Friday, January 7, 2022

Chapters, opened and closing

 Dear William, Barrett, Neva, and Mac,

I never wanted to abandon this blog, but contrary to what I expected (when you all were small and demanding), life has gotten busier as you've grown older. I feel like an old person who has lived a hundred years. Time is speeding along so quickly that there are days when I almost feel panic! I wish I could document it all.

We sit on the cusp of a closing chapter. Our sweet boy Bo has declined to the point that his passing will be our final good deed for him. Brian and I have wrestled with this decision, but each day brings some small sign that it will be the right thing to do. Last night, the two of us reminisced at length about Bo's life. The memories just poured out of us. Remember when he would meet that black and white cat in Lake Anne? Remember when he lept down that single step and made us laugh? Remember when his tail would curl up so tightly on itself? Remember when he'd be gone for days at a time? Remember when I slept outside waiting for him to come home? Remember when he made us so frustrated? What a good boy he was, though. Never so much as growled at any one of our precious babies... a fierce-looking home defender, but sweet as could be to anyone who walked in the door. But that's a different post.

We have seen many sad times this fall. Our friend Joe finally succumbed to his brain cancer. We have prayed for him for years. You all were so perplexed by why God would say no, this time. I have tried my best to explain how well Joe lived, how there is more to life than just eking out the maximum number of days that you can - how that in his almost-forty years, our friend lived more than most do in twice that time. He was such a wonderful father, man, and friend. I still can't believe that we'll never hear him sing again from the front of our church. He had the best singing voice I have ever heard. He'll never be famous for it, but he sure could've been. His family is grieving and alone after a very difficult two years of treatments and decline. Why must he have suffered that way? We all wonder. No one but God has the answers.

Then, after Thanksgiving, our little town was flooded with sorrow after a high school shooting. Right here. How could it have happened here? In our precious little community? I'll never forget exiting the grocery store with my full cart to see scores of teenagers flooding the Meijer parking lot with tear-stained faces. In bewilderment I left the parking lot and headed south, noticing cars whipping into the lot to park at the edges - parents, I now realize, in a frantic search to reunite with their children. Emergency vehicles by the dozens streamed northward toward the school as I texted everyone I could think of to find out what was going on. "School shooting," one mom simply replied, and I felt a dread so palpable that I sat and held it for hours, feeling it grow heavier with each passing siren. Not a day goes by that I don't think of those victims or their families. Madisyn Baldwin, Hana St. Juliana, Tate Myers, and Justin Shilling. The world took on a different tint that day.

Other sad events have unfolded - the loss of acquaintances to COVID, the news of jobs lost due to mandates, family dysfunction making holidays up north impossible this year. 

There are always, always good things, too. They are in all the cracks, and you can find them the moment you start looking. Making candy houses with our friends at the church Christmas lock-in. Chatting as a family while we drove through town to look at Christmas lights (Neva: "I wouldn't have wanted to miss THIS!") Singing Christmas hymns together at church with our arms around each other. For me - glorying in your sweet faces on Christmas morning, when you thought you would only get ONE present, and had nothing but pure gratitude and genuine joy at having FIVE things to open instead. I bragged on you to everyone. There were no nasty attitudes from you all Christmas season. If having kids were always like this, everyone would want to be a parent. I suspect. :) (William, before Christmas: "We're only going to get one gift, so I had to choose wisely. I chose a Pokemon binder to sort all my cards.")

My precious kids! I'm writing this post from our "new" house. We began closing another chapter in late July 2020, when one Saturday I was holding the ladder for your dad as he caulked the cedar siding on the dormers above the garage. "If you'd let me build my brick house," he said, "I wouldn't have to do this crap anymore." And although he'd been at me to sell my dream house for a few years, in that moment it suddenly made sense. "Okay, let's do it," I agreed. A fresh start seemed exactly what we needed. When he was done caulking and climbed back down, I ran into the house and began cleaning out closets. We had already redone our master bathroom during the first COVID lockdown, so I repainted our master suite over the next few weeks. It had never looked better. I was very proud of myself. That was the first time I'd tackled something like that and I have to say I did a darn good job. We had a whirlwind fall - went live with our FSBO listing the weekend after we returned from Montana and sold the house in a day. (I have no clue how I continued schooling all of you through that, but somehow we made it.) The buyers were particularly accommodating to us, as they had needs of their own, and we were able to live in the house for another FOUR months at least, celebrating our last Christmas there (and allowing me to take my sweet time to pack).

We moved into this rental at the beginning of March 2021. You kids were absolute champions at saying goodbye to our wonderful home in the country. All you had were our vague certainties that we'd eventually find another lot and build "a better house... someday, when the market's right." William, you said goodbye to the ducks with such a brave heart. You'd gotten really attached to them, and although you said you were happy that they could stay with the new owners, you took a hundred pictures of them on every device. You sometimes seem more fond of animals than of people. I think you, more than the other kids, particularly miss our home on Hickory Creek.

It hasn't been a bad move, though, by any means. In this new house, we've adjusted to a smaller space and a subdivision lifestyle. You all fly around the neighborhood on your bikes, now - something you never did on our high-traffic rural dirt road. You have neighborhood friends to play with - good kids whose company we all enjoy. You are all growing up so quickly.

I've started so many posts here to detail each of your incredible little personalities, but I get cut off and interrupted before I can finish a paragraph, much less hit "publish." Suffice it to say now that you four are at that magical middle age everyone talks about - post- diapers and pre- teen years. Yesterday, the four of you played together for hours, devising your own games with homemade paper masks and a single homemade cardboard knife. It was supposed to be a full school day, but we've all been sick, so we did the barest minimum and I called lots of in-home vet euthanasia services to determine the best plan and time for Bo to pass. You all left me alone to make my sad calls, and the sounds of you four playing the other room brought more joy to my heart than you could imagine. I so dearly love being your mom, and I love the privilege to stay home with you all, and to teach you, and to learn alongside you. I am well aware that these are the golden years. I wake up almost every morning with the determination to thoroughly enjoy you all. I love you kids more than you can imagine. You bring me life and fulfillment. You won't know until Heaven how you have blessed your momma.

Talk to you soon,


Monday, June 29, 2020

Almost three

Dear Mac,

Oh, my little Mac. You are everything a little baby-of-the-family boy should be.

You are so much, packed into a strong, tough little body. You are resistant, defiant, insistent, persistent.

At a graduation party on Saturday, I took you to the bathroom (by force, of course). You couldn't wait to get back outside to jump on the "tramp-o-leen, the tramp-o-leen, the tramp-o-leen!" When we got back outside, there were six bog boys William's size bouncing around with a soccer ball on a trampoline with no net. "Oh, buddy, the big boys are on there now," I told you. "You'll have to wait a bit."

You turned to me. "I'm BIG."

"I know you're big, but you need to wait."

"MOM. I'm big!"

I picked you up. Maybe some TLC would help. "Mackey, you ARE big. But you need to wait a few minutes."

You hollered at the top of your lungs, "MOM! I'm BIG!!!"

Firm resolve is often required with you. "Well, the answer is no."

You stood obediently (but not happily) on the ladder and waited for your opportunity. As soon as one or two of the boys hopped off, you climbed on. You were bounced and jostled and dirty and sweaty, yet completely undeterred. You were one of the big boys and there was no one who could tell you otherwise.

A few weeks ago, we hosted Kole (William and Barrett's friend). The big kids woke up so early, excited to play. You rolled right out of bed too, and it was immediately apparent that you needed a LOT more sleep. You were sobbing at every provocation. I gave you a few chances to pull it together, but you just couldn't. "You've got to go back to sleep, Mac."

You lost it completely. I carried you to your bed, tucked you in, and said, "You're not being a bad boy. You just need more sleep. Mommy's not mad at you."

Your eyes were already closing as you wailed, "I'm mad at you!" You popped your thumb into your mouth and were sleeping in moments. I couldn't help but laugh.

Last night, we sang happy birthday to you. This was YOUR MOMENT. You'd been waiting for this endlessly, patiently witnessing everyone else blow out their candles on their birthdays. You sang the song with everyone: "Happy birthday to me." After you blew out the candles, you dramatically pulled each one out and licked the frosting off, savoring each second of the spotlight.

Mackey, you go for what you want. You're the only kid who will randomly approach me to ask for candy. When have I ever given you the impression that I'll just hand you candy? But you ask, and you ask often, and you're always genuinely upset when I say no (as I always do).

You run with the big kids, jump with the big kids, laugh at their jokes, watch their movies. You've stopped asking to watch "baby songs," because I think you've realized that the big boys don't find them cool. This makes me sad, but I know you're still my baby. I know it when you wrap your arms around my neck in a strong, perfect little hug. I know it when I lay next to you and you snuggle into my arm and suck your thumb and your eyelids instantly grow heavy. I know it when you scream with delight at a firefly or a new-to-you, hand-me-down pair of shark pajamas. I know it when you mispronounce your D's as N's. ("Danny" for Daddy, "bi-ner" for spider, "burn" for bird.)

I am trying to be careful to not let you become a perfect storm - the tenacious little baby boy whose mother indulged him. I hold the line with you, but I've also probably drawn it farther back than I ever did with William. How can I not? You are somehow always the infant I cuddled on those hot summer days three years ago, and you always will be.

"I'm NOT a baby!"

You are perfect.