Monday, February 20, 2012




In honor of his fifth birthday, Jack woke up at 5 am.

"Mom. Wake up," he whispered in the darkness.

No answer.

"Mom, wake up. It's my birthday."

No answer. I heard him leave the room and exhaled a sigh of relief. Not two minutes later I was exhaling a groan of despair as he shined a flashlight in my eyes. "Mom, can you please wake up? It's my birthday."

Jack woke me up at 5 am on the day he was born, too. And so as I stumbled out to the kitchen to brew coffee and stir up some birthday pancakes, I thought about that morning, five years ago, when I woke up to early contractions, a surge of excitement, and gnawing fear of the unknown.

There are a couple of different ways I could commemorate this milestone. I could write Jack a letter, I could list off his accomplishments, I could do a photo montage from the last year. Or maybe I could just start writing.

I remember my fifth birthday. We had rainbow cake plates and my closest friends and I gathered in a circle on the oblong braided rug in our kitchen. I remember going to kindergarten and having school friends and being able to cross D Street.

Jack's memory will be spotty prior to five, but he will remember this birthday and waking up to find The Present of All Presents wrapped in Christmas paper on the kitchen table. He'll probably recall that I made him wait an excruciatingly long time to wake up Dad and Sawyer so that they could watch him open it. I will save his paper crown that they made for him at preschool. He'll be able to look back at the pictures we took at dinner with all five of his grandparents and a great grandma, too. I made pepperoni pizza and served root beer- he was in heaven. I hope he will remember that he looked around the dinner table, eyes shining in the candlelight, and saw the faces of people who love him on that very special day.

The thing I remember most about being five is the freedom that I felt to come and go as I pleased. We lived on a dead end street with friendly neighbors and slow traffic. I think I spent my entire childhood roaming that Springfield hillside with my two best friends, Autumn and Keke. We climbed towering trees and erected elaborate forts and covered the entire street with sidewalk chalk more than a few times. We built go-carts and sold lemonade and fought like sisters. I couldn't have asked for more.

My kids have a sandbox and a fenced yard. We take them for bike rides around the block and we are regulars at our neighborhood park. It is a different life, for sure. I want to let go. I want Jack to experience independence and freedom. I want to send him outside to play and know that he will come home when the street lights come on.

Jack was feeling non-committal as Sawyer and Brent left on a bike ride the other morning. Once they had disappeared down the block, Jack decided that he wanted to join them and so he grabbed his bike and helmet and was off. I stood in my bathrobe and watched him fly down the sidewalk with just the right combination of caution and adrenaline. I soon observed a neighbor come running down his driveway to view the streaked spectacle, and I reassured him with a wave and knew that people were looking out for my people.

We went skiing again and this time I donned a pair of skis for the first time in many, many years. I was hesitant to take Jack up the chairlift because I worried he would dive bomb his way to the bottom while I skied helplessly in his wake. Once we got off the lift, he left me in the dust to do exactly that. And I watched him gain too much speed and start to lose control, and there was absolutely nothing I could do except wait for the inevitable crash landing. I arrived in time to wipe away tears and gather skis and mittens that had been thrown during the moment of impact. My eyes felt misty as he pulled himself together and skied his way down the rest of the slope, dutifully remembering to snowplow. Some things, I thought, you just need to experience for yourself.

Five is a pretty big deal. We anticipate a year filled with many new and exciting firsts and with even more episodes of freedom and independence. And we are ready. He is ready. Five is gonna be awesome.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Skis and Skates

"Let's go skiing!" I said to Brent on Friday night.

I was feeling frumpy and restless and wanted something NEW! and FUN! and EXCITING! to do with our weekend because laundry and grocery shopping just wasn't going to cut it. I've been feeling so over January ever since it started and I figured a wintery snow adventure just might carry us all right into February.

Jack is an experienced skier and we decided to go ahead and rent Sawyer a pair of skis because we figured we could afford an $8 show of equity.

Snacks, layers, books, lunches, sunglasses, gloves, knitting, blanky, etc.

And I smiled as I went to bed that night, because I just knew.

My alarm jolted me out of bed before dawn. While the three boys in my life slept on, I tiptoed around the kitchen making coffee and buttermilk oatmeal pancakes. I packed a bag with enough food to feed an army of preschoolers.

I knew I wasn't going to get to ski. I'd be applying sunscreen and wiping noses and finding fingers in gloves all day long. But I didn't care. I've had plenty of me days in my lifetime. This day was theirs.

There was a time when I thought it was kind of sad when people lived vicariously through their children. Then I had my own and now I see that you are living the moment when you stand beside your children and watch them take the steps that you took. Or the steps you wanted to take. Or maybe the steps that you never even knew about. There's nothing sad about that.

My mom saved these silly little books that I made when I was Jack's age. My protagonists were a pair of sisters named Threada and Bobbin and I can't remember much of the plot except that I think they lived in a tree in my front yard. In one of the stories, Threada or Bobbin gets lost and the other sister cries "I wish I had my sister back!"

I don't know what ever happened to those books. The pages were starting to yellow and the pencil marks were smeared because I had turned the pages and traced the words so many times. I wanted a sister of my own. I was living vicariously through Threada and Bobbin.

I chaperoned a middle school dance not too long ago and found myself watching two brothers interact in the goofy, inside jokey way that only brothers can. And I smiled because my boys have each other.

As the road curved up toward the mountain they chattered on about the snow and the chairlift and the very special ski helmets that they cradled in their laps. Brent and I spend a lot of time listening to them talk to each other these days. Jack has adopted a particularly charming habit of calling Sawyer "brother" as in "Brother, let me show you how to put your skis on."

And then days later we found ourselves at Skateworld and I inhaled the nostalgic smell of hot dogs and feet and cotton candy while my kids discovered the painful laws of gravity and the infectious quality of pop music.

Skating around that familiar blue rink reminded me of Saturday morning skating lessons during my elementary school years. Admittedly, I am not the most graceful person you will ever meet, but for some reason I convinced my parents to pay for lessons and at one point I even had my own skates and one of those weird skirted leotard outfits. I'm not sure I was ever particularly good at skating, but I did skate my little elementary school heart out, and it was Springfield in the 1980's so who really cares anyway.

(I did, actually. I remember crying in the Skateworld bathroom because I couldn't do the one maneuver that would have advanced me into the FOUR star class. Whatever. THREE star was cool, too.)

Around and around the rink I went with Jack gripping my hand and I wondered how many times I have circled that rink and if I held my mom's hand the first time I went around. Because it's been a long time and I don't remember anymore.

So I will keep on lugging that camera around with me, because someday we might forget who took Sawyer up the chairlift for the first time. And I know we will want to remember.