Thursday, September 24, 2015

Warm, fuzzy sweater on a cool fall night.

"Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits."
-Samuel Butler

In the midst of our busy September--between school and church responsibilities and hunting seasons and baby showers and family get togethers, and before this baby decides to officially join this family--we squeezed in our annual apple orchard trip. This is the highlight of the fall for me, one of my favorite family traditions.

The day was warm, reminiscent of the past summer days, but with a hint of the fall crispness in the air. The perfect weather for apple picking.

As we followed after our boys as they flitted from one activity to the next, I was rooted in the past--chubby cheeks poking out of stocking hats while bouncing along on the hayride, tiny fists gripping apples, crawling toddlers up the haystack--while towing the line between present and future. This year there were two boys; next year there will be two boys and a girl. This year we followed at a casual distance as our sons navigated the crowds and lines and social rules; next year we will divide and conquer, all eyes and hands on deck, completely outnumbered in the parent to kid ratio. This year felt familiar, like a warm, fuzzy sweater on a cool fall night; next year may feel foreign, like an itchy wool sweater on a muggy day.

It's hard not to see each moment without the past, present, future context now that our family is on the cusp of a big change. One week. The calendar says the date that once loomed in the future is now suddenly upon us in a single week. One week to shed the warm, fuzzy sweater and prepare for the itchy wool one.

But that September day where our present family participated in one of our most beloved outings was exactly what we needed to round out our last days as a party of four. Coming soon: Mahlke, party of five. I'm ready to wear in that wool sweater until its beaten into a warm, fuzzy one that feels oh-so-right on a cool fall night.

Monday, September 14, 2015

One highly packed emotional hurdle at a time.

“And all the colors I am inside have not been invented yet.”
-Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

When I learned I was pregnant the very first time, waiting impatiently for my belly to grow and and feel the kicks over my rounded belly, I could hardly imagine the days past infancy. Then my maternity leave ended and I handed my 12 week old baby over to a virtual stranger to care for him. The emotions and lingering tears that day seemed insurmountable. Still, I couldn't see too much past his toddler days, when I'd be chasing him around, worrying about how many bananas produces constipation. Nothing really prepared me for the day this baby--once two pink lines on a plastic stick I peed on--would cross the driveway on that rainy, dreary day, walk the stairs of that monstrous yellow bus, pause, turn, and wave his little hand, before heading off into the world. Alone. 

The emotions and lingering tears that day seemed insurmountable. Now that we're a week into kindergarten, I can wave good-bye to Spencer as he gets on the school bus each morning with dry eyes and a smile on my face. Yet, I'm still not looking too far past this point. I don't care to dwell too much on more of the "firsts" in the future. I'll take one highly packed emotional hurdle at a time.

As if Spencer starting kindergarten wasn't enough, Ashton started preschool, too. Luckily he had a practice run this summer, and we got our tears out of the way then. The morning of his big day was filled with smiles and giggles and not an ounce of separation anxiety. And how are my Monday and Wednesday mornings spent while both boys are in school? Well, my house is very, very quiet and peaceful. 

Now each afternoon Ashton and I wait outside for the bus that once seemed monstrous to pull up by our driveway and unload all the neighborhood kids, looking for the littlest one among them to hear all about his day. And our nights are spent with me and Spencer sitting at the dining room table doing homework while Daddy cleans the supper mess and Ashton buzzes around us. Our lazy summer days may be over, but this new routine we're settling into feels just right. Some day in the not too distant future there will be another highly packed emotional hurdle to tackle that leave tear stains on my cheeks. But, for now, we'll content ourselves with the current one now stored away in the record books.

Before our lazy days gave way to scheduled ones, I dressed up the boys and took them to a state park for their yearly photo session. Normally I would take them separately, but time constraints niggled at me and I decided to do them together. It was definitely more challenging. I got more "outtakes" than perfect shots, but I am grateful for these moments of their brotherly bond captured before the two become three in October.