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“The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last for ever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year – the days when summer is changing into autumn – the crickets spread the rumour of sadness and change.” E.B. White. Charlotte’s Web

It’s the end of another summer. Yes, I know that summer doesn’t technically end until September 22, but for me, as a teacher, summer is effectively over. And before anyone says anything about teachers having the whole summer off, blah, blah, blah, let me remind you that we’re working our tails off for ten months out of the year including our “own time”  during evenings, weekends, and holidays, PLUS we attend meetings , college classes, and professional development during the summer, so bugger off about that particular point. There, enough said about it.

I’m not a huge summer fan in terms of weather. I hate hot and humid and I’m an autumn girl through and through, but I enjoy the recovery time from my job.

This summer was incredibly busy, despite being the first summer that I haven’t worked a second job in several years. I think I tried to cram in everything that I’m not able to do during the school year and wore myself out in the process. Here is a sampling of Summer 2018.

  • I was able to let my natural body clock have its way again. I’m naturally a night owl and it felt SO GOOD to just sleep and wake up naturally. If only school started at 10:00.
  • I painted the living room. It really needed it, having been more than ten years since I had painted it last. While I love the finished product, I forgot how draining painting a room can be. At least I don’t have to do it for another ten years and I bought new curtains to boot.
  • Marty and I attended a lot of funeral home visitations and funerals summer, some expected, some not. Either way, it’s a reminder that we only get one shot at this life and I intend to fit in everything I can while I can. That also means staying active and being healthy in both mind and body so that I can do all of the things I want to do before it’s my turn. We said goodbye to some very special people this year. It makes you appreciate loved ones, and your time, all the more. We’re not promised tomorrow.
  • I did some spiritual insight seeking, learning to meditate and to spend time looking within, to be spiritually in tune with myself and with God. I believe we are given spiritual gifts, we just don’t use them like we should. I’d like to get better at that.
  • We went on vacation. See the July post for details about the “Ocean and Dead People Tour”, which was awesome. Anytime I’m near the ocean, I’m happy.
  • Speaking of our vacation, we did a lot more family history research. We’re kind of obsessed, although Marty would argue that I may have an addiction to Ancestry-crack.
  • I published my book, Traveler, as a paperback through Amazon.com and donated a copy to my local library. It was kind of a big deal for me. Check it out.
  • I read books that were not related to school or schoolwork. Heavenly.
  • I wrote. Not as much as I would have liked, but I did write.
  • I took Youngest Child to rehearsals and did hair for his show. High school kids are awesome, and I sincerely mean that.
  • I auditioned for a show and then I went to rehearsals.
  • I made two new adorable kitty friends. They live across the street and come to visit us pretty much every night for pets and treats. I love them.
  • We spent family time together, precious these days. The boys are starting to go off in their own directions and the time when they will only come home to visit is approaching quickly. I treasure our family dinners, the boys’ impromtu baseball and football games in front of the house, the flying Nerf darts, even the insults. I hope their memories of these days will be happy, too.
  • Marty and I went on lots of dates, including finally going to the Detroit Riverwalk for the first time. This is a good married-person thing to do. Often. I highly recommend it.
  • We started watching The Crown. I’m addicted. And Prince Philip is a jerky-jerk.
  • I rode my bike, Lulu, a lot. We didn’t get the theatre bike group going again, I was too busy to commit to a night this summer, but whenever I had to go to the library or somewhere within 3ish miles, I walked or rode Lulu. Good times.
  • Last, but not least, we took Oldest Child back to school today for his last year of college. Middle Child goes back next weekend. The days of us all together are finished until Thanksgiving. (I’m going to make them take a Christmas card picture while they’re home. Shhhhhhh…)

The crickets are singing, the bats are clicking.

Goodbye, Summer, goodbye. See you next June.

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We don’t take family vacations very often, cost is a preventative, but this year we decided to splurge a bit. Marty and I are both genealogy nerds so we decided to take a trip to visit cemeteries where some of our ancestors are buried. I also insisted on seeing the ocean again, since the ocean and I are BFFs and Youngest Child was the only one to never have seen it at all. Like all great tours, this one needed a name and so we settled upon the “Ocean and Dead People Tour 2018”. Yeah, our sense of humor is a little macabre, but we love it.

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I won’t bog you down with details, but here are some of the highlights.

  • Ohio is still boring to drive through. (Note: This is no way reflects on the people of Ohio or the good food that they grow, but 200+ miles of farms (broken up by Cleveland) tends to make one weary.
  • All food in Lancaster County is comfort food and portions are huge. Middle Child ordered meatloaf for dinner and got a slab the size of his head.
  • Intercourse, Blue Ball, Paradise,, and Virginville, Pennsylvania are all real places and all within the same area. Yes, the locals know it and, yes, they do capitalize on it.IMG_1716
  • I navigated driving through NYC!!! Of course, we did not visit Manhattan, since neither of us have people there, but we drove through Brooklyn and Yonkers where we, no kidding, got slightly lost. I had joked about that before we left, but it really did happen for a couple of minutes.IMG_1727
  • For such a small state, Connecticut seems to go on forever. It’s beautiful, though, so it’s okay.
  • Boston rush hour traffic sucks. There is no other way to say it. It’s even slightly worse than Chicago. We saw lots of rocky cliffs, though, so we had something to look at going one mile every five minutes.IMG_20180718_171210798
  • Seeing a sign for Framingham and Boston on the MassPike sent me into a dorky tizzy because, “We’ve gone from Framingham to Boston and we cannot find a pin!” (1776)
  • Salem is a busy place, but, wow! It’s really funny because there’s kitschy witch stuff everywhere, but there are also tours that are trying to emphasize the maritime history, so it’s a veritable mix of witches and pirates. I did not get a reading from any of the 50+ advertised witches.
  • I love Salem. It’s extremely walkable, busy, full of old history, and right on the ocean. I could happily live there while pining for London. IMG_1778

 

  • The Old Burying Point in Salem is quite possibly the coolest cemetery in the world.IMG_1740
  • I adore the ocean, but over the years, I’ve developed a fear of being in deep water where I can’t see the bottom. I found that I still have this fear while trying to dip my feet in the waters on the historic Salem Marina.
  • The ocean in Massachusetts is FREEZING!!!IMG_1761
  • Massachusetts accents are adorable, but not when Middle Child insists on using it the entire time we were there.
  • You can get chicken strips pretty much everywhere. Youngest Child supplied us with that knowledge.
  • Upstate New York is pretty, but a loooooooong drive from east to west.
  • I am really, really, happy near big water, including Lake Erie.

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  • We saw license plates from 41 states, the District of Columbia, and four Canadian provinces. The missing states? Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. The back of a Sausage McMuffin bag is an ideal place to keep track of this.
  • When the GPS dies, I can still read a map.
  • I added 3.5 states to my “visited” list, bringing my total to 21. I had changed planes at New York’s LaGuardia last year, so that only counted as a half for New York.

All in all, there was a lot of car time, but it was a great vacation. We saw a lot, ate a lot, and saw new things. I didn’t have to cook for an entire week, which was a vacation in itself.

Travel is the best.

 

 

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I attended a funeral this past week. A friend of my mother’s from her childhood had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away, leaving behind two not-quite-grown children and a devastated husband.

Dee Dee was a quiet force of nature. I remember her from the very beginning of my memories, from those fuzzy edges when I was very small up until the more clear thoughts of today. I loved her. She had a pet skunk for a time, I remember, named Mandy. I wanted a skunk for the longest time after that and didn’t understand why my mother didn’t think that was a good idea. She always had animals, which made me an instant fan.

Her mother was my godmother, my Nina. I still have the cross necklace with a diamond chip in the middle that she gave me on my baptism day when I was just a few weeks old. They lived just down the street from us and it was there where I got to know Dee Dee’s three sisters, who fussed over me, and where I got my first delicious taste of lobster dipped in melted butter. (There is dispute over that. I remember them saying it was lobster, my mother said it was crab. Either way, the experience is etched in my memory.) Her family had been a refuge for my mother when she was pregnant with me as a teenager, loving her as their own, and they have always been in contact.

As I mentioned, she died rather suddenly, without warning, at only sixty years old. Sixty is young these days and although she did have some health issues, no one expected her to be gone so soon.

I met my mother at the service, held at a local funeral home. It was already quite full of people when I arrived, about an hour before the service began, but as the time drew nearer, more and more people poured in, leaving the staff to hurry and add many more rows of chairs. If I had to estimate, I would say that there were around 150 people crammed into that small room.

The priest began the service by welcoming everyone and asking Dee Dee’s son, and then her husband to speak. My heart broke for this strapping young man, set to graduate from college soon, as he choked back tears and referred to his mother as his best friend. Her husband, the shock still evident in his voice, told the room how there was not one single bad thing about her in the many years that they had been together.

The floor was opened to other people who wanted to share their memories of Dee Dee. It was touching and beautiful to hear from so many people, at least twenty, who got up and had a story to tell. Some were poignant, some were funny (the Sam’s Club Cheetos story had everyone laughing), and some were sad. For most of her adult life, Dee Dee had worked for a company that helps people who have disabilities and many of her current and former coworkers filled the room. I was moved by the stories of her selflessness, her patience, and her apparent love for her vocation, a calling she had always had. It didn’t surprise me at all. I remember when she had adopted a young boy with severe disabilities back when she was in her twenties, before she was married or had her biological children. Meeting him was my first experience with someone disabled to that degree and I remembered how patient she was with him. She taught me through her actions to not be afraid of people with disabilities, that they want to be loved and accepted like everyone does. I’ll always be grateful to her for that lesson.

The service lasted for more that an hour and a half as people shared their love for Dee Dee. In her short sixty years, she had touched so many lives, probably more than she ever thought. I’m sure she would have been embarrassed by all of the outpouring of emotion, she wasn’t one to toot her own horn, always working quietly in the background for the good of others. After the priest made sure that everyone was finished sharing, her daughter read from Ecclesiastes and her husband thanked everyone for coming. In closing, we all held hands and said the Lord’s Prayer together, then listened to one of her favorite songs.

When the service was over, my heart was full. The world is a scary place and these days, watching the news often makes me feel as if nothing will ever be right again, that hate, discrimination, and willful ignorance have taken over the world. Just read the comment section of any article to see some scary people. (Or don’t. Really, it’s horrifying to see what some people post online.) It’s hard for me to understand how people can be so awful to each other, or how terrible things are condoned or ignored because of money, religion, or politics. It makes me sick to my stomach sometimes. Hearing all of the wonderful things said about Dee Dee. though, reminded me that there are good people in this world, that things like love, patience, and understanding still do exist, even if they are hard to see through the haze right now.

Yes, I’m sure that Dee Dee would have been embarrassed about all of the fuss made over her, but what a legacy she has left behind! Think about it. We’re all going to die someday, whether our lives are short or long, whether we know it’s coming or, like Dee Dee, it takes us by surprise. There’s nothing we can do to prevent it, though we try to put it off as long as possible. What we can do, though, is choose to live so that we leave some good in the world when we’re gone and, hopefully, inspire others to do the same. We can stand up for what is right, we can help in a million ways, we can love. Yes, indeed, we can love.

We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to mess up sometimes. It’s human nature that prevents us from being perfect, that lets our masks slip now and again. But I firmly believe that the more we do the right thing, especially when it’s difficult, the easier it becomes. I also believe that when we own up to our mistakes and admit that we made a bad choice rather then blaming it on someone else or circumstances, we earn the respect of others and we grow as people. It’s not the easy way of doing things and it’s hard to bite that bullet sometimes, but it’s so necessary.

We need more Dee Dees in the world. We need more of that patience and understanding that she lived every single day. We need to accept people as they are, the way she did, and to protect those who don’t have a voice. We need to be good people.

So, I challenge you. I challenge you to open your mind, to open your heart, and to deliberately do something different today that will benefit those around you. It doesn’t have to be huge, it can be as simple as opening the door for someone when you normally wouldn’t. It can be letting someone go ahead of you in line. Instead of getting angry at another driver, take a deep breath and let it go. (I especially need to practice this one. I say a lot of bad words in my car.) The point is, the world isn’t going to get better if we sit back and wait for other people to do it. It begins with us. It begins with you.

I’m closing with part of Lin Manuel Miranda’s speech from the 2016 Tony Awards. I feel that it is appropriate here.

“We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.”

Dee Dee loved, with her whole heart. It’s a goal to work toward.

 

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Dear New Daddy,

You didn’t know it (or you might have, who knows?), but I watched you the other day. Not in a creepy stalker way, although my husband may disagree, but I couldn’t help myself.

We were guests at a wedding, an absolutely wonderful time filled with love and laughter. At the reception, across the room from our table, you were holding your new daughter who, I found out later from her grandmother, was ten weeks old. She was adorable, this little bitty peanut in a navy blue dress with the obligatory giant bow on her little head.

If you know me at all, you know that I am powerless in the presence of babies. In my family, I have the reputation of being the baby-stealer. I adore them. Every maternal instinct in me cries out to cuddle those little snug-a-bugs and I don’t care who knows it. Social anxiety be damned, it’s no match for my baby fever. I lose all inhibitions at the chance of eliciting one little gummy smile from a cherub face, of wiggling an irresistible toe. Your baby was one of many little ones that day, adding even more joy to a wonderful day.

While your baby was reason enough for me to be admiring her, it was your interaction with your little one that made me keep on stealing glances.

You had her tiny head cradled in one of your big daddy hands, her little diaper butt in the other. You were engaging her, talking to her, smiling at her, making those goofy faces that adults only make when we talk to babies, and she was fully into watching you, those bottomless eyes watching one of her favorite people in the world. I love when people talk to their children like that; no texting or other cell phone distractions, just pure parent/child time together. The thing that touched me so much that I decided to write about it, though, was the love in your eyes as you looked at your baby girl. For that moment, nothing else mattered to you; she was your whole world, a wee girl and her Daddy. It gave my heart the warm fuzzies to watch. My eyes still well up when I think about it.

Why am I gushing on about this? It’s simple. I want you to remember. I want you to remember that exact moment when it was just you and her in your own little world, not noticing themusic, the cake, or the baby-crazy lady a few tables over. You connected, you were bonding, you were loving this adorable little human with everything in your soul. Remember this, Daddy, because there will be times in the next eighteen years when you don’t feel quite as close to her. Buckle up, Buttercup, because parenting is no joke.

There will be sass, hopefully less rather than more, but at some point, she will assert herself and it will completely take you by surprise. I still remember hearing that first, “I don’t have to listen to you!” pop out of the mouth of my sweet boy and it rocking my world. Oh, yes, there will be sass and the bigger they are, the worse it can get. Prepare yourself.

There will be slammed doors, maybe from her, maybe from you. (I am guilty of this after losing my temper because of, you guessed it: sass.) There will be angry tears, cries of, “You’re SO unfair!”, and rolled eyes. There will be friends of hers that you can’t stand, hours of PBS Kids, and endless messes to clean up. There will be times when you wonder what you were thinking. It is so important that during those difficult times, you remember those beautiful moments, the moments like I witnessed, where all is right in your world. Those are the moments that will get you through those tough ones, like when you’re trying to figure out how to get nail polish off of a wall or dealing with explosive diarrhea in the middle of the night. (All over the bathroom. Enough to where you have to get entirely new bath rugs, towels, and shower curtain and spend two hours bleaching everything else. I’m not kidding. Seriously, I have PTSD from that night.)

There are moments that I hold onto now, with Youngest Child being a teenager. Teenagers, you see, are their own special category. They can be both extremely frustrating and incredibly lovable, often in the same day. The same teenager that whines and moans about emptying the dishwasher or cleaning the lizard cage can say something profoundly sweet in the next minute, sometimes without an ulterior motive. In a word, they can be a challenge. I digress…

One of the moments that I hold onto with Youngest Child is when he fell asleep on my chest on the couch. He was around six months old, still a little bobble-head, and had been having a difficult time settling down to his nap. He wanted to be with his mama, and snuggled up to sleep so sweetly in my arms that I just let him take his entire nap on me. He little cheeks were so soft and he was so warm and cuddly that I couldn’t bear to take him up to his crib. My heart was full, in that moment, life couldn’t have gotten any better for me. When he woke, he realized where he was and smiled at me so happily that it melted my heart even more. It was perfect.

I remember that moment, and many others, when he comes home covered in mud on my clean floors, when he stalls so he doesn’t have to clean his room, when he “forgets” to let me know who he was with. Those moments remind you that you can get through this, that you do have this bond with your child. And, lest I completely scare you off, it does get better. They start understanding why you made the rules that you did and, as they get more independent, they understand you better. We’re experiencing this with Oldest Child right now and, let me tell you, it is balm for a parent’s soul when they have to clean their own place.

New Daddy, these moments you have right now are precious, something that you will look back at with misty eyes the older she gets. I still can’t watch family videos without tearing up. You’ll make tons of wonderful memories, plenty to draw from during those difficult times, but I’m telling you to not take those moments for granted. Treasure them, cherish them, just as you do that baby girl of yours. Children should be cherished, they should be loved with our whole hearts, even when they make us crazy. We have to take a step back, cool down, and remember. Remember that toothless grin, that grip of a tiny fist around one of our fingers, the sloppy, open-mouthed kisses, the first, “I love you”. spoken in a tiny voice.

You’ve got a good thing going, New Daddy. I wish you and your little girl much love. Thank you for letting me be a witness.

 

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Dear Boyos of Mine,

It’s time to think of the future. One day, I will be old. My plan is that I’ll live to be a feisty old lady with no serious illnesses and will die peacefully in my sleep, many years from now. In London. I can then just be quietly cremated with no fuss, because I will have lived a good long life. It’s a good plan, I like it.

There is a chance, though, as with all older folks, that I may not be able to take care of myself, for whatever reason. Your dad will handle it if he is able to, but the job may fall to the three of you.

I figure that I have at least a 50/50 chance of keeping my wits about me as a senior. Both of my grandmothers had forms of dementia/memory loss and had to have full-time nursing home care while my grandfathers stayed mentally sharp and passed away from physical ailments. Meanwhile, I am following every piece of advice that I can to stave off any future mental and physical issues including eating (mostly) right, daily physical exercise, music, mental workouts, and my absolute favorite, drinking (at least) a glass of red wine a night. (Don’t tell me that grape juice has the same effect. It’s not nearly as nice.)  I am truly trying to be a future trouble-free old person and lessen the burden on the three of you. But just in case you do have to put me somewhere, here are a few of my requests in advance.

  1. Don’t let the nursing home staff put little bows in my hair. I am not a poodle.
  2. Please, please, enforce my DNR. One thing that terrifies me is not being able to take care of myself and being totally dependent on others to live. Just let me go.
  3. If I say bad words, it’s okay to laugh. I went to visit one of my grandmothers at lunchtime in her nursing home a couple of months before she died. There was a lady sitting across from her being fed by an attendant who would smile wickedly, look at her attendant, and say, “Puta” (Spanish for “prostitute”) to her instead of eating her tapioca, or whatever pudding it was. The attendant would gently tell her that that it wasn’t nice to say that, whereupon the lady would smile and giggle like a naughty child and say it again: “Puta”. The attendant was struggling to keep a straight face, as was I. It was very much like listening to a toddler swear. I’ll never forget the look on her face. She knew exactly what she was doing, she was trying to get a reaction, and she knew that she nailed it. Please allow me moments like that if I’m stuck in a care facility. Humor is vital, especially in that kind of situation.
  4. Don’t talk to me like a baby. Give me my dignity. I gave birth to all of you, for God’s sake, after many hours of pain. I might be a little mentally compromised, but I’m still your mother. Try to have a normal conversation with me.
  5. Don’t let them dress me in stupid clothes. No sweatshirts with kitties or unicorns on them. I don’t wear them now and I won’t want to wear them then. I’m not five.
  6. Make sure I get a little red wine everyday. It will make me happy. Our neighbor’s mother, who is going on 102, still gets her little bit of happiness every day. Make it happen.
  7. Bring my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to see me once in a while. Enough said.
  8. Don’t feel guilty for having to put me there. I can’t say how I will take it when and if the actual decision is made, but know that now, consciously, I understand that you will do what you need to do. Hopefully, I’ll make it easy on you. Dealing with the various debilitating mental issues of the elderly, or of anyone for that matter, takes a huge toll and can be more than a full time job. I don’t want you to exhaust yourself making sure that I don’t go wandering in the middle of the night. As long as I’m receiving good care, ease your mind about the whole thing.

I know, and pray, that this is probably far in the future, but I don’t want to put this off until then because if I wait, I may not be able to articulate this to you all. After watching my grandmas go through it, it terrifies me to think that it could very possibly happen to me one day, but I need to face that fear and have an outline in place.

Getting older is scary, it’s different for everyone, and I’m a control freak, as you well know. If all goes well, you won’t have to deal with any of it, but if not, just print out a copy of this and all will be fine.

Love you all,

Mama

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I’m becoming jaded by the news and I don’t like it. I detest the ugliness, racism, misogyny, lies, and disregard for the environment in our country today and it makes me feel hopeless. I don’t understand why people intentionally ignore facts, excuse blatant wrongs, hurt each other, and don’t take responsibility for their actions. I don’t understand why adults ridicule traumatized children. This country needs a big dose of Dr. Phil and/or God right now, but I have to focus on something else for a minute. I have to, or else the anxiety becomes my whole world. I have to focus on good, beautiful things that I love. Here are some of them.

  • My husband, for so many things, but his hand on my hip as we sleep is something that makes me love him all the more. I’m a light sleeper and I have a lot of bad dreams. Most of the time, when I wake up, Marty is there, a reassuring presence who makes everything alright. (Even if he is snoring loudly.)
  • My boys, individually and all together. They’re so unique, I love talking with each of them alone. And then, when they’re together, it’s like having a heap of puppies romping through the house, except the puppies shoot dart guns, play baseball, and creatively insult each other.
  • Fuzzy kittens. Enough said.
  • My neighborhood party store. Brothers Steve and Randy know me and sell me my weekly MegaMillions ticket on my runs. It’s like Cheers, but not a bar.
  • My theatre. Well, not my theatre. My niece thought I owned it, but no, lol. It’s a place where I’m accepted and I can be myself. I can express myself. A nice place to be.
  • My penpal/dear friend, Sabrina. She lives an ocean away, but is such a kindred spirit. And she puts up with my crappy Italian.
  • Music. It gives so much meaning to life. Hamilton, Pentatonix, and Lindsey Stirling are my current obsessions.
  • Writing. I have an outlet. I’m sort of good at it, but still have a lot to learn. This week, I completed a novel on Bessie Blount, the real one, not the sleazy HBO version. Accomplishment.
  • Babies. Babies are my heart, my joy. Incredible innocence. They’re a promise that life goes on.
  • My church. My church is progressive, including people of all races and sexual identities. I love that.
  • London. London is my dream, my hope, my destiny. I’ve never felt more at home anywhere in the world. Six years now… it’s been too long.
  • Italy. Italy is life to the tenth power. I can’t wait to get back.
  • Cadbury Mini-Eggs. Can’t help it, I adore them.
  • History
  • My therapist, Renee. She’s listened to me for seven years now and I adore her. Most of the time. Not when she’s telling me something that I don’t want to hear, but I know it’s for my own good, but, yeah, she’s awesome.
  • Ireland. Such fond memories of an impossibly beautiful place where I went with some amazing people.
  • Genealogy. I’m a sucker for historic records and long-ago grandparents.
  • Easter candy. Right now, this is an essential part of my diet.
  • God. I saved the best for last. Prayer is essential in these times of confusion/craziness and God remains my rock, every day. My spirituality keeps me centered, grounded, and keeps me sane.

Take some some time and reflect on what makes you happy. Leave it as a comment if you like. I’d love to hear what you love.

Until next time, a presto.

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I have dear friends, a married couple, who have very recently become parents to an absolutely beautiful baby boy. This little boy is so loved by all, surrounded by adoring family members, and will undoubtedly have an amazing life. It’s wonderful to see them so happy, excited by their sweet boy, ready to be the best parents that they can possibly be.

Seeing their joy has made me reminisce a lot about my own baby boys. I’ve loved all (well, most of) my boys’ growing stages, but there’s something so special about those few couple of years, something that you can never get back. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of stressful times, but the sweet and the stressful work together to make a family.

I’ve always loved babies, anyone in my family or circle of friends can tell you that. I have quite the reputation for being a baby stealer at family events, loving to hold those tiny warm cherubs, talking to them and rocking them to sleep. It’s nothing that I can explain, but I see a baby and my heart just melts into a puddle.

I was the oldest sister and the oldest cousin in all of my family branches so I was naturally the babysitter when I was old enough. I remember telling my mother that I wanted ten babies when I grew up and feeling totally insulted when she laughed at that. I think I was around nine years old when I said it, so I, understandably, had no concept of what it would take to raise ten babies, but my nine-year-old heart just knew that babies equaled love.

By the time I had my first baby, I had had more than ten years of experience with newborns and was quite comfortable with their wobbly heads and changing poopy diapers. Still, there are things that babysitting doesn’t prepare you for, the most important being sleep deprivation. I remember waking up with Oldest Child at some ungodly hour and trying to get him back to sleep when all he wanted to do was play, his bright blue eyes staring at all the shadows. I eventually sort of got used to running on broken sleep and the zombie feeling that came with it until they began to sleep through the night.

That was a whole new world, as was the necessary evil of taking my babies to get their shots. They would be so happy at first, cooing at the doctor while she checked them out and playing until the nurse came in. The nurses were always apologetic for what they were about to do. quickly swabbing with alcohol and then doing the deed as quickly as possible, but it never failed. Their eyes would open wide, their bottom lips would quiver, and then a heartbreaking wail would ensue, communicating their pain to the entire office and often setting up a chain reaction before I would guiltily swoop them up to comfort them.

The worst was when they had to get more than one shot. The element of surprise could only happen once, so the nurses had their work cut out for them. Middle Child, in particular, had set himself against needles since he was born. When he was two weeks old, he contracted RSV and was hospitalized for three days. Before the doctors knew that it was RSV, however, they wanted to test him for meningitis, which required a spinal tap. They wouldn’t even let me in the room, so I sat rocking in a chair in the hospital hallway just outside the door listening to my precious boy rage at the indignities being foisted upon him, tears uncontrollably streaming down my face, physically holding onto the chair to prevent myself from just running in and scooping him off the table.

A few minutes later, the doctor came out, shaking her head as she pulled off her latex gloves.

“We’re not going to be able to do the spinal tap”, she said. “He won’t let us.” As traumatized as I was, I also felt a twinge of pride the my two-week-old had the moxie to refuse to let a team of doctors stick a needle in his spine. I was a little less prideful when four years later, Marty had to take Middle Child to get a shot of antibiotics for an infection in his foot. When they returned home, I asked Marty how it had gone.

He fixed me with a withering look and said, “You mean you couldn’t hear him?” Apparently, it had taken three nurses to hold him down for one injection, something that he’s still proud of to this day.

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I miss how unbelievably curious they were as babies. Everything was fascinating. Everything needed to be explored. Knocking block towers over was endlessly funny, as was playing peek-a-boo with an urp cloth. Watching them grasp things for the first time, both literally and figuratively, was a joy to see. I am blessed that my family is very much a family that loves small children and takes the time to really be with them, so watching my family members, especially my grandparents, interact with my babies has given me memories that I will treasure forever.

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The best thing about having babies, though, were the snuggly bonding times, often right after feeding and before a nap. There’s just something so precious about that time, when your baby is looking you right in the eyes and you can feel that they’re saying a million things to you with their eyes, you feel that love just well up in your heart like nothing you ever felt before and you recognize that these moments are fleeting and will soon be gone. You feel the curl of those chubby little fingers close over your thumb (or your ear, in Middle Child’s case) and watch their eyelids flutter closed, then snap back open because they want to keep looking at you, but sleep is winning out and they finally can’t fight it anymore. Their whole little body relaxes against you and even when you know that it’s safe to move them to their crib, you don’t want to because you just want to capture that moment forever and ever. Eventually, though, you gently kiss that chubby cheek and lay them down so that you can get something done around the house, but there’s always a tinge of regret about it.

Nap times aren’t always like that. There were plenty of times when they just cried and cried themselves to sleep as we walked/bounced them around the house, or we were too impatient to appreciate the moment, especially if they were being stubborn about taking a much-needed nap and we had things to do. Youngest Child was notorious for his twenty-minute naps, or for waking up the moment he was laid down in his crib, but when they did happen that way, it was beautiful and special.

I know that babyhood isn’t glamorous and I’ve romanticized it here a bit. There are plenty of messy, frustrating, moments, too, like the crying for no reason, diaper explosions, stuffy noses, projectile vomiting, and messy baby food in the hair, but I tend to forget those; not completely, but the rough times aren’t the first things that I think about when I remember how my boys have grown up. Then there were crazy times that have turned into funny stories now, like when Middle Child completely dismantled Marty’s Easter basket. Or when Youngest Child had such a bad diaper blowout in an Indiana restaurant that I had to throw away his clothes and give him an impromptu bath in the restaurant sink. (Sorry, Perkins.) All three boys urped into Marty’s mouth at least once each and Oldest Child’s diaper leaked onto my Grandma’s pantsuit at a party, leaving a big wet spot. Good times, but better stories now.

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I have no doubt that my friends will have their share of moments, too: sweet ones, funny ones, and incredibly frustrating ones. Parenting is not for the fainthearted and there will be tons of mistakes made, things that they will wish they could do over again, feelings hurt, doubts raised. There will be boo-boos kissed, songs to sing, and wet, sloppy, open mouth kisses. I’m excited for them and all that they have yet to experience.

Through all of my own parenting journey, I know one thing for sure: my nine-year-old self was right.

Babies equal love.

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