Grow Up.

I used to be so afraid of my kids growing up. Getting bigger. Losing this baby to a replacement “big kid” and one day a teenager then finally an adult.

It broke my heart to know that one day, Brooks won’t sneak out of his bed and crawl into mine. Just to sleep holding my hand. Well, at least without it being creepy.

That one day my house will not be covered in perfect rows of cars. And that without those cars, I won’t see Lucas in every space I walk in to. I’ll miss that for sure. 

And Roman. I have a feeling that the teenage years with this little one are going to be exhausting. And when she has a boyfriend and sneaks out of the house to make out with him in the car. And the cops find her. And they call us in the middle of the night. And she slams the door in my face. While she screams,

“You guys are ruining my life!”

(oh wait, that was Dave and me in high school… But it’s coming. Karma’s a bitch like that.)

Dave and I will remember how she slept with her hand in his beard just to know he was there. And how she would grab my cheeks and pull my face to hers and say,

“MOMMMEEE”

No doubt, we’ll miss that.

But lately, I have been excited for this future of mine. I love this new stage. This stage of  “kid”. It’s great. And fun. And my dreams of future snowboarding adventures. Of Kindergarten. And camping. And friends. And sleepovers. And birthdays. And parties.

I’m excited.

I was just thinking yesterday, how I missed little baby Brooks. How he would giggle. How he would play hide and seek by burying his head in a pillow. But now. But now he belly laughs. And hides so well during hide and seek that I have found myself peeking while I count to ten just because I don’t want to lose him.  And I was thinking that I wouldn’t trade this almost five year old for one second of a cuddle with the swaddled baby version of him.

So what was I holding on to? What was I so afraid to lose?

I have started to LOVE that my kids are getting older. Each stage is better than the one before. And I LOVE that they all walk now. And run. And play. I love that they all talk, joke, and try new things.

I love their minds. The way they think. I love the way they grow. There is nothing in the past I would want back in trade for what I have now. The past is so incredible to look back on. But the future is so bright. And exciting.

So grow my littles. Just Grow. Grow tall. And strong. And brave. And UP. Yes, my loves, even grow up.

Ciao! Girl

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This Mountain Called Life

Deep sigh. Finally, I am here. With the quiet of my own head. My own thoughts. It’s been a while since I have found myself in a coffee shop. Away from the busy of my life. Alone with the blinking cursor of my laptop.

Deep sigh. 

I haven’t had time for this piece of me lately. Life has been… exhausting. And hard. And overwhelming at times. And when I let this place go. And find myself in a place of pushing these feelings — which flow so easily out on this laptop — down deeper and deeper.  I stuff one post on top of another deep in my heart. And I ultimately just don’t go there. I just let it be buried.

In these times, I just put my head down and climb.

And I keep climbing this mountain called life. This mountain called parenting.

I just weather this storm and hope that somewhere on this journey the climb won’t be so steep. That I might stumble across a path that someone has walked before me. That I might find an easier way. Or a helping hand. Or I don’t know… anything. Anything to make it not so hard. Not so tiring.

And that is where I have been. Fucking climbing. Without a rope. On the edge of a cliff. And hanging on with my fingertips. I know, I know, whoa is me — right?

But now? In this exact moment? I am sitting here. On the other side. And I am not sure what part of me to let out first.

Asthma. Sickness. Metapneumovirus (don’t worry, I had no idea what this was either). Kindergarten Registration. Moving. Sensory Processing Disorder. Birthdays. Holidays. Gallstones. Migraines. That time I forgot to do Valentines with Brooks for his class party. You know. Mom of the year stuff. 

(proceed to bang head on keyboard.) 

I guess I’ll start with My girl.

There is something about this girl of mine. Miss Roman. From the moment I found out I was pregnant with her. She started changing me. Challenging me. Exposing this part of my heart that I didn’t know was there. A part of my being that — without even knowing — so desperately needed to be changed. A part of me that doubted God. His goodness. His power in this world. His plan. Dare I say, His existence at all. Then came Roman. Just continually shining light on that for me. She has from the beginning.

It’s like I can’t hear the Lord when he is speaking to me. Just to me. But when he uses her. When I see her. I see HIM. I don’t know how to describe it. But she’s that. And I don’t know if there’s any one thing or one person that could be more important than that.

This last month, She got sick. With a virus. And it wasn’t long before I knew her asthma was out of control.  She breathes too fast. Too hard. And too shallow. And that cough. I hear it in my sleep sometimes. That cough that can only mean one thing. Asthma. And this virus alone was wicked. Combine that with asthma and it was devastating. A quick ER trip turned into a week on the pulmonary floor at Children’s Hospital. Long story short, we went from MetaPneumoVirus to Asthma to Pneumonia with double ear infections. And I watched her fight to breathe. I watched her almost give up. I watched her lay still as nurses attatched cords and monitors to her. I watched her lungs be suctioned more times than any mother should have to endure. I watched her oxygen numbers grow and fall in some sick mind game. And finally, I listened as the doctors explained to me all the medicine she was on. And that still the virus was taking over. That this was up to her now.

“She has to fight.”

But she wasn’t. And that was the hardest part. Day after day in the hospital, she was getting worse. Where was my fighter? She’s a bitch. I mean really. She is such a bitch. She runs this family. She gets her way at all times. She insists things be her way. Always. Because she is just…such a bitch. Really. And what bitch isn’t a fighter? Even on the small things. She fights. On the big things? Get out of her way.

So naturally, I held on to my beliefs that she’s got this. And for a majority of my stay there, I just wanted to get home. To get out of the hospital. It all had just felt like run-of-the-mill asthma stuff. Not serious. Not serious serious. I wanted to get back to my boys. I missed them. Ohhh How I Missed Them.

My mom thinks worst-case scenario. At all times. She asks herself daily,

“What’s the worst-case scenario? Can I live with that?”

All her decisions stem somewhere from that point. My dad is a boy scout through and through. And that boy scouts motto,

“Be prepared”

is abided by in his life in every way shape and form. He is always prepared. Always. Emotionally. Spiritually. Physically. He is prepared.

So that’s how I was raised. Some strange mix of “Can I live with the worst-case scenario?” and “Be prepared…for the worst-case scenario.” And well, it’s just dawning on me why I used to live with anxiety. Why I would live my life at all times expecting the worst-case scenario. Or anxiously awaiting and preparing for the worst-case scenario. I get it now. 

It took a combination of medicine, therapy, and some tough lessons about control to let it go. And that’s not a critique on that mindset. It works really well for both of my parents. It just finally dawned on me that it did not work for me. It scared me. Like, debilitatingly scared me. But then here I go. Doing what every kid does when they break away from the mindset of their parents. I’ve swung the pendulum. All the way to the other end.

I don’t anticipate bad things happening. I don’t think about them. I don’t plan for them. I am caught off guard by them. And you know what? I like it that way. I make it that way.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not an idiot. I don’t live recklessly. I am not blind to the bad that this world has to offer. I see it. I feel it. I just don’t live in it when I am not forced to. I just don’t rest in that place of “bad things happen”. I don’t take a little piece of bad and make it horrible. I actually fight that urge. To take a headache to “I must have a brain tumor.” Or, to take a bad day to “my life sucks.” I fight that urge with everything in my being. 

So there I was — in a hospital bed next to My girl — fighting that urge day in and day out. Until I couldn’t run from it anymore. And I held my baby in my arms. And watched her blink at me. With shallow breath. A simple shell of that bitch I loved. And my world crashed down on me. And I guess I got what I wanted. I was caught off guard by the bad things that can happen.

I called Dave. I was sobbing before he even answered the phone. I remember him just yelling helplessly in the phone.

“WHAT? WHAT? WHAT IS GOING ON?”

He was crying before I could even say anything. I didn’t know what to say. 

“Tell me she is ok. IS SHE OK? OE IS SHE OK?!”

“Yes.”

That is all I could get out. Followed by…

“I just don’t want her to die.”

Without knowing why I was crying, what the doctors were saying, or what brought on this sudden emotion he replied,

“Me too baby.”

That’s about all he got out. He pressed further and I told him what the doctors had said. That it was up to her now. That this battle wouldn’t be won without a fight.

And he started praying on the phone. I closed my eyes. For the first time in days I wasn’t staring at her. And I listened to Dave choke out a prayer. I don’t even know what he said (Something along the lines of Please Lord, we need more time with her.) We’d tossed it up to the Lord and an 18 month old. The Lord, who’s plan you have no control over. And an 18 month old who, well… is an 18 month old. I mean, I am a Christian but I completely understand why people who aren’t look at us like we’re insane. But you know what? I did feel better. And in that moment of prayer I did feel Him.

knock.knock. 

“Hey It’s Kelsey”

Kelsey was our nurse. She had seen us through our darkest hour — her shift was ending. And as the door swung open. I quickly hung up on Dave.  

I hid back my emotions for a split second and then — who was I kidding? —  I started crying again.

“I just don’t want her to die.” “I just don’t want her to die.” “I just don’t want her to die.”

Kelsey came over and adjusted the mask on Roman’s face. And she held her little hand. I watched her thumb run across the top of Roman’s hand.

“It just takes time to fight off the virus. She can do it. It’s not a fight without a struggle.”

I held onto her words. I held onto our prayers. I didn’t focus on the negative — the worst-case scenario. I focused on the present. The hope. The fight.  And she did do it. Slowly but surely. She fought. She fought like hell. She got stronger. And better. And little by little they turned her oxygen and her pressure flow down. And before I had time to process it, we were home again. Changed. With a renewed faith in prayer, In God, In the goodness of people that carried my little family through this. In my newfound outlook on life. And most of all, a renewed faith in this little girl.

She’s changed me from day one. And she just keeps on doing it. Teaching me. Guiding me. Bettering me. I don’t know if by societal standards she is going to do “big things” in this world. But man, she does big things for my world.

Ciao! Girl

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Prepared Hearts

Today was Grandparents Day at school. Brooks was definitely not short on love today. He was surrounded by his grandparents as he showed off his classroom and talked about what he was thankful for. He was loved well today. And my heart was so full watching the pride he had in this moment.

Just last week, we had parent teacher conferences for Brooks. And in the middle of talking about letters, sounds, colors and numbers. Miss Maggie reminded me of the little boy that started at this little Christian school a year and a half ago. A little three year old. That had never left his momma. Scared and Cautious. A three year old that hurt himself on the wiggly wiggly bridge at preschool orientation. And that wiggly bridge was all it took. He was terrified to ever go back.

“Just look how far he has come.”

Miss Maggie pointed out.

Her comment stuck with me watching him today. I remember that little boy. The one who was overwhelmed by school and the playground bridge.

Dave and I would talk and talk. Do we send him? Do we make him go? Do we just tell him to man up?

And then we decided to prepare him. To give him the tools for success.

It was our first taste of holding these little hands through life. We drove to the school. Sunday afternoon. School started on Monday. We parked outside the big tall chain-link fence. And we talked to Brooks about that big scary playground. Then we took a shot in the dark. We called the school. Maybe someone would answer? Let us in? 

And the principal answered.

“Oh hey. Um. This is Dave. Dave Soderberg. My son is uh, starting school. Well, preschool, tomorrow. In Mrs. Herrema’s class. He uh, fell off a bridge on the playground at orientation on Friday. And I was wondering… wondering if there is any way I can just get him on that playground. Teach him how to get accross that bridge. Is there, uh, any way to get on to the playground?”

Dave NEVER sounds flustered. But he did here.

Those questions racing through our heads. Are we doing the right thing here? Is he going to think we are crazy? Those parents? That can’t let go? The ones that cater to their kids every whim? 

Our questions were interrupted by…

“Sure. Sounds great. I’ll meet you at the front door.”

Dave walked around the front of the building with my little one and disappeared into the school.  I sat in the car with two sleeping babies. And then I watched the three of them appear on the playground.

Brooks timid. Hiding behind his daddy.

Dave. Strong and sure — the man I married. Smiling. Talking to to the principal. Introducing that amazing little boy to his new principal.

And then Dave swooped Brooks up. Set him up on his shoulders. And took off running toward the playground.

His excitement was infectious. And I watched my two boys run around that playground. Dave guiding Brooks. Teaching him where to hold on to get across that wiggly bridge. Guiding his steps with his hands. Teaching him with his words. Showing him the ropes of his new school.

Brooks came running back to the car. Now completely excited for school. A change in heart and spirit. His little heart felt safe and prepared. And Monday morning was met with nothing less. And as he disappeared into his class that very first morning, he whispered in my ear,

“And, Mom. I won’t forget to hold on to the magic spot on the wiggly bridge.”

As experienced humans, It’s so easy for us to prepare our own hearts. We guard our souls, our spirits. We protect our feelings and emotions. We build walls. Defenses against our enemies. We give ourselves pep talks. Mantras to follow. To live by. Scripture to dwell on. Prayer. Meditation. Whatever it is.

We protect our hearts.

Almost instinctually. Unintentionally.

But as parents. We have to protect our little’s hearts. Fiercely.  Intentionally. Because they don’t protect themselves from the world the way we adults do. We learned how to prepare our hearts. We learned to turn to each other. We learned to turn to our spouse. To God.

I am just now learning how to prepare and teach these little hearts for this life.

I believe in setting these kids up for success. Sadly, something that a lot of mothers and fathers don’t do enough of. Those extra steps to set these kids up for genuine success.  Independent success.  The kind of success that they earn all on their own.  Sometimes, I helicopter parent these kids. Mostly, I step in too soon to give them that success. I want it so badly for them. Especially Lucas. And then I see it, that look in their blue eyes. That look that tells me that I stole that moment from them. That ownership of success. And so I pull back. Learn to prepare them instead. And give them every single tool they may ever need to build a beautiful life. And I have to let them use those tools. On their own.

I have to let them build their own life. Not a life I built.

And that is hard. Really hard. Especially in the big stuff, like school. It is hard to let them do it on their own. But even in the small stuff. A puzzle piece that Lucas has turned upside-down. I just want to flip it over in his little hand. I want to reach over and place that piece in the missing spot for him. But I don’t. I coach him. I teach him. I remind him of the tools he has in that mythological toolbox of his. And I let him figure it out. And even when he asks for help. I am mindful of what kind of help he needs. And though initially I’d wanted to grab that last piece of the puzzle and put it in the spot for him. I don’t. I guide him in flipping that piece over. I use my words to help him understand lining up the picture. And I set the piece right next to the spot. I let him nudge it in. Let his little fingers feel that piece click into place. Let him own that puzzle. He needs it way more than I do. That puzzle means very little to me. It means a lot to a little boy who just learned how to do puzzles.

And Brooks. He needed that success on the playground. On his own. Because his daddy was not going to be there next time to hold his hands across that bridge. That in itself, is the scariest part of letting go. Knowing we wont be there holding his heart. But his daddy’s words. His daddy’s teachings. His daddy’s confidence in him. That was going with him. And those tools that we just taught him how to use. They gave him exactly what he needed to get across that bridge. And school? Turns out that school is this boy’s heart and soul. He loves it oh so much.

And to think my first instinct was that he wasn’t ready because he didn’t initially want to do it.

I believe in this way of parenting toddlers. I believe in holding their hands through this big scary world. Because by riding that line of holding their hands just enough, you’re able to acknowledge to them that this world is big and scary. But that it only appears that way. And that it’s navigable — and incredibly enjoyable. You first validate their feelings. And then provide every tool imaginable to get through it.

And sure, this writing is probably coming off as a humble brag. But the truth of the matter is that I usually don’t do it right. This is one of the few times I figured out that balance. I usually hold them too tightly. Or, sometimes, I don’t hold them enough. When what my kids really need is something right in the middle. Where I guide them. Set them up for success. And then set them free.

With prepared hearts.

Ciao! Girl

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I Heart Copper

Ciao! Girl

(For links to original images, I pinned all the images on my Pinterest page)

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My Lucas.

A lot of chapters of my life right now are ending. On so many levels, change is raining down on us. We are planting roots. Growing up. And saying goodbye. 

We are moving this week. To a house we bought. In a good school district. With that back yard and garage we swore we didn’t need. With those neighbors that I guess for the first time feel and act like us.  And while this new place does not feed that piece of my soul that is searching for life. It does not offer me that wild abandonment that this apartment has. It gives me so much more. An end to all that searching. A new start.

A house that will be a home.

So tonight is our last night in our little apartment in the heart of Denver. With the views of the highway. And the city lights that still take my breath away.

And tomorrow is our new day.

But this move feels small to me. Insignificant. And I am having trouble even caring about it today. Partly because we have movers that are packing and unpacking us. (That helps!) But mostly, because my heart is somewhere else.

Today was Lucas’ last day of therapy. Ever. After a month of testing, reevaluating, questioning and observing. The time has come to move on and say goodbye.

Renee came today. Like she does every Tuesday. But today was different. And instantly Lucas and I recognized that she didn’t have her big bag.

“Where’s your bag, Miss Renee?”

Lucas probed. 

“Yeah, you don’t have your bag?”

I echoed.

It was like we didn’t recognize her without it. That Mary Poppins bag of magic. With toys that turned my little one into a real boy.

“I don’t need it today, Lucas. We are just going to say goodbye.”

My heart sank. My throat. That all too familiar lump.

Lucas beat me to the punch. He started crying. The tears. They flowed from his eyes in the most genuine, heart-wrenching, outpouring of emotion. 

“It’s ok to be sad, Lucas.”

She buried her head next to him in the pillow. She waited.

Then looked to me.

“It’s ok to let him feel. To let him be sad.”

So we waited for Lucas to process. In a dark cloud of sadness.

He’s ready. By all of his tests. All of his evaluations. This boy of mine is three. All levels of his development were checked with age appropriate. A term I have never heard for my boy until now. I am just not sure if I am ready.

The truth is I almost don’t believe it. But he has been ready. For quite some time. It was just hard for us all to let go. We held on to Renee. For fear that if she left us, she would take back with her everything she had given us. I mean I know he is caught up. I see it every day. Every single moment. Those eyes. That soul. This little personality that is exploding. This mind that is learning. And a mouth that is talking, and singing, and even counting. A boy that is happy. And alive. A kid with a bright future.

We now know what we were missing. And that fear of losing it again is paralyzing.

My Lucas. (deep sigh.) 

I still deep sigh when I say his name. But for so many different reasons now.

It’s not hard to talk about him anymore. There is no need to explain him. He’s just Lucas. My Lucas. And you or anyone else can just go get to know him yourself now. And you should. He’s amazing.

Oh this post. I have been dreaming of writing this posts. Sometimes when days seem long and hard. Or Lucas seems just so far behind. Or his therapy seems to overwhelm us. And suck all the oxygen out of the room. I would think to myself that one day. One day off in the future. This chapter of our lives would come to an end. So I would take a deep breath, roll up my sleeves, and put on my armor. Ready for the fight. Because it is so worth it to have this day.

My Lucas. My boy. I don’t even know what to say to you today. You, my heart, have overcome something so much bigger than you. And while every bit of my being as a mother is so proud of you. There is a strength in you that very few men have. But, I want you to know that you did not do it alone. That so many people have walked along beside you. Even when you thought you were alone. When the world seemed so far from you. You were not alone. Your dad and I. Your brother and sister. Amy. Megan. Brittany. And especially, Miss Renee. They went in front of you. Cleared a path. Carried you when you were too scared to move forward. Because they believed in you. I believe in you. And you are so worth fighting for. I am so happy for you. My heart is full because of you.

But for today, we are learning to say goodbye. A sadness that is as deep as our joys. 

We all watched Renee walk away. And Lucas ran after her. She dropped to her knees. And he jumped in her arms. And wrapped his little hands around her neck and kissed her on the cheek. She met him tear for tear.

“Don’t you forget about me Lucas Soderberg.”

How could we ever forget her? 

My Lucas. Oh be still my heart.

Ciao! Girl

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