Finding a birthday wish, or two

power-pose

Power pose!

Four years ago, I wondered what the future would look like. What would come of our presidential election and the many other seats up for grabs and propositions waiting to be approved. Four years ago, I worried and anticipated, wondered and hoped. Four years ago feels like both a lifetime ago and a blip on the calendar. Today is an important day for our country, and really, for the world. The outcome of today’s election will catapult us into the next chapter of our country’s story and will make history one way or another. Today we sit in anticipation as one day, one outcome, one moment determines the landscape in front of us. Four years ago today, I sat in a similar position, poised on a similar perch. However, that one was much more personal. Four years ago today, my second daughter was born (and on her due date no less!). And so, while we all wait and wonder what the future holds for our country, I write this blog post for her.

To my dearest middle child,

Happy birthday, baby girl. It’s hard to believe that four years have gone by so quickly. I vividly remember waiting in anticipation of your birth and wondering when you would come… if you’d be early in time for the Giants to win the World Series (again) or as a our own little Halloween pumpkin. Then when October came and went, I wondered if you’d provide some much needed relief during the Obama vs. Romney election, or if you’d tease me and push all the way past your due date into the depths of November. I remember wondering who you would be, how you would change our family and how you would shape your sliver of the world.

In the days leading up to and in the early stages of labor, we walked around the neighborhood to simultaneously get things moving faster and alleviate the pain of my contractions. We’d doddle from street to street and look at house paint colors while imagining how we would repaint our house one day. It was a haze of daydreaming nestled on top of real, primal emotion and pain as you prepared to enter the world. Perhaps that’s where your love of colors and tendency to doddle comes from. You’re welcome for that. On the day you were born, we waited in the hospital room as the epidural took hold of the contractions and gave me some much needed relief from the intensity of progress. That morning, a cloud paused seemingly only above the hospital and brought a dark violent rain quickly followed by a warm, healing sunshine that shone through the window into our delivery room. Not long after the sun danced on the linoleum floor and reflected off the medical equipment lining the walls in the room, you decided to make your entrance. This rainstorm has become synonymous with your personality – a lot of warmth and sunshine, sandwiched around moments of sudden bursts of intense “rain” (usually in the form of random tearful fits). When the midwife placed you on my chest and your daddy announced “it’s a girl,” the wave of emotion I felt was one I could never fully put into words (and clearly I like to use my words!). Your piercing blue eyes looked up at me with a knowing glance and immediately, everything else melted away. In that moment, I became a new mom for the second time and you flipped everything upside down.

You, baby girl, took our family from a unit of three to a circus of four (and two years later your little sister turned us to a party of five). You made our first born a sister, and together you taught me the overwhelming bond of siblings that as an only child I’d never fully understood. You defined what it means to be the middle child in our family… less the quintessential, stereotypical middle sister and more simply the second of three. You are situated somewhere between wanting to be coddled as a little girl, and wanting to be a caretaker to your little sister (and sometimes to your big sister too). You bring humor, spontaneous dance moves and sensitivity to every situation. You are completely and unapologetically yourself and your individuality is something I hope you will continue to celebrate and embrace.

This year, as you welcome your birthday with rainbows and unicorns (that’s not a euphemism, you really do love rainbows and unicorns!), there’s a lot at stake for our country and the people all around us. You might sense that the air has more energy to it, that people are on edge and that something big is coming (or you may not…you’re four). But today, as we celebrate your birthday (and wait to hear the results of this election), I want to share a few wishes with you.

four-squareToday, I wish for you to continue growing up in world in which you are valued, respected and honored. I wish for you a future where you can be anything or anyone you want to be, where your opinions matter and where you can make a difference. I wish for you to have the continued gift of confidence, innocence, and the amazing art of not caring what others think. I wish for you to be able to maintain the skill of truly dancing like no one is watching, to be able to love fully and deeply and to know that the future before you is bright. I wish for you to find and use your voice to stand up for what you believe is right, to ask for help when you need it, to protect the ones you love and to know that you’re protected too. I wish for you to struggle enough that you know how to overcome it but not so much that you feel that it has overcome you. I wish for you to find continued strength, determination and tenacity. I wish for you to continue being a ray of sunshine, even on a cloudy, random rainstormy kind of day. I wish for you to always know that you are loved. I wish for you to know that you are part of a big world but never let that make you feel too small. I wish for you the ability to slide on the moon, swing from the stars, jump in the clouds and slide down a rainbow ( all figuratively, of course… if you really did this mommy would have a nervous breakdown!).

Happy birthday sweet girl. May today be a wonderful next chapter for you, and for our country. I love you to the moon and back.

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Finding an expanded heart… x3

IMG_2723Dear little one,

Happy birthday! Happy birthday to my third beautiful baby girl! Happy celebration of 12 months around the sun… an accomplishment shared between you and us, your loving and adoring parents.

You, my love, changed everything. Yes, it’s true. While your sisters, of course, changed us plenty, you were the tipping point that changed us… me… in more ways than I can explain.

Your oldest sister made us parents, and that is a gift for which I’ll always be grateful. She showed us how to completely adjust our lives and ourselves to make space for a tiny being that is completely reliant on us. She was the first to teach us, test us, push us, and show us the true definition of unconditional love.

Your middle sister taught us balance. She taught us how to be in two places at once, and to continually split ourselves to match the needs of her and her sister so that they were getting the physical and emotional care and attention they craved. She showed us the incredible bond of siblings and proved that our hearts could expand to love more than we knew was possible.

Then came you. You came in like a storm – brewing for a while, teasing with false labor and sleepless nights. When it was finally time for you to come (after a particularly spicy dinner of Indian food), you showed us that you could be simultaneously stubborn, strong-willed, and determined. When you were finally born, you instantly expanded our hearts again. You filled our family with joy and celebration. When you were born, a double rainbow appeared in the sky.

IMG_2761We often joke about you in the most endearing kind of way, blaming the fact that you’re the third child on why we are the way we are. We often say “oh, third child” as a reason or excuse for why we haven’t taken as many pictures, or why we are more comfortable letting you play alone in our dining room play area (still under observation, don’t worry! We didn’t throw you to the wolves!). Our entire family jokes about it too – about how we do things (or don’t do things) with you that we never would have done with your sisters.

But the truth, little one, is that we are that way because you’re the third, not in spite of it. We are more relaxed with you. We are able to give you space to explore in a way that we were more nervous to do before. Yes, we might have missed a picture here or there. We might give you a sippy cup with last night’s water still in it. We might pick a toy up off the ground and wipe it off on our leg rather than washing it or sanitizing it like we did for your sisters. Yes, we might do those things, and more. But we also are able to really relax with you. To focus on you in an entirely different way. To seamlessly fold you into the chaos of our family and having three kids five and under.

IMG_2558Yes, you’re the third child. And with that comes its own blessings and curses. But, my little bumble bee, I want you to know that you have taken our family by storm, just like the day you were born. You’ve expanded our hearts. You’ve given both of your sisters the unique and special experience of being big sisters and trying our their maternal instincts. You’ve given your daddy an intensified level of pride (and fear) of being the father of three girls. And, you’ve given me an entirely new approach to being a mom.

Happiest of birthdays, little one. Here’s to today, and to many more to come.

With love, adoration, and double rainbows,

Mommy

Finding an opportunity to reclaim the day

It amazes me how one date can simultaneously hold memories of anguish and joy.

Thirteen years ago I was asleep in my dorm room, groggily hitting the snooze button and vaguely aware that the normal pop music that should have been blaring through my clock radio was replaced by somber voices and lots of talking. As I settled back in for another eight minutes of sleep before being awoken by the alarm clock yet again, my phone rang.

“Ryley, it’s dad. A plane just flew into the World Trade Center in New York. We’re okay. Get up and turn on the news.” (At that point, I didn’t question why my parents in Arizona were telling me that they were okay, but have since thought about how smart my dad was to have the foresight to not totally freak me out as he woke me up.)

With my hair frizzed out and retainer still in, I sleepily walked down the hall to a friend’s dorm room where the news was on. For the first time, I saw the images of the planes flying through the towers and was frozen in my spot. One of the deans walked through the hall, making sure that everyone was okay and anyone from the east coast had been able to reach their family. I spent the remainder of the day glued to the tv, watching the same footage over and over again, horrified and riveted all at the same time.

Fast forward nine years later, and I spent the same day, September 11, again immobile, this time connected to medical equipment. Though labor had really started two days earlier, September 11 was a day of intensity, excitement and overwhelming emotion. After hours of pushing, I looked at the clock – it was 11pm – and said to my husband “I can do this for one more hour. Let’s get to the 12th!” (That must have been the meds talking!) My strong-willed daughter had other ideas, though, and she came out ready to party at 11:28pm. It was one of the single greatest moments of my life and changed me forever.

Whenever someone asks me when her birthday is and I tell them September 11, they often react with pity. “Oh…” they say. But I don’t see it that way. I see it as an opportunity to reclaim a day of ugliness and terrible pain and, at least in our little corner of the world, make it into a day of beauty and celebration. It doesn’t mean we don’t remember the day thirteen years ago that changed the landscape of our country and the world in countless ways. We do. And we celebrate new life and the amazing hope, joy and spirit our little one brought into the world four years ago.

Happy birthday baby.

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