Max trying out his brand new six year old scooter that Grammy and Grandpa brought for his birthday

Max trying out his brand new six year old scooter that Grammy and Grandpa brought for his birthday

Dearest Maxidoodle,

Today you are six.  Its hard for me to believe that six years have flown by so quickly.  It seems like only yesterday I was holding you in my arms for the first time, marveling at your long fingers, your sweet face, your chubby legs.  At the same time it is crazy to think that it has only been six years.  You are such an integral and precious part of my life, I can’t imagine what it was like before you came into it. 

Max self portrait--at the pool

Max self portrait–at the pool

You are a bright hot white streak of energy.  You run fast as a baby cheetah and will sprint if you can.  You like to be out ahead of any of us when walking or hiking.  You no longer want me to kiss you at school in the mornings–you are too grown and too impatient for that–but you will hug me with spirit as you leap into your day.  You are independent that way.

You have a contagious giggle that can turn any foul mood around.  You are really good at snapping your fingers and proud to show anyone how you can do it.  You are always climbing on something–scaling walls, rocks, trees, the kitchen counter, the fridge, me and we cannot stop you for you are twice as happy when you are hanging upside down.  I wish I had your energy– I know that you would loan me some if you could.  You are so good at sharing with others–you do it without thinking (most of the time). 

When Aidan and Olivia moved to Colorado you made them cookies for the road.  Because Papi always tells us the most important cooking ingredient is love, you blew kisses in with each stir of the wooden spoon and made happy wishes for them like “I hope you get a nice teacher.  I hope you like your new school.  I hope you have lots and lots of friends” with each handful of chocolate chips.  Your compassion and empathy at that moment floored me.

Max at the fancy dinner at Kilkea

Max at the fancy dinner at Kilkea

Your favorite game is hide-and-go-seek and you have frequently left us baffled with your creative hiding places.  Who would have ever thought to look for you in the box inside the front closet?  If it wasn’t for those giggles that eventually gave you away, we would still be looking for you. 

You are also particularly fond of dance contests where we blast music and take turns coming up with routines.  Your moves are unbeatable. Really, there is no contest but we have fun anyway.  Lately you have been learning African dancing and love to listen to Rwandan music turned up really really loud.  

When you aren’t playing Pokemon or Playmobil with your friends you are trying to trick me into letting you watch TV or play on the computer.    You are so clever that you frequently almost get me. 

Max asleep on luggage cart

Max asleep on luggage cart

You love to try new games and will jump into any new activity with excitement.  Ice skating and karate are just two new things that make you jump for joy.  If only we could capture some of that adventurous spirit and pass it on to your pallet.  You don’t like to try new foods and really could live for years on macaroni and cheese and strawberries.

When it comes to snuggling, I think you are a champion.  You have bear hugs that raise the sun every morning and sweet, tender hugs which make the wind blow. 

I am completely and utterly wrapped around your little finger.  Whether you are saying things like “Could you pass the water, best mother in the world” or stomping your feet and telling me that you are “really really frustrated” with me or sharing that “actually I am very scared”, I am lost in the sweetness of how you express your feelings. 

swingingaroundapole

swingingaroundapole

Watching you sleep I don’t know how I got so lucky to be your mom.  I won the mother lottery, really I did. 

I could write on and on forever telling you all the ways I love you and singing the praises of a boy so kind and sweet, but that would be “really embarrasing” and I seem to do that alot these days.  So instead I will simply say you are the love of my life, best son in the world and I love you more each minute you are alive.

Happy birthday my big boy.  May each day be as precious to you as you are to me.

Love

Your mommy

Teeny tiny shells in the tiny hand of one of my favorite tiny people

Teeny tiny shells in the tiny hand of one of my favorite tiny people

“Seeing the small is called clarity”

       —Lao Tsu

The other day Max looked at me with big big eyes and said, “Mom…Big things come in small packages.”   He was so sincere as he uttered this cliche, my heart just melted.  Since then I have been reflecting on this childhood wisdom, so simple and sweet.  It seems that lately for me the greatest wonder has come in the smallest of things.  The fantastic, big and splashy become lost on me–they seem to get dissolve almost instantly into disappointment or some sort of anticlimax.  Whenever I focus on the big, it leaves me feeling a bit let down.

But the small never fails to fascinate.  Perhaps it is the humility of the tiny that make the small so endearing.  Perhaps it is the surprise of tiny that thrills.  Perhaps it is the intimacy that instantly touches my heart.   I don’t know why, but these days I am big on small. 

Tiny river shells

Tiny river shells

When we were in West Virginia last weekend we found hundreds of the tiniest of shells along the beach.  Each one was a marvel into itself, as perfectly formed in every detail as their huge seaside cousins.   I was drawn in by these wonders, so precious and sweet and understated. 

The sweetness of small this week has been captured in the joy of a single hour on a friend’s front steps sipping wine, of a spoonful of mint chocolate chip icecream, of 5 minutes of stillness in the morning when no one else was awake, of 20 minutes of nonstop giggling as Max dances in the kitchen with our new roommate.   

May hundreds of tiny sweetnesses fill your week

It feels like ages ago that I started this little blog.  Hard to believe its only been months.  Time plays funny tricks on me these days, reminding me that it really is all relative. 

When I started this blog, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it.  It was a place for me to write, to experiment, to be newsy and practice being brave.  I expected that I would write stories about our life here in Maryland and that maybe through those stories I would reveal something about the journey that Max and I are on, a journey of loss and recovery, of independence and reinvention and grief and grace and that maybe someone would like them.    I expected that some of these stories would be deeply personal and that I would need to make decisions about what to share to protect my own heart.

But an interesting thing is happening here in our world.  When I started writing Max and I were on the tail end of what had been on a long dark hike through the loss of Juan.  It was a lonely journey.  Writing was a way to help me connect with my thoughts, beliefs and experiences as we walked into the sunrise of our new life.  We are still on the journey of course, but it has changed.  While it is true I am still struggling with issues around single parenthood, helping Max cope with not having a full-time dad, and the never ending juggling act of trying to do it all, these relatively lonely struggles are no longer at the center.

Day by day, my band of fellow travelers is growing.  I have realized that my struggles are not any different really that so many others.  I am lucky to have connected with some really interesting and cool people who are themselves reaching out, struggling, journeying–living really, just living, life to its fullest.  Some are the people who have been walking with me silently through the long dark icky time when my marriage was going going gone.  Others are new to us.  Some have become a regular part of our everyday life while others are just passing through for a short time.  But I am struck by how much in the last few months I feel connected to community, to a great body of others all trying to make it, not always succeeding, but willing to stand up and try (just try) to be brave in big and small ways.  Each one of them is a teacher, a guru, and a partner (whether they intend to be or not).

I am awed by how much of what I am learning is coming from this interaction with my community.  And so therefor I find it difficult to talk about my life without simultaneouosly talking about the lives of others.   And so I find myself here struggling wanting so desperately to whisper stories to you that illustrate or punctuate what we are going through here in Maryland  and yet desperate to protect the privacy of my loved ones who are my partners on this path.  And as I sit to write I find myself dancing around the point a bit.

Some of the boundaries are clear–I would never share anyone’s personal story without getting their permission.  I wouldn’t share something I had written just for them without asking their OK.  But then once we move past black and white it starts to get murky…  Do I need to get permission to mention their first name in passing?  To post a photo?  To share something beautiful or lovely they did or said?  And how do I go about doing that in a way that doesn’t seem self important?  Suddenly the public-ness of posting on a blog becomes real to me–very real and apparent and scary and stark.  I am embarrased and ashamed to ask them if I can share what I am learning from our friendship together here in this very public forum.  Not because I don’t think they will be giving or because I fear their judgement for asking but because the very act of asking permission means I need to claim the space of being “a writer”–something that seems scary to me.  And it means admitting that I have a blog or that I think the blog is important or that someone might just be reading it.  It means owning the fact that I am putting my writing out into the world–that I think it is good enough to put out into the world.  And then I ask myself–Do I really?  And this is a heavy thing indeed.    I have put my writing out there not really sure if anyone is even reading it but now…now I need to assume they are.  And this freaks me out as much as it thrills me.

And as I write here I am struck just how scared I am to claim this title so that I can keep going here, how I can keep going with the stories no longer of me–but of us.

secret hideaway

secret hideaway

We just returned home from West Virginia.  The house is quiet now, the unpacking of dirty clothes, of camping gear and photos has been done in a burst of efficiency.   Max is fast asleep.  The crickets alone keep my company.    

Last week when I woke to my 7th straight day of a migraine I knew something had to change.  It wasn’t just the migraines however that had me shaking.  I felt like I was struggling, that nothing I did was enough to make it work.  The balancing of work and parenting and being a good friend all seemed to be too much.  I felt myself tightening from want.

It must have been the Universe who inspired my dear Jackie to call me and invite us to the woods.  At the time she offered it sounded as though it was the only thing I should do.  We dropped everything and ran.

I should know now that there is nothing that grounds me like eating and sleeping outside among the trees.  The energy of the woods, the mountains, the river repairs me even when I am at my most frayed.  Over and over again I rediscover this about myself.  I am not sure why I forget so easily. 

Indeed it was everything I needed to soothe my tired brain, my achey grouchy soul.  It was like an amazing power nap, a kind of (in the words of Eric) reboot for the brain.  I feel as though I have been away for weeks, I am so refreshed.   The stresses that seemed to paralyze me last week have floated away, like leaves carried away by a stream.  Joy is now running circulating freely once more–no longer stuck in the muck am I.

the bend in the river

the bend in the river

Indeed I feel the entire universe conspired to make this weekend perfect.  The sky was the most intense cloudless blue, the air temperature was perfect.  It felt as though the forest was in cahoots with our merry band of travelers.  The river was perfectly refreshing for us.  There were long stretches of little children laughing, shrieking, falling down from silliness.  And beautiful moments of silence.  And music.    And endless firewood.  And the perfect amount of yummy food.

Alone and together in shifting combinations we moved about the day, collecting, observing, creating.   Each moment unfolded effortlessly as both chaos and community flowed as sweetly as the Potomac around the bend, rippling and bubbling and smoothing out the edges of our lives.   

I feel so inspired in so many ways but I feel I cannot unpack it all just yet.   I struggle here, tripping over my own bliss as I try and write about it, about the way I feel somehow knit back to together around my frayed edges.  I just know that I am.  And that at this moment is enough.   

For more photos of our adventure, click here.