Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reaching Out...

Recently I connected across the great big blogosphere with one bad mama-jama. Here name is Heather Von St. James and not only is she a fellow mom, but she is also a cancer survivor. When her six-year-old daughter, Lily, was just three and a half months old, just as she was likely feeling grateful to start getting a regular night’s sleep again, Heather was diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a highly aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure. 90-95% of those diagnosed with Mesothelioma do not survive—Heather did. And she keeps a blog to tell her story and to be an inspiration to others.

If you’re interested or if you know of someone who would be interested, I’ve posted a link to her blog on mine.

Thanks for sharing your story, Heather.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Growing Story

I read The Growing Story by Ruth Krauss and Helen Oxenbury to Finny before his nap today and fell in love. I fall in love every time I read it. There is so much I love about it, it’s hard to know where to begin. I love the little boy. I love that he has just one pair of warm pants and just one woolen coat and I love that he puts them in a box and climbs up on a chair and puts them away on the closet shelf for the summer.

I love the farm that he and his mother live on. The beautiful orchards, the pear trees, the wandering chickens. I love how adorable his mom looks in her red polka-dot head scarf. I love the way he follows his mom around and helps her with the farm chores.

And I love how concerned his is about growing up:

The chicks were chickens. The chickens were nearly up to the little boy’s middle…The puppy was a dog. The dog was nearly up to the little boy’s head. The little boy looked at the chickens and the dog. “You both have grown up. I haven’t grown up. I am still little.”

This story has gorgeous, lush, tender illustrations—the white blossoms on the orchard trees, the fall leaves blowing in the storm, the boy and his mother in the looking-glass.

And the writing is nearly perfect. Short, simple, rhythmic sentences and a sense of the passing of time. The honeysuckle bloomed. The roses bloomed. The corn grew as high as a man. The pears were ripening.

But I love it most of all because I snuggle up beneath a red blanket and read it beside my little boy…who is growing up…before my very eyes.

I don’t love everything about that, however. I don’t love the crying and the tantrums. I don’t love the constant, constant, constant bonking of the head. And I don’t love the little bitty white lies that are starting to pop up from time to time.

But here is what I do love…

I love that after a backyard picnic, I found him huddled up on the couch beneath a blanket eating a peanut butter sandwich…naked. I love that he doesn’t go anywhere without his little orange cat and his binoculars and that sometimes he puts on swim goggles to play in the yard. I love that he will carry his heavy black stool across the house so that he can reach the light switch to be in the dark with his flashlight. I love that he is very concerned about what I wear and prefers that I wear my green dress so that I look like Princess Fionna. I love that he loves his new fort from Grandma and that he’s so proud she made it just for him. I also love that last night after dinner, he invited Charlie into his fort and they both just sat in there giggling their heads off…so I put down my dish towel and I crawled in too. I love how proud he was of himself yesterday morning at the park when he climbed up the big kid ladder at the big kid park all by his big kid self, and I love that yesterday on our walk, we spent fifteen minutes just sitting in a pile of yellow leaves. I love that when we had to say goodbye to his friend Caroline, he said in these exact words, “But Caroline, I thought you would be joining me for lunch today?”

I love all the fun and funny new things that come along with Finny as he grows up and I love that at three years old for all his new big kid discoveries, he is still my little boy and he still enjoys a good snuggle and a great book with his mommy, whom by the way, he still--to my great delight--totally adores.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Today I put Charlie down for his morning nap as soon as we got home from dropping Finny off, and then I hit the ground running. Laundry down the chute. Sheets off Finny’s bed. Dust. Change out laundry. Heat up coffee. Attack list: write ad, renew library books, plan Christmas budget, plan playdate, call Cincinnati Bell about slow Internet, order hats and mittens online, blog.

As I was busily buzzing around the house, moving as fast as my legs would carry me and constantly being stopped by new reminder bells in my head to add to the list—fix squeaky door, put away Halloween costumes, clean toilets, pay speeding ticket, empty dishwasher—I heard Charlie up in his room still crying. It had been twenty, maybe thirty minutes. I knew he was tired, so why still crying?

I set my hot coffee on the coaster and paused my work at the computer and climbed the stairs to see if I could give him a quick back rub and get him to settle into his snooze, but when I opened the door, I found that the poor baby was stuck. His chubby thigh was pinned between the rails of his crib. I’ve never used a bumper pad because the American Academy of Pediatrics has always scared me away from them, but this situation would make a good argument for them. So I jimmied his pudgy little thigh out of the crib rails and I picked him up to soothe him out of his hysterics. Then, I made him a bottle and settled into the rocking chair in his room and I rocked him and fed him as we listened to some lullabies and the soft whir of his fan. Then, he fell asleep, and I was stuck.

Charlie never sleeps in my arms, he’s never slept on my chest or in my bed, and we almost never rock him to sleep. There’s just been no time and no energy to give Charlie this kind of pampering. He gets lots of compliments on his good-natured demeanor, so maybe this is a direct result of the fact that this kid has just had to roll with it a bit more than his brother had to. ( I actually spent $7 on Grapeseed Oil once to give Finny a baby massage as recommended by a video I watched. I used it once.)

As Charlie snoozed in my arms, the list ticked on in my head, but I found that I couldn’t get up. I was stuck in the chair, pinned down by a kind of life-affirming pleasure that only comes around if you allow yourself to be still long enough to capture it. Like watching the sun fall through the leaves onto a wooded path, it was, in every sense— bliss.

And even though the list ticked on—change the carseats, organize the clothes, order printer paper—I found that there was a louder voice overtaking it. The voice of an older, wiser me from ten years down the road, saying, “Ten years from now, you will give anything to hold this sleeping baby in your arms and rock back and forth. Ten years from now, you will long for the smell of him and the feeling of his soft palm wrapped around your hand. Ten years from now, you will close your eyes and try hard to remember that soft line of reddish curls across the top of his head and those big, red lips pressed together between those soft, chubby cheeks. Ten years from now, you will wish you’d stayed in that chair forever, that you had never gotten up to check your email.”

And so I stayed, and I rocked the baby that I never get to rock, and it occurred to me that this is the reason I breathe in and out. To hold Charlie, just like this, across my lap, in the crook of my arm, while the ten a.m. sun blinks through the shades onto our little chair. It occurred to me that getting stuck is often inconvenient—in a traffic jam, in a snowstorm, behind the lady who STILL writes checks at the grocery store—but that getting stuck is sometimes life’s way of getting us to stop endlessly looking ahead and to notice with big, bright, clear eyes the blessing of the moment we’re in. The pure, decadent joy of holding my ten-month-old baby as we rock…back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.