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Morning time

The Bird gets up early, around five o’clock. If I could, I would stay in bed with her and cuddle and coo and wrap the blankets around our heads until big brother woke with the rising sun. But, this is the noisiest darn baby I have ever heard. She rarely cries, and when she does it comes out in short caw-like bursts, but she twists and groans and clicks and tweets and grunts and makes all kinds of sounds that aren’t fit for a baby. Pure animal. So, in order not to annoy and wake brother before the dawn, I wrap her up and snuggle her close and we exit the big bed and carefully descend the stairs.

In the mornings my little birdy likes to look up at me with her swollen sleepy eyes and she gets this big, sweet, open-mouth smile on her face. I feel like I’ve known this smile my entire life. I felt similarly with my Jude. I don’t know if it’s some kind of spirit inside of them and if we’ve all been connected before any of us could remember  or if it’s that they resided inside of me for nine months and some of them was left there forever.

Whatever it is, the chirpy bird and I sit downstairs in the dark, and sometimes she gets some special grandpa time where they sing together and dance, and sometimes it’s just her and me. When it’s just us I look at her and I can’t help it, the words “Princess baby” just come out of my mouth. I don’t know why. She’s not actually a princess and the way that she grunts and snorts and turns red in the face as she wriggles doesn’t exactly make her of the princess and the pea variety, but I can’t stop myself. Sometimes she will give me that open mouth grin, and move her shoulders up so her chubby face is even more covered in rolls and I just Loose. My. Shit.

“Oh my God. Princess Baby, Beautiful beautiful princess baby!” I squeal it, and then I kiss her cheeks and her tummy and her arms and I rub my nose against hers and smell her hair.

But, I guess that’s my right as a parent. How could I fight it?

Brokelynn

The small man and I made a trip to the pediatrician’s office a little while ago for his three year old check up. The nurse asked us the usual stream of questions; the ones about about his eating habits, how he speaks (or a better question would be if he ever stops), sleeping, if he puts on his own pants (which, ahem, he can…but normally doesn’t), and if he had an imaginary friend. Imaginary friend? Is this a milestone of childhood? I don’t ever recall having an imaginary friend. I remember imagining that my toys were friends, but they were tangible objects that I spoke to and cuddled and pretended were real. They weren’t a non-existent entity that I named and spoke to and spoke about. My Jude had always done the same, naming and speaking to his toys, but never had what would be considered an imaginary friend. This is what I told to the nurse and this is what she quickly typed into the computer and then never mentioned again. She didn’t seem too vexed by it, but I sort of kind of was. The small mister, who has hit every development goal spot on and whom I stare at in amazement as he recounts every detail of his day, and as he uses terms like, “Doomed” correctly, was maybe possibly not doing something that he maybe possibly should be doing.

And then, the very next day, Brokelynn showed up.

Brokelynn is five then one then three. We don’t know what his hair looks like or his face, or even how tall he is. I don’t pry. Brokelynn became an inhabitant of our household after the new babe showed up, and then after the trauma of a doctors trip that included three shots. I assumed that Brokelynn would become the whipping boy. Spilled juice and torn paper and snips out of the rug could all fall on Brokelynn. I assumed that this was what imaginary friends were for. Instead, when nuts or sprinkles or something else messy ended up on the floor I jokeingly turned to the small man and asked, “Did Brokelynn do this?”, and he replied, “No, I did.”

Instead, Brokelynn exists as a kind of fair-weather friend. He shows up sometimes when we get snacks. Jude pours out juice and takes an extra cup, “For Brokelynn”. In the morning Brokelynn sometimes walks out of dreams. Sometimes he joins us for a swim. But mostly he just kind of hovers around, someone that exists and doesn’t exist and who I thought would mean more than he seems to mean.

Sometimes, all of the time, I’m sure that Brokelynn exists because Delila exists. It is at these moments that I close my eyes and in my mind the words, “What have I done what have I done what have I done” echo like rain drops. It is not that Brokelynn is bad, or even abnormal, obviously he is a part of childhood that is so normal that he is included in the three year old check-up, but he is also a very viable mark of a very huge disruption in my three year olds life. I think of us before. Our cuddle time and our walks and the talks we had that were so much more deep and important that all the talks I’ve ever had before him, and then I look down at the sweet little person in my arms, who I can’t seem to stop looking at and smiling at and cuddling, and know that those moments will never be the same.

I know in some ways that a sibling is a wonderful asset to a single child. But, I’ve never been an only child. All I ever knew was having an older sister, having someone. Most of the time I think that it’s okay. The small man seems happy, he wants to hold the baby and to kiss her and is interested in the things she does. But then, when we snuggle up in the big bed at night, things are different. The small new baby squirms and squiggles, and even though I know that she’s okay some instinct inside of me says that I need to pull her in close and pat her back and feed her until she’s calm and content and sleeping. At this time I turn, and my back is to the little man and he’s sort of alone there when once not too long ago he was the one in my arms that I was cuddling to sleep. And sometimes he cries and yells. Sometimes he gets out of bed and plays and jumps and wakes everyone up and I cry and yell. But then there are the sometimes that I whisper to him, “Come snuggle with us” and he lies on the other side of Delila, so that we’re kind of this little family sandwich with the baby between us, and then he wraps his arms around her so that he can grasp on to me, and he kisses her, and he whispers back, “I love you mommy, so much.”

And then I close my eyes and I think, “Maybe it will be okay, Maybe it will all be okay.”

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Delila

Surprise Surprise Starlight Eyes

That up there is my little internet secret, making her second debut, the first being her round little face’s appearance on Facebook.

Some people may be a little confused as to why I never officially announced her, why my rounded belly and widened hips never showed up on their news feed, or why the first pictures of her, nestled inside of my womb were never proudly displayed. I’ll be honest, I’m not exactly sure. My first pregnancy was so public. I displayed my growing belly, my ultrasound pictures, the name my partner and I picked, love songs to my little boy. As I contemplated all of this it just felt too personal. This was mine, she was mine, and as many feelings I may have hurt by deciding not to share, I wanted to keep the little ball of human safe and secret and hidden deep inside of me.

As a result of my secrecy, or maybe just because she was tiny and petite inside of me and didn’t begin to show herself until she was nearly fully formed, I felt like maybe she didn’t exist outside of my body and maybe I didn’t exist outside of housing her. I tried to remember how I felt through my pregnancy with my sweet boy, how I felt not myself, full and round and exposed in public. This wasn’t the same. I forgot that the roundness of my body existed and along with it forgot that a tiny person would soon be naked and squawking her way into this world. I went where I needed to go and did what I needed to do and carted the Jude bug around. Squawking seemed appropriate, as her little body felt like wings that flapped and shifted and settled into my hips. The little Wren.

Her birth was nearly as secret as her formation. It happened early Tuesday morning, 1:35 am August 21st, nine days before her expected due date. It seemed like something was tight inside of me, but as I waited and snuggled the wee boy I figured I had hours left for the tightening to progress. I ran a bath and laid down in it. When I was in labor with the boy everything I read told me that water would sooth my body and the baby inside of it. When I was in labor with the boy this was not true. This time as soon as I laid myself down something that felt like the word calm surrounded me and something that sounded like thunder cracked outside. As the rain came down I wrapped around the tight little ball of my body and talked to the baby, “Little birdy, together, we’ll do this together”. By the time I realized this was “labor for real” I had about enough time to cry out to my father, hop in the car, and crawl through the emergency room door before the nurse on call delivered my little, surprisingly quiet, bird. At six lbs and 5 oz she seemed like a dream with tiny little feet that I couldn’t help but trace over and over.

So, no epidural this time either. Go figure.

Our little family is settling in together. The small mister needs maybe a little time to adjust, but that’s okay, maybe I do too. Our little bird is just as sweet and chirpy as she was in the womb.

Us

Laughter

“Don’t you ever start laughing for no reason and you just can’t stop?”Image

My sister said this to me the night before we crashed in Mexico. The night before she died. That was four years ago today and we were dressed in heels and black dresses and we were stopped on the stairs before the dinning room. The carpet was some kind of black background with little bright spots and I remember staring at her and staring at the carpet and asking what she was doing. I remember I was a little annoyed. I was a little annoyed because I was hungry and I was in heels that were tight and wobbly and I looked at her and she was so happy. She was so happy and she wasn’t afraid to be happy and I was…not. I remember that I wish I could hold her hand and laugh with her and be five again so that we could jump down the stairs and climb back up to the top and not wear heels or red lipstick.

Of course I wish I could do that now, too. I don’t usually wear heels anymore, and I only wear red lipstick because I like the way it makes my lips look and the wee person thinks it’s funny. The difference is, even though I always have a sadness that has settled somewhere deep and in my hips and back and sometimes spreads up to my heart and brain at night, I am happy. For the four years that I haven’t had my sister, I have had my Jude for three.

Maybe it’s him, and the way that I can be young and silly and talk to him like a baby adult and he can give me answers like a baby adult. Or maybe it’s the fact that I had a reason to run away and abandon who I was and become someone new and adult like. Or maybe that now I understand what it means to love and to hold on and to have an expiration date on the hugs and the kisses and the smell of people’s hair.

Maybe it’s all of that.

I don’t think that I have laughed and laughed and laughed for no reason like we used to. The kind where we looked at each other and the laughs wouldn’t stop and we had to go out of the room and cry and laugh and sit with our knees tucked up. I don’t think I’ve done that. But I have had something start in me that was something like a giggle, and that grew into a laugh that crinkled my eyes and came out in short little breaths.

Crochet

I have been crocheting a lot lately. And by a lot I mean obsessively, unceasingly, up all night with balls of yarn and crochet hooks inhabiting the space of my bed that used to hold my body. I recently created a little dress whose skirt was comprised entirely of the Solomon’s knot. As I was looping and yarning over and double crocheting and half double crocheting my way through the skirt of this dress the words on the website that taught me how to complete this dress continuously flashed over my brain. “Sometimes call the lover’s knot”. The lover’s knot. It seemed appropriate, the way that the yarn moved and curved and knotted in and out and over my fingers and lay in a heap in my lap. But then, as the wee hours of morning approached, I thought about how nearly every aspect of the crochet world seems like lover’s knots; from the half double crochet to the simple slip stitch, which pulls a single loop up and through your stitch to bring together your two sides. it seemed to me that secretly, and not so secretly, all of us crocheters are whispering and crying and pulling tight our skeens of yarn as we live out our fantasies through spider web afghans and tiny whimsical hats. Or maybe that’s just me.

I spent last week co-teaching a writing workshop for teens at UCF. I’ll be honest when I say that I was scared senseless going into that classroom. I’ll be honest when I say I crocheted an entire dress and a tiny headband the night before. I’ll be honest when I say it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time. Whenever I’m around amazing and talented young people I try to think of what I was like at that age. There was no way that I was so confident, so talented, so…mature? Is mature the right word? They said things like, “I used to be mean, judgmental, afraid, afraid to love who I wanted to love”, and all I could think was, “Did I even realize I was those things at thirteen? Did I ever want anything more than to just be liked by someone? Anyone?”. It amazed me. It amazed me more when they said, “I don’t want to be like that anymore. I’m not going to be like that anymore.”

Young people are awesome.

In other news, I’m in Tennessee in a cabin right now. The cicadas, or some other chirpy melodic bug, are deafening when I step out onto the balcony, which looks out over the mountains. I have seen three bears, one eating trash and close enough to make me uncomfortable, many grazing deer, and many turkeys. I have hiked to a waterfall. I have taken the wee person to throw rocks into a stream. I have seen a salamander. I leave tomorrow and I feel like I’m walking away from home.

Also:

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The Caterpillar

Tonight the little person and I are learning about proportions and measuring and chemical reactions via the wide and wonderful world of baking. Sort of, kind of. Really we just cut up some break and bake cookies and popped them into the oven. While we waited we whipped up the second batch of home made pretzels of the week. If I’m honest, the babe was much more interested in lining the measuring spoons up from biggest to smallest, explaining to me that one was the mommy, the daddy, the sister, the cousin, the grandma, the grandpa, the granny, the Ty Ty, than he was in the science behind the yeast in the dough fermenting to cause it to rise. He used the spoons to carve little faces and canyons into the dough and to make it into volcanoes. I rolled the dough between my finger tips and wrapped it into pretzel shapes while the bitty person dug through the utensils drawer to find the pointiest items to wave in front of his face and terrify me with.

This night of baking felt so much like all my other nights and days and weeks and years now of parenting. I always have this master plan of perfect parenthood, and always the little person decides what’s more fun and does that along with the master plan and beside the master plan and on top of it too. If I’m honest, it makes it more fun. If I’m honest his independence and creativity fills me with this feeling that is kind of like pride and kind of like terror. Parenting, right?

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We also spent the weekend over at Lucas Nursery, I had the idea that we could purchase one of the caterpillars they have there, take him home, and Jude could watch it turn into a butterfly. Biology! When we got there, Jude in true fashion spent most of his time collecting gravel and putting it into a can to shake and terrorize the other horitculture shoppers while he ran in circles around the citrus trees. The nursery turned out to have zero caterpillars, all sold out to other mothers and teachers in gleeful anticipation of the painted lady butterflies that they would harbor. Luckily, we spotted a juicy green guy on the tomato plants upon entering, and in desperation clipped the stalk that he was on, along with a tomato or two, and high-tailed it to the car.

It turns out that this caterpillar is called a tomato hornworm. It also turns out that this guy turns into a marvelous moth, about as juicy as the pupa stage, and is commonly called the “hawkmoth”. Fancy that. I admit that I was disappointed at this discovery. I looked at the pillar differently. I scowled at it. Maybe it was some innate human repulsion over the night winged beast, maybe it was disappointment that the hawkmoth’s beauty lies in it’s thick body, that looks almost as if it’s covered by birds feathers, rather than the ornate and flashy colors of the butterfly, maybe it’s society. I don’t know. Now the green beast circles it’s enclosure in some strange gut sloshing dance and I watch it with a kind of horrified awe. I can only hope that the small person finds glee in his transformation and is not disappointed in his lack of pomp.Image

A weekend full

This weekend was filled nearly to bursting. My first stop was a trip to Cocoa beach with my lovely Jessie to spend a day and a night with my Aunt and my sweet cousin. We drove for an hour and a half, over thin bridges that seemed to stretch up and up and up, unending, where the water was deep and dark below. When I was little I used to dream that I was in the car with my parents and as we crossed the bridge it would spiral upwards and dump us out of the car so that I would have to grasp the concrete with my fingertips to keep from falling. My father had the same ones, and when we would drive over in waking life I would close my eyes and he would hold his breath. This time I looked out over the horizon and into the clouds and mostly straight ahead until we hit even ground. The babe fell asleep on the way, and when we emerged we were all covered in a thin, or not so thin, sheen of sweat from riding in my 1990 volvo, which lacks air conditioning or a speedometer or a gas gauge. I pulled the sleepy guy from the back like a butterball turkey, or like I was a doctor pulling him into life, or like I was a mom pulling a very sweaty toddler from the back seat of a packed sedan, and side saddled him to trot over the boardwalk and to the water. I think we were all pretty relieved to sink our toes into the sand, and to make a silly dolphin, and even to sit in the water and let it wash over our legs.

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We held hands.

I also got to spend time with my cousin, who I don’t see nearly enough. She reminded me that even though she’s a small girl and her age gives her almost no voice in society, that inside of her lives someone that is brave and beautiful and creative. Her middle school is nothing like my middle school, and her experiences aren’t the same ones I had, but it still made me smile and cry a little to remember what that time of life felt like. I don’t think I mentioned it here, but the past four months I’ve spent working with middle school students on writing workshops. I’ll write some more about that later, but I want to tell these kids the same things I want to tell my cousin: That people will say you’re too young to matter, that you are too young to have an opinion or know what you want, but that’s not true. What is true is that you are young and strong and full of opportunity and hope. 11 to 15 is hard, probably some of the hardest years that life will bring you and peers are harsh and adults are harsh and your body is harsh, but the age is beautiful as well. It’s where you start to find out what it means to fall in love, and what it means to hate, and to find beauty in places that you didn’t expect it. It’s a time where you can discover a body that was hidden under years and years of someone elses care, and a time where you can take charge of you, to smile, to take the time to be in those “awkward teen years”.

We headed back early on Sunday. The sister friend had a brunch to attend, and I went to be with the baby’s daddy to mourn and celebrate the life of his sister. This part was about as nice and as heartbreaking as I thought it would be. The baby’s daddy’s whole family came in, minus two, which is still a whole lot. He’s the youngest of eight and they’re all sort of spread out, so when they get together it’s a kind of wonderful affair. They’re all funny, beautiful, full of laughter. None of them seem to take themselves or life even, too seriously. The baby’s daddy seemed happy around them, and it was funny to see him there, because he was the quietest and the biggest of them all. The memorial itself was beautiful. It took place in a secret A-line church that overlooked a lake. The sunlight shone in through the stained glass and made rainbows on the floor that the sweet babe made sure to grasp at and stomp on. The memorial meant more than a memorial to me, and I’m not sure how to put it into words, but it was something more, something like a call to go outside and to dance and to hold hands again. Something like that.

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