Object Permanence

by Jennifer on February 1, 2015

“Peek-a-boo! Where’d Mommy go?” I covered my face with the towel I was folding in the giant stack of laundry in my lap. Lowering the towel, I pinched my face into an expression of shock.

“There she is!”

Baby E’s eyes squished up as her face broke into a smile. I pulled the towel back over my face and repeated the question. Peeking around the corner so I could see her face, I saw her smile drop and her eyes dart from left to right, searching. To Baby E, Mommy was really gone.

Dropping the towel, I was again met with her glowing smile.

“There she is!”

As we prepare to move again, I’ve been thinking about the way people move in and out of our lives. They are here for a while and then they move on. Life continues and the hole that is left where they would have been had they stayed, is gradually filled in until it seems as though they were never there at all.

When we moved out here a year and a half ago, I was heartbroken by the hole we would leave. My imaginations and aspirations for the lives my kids would have, the way they would grow with their friends, their school, their world, faded away in the mist. My kids were going to be erased from that world; we were going to disappear. We would continue, but in a different place, not the one for which I had planned. Thinking of that world, moving on, without my kids as a part of it was something I’m still trying to get over.

I spent a lot of the last year and a half imagining what would be if we had not left, wondering how K and Little Boy S would be different, if at all, wondering what it would have been like to have the support of our old neighborhood during the health crisis I experienced shortly after we left, wondering what it would be like for Baby E to have been born into “a village” where strong relationships were already established.

Now that we are preparing to reverse the move we made a year and a half ago, I have been thinking again about the hole we will leave in our current life. That hole doesn’t matter to anyone but us, of course. As before, the quicksand will pour in, more quickly this time I’m sure, and fill up the space we would have occupied. The friends Little Boy S has made will move on without him and the picture of him and his pals knocking about as high schoolers one day will dissolve and fade away, as they did the last time. Life out here will continue to exist, just as it did before we came.

And we will still exist, just in a different place, with a different life.

I have this recurring scenario in my mind of the different lives my children and our family could have, spread out on the table before me like a deck of cards and I’m desperately trying to match the cards together to create the best possible combination for each of them. I start grouping the cards, making different combinations, this school, that atmosphere, this friend group, that level of cultural exposure, trying to find the perfect fit. I calculate the positives and subtract the negatives with each combination and become more and more frantic as I keep reshuffling my work, because meanwhile, time is passing and I had better hurry and get it right before it’s too late, before they’ve grown and I’ve made the wrong choices for them.

And I worry that I’ve already taken too much time to make these choices.

So we are moving one last time. Imaginary futures will be packed away into a cardboard box, sealed with a roll of packing tape and tossed into the attic where they will eventually break apart and disappear.

And we will still exist, just in a different place, with a different life.

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Let It Go

by Jennifer on January 4, 2015

“What book should we read?” I asked as he hopped up into his bed, taking the last step on his step-stool at a flying leap and landing in a messy pile of pillows and twisted blankets.

“This one!” Little Boy S said, handing me a board book, well-worn on the edges and with a page escaping its binding. I smiled thinking of the many nights I’ve spent reading this story to S, almost from day one.

We climbed under the Elf sheets, soon to be tucked away in the closet for next year and he flipped his blonde hair into the crook of my shoulder as I raised the book and began to read.

The chosen book was “I Love You As Much” and I went through the familiar pace and inflections of the words from memory as I turned the pages, the comfort of What Has Always Been wrapping itself around us, the comfort of that which never changes.

We drifted through each animal mother explaining her limitless love for her child in terms most relevant to its experience, the whale loves her baby as much as the ocean is deep, the mouse as much as the grain in the mill, until we reached the final page, the mother and baby page.

“Now sleep child of mine, as the stars shine above; I love you as much as a mother can love,” I read. The picture is of a mother tenderly leaning over her baby, asleep at her side, and this is always the point at which S points at the figures and proudly says, “That’s us, Mommy. There’s Mommy and Baby S.”

letitgo Let It Go

But this time, S’s tiny finger points to the baby and his words are different, “That’s Baby E. It’s you and Baby E.” I ran the phrase over in my mind again, listening for any sign of jealousy or bitterness or resentment and could find only affection.

I felt a squeezing in my heart, “We used to say that was Mommy and you.” I kept my voice light, but recognized a familiar tightening in my chest, that pull to hold onto What We Were, still not ready to let it go.

“No, it’s Mommy and Baby E,” he said with finality. I felt a release as he cut that string. One more string among those that were slowly being broken as we transitioned from What We Were to What We Are. A transition that had me dragging my heels in my own little epic fight against Change and The Passage of Time.

Taking a deep breath to steady my voice, I asked, “Do you think Baby E would like this book? Should I read it to her?”

His gray eyes met mine and he put one soft hand on each side of my face, “Yes,” he said, wrapping me in a hug and holding me there.

“But later.”


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Tomorrow Is Not Christmas

by Jennifer on December 24, 2014

“The penny frame sale doesn’t start until the day after Christmas,” said the fluorescent pink painted lips of the store employee as she unceremoniously shoved my purchases into a plastic bag.

“Oh. Okay, I thought I saw a sign over there…”

“No, those should all be covered up,” Painted Lips said, shaking her head from left to right and leaving streaks of bright pink trailers across my field of vision.

I took my bag and headed for the exit, not having the will to whip out the skills I received during my outstanding legal education, my overstuffed purse smacking the uncovered “SALE” sign on the way out the door.

You know, the “SALE” sign that reads in fine print “buy any photo frame and receive the second photo frame of equal or lesser value for 1 cent.”

And then it occurred to me.

Tomorrow is not Christmas anyway. I could come back for the penny sale on the 26th and still have the frames wrapped and under the tree in time for Christmas.

Tomorrow is not Christmas.

I flipped open my computer and typed in the name of our church, the keys clicking away in the silence of our home at nap time. Scrolling through the menu for “worship”, my eyes scanned the times of the various Christmas Eve services.  My eyes travelled the page until I stopped at the one listed as “Family Service”.  I clicked my laptop closed.

Today may be Christmas Eve, but tomorrow is not Christmas.

I pushed the stroller off the sidewalk and into the wood chips of the playground and released Little Boy S into the wind. He ran to the slide to greet the other child with a squeal that carried clear across the lake.

Yoga Pants turned to face me with a knowing smile, “Is he excited for Christmas tomorrow?”

Tomorrow is not Christmas.

“We celebrate Christmas on the 27th. My oldest son is in Dallas with his father this year so we put Christmas on hold until he comes back.” I waited for The Look and The SemiSmile of those whose lives are not parceled out weekend by weekend and Yoga Pants did not disappoint.

“That must be tough with him,” she said, tilting her head toward Little Boy S.

“Nah, he is still three so Christmas is whenever we choose to celebrate it, for now.”

Tomorrow is not Christmas.

I sat on the couch, Baby E asleep on my lap, and looked at the three long stockings hanging from stars on our fireplace. I heard my husband on the baby monitor, reading The Grinch to Little Boy S.

“I must stop this Christmas from coming. But how?”

Yes, how?

How to build a dam for the tidal wave of magic that Christmas Day brings so that it does not swallow my family when one of its members is missing…

How to kiss my two little sugarplums good night tonight without opening the door of the third…

How to watch Rudolph with them and not acknowledge the lack of requests for hot cocoa and the missing personality that can swallow a room when it is truly excited…

How to stay sitting on the couch and distract myself when I know I should be setting out the presents, just so, so that when they come running down the hall in the morning everything looks magical…

Tomorrow is not Christmas.

Except that I know that it is.

“He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming. It came! Somehow or other, it came just the same,” rang through the baby monitor.

No, tomorrow is not Christmas.



nonfic193 Tomorrow Is Not Christmas


My Cup Runneth Over

by Jennifer on November 27, 2014

I noticed it had gotten quiet; she was no longer crying.

I looked down to see her staring up at me, straight into my eyes, her head a mere eight inches or so from mine. It was that intensely personal stare unique to young babies that eventually fades away as they learn that prolonged, direct eye contact is uncomfortable to most people of a certain age.

I wondered what she was thinking, what she made of everything she saw with fresh eyes and lacking the frames through which we all eventually interpret our surroundings.

We looked at each other until I tried to break the intensity of the moment by blinking quickly and cracking a smile at her, but she did not take the bait and held steady.

In this moment, I am reminded that she is more than the crying, the nursing, the diaper changes and irregular sleep patterns. This is a person, my daughter, my sweet baby girl.

She did not care about anything else that was going on, my “famous” chocolate pies that sat in lumpy ruins in the fridge for Thanksgiving or the toys strewn about on my floor that I kept tripping over or the extra thirty pounds of baby weight I still carried. She just wanted to connect with me, her Mama, in this moment.

This was my daughter, my sweet baby girl.

How lucky I am…

My eyes filled as I realized how completely undeserving I am of that love. How can any of us ever be worthy of something so pure? I quickly blinked away the tears, not wanting her to see her to see her Mama looking at her and crying and take them for something other than the overwhelming sense of fullness they represented.

I stroked her head, front to back, in the way that relaxes her, feeling the soft threads of sparse baby hair. He eyes grew heavy, the lids drooping but they never left mine.

As her eyes closed, mine filled up again and this time I didn’t bother to hide the tears as she was asleep and there was no chance she would misinterpret them as sadness rather than what they were, evidence that my undeserving heart was so warm and full that the excess had to overflow and spill out somewhere.

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Borrowed Time

by Jennifer on November 18, 2014

I rubbed my face into the strands of hair that fell onto the yellow polkadot pillow case and inhaled, breathing in the scent of my preschooler…my toddler…my baby…Baby S, always my baby.

That familiar feeling of total contentment that takes my hand and leads me to the warm and foggy land of sleep filled my body with every breath.

Would it be tonight? Would this be the last night I slept with my little boy?

Baby E would be here any day. She was already two weeks later than expected and when she arrived, this would end. It would be time to close this chapter with S and begin a new one with Baby E. Have you ever reached the last page of a book and wished for another chapter…and another…and another because you loved the story so much you never wanted it to end?

I squeezed him a little tighter and he tucked his feet between my knees in his sleep.

I held him every night for three years and eight months. And when E came, he would have to learn to sleep without me, yes, but I would also have to learn to sleep without him. And so every night for the last month or so, I fell asleep with him, trying to absorb every little detail and wondering if this would be our last, if this would be the night She decided to arrive.

Normally the last days of pregnancy are wished away with anticipation and discomfort. I treated this pregnancy differently, focusing instead on enjoying the sensations of her moving in my belly and savoring the last days of being a mom to only boys and the last days of Just Us with S while his brother was at school.

The days of Just Me and My Sidekick were coming to a close; they should have ended two weeks ago.

We were on Borrowed Time.

When people would ask…

“Haven’t you had that baby yet?”

“You’re still pregnant?”

“Wow, I bet you’re ready!”

I would answer the way I knew they expected me to, but inside I would smile and think how I was savoring every last moment.

Change was coming. Once we were on the other side, everything would be different. Not worse, just different. And once on the other side, this would be gone, this time irretrievable.

So while we snuggled on the couch watching morning cartoons together and when I would wake in the middle of the night and feel little three year old arms and legs snuggling into my back, I thanked Baby E.

I thanked her for every moment of that Borrowed Time. It was like she was giving us a gift; her way of saying I love you already.

And when she arrived, we welcomed her with everything we had, with all the love and joy we could muster. We waited for her for so long, their sister, our little girl.

And we never looked back.

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What’s Missing

by Jennifer on November 16, 2014

I’ve sat down countless times to write here, what I’m thinking or feeling and what I’m experiencing with one or more of my children…so I don’t forget. And I stop before I get too far down the rabbit hole. I always find a reason to do something else, be somewhere else, let my thoughts move on. I hate the Gap in this blog, the narrative that is supposed to paint a picture of our lives together. I hate that there are so many moments in the Gap that will be forgotten and fade away into that black hole that consumes the more-than-I-can-remember.

The kisses.

The hugs (especially the squeezy kind).

The sweet things he said.

All the “last times” as S gets bigger.

All the “first times” with new baby E.

Watching K go from Little Boy to Big Boy.

Writing about our lives allows me to experience moments fully, the light and the dark. But when you realize that joy can be so easily taken away, sometimes a little part of you is afraid to feel it again. When I sit down to write, the Gap feels like a weight on my chest, pressing down on me and keeping me from thinking too deeply about anything, because of what I left unsaid.

What I could not write about and could hardly stand to think about (as though I had a choice).

What I hid threatens the joy I have taken in recording our little lives here and tries to keep me from having that again.

And so I’ve gone back and forth; do I just scrap it all and move on? Or do I try to tackle that thing which, while missing here, makes this blog feel like a lie, like most of the world’s Facebook page that only shows the pretty stuff and the skinny pictures?

I miss writing here. I miss being able to go back through the posts and feel those moments again, which is what this blog gave me, details enough to have a moment back, to wrap myself in a memory like a warm blanket, just long enough to wiggle around in it.

And so what do I do with the Gap, that I do not ever want to relive, although I will inevitably face it again?

Well…I think it has already taken enough. It can’t have this too.



by Jennifer on May 19, 2014

I hear the door quietly creak open and the warm body of an 8 year old wearing Lego Star Wars flannel pajamas climbs into the sliver of space at my back that is left on the mattress.  An arm circles my waist and a chin nuzzles itself onto my shoulder.

In these last few minutes of darkness, before the sun has made its appearance, before the day begins and the clocks start ticking, I am reminded of how big he has become.

His brother, in the middle of the bed, of course, sleeps with his little knees tucked up into my stomach and his head at my chest…a reminder of how small K used to be.

These last quiet minutes before the day begins remind me of how temporary it all is, how fleeting these morning minutes are, when they are both still small enough for a last early cuddle.

Number 3 is expected in September and as new babys tend to, will likely require my attention at this hour and all hours and these moments will fade away into the mist, like all other discarded stages of our lives together.

I try to tell myself that after a few weeks, perhaps I can have this back.  Maybe Number 3 will begin to sleep later after a time and I can find a way to get them all into the same bed in the morning for a snuggle session.

Probably not.

These mornings set the mood for our day.


The sun is gone and the three of us are once again in the same little nest, Where the Wild Things Are open on my lap.  As I make my way through the story, sandwiched between Big and Little, I can see nights, not so long ago superimposed on Now.  Nights of reading this same book to K, the space on the other side of my body empty.  The days of One seem like another world to me.  I wonder if Two will feel the same, not so long from Now.  And I smile that he still sits with rapt attention while we read this book when the worlds of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter are just a wall away.

“Wild thing!”

“I’ll eat you up!”

And I wish that I could.  I wish that I could just consume it all before it leaves, as it will.  It always does.


And Suddenly You’re Three

by Jennifer on February 11, 2014

I guess I missed it.

The part where you really started to grow up?

Somehow it happened without me being conscious of it, despite my colossal efforts to soak up every little minute with you.

One day my eyes opened and your legs were long enough to outgrow your 2T clothes and you were stringing together words non-stop in the style of your big brother.

And I have to wonder if this is how it’s going to be from now on, you marching ahead and me tagging along behind asking you to hold my hand.

Between babbling about Skylanders and making up stories at bedtime, my mostly silent (and compliant) baby is a thing of the past.

I guess I have to accept that.

You’re supposed to grow up; it would be a very bad sign if you didn’t. But you’ve been my “baby” so forgive me if, like your brother before you, I still hold onto you a little too tightly.

I’ll hold onto your hand when you’ll let me.

I’ll hold onto the sweet weight of your body when you want me to carry you to watch cartoons in the morning.

I’ll hold onto you when you crawl into my lap and play with my fingertips.

I’ll hold onto you when you greet me with the biggest hug you can manage, and your smile…I’ll hold onto that smile too.

I’ll hold onto you for as long as you will let me.


Sawyer Couch Pic Resize1 And Suddenly Youre Three

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Making Christmas

by Jennifer on December 24, 2013

I looked over the Christmas list with a sigh.  It listed each gift, whether it was from Santa or Mommy and Daddy and whether or not it had been wrapped.  I actually had to scroll down to see the whole thing, the fact that made my stomach turn over.

Why did I buy so much when I work so hard to be sure I’m not raising entitled little boys?

The size of the list felt very un-Christmas like and the feeling in my chest felt even worse.   What was I doing?

This had been a working list.  I watched it grow longer and longer as the days went by and I was the one responsible for managing its heft.  I could have and should have cut it off at many points.

But with each new gift I bought, I never felt finished.  I never felt Christmas was “ready”.  It was always just one more thing and I will be done.  It didn’t feel like Christmas yet so I must not be finished with my shopping.

It didn’t stop at presents either.  I bought massive amounts of outdoor Christmas lights with the grand plan of creating a truly fabulous yard display for the kids.  It just didn’t feel like Christmas so surely a yard full of lights would help.
I ended up returning them to the store.

I bought tiny trees for each boy’s room and the playroom.  I bought ornaments for the trees and we decorated them together.  With Christmas tunes.

I recorded every Christmas show I could find that was age-appropriate on the UVerse.

It must be the weather.  Except that the weather has been unusually chilly for Texas this year.

So why does it still feel wrong?  I have done – no, overdone – everything I can imagine to make it feel like Christmas is, well, tomorrow.

I thought about our last Christmas in our old house, the way the lights from our tree would fill the whole room at night, the way we had to be extra quiet when putting out the presents because the boys’ rooms were so close.  I remembered, with a smile, hanging the boys’ stockings on either side of the television in our fireplaceless house.  I thought of the sound of footie-pajama feet shuffling down the hallway in the morning.  That special day felt like a big cuddly snuggle.  That was Christmas.

This house still feels cold and empty and my efforts to make it feel warm and full of life seem to have failed.  No matter how long that Christmas list is, I won’t feel “finished” this year.

I wish I had realized that from the beginning.  It would have been good to know several stores ago.

I’m so thankful to have my sweet boys and for us all to be healthy and comfortable and the last thing I want to be is ungrateful.  I’m not – I’m very appreciative for those two little blessings of which I feel completely unworthy.

But I’ve had a hard time making Christmas this year.  And my time is up.

challenge141 Making Christmas



by Jennifer on December 11, 2013

I have a headache and I’m sleep-deprived but my “baby” is almost three years old.

What could be wrong, you ask?

My son has the habit of wanting to nurse all night long.  ALL. NIGHT. LONG.  After nearly three years, you would think I would be used to it and to a certain extent I am. But I think even a sound sleeper would wake up to tiny, cold hands fumbling with her nightshirt and grumbling in the dark.

And sometimes I just want to sleep.  And sleep for a good, long stretch.

I try to tell myself to enjoy this time because a year from now, things will be different and I will wish to be awoken by  little creeping toddler fingers on my chest…several times a night.

But I remember telling myself that exact same thing the year before that.  And the one before that.

Sometimes nursing him is my favorite thing in the world.  I love the quiet time to examine his flawless skin and beautiful eyes and his gentleness.

And sometimes I’m ready for it to be over.  But as soon as I say that, my body reacts and the voice in my head says “No!  Don’t say that!  You’ll eat your words.”  Blasphemy.

But sometimes I’m just tired and really want a night of uninterrupted sleep.  I’m not even sure I’m capable of that at this point.  I’ve spent every night with him for his almost three years (except for the three I was in the hospital for surgery and we all know hospital sleep is never uninterrupted).

I love him so much and I love the bond we have and I know it will end all too soon.  And I love how much he loves it too.  My oldest was fed formula so I never understood the attachment babies can have to nursing.  It’s safe to say S would choose to nurse over any other activity or food.

And I don’t want to resent these moments…but I’m tired.

Really tired.

And I’m only nearing the end of writing this and already I have that feeling in my stomach.  The one that says I shouldn’t say these things.  I should be grateful for every moment.  I should just trash this post because somehow saying I’m tired of it on occasion may cause him to stop and then think how sad I will be to see this time end.

I will be sad…but well rested.

And I am grateful for this time.  But gratitude is so  much more difficult when you’re freakin’ tired.

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