Thursday, August 25, 2011

Worth waiting for...

When it comes to being truly content--as a mom or otherwise--I don't believe there's any room for wanting, wishing or even hoping for more. You just spend every day in awe of how fortunate you are, and do your best to live out that sense of gratitude for what you've been given.
I remember wondering how life could get any better in Benjamin's first year of my heart could grow enough to make room for another child, or how I'd even be able to love another child the way I did my first. But of course the arrival of Jonny proved--in an instant--that there's always more. Of everything.

And I also remember, some two or three years after Jonny was born, feeling SO unbelievably happy and content as a mom of my two so many ways I felt that having boys was absolutely the fullest expression of who I was as a mom. That I was becoming good at it, and for certain--I was lucky. I guess that's just what you do, as a mom. As a parent. You take what's given and don't wonder what could have been, what that child could have just feel grateful for who they are and marvel at how they change your life. And you spend every day doing your best not to mess them up.
But I also remember, deep down, knowing that I had room for one more...that Brian and I probably had no business stretching our house, budget or even sanity any further than we had...but that if we could be lucky enough to make it happen, it would be right. For all of us.

And so it went. Without much logical planning or thinking on our parts--along came pregnancy #3. Totally without warning or real forethought...but rather an absolute and undeniable measure of perfection. The timing was right, even though we didn't know that immediately.
But of course one question seemed to dominate those first weeks (and months) of my pregnancy: "Are you going to find out???"
And I just kept thinking to myself..."what? WHAT am I going to find out??" What piece of news about this baby could in any way make a difference in how I prepared my home--and heart--for its arrival...there was definitely no way I was gonna run out and paint the nursery pink just because I learned I was having a girl...and for SURE I wasn't about to endure the "ohhh, wow...another boy!" comments from friends and strangers. Because let's be honest, the only thing worse than the ridiculous urgency others feel for all news relating to your belly is the sense of expectation and relative certainty that others feel for what your family dynamic needs.

But deep down--in a place that no one knew existed, and to this day I don't believe anyone really does--I was content. Happy with either outcome...and waiting for--if anything--just to have the chapter closed, to have the third child. Certainly I became stir crazy at times and just wanted to KNOW already, but something in me told me to wait. For the right time.

For her arrival.

Needless to say, the moment Francie came into the world was many things: miraculous, full of joy, shocking, game-changing...and above all else, totally and completely peaceful. Full of grace.
And looking back now, I realize how right I was to wait for that moment. To let that kind of news sink in alongside the bleary-eyed and euphoric early moments of life with a newborn. It all made sense. SHE made total and complete sense from the very first moment she was here. It was the same way I felt rocking Benjamin to sleep in his first few weeks--that all along I'd known it would be him.
And intuitively, without question, I knew...I was her.
Frances Grace.

I guess that's one of the most beautiful things I've learned as a mom--how little control I truly have, if any, and that the best thing to do is just wait for what God has in store. Sure I can dream, plan and anticipate...but only in limited ways. If there is ever a part of me that hoped for a girl--and surely there was--it was always balanced with a real sense of humility. Absolute and all-out surrender to the randomness of life, of pure chance, of reproductive odds.:)

And now here I sit, one year later, marvelling at this absolute miracle that is my sweet, precious, baby girl. The ways she has changed the life of my family are endless, and run the spectrum from the color of our laundry to the way Brian smiles. The pride and total joy that her older brothers feel toward her manifests in new ways every day. Life with 3 has proved to be a place we all knew, on some level, we needed.

As for me, there are far too many ways in which my life has changed than I can describe. No real way to put it to words...even for me.
All I know was that there was a time, not long ago, that I thought I understood how truly beautiful and full my life could be.
But I had idea.

Frances Grace, your many different smiles fill my every day with absolute joy and total awe. Our entire family has changed in ways never imagined. You are a light, no doubt...and I am grateful each day for the grace by which you came.

I love you, sweet baby girl.
Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Oh, the Places You Won't Want to Go...

The following list should've been included in my discharge papers from the hospital with Jonny:
"Places you will think you belong with your two boys, when in reality--you won't"

Topping this list would be the local library. The top five would most likely also include places like book stores, trendy deli/restaurants (or any establishment that attempts to play music or encourage conversation), as well as the grocery store.
A polite disclaimer would preceed the list, reading something like:
"While said places will appear on the outside as reasonable and even enticing, you'll be better served remembering that such experiences just aren't realistic. Get a coffee, hit the mall play area or better yet--an open field. You'll need your strength, so don't fight it. Choose peacefulness, even if it involves the random case of pink eye from public bounce toys."

But more importantly, at the end of said list would be a comforting phrase or two, with contact info for local therapists, carpet cleaners, pharmacies, bars...and being realistic, the police.
"Congratulations on the birth of your second son" it would read..."and please remember our post-partum nurses are not only available 24hrs a day, but in 4 to 5 years, as well. Remember not to sweat the small stuff...there's chardonnay for that. And meds. Never forget the power of drugs. Congratulations to you and your family...enjoy this special time!"

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lessons from the Mat

Benjamin asked me the other day why I go to yoga so much.

Wow, talk about a simple, reasonable enough question that does not, unfortunately, have a simple answer.
But I still managed to keep it brief (shocking). I think my answer was something along the lines of "Well, because it is really good exercise for my body, but also makes me feel really good on the it's kind of like exercise for my body and my brain."
He seemed satisfied enough, and since then has even made a few off-hand comments that have made me smile. Or just laugh. When I came home from my prenatal yoga a few nights ago, he asked me if I felt "all better inside"...this made me grin the biggest grin and respond with "absolutely, I do". And then just yesterday, when I was grunting while trying to tie my shoes (3rd trimester thing), he suggested I go to my yoga class and tell my brain "not to worry so much". I loved it.

And while his basic understanding of why I practice is--at this point in his life--very simple, it's important to me.
However, I didn't realize at first that it would be. Not when I first began, anyway. But like with anything kids learn to understand about their world, about life, there's a slow unfolding that I believe is so deeply rooted in what they see us do...and so yeah, I'm glad he's at least interested in knowing the why.
And yet, were neither of my boys to ever ask me why I practice, I'm not sure I would necessarily sit them down and explain it to them. I can't imagine that scenario...not even 5 or 10 years from now. Sure, I'll offer up classes to them like I will every other type of activity, but the meaning behind my own committment is not something I imagine being able to articulate. Nor do I think anyone really can...which, is one of the many aspects of yoga I appreciate. It's not about ribbons, awards, status, etc...or least of all, end results. It's about the process, the becoming, the ever-changing transformation of mind and body.

I learned pretty early on in my practice of yoga that it was going to be a good fit, and the more I stuck with it, the more convinced I became that it wasn't ever going to end. I wouldn't stop after I made it through a particularly tough workshop--or even after I got the "yoga butt" I'd heard so much about. I felt certain I'd be at it for the rest of my life for two very distinct reasons: for one, the teachings and lessons involved seemed to not only support and reinforce my own views on life, relationships, parenthood, etc...but they were helping them grow and get better. The second reason is about community. The people I practice with, the energy in the room, the overwhelming (and refreshing) lack of status and comparison that exists--yet the way that acceptance and support actually makes you work harder and with more integrity than any other kind of measureable result...all of it, it had me hooked from the start.

I'm only a few years in...a baby, really, at this yoga thing. But as sure as I am of how insignicant that fact is--that years and "levels" really don't matter, I'm also aware of how much more there will always be to learn.
One of my teachers likes to quote his Tai Chi master all the time in his efforts to remind us of how critical our ability to be humble is to the practice..."there is no end result, only the process and effort you give in getting there...and when you think you've done and learned it all, let me know, because there will be more." (I may have butchered that, but the gist is there:) )
I guess what I'm getting at is that, while I've only been at this a short time, I get how important it is--and how central it's always going to be in my life.

And so...while I know that I can't ever force Benjamin, Jonathan or even Brian (you wanna talk long shots) to sign up for classes, I still hope that by staying committed to it I'll continue to just get better at my own life in way that impacts them positively. Meaning, the happier I am with myself, the more freedom they'll feel in becoming who they want and are meant to be...or, in the short term, the less anger I'll feel at my shoelaces, thus creating a greater sense of calm for Benjamin while we get ready to walk out the door.
It's all about the small moves in life, right?

If I were to give Benjamin a list of reasons, at this very moment, as to why I practice yoga so much--and in his defense, I've upped my time away from home to practice each week since I got pregnant, so the kid has a right to ask questions--I'd start with a few basic points:

1. alone time--even in a class full of people
2. my back and butt have gotten stronger...minor detail, but still--I'm not mad about it
3. the neighborhood/community is truly a sanctuary for me, especially as it gets me out of my comfort zone each week (though oddly enough, it's become one of my safest and most comfortable environs)
4. I have fabulous--fabulous--teachers
5. no one's looking at me or judging my ability
6. I'm not looking at anyone else or judging their ability
7. everyone gets stronger and goes deeper anyway (and I would argue in ways only made possible by this implied sense of individual integrity and ownership--no one can push me harder than myself)
8. learning that it's not about "getting into and holding a pose", but rather understanding my body and how to properly align it...and then "pulsing" in and out of my own fullest expression of that pose
9. knowing that it's ok to have on "off week"
10. I now have better posture--and yes, oh yes...less back pain

I'd give Benjamin these reasons and maybe even launch into some sort of conversation with him about how important each of these points is to living a balanced life and above all else--being a good person (well, minus Mommy's yoga butt). And then I'd tell him that if there was one thing I hope for him to always know and understand, in everything he ever does, tries or sets out to'd be not to compare himself to others. To never let how someone else does in a race, on a test, or even what they earn---to never, ever let it determine his own sense of worth. When he wins, he wins...but not because someone else is slow or not as good at it as he is. And when he loses, he loses...but not because somebody else was given an unfair advantage. Good or bad, it all rests squarely on him. What he does with that will define his character.

But he'll never see that list. Nor will we ever have that talk.
But we'll talk a lot (he'll make sure of it)...and hopefully along the way he'll come to understand it all on his own.

Just a few hours ago we shared our Wendy's lunch (hey--I'm pregnant) at the kitchen island and he commented on the fact that I had a bigger drink than he did. I responded with something like "Yes, but someday when you're bigger and a grownup like me, you'll get a bigger cup, too."
To which he replied: "Yeah, but it's ok my cup is smaller, because it's enough for me right now...right?"


Add one more lesson to that list: your kids will be your greatest teachers of all.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Critical Moments in Parenthood

I had one of these this morning...I think.
Before I go on, I should probably apply a sub-heading here: Raising Jonathan.

This child is so unbelievably hard to predict--which, most of the time, just adds to his charm. Other times it makes my hair prematurely grey, and often even makes me wonder what in the world I've done know, to bring out the crazy.

But what I find happens the most is that his randomness just makes me LAUGH. Problem is, it's usually at a moment when I know full well I shouldn't be laughing. That "critical moment" as a parent when you know that falling apart in giggles will only bring about more of the behavior at hand.

Yesterday it was at the park, when Jonathan was playing with his brother and a few pals in the giant sandbox. I was chatting away with his friend Henry's mom, while the boys enacted all sorts of super-hero scenarios in and out of the sandbox...seemed innocent and normal enough. Until that moment...the one where you're listening to your friend tell a story, and yet you see something unfolding that is going to completely derail everything she's saying.
And that "something" would be my son Jonathan, butt-ass-naked, doing a jig in the woodchips and laughing hysterically.
It's like all of the decorum of a normal adult conversation is simply can't survive moments like these. And I feel badly, because I feel like I am constantly the unattentive friend, neighbor, etc. in conversations. Well, when Jonathan's around, anyway. It's like the worst case of ADD...and it happens everywhere: the playground, the neighborhood playtime scene, on the phone (don't even GET me started on the impossibility of that), the preschool pickup, really just about anywhere we are. I am unable to maintain focus on anything, because Jonny is always---I mean always--a few beats away from entering Crazyland.

I'd like to mention here (kinda off-topic) how grateful I have always been for the friends/family members who get it...maybe they have boys themselves (and this is the best padding of all, really) or they simply just appreciate the goofiness. I'm always super relieved to have a friend laugh right outloud with me when Jonny strips naked--it takes the pressure off in a way. Unlike those awful moments when I find myself around moms (who either have only girls or are just plain uptight or grumpy--I find it's most often the latter) whose children are just happily playing, quietly and without much fanfare, by themselves on the playground. Jonathan pretty much ruins those idyllic moments for the parents of those children in a matter of minutes. And my attempts to bring him back to Earth only seem to make things worse--or rather, me more embarrassed by the amazing contrast in behavior.

Fortunately I find myself mostly delighted at my child's craziness. Yes, it's awkward in public when he chooses to "sing" his order to the Jersey Junction employee (Hey now, you're a rock star, getch-yer game on, go PLAY! Spiderman popsicle!!)...or when he decides to pat his "pee pee" and laugh uproariously in the cereal aisle at the grocery--you know, instead of just saying "I have to pee, Mommy". These moments try me on a daily basis...and often embarrass me.
But deep down I'm pretty much enjoying the ride.
He is one difficult kid to predict--and holy cow, it can be fun. And almost always funny.

This morning I was in his room while he got dressed when he turned to me, shirt on and no pants...underpants on, but with a special surprise sticking out of the "hole" in front. And his face said it all: this had just been way too hard to resist for him.
"Mah-hah-hah-meee..." (he could hardly talk for the ensuing giggles to come) "Look at my pee's sticking wants to be out!"

I'm not sure if it was the sheer sight of his lil' snausage poking out of the underwear "hole" that made me laugh the most...or if it was the rationale that he applied to the situation. Apparently the pee pee has feelings, too, and just needed to get some air.

Anyway, I think I managed to look disapproving for all of .2 seconds...and then I just lost it. And the look on his face when I began to laugh was just so Jonny. It's a look I see often--and while it's harmless, it often makes me worry about the longer-term impact. It's an expression that says "Haha, yeah, I'm a little bit crazy and a whole lotta naughty, but damn if people don't seem to find me funny..."

Sigh...what's to be done?
I guess the most important thing is that the child's got spirit...and total personality. And at the end of the day, it's this fact alone that makes me feel ok. I just pray he's not the one launching spitwads at highschool graduation.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Gender Files

Not finding out "what" we're having this pregnancy has caused a lot of conversation...with friends, family, etc...but mostly with our boys. And every bit of it's been hilarious. So add yet another reason to my ever-growing list of reasons NOT to find out what you're having: witnessing the reasoning in your little ones' heads as they ponder which would be more fun. Or even better--what the name of said child should be.

Today's conversation with Benjamin was so hysterical it made me feel like blogging again. Moments like these...they're the reason I ever did this in the first place, so it's fitting.

Sitting next to me on the front porch and playing "I spy", each of us with a popsicle:

Benjamin: "I think I know what your baby's name should be, Mommy, if it's a girl."
(also hilarious that it's just randomly going to be "my baby"...not his sister or brother, etc.)

Me: "Oh yeah? What do you think?"

Benjamin: (with no trace of humor in his voice) "Peaches."

Me: (forearm over mouth to suppress laughter, so as to get to the next obvious question and have the answer delivered with equal seriousness) "And what if it's a boy? What would we name him?"

Benjamin: (pausing to look at sky while working on popsicle--and then suddenly looking proud of his certainty on the matter) "Grilled Cheese."

Well, OBVIOUSLY that settles that ongoing debate in my head.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thanks, Steph.

Had a great dinner out with a friend tonight...great food, good drinks (they are possible without booze, who knew?)...but of course, even better conversation. It was during this very lily-pad-style (a Meg-ism to be explained another time) chat that the following phrase was used: "10, 20 years from now...what will be most important to me? what choice will I be happiest with?"
And it was in that moment that I finally turned the corner this week from being frustrated, grumpy, sad, lonely...and just overall pissed off (God I love how much more honest I can be on my blog that on fucking facebook) at the state of my single-mommy-hood.
I'm not even going to get into that topic right's too personal and far too nuanced and complicated to put out there right now--but suffice it to say, I needed a good night out with a friend. Also didn't suck that I heard one of my favorite songs in the car tonight while driving to meet my friend for dinner--Forever Young by Rod Stewart. Cheeseball? Oh yeah...totally. But if you haven't heard it for a while, I suggest listening to it super freakin loud in your car. And if you have kids, well, good luck not getting something out of it.

So fast-forward to my sitting down at the computer tonight, exhausted and ready to just quick check email and facebook and go to bed...yet finding myself writing the most ridiculously long list of things I'm grateful for and happy about in my status update. Now, for one, no one needs to be that damn smug and happy on their FB page...but also? I had too much to say, so here I am.
And if I didn't think it was so damn important to write down (for my own posterity), I wouldn't even bother. After all, my lack of blogging the past several months has had nothing to do with life being boring or without moments of interest---it has, rather, had everything to do with my lack of committment to anything that takes more than 5 minutes of my time.

So, here's my list (because I do love a list). Moments of meaning, bullet-pointed tales of adorableness, random get the idea--basically just the many things (and only in the last week) that help me to better answer those afore-mentioned questions discussed with my friend. The stuff of my convinctions. Here are a few:

*Benjamin taking Jonny's hand to walk him to the front of church last Sunday morning...a routine moment in the church service, when the kids are excused to church school...but also a moment, until this past Sunday, that has REQUIRED my accompanying Jonathan to the front steps. And yet this time, he just went with his brother. I will never, ever, ever forget the image of the two of them walking down the aisle away from me...Jonathan squeezing "Benny's" hand...or the way they looked standing next to one another, still holding hands (with super serious expressions) while they recited their response to the congregation.

*the always ubrupt noise of their voices in the morning--but how precious and adorable it is at the same time, as they chatter from their bunk beds and discuss their plans for the day--or, in their case, the next ten minutes. I cannot put into words how extra adorable they have become with these bunk beds--better sleepers, better friends...better brothers.

*Benjamin, upon realizing this morning that we had to "take Mr. Hoppy back to preschool", crumbling into a million, sad little pieces. Not grumpy, stubborn, I', that would be easier to take. But real, heart-wrenching sadness over having to "say goodbye to Hoppy". Mr. Hoppy had, afterall, in Benjamin's own words---"been such a great buddy and so fun to take care of".
I will never forget the way he pulled himself together in the car and announced to me, just as we were pulling up to preschool: "I just don't want my friends to see that I'm sad...but I really am inside. I just love Hoppy so much and hate seeing him leave our home."
I'll also never forget the subsequent trip Benjamin made with me to Pooh's Corner this afternoon...a rare moment for the two of us to be alone together, when he had the chance to pick out a "new friend who needed a home". Not sure what was more touching--the way he took such time in selecting the perfect stuffed dog (because P.S. there are a LOT of freakin choices at Pooh's Corner), or the way he announced to the cashier that he'd found the one animal that "most looked like he wanted to get out of this store"...that line actually made me laugh right out loud, but I knew exactly what he meant, and it was precious.
We had an imaginary ladybug hunt when we got home, as it was determined on the ride home that that would be the meal of choice for the new pet. Yup...that was pretty damn adorable, too.

*the way Jonathan ALWAYS seems to be saying one of the following to me: "sshhure, Mommy!", "thanks, Mommy!", or "yeahhh...let's go, Mommy!"...the kid is just so damn positive. when he's not whining.

*reading about Dinosaurs with Benjamin on the couch and realizing it's 1:30 in the afternoon...and that in a very short amount of time I'll wonder if I was appreciative enough of those moments while they happened.

*the way Jonny HAS to hug me after he comes downstairs from a nap...regardless of how charged up he is to play with his brother--insists on a quick hug and snuggle.

There are so many more...always are. But for now I'm tired and approaching the non-sensical form of writing.
Just want to say...for myself and no one else...that even though I spend loads of time and energy wishing for my husband to be around more...and plotting ways to sabotage his sushi and champagne dinners with clients while I fish poop out of the bathtub...I want it to be said that I'm happy. Content. Grateful...maybe even a bit victorious.
Because I'm just so damn GLAD that I'm right here, not missing any of it. Not for a second.

There's going to be time for a lot of shit in the future...but not a chance for any of this.
Color me grateful...and blessed.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Just when you think bedtime's safe again...'s not.
Not at all, in fact.

We have, in the Richards house, a fairly firm and steadfast bedtime routine...bath, quick show on Sprout (boys love The Goodnight Show--and Brian doesn't hate the female host), glass of milk, story, quick song, prayers...and lights out. Whole routine takes about 30 minutes.
And it has, for the most part, been fool-proof.
Meaning...the boys go to sleep.

But somewhere around the time that Jonny learned to crawl out of his crib (days after he was born?)...the interpretation of bedtime has been a bit loose on his part. Up for debate.
Days when he's worn out and hasn't had a nap...goodnight.
But days when he's had the least bit of a nap...well...the whole "goodnight routine" is a mere opening act for his show.
I cuddle and sing to him, kiss him good night...revel in the sweetness of our goodnight moments and his soft skin, tuck him in with his favorite blankies, exchange I love yous, you get it...but for him, it's just the drop-off before a total party.

Antics have ranged from emptying out the contents of his drawers, baskets of lotions, sitting in our bedroom closet "reading books" full-on hanging out on our living room sofas, unbeknownst to us, only to eventually pop his head up and announce his presence to us--in the adjacent room, watching TV.

So when I got home from Meijer tonight, put the groceries away, got the down-low from Brian about how the boys went down, what cuteness occurred...and how long Jonny's usual game of whack-a-mole went know the one, the state fair favorite, where the little mole heads pop up annoyingly (but happily) and no matter how many times you send them back into their holes with a mallet--they just pop the F right back up again.
That's Jonny...minus the mallet. when I'm on my second bite of Meijer sushi, we hear a *clunk* from up in the bathroom. Non-plussed, we both shrug our shoulders and Brian heads up to put J back in bed.

Except...this time he's taken it to a whole new level.
This time he's gotten into my makeup...and is wearing it. Like...really wearing it. Smears of brown goo* are covering his face, neck, back of neck and of course, his hands. Brian appears in the doorway to the kitchen with him, and immediately--I'm a deer in headlights. I am just utterly stunned. On the one hand, TOTALLY freaked out at the appearance of this child...and on the other hand, wanting not to give away with my expression just how hilarious I think the situation is.
Oh, and I'm also reaching for the camera.

The pictures tell it see the disaster all over his face...but you also see separate expressions: one of fear for the punishment to come, one of relief that his daddy and I are clearly not totally pissed--stifling giggles, if I'm being honest...and also, one of true Jonathan pride in the most recent of his stunts.

Only real thing I'm worried about at this point, as he's been cleaned up, changed into new pjs and plunked back in bed, is the sheer cost of replacing the makeup and brushes (those puppies aren't cheap) he ruined.

But for now, back to my sushi.
Oh yes, and that glass of wine.

And so it goes in this house of ours...*sigh*.

*origin of said "goo" on his face has yet to be determined by me...I don't own anything resembling foundation, only brown eyeliner, some concealer (that wasn't touched), loose mineral powder, and some random eye shadows...oh, and a lipstick that--yes--was completely and totally smooshed. But it was more of a pinkish auburn basically, I'm stumped.
But, alas, I'm used to it by now.:)