Thursday, August 9, 2018

saying goodbye

For as long as I can remember, I've had the uncanny ability to imbue heavy significance to the most mundane things. I distinctly remember a shiny, purple plastic lobster necklace from Red Lobster that looked like it came straight from Mardi Gras hanging on my dresser for years. It had its place of honor because it represented and was received when we all went out to dinner for the first time after my dad was in a rather severe car accident. I commemorated that occasion, that feeling, my dad's continued improvement and health, by hanging onto that absurd plastic lobster.

Twenty years and many interventions later, I think I've gotten a little bit better at learning to let the things go while still keeping the memory and the meaning intact. But I still am as sappy as sap itself, and often find things sticking to my skin as I go through life. Thus, I find it rather painful to remove them and say goodbye.

When we moved to Virginia for law school, both Dusty and I made an early-on decision to treasure our time there. Sure, we knew it was temporary - but we weren't going to live that way. We were going to live with permanence. Plant our feet and produce the golden sap of loving investment and significant time. At one point, I remember a friend saying "you guys make everything fun." At the time it was a half joke, because whatever it was they were talking about was something really silly (akin to a plastic lobster) that we were holding close to our hearts. But I have thought about that comment often. If nothing else, our time in Virginia taught me that I really do want that to be true. I want to enjoy life. All aspects of it.

There was a lot of uncertainty when we moved to Virginia. Our past selves never could've imagined that our time there would be so momentous to us - that someday we'd even be moved to reflect those years in the name of our daughter, Virginia Leigh. We can easily look back now and see all of the goodness. We were so intentional with our time and our friendships. Life is messy and inconsistent, but our future selves have a much keener sense of what ends up being meaningful to us in each season of life. Even the hard parts. With the benefit of perspective and the cleansing of time, we're able to look back and see what was special, what was worth it, what was beautiful.

I endeavor to live my life as if my future self has written me a letter about today. She wrote me a letter 3 years ago when we bought this intimidating fixer upper and said,

"Don't worry. You will fix this place up. You will bring your first child home here, and drink 78 gingerbread lattes in the first few months of his life. Gingerbread will always remind you of William. 
You will love the color of your walls. You will fill those walls with music. You will open the doors countless times to people you love, and celebrate daily, big and small. You will bring your second child home here, the October baby your heart longed for, and she will be beautiful, and you will cry many tears of gratitude. Don't worry, because however fast the years may go by, you will be safe here and this place will be your home."

My sappy self is currently stuck to my favorite spot on this couch, crying over the many sunrises I have spent with my sleepless babies in this living room. Crying over the blanket draped over the piano in the next room, which has been Will's cave for the last few months, and which will be impossible for me to tear down. We'll have to tell the potential buyers that the cave comes with the property.

Thank goodness I've already learned those lessons about treasuring people and not stuff, right? Ha! 
The truth is, we had no idea how significant this house would be to us. We became parents here. We could have never imagined the joy of that transition, the all-encompassing love that our hearts now carry. But we have cherished our time in this house, and we tried to do so from the very beginning. Even the hardest of the hard work, the most tiring of the tired days. Every moment. The best part of all of this is that we get to bring the crazy kids with us. Home is now the 4 of us - wherever we go. And while it is painful to leave, it's also joyous to know that we truly lived here. Lived with permanence, the only way that time-driven beings can, while still being unable to escape the ticking clock. I think I'm kind of in this sweet middle spot of being way more sentimental than your average Josephine, but not sentimental enough to be paralyzed by change. I know that change is inevitable and it also brings the most incredible growth. I've written about moving before, and how wonderful and awful it is. Change is what wild dreams require.

I already have that metaphoric letter from my future self in my pocket, but I won't open it quite yet. I have to say goodbye first. And then, and only then, will I be able to open it - to face the future with confidence and joy. But I have a feeling we'll be back to making everything fun in no time.

Thursday, March 22, 2018


This past Christmas we bought William the cutest little wooden espresso maker. Because, of course, I love coffee and was giddy about the idea of a tiny kid coffee maker. It's impossibly adorable that this exists. Sometimes kids aren't as excited as you are about certain things, but thankfully this wasn't one of those times. He loved it.

I think at that point he only knew the color green because it was the color of Starbucks, and he heard me say "we're getting in the car because mama needs coffee!" more often than any other sentence in his life. Whatever the reason, he was actually very happy about his coffee maker. I taught him how to use it - pod in the slot, push the top down, fill the cup, pour some cream & sugar, stir with the spoon, ooh careful! Make sure you blow on it - and thus we ushered in the first piping hot cup of make believe. We both tried it, and agreed it was the best thing we'd ever had.

He actually made me some of this very special coffee this morning. He even let Ginny have some, making the sipping noises for her. After I've theatrically enjoyed my own sips, he always asks: "you wa'mo?" in his hopeful little way. Yes, William. I want more.

I want more of this imagination of yours. I want to drink your coffee every single morning. I want to remember the way your eyes squint and your voice goes progressively higher when you really, really want to postpone bedtime. "I can read more books?" or "I can have my new car in the bed?"
I want more of your surprised laughter, the kind that tumbles out of your little belly and lasts so much longer than either of us expects it to. And I seriously don't want you to ever realize that my kisses don't actually heal your wounds. I want to be more like you, and exclaim "I'm HAPPY!!!" after something doesn't go my way, but I make that choice anyway. I want more of your whispered words and the way your eyes search for me when you've wandered just a little out of reach. The way you run full tilt and hug my legs so tightly. I want more of the way you follow me and ask to do whatever it is I'm doing, too, just because you want to be with me some more.

I want more of your dancing, which consists almost exclusively of your left shoulder bouncing up and down. It's the only part of you that truly can't resist a good beat. I want more of the way you proudly gesture to your stuffed animals each morning and say, "Lookit! Look at all of my friends." I want more of the sneaky way you take care of Ginny, bringing her toys and giving her kisses and rubbing her little fuzzy hair on your face until it tickles your nose. I can never get it on camera, because you really only do it when you think you guys are alone. And it makes me so proud to be your mother.

So be sure, William. Don't ever doubt it. In fact, you never even have to ask.
Because with you, I will always, always wa'mo.

Friday, March 16, 2018

when your family grows

This is something I have started to write many times, but it was only in the last few weeks that I finally found the words. I was able to articulate them while speaking to a dear friend who is about to have her second baby. I often have strong feelings about my own motherhood experiences, but I think it is sometimes in moments of empathy that we're able to reach through and grasp the things that we truly want to share with other people. Understanding, support, love, perspective, the bright side of change and the beauty of life.

I have seen so many young moms in the past year anxiously awaiting a new addition to their family. For me, becoming a mom was fairly easy. It felt right. I eased into the role of staying home with William and felt blessed to do so. I realized pretty quickly that my introverted self flourished in the intimacy of the one-on-one baby life. Chill pajama time for days. When we got pregnant with our second baby, I started having a hard time. I confided in a few moms what I was feeling:

Guilt. What if I don't love this baby the way I love William? Why is it so sad and hard to say goodbye to this time of life? Fear. How will I balance the two of them? What if I'm not able to be with William as much? What if he needs me? How will this new baby fit into our family? I like things the way they are. 

These wonderful women all said the same thing: I felt the same way. And trust me. That will all evaporate the second you meet your new baby. Your heart will burst and multiply and you will wonder how you ever thought there wouldn't be room in your heart or home for this new life.

The funny thing is, I'm baby number 3 in my own family! So obviously I should have known that the best is yet to come. But there are a couple of things that work against us here. The hormones, fatigue, and sickness of early pregnancy are rough. They don't help those feelings of inadequacy. We also didn't find out the gender which, though an incredible birth experience, made it a bit more difficult to feel bonded throughout the pregnancy. I had no idea I held my little girl within me. I couldn't know her, dream about her, call her by name, tell Will about her. In the midst of my fear of change, I think those things may have helped some of that anxiety.

I confess that I shed many tears as I held onto Will extra tight, and realized that our era was coming to an end. It was very hard, friends. I say you should embrace those feelings. It is okay to be sad and realize that your time together has been incredibly precious to you. Allow yourself to cherish your time with your firstborn, and feel so lucky to have him/her as your oldest child. None of your other kids will get this time! Your oldest is unique, and is the only child to be spoiled this way. It is a treasured time of learning for you both. They will make a wonderful big brother/sister. They will lead and love on your other babies and it will seriously bless you tenfold for the rest of your life.

I was very surprised by:

1.) How much I immediately and overwhelmingly adored Ginny. Like whoa. After we brought her home, I couldn't believe how nervous I had been. She belonged in our family. From the very beginning. I think our bodies help with this, too. The hormones of birth, nursing, etc. God designed us with such purpose.

2.) How much time I still have with Will! Newborns sleep SO much at first, it's crazy. It's funny how quickly we forget. Even if the nights are rough, their entire cycle revolves around eating and sleeping. That's all they do. And they can't move. Haha. They will stay put. I actually started feeling more guilty about my lack of time with Ginny, rather than with Will. Ginny spends a lot of time elsewhere: her mat, her swing, her bumbo. When Will was a newborn I had all the time in the world to just stare at him and worry over every hiccup. But Ginny gets to chill while Will and I play. I'm much more relaxed with her.

3.) How extraordinary it is to shepherd William's heart into being a caring, protective, loving big brother. Getting him up in the morning and hearing him say, "where's Ginny girl?" is the most amazing thing on earth. Seeing him perk up, constantly attentive to her cries, tenderizes my heart. Their relationship is a lifelong promise. It teaches & sanctifies on the daily.

All of that to say... don't try to force your feelings, or fall into guilt over them. It is truly impossible to imagine what having another baby will be like for your family until it happens. Dusty reminded me of New Year's Eve, 2015, when I was days away from having William. I cried SO MUCH that night. I was so sad it was our last one together, just us. And now I literally cannot imagine our lives (and our New Year's Eves) without our children. When we do a group hug and William whispers, "Mommy, Daddy, William, Ginny. This is our family!" I flutter quietly to the ground like confetti. Every chapter has a bittersweet ending, but I promise the sweetness wins out.

Sending love to you and your (quite literal) growing pains, moms. They are so worthwhile!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

curator of dreams

Remember when I used to write here?

It has been over a year since I clicked these keys with this kind of purpose, and it feels pretty good. William is now two years old, and we have welcomed a beautiful baby girl, Ginny, to our family. I spoke in my last post about the brevity of life, and I feel that now more keenly than ever!

Sigh. So William is two. It's crazy. He is a fabulous, creative, sweet, inquisitive, hilarious two year old. I have started to realize in these past few months that his first memories are lurking around us, bound to be etched somewhere in these colorful days. They are forming as we speak. I am so curious about which experiences his little mind will cling to. Will he remember the days when it felt like he and I were the only ones in the world, dancing in the living room and loving the simplest things? 

I remember odds & ends about my childhood, but many of my early memories have to do with make-believe, magic, and bedtime stories. In the stories my dad used to tell us, we were always the heroes. We met fantastic friends and daring creatures and we always, always won the day. How wonderful it was to have my imagination shaped, tended to, and nourished by my parents. I am beginning to realize what a mighty gift that is.

It is so incredibly exciting to have the honor of introducing the things that will someday produce nostalgia in the hearts of our children. I am a curator of dreams. It's a wondrous thought. At this beautiful age, everything that William sees, reads, tastes, and enjoys is more or less organized by us. We parent the archive of whimsy. We pass along things we loved as children, and find renewed joy in them through the eyes of our little ones. Things like the rooster minstrel from Disney's Robin Hood, and Renaissance Festival pizza. We then discover new loves together, like the Little Blue Truck books and Cadbury milk chocolate mini eggs. It is a fabulous journey. 

It won't always be this way, of course. As he continues to grow, he will find his own way more and more. He will develop preferences apart from ours, and he may even decide he doesn't like certain meals I make (gasp), or songs I listen to. All of these day-to-day toddlerhood things will eventually just be a tiny part of who he is. They will fade away, one by one, just as his habit of saying "I do!" to every question has now matured into a hearty "yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah". He will develop around and past them, and I will count myself blessed a hundred times over to know his future self the way I know him as a little boy. 

But right now? We dance to the Greatest Showman soundtrack, belting a million dreams, and he feeds off of my excitement, finding joy in the things we can share. His mind is a fascinating thing, reaching its many tendrils outward and constantly grasping at the things it loves best. Words, sounds, faces, meaning. I will use this time to imbue as much dreaminess to his memories as I can, so that one day we might be able to look back together and say, remember when all was magical? When you and I danced, and were the only ones in the world. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

When your baby turns 1

When your baby turns 1, it's like it all hits you: you have a kid. You're a parent. You've spent the last year of your life loving and taking care of another human. And not just any human; YOUR human. The one you carried and anticipated for 9 months, the one you dreamed and wondered about. The one you nicknamed and danced with and loved to a newfound degree of wow.

When your baby turns 1, it's hard to express the tumble of emotions that roll around your heart and mind. It's a milestone that feels so significant and inexplicable. A year. Really? Already? You're faced with the fact that somewhere between those soft, blurry newborn days and this 1st birthday you entered true, daily parenthood. You fumble less and find a rhythm of diaper changes, meals, bath times, bedtimes. Certain things used to be monumental and are now second nature. I don't think I felt the shift when it was happening, but I certainly see it now. My baby is no longer a baby. His amazing thick thigh rolls have thinned into healthy mini kid legs, prepped for walking (whenever the motivation kicks in). His quick funny movements have become more focused and experienced as he crawls at full speed, pulls himself up onto the couch, feeds himself crates of blueberries and plays with his favorite toys again and again. His gurgles and spit-bubbles have turned into constant chatter. He is this mobile, talkative, funny little person. And I'm left wondering where in the world my newborn has gone.

When your baby turns 1, you suddenly realize that this insanely fast-paced year is an indication of how quickly life will be going by from here on out. I think I've been in denial for a while that I'm no longer a "new mom"...that I no longer have a newborn. Every month gone by has taken me by surprise. When the waitress asked me how old my son was today, I choked on the word "one". I am so unprepared to have a 1-year-old. Measuring each hour, day, week, month by the growth of a child brings new meaning to the brevity of life. This year has been the best of my life. As each day passed, it became harder (and now, impossible) to imagine and remember life without Will. I carry his heart in my heart, and he absolutely carries mine.

A year ago to this very moment, I was spending my very first hours with my gorgeous baby boy. Those moments are so vivid in my memory, I can hardly believe there's so much distance between those memories and where I currently sit. Time has beautifully shaped us into a family of 3. William is sleeping upstairs, his birthday coming to an end, and he's sweetly unaware that it was different than any other day. When your baby turns 1, you celebrate the amazing life you've gained (and cry a little) and look forward to many more years of unbelievable change, growth, love, delight. Happy 1st birthday, my beautiful darling William Boyer. We are so glad to be yours. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

nothing new under the sun

32 years ago, my mom wandered into a little shop on a family trip and found this beautiful print. She was pregnant with her second child, my brother Michael, and wondering about how life would change with a new baby in the mix. She saw this picture and it spoke to her: when that sweet babe is in your arms, love multiplies.

She recently gave this print to me and I cried a lot (add to the list of things that make me cry: family keepsakes, the song "landslide", Target gift cards, when Rachel finds out she's pregnant on Friends). I look at this picture and I can feel William's warmth on my shoulder, hear his soft breathing, smell his sweet skin, feel the wisps of his blonde hair tickling my nose. I can practically transport myself back 32 years and see my mother experiencing these same wonders with her little boy. She was there, as I am here, and it was in the caramelly center of those early experiences when she decided that she was smitten, twitterpated, dedicated, all in for motherhood. And that, of course, is what brought me here. We are living this together, side by side, in different decades.

There is nothing new under the sun. Isn't that fascinating? The bible says in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that "what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." On the one hand, that's kind of a bummer. It kind of eliminates the validity of our desire to truly wallow in moments of self-pity. Those times when we're rundown or in pain or exhausted. When I was pregnant and fearful about childbirth I was constantly told, hey. Women have been doing this since the beginning of time. You're not alone. But in the throes of actually experiencing it, it was like, NO. NO ONE HAS EVER DONE THIS. THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE.

What if you actually were the first person in existence to experience something, though? That would be so legit. Talk about being vindicated in your moment of suffering. In biblical times, yeah. There was a first person for everything. There was a first childbirth, a first stoning, a first infidelity, a first death in the family. Those hurts and pains and life struggles were raw and real and they could actually say, God. This isn't fair. NO ONE ELSE HAS EVER HAD TO GO THROUGH THIS. We don't really get that satisfaction today.

But on the other hand, that's kind of okay. It's comforting. No matter what the circumstance is, you're not alone. After countless generations of lives have been lived on this earth, you can rest in our God who sees, and in the God-given camaraderie of mankind. When you post on Facebook that you just stepped on a LEGO, everyone will be like OH DANG GIRL. We've all been there.

That camaraderie and universal understanding is what makes being a mother so rich. I'm not at a table for one. I'm not experiencing these things on an island. I have generations to back me up, including my own mother and grandmother and siblings and friends. It's such a wonderful place to be. When I look at this print, tears fill my eyes because I see William and I in it. But I also see my mom and Michael in it. And so many other mothers I know and love with their baby boys and these glorious moments that are so unique but so beautifully shared throughout history.

There is nothing new under the sun...but it's certainly my first go around under its light, and I'm going to cherish the brilliance. I'm so thankful for the gift of this life (and the gift of this token of motherhood). If you've ever seen the movie About Time, you'll know what I mean when I say I'd like to spend each day as if I've deliberately come back to this one day to enjoy it. Also, if you haven't seen About Time, stop reading this and go buy it and watch it. Or come over to our house and experience it with Dusty sobbing beside you. That's my favorite.

(Thanks for this gift, momma. I will cherish it. Thanks for being my mother for life.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

to be known

As I'm journeying through my first year as a mother, I find that my thoughts as I go through my day, as I lay down to sleep, as I first begin to stir each morning are predominantly for the breath and well-being of my William. I sometimes forget to eat lunch or pay the bills or even shower, but never William. 

I know him. Possibly better than I've ever known anyone (although that doesn't mean he doesn't often surprise and confound me, which is kind of the best part of knowing someone... it's an ongoing education). I know what he smells like and the myriad of sounds he makes when he's happy, sleepy, grumpy and every other dwarf. I know his increasingly competent movements and the way he crawls at full speed after the cats, and how he clutches and grins and focuses on the funniest things. 

It's an odd job, really, being a mom. Knowing your child so intimately. To be known is such a beautiful thing. I've had deep, meaningful friendships and I have enjoyed the depth of a wonderful marriage, but this is something else entirely. It's a new brand of connection. As I watch and enjoy everything about William, I find myself wishing that he could know me, too. It sounds almost like a tragic plot device that these 9 months have been the best of my life, but William won't actually remember any of them. He will never know me in this young, new-mom phase of my life. A few years from now his first memories will begin to take residence in his mind, and he will know and remember me as his momma. His weird old mum. I will take up my sword and shield for him daily, protecting and loving and guiding while sacrificing a certain something; something that isn't truly revealed to him until much later in life. 

I've never appreciated my parents more than right now. I feel like as an adult I have the honor of getting to know them as individuals and friends as well as parents. I can better understand who they were to me then, and who they are to me now. Now that I'm a mom myself, I can better imagine my mom caring for us four crazies at home for all those years. I'm taking a few steps in her shoes, and replaying so many days in my youth and wondering how they must have affected her. I'm imagining William going off to college and wondering how my leaving may have been harder on my parents than I ever knew. It's a funny cycle of life that these realizations are so belated. 

I wonder at my role in William's life and in the lives of my future children. How will I possibly balance the discipline, comfort, love, pride, fear, adoration? I think often mothers feel lonely, misunderstood, underappreciated. I think it's because normally when you invest in an important relationship, and spend 90% of your time with another human, there's a significant exchange there. But as a mom, it's one-sided. Raising a baby means pouring your heart and soul into this wonderful creature who will not know your favorite color or your greatest fears. They will not know they've ruined your favorite shirt or care when they spit up all over your hair. A good friend would never do that. 

Raising kids into childhood means you may stay up all night worrying or spend weeks planning a party or contemplating the details of their hair color, freckles, lopsided grins and personality and they may look at you bewildered one day, like, "hi food lady, what's your name again?" They may give all the credit to daddy for things you did, or completely forget your birthday, or much rather spend time with their friends than with you. As their mother I will daily do the work, make the choices, kiss their sleepy foreheads, (sometimes) hold my tongue, run the errands, say my prayers, and give them my heart to squeeze or crumple or bounce around. It's not an exchange; it's a glorious generous heart-filling character-building life-changing servant leadership. It's hard and it's weird, but it's the best of life. Even now, as I lay him down to sleep each night, I hold him close and pray and cry over him because I've never loved anyone so darn much. I have had moments of uncertainty, overwhelming love, spikes of panic and swarms of gratitude and faith. Such tender moments of self-discovery and bonding that he will never know nor remember.

I have made the comparison before that becoming a mother has been like taking my old self - my thoughts, my humor, my dreams, my heart - and dipping them in chocolate. I'm still me, but my life is sweeter and richer with William in it. Being his mother is and will always be a layered, nuanced thing that I love and am baffled by. It's a little bit scary. It's a lotta bit magnificent. I know that my sweet boy will love me, in different wondrous ways at every stage of his life. Right now he thinks I'm pretty much the greatest thing he's ever laid eyes on, so I'm gonna hold onto that when the going gets rough. When I feel lost or buried, I will lean evermore on those who know me best: my husband, my family, my dearest friends. To be known is crucial to life, my friends. It's the sharing that makes beauty what it is.

I look forward to knowing my perfect, darling son in all of his intricacies forever and ever, even when he claims, as I often did as a teenager, that I have somehow "scarred him for life." I have the great job and joy of knowing him from atom. That's right, William Boyer, I know you. I have the greatest vantage point there is. So here's looking at you, kid - every day for as long as you'll have me. You are the greatest thing I've ever laid eyes on.