One Year

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It seems like it was only last week that I was in the hospital, propped up on pillows as he peacefully slept in my arms, all freshly swaddled ten pounds of him, curled up under my chin, the busy sound of nurses opening and closing doors, in and out, in and out, bringing fresh water and crushed ice, running all those routine tests they run on newborns. He didn’t have a name for two days because we couldn’t decide which of our choices suited him best, until the woman handling the birth certificates at the hospital urged us to come up with one before we were discharged. I remember deciding on his name just minutes before she left for the day. His middle name would be Moon, because he was born on the day of  the beautiful Harvest Moon that September.

And then I blinked and today he’s a year old.

His eyes were so blue for the first six months, as blue as my grandmother’s were, these giant, knowing orbs staring back at me. I would look into his eyes and see her face, her features in his, her flat nose and high cheekbones passed down by generations of  her Native American ancestors, seemingly reincarnated in his gaze, as if reassuring me she was there in some form.

There are so many things I want to remember about his first year. I want to remember his funny walk, how he toddled at nine months with such confidence and precision he was nearly running by the time he reached his first birthday. How, today, when I catch his little cowboy gait out of the corner of my eye while cooking dinner, I laugh to myself at my mini John Wayne, moseying around like a wayward old soul searching for his horse.

I want to remember his baby laugh, how he scrunches up his nose and takes quick little breaths in and out until he nearly snorts, belly-laughing as if he’s never seen or heard anything so funny in his life. I want to remember how he asks “hot?” whenever he gets within two feet of the oven or when I scoop his steaming dinner onto his high chair tray. He watches me blow on his food to cool it down and then mimics me, making his own adorable attempt. He asks “hot?” for just about anything that means “caution” or “don’t touch.”  Any possible threat is now simply, “hot?”

I want to remember how much he loves food and the little eating happy dance he breaks into after taking a bite of something particularly delicious, swinging his head from side to side like Stevie Wonder, smiling with his entire face.

“Nummy, nummy, nummy,” he says.

I know these memories of his first year will fade and fall into that place between memory and make-believe, where I won’t be able to remember the sound of his baby-voice saying “Ma-ma,” or which month he started saying it. Was it seven months? Or was it eight months?

I’m already forgetting.

I know he has seven teeth now, but I can’t recall the various weeks they all pushed through his gums. I know with certainty he loves to use those seven teeth to bite me. He’s bitten the skin of my forearm so hard, he’s left bruises. For some reason, he thinks this is quite hilarious.

At one year, he is a mild-mannered, independent little spirit. He doesn’t need anyone to entertain him, because he can amuse himself. I had no idea a shampoo bottle stolen from my bathtub could give him such a thrill. When he needs me, he’ll find me, peaking around the corner and running into my arms, his own arms outstretched like bird wings. At this age, he’s so much more attached to me than my other sons were. If he hears my voice in the other room, even while playing with daddy, he’ll inevitably find me and seek me out, looking for cuddles.

He claps for himself and waves “goodbye.” He loves to wrestle with his middle brother  and can really hold his own, even when brother gets a little too rough with him at times. He’s strong and coordinated, gentle and sensitive all rolled into one.

Last weekend, we held a small first birthday party for him in our favorite park.  Family and friends stopped by, some with babies of their own. The “Love you to the moon and back” theme was fitting, considering his name. We hung giant white “moon” lanterns in the trees and played a soundtrack of  songs with “moon” in the title. Whenever Cat Stevens’ “Moonshadow” played, he bobbed his head and clapped his hands in rhythm. This boy loves to dance.

We sipped lemonade and iced tea, ate sandwiches and salads and devoured the most delicious cake. We sung Happy Birthday and he clapped for himself and laughed. After attempting to blow out his candle and asking “hot?” he promptly picked up his cake with one hand and shoved it squarely into his mouth. And then, as if on cue, it started pouring down rain as the party came to an abrupt end. It was such a nice day, mellow and serene, just like the birthday boy himself.

Happy First Birthday, my little moonbeam. This year went by much too quickly, but it has easily been one of the best of my life, simply because you’re in it.

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Ghosts of Halloweens Past

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Oldest son, circa Halloween 2005, four weeks old.

Middle son, circa Halloween 2010, one year old

The baby, circa Halloween 2011, six weeks old

I know plenty of adults who celebrate Halloween each year with as much fervor as when they were children. I’ve never been one of those adults. It’s been years since I’ve dressed up in a costume, but I do think it’s so much fun now that I’m a mom, to see Halloween through a child’s eyes. We’re not a family who really gets into Halloween each year — we don’t go wild with creepy decorations or carve out rows of  jack-o’-lanterns to line our doorstep. We don’t do the Monster Mash. But we do visit a pumpkin patch every year and pick out a pumpkin or two to carve up.

We dress the kids up in costume and we do some trick-or-treating, but that’s about it. There are families on our block who spend thousands of dollars each year decorating for Halloween night. I’m talking elaborate video displays projected on walls, all set to creepy timed music, with people dressed as wandering ghouls, lurking through dry ice and scaring the children. We take full advantage of this, of course.

Fall signals birthday season in our house, with all three boys’ birthdays happening in September and October. I think by the time Halloween rolls around, we’re kind of done with celebrating. The past few Halloweens have been very simple for us — especially for my oldest — because there has been either a newborn or a baby in the house, which sort of limits our trick-or-treating abilities.

I’m sure Halloween will start to get more festive when the boys are a little older and can really take advantage of dressing up and trick-or-treating on the big night.

Middle son, Halloween 2010 as a baby skeleton, one year

Young Indiana Jones, Halloween 2011 six years old

The baby, Halloween 2011 as a little pumpkin, six weeks old.

This will be the first year we’ll take all three boys around the block, dressed in costume, and really make the most of Halloween. We’ll recycle a skeleton suit for the baby, the middle guy will go as his recent obsession (Spider-Man) and I need to come up with a Frankenstein costume for my oldest, per his special request. Maybe I need to consult Pinterest? Here’s where I wish I was crafty.

What about you? Do you get into celebrating Halloween in your house?

If you have kids, what will they dress up as this year?

Right Now: A Few of Our Favorite Things

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   IMG_9951It’s been an unseasonably cold winter here in Texas (yes, a lot has changed in the past eight months — we moved from California to Texas and I happen to be a weather wimp), so I thought I’d put together a list of all the gear we’ve been loving this winter, keeping my boys warm outdoors and keeping them entertained indoors, when it’s been too cold to leave the house. I’m still a bit in awe that it snowed here last week. I certainly wasn’t expecting that.
1. Herschel Supply Settlement camouflage backpack. We’ve been a little obsessed with camo this winter. It’s timeless, unisex and versatile enough to compliment any style and color scheme. My 8-year-old uses it as his daily school backpack and loves that he looks like an “army guy” in it.
2. Gold knit crown from @blessedstyleblog on Instagram. Last March, I opened up a shop for boys on Instagram and have been completely immersed in the world of shopping via social media ever since. If you haven’t tried it, you must. Warning: it can be a little addictive. I purchased these crowns from @blessedstyleblog’s shop and I think they’re the cutest accessory for any wild thing. I love that they’re a thick knit, making them really warm like a beanie, and completely wearable outdoors when it’s chilly. Stylish and functional. We have them in gray and gold, but there are plenty of other colors to choose from. Oeuf has a similar style too, but at a steeper price point.
3. Roxy Marj custom “Wild Thing” pennant flag. Her artwork is so imaginative and whimsical. I just love everything in her Etsy shop. We have our flag adorning the boys’ teepee in our living room, but it really can look adorable anywhere: on the wall, tied to a bed post, or affixed to a bedroom door. She’ll even customize it with a favorite phrase or name of your choice.
4. Camp Wolf buffalo check flannel toddler infinity scarf. Like camo, we’re kind of obsessed with buffalo check these days too. We love this scarf because it’s the perfect size for babies and toddlers and it fits both my 2-year-old and 4-year-old, so they can share. It’s soft and cozy and really keeps little necks warm. Lots of cuteness going on over in that shop.
5. How to Stay Alive in the Woods by Bradford Angier. We’re nature lovers at heart and although I doubt we’ll find ourselves lost in the woods anytime soon, this is an informative, interesting book for any aspiring survivalist. My 8-year-old hasn’t put it down since Christmas. It really is a great read for all ages.
6. Freshly Picked moccasins in weathered brown. My toddler’s go-to shoes because he can put them on himself. He pretty much lives in these. I’ve been a die-hard fan of Freshly Picked moccasins for awhile now, but I just recently discovered this color and it’s a fast favorite. It’s an earthy gray/brown shade that goes with everything and has that naturally “lived-in” look, which I love. These are durable, exceptionally well-made moccasins that will stay on your little ones’ feet and can be worn on any terrain. My youngest has hiked in his frequently and they’ve always held up beautifully, even in mud.
7. Hunter Original Kids rain boot. We haven’t gotten much rain in our part of Texas, but that doesn’t stop my 2-year-old from loving his Hunter wellies. These days, he even likes to stomp around inside the house in nothing but his diaper and boots for fun. They’re great for puddle jumping and getting messy in mud. And they wash off wonderfully.
8. Crewcuts camo notebook. Camo again. My boys love to doodle in this and the cute design makes it a little more playful and stylish than your average composition notebook.
9. Hand-carved wooden animal slingshots. What boy doesn’t love a good slingshot? These adorable animal versions make it even more fun to launch felt balls or marshmallows indoors on those days it’s been too cold to leave the house. As long as they don’t aim at anyone’s face, I’m okay with it.
What about you? What are some of your kid essentials right now?

Part Two

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Freshly Picked

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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.

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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.

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**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

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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.

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His personality hasn’t changed much from the day he was born, or from five months, seven months, eight months, nine months, ten months, or a year.

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.

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Father’s Daughter

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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.

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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.

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Let it Snow!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A Week in Photos (and a little shameless self-promotion)

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The boys and I were able to get outdoors and explore quite a bit this week.

Last weekend, I took the two older boys to see a movie in an actual movie theatre, which we rarely do. The three-year-old is finally at an age where he can (mostly) sit still through a nearly two-hour film, without too much”Shhhhushing” on my part to get him to stop TALKING OUT LOUD and narrating all the action for us. There was a little bit of this going on, but I think our neighbors were mostly okay with it, since it was a kid’s film after all.

Later in the week, we visited a beautiful arboretum on the campus of my old college, where I was a little wistful reminiscing about being young and quietly studying for exams in the shady gardens there as a teenager, when all I had to worry about back then was studying for exams and being a teenager. I used the outing as a vehicle for not only allowing the boys to study nature, while using their imaginations and getting their hands dirty poking around bubbling streams with sticks and leaving with muddy knees, but to continue to explain the concept of college to my oldest, who had never actually stepped foot on a college campus before.

We stood beneath giant cacti in the sunshine, got up close and personal with vibrant orange monarch butterflies, who let us nearly touch them with our fingertips, and ran through make-believe jungles, pretending we were lost there, using our sticks to guide us through tangled vines.

We also hiked through our favorite canyon this week, under a canopy of oak trees. It was the first time I really let the baby walk around on his own and hike along with us, instead of strapping him into a stroller or onto my body, carrying him on my back. He was giddy with the freedom of exploration, grabbing sticks to carry like his big brothers, stomping around in piles of autumn leaves, touching new textures and throwing rocks. I’ve realized a large part of boy behavior involves searching for the biggest stick you can find on hikes and wielding it as a sword to fight your brother, while also chucking rocks at anything and everything that moves.

“Yeah, boys? Let’s not throw that giant rock at that beautiful bird resting peacefully in that tree, okay?

This week, we also tackled a little project I’d been talking about for awhile, but hadn’t gotten around to. We finally moved the baby’s crib out of our bedroom and into his brothers’ room so that all three boys could finally share a room together and the baby could sleep in his own crib overnight instead of co-sleeping with me, as he’s done since birth.

I dreaded the process because I knew it would be met with major screaming tears on the baby’s part. I wrote about why I was ready to get him sleeping in his own crib here. It’s time for him to learn how to sleep in his own space, without still waking up to nurse every couple hours when he’s co-sleeping with me. I am more than ready to get some solid sleep again. They say it takes 72 hours to break any habit and last night was night three of him sleeping in his crib overnight with his brothers.

The first two nights didn’t go very well, my husband was up with him several times, coaxing him back to sleep, but last night, he did much better. He only woke up once, fussed for a few minutes and got himself to go back down. It was the first time in fourteen months that I was able to sleep a solid six hours without waking up and it was blissful. Let’s hope tonight goes just as well. Fingers crossed.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here in the US and we feasted and gave thanks along with the rest of the country. This year, it was just us five gathering around our table, which I decided to decorate and make festive for the occasion. My husband roasted a delicious turkey and we collaborated on the side dishes: mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry chutney and pumpkin pie. It was a lovely day and an opportunity to be grateful for our blessings, especially the three little lively boys who have stolen our hearts more than we could have ever imagined.

They have taught me so much about loving and living.

And to tie this week up with a beautiful holiday bow, a book I contributed a piece of my writing to, was released today. It’s an honest anthology of funny pregnancy stories from twenty moms called, “Bumptabulous,” and if you’re so inclined to buy it for yourself or an expectant mom, you (or they) are sure to get some laughs and a candid  peek at pregnancy and motherhood.

You can read more about it here and purchase the book here.

If you celebrated Thanksgiving, I hope you had a wonderful one with your loved ones. I’m thankful for those of you who visit and read about this little life of mine, with my Three Wild Things and share your stories as well.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Quiet Time

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In my twenties — many years before I had children — I spent a considerable amount of time in very loud places. I stayed out late with my friends in trendy bars and nightclubs in Hollywood and New York City, attended concerts I’m sure caused some kind of irreversible eardrum damage, where thumping music blares from giant speakers at an amphitheater or those you stand next to in a bar, sound vibrating through your rib cage with a gust of wind, sound that leaves you temporarily deaf at the end of the night, where you start asking your friends to repeat sentences and try to fall asleep to ringing in one ear, or both.

I lived out loud back then, quite literally. And it was fun. The kind of fun you remember for a lifetime. The kind of fun that found you accidentally locked in bathrooms of underground parties in Paris all alone, giddy and tipsy off too much champagne. Parties so loud, your friends couldn’t even hear your very loud knocks on the door to get their attention, over the sound of very loud French lyrics blasting out of very loud speakers.

Back then, it never dawned on me that one day I’d seek quiet. I used to love being in a loud room or restaurant, voices competing with each other, lively laughter stacking on top of each other like bricks, creating a rhythm all their own. Being surrounded by noise meant I wasn’t alone, even if I still felt alone in a crowd. I craved sound — any sound — music, laughter, dinner conversation, the clink of champagne flutes celebrating a loved one’s birthday, the raised voices of friends debating politics, the cacophony of New York City traffic noise, horns honking, taxi cab drivers shouting with diverse accents, the bass line of a hip-hop anthem blaring from a passing car on a Brooklyn street.

Noise made me feel alive. Quiet made me feel lonely.

So many years later, the days of loud music in sweaty NYC nightclubs, dancing until the sun greeted us the next morning, or the volume cranked up as far as it could go on my car stereo dial while driving solo to the beach on a hot summer day, moon roof peeled back, are long, long gone. So long gone.

The noises of my twenties have been replaced by the noises of my thirties, the wails of newborns needing diaper changes and feedings, the whines of toddlers pleading to have their way, the screeching of “Mo-om!” from the bathroom, requesting some item that always seems to be needed at the most inconvenient time, the conversations of animated characters on the television I somehow know the names of (like I used to know the names of all the hotspots in the exotic cities I traveled through), their exaggerated voices intertwined with those of my children, taking on personas all their own like extra family members: Elmo, Barney, Olivia, Caillou, Dora.

Don’t get me wrong, the sound of my children’s voices is by far the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard — their laughter, the baby’s contagious giggles, my three-year-old’s adorable voice reciting his numbers or singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider, my seven-year-old confidently reading to me from his Diary of a Wimpy Kid books like a pro.

Yet still, where I used to crave noise, these days, all I want is quiet. The kind of quiet that doesn’t even include tranquil, new age music in the background, or birds chirping in trees, or crashing waves on a solitary beach.

Just pure, uninterrupted silence.

Quiet no longer equates to loneliness for me. Quiet is the peace I feel I have less of these days, caring for the demands of all these tiny, yet very loud voices who need something, right now, right away.

Admittedly, I yearn to have quiet back. If only for a few hours.