Posts Tagged: moments

Sep 14

tiny flowers

My life lesson is this:

how to live a life fragmented
to find my peace in the uncertainty, the incompletion, the half-formation:
Partly-folded laundry, partly-done dishes, partly-grown children.

no ending to grasp
no project completion date
the ending is the ending is the ending.

leave the crumbs!
come, Mama!
plunge your hands into the dirt, splash in the water, run with outstretched arms to the arms that belong to you
and only you
only you
for now.

complete despite?
complete because of
the incompleteness–

endless birdsong
our anthem

Jun 13

Bye, Bye, Kinder

I went to Anna’s final sing-along for kindergarten today and had some silent tears slip out when the kids sang this song (“Kindergarten Wall”):

When I was a little kid not so long ago
I had to learn a lot of stuff I didn’t even know
How to dress myself, tie my shoes, how to jump a rope
How to smile for a picture without looking like a dope
But of all the things I learned my favorite of them all
Was a little poem hanging on the kindergarten wall


Of all you learn here remember this the best:
Don’t hurt each other and clean up your mess
Take a nap everyday, wash before you eat
Hold hands, stick together, look before you cross the street
And remember the seed in the little paper cup:
First the root goes down and then the plant grows up!

I’ve been thinking more about what I want Anna to remember and learn the most during these years, and that chorus says so many important things in such a simple way. Watching her earnest face singing those words with great enthusiasm put such an ache in my heart to capture that moment. And even though I am, in some ways, a real social networking junkie (Facebook addiction, anyone????), I didn’t even think of jumping to get this performance recorded because the real heart of it was sitting there and living that moment, just watching her and letting her know that I am her biggest fan. It’s one of those moments that burns into your heart. I had no clue before I became a mother that love could be like this.

Sep 12

Nearly 8 weeks

Some days I feel like “I’ve got this.” Some days, I feel like “I don’t know how the hell to do this.” Mostly the latter, but, still, the good outshines the bad. I’m enjoying this time with my baby so much, knowing how quickly it goes (I’m already sad to be packing up Lilith’s newborn and 0-3 month sized clothing as this girl is BIG! Where did my tiny newborn go?!?!?). Lily is just such a joy: smiling and laughing and cooing and drifting peacefully to sleep. We are at the sweet spot for nursing, too: it is just so effortless and easy and no problem.

Anna is challenging some days, sheer joy others. She pets and fawns over her sister while also verbalizing feeling a bit left out sometimes (doesn’t like me to say that Lily is “my baby” because she still wants to be “MY baby!” too, even if she is a big almost-6-year-old!). I get it. I know that this has been such a huge transition for her and I’m actually rather proud of how well she is holding up.

I don’t want to forget these times. I know that these days will blur together and I’ll remember them fondly later on. Indeed, there are days that I remember fondly already. But I don’t want to forget all the specific things: watching Anna running ahead of me, arms outstretched, to school and from school, yelling at me to hurry up, hurry up! The feeling of Lily growing heavy in my arms as she drifts to sleep, nuzzling her head into my neck just-so, in that special cozy way. Anna’s sweaty after-school smell, her whole body abuzz with excitement as she tells me about who she played with and who got the Clue Can today and what silly thing her teacher said and what game they played at P.E. Lily’s sweet smile as she looks at me, then looks away coyly, then looks back at me with an even wider grin: our own little game.

Will the other stuff fade away? Most likely. Maybe I’ll forget entirely about Anna yelling at me “I don’t love you anymore!” Maybe I’ll forget that desperate feeling of a mis-timed shopping trip that ends with a red-faced, sweating baby crying so hard that I cry, too, until I can reach home or pull over and nurse her into calmness. Maybe I’ll forget missing Adam like crazy when he is on his business trips, the lonely evening, the big bed without him. Maybe I will, or maybe it will all come back to me when Anna and Lilith are Mommies themselves.

2012 and I am the Mommy to two little, amazing, precious, wonderful beings. I am in awe. I am eternally grateful to the universe for allowing me this privilege.

My two sweet girls

Nov 11

On being a grown-up

I’ve decided that I really like being a grown-up. Oh, sure, being a kid was cool and all, what with the lack of responsibility, the not having to make one’s own food or worry about the budget or all that other stuff that comes along with being an adult, but I love the freedom that comes with being responsible for one’s own self. I like deciding stuff. I like driving where I want to, when I want to (well, within reason. I am a parent, after all, and I do have responsibilities). I like choosing to go run at the bluffs or at the beach. I like deciding what to make for dinner and I like making my house my home. I like organizing birthday parties and having dinner cooking on the stove when my husband comes home (this, unfortunately, does not always happen). I like taking my daughter to the library and I like folding her little clothes. I like being a grownup.

Over the weekend, Adam and I went to a concert with friends. We saw Toad the Wet Sprocket, a band who we have both seen in concert numerous times, but not for years. And as we stood and swayed and sang every single lyric to every single song, I saw us as we are: two grownups, for whom these songs hold memories. I remember going to see a different concert, years ago, with someone else. We saw Journey. Yeah, we did. You’re jealous, aren’t you? And I remember looking around and seeing all these….grownups. These people for whom this music was memory-filled, standing and swaying and singing all the lyrics (and wearing acid washed jeans–WHAT NOW?–and feathered bangs and the like and, ok, maybe we did make fun of them a little bit because this was, after all The NINETIES and all so why are they all totally EIGHTIES????) and this all somehow had deep meaning to me. I got teary as the band came on for the last encore and they sang “Walk on the Ocean” and I remembered and I remembered and I remembered. And I was happy for every one of those memories, and I was happy, too, to be standing there with who I was standing there with, with his arms around me, with his voice singing those words, knowing that we would go home together and pay the babysitter and gaze at our sleeping daughter. I was overcome with being a grownup, the sheer happiness of it. The happiness of being alive and well and now (because I wasn’t always) confident and grounded. And loved. Oh, don’t forget the love.

I’m a grownup and I like it.

Jul 11

3 am

(Edited to add: This was written a while back–a few weeks or so?–and it just sat in my Drafts pile because it felt incomplete and I wasn’t sure how to make it feel more whole, but I wanted to post it up here anyway because it does bring back happy feelings for me to recall the memory. So here it stands, for the moment anyway, an incomplete post).

It has been warm here–Santa Barbara “hot,” which translates to high-70’s–and so we’ve been sleeping with all the windows thrown open to let in the cool ocean breezes at night (bliss!). Last night we fell asleep (10 pm-ish) to the sound of our neighbor’s children (late teens/early 20’s) having a pool party: splashes and laughter and the murmur of voices. I woke in the middle of the night to hear the same noises. I had a moment of irritation and confusion at the very idea of someone being up at that time of night, and then, as I rolled back towards Adam, and he murmured in his sleep, bodies curled together, I remembered being an older teenager, myself, and the nights that he and I (when we were mere children, really!) would stay up that late, or later! Of late nights spent at downtown Carrow’s (and nearly getting kicked out from laughing too loudly) or making a huge beach bonfire. Of time with our own late teenage/early 20’s friends. How we would stay up nearly all night, catch a couple of hours of sleep, then somehow (don’t think I could do this anymore today!) stumble to class or work, bleary-eyed, but not regretful.

My memory took me to a place where I didn’t resent it at all anymore, and I drifted back to sleep, happy and content to be where I am and happy and content to hear that others are having those moments that launch them towards their own grownup lives, lives in which it is rare to be up at 3 am at all (unless it is to care for one’s own child).

It’s weird, growing up. I do feel that some of those memories are memories of the “best times of my life,” really and truly, and yet I don’t feel as if I would like to chase those feelings down again. I wonder if some people spend their whole lives trying to recreate just that: young love and the adrenaline and fresh rushes of excitement that that time of life specializes in. My life is rolling along, and I’m just happy to be hitching a ride down the gentle stream now, I don’t need a whitewater rush. I don’t think my life is boring, just mellow and beautiful and I wouldn’t trade anything for the maturity and self-possession that the more recent years of my life have brought me.

Jun 11

Surfer Girl

Ok, so it was really just hitching a ride with surfer Daddy while he paddled from Goleta Beach to Campus Point and back, but ya gotta start somewhere, right? I’m still counting it as her first surfing experience!

Talking it over at home

Getting all suited up

Posing for the photo op

On their way

On the board!

Paddling off towards Campus Point (Gee, I hope they both come back)

Back to shore! (Is that a smile I see?)

Happy girl, envious friends

All dried off and dressed; time for a snack after all that excitement!

May 11

Once bitten, twice shy

I finished off the dishes tonight with the help of all the chocolate left in the house (not as decadent as it sounds, unfortunately, as we only had two very small squares left) and a glass of Grand Marnier. This is my new favorite combo. The Grand Marnier, in particular. It just….burns so good. I don’t do this every night. Nor every week. Every month? Well….I don’t know. Probably.

Today I made three meals (ok, one of those “meals” was nachos, but okay. Whatever. Totally a meal. I do the best I can). Today I prepared and supervised two baths (the afternoon popsicle was sticky). Today I wiped a poopy butt that was not my own two times. I brushed teeth that were not my own. I kissed a skinned knee. I listened to the plot summary (told in the confusing way of four year olds, in the way that finds your mind wandering off into the big wild yonder instead of paying attention until the child asks a question and you SNAP back with a cheery, “That sounds GREAT!”) of way too fricking many Strawberry Shortcake episodes. I did three loads of laundry and folded none of it. I washed dishes and dishes and dishes. I reorganized the cabinets in the dining room. I made tea. I poured milk, lots of milk. I administered Albuterol and Triaminic (Anna has a cold). I reminded her to wipe her nose, over and over again and scolded when she used her arm or her shirt instead of a tissue. I hugged and kissed and told her I loved her. Today I got bitten and grabbed and pinched (hard!). Today I got yelled at. I made her go to her room. I forgave her. I hugged and kissed her some more.

And I read part of a Vogue magazine (in spurts) and wondered at people who find success (Lady Gaga, for instance, or the author of that new book I’ve been wanting to read) at the ripe old age of 25. I wonder if I will do anything of consequence. Is this, what I have been doing all day today, of consequence? Is there lasting impact? I feel stir-crazy. I feel like a hamster going around and around. I feel like I’ve become what I never wanted to become. I had dreams for my life. They seem irrelevant, now, in the world of wiping sticky handprints off of walls, picking up paper dolls and plastic toys off of the floor.

I wonder if I would feel this way if I had another child or if I would be thrust back into the place where nothing else exists except for the sucks swallow breathe of breastfeeding, the immediacy of the need for diaper changes and pats on the back. A four year old has a frenetic energy, an ability to confound. A four year old is headed for longer days at school and friends that I don’t know, not really. Is my only reason for thinking of another child so that I can lose myself in the escape of new motherhood, all over again? Is it so that I can become oblivious to myself, again?

What happens when my firstborn deems me more and more irrelevant, over these next few years? When she tells me about part of her life, the part that she feels like telling, to appease the part of me that wants to wrap my whole self around her and remember what it was like when she was my whole universe? Will there be any me there?

I like staying at home because I like the freedom that comes with it. I haven’t lost the giddiness of feeling, when I’m driving downtown with the windows open at 10 in the morning, like I’m skipping out on something, playing hooky. Being a stay-at-home Mom is like having a handwritten note: “Please excuse Jennifer Gray from her need to be tied down to any adult accountability, as she is currently caring for the needs of the Tiny Dictator.” Will it still feel like the same excuse, the older Anna gets? Will she really “need me more,” as I’ve heard parents of grown-up children say (as in, “Your children will actually need you more and more, the older you get!”), or is that a scheme to continue the escape? Where is the real world? Why do I feel a little bit ashamed that I’m living this way? Like I’m not a real grownup? I suppose that, in actuality, I have the most grownup job in the world. Who else is there to raise the children? What are we doing with these little creatures, anyhow? We teach them skills and manners and communication and know-how and these little being grow and grow into other grown-ups who will, in turn, teach their own little ones things.

And all along, we may fail to talk about the other things, the things of ethereal beauty and lasting importance. We fail to talk about how, even with all these skills and manners and abilities to communicate, us adults are still just flailing about in the world, doing the things that grownups do, drinking the things that grownups drink, doing the jobs of grownups.

I have glimpses of perspective and dammit if some of that perspective doesn’t come from the cancer. Dammit if that cancer taught me a little about life and love.

I’m somehow infinitely more optimistic now. I sleep better (except right before a scan, and then I sleep like crap). I have reasonable (I think) expectations of my spouse. I am satisfied with me and yet I am also in upheaval because I am in the “what now?” part of the cancer recovery. What do I plan to do with my “one wild and precious life” (thank you, Mary Oliver)?

I want to excuse myself and these ramblings, I want to say that this is all because I am melancholy because we have just returned from a thousand (feels like) rambling and adventurous days and nights, because Anna has been sick and I’ve been stuck here at the house, because Adam is on the road and I haven’t had a real, sustained, adult conversation in days. Maybe it is because I had to cancel my appointment with my therapist today because of a sick child. Maybe it’s because I am hormonal. Maybe it is because I am tired.

But maybe it isn’t.

Maybe these are the real questions of my heart. Maybe I am reaching out, on my very tiptoes, towards….towards….what? Towards something that is yet to come. We are always on the verge of change, and blessed are we when we can sense it before it comes.

Okay, change. Change of my schedule, change of my heart. I’m ready to drift along towards the thing that awaits.

Gotta grab that boat and float along. Gotta feel what the feelings bring. Gotta do what the soul is shouting.

And right now I hear it say to me, Be You. Be the Best You that You Can Be.

I hear you. I hear you. I hear you.

I move towards clarity with an open heart, with all of the love in my being, with all of the courage that comes from experience, and all of the strength that comes from the determination of my core self.

Feb 11

I don’t want to let her grow up

The other night, as I tucked Anna in to her bed, she asked for her customary “hug and a kiss, Mama!” which is generally more like a death grip squeeze around my neck followed by about a hundred pecks on the lips. I love her, but sometimes it feels like a bit much. But this night, in particular, ohhhhh, I never wanted her to let go because as she leaned in to kiss me she enthused, “You are my very very very most favoritist Mommy EVER!” and gave me the most terrific squeeze.

“Can you just stay four years old forever?” I asked.

“No, silly, I have to grow up,” she told me.

Say it ain’t so! Because four years old, as exasperatingly crazy-making as it is at times, is also the sweetest, bestest age ever. Or EVER!!!! as Anna would say. And if you know her, you can also hear in your head the squeal (highest pitch known to human-kind) that accompanies THAT statement.

Jan 11


Today at the Cancer Center a familiar-looking woman sat down in the chair opposite me. I thought a minute….and remembered her, from this summer. It was July. She had shoulder-length hair and she had a breast cancer diagnosis and she was receiving her first dose of chemo. She was scared. We talked about chemo and cancer and we talked (inevitably….I find that this is such a pressing concern for women with cancer) about hair loss and what it is like to be a bald woman. I showed her some of the pictures that Adrea took of me. I told her that she was beautiful and strong and that that wouldn’t stop being the case just because she had cancer, just because she was going to be bald.

So she sat down opposite me and smiled at me and we both started talking at the same time. We talked for an hour (until my Rituxan ran out and the IV line was flushed and I was disconnected). We talked about chemo (she felt like hers really wasn’t so bad, though she wasn’t overly fond of the weight that the medications made her gain), we talked about our families, we talked about world travel. We talked about being a bald woman and we talked about fear and about how, sometimes, things just work out the way that they have to work out and, somehow, it all ends up being ok, in a strange sort of way. She told me that meeting me that very first day in the infusion room was a miracle, that she needed it. That she has been thinking about me all these months and drawing strength from our conversation. That I was her inspiration.

I don’t tell you all this so that you think that I think that I am so great. I think I am a woman who did what she had to do, when she had to do it. I tell you this so that you can know, just like my new friend and I, that sometimes things turn out a certain way–not the way that we had planned or expected or desired–and that life can seem scary and weird, but, sometimes, life can inspire you anyways. Soul-level conversations can happen anywhere, even in the midst of chemicals and lab coats and needle pokes and blood pressure readings. They can happen right when and where you need them.

Jan 11

Her Nemesis

Anything wet or dirty: She is interested, she sees that other children enjoy getting wet and/or muddy and/or covered in anything dirty and yet….and yet…she just cannot bear to do it herself. Or, if she does, she must immediately change her clothes. Immediately.

So, in the meantime, she contemplates the puddle, all too knowledgeable of what may happen if she does choose to make that jump.

It’s a life-long struggle, isn’t it? Choosing between the safety of what is familiar and comfortable and the excitement of what everyone else is choosing to do: something fun and wild and, maybe just a little bit messy and dirty and crazy. The good news, with puddles at least, is that it will eventually dry.