Five Forever: My Youngest Son’s Thoughts on Having (or Delaying) a Birthday

He cried yesterday when I excitedly told him it was his last night as a five-year-old. “I like being five — I wish I could just stay this age forever. Will you take one last picture of me while I’m still five?”

He has always liked being little — being near. He spent hundreds of hours strapped to me in the baby carrier, peaceful and secure among the whirlwind of toddler and preschool aged brothers.

Years later, his brothers may wander to the yard or down to the neighbors’ house, but this boy often parks it at the kitchen counter, chatting to me about his Lego creations or asking if he can crack the eggs for me.

He is content to hang out with our animals or snuggle with me in the reading nook for hours, not thinking of what he might miss out on. I love this about him. I will never hold my kids back from growing and exploring, but I am grateful for the rare gift of a boy who sees everything he already has as enough, a boy whose undemanding presence reminds me of how sweet it is to just be — together.

Happy Birthday, Miles. And yes, I will keep a picture of you in my heart where you can be five forever.

Written on Our Hearts: Parting with a Foster Child

In March of last year, my dear friend and fellow foster mama left me a voicemail one evening explaining that she had a new placement and was wondering if I could care for the child for a few hours the next day while she was at work. I called her back and accepted with a flutter of excitement and nervousness in my belly, then I lay awake into the night anticipating meeting this baby in the morning.

My husband and I were new foster parents; we were just licensed the month before and had not yet had any placement requests. Despite our training, we had little idea how the system worked or what to really expect as we became involved with caring for foster children. Continue reading

Broken Places

This is the view from my recovery recliner – my view for the past month.

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NKOTB blanket circa 1987

It’s the best time of year here in Michigan and I thought for sure I would miss it.

I would miss my walks beneath the wooded canopy of Fumee Lake, calico leaves swooshing underfoot.

I would miss the apple orchard and the pumpkin patch, cornstalks rustling as kids dart in and out of rows.

I would miss cinnamon and nutmeg, spicy Chai, the flavors and smells of my autumn kitchen.

I’d miss it all because I’d be stuck in this stupid chair with these stupid crutches and this stupid aching hip.

Somehow, that’s not how it went at all. Somehow, I didn’t miss it.

Continue reading

The Cusp

The bald eagle circles the river basin and returns to her nest at the top of the pine. The hungry eaglets chatter to her. Their squawks and squeals echo across the water.

Daylight is growing longer. My dog trots along beside me, sniffing the deer trails, lunging at the disappearing flash of rabbit tail. He’s just a year old, springy and deft – and today he is more attuned than usual, picking up on the new action and songs of the wild.

Back at home, the first green shoots of tulips are showing themselves along the path between my house and garage. They’ll be dusted in snow another time or two before stubborn winter gives way and spring bursts into full glory — but that’s not stopping us from dragging dusty lawn chairs from storage and setting them up in that patch of sun in the driveway where we’ll page through seed catalogs and dream about kneeling in a jungly July garden. Continue reading

Dashboard Jesus

We were the silliest of girls.

We rode around our neighborhood on ten-speed bikes belting out The Song that Never Ends, stopping to scoop up dead critters from the side of the road and burying them in the “cemetery” at the edge of the woods behind my parents’ house. We’d mark the resting place of squashed squirrels and flattened frogs with cinder blocks scrawled with our own Sharpie blessings. Continue reading

On What’s Real

As I pushed my three-year-old son’s dresser drawer to a close, the framed army photograph of my grandfather tipped over and landed face-down with a thump.

I propped it back up, blew a piece of dust from the glass, and said, “Sorry, Papa.”

Miles looked for a few long seconds at the 1940s photo — the perfect wave of my grandfather’s hair, his tan army-issue shirt, the eyes that were even bluer in real life than in that colorized photograph.

“Is he still real?” Miles asked.

Continue reading

Bad Dreams, Bean Bags, and How We (Like-It-or-Not) Became a Co-Sleeping Family

My five-year-old son is going through a tough phase of intense fears, especially at nighttime. For the past two months, he has been coming into our bedroom at least three times a night, sometimes as many as ten, saying he had a nightmare. Most of the time, we don’t think he has even been to sleep yet, so by “nightmare” he means scary thoughts.

The phase has been hard on all of us. Anyone who has had a newborn baby who doesn’t sleep through the night can relate to the difficulty of functioning in a sleep-deprived state. My husband is transitioning into a new career, so he has had a lot of studying to do while still working his full-time job. I’m working two part-time jobs and homeschooling our three boys, so the days require a lot of planning, focus, and energy.

Needless to say, we’ve been drinking a lot of coffee. Continue reading

Your Struggle Makes Me Stronger

I recently interviewed two women living with Multiple Sclerosis for a Grand Edits guest feature. When I asked them to speak about the life they envisioned as young women compared to the reality of their lives today, they both agreed that though they never dreamed they’d have MS and surely don’t want MS, the diagnosis has allowed them to connect with and help others who are facing the same illness, or working through other life struggles.

I think about this often – the way our circumstances create opportunities to help others who are suffering.

In my days of volunteering as a client advocate at a pregnancy resource center, a young woman came to an appointment in distress because her baby (still in utero) had been diagnosed with renal hydronephrosis. This malformation causes dilation in the kidney pelvis and can mean surgical correction shortly after birth.

My client and I had a long conversation that day about the what-ifs. It’s hard for a momma to be faced with the possibility of her newborn baby being whisked off to surgery in his or her first days in the world. We talked a lot about fear that day. About vulnerability.

I told her I understood how she was feeling, and I really meant it. My own son had been diagnosed with renal hydronephrosis less than two years prior to the conversation. I remembered the diagnosis, the scans, the machines. I remembered the fear.

Read the full post (HVFH) –>