Category Archives: winter

Longing

I am lying in bed with my son while he naps. Last night I held him in my lap while he vomited onto a towel. Now, he sleeps deeply, chirping like a far-off sparrow.

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The days are long, and, often, the nights are longer. Sometimes I walk around the house stepping on broken rice cakes, and think: This? This is my life?

Now I’m lying under the covers, typing on my phone. Rain is starting to fall. The forecast calls for a bit of snow. On the last day of March—imagine that.

On Sunday I took my first run in many weeks without having to navigate across piles of snow. It was bright and warm. Finally spring. I made my goal of running to the dock.

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Now it’s illness and cold weather. Winter again. All I want is freedom—to wander the world for a half an hour alone.

And sometimes I let myself day dream of more than that. Afternoons—whole school days—where I write and work and run errands, alone with my thoughts. No whining children to pull down the street, or in and out of the car.

Right now, lying here, feeling his small fingers brush against my arms as he shuffles in his sleep, I feel everything at once—the desire to move onto easier days, and the sorrow of not wanting to lose these most intimate years with my children.

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I’m trying to find a word for the mix of feelings I feel at times like this, and the best word I can come up with is longing.

Isn’t it all wrapped up in longing? Longing to escape and longing to stay. To be free and to hold on. I long for it all. Every day. Every breath.

Amen.

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Gestation

This morning, mud on my morning walk. And now, the sun shining bright enough to fill the room where my son is napping with a soft, margarine light.

Spring is near.

I am looking forward to walking—running—on sidewalks clear of snow. I am looking forward to just running, not having to navigate over snow banks, ice patches. But I will miss the frozen bay, its bright white glow. I will miss the empty tree branches that rest their hands against the shoreline. Black against white. There is a clarity there, a predictability that gives me solace.

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Last winter was one of the most difficult in a while. So much snow. Days canceled. Kids sick with every imaginable illness. The apartment on the market, trying to keep it clean for showings—constantly clearing away the salt that collected in the entryway, the muddy shoeprints, the extra dust born of days on end spent at home.

Last winter left me panicked. I didn’t like the unpredictability of it all, the loss of control.

This winter, I told myself to try to let go. Illness and snow would happen. There was nothing I could do about that. I just needed to surrender. And remember that it would pass. It had to. It would. There was nothing to be afraid of.

I let it gestate in me, that knowledge. And it was better. It was. Not always. I panicked some this winter. I felt the weight of the dark days. The illness came. The snow came. But I was less encumbered by it, less afraid.

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For this, I am grateful. The simple fact of asking, of making that intention.

I think it was around the same time that I asked to write. To write every day. I signed up for Jena Schwartz’s class just as winter began. And I did it. I did that. And in between, I wrote. Every day. Every damn day.

Now I’m back. Writing again with Jena and a new group of beautiful writers. What good fortune. Just in time for new life to spring up all around me.

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If you can’t tell, I highly recommend Jena Schwartz’s online writing classes. They’re for anyone who wants to write, experienced or not. Any kind of genre. All you have to do is show up. No judgment, just support. It’s a beautiful thing.

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Right Now

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Right now my two-year-old has a cough and a cold.

Right now he can’t sleep alone so he calls me in.

Right now I am tired and my muscles ache.

Right now my face is buried in the top of his head, his fine hair bristling my eyes.

Right now he needs me this much.

Tomorrow he will need me less.

Every day after this day he will need me less.

Right now he doesn’t need to nurse, he just needs my body against his.

Right now I smell him.

There is no way to describe it, but it is entirely him.

Right now my older son is asleep in his bed across the room.

I don’t remember how he smelled at two-years-old, but I remember loving his smell, inhaling it.

Right now I realize how deeply I miss it.

Just the two of us, alone together.

Right now the snow is melting and another storm is moving in.

Right now other mothers are lying in the dark with their children.

Or without their children.

Right now I’m trying to consume it all—

This vast, cold night in early March.

These boys.

My tired, tender aches and longings.

The heat creaking.

The way our lives move up and out, stir and become still.

Right now I am listening to sleep rush over us all.

Cloaking us in memory.

Reaching for us in waves.

Salt in our eyes.

Brine in our dreams.

Shine Your Light. Stamp Your Feet. Rock On.

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My two-year-old is entering what some might call a developmental leap or a growth spurt or a wonder week or a . . . whatever. To me, it’s just another week of extreme fatigue and frustration mixed in with oh my god this is all rushing by so suddenly I can’t breathe I love him so much.

How do I know this thing is happening? Well, it started with sleep. Or, ummm, lack of sleep. As in, “it’s 2am and I want to play and watch TV and pull on your lip and pick off the skin.” (I know it’s gross, but that’s really what he did.)

And then came the 4:30am wake-ups, followed by the mornings lying on the floor crying when we said he couldn’t have a lollipop for breakfast. Or lunch. And then when he finally did get one, the lying on the floor crying that he couldn’t have three.

You get the picture.

Now sleep is better, but the growing, the changing, the explosion in his brain and his body—it’s still very much happening. He’s going to be two-and-a-half next month and if I remember correctly from when my first child turned two-and-a-half, this is when the fun stuff begins. And I mean this genuinely, in a way.

Yes, he is testing boundaries. Yes, he is running up the block from me when I tell him he needs to stay. Yes, he is walking onto the snow banks when we are trying to get his brother to school on time. Yes, he is trudging through the snow-filled empty lot next to our house even though it’s 3 degrees and he’s not wearing boots and I just don’t have the energy or the stamina to go fish him out again.

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But the reason why is because his world is expanding. There is a beautiful world out there of snowy freedom and frozen frolicking. Before, he took the narrow walk to school, but now he’s captivated by all this sparkling stuff in the periphery of his vision.

Don’t we all remember those desires for true and utter abandon? When we just wanted and wanted and didn’t give a damn about what anyone else thought? That’s when we fell in love. That’s when we discovered poetry. That’s when we hiked through the mountains alone. That’s when we dove into the lake naked at night at the very end of August.

Oh, he wants and he wants and he wants. He is luster and light and longing. He doesn’t care if we have time for it, if he’ll catch frostbite, if his mother has been surviving on 5 hours of broken sleep for days, and just can’t chase him again. His passion is too high right now.

It will die down. We will find our way to talk about when it is and isn’t appropriate to have candy or snowy adventures. I will be relieved and rested again.

But all of it breaks my heart a bit. I wish I could just let him have everything he desires. Of course I know I can’t. I know it is my job to lovingly show him the boundaries of this world.

I look at him, two years old, with the fire beginning to ignite in his heart. His body pulling and twisting out of my arms. His is the passion we must all remember we have, even as we learn to be measured, cooperative, kind-hearted citizens of the world. He is our reminder never to forget this incredible charge we all have buried somewhere inside.

When I pick him up for naptime, as he drifts off in my arms, he calls out mommy, mommy, even though I am right there, holding him tight. All morning he was unleashed but now he is tethered to me, his hands encircling my head and gripping my ponytail.

Oh the moving away, and then the gathering in that happens on and off throughout childhood. Two steps forward, one step back.

This morning he shouted that I must “go away” as he bounded onto an island of snow on the way back from dropping off his big brother at school. I shot this photo of him, and only noticed later how the morning sun shone a spotlight on him.

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Oh, my daydreamer. My tender, unhinged, bright, fierce soul. Here we are. I am spending my days witnessing this trembling in you. These desires you don’t quite understand yet, and certainly can’t control. I am tired. But I am trying to let you feel it all. I’m trying to let you be as free as I can. I have these few extra minutes to stop on the side of the road. I have these few extra mornings. I have these last shreds of patience.

So shine on, dear soul. Stamp your feet. Shout it. Rock on. I’m here watching the show. It’s a good one.

Our Week of Doing Nothing

This past week was the mid-winter break and we were all home. There were a couple days of snow, temperatures below freezing, and for two days the car was in the shop. We got out to the movies once, and to an indoor play gym, but for most of it, we were stuck at home.

There was probably a bit more TV watching than there should have been.

My sweet TV zombie

My sweet TV zombie

We did a couple of science experiments, all of which involved cornstarch and dish soap.

This was called "Even Better Bubble Dough"

And some brownie-making. And brownie-batter-licking.

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But if you asked what we did all week, I would have said, “ummmm, nothing.”

Can I tell you how much I loved it? This week of nothing was one of my favorite “vacations.” On my Facebook feed were pictures of families in tropical places, enjoying the sun and the outdoors, and although I was definitely envious, I really liked being homebound with my family.

A couple of times I noticed myself feeling critical. I wondered if I should have taken advantage of this rare time of us all together, with few obligations and plans. Should we have taken the kids to a museum in the city, a Broadway show? Should we have done more art projects, played more board games, baked a few more batches of brownies? Should I have tried to exercise more? Should I have written more? What could I do to give this precious time together more meaning?

Then I let those thoughts go. And I let the days go. But I sunk myself into them. The baby playing cars on the floor (he’s currently obsessed), the big boy rereading every book in the house (he’s a certified bookworm). All of us laughing and tickling each other on the bed. My husband and I staying up “late,” catching up on Girls and The Mindy Project.

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Seriously, what more is there than this? Being together with the people I love most. That’s all there is in this world, really.

But there is this pressure in our culture right now to do with your kids. To have something to show for your time together. Should we blame Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest? Should we blame the media? The Mommy Wars? Each other? I don’t know. But the pressure is there.

I feel it when my son tells me he doesn’t want to continue with Little League. Or basketball. Or piano lessons. When he says he’d like to come home after school each day and just do nothing, and I wonder if I should make him “do something.” I feel the need to say, “Well, that’s fine, but it would be good for you to have something outside of school. A passion. Something to try.”

Does he really need to add anything to his schedule of school and home? Does this boy, this 8-year-old child—whose passions range from reading to book-writing to video-game-creating to hula-hooping—does he really need to do anything else but be himself?

Let him—let us—have as much goddamn nothing as we want. Let us be ourselves. Let us seek out the other stuff when we want it, when we’re ready. I think we could all use whole lot less doing, and a whole lot more being.

And faith. Faith that life is full enough on its own. And that we have no one to impress. Despite how it feels, no one is watching us as much as we are watching ourselves. No one can tell us what we need or how we should fill our days. Only we can. We have that power. Let’s use it for happiness. For enjoying the most ordinary of our days. Life is shorter than we realize. It makes no sense to live it any other way than with authenticity and in the simple presence of the ones we love.

So, I give you permission to do nothing. As a parent. As a family. As a person. Just be there, with yourself, with each other, and the rest will come together on its own.

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Mama, Open Up Your Hand

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Right now, my life is narrow.

The narrow walk to school through the snow, one boy behind me, the other ahead. The narrow train tracks that we walk beside, the narrow tunnel we walk through.

The narrow morning hours I spend alone with the two-year-old. His small, hunched body pushing a school bus through the narrow space below the heater. The narrow window where we watch the pigeons waddle through the snow, their narrow beaks pecking hungrily at the bird feeder.

The narrow hallway where I walk him in the baby carrier, his eyes narrowing, drifting off to sleep.

My time is narrow too. The narrow first 45 minutes of his nap, where I try to squeeze in some time on the yoga mat, a few minutes of writing, a couple nibbles of chocolate. And when he invariably calls for me mid-nap to lie with him, I slip narrowly into the room, like thread through a needle. I edge my body into my narrow spot on the bed, narrow streams of winter light coming in through the blinds.

We haven’t left the house in weeks, it seems, the white walls narrowing us in. The viruses, the snow, the ice. The viruses, the snow, the ice. On repeat. The endless loop of winter woes that narrow the muscles in my neck and shoulders. It’s as though our life outside the house—the one with breathable, open air, boys hanging from trees, warm, wide sidewalks, and earthy scents to inhale—just never existed. My memories of it narrowed, cinched shut, devoured.

But then that moment happens. You know the one. The one that reawakens you, adds a spark of warmth and light to the sometimes lonely, thankless life of motherhood.

The two-year-old is playing with a bag of buttons. Different colors, shapes, sizes. He likes to sort them into narrow piles and rows. But now he tells me, “Mama, open up your hand.”

“These buttons are for you,” he says. And as though he knows exactly which buttons I would pick myself, he gives me pearly white, crimson red, abalone blue, royal purple.

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And something opens in my narrow throat. Something is let in. Joy, I think. Yes, joy.

Joy that this little person—who I spend hours lifting, wiping, dressing, feeding, nursing, putting to sleep, and back to sleep—could, throughout it all, be somehow absorbing my essence. Could know so effortlessly what I find beautiful. Could know what I long for on these long winter days.

Pearls like the ones I wore on my wedding day. Abalone like my father collected in jars for me. Crimson red and royal purple—my favorite colors, in my favorite shades.

There is relief, too, in the opening. A breath let out. A release. The knowledge that these days with him aren’t for nothing. These narrow days, these narrow hours, minutes, seconds—oh, they are worth it. Endless, but with small miracles scattered along the way.

And yes, five minutes later the buttons are spilled in a pile on the floor, along with the juice he’d begged me for and I’d reluctantly given him. His diaper needs to be changed, and the next endless loop of lunch/nap/after-school-pickup is upon us.

I have learned over the years that it is the briefest, narrowest moments of motherhood that provide the most meaning. They are like intense bands of light blasting through the darkness. And you must embrace them, and seek them out. You must open yourself up.

And even if you don’t, even if you can’t find it in yourself, you will be opened. Your children have an uncanny sense of when you need it most, and they know so well how to pry open your hands, fill them with gifts.

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