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Running too fast

Dear Spoon,

We played hooky from school yesterday. We’ve never done that before. But a too-late visit with your grandparents at the airport and too much exhaustion and stress in our house made for a decent excuse. Besides, I missed you.

We slept late, all of us. Then you and Connor and I went out to breakfast and for a hike. I don’t remember the last time we did that. Maybe not since before Connor was born. You’re still the best person in the world to hang out with. And each day I see less and less of the baby and toddler you were as more of who you will be shows through in ungainly long arms and legs, a thinning face, and grin nearly completely absent of front teeth. There is no other word for it — you are gangly, in that wonderful way that elementary kids can be. But so much more than that: you are witty, and goofy, and vibrant. You are sensitive, and sometimes mercurial, and you are oh so hard on yourself. We talked about that a lot yesterday. I wish you could see you as I see you, and know how really amazing you are.

You raced down the trail ahead of me, laughing as the dog followed at your heels, and I caught myself shouting, “Slow down!” as you reached the rocky bend near the river. It occurred to me how that one phrase is becoming a mantra when I think of you. You are so, so smart. You are often bored at school, and race through your math homework, often making a silly mistake, for which you berate yourself. Or you read one of your chapter books in an hour, but can’t really tell us what it’s about. “Slow down. There’s no extra points for finishing first.” I tell you over and over when you cry over missing a question on your math test. “Be gentle with yourself. There’s no such thing as perfect.” You are already one grade level ahead in school, and based on your most recent tests, you should skip the next one, too. But I won’t let you. Conversely, the school district has a silly rule about birthdates, which causes them to insist that you repeat first grade next year, even though you are testing at the end of second grade. To me this seems purely cruel. Slow down, but don’t go backwards. Consequently, we are wrestling with what to do for you next year.

Among our options, I am considering homeschooling you. The premise of this is overwhelming, because I am finishing my own schoolwork to return to work full time, and I’m certain I’ll still freelance here and there, and take care of you and Connor and the house, and grow our food, and… teach you? I’m not sure I have it in me, but I know I’d pull the sun from the sky if you needed me to. On the other hand, maybe homeschooling would help? No more rushing to get you out the door in the morning, and arguing with you because you don’t want to go. No more driving, driving, driving, every day. And maybe you would learn even more if you weren’t in a room with 25 other voices, some of whom you have told me that you are afraid of? Is this, perhaps, how we slow down?

Looking back over this, I realize I am writing this letter more for myself than for you. I may not show this one to you. Maybe I’ll just tell you that I want to encapsulate this time with you, because I feel you tugging farther and farther away, and I know it scares you too sometimes. I’ll just tell you that I love you, and you’re the coolest person I know, and I want you to forgive yourself for being a kid sometimes. I want you to see yourself as I see you, because at six years old, you are already your worst critic. I want to put your laughter in a bottle that I can take off the shelf and open one day when one of us needs to hear it and remember the important things, like sun and butterflies, and wading in the muddy edges of the river. When we need to stop running so fast.

I love you.

Mama

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Little bird

Dear Critter,

You are seven months old today. I’m not certain how that happened so quickly. Your middle name is Raven, and you are already living up to it. My lightbringer with a mischievous grin, you bring joy to everyone you meet. You are finding your voice, and said your first word just a few days ago: “Dada”. When I have tried to teach you to say “Mama”, you smile, and sign “more” over and over. The sign “more” has come to mean me, which makes mealtime very confusing. “All done.” you sign, followed by “more” as you reach for me to pick you up. We joke that you have two parents: Daddy and food.

You are sitting up well now, and sometimes thinking about crawling, but mostly you would rather that I never put you down. You are eating solid foods, and will devour anything we are willing to let you try. You have begun playing with toys in earnest now, and are curious about everything around you. You adore your big sister, and are fascinated by the cats and the dog. You have begun sucking your thumb recently,  and given up pacifiers. Clearly, you are already trying to emulate Audrey, who still needs her thumb and pink blanket. There are few things in the world cuter that the two of you snuggled up together, sucking your thumbs. You are the most joyful person I think I’ve ever met. I hope it’s contagious.

Right now, you are fussing in your cosleeper, because next to the bed is too far away to sleep. My “velcro baby”, you insist on only sleeping if you are touching me. I sometimes wonder where you go when you sleep, and if you are afraid you won’t return. Is this why you need me so close? Whatever it is, I certainly won’t complain.

I love you, little one.

xo,

Mama

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40 before 40.

In the next year, I will…

  1. Pay off all of the credit cards and medical bills.
  2. Create a regular writing practice again.
  3. Go fishing with my daughter.
  4. Ride my horse regularly.
  5. Read at least 15 new books.
  6. Learn to laugh again.
  7. Create rituals and traditions.
  8. Hike more.
  9. Build my greenhouse.
  10. Eat the way I used to: homegrown produce, fresh eggs, raw goat’s milk.
  11. Eat twice a day. Off of a plate.
  12. Make sure that my voice is heard in the current political climate.
  13. Remember when to turn off, unplug, walk away.
  14. Ski more.
  15. Remember to play.
  16. Complete all of the small-ish house projects which remain.
  17. Simplify and streamline our home.
  18. Donate to causes I care about.
  19. Get enough sleep.
  20. Spend more time with Audrey, one on one.
  21. Call old friends more often.
  22. Finish at least three major knitting projects.
  23. Go on at least three local-ish road trips with the family.
  24. Camping.
  25. Spend more time looking at the stars.
  26. Keep a reasonable/normal schedule.
  27. Say yes more.
  28. Go to bed calm… No more stressing out, or binge-reading news.
  29. Find gratitude daily.
  30. Get back into a regular yoga practice.
  31. Forgive more.
  32. Organize a neighborhood “cleanup day”.
  33. Make art. At least a bit.
  34. Reboot my clothing, and pay attention to what I’m wearing.
  35. Take time to do my hair and/or throw on some makeup, at least sometimes.
  36. Rebuild our savings.
  37. Play piano/dulcimer/guitar.
  38. Take a class or start an academic group.
  39. Take Audrey to a play or ballet.
  40. Find space for tiny meditations.

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Coffee and Doughnuts

It takes a village, and Jim Barlow was a part of mine. A little over twenty years ago, I remember leaving the first class I had with him, convinced he was off his rocker, but intrigued enough to know I’d be back. It’s that last part that was Jim’s victory with me as a teacher. By then, I had already figured out the bare minimum that I needed to do to pass with decent grades, and showing up wasn’t generally part of the equation. High school was a hoop I was jumping through, even though there was no real trajectory beyond it. I appreciated Jim Barlow when I was in high school because he was the one person who forced me to stop and evaluate the status quo.
 
Jim taught me the difference between a diploma and an education. One is a piece of paper you get for sitting in a brick room, and one is valuable for a life, and it takes your entire life to obtain. To be fair, he called me out several times on my (lack of) attendance in most of my classes my senior year. He had checked up on my credits when I told him I had enough credits to graduate. He made sure to stay after me to get me to the classes I needed, but seemed to understand about the others. Even to the point that when I misses class and stayed on campus, more than a few times, I could have been found sitting in the back of his classroom, listening to whatever course he was teaching at the moment.
 
Jim introduced me to Kahlil Gibran and Thomas Mann. He taught me to approach life with curiosity and compassion, and told me more than once in his very corny way to go make the world better somehow, in whatever way made the most sense to me. He taught me how to intelligently and respectfully question the world around me. He taught me how to think critically. In his words, he “taught me how to think”. Not ever what to think, persay, but how. He taught me to approach life with humor. He modeled a joie de vivre which was and still is enviable. Many of these lessons stayed below the surface for me, especially early on. But they were always there.
 
Barlow was one of the only people who encouraged me to apply to college, and encouraged me to apply for scholarships along with it. He convinced me to apply for a few “dream schools” along with the more practical ones. He read and edited my essays. He believed I shouldn’t make a choice based upon how much money I had stashed away for school (which was basically none).
 
I imagine Jim was one of the people who led me quietly to teaching, and to sustainability work, and to promoting food security. I can’t ever imagine having the impact as a teacher that he had in his lifetime, but I certainly have tried, and imagine I will again. The biggest lesson Jim taught me was that I should have an impact in some way, no matter how large or small it may be.
 
No one lives forever, but heroes are not ever supposed to die. In a way, I suppose that Jim won’t. He’s still around in all the lives he has touched, including mine. I don’t think I ever properly thanked him for the impact he had. I wish I could thank him in person now. The world needed Jim. It still does.
 
Thank you for wrapping your wisdom in wit. Thanks for believing in me, and in so many of my friends. Thank you for not putting up with my crap (at least when it was unjustified crap). Thank you for inspiring me and making me laugh — even to this day. I feel so blessed to have crossed paths with you. Safe journey, my friend. Give my love to Wolf and Fang, and kick Rolf for me. I hated that dog.

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Calling down the sun

Dear Critter,

I blinked, and you are nearly two weeks old now. We are so grateful to have you join our family. You may never know the impact you have had on us already. You are a beautiful infant, and you won our hearts immediately with your snuggles and involuntary smiles. This experience with you has been a joy so far.

After two weeks of prodromal labor, you decided to come all in a rush a week ago last Monday. I could almost sense you laughing, as your trickster namesake would. My labor started in earnest (finally!) mid-afternoon, and your dad and I left our little log house for the drive down to the hospital in Denver with what we thought was plenty of time to spare — expecting to meet you in the middle of the night or the early hours of Tuesday morning. But you were excited to be earthside. During the 45 minute drive to the hospital, my contractions sped up rapidly, and when we arrived in the delivery room, you were born two minutes later. The emergency doctor didn’t even have time to put on an apron before your arrival — instead a nurse held it up and half wrapped it around her. You would have thought the whole experience quite funny.

Your grandmother was in town to help out with your sister during your arrival, and the two of them came to meet you Tuesday morning. Watching them meet you put tears in everyone’s eyes. You are already fast friends with your big sister, who dotes over you, and holds your hand in the car on the way to school each morning. Your favorite way to self-soothe is to touch your cheeks, and the other day as your eyes began to focus, you reached out and touched my cheek. Your arrival has brought our family closer together. Your dad is really appreciating being here to help take care of you, and I have been able to see you two form a wonderful bond, in addition to seeing his bond with your sister grow stronger. You truly are our lightbringer, together with your big sister you bring so much joy to our family.

You are eating and sleeping well, and love to stare at the world as it comes into your view. You regained your birthweight in just one week, and you are growing so quickly now. You are strong and happy, an “easy” baby. You are a snuggler — preferring to sleep on my chest than anywhere else. In the hospital, we started calling you “Scootch” for no particular reason, I suppose, but it seems to fit you, and you may have a new nickname. I’m sure I’ll be apologizing for it when you’re twelve.

Thank you for joining us. We’re all so happy you’re here.

I love you,

mama

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Connor Raven

born September 26, 2016

7 lbs, 21 inches long

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Changes

Dear Critter,

I can’t believe that you’re almost here, and I am just now writing you a letter. This year has been a whirlwind for our family, and we are so looking forward to meeting you. When I found out that I was pregnant with you there was still winter snow on the ground, and now the elk call and sing from the yard, and the bears get into trouble at night, and the aspen trees are slowly beginning to turn. This winter will be early and it will be cold. I am looking forward to spending a lot of it tucked up into our little house with you and your sister watching the snow fall. I am so grateful to be able to raise the two of you here, near where I lived as a child, and close to the earth and her rhythms. Our life here is not an extravagant one, but it is genuine, and I am hoping to raise you in a house filled with love.

Your sister is overjoyed to meet you. She lays her head on my belly and talks to you nearly every day. I can tell that you are already friends. Unlike her, I don’t have a strong sense of your energy yet, of who you are, other than I think you are eager to join us, too. I am about 36 weeks pregnant right now, and already you have slipped low in my belly and quieted your movements — waiting, as we are. All I know of you right now is that you are strong, and much calmer in my belly than your sister was. Your movements are less frequent, but for several weeks now they have been enough to make me catch my breath. You don’t have the “dance parties” your sister did, but you seem to like Jack Johnson, and you move closer to the cat when she lays next to you, purring her gurgling song.

It’s hard to believe that you could be here any day now. I think you may be born on the equinox, and you will be a light-bringer. Whatever your purpose in this life will be, I know it will be one of goodness. Perhaps it is just because you are our second baby, but I get the feeling that you will fold yourself easily into the rhythms of our family, and the four of us will be able to watch the seasons together with astounded eyes.

xo,

Mama

 

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Slow down

Dear Spoon,

You started Kindergarten today.

You were so very excited, you came running into my room at 6:30 this morning, determined not to be late by even a moment. Overjoyed by the newness of it all — new backpack, new shoes, new school, you floated through the morning.

Once we reached the school, you led the way across the meadow to your classroom, shouting over your shoulder, “Come on, Mom!” You ran up to every kid who was about your size on the way and introduced yourself, asking each of them if they were in your class. A few minutes on the playground before the bell rang, and you already had a pack of new friends.

How did you grow up so much, so fast?

The bell rang, and I asked if I could give you a hug goodbye. “Oh, okay, Mom. If you have to.” Already worried about what the other kids might think. “I have to.” I said, and I gave you a quick hug and kiss, wondering how my baby had suddenly decided to become a preteen overnight as you ran to your classroom.

Once I was back in the car, the silence was so foreign. I thought about you all day, and tried not to feel sad that in your excitement, in your sudden maturity, my status had somehow shifted. I am so happy for the person I see you becoming, and feel so grateful for every opportunity you have which I am fortunate enough to witness.

So this is the difference between parenting a toddler and parenting a kid: watching from the sidelines, and quietly cheering.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t overjoyed when I met you at the end of the day and you flung yourself into my arms, words coming at a tumble: “MAMA! I missed you, Mama! I had the best day ever! We went on a hunt for a raccoon and there were clues! I have a new best friend! School is great! I love you, Mama! My teacher is awesome!”

These are the times when I get to hold tight to your smallness, and bite my tongue a little to keep from whispering, “Slow down. Stay little.”

I love you, little one.

xo,

Mama

 

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