Sunday, September 22, 2013

From the ground up

Two posts ago, I mentioned a comment I had made to Adam in a moment of frustration. I had said to him, in reference to my brain turning into mush these days:

Do you realize that I sit at home and, from the ground up, teach a human being how to live life? I started with a child who knew nothing and I have to teach him everything. Do you know what that does to my brain?

Since I thought those thoughts and wrote those words, I've been trying to think about them in a different light. That day, I was focusing on the fact that the most conversation I get in a typical day consists of baby sign language, songs, numbers, colors, and the alphabet (which means, WATCH OUT once you get me alone with an adult. I will. TALK. YOUR. HAIR. OFF.). That day I was focusing on the fact that I don't make hard decisions, I don't talk about fancy things like politics and finance, or art and literature. I don't wake up at the same time every day and I typically don't go to bed until after 11pm. I don't have a car to drive fun places, and I can't afford a gym membership that offers free babysitting. I don't bring in a substantial amount of money, and the money I do bring in goes right back into my photography business (especially when I have a habit of losing and/or breaking things). I can't remember diddly squat, I'm constantly losing my keys (though J promises me it's endearing. She's nice like that), and I'm not 'using my degree' I worked so hard for. That's what I was focusing on. 

But what if I stopped thinking about the negatives, and started seeing just how beautiful it really is to be the person who raises a human being. 

Today the sun was shining through our kitchen window in just the right way. You know what I mean, when the rays are visible and maybe you pull out a kleenex and you can see all the little dust floating down that ray of sunshine? Well, today I was taking off my socks and snapped them in the air (gross image. Poor Axton), and little flecks of lint started to dance in the orange glow. Axton's eyes got big and round, and his mouth made an "O", his lips curling over his teeth. He spread his hands out and tried to touch the dancing little white dots (I know, try not to think about the fact that they were from my dirty socks, it makes my story prettier).  I sat there and watched him marvel at seeing this tiny phenomenon for the first time - something I've seen countless times in my life. I've seen it so many times, I failed to recognize that, despite it's common occurrence, it is still magical. 

Not too long ago, we were sitting in his bedroom playing with toys and a fly came buzzing past him. Axton's eyes snapped open and he says, "Where'd it go?" his hands out in the 'questioning mode'

I pretended to look around for it, really dramatic and worried. Then I snatched out my hands really fast, and said, "There it is!" and pretended to catch it.

Oh boy did Axton think that was funny. He started laughing, and his face turned bright red and I lost the sound of his laughter. Then he stopped short and said again, "Where'd it go?" So I reenacted my fly-catching sequence and this time he started laughing so hard he started to tip backwards. It was like slow motion, he just kept falling. I swear he was defying gravity and the bounciness of his laughter was keeping him afloat parallel to the floor for longer than possible, but eventually he did tip right over. He was laughing so hard, he fell over folks!!! He actually fell over. When was the last time I laughed that hard, at something so silly and innocent? Man, I must be a good actor, but either way it made me feel fantastic. 

Sometimes I make that boy give his mama a kiss 50 times a day. Most of the time, he is still happy to do it, too! Anyone else would have said, "Okay, you're done lady!" after 3 kisses. But not him.

Raising Axton 'from the ground up' means I get to live the goodness and the sweetness of this life all over again. It's almost like I get a second chance at life  - a second chance to notice things I missed - or have long forgotten since becoming an 'adult.' I already said it once, but there is no better word for it: Childhood is magical. And I get to see a tiny portion of it through my son's eyes everyday.

And that, my friends, is a true gift from God.

And you know what, I do make hard decisions. I have a feeling, too, that those decisions will only get harder as Axton gets older and is faced with even more serious things, like friends, school, church, liiiiife in general.

When I stop and really think about it, I can honestly say there is nothing else I'd rather be doing than raising this little boy from the ground up. I know I pretend to feel sorry for myself occasionally, but the truth is, I am sorry to mothers who cannot do the same thing. I am sorry to mothers who have to drop their kids off with someone else and miss a lot of amazing things that their child learns. I realize me staying home with Axton is a complete luxury, and I do realize I am blessed to be able to do it.

I remember, back before I had Axton, reading someone's blog that talked about the first time their kid went to nursery. They said that it was the first time their child had really been left with someone they didn't know. I didn't understand that - I thought, "Well then, this will be good for them, right?" And now, here I am, years later, and I am in the same boat. I haven't left Axton with someone he doesn't know. Ever. And in less than two months, he, too, will be going into nursery. I worry for him because I've seen the way he acts in group settings and it's not too pleasant (which surprises me a bit, and I'm hoping it's just a phase). And while yes, I do think 'it will be good for him,' in whatever way that's still hard.

I have never questioned the goodness of people's hearts like I do when I think about leaving Axton in nursery.

Can you believe that? These are church-going people who have been called by the Lord to serve in the nursery and yet I still worry. Will they be kind to my son? Will the other kids pick on him? And if they do, will the teachers notice and stick up for him? Will he learn bad habits? I can't even imagine what it would be like if I had to work and I had to leave him at a daycare. I think I would have to be medicated for anxiety. Like, seriously. And I am not even going to think about the day he goes to kindergarten. It chokes my throat up just thinking about it.

This is a round-about way of trying to remind myself that "from the ground up" is EXPONENTIALLY important (yes caps-lock was necessary). It may turn my brain into mush in some areas, and I'll never have my old body back, but it has turned my heart into gold. Pure, liquid gold. So undeniably vulnerable and attached to this little boy. It has strengthened my spirit times a million, it has forever changed the way I see women. I have more respect for women I knew in high school because I know they are moms now and I know what they have gone through. It makes me connected to the universe, and, somehow, ironically, even though he has my heart walking around in his body, I am now more whole because of him.

Love this good takes work this hard - God knows it, I know it, and I'll bet you know it, too.

See photos of my little obsession here

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Meeting Kyle*

Yesterday was slummy. It was downright discouraging and depressing, what with my camera breaking and ipod-losing and the job confusing... At one point in the afternoon, I looked out my window and saw a beautiful almost-fall day was about to slip through my fingers. So I decided to take Axton and Kaleo out for a walk. We live at the end of a cul-de-sac and so our roads stay pretty quiet; I usually let Axton dictate the direction of our walk. Today he went up the street, instead of toward the park. Today he saw the lady who lives at the corner, the one (of many) we haven't met yet. Today she waved and gave a smile and commented on his big blue eyes. She said, "Our dog is a barker, too, it's okay," when I apologized for Kaleo's loudness. Axton kept waving and waving so she came over to say hi and to pet Kaleo.

Finally she said, "I'm waiting for my son to come home. The bus is almost here." She paused, and then smiled again at Axton. "His name is Kyle."

We didn't say anything else for a few minutes. Then the woman turned back and called to her husband in the house. "Honey! He's here!" Her voice had an urgency to it and I guessed that perhaps her son was a kindergartner, and they were new School Parents.

A man came whizzing out of the house, his hands fumbling with an energy drink, car keys, a wallet. He jogged to meet up with his wife, who was already at the corner. Their quickness captured my attention, and even though she was gone, and even though it was probably rude, I stayed to watch their reunion. Axton, too, was still, his eyes caught on the action.

And then I saw the bus.

That's when I knew.

The bus stopped, and nothing happened for an abnormally long amount of time. Their child did not bound down the stairs, leaping into Daddy's arms. He did not high five his neighbor or say bye to the bus driver. Instead, I caught glimpses of him through the window, lead by an adult down the aisle. When he got to the top of the stairs, his dad reached up and picked him up.

The boy looked back at us, Axton and I, saw us watching him, over his dad's shoulder. He had the same big blue eyes as my boy did, and similar wispy blonde hair.

But, unlike Axton, he also had slanting eyes, a flattened nose bridge, a small mouth. Unlike Axton, this boy had down syndrome.

I had to fight the tears....I had to whisper for forgiveness. For my ingratitude, at my shallowness and hollowness.

The family walked towards their van, parked across the street from us. I leaned down to Axton and asked, "Can you say hi?" But Axton did not. I think he knew this boy was different.
So instead,I  said hi.
"Hi Kyle! You've got big blue eyes just like my boy!"
Kyle's dad set him down on the sidewalk next to us, and Kaleo stopped barking (luckily, he really likes kids) to sniff Kyle's hands.
"Kyle, you sure are a styling young man! Look at that cute outfit you have on! Axton," I tried again. "Can you say hi to Kyle?" But still he didn't.
Kyle pet the dog a few times, and then Mom said, "Ready to go out to eat?"
So I took the hint and told them to have a good night. "We're on our way to meet Daddy."

As we continued down the side walk, it wasn't long before Dad's car met up with us and the three of us - Axton, Kaleo, and I - hopped into the front seat with Dad, as he drove us the 50 yards back to the house (we don't make it too far on walks). I told Adam, "We met the family on the corner. They have a son, too."
"Oh yeah?" Adam said, pulling into the driveway and shutting off the car.
"He has down syndrome." I said, the motor's silence thickening as I did.
We both paused for a minute, two parents of a lively, healthy child. What a different life, what a different challenge it would be if he were not who he were.

I can't fathom the stress and the worry that that mother will live with for the rest of her/Kyle's life. It is a vastly different stress and worry that I will have. No one can say one is better or worse or harder or easier. We are both mothers and we share that life-clenching determination to do what is best for our child.

Regardless, I've been humbled. My path could have been different. The Lord loves us. He knows us. He knows what challenges we can handle, what to put in our path to shape us to be the kind of person He would want us to be. He is good.

I hope we see more of Kyle around - I could use more of his light in my life.

*Kyle is not really his name. He real name is much cuter and fitting for this boy but I felt I should not share it on here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Hard Day

It's been awhile since I've posted - I've been busy with my boys, our move, my photography business, church, summer, fun things, not fun things, and so on. But today has been a hard one, and since misery loves company or something like that, I felt inspired to write a blog post. Also, I'm lacking motivation to edit photos that need to be edited and so instead I came over here, to my lonely little blog that was in need of some attention.

God has funny timing, and it's one of those days where I just want to cry. I cannot tell you how many times in the past little while where "coincidences" have been rubbed in our faces. We've had a job in another location offered to us the day we signed a year-long-lease in our new place in Maryland. We've had phone calls coming in within minutes of finding out news, telling us to 'go the other way,' 'choose the other path.' We've had contradicting advice left and right - from above and from below. We are spent. We are done. We give up. We will just be a blob of life in our current location until we are shoved in another direction.

I know I'm being cryptic - and it's mostly because I'm too lazy to spell out the entire story, and not because I care if anyone knows. Basically, Adam is looking for another job. Has been since the beginning of the year, and now we are still (endlessly) trying to decide if he should stay government, go contractor, stay Maryland, go out West, or go Foreign. And all FIVE of those options have, at one point or another in the past 6 months, been near-possibilities that we started to prepare for, only to have all of them fail.

You would think that would mean we are just meant to stay where we are, right? I mean, apparently it does, for the time being. Except for the fact that our least favorite option keeps coming back and giving us another chance at it (kind of). Ha, it's hard to explain when you haven't been following along the whole time.

Anyway, on to more misery. We also just started going to our new ward. The first week was hard, quieter and lonelier than you would hope a Christian church to be. Every week since then has gotten better, but it's still an adjustment.

This past month I have stood someone up for a breakfast date I forgot about, lost my ipod, spent a lonely week without Adam while he traveled to Utah for a funeral, accidentally spilled the beans about someone else's secret (I am usually so good about that! What is wrong with me?), broke my camera, and not gotten pregnant. We've spent too much money on moving, having two rents to pay for a month, getting new tires, flying Adam to Utah, and lots of other things.

I mean, I don't even have my head.screwed.on. The other night Adam was looking for my phone and his keys and they were both in my possession last and I couldn't find either one of them and Axton needed to go to bed and I was cranky and this was also the day we found out I had lost the ipod (as a sidenote, I was way less upset about losing that device than I was about the simple fact that I lost it. I was just so aggravated with myself for being 'so careless! So clueless!' and I was just angry at myself. It did not feel good). So when I told Adam I didn't know where either of those items were, he threw his hands up in the air and said, "I can't keep up with you! I  give up!" I said, "K." and stormed off to give Axton a bath. When Axton was in bed, I came back out, picked up my stupid diaper bag, tipped it over onto the couch, and shook everything out of it. Angrily. Crumbs flew everywhere. Crumbs and wrappers and pens and cards and garbage and cheerios and chunks of granola bar, all over the couch. Not to mention my phone --- tumbled out of it. I picked it up and threw it at Adam and then walked into our bedroom to read a book.

Later I said to him, "Do you think I would be like this if I had a 9 to 5 job and spent time with adults all day? Do you realize that I sit at home and, from the ground up, teach a human being how to live life? I started with a child who knew nothing and I have to teach him everything. Do you know what that does to my brain? .....I can't have you "giving up" on me."

Anyway, so we hugged and sorrys and love yous and good feelings and blah blah blah but man! It's just been a rough one. A real douzy. Then today, while I was doing a session with someone, I totally broke my camera. Oh I am still pissed/sick about it. I have an appointment with some geeky guys to look at it because I don't even know what happened.

So you haven't heard from me in 6 weeks and this is what you get! Welcome back to my life! Really though, life is good. It's actually great. I'm generally happy but we do have hard times, and that's when we lean on the Lord. If you haven't seen already, I've started a 365 project where I take a photo everyday for a year. I did a similar project with my best friend a couple years ago, and we made it six months into it. There are some real gems from that project, if you want to check it out:

I will try to be better about blogging again! I just need to learn to balance my photog stuff, because that's really what's been sucking up all my time lately. Until then!