I’m stunned at every birthday. It all just races by.
For last year’s birthday we planned to take them up north for a long weekend away, including a stay at an indoor water park that they love, but we scheduled it several weeks out from their birthday and by the time the date arrived we were already in lockdown and had to cancel. They haven’t forgotten and still ask when we’ll finally be able to fulfil that promise, so for their birthday this year we really wanted to be able to do something special. I told them weeks earlier that we could take them skiing for the first time if they wanted to, and they were thrilled. Vivienne in particular has felt a certain injustice every time I leave to ski with only Jonah. But as the week approached the weather was warm and the snow was melting and sloppy and things began to look uncertain. We scrambled to find something different at the last minute, thinking that horseback riding might be an excellent alternative. The Saturday morning before their birthday though, we decided to stick with the plan to ski, 45 degrees or not.
I’ve been feeling more grinchy than usual this season and I’m not really sure why; I love Christmas. Last year I remember feeling very on top of all of my prep: I had ample gift ideas for everyone, some of my shopping was done and my Christmas cards were ready to mail by Thanksgiving weekend. This year I feel very behind the curve despite having put up our tree on November 27th. I’ve felt guilty and overwhelmed by the things I have yet to do, and a part of me feels like there’s no good excuse. It’s not as if we’ve been busy going anywhere or doing anything. Kristin wisely pointed out that I also have absolutely no alone time, and that puts a serious crimp in my ability to think and plan and feel inspired. I put the lights up on the roofline in early November because it was warm out, but somehow it still feels like I’m moving through something viscous.
Thinking about everything I have yet to do has felt overwhelming rather than exciting. Vivienne has been dying to bake cookies and as we approached this weekend (when I’d promised to do it) it just felt like a messy chore on my to-do list rather than a fun seasonal tradition. Then I felt guilty and awful for feeling that way and the spiral deepened.
He’s been counting down the days for ages, all three of them have, maybe because a birthday feels so different than the every-day-is-the-sameness that COVID life brings. A week or two ago he said, “I’ll try to sleep in on my birthday so that you have time to set up.” Set up? Birthdays aren’t usually something that I go overboard about, even though emotionally they mean a great deal. Maybe it’s because I always find myself greiving a little, wishing they’d stay small for so much longer.
I take their pictures because I don’t want to forget all of the ways that they are that will soon become were. It happens so slowly that we hardly notice it, until I look at a photograph from a year ago and find myself shocked by what babies they were. So slowly and yet so very quickly. Time bends and warps in parenthood. I don’t know how he can possibly be eight.
When we were on vacation in Clark Lake my sister taught me how to take beautiful long-exposure sparkler photos. Somehow I’d never quite figured it out despite the hundreds of sparklers we’ve waved through the night air. On that trip we also learned our school district’s official options for students and began to weigh the pros and cons of each. No matter which option we chose we would have a minimum of nine weeks of fully virtual school in our future, possibly more. Before the week was out I had a spark of inspiration for another long-exposure photo I wanted to take: I imagined myself sitting at the table in the mudroom where I work, this time with laptops and school supplies strewn about, with the kids moving about me as they might on any given day, blurs of motion and activity while I try (often in vain) to focus.
Last weekend I went out to dinner with friends and we spent all of Sunday afternoon and evening at the home of more friends. Sometime between then and last Wednesday or Thursday everything changed. The governor announced late Thursday night that Michigan schools would be closed for three weeks (four, if you count spring break) starting the following Monday, and Kristin and I began to realize that the wave of “social distancing” (which I was texting friends to try to comprehend just a day or two earlier) was upon us.
So on Saturday we went into hibernation. We woke up debating whether it was OK to take Jonah to karate before learning that it was closed (we’d already decided that gymnastics for the twins was off the table – too crowded). We began exchanging activity and home school ideas with friends via text and did our best to dive into this new reality. The good news is that we’re mostly introverts in this family, so keeping to ourselves on the weekends rarely bothers us. So here’s lockdown weekend #1, a photo essay: Continue reading →
Today is my birthday, and Jonah actually turned seven back in November, but at least once a year I like to take time to record who each child is in this moment. This seems as good a time as any to capture some thoughts on the boy who made me a mama.
I worked from home today, which technically I suppose I do every weekday, but what I mean is that I worked from my actual house instead of my parents’ house – the place I usually refer to as my summer office. I stayed home because Kristin was speaking on an education panel up in Lansing this morning. Maybe it was because I was getting a glimpse of the kids’ lazy summer days that I normally miss, or maybe it was because it’s August and my fear of not squeezing in enough special moments before school starts is creeping in, or maybe it’s because I have to leave for New York this Sunday, but I felt a huge sense of longing and sentimentality all day. I just wanted to sweep them onto my lap and give them one more hug and wander outside to watch them lolling on the tree swing. Today I wished that I could be a stay at home mom, at least for a little while. It feels so unfair some days to miss so much of what really matters. Continue reading →
I woke up with a summer cold last Friday and knew that it had the potential to sabotage the weekend. We didn’t have much in the way of plans, which I suppose was good, but I crave that family time and the opportunity to make magic together. It was the solstice, and we’d talked about heading out to Virtue Cider in Fenville and then catching the sunset over Lake Michigan with some family friends. Fortunately my germs didn’t sway their dedication to the plan, and I figured it might be my best chance to make something of the weekend in case I felt worse in the coming days.
The kids ran wild together, discovering trails (full of poison ivy!) we didn’t know were there, chasing chickens, flipping over in hammocks and just enjoying the expansive surroundings.
We adore these friends, and enjoyed the snippets of conversation that we were able to squeeze in as much as the kids enjoyed their wild freedom Continue reading →
I’ve never been a runner. I played a lot of sports growing up, mostly with an overwhelming lack of enthusiasm, and the one through-line is that I hated running of all kinds. I can remember the side aches, meandering my way through the one mile “run” in middle school gym class, dreading running as a punishment during every sports practice. Once I was in college I eventually decided to try to get in good enough shape to run a 5K, and I did, and that was enough for me. I’m someone who goes to the gym and does cardio but long stretches of running have never factored in heavily. Continue reading →
As I typed the title to this post I paused for a moment and wondered when (assuming it’s inevitable) Jude and Vivienne will object to being referred to as a collective noun. They have such an incredible bond; both would quickly name the other as best friend. I hope that they’re always that way. Continue reading →