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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Twenty gigantic minutes

We were under fluffy blankets and our bodies pushed into plush pillows yesterday afternoon as I read book after book after book. There was a little Dr. Seuss, some Shel Silverstein, the story of Library Lion, and the perennial favorite—H is for Homerun.

From there, we took our gloves, bats and balls to the park. There were pop flies, foul balls, and homeruns. There were fingers digging in the dirt, grounders, and dogs. It was a beautiful day and the sun was warm enough that we shed our jackets into a heap next to the dugout.

I managed to make dinner. I cut broccoli, ginger, onions, and garlic. I made brown rice. I fried tofu. I mixed and measured soy sauce and peanut butter, vinegar and molasses. I even sat at the table for three-point-five minutes as I inhaled the end result. I did all of those things, even though I knew it meant I would have to forgo a shower before dashing out the door for my hour-long drive to San Francisco for class.

Even though we did all those things, I still feel like I’ve failed because I wasn’t home at bedtime. I didn't read those stories at the right time of day. I didn’t pull up the blankets, smooth their hair back and touch my lips to their foreheads. I wasn’t there when they decided which moon phase to set the night light to. I wasn’t there to hear whether baby whale was welcome in bed or to hear C remind me to close the closet door because having it open is scary.

I missed those 20 minutes. Those crucial 20 minutes. And somehow it negates the hours that we spent together. I forget about the weight of R on my left and C on my right. I forget the constant, “Wait, wait, go back,” as one of them flips to the previous page to point out an inconspicuous frog in the illustrations. I forget about the 97 pitches I threw, the 39 balls I chased, the glorious dirt I brushed off of their pants, and the 284 smiles. I forget about the broccoli stalks both boys requested as I cut up dinner.

I missed those 20 minutes.

Classes will be done in May. As the endpoint approaches, the more I’m thinking about what I’ll gain when I’m done—Yes, a Master's degree. But more importantly, I'll get to put my kids to bed four nights a week instead of just two. As the endpoint approaches, I’m even more aware of what they’re missing, what they've missed. And I hope that there will be enough time to make up for all that I'm missing, all that I’ve missed.

I know that I have a lot of time with my kids. Quality time. Maybe because R is turning eight and C is turning five, I'm wondering how much longer I get to kiss them good night. How much longer they’ll sleep with stuffed animals. How much longer they’ll want to snuggle up and read the stories they love, the stories I’ve grown to love. Whatever the answer, it won't be long enough.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Welcome back, Love

For the first time in eight years, I thought more about love on February 14, than I did about sadness.

Sadness typically gets my attention because Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day coincides with Valentine’s Day (yes, on purpose, because of all the hearts). As a result, every year since Riley was born, heart defects have held my attention on February 14. I've written about it a lot too. I wrote about it here, here, here, here, and here.

But this year, even though sadness occasionally keeps me up at night, my Valentine's Day was filled with heart-shaped pancakes, flowers, a lunch date, making Valentine's cards for my kids, swimming lessons, friends, dancing, and the post-dancing ritual of dark chocolate dipped in peanut butter. I think part of the reason it's easier to focus on the good stuff is because Riley is stable and close to an important milestone. On his 8th birthday in April, he will be four years removed from his last operation. That’s half his life ago. But also, I’m settled and happy. It easier to focus on good stuff when surrounded by other good stuff.

The idea of combining Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day with Valentine’s Day is cleaver (yes, because of all the hearts). And it encourages people who don’t have CHD in their lives to think about it one day out of the year and possibly do something (if you really want to know, click one of those links above to find out what you can do). But for me, every single day is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day.

It was almost midnight before I thought about it. It wasn't a conscious choice. That doesn't mean I forgot about what we've been through or what is to come. But it was a gift to just enjoy my lovely and love-filled day. I think all the parents of kids with heart defects need a day to just be in love with their kids, in love with their friends, in love with their lovers. Valentine's Day seems like the perfect choice. So I'm letting go of CHD Awareness Day and I’m giving myself permission to keep February 14 as my day off. Indefinitely.