"A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity,
it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path."
~ Agatha Christie

Alex, Cole and Braden - At 2 years, 2 months

Monday, June 29, 2009

In the Moment

I sit here today, well, for the past few months, actually, almost sobbing at the reality of life - that it moves on, no matter how hard you try to hold on, it keeps going, going, going. Time is relentless and you can either fight it or live IN it, you can't do both. Every day I try to live it, to live in the proverbial moment, but I fail...since at the end of the day, every day, I anguish over the loss of that day, that I will never get it back - and it chokes me up, makes me angry - makes me shake my fist at God that my babies will be gone someday. I try to hold them close to my chest, to keep them at this age, to keep them here with me...selfish, I know, but it's a feeling like no other, the terrifying loss of time, of this time with them - almost like the grasping and containing of falling sand, and the frustration in the unfruitful task is unbearable.

Yes, it's obvious, I am an emotional wreck! Most sane mothers are happy that their kids will have their own lives someday - that they will be successful, happy and free to make their own choices - and that you will be ecstatic to see how they have grown into themselves and matured and all of that. While the thought does make me happy, I don't ever want to see them leave this little nest of ours! What we have made for them and how intense we have felt for them, those feelings of this unique family unit are things we never want to lose. The morning serenades, the random hugs, the adorable giggles - how can you say goodbye to these things?

Every day I trudge through the necessities of our routine life, the life that I have said many times before reminds me of Groundhog Day, over and over, the same things repeated in an endless loop...and I try to "better my score"... meaning, get it all done quicker than I did yesterday. There is nothing worse than putting the kids to bed, realizing you are exhausted yourself and then walking downstairs to remind yourself of the mountain of work left for you in the kitchen, the dining room, on the deck and in the living room. So, lately I have been trying to finish most of it before the kiddos head up to bed, frantically washing dishes and receiving leg hugs here and there from Braden and bouncing back the "Hi Mommy!"s I hear enter the kitchen and them running back out to play without me...all in the name of "getting it done".

But I tell ya....It's a toss up. Yes, I feel good and more relaxed when I come down to a cleaner house, but also....in "getting it done", I am missing the "doing" part of life (see below).... I am trading the sweet, precious, fleeting time I could spend with the kids in the evening just to clean up, a perfect example of something that means nothing really, in the scheme of things. There will always be dishes, even after they go their own separate ways...but there is only "now", right now.

I think the fact that we have three at the same age is what is causing these epidemic sobbing fits. The realization that as intense as the first few years are, their childhood will be the same! Fleeting and ....Intense. We only have one chance to spend their childhood with them ALL. They will leave together, not spaced out as to buffer us from the reality of time marching on. They travel to college or out and about... together! Like 1 child would, only we have to let three spread their wings simultaneously. How hard is that gonna be?

And I know it seems far away from now that we will have to endure that challenge, but I am sure if I blink, that moment will arrive...so I almost religiously have to remind myself that we are here, we are now - it is so hard to do, I know! But, it is all we have and it is all we get, so honestly, who cares if you are tired and face a TON of work into the wee hours of the morning? When it's all said and done...those memories, those times we are fully with them are all we will have left - so, make it of fun and of sweet things and of love, with them...and not of dishes.

If you are wondering, this article is what prompted this blog post - I have been feeling this emotional deluge for months and months now...but this article is just beautiful and says it all....and yes, I sobbed during my reading of it - I dare you not to do the same. :)

From Anna Quindlen, Newsweek Columnist and Author

"All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past. Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton, Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education have all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations –what they taught me, was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.

Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2. When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China . Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too.

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the, "Remember-When- Mom-Did Hall of Fame." The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, "What did you get wrong?". (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?

But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night.

I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed.
I wish I had treasured the
doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.

Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity.

That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were."

All I can say is the obvious..... Enjoy every. single. minute. and relish the trade off of hard work after they go to bed as extra time you got to spend with them. Squeeze it all, for this is our one and only shot to enjoy the good stuff.

Friday, June 19, 2009

10 Years


10 years...where did it go? 10 years ago today, I married an incredible man – though I didn’t really understand how lucky I was at the time. I was caught up in the courtship phase, the tingling happiness, full of butterflies and laughter and fun. Life was good; high on the promise of an incredible life together. Little did I know that the first year would be so hard for us, so hard to live together and mesh our lives seamlessly; what each of us brought to the table: the baggage, the life experiences, the habits, preferences and traits - and BOY did we clash for a while…but eventually we came to realize that this is what life is all about, what marriage is all about – the BIG compromise.

I have loved journeying to find out that we are even more perfect for each other than we ever knew possible… compatible in almost every way, and the ways we aren’t we have learned to compromise or even complement one another [ie, the slob(me) vs the organizer(you) and the relaxed(me) to the uptight(you)]. I love that we make each other better people; you make me want to be more, every day! I have learned oodles about myself through you and I hope the feeling is mutual. You have changed me (in a good way!) in almost every definition of the word -you could say I feel more… evolved; definitely more alive. We fit together like puzzle pieces – and dare I say it? It's total cheese, but you do – “you complete me.” We have found in each other just that which our souls were missing.

I love that we share the same non-political views, that we see more in animals than most people do, and that we can relish a sci-fi (Enterprise, Stargate!) or James Bond marathon. I love that Christmas brings out the extreme kid in both of us. We share the love of our beautiful kids and want to be that “Amazing Ertel Parenting Machine” we always talked about being for them. Our goals for the future have often aligned without much effort and now we share that in raising our sweet babies.

Other things we share a love for: long walks in the quiet woods, Mrs. Angelina Jolie and Mr. Brad Pitt, being considerate people and making others happy, super good ice cream, water anywhere, movie nights, the stars and space and the cool things humans do, being spontaneous when we travel, the giggles and smiles and laughter of our children, the color blue, Mr. Dean Koontz, (your mom’s)almond puff, being honest and downright good, cool technology, the Brantingham screen room, thought-provoking comedy, Phil Collins, slab bacon and our awesome families. Just to name a few. We are both geeks, and that makes me incredibly happy. J

You appreciate the world around you and the impact you have on it, good and bad – and I love that about you. You are caring and considerate, kind and unselfish, a good friend, family member and husband; always giving. You are hardworking and careful, smart and sensitive and philosophical – you have learned to step back and realize that there is more than one perspective in every situation…all this you have taught me and more.

I think back with a laugh to our first date full of mishaps – an awful movie we didn’t want to see, the right side of my face, numb from a visit to the dentist, numb almost all night, and you thought I was mad at you since I didn’t smile much, then your good tools stolen right out of your car….but that first kiss later, in my parents' living room, during the endless playing of the same movie (Only You) was….*sigh* - I get butterflies every time I think about it. I think it took us about 2 hours just to get to it, we were both so nervous! Silly now, but a very, very sweet memory. And here we are...3 beautiful kids later, so much we have gone through; so much love, some loss, but much happiness….so much we have learned about each other and so much more to learn… Again, life is good: but now we are high in the act of living an incredible life together.

I can’t think of anyone I would rather be with, to “grow old with” and watch our babies flourish before our very eyes. This is our life! And it makes me so happy to be here in it with you, forever. Our souls were imprinted onto each other long ago and we were lucky to have made the match, even before knowing how perfect the match was going to turn out to be. Everyone should be this lucky! You are stuck with me forever, baby!

Happy 10th, my sweet... you are my “dream” man.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Boots and a Deck


This is what we have been seeing for a while now, looking out our dining room window. Mike, hard at work, up on a ladder...all evening, practically! What you don't see in the picture is Papa - Mike's dad - who has also been hard at work, building our new deck for us! Yay!

I hope to have pictures up soon - the behemoth is almost finished...and we are so excited to spend more of our summer days and nights outside... More play, more meals, more relaxing, more star-gazing! Our old deck was about 8'x10' - this new one is 14'x16'... and Papa calls it the "biggest playpen he has ever seen"! I am loving the fact that it feels like an extension of our house. He even put a gate on it (for me). :)

What Mike is doing up on that ladder is staining the house...our house is 150 years old and it was in desperate need of a face lift. It is old barn board siding (see background of picture!), and it was more faded than we realized. He first had to tear off the siding, remove bee nests, bat homes and other creepy crawlies that were hiding under there - apparently the wood is yummy and cozy to the non-human population...then run some wire for electrical outlets and three new outdoor lights to create the ambiance this new fancy deck "needs"... and he also re-insulated the front of the house while he was in there... it's a brand new place! Awesome. Pictures soon - it's coming out great!