My Little World, Right Now. {Summer 2010}

Friday, August 6, 2010

It's almost always the sound of my little boy's morning murmurings that bring me to waking each morning... His light chatter to himself as he wakes and greets the morning in his crib. He has taken to waking slowly, gently-- reaching for a book from his stash in his crib and thumbing through the pages quietly as he fully wakes.

Joe and I have never set an alarm as a rule, because Noah is our alarm clock. But these days, as he stretches his sleep towards 8:00 and 8:30, we are starting to wonder if we should be better about waking ourselves up earlier... But... well-- there's no rush. We love waking to the sounds of our son.

The morning is always gentle-- there is nowhere critical to go, ever, and nothing that calls to us with urgency. So mornings are a rhythm of Noah playing trains, Mom and Dad checking our email/Facebook/sports scores/message boards... sometimes a group snuggle on the big bed as we watch a snippet of a Disney cartoon. Breakfast happens when Noah finally declares, "I hungry, mom". Sometimes this is right away, sometimes not for an hour or more.

Breakfast for Noah is still in his wooden high chair with the cracked yellow plastic tray. We have never undone the tray to put him in. We just slide him in feet first and he shimmies into position. His breakfast of choice is still cereal or toast with peanut butter. He is a good eater, taking his time and savoring the experience. He eats alone for most breakfasts, for Joe and I both use this time to catch up somewhere else... A bit of laundry, maybe the dishes, an email or blog to read... As important as we hear it is, breakfast for Joe and I is elusive... and only ever ends up happening when the animal instinct kicks in and hunger demands our attention. But Noah has a routine, and he loves it, so he gets a well-rounded breakfast every day, alone.

The span between breakfast and lunch is a liberating, endless stretch. If there were any time of day where I feel the most possibility and promise, this would be it. Which is funny to write, because for all the freedom I feel in this time, I have, of late, not been very fruitful at all. If I were to get any kind of magic/art/adventures under way, this would be the time of day to do it, but these days, mostly, we lounge. We enjoy the NOTHING. Noah sits and determinedly plays with his trains, minutes heaped upon minutes, his small brow furrowed as he runs his motley chain of wood trains (with two plastic ones thrown in) around and around the tracks of his train table. I might diddle on the iTouch, play a game or tweet or read a message board... Or I might grab a minute to send a work email. Lately, I've been back on the novel-reading wagon, so I've spent many a morning curled up with a quilt, devouring a good book as Noah makes his playtime noises... asks his questions, asks me to "look, Mommy! Look-at-that!" I grab as many minutes as I can of good reading before something pulls us to the next thing, which could be an itch for a snack, a sudden restlessness in Noah for something different.... Or often, something we've planned to do outside the home.

Then the day expands before us, out of our cozy home and into the world... perhaps it is a Mommy Playgroup get-together at a park or pool. Perhaps we've concocted a brilliant scheme to go "do something", like explore a museum, or meet up with a friend for lunch or window-shopping. There is this relentless itch in me to "do something"... to get away from the home so that the day feels distinct from the other days. I'm never sure this is entirely ideal-- this "getting away" habit of mine...perhaps we'd both benefit from learning to turn toward the restlessness/boredom and grow in it... but Noah has been a supremely easy companion for many months now, so every trip in the car we take, to grocery store, to friends' homes, to activities, is blissfully easy and downright fun. Noah is my little buddy, and I love going out to "do something"with him.

In the car, we have many games, many routines. We'll look out at the world going by and point out cool things to each other-- a mechanical crane lifting lumber... "A trolley car, mom! Is it resting?" (in reference to the two classic trolleys set on display in Forest park and the Loop... not going anywhere, which confounds Noah)... The shapes of the street signs... a bicycle... a puppy being walked. We talk about the traffic lights--- "red means stop, mommy! Green means go. Go go go!!!" Sometimes I'll call someone we both love, and he'll beg to talk to them. I put my phone on speaker phone, lock the keypad, and hand it back, settling in to listen to his frenetic conversation and play referee/interpreter from the front seat if the need arises. His scattered chatter to his phone friend covers the gamut of topics from what he sees that very minute to what he did earlier that day to a plot of a favorite book. He'll ask random questions, too... And often, his thread of thought is difficult to keep up with. That's when I chime in to lend some context or re-phrase some of his ideas to the person on the other end of the line. I find myself smiling a silly smile to myself with every phone conversation I hear Noah engage in.

We don't listen to much music in the car... The CD player was stolen years ago, so we are stuck with the factory-issued AM/FM radio, and radio is just noisy to me... so we sing our own songs, a lot. Noah knows so many songs... and his tone is clear and amazingly on pitch. We both feel a deep joy in singing... I can tell.

And whether our errand is a long one or a short one, it never seems that we get back home gently... It almost always feels like we are pushing to make it home in time for a decent lunch or for naptime. I am not sure I love this feeling-- the stretching just a little too far to get more into the outing... The push to get home... the hunger and crankiness just on the edge of both of our attitudes. Far too often I resort to McDonalds or another fast option, just because I know we've run out of time for a quiet, slow home lunch. Oh, I try to make it better than bad-- apple slices instead of fries, chocolate milk poured into his sippy instead of soda or juice... But still... I wish I could manage to buffer our days with more time in between things when we're out and about.

Eventually, we make it home... and there is nothing like walking into the dim coolness of our home after being out in the sunshine, the noise, the heat--burdened by diaper bag/purse/groceries/shopping acquisitions... walking in, dumping it all where  we stand, and letting the quiet of being home wash over us. More often than not, Noah runs straight to the train table, or to the stairs where he has left Mai and Ducky while out on adventures. The first thing I do is take off my shoes. Every time. Then slowly begin to settle the bags of stuff I've dropped-- put things back in their place, unload groceries or purchases... And then I find my way back to Noah, sitting next to him as he reacquaints himself with his favorite toys. We are both breathing a bit slower... happy to STOP again. And after a few minutes of letting home welcome us, I either turn my thoughts to lunch if we made it home in time, or thoughts of getting Noah settled for naptime. I confess that the thoughts of Noah's naptime almost always go side-by-side with thoughts of how I am going to spend that blissful span of free time by myself.

Noah's naptime has a ritual of its own. We collect his "friends", Mai, Ducky, Phil... maybe a train or two, then we trudge upstairs, both ready for the break ahead. In his room, the blinds closed and the light dim, I turn on his rain machine and we settle into the rocking chair for stories. We usually ready just three... And try to rotate them often. After each story, he asks, "Books in the crib?" and I gently toss them into his crib for him to pore over as he settles to sleep. We sing two or three songs... And then he lets me tuck him in and kiss my two fingers then place those two fingers on his lips... And I quietly leave. He nearly always settles in with his books, then gets to sleep with little fuss or fanfare. Remarkably, after nearly a full year of his naps being 1.5 hours on the nose, he has moved to a 2.5 or 3 hour nap. I think we both genuinely thrive in this time of day...Noah rests his little body and his mind as he sleeps, and I get to stop. Just STOP for a little while.

This is my time, and I very rarely donate it to anyone or anything else besides my own selfish rest time. I often take a lovely, peaceful nap of my own. But if I don't nap, I often work on some little project, or read a book or magazine... or get myself some lunch. Usually anything I choose to do in this time is slow... is comforting... Is rejuvenating to me.

With Noah's naps stretching so much longer now, and us pushing the morning's adventures later and later, he often doesn't get to sleep until 2... which means our whole home and life slows down until nearly 5 pm. By then, the sun is noticeably on the west side of the house, the day's ebb is well on its way, and there is no real drive or desire to create new plans or projects or ideas. If we've made plans earlier in the week-- perhaps a dinner with friends or some other errand, we'll still make it happen... but if nothing is on the calendar, it is easy to let the evening's waning pace dictate our evening together. Joe is often around at this time, and we listen for Noah's waking noises... and going up the stairs to get our little man is a small pleasure we both adore. Often, we'll go in together to get him because we've both begun to miss him by the time he wakes up. And he always wakes up so happy. It is a small, powerful, fleeting instant of pure joy whenever I get to go get my baby after his sleep.

With Joe and Noah and myself all together in the evening, we tend to just enjoy being together in the living room  as Noah plays, Joe playing a game on his iTouch as I read or ponder dinner. There are times one or the other of us gets the itch to get out... perhaps go to the store to buy something fun, or go to a park... When we had a bit more money to spare, it was never hard for one of us to convince the other that we should go out to dinner... But recently, we've been much better at preparing dinner here at home. I've just barely begun feeling a deep satisfaction at making my way to the kitchen to begin the work involved in getting dinner ready for my family. I tie on one of my beloved aprons and begin the work of pulling out ingredients, cutting, thawing, chopping... It's never a vast, impressive endeavor, but I try to make flavorful, varied things, and both my boys are good eaters. Usually when dinner is nearly ready, I ask Joe if he and Noah are up for setting the table... And neither of them ever puts up a fuss. I love that we are developing this ritual... that Noah sees "family dinner" as an event that is worth preserving... maintaining. Dinner includes a blessing, napkins, vegetables, and conversation, without fail. The other things are interchangeable-- the entrees, the dessert, the time of day... But the blessing, the napkins, the veggies... the conversation--- these are non-negotiable.

The end of the day is nearly as gentle as the the beginning. Dinner done, cleaned up by one of us while the other goes back with Noah to play trains yet again, there is a sense of delaying the bedtime routine just a little longer-- not just from the kiddo, but from us, too. We've recently begun taking a "family walk"-- something we've only done a few times so far, but something that resonates with me and seems to resonate with Noah, who asks for it. We keep it short and simple, and talk about the things we see around the neighborhood. We visit the "cows" in the neighbor's driveway (wooden cutouts that Noah LOVES). We point out the sights, the sounds, the smells... We talk about our days and observe our surroundings. The "family walk" might only be around the block,  but it lends a sense of closure to our day.

Bedtime used to be around 7:30, but in the luxuriating long light of summer, we rarely get motivated to begin the routines until 8:00 or 8:30pm. When we can deny it no longer, it is usually Joe who brings Noah upstairs for his nightly shower. I can't even remember the last time Noah took a bath, like most kids. He prefers the shower, and uses his bath toys to gather and pour water as his daddy supervises and tries to get some soap and shampoo accomplished in the meantime. The end of the shower is marked by a countdown-- the transition device we've been using for a while now to help Noah cope with transitions from one activity to another. Noah loves the bathtime countdown so much that he is the one to initiate it now... "Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one!!" and he turns off the faucet himself. Bath is followed by teethbrushing, and flossing... a new addition to the routine that Noah seems rather enchanted with. All of this is done with Joe, but immediately following the flossing, Noah begins to ask if he can "call for mom". Meanwhile, I've been puttering on the computer, more often than not... Keeping an ear out for the call to come join my boys.

And the call comes every night, Noah standing at the top of the stairs in his shark-hooded bath towel with nothing else on, calling, "Oh, MOMMMMMMMMY!"   It has become a game-- his elongated call to me, and his breathless waiting for what reply might come back up the stairs to him. I vary my response. Sometimes I mimic him, sometimes I call out a reply of my own, "Oh Nooooooooooah!". Sometimes I'll peek around the corner a little at a time, or use his Mai to peek around the corner. The goal, for both of us every time, is laughter. If I hear him giggle, I've succeeded... And he is SO eager to play the game back with me. By the time I dash up the stairs, he and I are grinning ear to ear, and we give each other monster hugs as I get him to his room for diaper and jammies. Joe and I share the task of getting him dressed and cozy, and then we adjourn to our room for storytime. We've been reading an abridged, simplified version of The Wizard of Oz, a chapter book with sketched illustrations. I have been delighted and amazed that he has been actively engaged in this new ritual, even though a chapter book seems far beyond his capability. I think there's something to the three of us being snuggled together on the big bed, the unity of reading the book together... the family prayer we share afterwards. Something warm and real and lasting in those ending moments to the day.

And then my favorite moment of the day... After stories, Joe carries Noah into his room while I settle into the rocking chair. The lights turned off, Joe hands Noah to me, gives him a drink of water, then they exchange "I love yous" as he leaves the room. Noah then nestles into my arms, his lamby and blanket in hand. We say a small prayer together, and I ask him what songs he wants me to sing. He always knows what he wants, and puts in his request. And there, in the darkening room, his warm, heavy little body curled into my chest and shoulder, I sing to him. He listens, he pulls his blanket closer... He sings along sometimes, little snippets of sweet words. He pulls back to look at my face in the near dark, he asks for one more verse... And with my little man in my arms, the world outside stops. The work can wait-- the inevitable editing/client emailing/cleaning/STUFF that calls to me from the other side of the door... It can wait. I feel my pulse slow down even more, feel my arms go around him tighter, and I sing that extra verse. It is a perfect moment. And I get to have it nearly every night.

By the time I lay him in his bed and tuck his blanket around him, he is quiet, and he is ready. I sing Twinkle Twinkle to him as I brush my hand through his hair, then I give him my little fingers-to-lips kiss and leave the room.... a night of work or couch/movie time with Joe or activities outside the home ahead of me... The "old life" before being a mom, in some ways. The evenings are good. The rhythms that belong to them have their own joy and satisfaction. There are nights I get to sew to my hearts' content... Work that gets done and checked off of the long list... things that feel great to get done. And there is nothing like curling up in my amazing bed at the end of it all, with a book and a hubby's arm across me to finish the day. But the bulk of the day that truly captures my heart and my joy at this little world of mine happens in the hours I am a mama... a wife... in the sunlight...Our repeating, magical, unspectacular, rhythmic, fleeting days together as a small, young family of three.

This is my little world. Right now.


  1. Beautiful. What a blessed life!

  2. Hearts and flowers.

  3. I love getting a glimpse into your daily routine. Our mornings are similar... do whatever, whenever. I think that is what I will miss most when kindergarten starts in a few weeks. Granted, he will be done by 11:10 and we will have the rest of the day, but rushing around in the morning is not my cup of tea. Or his.

  4. Really is nothing like coming home:)

  5. Emily, that was fabulous. Thank you for sharing your wonderful everyday.

  6. We are very different than you and yours.

    I don't know if its because my husband and I are structured people and so our kids by nature are built/designed that way.

    I don't know if its because by next year I will be a mother of 4 - 4 and under and I can't have days like that, or if its just because its okay to be totally different.

    Some days I would be totally envious of your day and others I think I would go crazy. :)

    Either way it was wonderful to read and a refreshing look into a more laid back lifestyle! :) Jealous a teensy bit! :)

  7. Your night time routine brought tears to my eyes.....beautiful moment with your sweet boy!!

  8. Great pics! I sure wish Callum would sleep until 8!!! He has been hearing Logan get up for the hospital at 5 everyday, so my days are torturously early lately. Ugh.

  9. What an important piece of writing, Emily. That document of your days - the rhythms in their joys and challenges, the appreciation you have for right now. THAT is what this is all about. Beautiful.

  10. You're life is so magical and I have enjoyed the last 20 minutes I took to savor each word, hoping that someday I will find bliss of my own.

    I cannot wait to see very soon!

    I love you.

  11. Amazing the similarities between our Nola and your Noah - Nola too loves peanut butter on toast, books in her crib and evening walks. Thank you for sharing your sweet days.


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