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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Today I slowed down

But, as I sit here reflecting on the day's highlights, I'm realizing it still wasn't enough.

The day started overcast and very dreary, as it has been for the last week. Time spent outside in this past week has been nearly non-existent, which for two active toddlers is its own form of torture, which also translates into its own form of torture for Mom. Am I right?

Fortune was on my side this afternoon, though, when the clouds cleared and sunlight streamed through our windows, begging us to come out and play. And, that we did as soon as the boys were up from their naps.

As I was getting the boys strapped into the stroller, I noticed a tiny, red ladybug on the siding of our house. I think it was the boys' first time with a ladybug, so I carefully picked her up and let her crawl on my hand, letting the boys watch its delicate movements. Then as I reached toward Ben, he willingly held out his pointed finger to get to know the little ladybug himself. He was so careful and gentle, allowing the ladybug to explore both sides of his hand. Hugh was a little more hesitant, but still curious enough to hold out his hand and have a turn.

Before taking off to the playground, I carefully placed the ladybug on a little flower plant by our front gate and felt so grateful for such a small moment of discovery and wonder that I was able to have with my two boys. So, see, there's my proof I did slow down today.

It was after spending a good glorious hour at the park, sliding down slides and swinging on swings and climbing up slides, that we came home and I went into serious dinner-prep mode. I was so singly focused on that one task that the earnest pleadings from Ben to understand his needs and fulfill his wants went grossly unheard.

I paused a couple of times to peer down at him, hoping it would all of a sudden became very clear what it was that he wanted, but I know I gave up much too easily and was much too hurried in my own task to understand what he was trying to communicate. I offered all of what I thought were the obvious options - crackers, water, Fireman Sam, cottage cheese - but each offer was met with a sharp shake of the head and a clear "eh", which in Ben language means a very emphatic "no!"

I'm mostly ashamed to admit that at one point I briefly lost my patience and responded with "I don't know what you want" in an exasperated tone of voice that even at his young age he felt hurt by and tears immediately welled up in his eyes.

That was enough to snap me out of my robot-like, dinner-prep mode. I knelt down in front of my sweet and sensitive little boy and took his face in my hands and told him I was sorry. I still didn't know what it was that he wanted, but I knew a little lollipop we got from Aunt Caryn would heal his wounds. And, it pretty much did.

A little bit later I was at the kitchen sink, washing my hands and Ben came up to me, with his lollipop stick cleaned off in record time, softly patted my little baby bump with both hands and looked up at me with his big blue eyes and said, "Mama." Right away I asked if he wanted some water and when he smiles and does his sweet little giggle that means "yes!" So, I got him a cup of water and almost didn't pause long enough to recognize the beauty of that little moment. Six months ago I would have begged for him to even say "mama", let alone have him approach me and call me by name with "Mama".

Today was a good reminder for this Mama that many of life's most precious moments are so small and so simple that if I don't slow down to recognize and capture them, they'll pass me by without any idea of what I'm missing out on.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Quality vs. Quantity

I remember back in high school having a conversation with a girl who was much more extroverted and outgoing than me. She would float around different groups, friendly spreading her social butterfly wings with an enviable ease. That felt much too daring for my comfort zone, which consisted of sitting quietly in my tight-knit little circle of friends. But, I was shocked one day to hear her express sadness at feeling like she didn't have any friends. From my perspective she had dozens (if not hundreds) more friends than me and I didn't understand how she could feel that way. That is, until I realized the difference between quantity and quality.

The conversation stuck with me as a constant reminder that the quality of my relationships was much more important than the number. And, really, I've been so blessed with some of the most priceless friendships a girl could ever hope for.

As I look back on my life, it's so easy to identify friendships that came naturally and easy, and amazing to recognize the tiny details that allowed our lives to connect. I've been seriously blessed with the companionship of some of the most amazing friends, and often during periods when I needed them the most. And, equally amazing is the connection that remains even with great distance and length of time that might separate us.

One of those friends happens to have her birthday today. You should check out her blog and let yourself laugh and be inspired. She is amazing! Happy Birthday, Jess!

As I get older, though, I've realized that those easy, natural friendships don't come along very often. You know the kind... where right off the bat conversations flow, the comfort level makes you feel like you can open up the most vulnerable part of your heart without any hesitation and without any fear of judgment. I should add here that having been blessed with sisters who have filled that role is a blessing I sincerely try not to take for granted. There is nothing better than having sisters who are also my best friends.

And, so when I have that, I find it even more incredible when my life is still blessed with others that bring with them such sweet friendship that makes my life feel richer than what I could ever merit. Just a few short months ago I met a young mother of two adorable boys, her youngest the same age as Benjamin, and right away I felt drawn to her. I could tell by my initial interactions with her that she and I would probably get along really well. Little did I know how much we'd have in common and how those commonalities would quickly forge one of those rare friendships that come easy and naturally.

On the first play date we had with our boys, Annie and I got to talking and before I knew it, she was opening up to me about her recent loss - a baby girl - that left her with wounds that were still raw and painful. It was the last thing I was expecting to hear from such a happy, seemingly carefree person. But, immediately I was taken back to my own reactions to our loss and the efforts I made to appear normal. And, remembering the physical ache that lingers in the heart in the months that follow and the tears that seemed to not ever dry up, I just wanted to wrap her up and take all of that away. And, right away I felt this huge relief with the realization that there would be feelings we'd share that wouldn't ever have to be expressed.

From that day (in October, I think) followed lots of days just like it where we'd meet up, let our boys play (and sometimes borderline fight... two-year olds!), and continue to build our friendship. Earlier this month I was super sad to find out that their brief stay here would be even more brief than originally planned. They moved this morning back to where they came from, which fortunately isn't too far away but still far enough away to create some distance and great difficulty in continuing our weekly play dates and late night talk-fests.

But, rather than feeling sad, I feel so incredibly blessed to have another friend who will no doubt be a friend for life, one of the best in quality.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Vacation and catching up

Okay, I just had to peek in here really quick to show I'm still alive. I can't believe January is almost half over and I still feel like I'm recovering from the excitement of the holidays. So much fun and so much crazy all bundled up together! At some point I'll have to fill in some of the blank spaces with some stories and some photos, maybe even a few videos, but here's a tiny glimpse of what the last few weeks have been like.

Two days after Christmas we celebrated Benjamin's second birthday with a few fun presents and trip to Baskin Robbins, where he had his first ice cream cone and LOVED it! We're still planning to have a party with a few more presents and cake and a visit with his birth mother... hopefully sometime later this month.

Then, the very next day we hopped in the car at 4:27am and drove for nearly 13 hours (with a few stops for food and playtime and diaper changes), until we arrived at Marc's sister's house. We lounged, ate delicious food (all day long!), soaked up good conversation and enjoyed the musical talents of their whole family, complete with us all singing around the piano. The boys were in heaven with so many new rooms to explore, with ornaments and decorations at their fingertips, unfortunately resulting in some casualties. Otherwise the visit couldn't have been more perfect!

We continued further north for a few more days of vacation, spent with Nana and most of the rest of Marc's family. The boys had so much fun running around, becoming acquainted with everyone! Even though the boys get a little thrown off their sleep schedule and feel a little disoriented with new places, it's always so much fun to get away. We kicked our feet up and enjoyed every moment with family!

Of course, time always flies and before we knew it we were piling back into our car at 4:25am one dark cold morning, heading back home. It was another long day, nearly fourteen hours, with a few stops for food, playtime, and diaper changes. BUT, driving both ways, the boys did GREAT! We were amazed at how easily entertained they were, at how easily they slept when they were tired, at how little they fought getting back into their car seats after a quick stop, and how few their moments were of discontent. We did make sure to plan our stops so that they weren't more than four hours apart, as well as making the stops last at least 30-45 minutes long, which I think made all the difference. I think we stopped three times coming and going, which wasn't too bad at all.

Almost as soon as we got home, though, we all got sick. Ben got it the worst. Fever, cough, congestion, swollen lymph nodes... all making him completely listless for about three days. It's so unlike him to sit and want to be cuddled for hours and hours. I tried to forget about everything else screaming at me to get done, and just focus on spending that time with my sick little guy. Luckily he's doing a lot better this week and so far Hugh hasn't gotten whatever it was that Ben had (fingers crossed, still!).

And, that, more or less, brings us to today, which was the first day in a long time that I felt like I was finally starting to get a better handle on the other chaos of life - paying bills, doing laundry, cleaning the toilets (although that huge credit goes completely to Marc!), vacuuming, and general de-cluttering. I always sleep better with a clean house, so I'm really looking forward to my sleep tonight.

Oh, and I almost forgot... pregnancy-wise all is going well. That statement, actually, pretty well sums up this pregnancy. I keep forgetting that I'm even pregnant, despite all the time I've spent heaving into the toilet and the bump that seems to have doubled in size in the last week. A miracle of all miracles, for two weeks after Christmas I didn't throw up at all, meaning our entire vacation was joyfully vomit-free. Then, last Sunday, I threw up three times. Still not sure what that was all about. But, nothing since. So, maybe we're in the clear, but maybe not?? Fifteen weeks along and feeling like the next 25 are going to fly by just as fast, especially if I keep forgetting that I'm pregnant.