Navigate / search

How a Trip to Vegas Helped Me Find Myself

In February 2012, I spent a girl’s weekend away in Las Vegas with my two best friends to celebrate the fact that we were each turning 30 that year. Stated like that, it sounds a lot more risqué than it actually was. In reality, one of these two friends was living in neighboring Henderson, NV while attending med school and we went to visit her.

But we did have fun. Three friends together again, catching up, sharing stories and making new memories. The last time the three of us had been together for such a length of time with no kids or no husbands or boyfriends was 11 years ago. It was time. It had been so long since my only job was to make decisions for myself. We got ready to go places in a quarter of the time it usually takes with kids. Except, of course, for when we actually decided to blow dry our hair and put make up on which case it took us twice as long as usual than our everyday mom routine. The weekend was everything I hoped it would be.

But it was a conversation I had on the flight with my friend that rocked my world.

My friend has two boys that are about the same spread in age that my three kids are. So she gets it. She understands the 4 p.m. meltdowns and grocery store temper tantrums. We laughed and marveled at the moms raising the seemingly well-behaved gentle boys. We didn’t get those boys. We got the boys that jump from couches and run laps around our houses.

And then she said it.

“Yes, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I don’t miss working. I love being home with them.”

Hmmm.

Really?

She’s a stay at home mom, with her kids all day long, and there is no place she’d rather be? I love my kids. I absolutely love them with all of my heart and soul, but I also love being at work. I sometimes refer to work as my “day off”. I love the adrenaline I feel when I’m working on a new project. I love sitting in a meeting and brainstorming a new concept. I love spending my day with adults. And when I come home I love being with my kids. But sometimes when I’m home there is somewhere I’d rather be; sometimes I’d rather be at work.

As a mother, thinking that phrase in my head, I was mortified.

How could I possibly believe that? Why couldn’t I just be like my friend? We are alike in so many ways. Why couldn’t we just be alike in this area as well. But we weren’t. No matter how hard I tried to convince myself, I couldn’t agree with her statement.

So when I returned from Vegas I knew I needed to wrestle with that statement more. The conversation with my husband went something like this:

Me: “Hey honey, can we talk a little later?”

Him: “Umm, sure. What’s this about?”

Me: [Bursting into tears] “I don’t really want to talk about it in front of the kids.”

In hindsight, this really wasn’t the best way to open a conversation after returning home from a girls weekend in Vegas. I spent the rest of dinner cryptically assuring my husband that the conversation was not going to be about some breach in my fidelity or my desire to run off to Vegas but instead was about my career goals and motherhood.

There were a lot of tears that night as I tried to explain the thoughts flying through my head. The truth was, I didn’t really know what I was thinking. For three years I struggled and worked really hard to get the hang of the stay at home part of motherhood, but I never could get it to click. I never felt like I fully fit in to that world. And as I tried to explain this to my husband I realized that I still wasn’t sure what I was saying. Did I really want to work full-time? How would we manage everything? We could barely manage household life with me working part-time, how did we expect to manage it with me out of the house for 15 more hours a week? Was I just over reacting to a nice girl’s weekend? Maybe I just needed more weekends like that.

Needless to say I was a mess.

For awhile.

We spent the next few months having hard conversations about new goals and new plans for our family’s future. As I came to settle on the fact that I wanted to work full-time, we wondered if I’d be able to keep my current job or if I’d have to find a new job. Or, if my current job couldn’t accommodate a full-time position, would I be okay staying at a part-time position until they could. There was lots of praying. Lots of asking for strength.

And then things started falling into place.

I talked to my boss and after a bit of working on the budget and staffing structure they were able to accommodate my request to go full-time. In a little over a month, I will make that transition and I can honestly say I can’t wait. Of course it will be a transition for our entire house, but we have all talked about it and there isn’t a single person in this house that I don’t think can handle it.

Last weekend, I returned to Vegas to see my same friend graduate medical school. In addition to celebrating her big day, this trip back was significant for me as well. It was the end of a 15-month journey that lead me along a path to resolve the tension inside of me. I was very excited to go. My husband was terrified. Worried that I might come back with an entirely new perspective and want to become a stay-at-home mom, he reminded me several times before the trip that the decision had been made for me to go full-time and there was little we could do to change that at this point. The good news for him was that I came home with no second wave of a quarter-life crisis.

But on this plane ride I was able to reflect on what I did during those 15-months that changed my trajectory so much.

Speak up.
That first Monday night could have gone very differently. I could have very easily stayed quiet. I could have bottled my emotions and convinced myself that they didn’t matter. I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t. It wasn’t always easy. I was scared and I said things that didn’t always come out the way that I meant for them to come out but if I had never voiced my concerns I could still be where I was 15 months ago, which was not the best place.

Connect with Friends.
Life became busy when the twins were born. The amount of laundry doubled, the dishes tripled and the number of toys, well, I can’t count that high. Between spending time with family and keeping up with household minutia, I had nothing left. By 7 p.m., I was exhausted. When my husband and I did go out, we went out alone for date nights. We lost track of our friends. That’s not to say we stopped all contact entirely, but as most parents can relate, we just didn’t go out as much after we had kids because going out meant finding a babysitter, paying a babysitter and, perhaps most important, losing cherished sleep time. But losing those connections meant losing the relationships that round out your sanity. Your spouse is great, but of course he/she is going to relate to your parenting struggles, he/she has he same kids! I find no greater joy than going to a friend’s house and watching her son have a meltdown in front of me. It sounds horrible, I know, but it assures me that my kid isn’t a lost cause. If her seemingly okay kid can have a meltdown because the fruit snacks are Phineas and Ferb themed and not Batman themed then my kid crying over wearing no underwear with her bathing suit doesn’t seem so bad. The first weekend in Vegas reminded me how much I missed my friends. In the 15-months that have followed that trip, both my husband and I have been blessed to reconnect with old and new friends that help us feel like maybe we aren’t the worst parents in the world.

Ask for Help.
My husband is a great person to talk to. He should be; he’s a pastor. I also have friends that are amazing listeners. As wonderful as the people in my life are, I needed more help than they could give me. There were things I needed help with that went beyond that duties of husband or friend. Things that I needed to be able to work out for myself and not worry about how others would perceive me. For me, I find that it can be easier to talk to a complete stranger than to someone who knows me to the center of my soul. If you have never been to professional counseling, it’s incredible. It’s like going for coffee with someone where you get to talk about yourself for the entire time. Except that you are paying the person to have coffee with you. Or in my case, my insurance company was paying the person to have coffee with me. I know there is a stigma around counseling and I think that’s ridiculous. I know it sounds weird to say “I go to counseling because I struggle with the balance between motherhood and my career goals.” But here is the thing. I do. And before I started going to counseling, I was unhappy. And I didn’t know why. Counseling helped my figure out a lot of things. I think I’m a better mom now. I also think I’m better at my job now. So you can judge me because I couldn’t figure these things out on my own, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I needed help.

So those are my three life lessons from the past 15 months. I won’t lie, I cried a lot of tears this past year. But I also smiled. A lot. I learned how to look for joy again. I discovered I am a lot stronger than I ever thought I was. I connected with friends who helped my crazy days feel not so bad. I also came to know that when my husband stood in a church 8 years ago and made a promise to love and cherish me through good times and hard times he meant it. He has listened to me and supported me and encouraged me every step along the way. I could not have done this without him.

And to every one else who provided love and encouragement, whether you knew what was going on behind the curtain or not, thank you.

 

Seeing the Beauty

My daughter is beautiful.

She has these gorgeous big blue eyes that are the size of sand dollars. Her hair flows like golden thread down her back. When she smiles, the sun shines a little brighter.

When I look at her I see a beautiful princess. There is not a single thing wrong with her. She is perfect.

I take a lot of pictures of her. Mostly because I find her doing adorable things at random moments throughout the day. I often share her adorable moments on Instagram and Facebook. One thing that always catches me off guard are the comments about how much she looks like me. When I look at my daughter, I do not see a little version of me. This is a person I have seen almost every day of her life. When I look at her, I see the girl who once was my baby who is quickly growing into a big girl. I see a few similarities, but I would not say she is a clone of me. I think this is pretty common among parents. I hardly ever talk to a parent who can see the similarities between their children and themselves. Most are like me, they see some traits, but not all of them.

Regardless of what I think, people still tell me that she looks exactly like me all the time. Which means that she hears that she looks like me all the time.

So no matter what I tell her she looks like, she is going to take cues on the value of her appearance based on my opinion of myself. Do you see how confusing that can be for her? I can tell her she is beautiful, but if she hears me degrading my looks, what is she supposed to think? Do I really believe that my critical words about myself will not affect her?

Most mornings, she is standing right next to me, in the bathroom, mirroring my actions as I get ready for work. There we are, the two of us, staring into the mirror getting ready together. Right now, she is four and she wants to be just like me. Sure, she sometimes puts eye shadow on her checks instead of her eyelids, but she is trying her best to be like her mom.

Now imagine, if every morning, as we are getting ready, I am voicing an external dialogue of self-criticism. Or, in an attempt to make sure she knows how beautiful she is, I make remarks about her beautiful hair and my awful hair.

As if only one of us can be beautiful.

This habit of self-criticism teaches my daughter two things. First, it teaches her to look for the negative. Find the flaws. Instead of teaching her to focus on the things about herself that make her beautiful, self-criticism teaches her to focus on what’s wrong with herself. When I tell her how beautiful she is at the expense of my beauty, I am teaching her how to compare her looks to those around her. I’m giving her the words to build sentences like “I wish my stomach was as flat as your stomach” or “Your skin is so much clearer than mine!”

This is not uncommon in girl world. She is bound to come across it, but she is not going to learn it from me. For the rest of her life she’s going to hear “You look just like your mom” when she is around my friends. She might be like me and find that hard to believe (in her teenage years I’m sure I’m the last person she’ll aspire to be like), but at some point she might begin to see the truth behind that statement. She might look into the mirror and see glimpses of me looking back at her. When she find those pieces of me, I hope she will see the beauty in the mirror. I hope she will smile when she sees my smile. I hope her eyes will sparkle when she sees my eyes.

I do not think I am perfect. You will not find me on the cover of a magazine anytime soon; okay let us be honest, ever.

But I believe the best gift I can give my daughter is the ability to look into the mirror, ignore the flaws, and see a beautiful face looking back at her.

The Scratches of Life

He lives life to the fullest.

He is our risk taker.

He wants to live every day to the max.

There is no down time for him.

He has been this way his entire life. From the first months of his life, my husband and I noticed there was something different about him. That’s the thing about having a twin sister: everything you do is compared to her. Whereas she liked to be held and cuddled for long periods of the day, he would rather be free to stretch and roll on the floor. He did not like the confines of someone’s arms when he could be roaming the floor learning to crawl.

A diagnosis of torticollis turned out to be an ironic blessing in his development because he wore a helmet on his head for 23 hours a day to help reshape his head. This provided amazing protection when he learned to walk. As he took his first steps and began to wobble around the house, I was able to breathe easy knowing his head was safeguarded from the furniture he seemed to have no fear charging into.

He has a scar on his upper lip from falling into the corner of a wall. Upon seeing the cut for the first time I, perhaps slightly overreacting, was convinced his front tooth had come through his lip, which was the reason for all the blood. Slightly freaking out, I ran outside to get my husband who was talking to the neighbors. When he came in to examine our son, and looked on the inside of his lip, he noticed there was no interior cut. The tooth had not come through. It was just a cut from the wall. This was my first clue as his mother that I would need to learn to keep a level head when assessing his injuries. This ability to stay calm and not freak out when he comes to me bleeding has served me well.

I imagine him as an adult. Of my three kids, he will most likely be the first one to sky dive, rock climb or, well, get a speeding ticket. He will attempt to do things his brother and sister will never consider. He will experience life. He will not sit passively and watch it pass him by. He will do more in one month than most of us will do in an entire year.

That will be him as an adult.

But today he is still just 4 years old. He is still just a little boy learning the ins and outs of riding a bike. And so, when he went to make a sharp turn on Friday after his older brother cut him off, he took a fall. He landed face first on the hard pavement. I wasn’t home but my husband reports that there was no shortage of tears or blood. By the time I was able to come home he was no longer crying, just iced up and sitting on my husband’s lap.

The little monkey who is usually so active and vibrant was temporarily content with cuddles and hugs while his face throbbed in pain.

I worried the fall would scare him off bikes for a while. Other moms have shared their child’s fall stories and how their kids have not touched their bikes since. My heart sank a little. My son loves his bike.  It brings him such joy. Would he ever ride as carefree as he did before his fall?

Two days later my fears subsided. He was back on his bike as if nothing had ever happened. Less than a week after the fall there was hardly any mention of the incident.

This fall is not the first nor will it be his last.  Throughout his life, he will encounter his share of scrapes and bruises. His resilience on his bike demonstrates that he seems to understand this far better than I do. I want to protect him from every future scraped knee and elbow. I want to wrap him in bubble wrap so that he’ll never be the little boy throbbing in pain with an ice pack to his lip again.

But you cannot live life to the fullest without getting a few scratches along the way.

The Story

I’ve told the story at least 100 times. I’m sure if you recorded me telling the story 10 times, I tell it using the exact same words with 98% accuracy. There are most likely errors in the story but the story has been told the same way for so long, the truth is long forgotten. Years from now, my children will tell their children this story. When you have twins, the “when did you find out it was twins?” question becomes as common as the “how did you meet?” question when talking to married couples. This is my story.

It was a Monday morning in late August and I had just found out I was pregnant a few weeks earlier. I was eight weeks pregnant and it was the day of my 8-week check-up.  The day before I had had an issue that concerned me and spent the day googling the symptoms (never good) to see if I was having a miscarriage. While my internet findings gave me results that said I could be experiencing anything from a miscarriage to a multiple pregnancy to a normal pregnancy most of what I read said that it was completely normal. I thought it was best to bring it up with the doctor anyway. She agreed that it was probably nothing but prescribed an ultrasound just for “peace of mind.”

My husband had accompanied me to the first appointment, but it was his first day of fall classes for seminary and since we were pretty confident that everything was okay I gave him my blessing to go to class as to not miss his first day. The last thing he said before he left was:

“Call me if it’s good news, call me if it’s bad news, just don’t call me if it’s twins.”

I called my mom to come with me, more to watch my son in the waiting room, but also to be there if something was wrong and I needed emotional support.

While the technician was doing the ultrasound, she was mostly quiet which made me a little nervous.  It seemed to be taking longer than it needed to. After a bit, the technician turned her screen toward me and showed me a picture and said:

“Do you know what this is a picture of?”

I had not had an 8-week ultrasound with my firstborn. The only reason I had even a remote guess at what she was showing me was because my friend had just told me she was pregnant and had shown me her 8-week “black bean” ultrasound picture. I sat up to get a better view of the two black beans that were on the screen in front of me. Hesitant to answer, I looked at the technician and then back at the screen.

“Is it, are there two of them?”

“Yes, and I saw heartbeats for both. So it looks like you have two babies in there!”

The technician went back to the waiting room to get my mom so I could share the good news. Coming back to see what she thought would be pictures of just one baby, imagine her surprise when I explained what the two black beans meant. We asked the technician a few more questions and then headed out to the car.

At this point, the appointment had taken much longer than expected. I looked at my phone and realized I has missed a call from my husband. I quickly called him back.

“Well she said she saw a heartbeat.”

“That’s great.”

“And then she saw another one.”

I could tell he was confused and then remembering his last words to me, I added,

“Sorry, I didn’t call you but you told me not to call.”

“Wait, what?”

“Twins! We are having twins!”

The rest gets kind of blurry. Family members were called. Friends were notified.  The events of the day were quickly becoming the events of the story that would be told and retold again and again.

I share this story today because my twins, the ones that were born over a month ago were originally due today.

April Fool’s Day.

And if you know them you’ll agree that this was a fitting due date for them. Because their main goal in life is to make others smile. Whether it’s trying to tell funny jokes (that are never really that funny) or singing silly songs, these two kids know how to bring smiles to everyone’s faces.

They came a little early, but they are still jokesters at heart.

My Grandmother, the Writer

I love to write. I love finding the right string of words to convey an emotion or thought. I love the way my sentences sound when I read them out loud after writing them down. I don’t write quickly. I scrutinize each word that I use and question if there is a better one. I started this blog, in the midst of all the chaos going on in my life, because when I sit down to write my mind settles and I am able to do something that I love.

Any skill that I have at writing I received from my mom. An English major, she’s written far more and writes far better than I do. I am able to write so openly and honestly because she set the example years ago by opening herself up and writing her thoughts and emotions on a page. She taught me that it’s okay to be vulnerable in the words that you write. There are stories to be told in our minds and until we put the words on a page they remain hidden in our brains unshared with the world. The world may or may not embrace our stories but until we are willing to share them, we will never know.

My mother’s love for writing came from my grandmother. The story goes that my grandmother was always writing something in her early adult years. From writing and directing the school plays at her children’s schools to authoring her own column in the church newsletter, when people needed something written, they asked my grandmother to write it.

It wasn’t until she went on a spiritual retreat in the early 1960s that she met a mentor who encouraged her to take her writing more seriously. The mentor, Emmy, told my grandmother to take 30 minutes every day to sit in absolute silence doing nothing and to write Emmy once a month about what she feels and hears or if she feels and hears nothing, to write about how that feels.

And so, for several years my grandmother wrote. Gradually, as my grandmother started teaching 9th grade English her time for writing grew less and less. My family is lucky to have a lot of her writings from the 60s; my aunt compiled a book for each of us to keep with her work. It only takes reading one of her short stories to realize that my grandmother had a way with words.

My grandmother will turn 90 in May. I’ve been blessed to spend the last few days with her. She doesn’t write any more but she is still a fantastic storyteller. Her memory of recent years is a bit fuzzy, as it tends to be in the mind of a 90-year-old. But the memories of her childhood and early adulthood are crystal clear. For two days I had the pleasure of listening to her tell stories of riding her pony on her Kansas farm as a young girl, how she came to meet my grandfather and why she became a 9th grade English teacher. She told me stories of traveling to Ireland, England, Turkey, Greece and Germany. If I asked her a question, she gave me a story for an answer.

My grandmother is a storyteller. She used to write them down but now just shares them by memory. They are still the same beautiful stories only spoken not written. I was blessed not only to listen to her stories this weekend but also to receive her passion for writing in life. I hope I can share this passion to the generations that come after me just as she shared it; first with my mother and now with me.

Thank you Grandma.

Trading Cars

The summer before my junior year in college I decided I needed a car before I returned to school in the fall. I had several reasons for coming to such a decision. The main reason being that I was taking a daily class at Cornell and I didn’t want to take the bus from Ithaca to Cornell everyday because it would add an hour to my travel time. So I did what any responsible, motivated and driven college student with a summer job would do: I tried to convince my parents to buy me a car. I started with my mom. She bought me my first car so I felt I had a good shot with her. I would still be driving that first car if it had not been totaled in an accident that both the police officer and insurance company agreed was not my fault. And yet, apparently there was a “one and done” rule with my mom because she was not budging when I came to her this time with my best pitch for a second car.

So that left my dad. A reasonable man and my only remaining chance. I knew I had to succeed with him. The man had a law degree so I knew my arguments had to be solid. I needed to have my facts together. I needed make sure he understood how much this car would benefit him too. I reminded him that once I had my car, he wouldn’t have to make the 6 hours drive to drop me off or pick me up from school anymore. I promised him that after two years, when I graduated, he could have the car back and would then he would have a larger car to be able to transport things around when he needed one. I may have also played the daddy’s girl card and exaggerated the conditions of a perfectly respectable public transit system in the town of Ithaca but I was desperate for a car.

My powers of persuasion must have paid off because that summer the two of us went used car shopping. I had done my research. I knew what I wanted. I wanted a Honda CR-V. It was large enough to hold my stuff while travelling to and from college each semester but not too much of a gas guzzler. It would handle well in the snow which is a must for a Virginia girl driving in upstate New York in the winter. I remember how excited I was when my dad bought the car. It was only three years old and it was wonderful. It had a pull out card table in the trunk if I ever randomly needed a table. Believe it or not, this was a huge selling point for me about the car. In the two years that I drove the car, I think I only used the table twice but it was great to know that it was there if I needed it.

I loved that car. I logged plenty of hours driving to and from school at the beginning and end of each semester. Driving down Interstate 81, I listened to a lot of great music and thought through a bunch of life choices in that car. It was the perfect car. For the two years that I drove that car, we were perfectly paired.

Eleven years later, my dad still owns that car. True to our agreement, when I graduated my dad took the car back and has used it as his back up car ever since. It’s a bit more banged up than it was when I drove it. It doesn’t run as smoothly, being that it’s a 14-year-old car. We borrow the car from time to when our van is in the shop because we can’t fit three car seats in the back of our compact car.

Our van has been in the shop since Monday. Which means we’ve had the CR-V for the entire week. As perfect as the CR-V was for me as a 20-year-old, it could not be more ill-suited for me in my current life situation. Our three car seats BARELY fit in the back seat and when all three kids are in the car they are sitting elbow to elbow. This works great for kids who have no desire to touch each other or pick at each other. Unfortunately that phrase does not describe my children. Also, this is the first time we’ve borrowed the car since the twins have been able to open car doors. So that was fun on the first ride in the CR-V when they both decided to open the door while we were sitting at an intersection and then didn’t know how to close the door. I have since enabled the child-locks so we’ve nipped that problem in the bud. Also, our water heater broke this week so we showered at the gym one day after school. I didn’t realize how much more space our van had until I had three backpacks and a gym bag crammed in the front seat.

While it’s been incredible helpful this week as a temporary car for us, there is no way I’d ever want it to be our permanent car. It just would not work for our family. I miss the automatic doors on our minivan. I miss the captain chairs that separate siblings that like to pick at each other. I miss the kids being able to buckle themselves in alone instead of needing my help because the car seats are packed in so tightly.

It’s tempting to let the new problems of the CR-V taint the memories of the past. It’s tempting to deem the CR-V the worst car ever. It’s tempting to hate it. When I drive the car now, I can hardly believe it’s the same car that I used to love so much. We’ve both changed. My life demands different things now than it once did. Even if I didn’t change, cars don’t stay new forever. They start to rattle and shake and don’t run as smooth.

There are a lot of things in life that work this way: hobbies, jobs, cities we live in. As we go through the different seasons of life, our needs and wants change. Things that fit one season might not fit in another season of our life. This doesn’t discredit the times from the past. Those memories will always be there. It just means that it’s time to move on. It’s time to find something that fits you better. As a college student, I never thought I’d choose a minivan over my CR-V but today I wouldn’t trade my minivan for anything.

So I Redesigned My Blog

So if you have ever been in my house more than once, you’ll notice that I don’t like to keep things the same for too long (and I wonder why my son is constantly rearranging the toy room. The apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it now?). For this reason, it’s pretty amazing that my last blog design lasted for more than a year. I blame the fact that my kids no longer take naps. Also, the fact that my husband and I discovering the show Breaking Bad didn’t help. If either of those two things had not happened, there is no way we would be this far into 2013 with the same design as last year.

I’m really excited about this new design. You’ll notice there is a lot more going on the landing page. I’ve spotlighted some of my favorite posts. These will change periodically. The rotating images at the top will also change. I’m still living into this design and what’s great about it is that I can change things up in a few months to keep things fresh. There are a lot of possibilities with this new design and I am very excited. If you ever get nostalgic for the old style, you can scroll down to the bottom of the home page and click on “Go to Blog” which is very similar to the old style.

Once again I could not have done this without the help of my brother-in-law, Brian Patterson. Brian is a founding partner at Go Fish Digital and is incredibly knowledgable in the world of websites and blogs. He made this transition seamless and very easy (at least on my end!).

That’s all I have to say about that. So feel free to browse around and check out the new site. I hope you like it as much as I do!

Happy 4th Birthday!

A Very Special Letter to Two Very Special 4 Year Olds.

Today is your birthday. You are both four. You can discuss it all you want, but you are both equally four. Technically, your birth certificates might read you were born a minute a part but I was there and I promise you, you entered the world within seconds of each other. One of you might be taller today but trust me son, when puberty hits, that might change for a few years. I wouldn’t get too comfortable being the tall one, she’s close behind you and eats way more fruits and vegetables than you.

Today you are four and that is special. It is special because you have another person to celebrate the exact same milestone with. The two of you have a bond that no one else will ever have with you. I know I tell you this all the time, but I don’t think you’ll truly realize this until much later in life. The miracle that took place to create two babies instead of one is something special that most of us don’t have. Most of us didn’t have a friend with us when we were in our Mommy’s tummy. You did. You were literally created with a friend right next to you. I know you don’t always think of each other as friends and you threaten to not be brother and sister anymore, but fortunately that is something you will never be able to change. You will always be brother and sister. You are special together.

But you are also special because of who you are when you are alone. Yes, you are a twin and that is special, but you more than just a twin sibling. And so, because your older brother gets his very own birthday post on his birthday, here are your very own birthday posts.

To my Sweet 4-year-old Son,

Wow. To say this has been quite a year is putting it mildly, isn’t it? I’m not sure when it started but I’m pretty sure you hit the ground running when you turned three and you haven’t slowed down yet. In one year you have done three years worth of activities. I often tell people the world moves too slowly for you. Some might say you are a bull in a china shop, but I prefer to say that the world was built too small for you. That’s why you love to be outside. When you are outside you are free. You can spread your arms wide and run and soar like an eagle. You would be outside everyday if you could. It is only because I refuse to stand outside in 30 degree weather that we aren’t out there in the winter. The cold doesn’t seem to bother you though, you are moving too fast to notice the chill. My favorite memory of you this summer was you riding your bike. It was a bike that was too small for you. You had outgrown this bike and yet you loved to ride it. You were so proud to show me how you could pedal up the driveway and glide all the way down again and up the neighbor’s driveway. I think you liked riding your bike because on the bike you are finally going a speed that is normal to you. While others might look at you and think you are going fast, to you it’s just normal. I will cherish the image of you riding that bike down the driveway in my mind.

To my 4-year-old Princess,

Today you are four. You have waited for this day for weeks and it is finally here. It’s very special to be you. At three you have come out of your shell. I used to worry that you would get lost next to your two extraverted brothers but this year you have shown the world there is nothing to worry about. It has been such a joy to get to know your personality. You are spunky and sweet at the same time. One moment you can be insisting on brushing your hair yourself and the next minute you are sitting in my lap asking me to read you a book. It must be tough being three. You are capable of so many things but still dependent on so many other things. The good news is when you are four, things will get a little easier. You’ll learn to do more things which means you will be dependent on me for even less. This will be exciting to you, but a little sad for me. It’s a tough balance for us mothers and daughters. As you strive for independence I will want to hold you tight and keep you small forever. It’s not that I don’t trust you can do it on your own; I’m sure that you can. It’s just in my mind you are still the little baby in the NICU born 5 weeks early. You’re the sweet little baby who used to love to be held for hours. It’s hard to change that mental picture. That’s why I cherish your hugs so much. They take me back every time. Promise me that you will still come to me 50 times a day and say “I Love You” like you do now. If you promise to keep doing that, I promise to keep telling you the story about how lucky I am that God gave me you.

Happy Birthday.

Happy Birthday to my Son

To My Big Six Year Old,

Today you are six. Six is big. Last year, when you turned five, I thought five was big, but I was wrong. Five was the end of an era. Five was the end of being able to tell people your age while using just one hand. Five was graduation from preschool. Five was starting Kindergarten. Five was learning to write your address and phone number. Five was big, but six is bigger.

Six will probably be the year when you master tying your shoes. (I know you think you know how to do this already, but it doesn’t count if it comes untied two minutes after you tie it. Don’t worry, you’ll get there.) Six will be the year when you learn to ride a bike with no training wheels. You’ll probably lose your first tooth when you are six. There is a lot to look forward to when you are six. But I don’t have to tell you that, you’ve known that for months. You’ve anticipated this birthday since your friend turned six in May.

It has been a fun year to be your mom. You are at an age when every new thing excites you. May you always embrace new things with the same level of excitement as you do today. You are a friend to everyone. May you never lose your ability to find something good in everyone you meet. You want to play every sport you learn about. May you continue such a lifestyle into your adulthood; you’ll never regret staying active.

Thank you for our conversations. Thank you for sharing your hopes and dreams for your life. Thank you for telling me about walking on the balance beam in gym class. Thank you for telling me who sits at what table in your class. Thank you for telling me how you got in trouble for talking even though there was no way I’d ever find out that it happened. I am very aware that the day will come when I can no longer take you out to Panera and expect a full report of everything going on in your world. I hope the radio silence between us won’t last for long. I pray that you’ll always be able to come to me to unload your thoughts. I promise to try to just listen and only give my opinion if you ask for it.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we? Today you are six. You are officially closer to age ten than you are to being a newborn. Anyone who has had a conversation with you lately would not be surprised by such a statement. You are wise beyond your years. At least according to your mother.

Because in my eyes you are still the little infant I held in my arms six years ago while watching the Super Bowl in the maternity ward. You are still the little baby who could sit and stack cups for hours, laughing every time you knocked them down. You are still the toddler so eager to help his mommy care for two little babies just home from the hospital. You are still the preschooler who can barely write his name. You are the brave kindergartener walking into school on the first day with two skinned knees but no tears. You will always be those memories to me.

Thank you for making it so awesome to be your mom. I love you.

Love Always,

Mom

He Wore My Gloves

A few mornings ago, my son wore my gloves. It’s not that he doesn’t have his own gloves. He does. It’s just that he only has one pair and he needed them for school, which we were leaving for in less than an hour and I didn’t want him playing in the snow with his school gloves because then his school gloves would be wet. He only has one pair of gloves and even those are his third pair this winter. I didn’t realize that it’s nothing short of a miracle for kindergarten boys to hold onto a pair of gloves for more than a week. Apparently, gloves are very difficult to keep track of when you are busy learning how to read and write and such things. This is why he had to wear my gloves that morning when he played in the snow.

They were big on him, of course, but not that big. It wasn’t like putting my gloves on the hand of a newborn baby. My gloves were not completely useless on him. Sure, the fingers were about an inch and half too long but the gloves were functional. He was able to move the fingers and was no more disadvantaged in my adult gloves than he would have been in his kid-sized gloves.

I watched his face light up as he realized he was able to wear his mother’s gloves. I was all too aware of the other reality I was facing: as he continues to get bigger I will become smaller to him. The shadow that I cast will not always be so long. My footprints will not always be so far apart.

As he grows, my larger-than-life status will fade. He will discover that the monsters I scared from his closet never actually existed. He will discover that the person behind the curtain is actually just a semi-clueless woman trying her best to raise three kids.

I imagine it must be a weird feeling: when your child grows larger than you. When it’s his shoes that can’t be filled, his head that surpasses your own. Even more odd must be when your child’s dreams move beyond your dreams. How odd to watch your child, the same child who used to eat sand and lick dirt, graduate with a degree in biochemistry. It must seem like he’s only pretending, like he’s got your gloves on again.

Only this time, the gloves are his. And they aren’t too big. They fit him just right.