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  • Circle Therapy

    November 11, 2008

    The other day I got a Lillian Vernon catalogue in the mail. I think I ordered something from them fifteen years ago and I still get their catalogues. Lillian holds out a lot of hope for me. As do Harry and David. 

    Sean was sitting at the kitchen counter, so I plopped the catalogue down in front of him.  I gave him a pen and told him to circle the things he liked.  I used to do this with the J. C. Penney catalogues that my mother got in the mail.  I’d sit on the sofa and spend hours pretending I could order anything I wanted, all I had to do was circle it and it was mine.

    I’d circle everything from toys to clothes to appliances.  I never ever got anything from the J. C. Penney catalogue, but I have sweet memories rather than bitter about all that fruitless circling. For me, circling was an exercise in dreaming rather than coveting, possibilities rather than the limitations. 

    Sean got busy with that pen, and just like his mother, he circled just about everything, except “girl stuff” which he denounced as yucky. 

    Antique Daddy walked in the room and asked what we were doing.  I offered my best explanation but his puzzled expression told me he didn’t understand the value of circle therapy. 

    “Sean, you can’t circle everything,” he said as though logic were involved. 

    “Yes, I can,” he said. 

    “That’s right,” I agreed, “He can circle everything.  Circles are free.” 

     Dream big. Circle everything. Both are free.

    More Four. Please.

    November 6, 2008

    Yesterday afternoon, I heard a muffled scuffling banging sound coming from Sean’s room.   I somehow knew it was him hanging by one hand like an orangutan from the upper hang rod in his closet with the other hand blindly reaching, swiping and digging for something in the deep dark recesses of the closet.  I also knew that he was standing tip toe on one foot on a precariously positioned stool that was about to tip over while he balanced his other foot on the lower hang rod, all but knocking off the fall and winter clothes I had just organized and hung there the week before.

    I can’t really describe the sound to you because it’s like a dog whistle – only moms can hear it.  And when moms here this sound, their ears perk up and they think, “Rut-roh. Dats not good.”

    So I quickly dried my hands and dashed into his room where I found him in his closet hanging by one hand like an orangutan from the upper hang rod and desperately reaching for something buried in the back with the other hand.  Just like it sounded.

    “Dude, dude, dude,” I said as I pulled him off the home style uneven bars, “What are you doing?”

    “I’m looking for my pirate suit,” he said.

    I had in fact hung the pirate suit in the very back of the closet thinking he would forget all about it. It barely fit him when I bought it a month or two ago and it has since been washed and accidentally dried in the dryer.  Nonetheless, I pulled out the pirate suit and handed it to him.

    He quickly stripped down to his skivvies and wiggled into it.

    “Velcro me up matey! Will ‘ya?” he ordered, turning his back to me with his hands on his hips.

    “Aye aye Captain,” I said and then like a sales clerk in a bridal shop, I did my best to squeeze my too big customer into a too small costume, tucking and tugging, pulling and praying, coaxing the Velcro together with all my might.

    When he turned around, he was so blindingly cute that I lost my peripheral vision and the part of the brain that does math and reasoning.  I reached out to him and pulled him into my lap so we were nose to nose and was surprised when he willingly obliged. He smelled sweet and of cinnamon, like graham crackers.

    “Give your mommy a hug Captain,” I ordered him.

    He playfully pushed me to the ground and I pulled him into my chest and quickly hugged him before he tried to squiggle away.

    But he didn’t squiggle away.  Instead, he wrapped his arms around my neck, nestled into me and stayed there.

    So I laid there on the floor on my back with my arms wrapped around my 4-year-old pirate boy and watched the ceiling fan go round and round.  He twirled my hair and I ran my finger up and down the miraculous thing that is his spine and listened to him breathe. No words were spoken.  I did not want the moment to pass because I never know when it will be the last time before he will be too busy or too big to spontaneously snuggle with his mom on the floor.  Four has been sweet and funny and joyful beyond what should be legal.

    Five is on the horizon and I know it will bring its own brand of joy, but I would give just about anything for more four. Please.


    August 27, 2008

    One of the most delightful things about being the mother of a four-year-old is the opportunity to see the world through his eyes.

    The other day, Sean sat on a bar stool at the breakfast bar while I worked in the kitchen.  Seemingly out of the blue, he offered this observation:

    “Mommy, young skin is smooth and bright,” he said lightly rubbing his forearm. “But old skin is dark and bumpy and… fragile.”

    He looked up at me, into my face, as if to verify that he had been heard and understood.

    All I could do was look at him and sigh.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard skin described so eloquently.

    “Indeed Sean, that is true,” I told him looking down at my own arm which is not smooth and bright but not yet dark and bumpy.

    I spent the rest of the day thinking of how beautiful skin is in all seasons of life, whether it is smooth and bright or… fragile.

    School Cancellation Policy

    May 16, 2008

    We are not a co-sleeping family.  It’s just not what works for us.  But I will admit there are times when I think it would be so very nice if we were.  There are times when I still want to hold my baby close to my heart as I did when he was an infant.  I want to look into his sleeping face and listen to him breathe.  These sweet and uncomplicated days, they are waning.  Too quickly they fly away into the star encrusted galaxy, into forever and beyond. 


    Lately, Sean will wake up about 5:30 and come get in bed with us.  The gentle jingle jingle of Mr. Monkey announces the arrival of our visitor.  He tip toes to Antique Daddy’s side of the bed. Without a word, he throws a leg over and then clambers over him before wriggling down under the covers between us and falling back to sleep.  Shortly thereafter, I usually get up and enjoy that first cup of coffee and 30 minutes of a peaceful, sound-effects free house.


    Wednesday morning, I sat at my desk with my coffee and listened to the rain patter against the kitchen window as I worked on a writing project. When I looked up again, I was astonished to see that it was nearly 8am.  The house was still dark.  A storm grumbled quietly off in the distance.  Sean should be up by this time, eating breakfast and getting dressed.  We would be late for school.  Again.  I made my way to my bedroom to get him up and going.


    In a tangle of sheets and legs and arms, they were folded into the other, like an unopened flower.  I stood there for several minutes, watching them sleep, their breathing, synchronized and as steady and even as the rain that was falling against the windows.  I wondered if their dreams intersected in some unknown and secret place. I thought of how they are linked together for all eternity through me.


    I could not make myself disturb them.  I did not want to send this moment hurling off into the galaxy.


    There will be plenty of school days in his life, but the days when he can nestle into the protective curve of his daddy’s arm and dream little boy dreams are too few now.


    I backed out of the room and quietly shut the door.


    School was cancelled that day due to snuggling.

    Daily Reminders

    May 5, 2008

    At four and a half, Sean is getting to the age where his world is rapidly expanding.  Every day, it gets a little more crowded in his world, whereas before, it was just me. I was his whole world.  My starring role in his life is drawing nigh.  I know that.  That’s why I love those times when we are driving in the car.  If only for a few miles, it’s just the two of us.   Plus, he’s strapped in and can’t get away. 


    On the way to school on Friday morning, I looked in the rearview mirror at him.  He was unusually contemplative.  He was looking out the window, but at the same time, seemed to be lost in himself. So I seized the opportunity.


    “Sean, I love you so very much. Do you know that?” I asked him.


    “Yes, I already know that,” he sighed.  “Why do you tell me so much?”


    “Well two reasons,” I said.


    “First of all I don’t ever want you to forget.  And second of all, I need to tell you.  My heart just overflows with so much love for you that I have to let some out once in awhile.”


    “Your heart must really hold a lot,” he said. “Probably about 15 gallons.”


    “For you?  Way more than 15 gallons,” I said.


    “Do you love me as much water as there is in the ocean?”


    “Way more,” I said.


    “Oh. Well, you were right then,” he conceded, “That is a lot.”


    “Don’t forget that,” I said.


    “Okay.  You can remind me again tomorrow if you want.”


    “You got it,” I said.



    Every day.  Until my very last day.  With my very last breath.  I will remind you.


    * * *


    Other reminders:  You are loved, you are wanted, you were longed for, you are a blessing, you delight me, I’m glad I’m your mom, I like you, you are the apple of my eye, you are God’s unique creation, I enjoy your company…



    Pedaling Away From Me

    October 16, 2007

    Sean has a birthday coming up soon and his father and I have promised him a bicycle. So for the last month or so, every time we go to Wal-Mart, which is just about every day, we have to go to the bike department and test drive the various models.

    If you have spent any time in the Wal-Mart bicycle department, then you know that as well as having a few floor models “on the floor” they also display them by hanging them from the front tire by a hook. If you have a child, then you also know that the one bike they want to test drive is not on the floor, but hanging from a hook.

    Yesterday we were in Wal-Mart and we weren’t in a hurry, so when Sean asked me if I would get him a certain bike down from a hook, I agreed.

    Removing those little 20-pound bikes from their hooks is not as easy as it looks.

    In order to get the bike he wanted, I had to bend over slightly so as to not bump my head on the bike suspended directly above it. And then in some sort of Tom Cruise Mission Impossible style move, I had to delicately lift and turn the wheel just so at just the right angle at just the right moment in just the right sequence without gouging my eye out with the handle bar of the neighboring bike or knocking down the entire display of floor models like a line of dominos. Although that would have been a classic Antique Mommy moment. But the bike on the hook, it wouldn’t budge. It was like it had been super glued to the hook. So I did what I always do when something doesn’t work – I jiggled it and then I jiggled it harder.

    When it finally began to give, I straightened up just a bit so that I could raise it up and off the hook. And that’s when the strap of my backpack purse caught on a bicycle that was hanging behind me. And I was kind of stuck. I wasn’t exactly suspended, but I was on my tip toes and I was tethered and I kind of felt like a guy in a parachute caught in a tree. And I felt mighty ridiculous. And so I began praying. “Dear kind and merciful God, please, I beg of you, don’t let any of my neighbors or anyone I know be anywhere near the bicycle department right now. And also, please God, let the security cameras not be working. Thank you and Amen.”

    So then.

    I put the bike back on its hook and then I tried to reach around and unhook myself. After a good bit of flapping and twisting, it became apparent to me and the little boy who found the whole scene extreeeemely amusing, that I can no longer access that area between my shoulder blades as I could in days of yore and youth.

    Then in a move that normally should be reserved for someone wearing sequins and featured on Dancing with the Stars — and never by a mom in a Wal-Mart — I did a little shoulder shimmy and wiggled myself free of the backpack. Just like Houdini.

    Sean squealed and clapped his hands when I finally got his bike down and then he hopped on it and gleefully took a few wobbly laps around the bicycle aisle hollering for all the store to hear, “Look at me Mom! Look at me!”

    And the sight of that nearly four-year-old boy gleefully pedaling away from me, so happy and so proud to be riding a big bike, put an ostrich egg in my throat.  I stood in the bike department of Wal-Mart trying not to cry.  The journey of his life has begun and every day in some small way, he is pedaling away from me.

    When You’re Happy And You Know It

    July 18, 2007

    Antique Daddy has been in a bit of a blue funk for a few days, which is extremely rare for him.  That is one of the many things that I love about him — he is a ship on an even keel whereas I am a kayak easily given to spazzing out and flipping over and over and looking ridiculous. 

    After dinner we stood in the kitchen and I hugged him and asked him if he was still sad.

    Sean overheard this from across the room.  He stopped foraging through his box of Leggos and asked in a worried voice, “Daddy, are you sad?”

    Antique Daddy deftly deflected and said, “No Sean, I’m not sad.  Are you sad?”

    Sean said, “No, I’m happy. I have my life here.”

    Oh that it might always be so!

    Antique Daddy and I looked at each other and sighed.  When I grow up, I want to be as wise as a three-year-old.

    Contentment.  There is no greater blessing.


    Over The Rainbow

    July 13, 2007

    rainbowThe afternoon sun breached the narrow space between the window and the window shade, allowing a sunbeam through. It cut through the glass coffee table and spilled its spectrum of colors into a puddle on the floor.

    And that’s where I found the little boy. Lying on the living room floor in a stream of iridescent sunshine.

    “What are you doing in here?” I asked.

    “Oh, just soaking up the rainbow,” he said matter-of-factly. Sometimes, this boy, he is too wise for his years and it makes my heart stop.

    The laundry could wait. I set my laundry basket down and laid down beside him, nose-to-nose and tried to soak him up. He was the dream that I dared to dream so long ago.

    Somewhere over the rainbow
    Skies are blue,
    And the dreams that you dare to dream
    Really do come true.

    Today, I realized I had made it over the rainbow.

    Of Bears And Boys

    June 20, 2007

    One rainy afternoon last week, Sean and I were snuggled on the sofa together watching a show about bears on Animal Planet.  A young bear scaled a tree with enthusiasm if not grace.

    “Now why is that widdle bear not with his mommy?” he asked with concern.

    “Well, he is probably big enough to be by himself,” I assured him.  “He probably doesn’t need his mommy to look after him anymore.”

    He took a few seconds to consider this and then said in a low and worried voice, “I don’t ever want to be that big.”

    I took a few seconds to consider that and said, “Yeah.  Me neither.”

    He doesn’t know yet that someday he will itch and yearn to go off and discover the world on his own, that God builds bears and boys with this desire and that it will awaken in him at just the right time.

    I’m just not sure God has built me with the desire to let him go.
    Photo: For now, my cub and I climb trees together.

    Of Bears and Boys

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