I slowly folded the rainbow striped party hat in half and stuck it in Jack’s special ‘safe keeping’ box.  I later added the cake topper from his very first birthday cake.  a banner that read ‘JACK’.  for some reason this small act was the saddest moment of our baby boy turning one.  not because the party was over, the hat been used and the cake eaten.  but because I knew the next time I looked at that hat, that little boy wouldn’t be so little.  I could  sense the nostalgia I would feel.  I could forsee the grown little boy.  The momma going back through the box, the distant memory of a first birthday, a crinkled rainbow party hat-faded but still as vibrant as ever in my eyes.  maybe I will make him wear it again, when he’s grown.  just to humor me.  his chubby cheeks will probably be gone.  his translucent, soft baby skin will be darker.  mottled by years of the sun.  first shaves.  who knows what his hair will look like.  he will be tall.  probably like matt.  but his eyes will still shine.  they will still hold that eternal glee of joy that  they have for a year and a day now.  and no matter how old he is, I will see those eyes, and I will see my baby boy.

Happy Birthday Happy Jack.

the wonder years.

so the other day I made the ghastly mistake of celebrating Stella finally sleeping thru the night (at the crazy age of 2.5 years).  and guess what.  she stopped.  the last two nights have been insanely bad.  like, I’ve debated picking up my blankets and sleeping in the yard kinda bad.  She’s been up 3-4 times, lots of screaming, which wakes up Jack.  and then suddenly Lincoln’s up, standing in the hall and saying, “I”m hungry.  my legs hurt. I’m not tired anymore”  or any other crazy statement that never makes sense at 1am.  all the ups and downs of sleep has convinced me of two things:

1) the sleep stuff never ends.  it just doesn’t.  it might go on good stretches, but it’s never over.  they will always need something.  just when they start to sleep (ie, teenage years) you will start to lose it because, well, where the hell are they?!

2) parenting is a 24 hr job.  period.  there’s no getting around it.  there’s no clocking out.  when Thing 1 craps in the corner of his room at 3am and then puts the same dirty underwear back on, yeah, you can’t really sleep through THAT.  there’s no crying it out to chaos.  it won’t end.  as matt so perfectly said last night, “he won’t be happy until everyone else is up”  misery loves company, and this house, at night, is MISERABLE.  “all of us together!”  as Lincoln likes to say so often.

lack of sleep is a crazy demon though.  it makes my eye twitch.  it gives me ulcers.  it makes me confuse my mascara wand with my toothbrush (yeah, it was as bad as you can imagine).  it makes me slam cupboards at 5:43am.  it makes me yell at the cat (who gets all to much sleep if you ask me).

I remember being pregnant with Lincoln and reading the book “Marley and Me”, and reading the author’s descriptions of the ‘sleepless’ years.  and being totally petrified.  It was just a small paragraph, subtly hinting to never sleeping and living on coffee and understanding bosses.  I couldn’t imagine how people stayed up all night and then functioned the next day.  I couldn’t fathom a lifestyle like that.  I remember telling myself, “It’s not as bad as people make it out to be”.  ahhh.  the sweet little lie that enables us to do the hard things in life.  maybe it’s not so bad for everyone, but it is for us.  (of course we created our own issues by creating Baby Bootcamp, aka three kids in less than three years).  we don’t sleep.  Matt sleeps in his car during his lunch hour.  his area manager thought he was joking.

on an average night I sleep from 10-12ish (not counting the 45 min I usually get on the couch, where I fall asleep sitting up, head on my hand), Jack wakes up and I attempt to not nurse him.  then Stella joins the party right as he goes to sleep, prompting another Jack wake up, prompting another round of non nursing screaming.  which in turn wakes Lincoln up (Stella at this point is passed out and snoring, successfully having riled up the whole house)  Lincoln then usually wakes Stella back up, and so on and so on.  until 3am becomes 4am  and I log in another 1.5 or so of sleep and suddenly Jack is trying to get up for the day.  it’s a special circle of hell.  other than moving to a large house with padded rooms or giving away a child or two-I see no solution.  except time.  this too shall pass mantra, as annoying as that always is to me.

as bad as it is, one thing always comes to mind though.  I’m making it through.  I could comisserate with the Marley and Me author.  I could laugh about it over lattes.  I manage to make it to work.  to run a store.  to continue to have babies.  to function on a daily basis (even though I use my mascara wand as a tooth brush).  this too shall pass.  someday it will be nothing but a meager paragraph in a chapter of our life.

but damn am I tired.

honey bee flies home.

I know I do my fair share of complaining about being a stay at home (work) mom.  the screaming.  the chaos.  getting all the glasses of milk.  but I have always said one thing, “I would do ANYTHING in order to be at home with them right now.”  and I walk that talk.  I work my bum off running a small business in a craptastic economy.  I pinch this household so tight you’d be shocked at how little I spend to keep it going month to month.  I do the majority of the child rearing, the fun parts (afternoon trips to the park, art days) and the not so fun ones (triple meltdowns in the grocery stores) and the nessecary parts (brushing teeth, laundry, laundry and more laundry).

my baby sister is going to a whole new extreme to make sure she logs in those precious early years.  she’s moving.  across the country.  (halfway).  back to where it gets COLD.  and HOT.  yeah, we’re temperate people in these parts.  60’s and sunny. but, the weather is beside the point.  she’s leaving and she’s taking that cute little monkey baby with her.  and you know what, I thought I’d be MAD and sad and a whole gament of other things.  but when she told me all I could think was, “I get it.”  I happened to be rocking Jack to sleep at the time, I looked down at his soft little angel face and imagined not seeing him every second of every day of his little life and I knew then, I’d do ANYTHING to not lose that.  even if it meant putting on a coat in the winter.

and all these extreme measures made me stop and think about little people.  and how they transform our lives.  we think we have it all figured out.  we have our career paths and lives set, our 5 year plans.  our 401ks.  and then they come along and they blow that planned little life out of the water.  I was halfway up the corporate ladder.  I spent a lot of my time worrying about sweaters.  and dressing tall plastic runway models.  believe it or not I’ve had 45min conversations with a TEAM of individuals about the placement of a necklace.  sometimes I stop and think, “was I really going to devote my life to that? was that really worth my years?”

my mom got sick when she was 49.  FORTY NINE.  that’s a daily reminder to me that our years are limited.  make them count.  each and every one, you only get so many.  so when my little people came my world stopped.  I would say it was put on hold, but that’s inaccurate.  it stopped.  it shifted.  I want these years to matter.  I want these years to result in something other than high sweater sales.

I still have pointless conversations that last 45 min.  but they are usually about juice.  or dinosaurs.  I still spend a lot of time dressing people.  I spend a lot of my time kissing faces.  tickling.  building confidences  one hug at time.  opening paint jars.  sweeping up.  and I know that each day matters, even the hard ones.  so I told my sister, “I will miss you, but I get it.”  Isla will only be a little monkey for so long.

so off they go.  back across the rockies to where the land lies flat.  where she can hug and tickle and open paint jars.  where she can make her years matter.  and we will be here.  where the parking lots are full of sea gulls.  missing them.