Has it been 5 years?

It's 4am on June 30th. Exactly 5 years ago at this very moment I was willing the nice man that puts in epidurals to come back and remove mine so I could finally get some sleep. There are two things different tonight:

1) I have no epidural to be removed.
2) One of the causes of my insomnia is now 5 and doing laps for the bathroom and water instead of causing excruciating labor and birthing pains. :)

There are plenty of things the same though. Just now the boy emerged from the dark hallway. "I'm not tired any more," he lamented. I walked him back to his room with the strong suggestion that he was indeed tired and the thought that he was not tired was more like excitement over the presents he was anticipating.

I sat on the edge of his bed running my hand over his hair as he lay against my shoulder. I kissed the crown of his head gently and whispered softly. He gazed at me for a moment and then humored me by closing his eyes. A satisfied and peaceful wave moved across his face even though it's not yet brought sleep. That's not a whole lot different than those first moments of his life 5 years ago.

Willing him to sleep then was as effective as it is right now - I hear him singing himself to sleep which, to me, is utterly counterproductive. He disagrees. Then again, typing this at 4am is not doing much for my own slumber, so who am I to talk?

Last night after the kids were both breathing deeply in sleep, I released 10 helium balloons into Logan's room with another 6 balloons inflated by my own hot air to drift around his floor. We hung streamers down from his door frame and placed a small pile of gifts at his seat at the kitchen table.

Bruce shook his head and laughed a little as I made myself dizzy blowing up those latex balloons. "I hope they don't expect this every year here on out. Friend birthday party, party when he wakes up in the morning, family surprise party in the afternoon...."

"But he's 5!" I said, as if that should be enough. "Five is special. And the balloons come from the dollar store. Cheap."

Logan has already, obviously, noticed the balloons and the streamers. I'm sure it's not helping his sleep anymore than the singing is. He also likely suspects the "surprise" party this afternoon since he all but requested it last week, "My party with my friends was nice, but some day it'd be nice to have a surprise party. I've always wanted one. I've wanted one my whole life!"

Wow. He *is* now 5. Really, truly 5. That's just a lot to wrap my brain around at this moment. Five. He's the child I had given up the idea of having. He's the embodiment of love that seemed just *this* far beyond my grasp. He's the daily reminder of what miracles can enter our lives when we least expect them.

Logan has grown into this person that finds new ways to turn me to mush every day. He's got an amazing sense of compassion and generosity that moves through him with ease. He's got a wacky sense of humor and a quick mind that compliment each other well. He can be fiercely independent one moment and dreadfully dependent the next. He's a bright boy that wavers between over-confidence and nerves the way a child his age often can.

He's curious - the same quiet hard stare he had as an infant still crosses his face as he studies something new. It makes me think that even as a baby he was cataloging the world around him. He's got a memory that gets me in trouble. He's got a zeal for learning that I pray remains with him throughout his life.

Today Logan is a person that I'd enjoy being with even if we didn't share a gene pool. He's a fun kid. He's a sweet kid. We have a genuine good time together.

This boy who has moved from being that wiggling, reactive bundle of need to being a person is defining his own way - pulling away from his parents little bits at a time even as he fights to hold on tight with both hands. He's cuddles one moment and then "Don't kiss me here Mommy! People can see you!!!" the next.

You often hear (or read) people refer to motherhood as having your heart travel outside your body. It sounds a little cliche and trite sometimes and yet, as I watch this person who lived within in me for 9 (long!) months, I know that such a sentiment falls short of the reality. Giving birth is watching a piece of yourself take on it's own life. Motherhood is a constant process of watching this piece grow away from you - of having the courage to let it form its own identity and praying that as it refines itself over time it still has the desire to speak to you.


Take 8 - a meme

It's been a while since I've been tagged to do a Meme, so when Nikki over at The Guilty Parent tapped me yesterday I figured why not.

It's a simple one - I've got to list 8 things about myself people may not know and then I get to tag eight of you play along. Granted, some of you may know at least a few of the things on my list but humor me and act surprised nonetheless. Oh, and just because you don't see your name on my "you're it" list doesn't mean you can't play along too. And if you DO end up on my list....well be kind. I know you're not all "meme" people but this is an 'easy' one.

Here we go!

1. I had my first article published at the age of 10. I was a children's book reviewer for a program run by our library and local newspaper. The library gave me a book. I wrote a review. The paper ran it the Sunday edition. My "salary" was a pre-release copy of a new book.

2. I earned both my Silver and Gold Award in Girl Scouts. If you're not familiar with them - the Gold is on par with the boy's Eagle Scout award.

3. In 8th grade I won first place in the school science fair. I went on to win honorable mention at the state level. My project fell into an engineering category. I work for an engineering firm today -- although not the displine that would have any use for my little project.

4. For an assignment in a social pysch class in college, I took a male friend of mine shopping for engagement rings -- for him to wear. Want to see a jewlery store clerk panic? Tell her the guy is going to wear the diamond solitaire. Want to get a sizer off a finger it's too small to be on because the lady jammed it on the guy's finger in shock? Use LOTS of hand lotion.

5. I played violin for many, many, many years. During that span I won "most improved" honors, sat 1st chair in the 2nd violin section, sat 5th chair in the 1st violin section, sat behind an amazing violinist with multi-colored spiked hair (I'm talking blue, red, green....) and spent an afternoon with my instrument hooked up to an amplifer.

6. I had a district court judge in my dorm room once who tactfully ignored or did not notice the 'artistic' photo of a pot leaf. ;) It's a long story and no the judge was not related to one of my roommates.

7. I spent one spring break in London. It cost me a whopping $150 - that includes airfare and lodging. It's a perk of attending a college with one of the largest study abroad centers in the nation. Perhaps some day I'll explain that one more.

8. I was once dared to eat chicken's feet at a restraunt in Philadelphia. I declined to take the dare. Other people I was sitting with did not. Have you ever *seen* someone eat little breaded chicken's feet? Ewww.

The next 8? Hmmm....

1. Jenn at Bman and Tink
2. Cath at Just me
3. Sandra at Getting Smaller in the Rearview Mirror
4. Dawn at Decaf, Please
5. Melessa at But I digress
6. Half my Heart
7. Toni at Travels with Toni
8. Naomi at Here in the Hills (And by the way, if you go see her, wish her a happy birthday!)


Of all the changes

Four and a half years ago (give or take a month...or two) our house began to settle into a solid routine. At roughly 7 pm the child would take a bath. At 7:30 we'd read some stories. We'd aim to have the kid asleep around 8 pm. As they moved from infancy to toddlerhood to preschooler we made small adaptations to the routine - gone was the pre-bed feeding, no rocking required, ditched the crib, transitioned to a shower. And yet, with all that change, the meat of the routine remained the same: 7pm, 7:30, 8 o'clock.

Sure once in a while we go a little wild and we let them stay up "late." Bedtime was a bit fluid while we were in Disney this winter. Special nights and occasions sometimes buy the kids 30 extra minutes in their day. It happens. The 'regular', every day routine though has remained in tact and unchanged in every way that actually matters.

Recently, however, my "great" sleeper and bedtime routine observer has gotten into the habit of nudging the routine a tad. He has questions. He needs a drink. The bathroom. Another "I love you." This from a boy that hasn't been a problem since he learned the great skill of "lulling myself to sleep" around his first birthday.

I was lamenting this new phase to Grandma one day and she, being Grandma, presented me with something to consider. "Perhaps the problem is he's not tired yet. Maybe he's ready to stay up a little later. He is almost 5."

Hmmm, ok. Ponder. Ponder. The problem, of course, is the sister. She is NOT ready to stay up later. She may think she is -- but anyone that sees what she's like when overtired would beg to differ. The problem, you see, is that if Logan is up, Megan knows it. If he's being read to, she's in there. If he's not in his room, she's wandering out. The problem is giving him more time without letting her in on the secret.

And then it hit me.

He reads. He can read on his own after "lights out" and she'd be none the wiser.

We talked about this possibility. We talked parent-to-parent. We talked about it parent-to-child. We let Logan know it was a privilege and if he abused it, he could lose it. He reverted back to his best bedtime routine observation habits. He would grin and nod as we said our good nights. He said not another word about this pending change to his routine.

Sunday night I decided to give it a test run. I told him he could stay up a little- but not the full half-hour. He had to be reading, not playing and he had to go bed as soon as one of us went in to tell him it was time. He nodded solemnly and requested his current favorite book for the adventure.

I went in 15 minutes later. He was sitting up half under his covers with his book on his lap and the biggest grin you could imagine bursting across his face. He could barely contain himself. "Did I pass the test? Did I earn the privilege?!" he asked, trying hard to whisper as to not bother his sister.

I nodded...and I realized that that nod was hard for me. I couldn't put a finger on why it was. Instead I pushed the gnawing down and kissed the boy goodnight.

Tonight was his first "official" night of staying up "late." We talked this afternoon about it to review our expectations. "You have to be quiet so Megan can get to sleep. No playing, just reading," I reminded him.

He nodded and then placed his index finger in the center of his forehead. "I'm going to read in my head because that's what you do when you read to yourself. You only read out loud when someone else wants to hear you."

That surprised me. I didn't realize he COULD read to himself in that way before. I thought he was still in the "must read aloud in order to sound out words" stage.

"Right," I said, "But if you get to a word you can't figure out, you can't really be yelling for us to come down and help - that'd wake up Megan. When you get to a word you can't read, use your pencil to underline it and then in the morning you can ask me to help you with it."

He nodded. And I, truth be told, forgot about it.

Logan announced just before story time commenced that he only wanted Daddy to read him one book tonight so he could get started on reading his favorite book, which happens to be a guidebook (of sorts) on the Transformers. He lay stretched out on his stomach with the book open before him intently focused on its pages. I heard him banging around his room at one point but I wrote it off as a trek to his water cup (which actually sits across the room from his bed.)

It wasn't water though. It took me a minute to register the reason even as I started at it. I went in to turn off his lights and say good night at 8:30 and paused to read the word he'd written on his lined pad of paper.

"Hey look at that. You wrote Omnicon very well!" I told him, honestly impressed with how neat his writing of both upper and lowercase letters had gotten recently. It's truly as if fine motor skills arrived one night via express mail or something.

"Oh! THAT's what that word was! I couldn't figure it out," he said. (Oh, d'uh! Yes, I saw the writing on the pad and hadn't connected it to our earlier conversation.)

And that was it. Lights out. Head hit the pillow and he's not made another peep. After nearly 4 1/2 years of the same routine, the boy has gone and outgrown it.

He'll officially be 5 on Saturday. (Until then, he will insist you refer to him as "four-and-eleven-and-half-twelfths.") It's stating the obvious to say that life can change a lot when you hit 5 and yet with all changes that have transpired thus far and all the ones that wait for us in the fall, it seems to be this one I'm feeling a tad morose over.

He was the boy that could read a lot sooner than he *would* read primarily because he was afraid we wouldn't cuddle in close with him and a good story any longer if he embraced the skill. And yet there he was tonight, "I only want one story, Daddy, so I can start reading my other book." With that simple sentence, with that single word written on the pad - one word in a book loaded with words I honestly figured to be a bit too 'tough' for him - that I could hear the door on those 'earliest' years of his life creaking closer to shut.

I knew it'd come to me

About four and half years ago I had a good idea. When Logan was done making fine art with his mushed up baby food, I'd clean the jars in the hot soapy waters and set them aside for an abundance of good crafty-like projects in the future like the sort we used to do in Girl Scouts - the kind that would have you scrambling for jars that you didn't have reason to have.

Today, I have a draw full of baby food jars.

Empty baby food jars. Dozens of them.

I didn't save every one of them, but certainly I saved MORE than enough. I actually did tap into the supply once over the last several years. On Logan's 2nd birthday the kids that attended his little party used the jars to hold their sand art. It wasn't much of a dent into my stash.

I tend to forget the jars are there until I go looking in that drawer for something. I never find what I want - I do find LOTS of jars.

Last summer we (as in Bruce mostly) built a patio in the backyard. There are four flower beds surrounding it. This spring I used two of them for yellow and purple daisy like flowers, a third still hosts the over sized lavender and mint that has been there almost since we moved in. The final side, the one up against the house, is my herb garden.

The garden started with some obvious stables. Then I got creative and started to buy whatever looked nice even if I had no idea what to do with it - African Blue Basil, Tri-color sage, Bi-color sage. . .when you fill a space with a dozen+ plants you have room to go a little nuts.

We've made good use of the plants so far - herb butter melted on steak, chicken roasted with fresh herbs, iced tea with lemon balm and mint. I keep digging for recipes to tap into this new resource.

Yet the plants grow faster than I can keep up with it sometimes and so I opted to hang a few clippings from the four peg rack on the kitchen wall. A mixture of the three sages I have growing (plain old safe, the tri and bi colored sages), some dill, the blue basil, and the two oregano varieties all in their bundles lending their fresh scents to the kitchen.

Then they were dried. They were dry and crumbly looking and no longer quite as "attractive" the wall art they had been at first. I needed to move to Plan B.

Then it hit me - the jars. The oodles and oodles of baby food jars. I spent part of yesterday crumbling dried out leaves into the little jars that now sport new handwritten labels. The jars are resting nicely in my spice cabinet, looking all sorts of official and home spun. Ideas churning in my mind: hmmm....wonder if I can turn this into a Christmas gift for someone.

I still won't make much of a dent in those jars (unless I do come up with a gift idea!) And yet I still can't bring myself to take the easy way out - add those jars to the recyclable bin. They have a purpose. I'll find it. Little project by little project. I am determined to finish what I started.


Backyard Lessons

My mom and I take a girls' weekend to the Amish countryside every fall. Lots of shopping and no housework. Bliss. Really.

This last trip fell in early November. We were gearing up Christmas shopping with hopes of being finished by Thanksgiving to ensure we "enjoyed" the season without the crowded shops. Sometimes we're successful. Sometimes we're not. This particular trip, at least as far as I was concerned, was a good one. I had found my present. I bought it and then later informed Bruce his shopping for *me* was complete. Luckily he was relieved I took the pressure off.

So the gift? Oh yeah. A six-compartment bird house. Big. Birdhouse. It sits upon a 4x4 at one corner of my vegetable garden . It sat through rain. It sat through frost. It sat through snow. It emerged as a popular spot in our yard as spring made it clear it had sprung.

Throughout the last month we've watched busy industrious birds. The kids will sit, yes really, the 2 year old and the almost 5 year old will sit mesmerized by this house. They were transfixed by those small flying creatures carrying twigs and long grasses in and out of that tiny building. Of the six compartments of our birdhouse, at least 4 have some type of nest.

Last week the family thought I was hearing things. (It's a well established fact that I'm slightly off my rocker so why not?) Whenever I got close to the bird house I could swear I heard chirping. I could see nothing -- but I could hear enough to know something had hatched.

Today? Vindication! Today we saw proof. I was outside watering the gardens when I heard distinct, loud chirping. I turned just in time to see a mother bird settle onto the resting ledge and the wide open, small infant bird beak poke out in response to her presence.

So yeah. Listen. I've got cameras and I'm not afraid to use them. In fact, I'm a tad obsessed with using them. I've discovered if you stand quiet and still long enough, you can 'almost' close enough to the bird house to get good photos. In fact, you CAN get close enough that a little cropping produces the shot you had hoped you'd capture when you set out on this audubon adventure. Something like this:



Five years ago I was huge. I was perpetually hot. I was swollen so badly, it's amazing the woodpecker that thinks the vinyl on my neighbors trim is yummy did not try to snack on my ankles. My blood pressure was starting to creep to the 'danger zone.' I had a month left to go before life changed completely. At least in theory.

On June 28th, 2002 I would check into the hospital a very pregnant woman with pregnancy induced hyper-tension. On June 30th I'd simply be woman that to used to have high-blood pressure and who had a nifty excuse for not fitting into last year's summer wardrop. I'd also be holding the smallest human being I'd ever seen.

Logan wasn't as preemie. He was considered full-term albeit born before his due-date. He was not "small" as newborns go. He was decidedly within the realm of "average" size - and yet he was the first person I'd ever seen within seconds of birth. Those long, tiny fingers that wrapped so very tightly around my own. Those eyelids that would press so tightly together at the first hint of light. The toes that would spread and stretch if you rubbed the arch of his foot.

He was an alert baby from the get-go. Those big blue eyes staring not just at you, but into you. Logan always had the "wise old man" look from the start. The gaze that made you feel as if he knew all he needed to or could at least take in enough to fill in the blanks for himself.

He was a happy boy. When he cried it was clearly for a reason. He was rarely fussy for the sake of being so. As he grew he displayed a natural curiosity about most things, albeit a comfort level in having someone tackle the mundane for him. I mean really, he *could* dress himself a lot sooner than he actually did so with regularity. . . but those buttons got in the way of some really good play time.

He's not "quite" five yet - but he may as well be. Yesterday was his birthday party - quite early in the grand scheme of things and yet just the right time. The early celebration meant avoiding "summer vacation overlap" that can crop up for "summer babies." He had a nice group of 5 friends from school join us for cake and loads of play. I sat back marveling over how 5, 5-year old boys (or close enough to 5 yrs old) could get along so well. Granted, all of them need to perfect the "Look before you swing the plastic bat and whack the other guy in the head instead of the ball" concept.

Tomorrow I will take Logan to preschool one last time. I'm not sure if I'll manage to do so without tears. He's grown so much these two years at this school. He's made friends that did not involve my 'blind playdate' intervention on his behalf. He's grown more independent in ways it's hard for me to fathom him doing as I look at those earliest photos of him lying with clenched fists and knees pulled in tight to abs.

It's almost not the same person.

And yet it is.

Today, when he tips his head, wrinkles his brow and scrunches his nose as he envelopes himself in the deep concentration of study, I see that same little child. The one that could furrow a brow as he shifted weight from side to side in an attempt to flip over. When Logan's smile takes full possession of his countenance, I see the infant that would fill with pride over getting his toes in his own mouth or at sitting upright for the first time. When he struggles with a new task, shaking fists in frustration before trying again, I see the boy that would take a first step and fall, only to lift his arms for help up so he could give it another go.

This is just a new beginning in what is still the beginning of his life. This milestone, this prime moment for reflection, will likely be dwarfed by future moments - 'bigger' graduations, dates, cars, jobs, marriages, etc. This is nothing in the grand scheme, and yet it's everything. It's standing at the end of an era and start of another.

It won't be a last day looking to the walls of these classrooms to identify the 'right' art project. In three short months Megan will begin her tenure in that same arena. And yet, it is *his* last time and for some reason, that's hitting me more than I expected it would.



Logan has spent this last year attending preschool three mornings a week. Each of those mornings had it's own routine - but not in a good way.

Each morning we'd start off great. Moving through paces on time and in good order. And then the final 5 minutes - let's just say it included a lot of me saying things like "Get down stairs NOW or [pick a toy] is in time out for the rest of the day! We're going to be late!"

It seems a lot of my life fits this 'last minute, running late" mode recently - and I can only blame some of that on the kids.

I began this post with the intent of telling you that the ground hog playing Moby Dick to my rendition of Ahab has been relocated several miles away to a park. Yet, it occurs to me that I'm a bit behind in even writing about "Peaho the beast" (name courtesy of Megan) and its lust for all things green in my yard.

Once I covered my victory over my tormentor, I was going to share some photos and/or commentary about the recent "no-kids-just-grown-ups" weekend. But, well, ahhh, I'm about 9 days late about writing something mushy-gushy about my 10th wedding annivesary and just slightly fewer days late in mentioning that we were even taking a trip to celebrate the occasion.

It's not worth the time it'd take to explain why the sometimes vaguely referenced wedding from hell was causing me heartburn again. Let me ask you this though - have you ever known a bride to turn down a bridal shower? Not just turn it down, but get down right NASTY about it? I didn't think so. I may need to investigate all-natural calming remedies before the big day.

I'm sure there are other things too. Things I can't even begin to muster much semblence of memory for. And yet, perhaps that's the answer - you know, to the question of "why am I so far behind and out of the loop lately?" Let's put it this way, although I actually do multi-task quite well, I'm not the best juggler. I've been doing a lot of juggling of late. I'm doing it right now as we speak. I *should* be in bed resting up for the "quite early but it's for a reason" birthday party for Logan tomorrow...but I'm not. I'm writing this rambling incoherent monologue and then I'm going to return a few work related emails, jot a few notes to friends looking for playdates next week that I've not replied to in days and then maybe, just, maybe, I'll wander down to bed -- thankful that the brand new central air unit is finally in and working.