Deeply

Today you are eight years old.

Ella 8-2 NST

I can remember the terrific, terrifying thrill of knowing I was pregnant with you…the moment I knew.  For weeks after, I would lie in bed at night and listen to the life within me…you. I held my breath until I could hear the sounds…the rhythmic, rapid, whooshing of your tiny little heart.

You are a perfect little miracle.

And now eight entire years have gone by.  Sometimes I sit in my big yellow chair in the bedroom and watch you dress in the morning.  I am there mainly because you require reminding.  Usually, that is frustrating.  But every once in a while, I will just watch.  I just watch as you are enveloped in that other world you inhabit…the make-believe world filled with buttercups and dragonflies and sparkling sunshine. You are somewhere else entirely. If only I could go there with you just once…I believe it must be magical.

Ella 8-3 NST

I wonder, as I’m watching you in those few precious moments, how I am ever frustrated with you at all. Those little freckles and those little strawberry eyelashes.  Those eyes that laugh when you smile.  Your little voice, and your laugh.  Your hands, and how they feel in mine.

Even the way you throw your head back and whine…the way you stomp up the stairs when I ask you to do your chore or clean your room or brush your hair.  Yes, even those things make me smile.

The way you hold Jellycat, how s.l.o.w.l.y you eat and how absolutely horrified you are that most bugs exist at all.  Your tendency to fabricate the truth about what really happened to your toothpaste, or whether you really washed your hair.  Your horrible, horrible handwriting. Your beautiful, generous heart. Your crazy, wonky teeth.  The way you push up your glasses.

Ella 8-4 NST

You are a better story than I could have ever written, Ella Louise.

I still watch you sleep most nights.  I cover you, and brush the hair from your forehead. I kiss your crown and breathe in the scent of you. And I just look at you.

Ella 8-5 NST

From the first moment I knew, I have loved you.  Deeply, madly, and with every thing I am, I love you.

Happy birthday, baby girl.

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Deeply

Three

Dear Ella,

When you were born, I thanked the Lord in Heaven that you were a girl.  After the climbing, running, jumping, pounding, thundering pair of boys that came before you, I needed calm.  I needed still.

I dressed you in pink, and I bought hair bows for every occasion, because of course every girl must have many, many hair bows.  However, you are not a big fan of hair bows.

I was certain that we would spend hours together, quietly reading, having tea, and shopping, the way Kate and I did.

Isn’t that funny? 

Now I see that quiet is not who you are.  Nor is shopping, or tea-sipping or anything that doesn’t involve vast amounts of movement and jumping.  And while all that jumpingrunningspinningtwirling is rather exhausting at times, it is also one of the most wonderfully thrilling things about you. 

Do you know that I love you? 

I love who you are, just as you are.

You are a freckle faced nymph.  You, my dear, have some sass.  You are a little spark plug.  Just like me.

Daddy says fireworks are gonna fly between me and you when you get a bit older. 

But Ella, I have felt the boom of fireworks in my heart from the moment you were born. 

Happy birthday, baby girl.  I adore you.

Three

William

The most beautiful, warm day fell on the 27th of January, eight years ago.  It was a Sunday.  And on that very day, I held you in my arms for the first time.  My baby boy. 

I watch you at night, William, while you sleep.  And in seconds, it seems, your life swirls through my heart, I can feel it.  Some things I recall leave me in pain, as though I have been kicked in the stomach.  And I am reminded of how very lucky we have been…this little family of ours…to have you still, William.  I remember things that take my breath away and I swell with pride that you are my boy.  And all of those little, quiet moments in between…I remember those, too.  

I especially remember the way you made your presence known to the world, screaming.  And kicking.  And not at all thrilled with the bright lights.

And 7:00pm, every night when you were an infant.  You would scream.  The Man would put you in the snuggly and vacuum until you had screamed enough.  Then I would feed you.  And you would sleep.  Soundly.  In my arms.  Until I put you in your bed.  At which time you would wake up. 

I remember the first time I heard you laugh.  I mean really laugh.  We had a lot of snow that day.  You were too young to walk in it.  And when you tried to crawl, the snow got stuck between your mittens and your coat, and your wrists turned pink with cold.  So you sat in the snow, bundled in your snowsuit, watching Coco catch snowballs.  And you laughed.

I remember beautiful, beautiful, warm sunshine.  Picking dandelions.  You, in your white shoes and your Easter seersucker shortalls.  Throwing helicopters into the creek from the old wooden bridge.  How the sun made your hair glisten.  And how you devoured the cadbury creme eggs.

I remember the day, two days later.  The day your life took a different turn.  It, too, was a beautiful, warm spring day. 

I remember the moment you fell.  Collapsed.  Screaming.  Frightened.  

I remember the moment I heard the word “stroke” from the doctors.  And how they said the dead tissue would be “reabsorbed.”  And how I couldn’t get that.  And how I still don’t get that.

For days you were limp.  Scared.  Hungry.  Sad.  And then you smiled, one day.  I won’t ever forget that.  Or how many eggs you ate once the doctors finally let you eat. 

I remember how relaxed you were on the way home from the hospital.  How happy you were.  And how it broke my heart that at such a young age, you were at the precipice.  This would be the battle of your life. 

I remember how sad you looked…how your smile looked…how scared you were of everyone.

I remember starting over.  Learning to roll over again…learning to sit, to stand, to feed yourself.  I remember holding your right hand, so that you were forced to eat with your left.  And worrying about the heightened risk of choking.  

I remember the first step you took after your stroke. 

I remember how you would tickle your nose with your blanket tags before you went to sleep at night.

And the precious way you would wrinkle your nose when you smiled or asked a question.

And how you would follow your big sister around.  All day long.  And how she was your hero. 

I remember “Jingle bells, jingle bells…how it goes?”

And Rum pa pum.

I remember how nervous you were to climb the rope to the ceiling in tae kwon do.  I think you were four years old then…and you really didn’t want to do that.  Until I promised you an ice cream sundae.  And then you did it William.  You did it. 

I see  you, in the small hours of the night, when the house is quiet.  I see all of the things that make you.

I see your intensity.  You remind me of me.

I see you run.  See every muscle, the syncronicity, the beautiful way every cell in your little body works together. 

I see your bedhead.  You have the most wonderful bedhead, William.  Seriously.  I did not appreciate the bedhead of little boys until I had you. 

I see a little boy that I am not sure I will be able to continue to feed at the rate he is currently eating.

I see in you a boy that will most surely be an athlete, in spite of the physical struggles you have had.  You have it in you.  You are talented, William. 

I see a boy who needs closeness, who needs confirmation.  One who still, to this very day, says these words before sleeping…I love you night-night.  Sit in the chair up here, the one by the window, I love you night-night.  Yes, you still say it, every night.  And still I smile, every time. 

I see your tenderness.  Your frustration.  Your desire to please.  Your athleticism.  Your competitive nature.  You William.

You.

I.

Love.

You.

William

Six

In my arms they placed him…my little boy. 

I never could have known what the last six years with this little boy would entail. 

I have cried over this boy.  I have felt so desperately sad and angry and lost.  

I have laughed.  Abundantly. 

I have been frustrated.  Exasperated.

I have been confused.  And I have learned.

I have been exhausted.

I have talked.  And talked.  And talked. 

And I have been exhausted with all of the talking.  And then I have talked some more because that is what he needed. 

I have been so proud of him and I have wanted everyone to know how incredible this boy is.  But I know that someday they will all find out.

I have been charmed by him. 

I am always amazed by him.

He is generous.  He is kind.  He is helpful.  He is sharp as a tack.  He is charismatic.  He is a leader. 

And frankly, the red hair and freckles?  Well.  They’re just the icing on the cake. 

Today, he turns six.  I miss the chubby little baby boy with the red curls.  I miss his quiet.  I miss lying next to him until he fell asleep at night.  And every day that he grows, I realize he is another day further away from that baby boy that was placed in my arms six years ago. 

But then, the other day, I watched him.  He sat shirtless at the island in our kitchen.  His jeans were stained with grass and there were holes in both knees.  They were the victim of backyard football, I’m certain.  With one hand, he grabbed his sandwich, took a bite that was way too big and jumped up from his chair.  He opened the refridgerator, grabbed the jug of milk, poured himself a glass and gulped it down.  And there before me I could see a 16 year old boy.  Flashes of him and what he will be like flickered through me and my heart’s rhythym was fueled with love for this boy.  For once, the bites that are so-big-he-can-barely-chew, and the shirtlessness and the grass stains…I delighted in them.  In his boyness.  I loved it. 

And I was really struck with how lucky I have been for the last six years.  How lucky I am to be his mother. 

How lucky this world is to have little boys.

And how lucky it is to have Henry.

Six

This Little Girl

This is the little girl that introduced me to motherhood.   

This is the little bundle that taught me how full my heart could get, so full that I felt it might burst; so full that it sometimes ached. 

This is the baby that slept well, that ate well, that snuggled, that quietly observed.

This is the toddler that daintily put on her ballet shoes and her tutu and twirled.

This is the little girl that picked dandelions and clover blossoms on Easter Sunday.

When William had his stroke, we shuffled this little girl off to the neighbor’s house once or twice a week so she didn’t have to hear him scream and cry during his physical therapy.  And though I think she would have preferred to stay home with me, she never said a word.  She just did what I asked.

This is the little girl that I took to preschool that first day.  When all the other children looked a bit nervous, clinging to their mommies, Kate sat confidently with a puzzle and replied with a simple “yes” when I asked her if she was ready for me to leave. 

This is the four year old little girl that understood and didn’t make a fuss when I told her that the dress she loved so much was very expensive, and that we needed to go home and think about it before we spent that much money on it. 

This is the little girl that would not get out of bed without Mommy coming to get her.  She would yell down from her room “I’m ready to get up!”  And she would patiently wait for me to come and get her.  And that could be a while–her two little brothers needed a lot from their mommy in the morning.

When Henry was diagnosed as hard of hearing, this is the girl that again got a little bit lost in the shuffle.  Because she didn’t demand a lot.  She didn’t demand the focus or attention that her little brothers did. 

This is the girl that can get overlooked.  Because she is a good girl.  Because she is smart, and capable and responsible.  Because she doesn’t get into trouble, and “knows better.”  This is the girl that almost always tries her best, and always does well.

She finds success easily in almost everything she does.  Which means that when something is a bit challenging, this little girl can get frustrated.

This little girl wants to help.  It was she who offered me a drink of water one day recently, when she could tell I was about to blow my stack. 

And she is a little girl who loves to paint her nails, and dance, and draw.  She loves sparkley things, and giraffes and dogs.  She loves to write in her journal, and she loves her Daddy.

She is the girl that I read with at night.  We lie down together and she reads her book, while I read mine.  And now and then I look at her, and she at me, and we smile. 

And this is the little girl that I stand over at night, and whisper how proud I am of her.  And how much I love her.   

In this little girl, I see so much of me. 

This is the baby girl that I fell in love with 8 years ago.  Happy birthday, Kathryn Sunshine.  I love you more than you can know.

This Little Girl