You are two.
You are wild with long hair that sweeps across your forehead and curls up along the nape of your neck and around your ears, signaling most people on the street to think you’re a girl.
“She’s so cute,” they comment.
I don’t mind. It’s sort of fun to pretend for a few seconds I have a daughter. But you are all boy.
You like to say “hit” and “kick” and you want to “hit” and “kick” bugs and your brothers and even the new stuffed baby you like to carry around by the neck in a chokehold.
You are two and this past year went by faster than I would have liked it to, just like it did last year and the year before, as I’m always wishing to slow down time with you and your brothers, to breathe in your babyhood just a little bit longer. Weren’t we just at your first birthday party hanging big white moon lanterns on tree branches and eating the man in the moon’s face off a vanilla cake?
You are such a joy. Such a stubborn little joy as your forceful personality blooms. You are still easy going and independent but you can also be feisty and need to get your way these days. As the baby, I’m sure you’ve acquired this skill so you’ll be heard, with two big, loud brothers trying to constantly overshadow you. You have learned to stand strong, to not give in, to scream louder when you need us all to listen. To pinch harder, to throw things with a vengeance across the room, screech so the neighbors three doors down can hear you. You also hit with a passion that gets your big brothers to back off when wrestling. Yep, we’re seeing the start of the terrible twos.
Your language is clearer now. We can understand all your wants and desires. I’m a little sad about your language becoming more accurate, in ways. It was so adorable and charming when you used to say “Thank um,” instead of “Thank you,” each time we handed you the object of your affection. If we handed you a bite of food, you quickly said “Thank um!” It was both sweet and hilarious.
Now you say “Thank you,” and it’s a reminder that you’re growing up, commanding your developmental stages with accuracy and precision. And it sort of makes me yearn for those days when you were a clumsy little bumbling infant, still figuring it all out. A helpless little fleshy bundle all wide eyed and searching for the answers. Today you don’t need help with much. In fact, your favorite phrase is: “No! I do it!” And you sure do little one. You sure do.
I feel like you’re still a baby but I don’t call you “the baby” anymore like I used to. I call you by your name. Baby doesn’t sound right, because you don’t look so much like a baby anymore. Your body has shot up this summer with a growth spurt that has you almost passing for your middle brother’s twin. People on the street have even asked if that was the case. A few times, out of the corner of my eye while seeing you whiz by, I’ve had to look twice, thinking I saw your brother when it was you.
You are sweet and helpful, always wanting to lend a hand with anything. “Here, mama” you say, trying to hand me clean dishes from the dishwasher when I’m emptying it. Or handing me half-chomped food off your plate. “Here, mama,” you offer.
Something about knowing you’re most likely the last baby makes my heart ache when I really sit and think about it. I watch you and know there are so many “last moments” I won’t experience again and even though I feel I have savored them as much as I possibly could, to know they’ll never happen again is something I’ve been struggling with lately. It all feels so final. You’re not even in “diapers” anymore. You’re in “training pants” now and although that’s really good news, meaning we’re that much closer to potty training, I can’t help but think that the last time I stretched those sticky tabs across your waist to fasten a diaper, I wasn’t even aware that it was the last time. The last time for so many seemingly incidental moments like changing a diaper, that really aren’t incidental at all. They are the end of mini eras I wish I could cling to. Or relive. But life moves forward not backward and you are two years old. You are two years old and you are starting to want to use the potty. And you don’t want to wear diapers anymore. And that’s a wonderful thing.
We’re probably still nursing for this reason too. You don’t want to leave that stage completely yet and I’m sure I don’t either. Maybe I’m afraid you’ll stop running to me, wanting to snuggle up in bed, drifting off to sleep, content after nursing. It’s comforting to you and familiar to us both. A predictable ritual that relaxes us both and lulls us into quietness. But sometimes it’s also inconvenient for me and on certain days, disruptive and a little intrusive and when you’re extra forceful and demanding when I really don’t feel like “night night” (as you call it), it can almost be a burden. And I get frustrated and think about ending our nursing. “At two,” I used to say, “we’ll stop at two.” And here we are, you are two now and I am having a hard time completely weaning you. Even when on many occasions I’m more than ready to stop. “I’m done,” I’ll say in frustration, even when I know you aren’t. And so the delicate dance continues.
The plan was never for me to be home with you and your brothers for an extended period of time. A temporary hiatus from my career to be able to focus full-time on parenting you and your brothers was what was somewhat planned and unplanned at the same time. As you get older and more independent, I’m aware this ride is slowly coming to an end. That my days at home with you are numbered. That soon you’ll be in school and I’ll need to go back to “work,” though this has been some of the hardest most rewarding work I’ve ever done. Because even when the days are long, when I am up against a battle of the wills and I’m tired of fighting, when I just want to crash into a soft bed, but there is still an endless list of things that need to get done for the night, I am thankful. So thankful that I have been able to be home with you and your brothers while I can, going on adventures on Monday afternoons, exploring new places and having the time to look for dragonflies with you in the front yard, in the heat of the summer. It’s a gift that on some days doesn’t always feel like one when I’m tired, or the day has been challenging or even mundane and bedtime can’t come quickly enough. It’s a gift I’ll reflect on when I look back one day.
The type of gift you often appreciate more, years after it was given.
You are two. And I feel grateful. I have spent the past 730 days with you, the past two years, from slippery hours-old newborn placed on my chest in the dark hours of the early morning, to the wild, preferring to be naked, long haired boy you are today. It both sped by and stretched out at the same time. It was and is a ride I will never forget.
Happy Second Birthday, Moon. I am so happy you chose me to be your mama.
Every now and then, I come across a product I love and I just have to tell people about it.
Usually it involves quality or craftsmanship, great design or aesthetics and sometimes it’s just all of the above mashed together.
I’ve always been a big fan of moccasins.
I’ve owned pairs that have lasted for decades, their dirt-streaked soles boasting where they’ve traveled like pins on a world map. Moccasins are functional, effortlessly stylish, durable — that rare shoe that looks equally cool on everyone — whether you’re a six-month-old baby girl or a sixty-year-old man. Moccasins are hip even when they’re not trying to be. They’re unselfconscious, unassuming and timeless. They look great with a dress. They look great with a pair of shorts. They’re that universal shoe that seems to compliment any attire, any fashion trend, any age group, any decade.
What I love so much about moccasins (if you’re wearing the soft-soled versions I prefer) — they at once protect you from the ground, while at the same time allowing you to feel it. If I could go barefoot my entire life, I would. But I can’t. So moccasins are second best to that feeling. I want to feel the dirt beneath my feet, the curves of rocks, the crunch of leaves, the cool pavement on a chilly afternoon, the dry sand warmed by desert heat.
I want my children to feel these same sensations as they explore the world around them.
We hike often and take walks through wild terrain. I’ve found my youngest son Moon, who has been walking a mere nine months — a newbie in the mobility department — needs a soft, comfortable sole, a snug fit and a shoe that’s easy to slip on and off his quick and always moving toddler feet. For us, Freshly Picked’s moccasins have provided just that. Not to mention, they are handmade to order and come in more colors than a box of crayons.
They’ve allowed him to discover and explore, both protecting his feet, while also letting him feel the earth below. They’ve carried him through dusty, pebbly paths, led him to bubbling creeks, through freshly fallen wet leaves after a winter’s rain, over crackling twigs covering the grassy floors of cool and shady oak groves.
And he’s felt it all beneath his little moccasin-wearing feet.
**Disclaimer: I was not compensated by Freshly Picked to write this post. I simply believe in the craftsmanship and quality of their moccasins — and they’re obviously super cute too!
Eighteen months ago, I was uncomfortably waddling around my neighborhood on a warm September evening with my family, attempting to induce labor by walking, my giant, overdue belly leading the way and carrying him safely inside.
We were all bathed in pink moonlight from that night’s Harvest Moon, which glowed brighter than the rows of streetlights illuminating our path. The moon was so bright, I could see the faces of my children distinctly in the dark, making out the detail of their profiles, their fluttering eyelashes, their pouty mouths, while at the same time wondering who this new life might resemble. I remember all of us looking upward, noticing that enormous round lamp hanging in the sky, my husband and the kids pointing out its size and pinkish-orange hue.
Later that evening, I went into labor.
I remember nurses telling me how crowded L&D was that evening and how on full moons, they staff up with extra hands on deck because so many women go into labor. I remember thinking that couldn’t be true, until I heard the almost simultaneous wails of newborns throughout the night, minutes old, a choir of new life.
Of course his middle name had to be Moon. And now, that’s what we call him.
Today my little moon shadow, my little lunar eclipse is 18 months.
He’s undoubtedly a toddler, quickly escaping babyhood, graduating into that stage where he’s fiercely claiming his independence, where “no” is the word of the day, all day, every day. He wants to do everything himself and he wants to do it his way. He wants to eat with a particular fork, drink from his favorite Nemo (“Momo”) cup, read a specific book and wear shoes only he chooses.
Aside from “no,” “mine” is another word we hear a lot from him.
On walks, he refuses to follow the leader and forges his own path, going against the grain and veering away from us, an adorable stray sheep. We are constantly having to herd him back to us and of course, every time, we’re met with a hearty “No.”
Aside from his favorite word, he’s added lots of new words to his vocabulary lately: “poo” and “pee” (he’ll point and tell you when he’s done either)”hey,” “bye-bye,” “night-night,” “oh boy,” “apple,” “cheese,” “coo-coo” (for cookie), “please,” “dog,” “ball,” “up,” “down,” (while pointing in both directions) just to name a few. He’s starting to put two words together like “bye-bye mama,” but he’s still struggling a bit with the concept.
He’s still sweet and gentle and shy at first when meeting new friends. He plays coy and offers a bashful smile, but he’ll warm up quickly. He’s relaxed and mellow and overall just a quiet, easygoing, confident spirit who doesn’t want or need to take center stage like his brothers, or compete for attention. He’s perfectly happy hanging out on the sidelines, watching the show from the front row, doing his own thing on his own time, dancing to his own beat, exploring his surroundings his way.
He is without a doubt our guiding light, our moonbeam, illuminating the way, lighting up our world, just like that Harvest Moon eighteen months ago.
At some point, many, many years ago, we lost each other.
Somewhere, between the teenage years when I rebelled with a fervor that would have any father of two adolescent daughters wanting to take his own apartment for a few years, and the time I launched my own adult life which included college, traveling, building a career, failed relationships and eventually getting married and having babies, I lost him.
I probably lost him long before that.
It could have been as an angsty pre-adolescent, when I stopped playing Barbies and discovered boys, pining for unreturned crushes and playing The Smiths on my Walkman until I’d send myself spinning into melodramatic episodes that turned me into a tweenage cliche. That was probably around the same time I stopped adoring him. When I stopped running to the front door to greet him when he returned from work, his crisp white shirts smelling of the Niagara spray starch my mom ritually ironed them with, mixed with the faint remnants of his Tumbleweed cologne that smelled like sandalwood and the sweat of a long workday, with an even longer commute in traffic.
My sister and I were his joy at the end of his day. We were the sweetness and innocence that punctuated hours spent with hardened adults — mostly men — and navigating office politics, along with the pressure of making sales and meeting quotas and making money and making sure our family had what we needed in our middle class neighborhood, living our middle class lives.
We were his joy when we ran to that door as if someone wildly famous was entering it and we practically threw each other out of the way to get to him first, to capture his attention. We idolized him and crushed on him as little girls do, just as we crushed on those boys whose names I can barely remember from junior high and high school, when I started shutting him out, when I stopped adoring him altogether and he took it personally.
When he’d turn that key to the front door after a long day at work expecting to hear the giggles and squeals of anxious girls who missed him and was instead met with silence. One day, too soon for him I’m sure, he came home to teenagers, who were holed up in their rooms chatting on the phone to their friends or blasting loud music behind headphones, blocking out his words, which sounded ridiculous and archaic to us.
Until last week, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d spent any time alone with my father.
My earliest memory of us having conversations alone were in Kindergarten. I attended some kind of fancy private Kindergarten for a year where I learned French and where I was so painfully shy I didn’t have a single friend. I sat alone at lunchtime daily, head down, staring at the detail and grain of a wooden lunch table, inspecting it so intimately I could have told you exactly what kids had eaten for lunch all week, just by examining the crumbs they’d left behind. I don’t know what I was looking for in those lunch tables, with my head down, avoiding eye contact with my classmates. Maybe I was looking for someone to save me. A friend to reach out to a little girl who was virtually paralyzed by her shyness.
At the time, he saved me. His office was nearby and he would pick me up once a week from school in his baby blue Ford Granada, a boat on wheels, and take me to Bob’s Big Boy to eat a hamburger and french fries. He was my knight in a dark business suit, scooping me up, and it was a welcomed relief. I didn’t have to sit alone at lunch that day, humiliated by my shyness, watching my peers interact with one another from the sidelines.
He picked me up and we quietly ate our lunches together. I remember him not quite knowing how to converse with a five-year-old girl at the time, but I didn’t mind, I was just happy to be with him in the silence, away from a world that made me anxious. At the same time, I’m sure he was equally relieved to not have to share another harried lunch with a potential client, trying to close a sale between bites.
Looking back, we probably saved each other during those days in the late 70s where we met alone on weekdays, mostly in silence, quietly dipping our thick french fries into ketchup and then parting ways, returning to our separate worlds for the afternoon, two socially awkward souls not entirely comfortable in our own surroundings.
And then one day those Kindergarten lunches stopped. I changed schools and my new school was many miles away from his office. I think we might have started to lose each other from that point on, through work and school and life and friends and teenage years and boys and into adulthood, through more work and life and boyfriends and eventually a husband and children.
We have recently tried to find each other again. He’s retired now and he has nothing but time on his hands. He hasn’t worn a starched shirt or business suit in over a year. He lives in shorts. He stopped shaving. He stopped working the endless hours he worked for decades, his workaholic self replaced by a gentler, more patient and less on-edge persona, someone who has all the time in the world now, while also being painfully aware of the reality that he doesn’t. We are both sobered by the awareness of what time means when you are an aging man who has reached 70. Time seems much more urgent than it once did.
Earlier this week, we took a long hike together on a beautiful February afternoon, two uneasy nature-lovers reunited in a setting we both feel most at home in, where we could rediscover each other, at first with cautious, awkward footsteps that grew increasingly more at ease along the path.
With every step, it felt as if we were shedding years of pain, of holding grudges, of putting up walls. So many years of not understanding each other, of hiding behind long hours at the office buried in paperwork, of hiding in the arms of the wrong boyfriends who offered a replacement for his love and attention for so many years, shutting each other out because it was easier than giving in, easier than tearing down the barriers we’d built around our hearts to keep each other safely locked out.
And in those years, so much was lost. So very much was lost.
Slowly, we are finding our way back to each other, defrosting after years of iciness, returning to that place we once shared hamburgers and french fries on sunny afternoons, me at five with my tiny plaid uniform skirt, skinny legs in knee high socks, him in his mid-thirties, his starched white shirt smelling of spray starch and sandalwood, two awkward, shy souls rediscovering each other and saving each other at the same time, all over again, before there’s simply no time.
So many things have been weighing heavily on my heart lately.
I see the face of the man holding up a tattered cardboard sign on the street corner, beside the freeway onramp, the man whose eyes I dodge weekly, behind my sunglasses, before pushing through the intersection instead of rifling through the handbag beside me to find a dollar bill.
I wonder where he sleeps at night and whether the absence of my dollar in his hand will make his life that much more difficult for him. And then I feel ashamed, driving in my clean car, hands resting comfortably on the steering wheel. His face will stay with me the entire day, if not longer, until it blurs into the face of the next man on a different street corner, the next woman holding a sign and clutching her life’s belongings in a single bag.
They are a sea of anonymous souls, yet they’re familiar. They seep into my subconscious — my conscience — and stay there, as daily reminders of the fragility of life, of life’s misfortune and unrelenting pain.
Since I was a child, I’ve been afflicted with an unnerving sense of worry and on darker days, a nagging sense of outright dread, which I’ve dragged around with me like a clunky, over-packed suitcase. It’s ridiculously odd, I know, yet I somehow always felt I was in control of bad things or good things happening in life, simply through my own actions, which I balanced steadily as if on a delicate tightrope made of a strip of threadbare fabric.
I foolishly thought that if I followed my own imagined “rules,” and maintained an overall sense of duty and benevolence, mostly “good” things would surround me. Or the opposite would result with my bad behavior. I suppose I believed in Karma. As if by stepping the wrong way on a proverbial crack in the pavement, with the wrong foot at the wrong time, the ground beneath me might give out and crumble into dust, or some kind of doom might strike either myself, loved ones close by or complete strangers far away.
“Step on a crack, break your mama’s back.”
I used to believe such silly childhood idioms. I suppose I’m slightly superstitious and I thought my actions were connected to everything in this world, that consequences hinged upon my behavior or my attempts at being kind to others and trying not to break any rules. That one false move, a single misstep on my part, could throw everything off –kilter in the universe (or what makes up a child’s very small universe), a footstep on a crack might render everything doomed — or worse — might do some kind of irreversible damage to someone, somewhere, family, friend or stranger.
I made every attempt to follow the rules as a child and probably into adulthood, to be a good girl, because at the time, I believed good things happened to good people. Good always prevails over evil, right? That if I didn’t step on those real or imagined “cracks,” in the pavement, if I played by the rules and was “good,” nothing would be rendered broken around me. Nothing bad would happen to others or me.
I blame such simplistic thinking on the childhood naiveté of a nervous, tightly wound and somewhat idealistic girl. I obviously know now that I’m not in control of much at all, that I’m certainly not in control of another’s fate, let alone my own. Yet still, I worry. I worry about complete strangers I’ve never met in other countries and best friends in the next town over. I worry about suffering, illness and loss, about sadness, loneliness and hopelessness.
I fret about children I’ve never met and my own children, about scenarios that haven’t yet played out for them and might never play out. Yet still I lie awake at night, worrying, chewing my fingernails down to the quick, running down a mental list of all the possibilities and feeling a sense of overwhelming helplessness. Helplessness about all of the sadness and tragedy in the world that I can’t do anything about, that I can do some miniscule, seemingly insignificant things about in the big picture, but even that makes me feel unbearably small.
I know now that bad things happen to good people and that good things happen to bad people and that an unfair and inexplicable cruelty exists in this world, that there are evil people living amongst us who make it their mission to inflict pain on others. That misery and plight is as inevitable as tomorrow’s sunrise. And still, I wish it wasn’t so. I wish in some way I could prevent it all.
I see the face of the mother in the Target parking lot with her two young children from a few weeks ago, pleading in capital letters scrawled in black ink for help. And again I divert my eyes. And again, I feel ashamed. I’ll think about her worried, near-hopeless face that night as I lie in bed, and I’ll feel helpless and tiny and insignificant all over again. It’s her I worry about and everyone else.
I worry about them all. And each of them feels like a thousand pounds weighing on my heart.
I’ll start by saying I’m typically a weather wimp.
When the temperature heads south of sixty degrees, which is rare where I live, except late at night, I start fantasizing about tropical white sand beaches and a fruity drink with a swizzle stick. As a native Californian, the most severe weather I’ve ever experienced (at least in my region) is a heavy downpour. Every so often, you may need an umbrella, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I used one. I’m a warm weather gal to the core, who doesn’t even mind a steamy 110 degrees in the desert, smack in the middle of August, as long as I’m sitting poolside.
But this winter had me seeking out a different kind of “white.” Not the white sands of a balmy beach, but the white, icy variety that’s only found in cold climates. Seeking out snow isn’t usually at the top of my list of winter adventures and even as a child when my family took a few weekend ski trips, you could find me alone in the lodge sipping hot chocolate, warming my hands by the fireplace while the rest of the family zipped up and down on those chilly slopes, freezing their butts off.
Thanks, but no thanks.
Lately, I’ve been craving a real winter – especially for my boys to experience. Maybe it’s seeing all those quaint photos on Instagram this past month, where friends in the Nordic region are posting beautiful photos of their blustery winter wonderlands, blankets of white snow covering wide open spaces and clinging to tall pines like powdered sugar.
It got me yearning for some snow this time of year, when the holidays in so many other parts of the world are synonymous with sweaters and mittens, frosty white landscapes, hot chocolate and roaring fireplaces. Here in my part of California, you could easily spend Christmas on a beach in a bikini.
What I love most about this state, though, is that in less than a couple hours drive in the middle of winter, you can either be on a beach or on a ski slope.
I wanted the boys to experience snow and go wild in it, so we packed up our car with puffy jackets, ski bibs, scarves, warm socks (we even brought the puppy in his own little sweater) and headed up to our local mountains last weekend to play in the snow. And it was perfect.
It started snowing the minute we made our way up to about 4,000 feet, delicate flurries dotting our windshield, the boys squealing with delight, and it didn’t stop until we inched our way back down the mountain.
“Look! It’s snowing, mama!” screamed the three-year-old, the entire way up.
At about 35 degrees, it was cold enough to need all our layers, but not too cold where we were uncomfortable outside for a few hours. The boys made snowballs and slid down slopes on a bright orange plastic sled, their giggles echoing through rows of pine trees.
I worried a bit about the baby being out that long in the cold, so I bundled him up to the point where he toppled over when he walked and couldn’t quite stand back up alone, so I carried him snugly on my back in a carrier much of the time, until he fell fast asleep, soft snow flurries melting onto his rosy cheeks. He was easily the warmest of the bunch.
My three-year-old cried when it was time to pack up and head back down the mountain. He wanted more. He begged daddy to let him go up the “mountain” just one more time to slide down on his little sled. And so daddy carried him up the steep incline one more time, only to launch him right back down again.
It was the perfect finish to 2012. There is something about a fresh snowfall and all that untouched white that can’t help but resemble a clean slate. I’m looking forward to 2013 and all the possibility it brings. It’s a new chance, an unwritten page, an unmarked path open to new plans and new adventures. I’m excited to get started.
I’m wishing you the Happiest of New Years. I hope 2013 brings you love, peace, health, happiness and everything you could possibly wish for.