It has been this year that you have mastered your motor skills. I’ve never been more proud of someone jumping in puddles or riding tricycles.

This year, you have established family roles. “Daddy is the cooker, Mommy is the cleaner, and I am the helper.” ~Noah summer 2012

Though you have always been a strong verbal speaker and communicator, this year your vocabulary has expanded and your thoughts are always expressed in complex sentences. I am often amazed at the way your mind works, and especially at the way you are able to tell me about it.

“Mommy, I have a story. Once upon time, there was a kitty cat and it got up up stuck on the roof. And the helicopter came and got the kitty cat and put it down. And then everybody was happy. The End.” 

“Wow, Noah, that was such a good story! It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. It also had a conflict and a resolution.” 

“Yes, Mommy, it did.” 

~August 2012

I love hearing your stories, your thoughts, and your opinions. I trust your judgement and often include you on family decisions. I want you to know that I value you, always.

It has been this year that I have seen you cross over from baby to boy, and this year that has challenged me the most as a parent. (So far.)

But it has been this year, my sweet boy, that I have delighted in your growth. As you continue to grow and branch out away from me, I want you to always know that I will never be too far away, standing in awe of wonderful YOU.

I love you forever and always, my sweet three-year-old baby boy.

Love,

Mommy

(meant to be published on your 3rd birthday, September 1st, 2012)

My sweet 3 year old boy

The First Birthday

As a countdown to my son’s third birthday party, I thought I would share the first two.

The first birthday was the hardest one for me. I was an emotional wreck with the realization that my son was turning one, and had an incredibly difficult time with the one year anniversary of my difficult birth experience.

To add to my emotional anxiety, we had also just moved to Richmond, VA when my son was 9 months old. As soon as I had unpacked boxes I was throwing a huge birthday party.

All of our family flew up from GA to celebrate the only grandchild on both sides’ first birthday. It was a huge milestone. My mom, brother, sister, and all of their significant others as well as my husband’s parents, two brothers, sister-in-law and grandmother were there. We piled 15 people into our newly bought house and admired our sweet little boy.

The grand celebration was a four-day affair of family visiting, but the actual celebration was taking place on the Saturday after he turned one. This turned out to be a very good thing since I spent most of the day of his actual birthday crying.

We enjoyed the company of family and suffered minimal drama, though there always seems to be some at large family gatherings.

And then on the morning of the day of his party, my little boy started having trouble breathing. My husband and I weren’t terribly worried, but as the day progressed and his condition didn’t, we decided to head to the emergency room.

While we endured our first emergency room visit with our little boy, a scary experience that resulted in a diagnosis of croup, a steroid shot, and a nebulizer treatment, our family used their nervous energy to decorate the house for the party. My father-in-law even mowed the lawn. It was incredibly sweet, and when we got home from the hospital we had a party celebrating the first year of our little boy’s life.

The Lullaby

“Will you sing me a song Mommy?”

A smile flirts across my lips as I begin to sing a song I knew from long ago:

Toss a penny in a well

Make a wish,  you never can tell

Trust your heart and believe come what may

That anything can happen, 

If you let it happen

Anything can happen today

His eyes begin to flutter. His blinks begin to get longer.

His breathing begins to deepen and he curls up closer to my side.

Don’t be afraid to take a chance

Don’t look down each time that you dance

True romance comes right out of the blue

So anything can happen 

If you let it happen

Anything can happen for you

Heavy eyelids and peaceful breathing begin to fall into a sleepy rhythm.

Who knows maybe right around the corner

Your future is waiting for you

Don’t be afraid to take a chance

Don’t look down each time that you dance

Letting go is the only thing to do;

Then anything can happen

If you let it happen

Anything can happen for you

oo oo ooo oooooooo

He sighs as he moves in a bit closer and I watch as his final blink turns into closed eyes.

He is sleeping.

And I hope he is dreaming of hope and possibility and his very own happily ever after.

Good night my sweet little one.

*This song is called “Anything Can Happen” by Linda Eder from her album entitled “It’s No Secret Anymore.” I sang this solo my junior year of high school. There are many of my old performance pieces I have long forgotten, but this one has stayed with me. I must have been meant to remember it all these years so that I could sing it to my son every night.*

Goodnight Words

Sleepy kisses were handed out as we all adjusted covers and nuzzled into pillows.

The toddler still sleeps here snuggled in the middle most nights, even though we all know babyhood has past.

My little boy is at peace here with Mommy and Daddy and though we do the sleep-in-your-own-bed thing, we really like him here, too.

Darkness surrounds us but we gaze at a battery-powered stars and moon that cast a sky on our ceiling.

“Goodnight little family,” I say.

“I love you,” says my husband.

“Mommy, Daddy?”  questions the toddler.

“Yes, sweet boy?” we respond.

“You guys are taking good care of me.”

It is dark, but I could still feel my husband and I lock eyes. I can feel his heart swell in rhythm with mine and make out the dimples of his smile in the moonlight as it mirrors my emotion.

“That’s such a nice thing to say, buddy,” says my husband with a smile.

“Thank you so much. You are such a sweet boy. I love you,” I reply, struggling to find words to convey my emotion.

“I love you too, guys,” says our sweet boy as he cuddled his Curious George lovey close and snuggled in to sleep.

And so we drifted into slumber, falling asleep to lullabies of sleepy breathing and toddler validation. Goodnight husband, goodnight little boy, goodnight words that have warmed my heart and filled my soul.

Goodnight.

Stop and See

Often, in daily life I forget to see my son. I see him every day, but my view of him is hindered by the constant toddler tornado I see as he runs around and busies himself with the exploration of his world. My view of him is muddled in the daily “Mommy I need this” and “Mommy come do that.” I lose sight of him as I put away toys and wash dishes and try to scrub the strawberry stain out of his favorite shirt. I forget to just enjoy him as I fix his juice and warm his food. As I wipe his mouth and bottom and drive him to activities. As I play with him while thinking about the things I have waiting for me on my grown up to-do list.

A few weeks ago, we had a family photo session. When we received the pictures, I got teary. There he was. My son. And in this captured moment of stillness, I SAW him.

He is beautiful. 

In these pictures, I saw him for who he is. I noticed the redness of his hair that I often take for granted. I marveled at the deepness and darkness of his eyes. I delighted at the sweet smile that so often plays across his lips and the sometimes mischievous look that lights up his face.

I saw his smallness and his bigness all at the same time. I saw the beauty and wonder and blessing that is my little boy.

I saw the way he loves us, his Mommy and Daddy. And I saw the way we love him more than anything else in this world.

In these captured moments, these captured memories, I stopped and saw our family. I saw my little boy and the love I so often forget to see in the chaos and monotony of daily life. I got to stop and see my life, and remember what a beautiful thing it is.

Linking up today with the lovely Galit and Alison with my favorite link up; Memories Captured.

*The pictures were done by Amy Robinson Photography located in Richmond, VA. If you are in or around the Richmond area, you should definitely look into hiring her! We adore her both for her talent and personality. You can find her here: http://www.amyrobinsonphoto.com/.

Nicholas Sparks Is A Liar

“You deserve to be kissed every day, every hour, every minute,” comes the line booming from the TV complete with the sexy undertones of Zac Efron’s voice and a romantically themed musical score.

I was having a down day, and because I was in the middle of crying while watching my DVR recorded season finale of Up All Night, (which involved a tear jerking proposal that I had to watch because oh-my-goodness-I-LOVE-that-show), I was already a sappy mess. And then here comes this commercial for The Lucky One. I was completely wrapped up in it. I was mesmerized by the intensity and the passion and the love story. My mind wandered and became wistful. No sooner had Zac Efron delivered his line then my husband let out a loud disgusting burp simultaneous with the sound of my toddler yelling from the bathroom, “Mommy?! I pooted! Wipe my bottom!”

*sigh*

I think if it weren’t for the fact that I knew crying over the culmination of that moment would just make me look like an unstable mess, I totally would’ve broken down right there. But instead I just sighed and asked my burping husband if he might go handle the toddler’s bottom wiping needs.

So you see, The Lucky One-based-on-a-novel-by-Nicholas-Sparks, suggesting that the leading lady needs to be kissed every day, every hour, and every minute, is crap. I don’t have time for kissing every minute. I have stuff to do. You can’t just let toddlers sit around with poo on their bottoms. And who really wants to engage in a kiss with a person who just freshly burped? Gross.

On top of that, if I’m getting kissed every minute, when would I have time to do other stuff like dishes or laundry or drive my kid to preschool or, I don’t know, watch totally ridiculous romantic movies?

You see, it is these kind of movies that get our hopes up. That make us think that somewhere out there is this guy who will love us so intently that he just can’t wait to kiss us every minute. Who will love you with an unwavering passion and create a love story worthy of a movie. That one day we will grow up and meet Prince Charming and live happily ever after. I am not falling for it.

Maybe there’s some of that intensity in the beginning of a relationship, but then it becomes a marriage with real life things to deal with and babies to take care of and it’s hard to find one minute alone with your partner, let alone multiple minutes in which to kiss them.

Why can’t we be more realistic about this? Why can’t we make a movie where the leading man strides up to the leading lady and says, “Hey baby, I know you’ve had a long day, why don’t I clean the livingroom while you sit on the couch. And I promise I won’t try to kiss you because I know you are not in the mood after dealing with the toddler all day.”

Or something else wonderfully romantic, like these amazing Ryan Gosling memes from digitalmomblog.com.  Swoon!

15 0 15 Sweet Words for Moms from Ryan Goslingoriginal image source: bangersandnash.com

01 0 15 Sweet Words for Moms from Ryan Gosling
Or my favorite,
06 You Look Great in Your Sweatpants: 10 Things Any SAHM Would Love to Hear
source: Babble.com

And can we please be realistic with our story endings? Nobody lives happily ever after. They LIVE. Which means ups and downs and successes and failures and happiness and sadness and monotony and excitement and elation and exhaustion. (Did you catch that? Shameless blog plug.)

Why don’t we say “and they lived mostly happily except on the days when they never got any sleep because of the baby and money was tight and the house needed maintenance and the husband never remembered to pick up his dirty socks.” Or something else more clever and less cryptic than “happily ever after.”

I’m not a total romantic movie hater. Nicholas Sparks was my favorite author for years and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read The Notebook. And that movie? Swoon! (Or maybe I just have a thing for Ryan Gosling.)

Either way, I was into all that a long time ago. Before I got married. Before I really understood that this love and marriage thing? Is hard. 

Aren’t we doing ourselves a disservice by romanticizing the realities of long-term relationships? Are we setting ourselves up for disappointment when our real lives can’t measure up to the love stories we see portrayed on TV? Or are these movies meant to re-inspire that part of ourselves that gets lost in the daily business of real life? Do we still yearn for this type of romance even though we know it’s not realistic?

I may not have all of the answers, but I maintain my original stance. The “you need to be kissed every minute” line? Is bad. I just don’t have time for that, people. I have poo to wipe.

Building Blocks

The age of two is so complex. This time of in between. Caught between the world of a baby and a big boy, between a world of needing help and doing it “all by myself.”  Growing, reaching, climbing, achieving. You can do this. You are doing this. Reaching higher and accomplishing more with every breath. I stand in awe of your growth, and watch as you climb into this role of a person you are. I love you, I cherish you, and I capture these brief moments in time when you are still in between.

I am so proud of you, my sweet in between boy.

Linking up today with the lovely Alison of Mama Wants This and Galit of These Little Waves for Memories Captured. What memories have you captured lately?

Drive, Laugh, Love

As I make the drive from my house to my son’s school, I listen to the radio, or drive in silence, and savor those last moments of Woman before turning back into Mommy.

I anticipate what he did during his three hours away from me and hope that he had a wonderful time and has stories to share. But since he is, indeed, two, I never know if I will encounter a happy toddler or a defiant one. It is always a surprise.

Yesterday, when I picked him up, I was pleased to find that he was in good spirits. I was so elated to be in the presence of this sweet and happy boy, that my heart nearly burst with my love for him.

After strapping him into his car seat, pulling out of the parking lot, and asking about his day, I could no longer contain my emotion and I exclaimed, “I love you so much. I love you more than ice cream!”

With a smile, he replied, ” I love you more than coke!”

We both laughed. “Coke” is his joke word. He has never been allowed to have Coke, but we do have it at home very occasionally. He thinks it’s a funny word and knows it is a forbidden treat and a “grown up drink” and so he throws that word out at random.

I decided to counter with, “I love you more than birthday cupcake!”

He responded with a laugh, “I love you more than a hippopotamus!”

We were both hysterically laughing now. I was filled to the brim with joy at this simple game of love with my two-year old.

I decided to keep going with a silly, “I love you more than……potatoes!”

The car filled with the melody of hysterical laughter from a mommy and a little boy, and then lulled as we caught our breaths.

I heard my little boy’s enthusiastic pitch die down to a summarizing tone as he replied, ” I love you more than coke or coffee…or something,” he added as I saw him shrug his shoulders in my rearview mirror.

I knew that the game was over, but I was so thrilled at its existence and felt like I was walking on clouds after our game of love and laughter.

I was still so in awe of how much I love that little boy in my back seat, that I said, “Awww, I love you so much sweet boy,” in a soothing mommy voice and with a big smile.

After a brief pause, I heard the reply, “I love you Mommy. Now be quiet.”

I quietly shook my head, refocused my hands on the steering wheel, and suppressed my smile. I just never know what version of this child I will get. Even in the wake of his constant personality shifting two-ness, he continues to surprise me with his displays of love.

And that’s what makes this Mommy thing so great isn’t it? That even though there are days when you want to give up, there are also days when you play love games and make music with your laughter and I am just all together overwhelmed at the love I feel for that little person who calls me “Mommy.”

UETju: Love in Letters

UETju he spelled with multicolored refrigerator magnets, and exclaimed excitedly, “I made a word!”

I smiled and showed my excitement and then he read it to me. “It says ‘love Mommy,'” he explained while pointing his fingers over the letters, left to right, just as if he were really reading.

I scooped him up in a hug and told him it was beautiful and I was so proud of him. Because it was, and because I AM.

He was thrilled at his accomplishment and thrilled at my approval and I was honored to be his word.

I could have held him there forever but there were more brightly colored letters to be arranged. There, in the middle of the refrigerator, UETju turned into XmEO. And so began another story, arranged by little fingers, told by a little voice, and adored by a nearby Mommy.