Olive is 8 (months) and “When Breath Becomes Air”

On 1.28.18, our Olive Tree turned eight months old.  I’m finally getting used to saying “my daughter.”  It seems like fake news that she ever lived inside of me even though I have pictures and witnesses.  She looks like both her brothers though lately, favoring Micah more.  I wondered aloud if she resembled Oliver Platt when she pouts but Kevin got offended.

She still looks a bit like Governor Christie, just like Micah resembled Paul Giamatti as an infant.

She joined our family when The Middle was 4.5 and Firstborn was 6.5 but to think of those years without her, with just the boys, seems odd and made up.

Everyone comments on her how serious she is.  Her stare game is strong.  Her gentleness is evident too as she coos and babbles and tries to suck on her own toes.

We never had to cry her out for sleep because she only cries when it’s an emergency.  I teased Kevin for jumping up to spring her, Mr. Let’s Cry Them Out When Newborn, Oops, Is That Too Early.  He claims he is not being easy on her because she is his little girl but that once he tried to ignore her cries and she had vomited a bit so she trained him early that she means business when she cries.

She loves to pull on glasses and grab noses.  She also loves to grab her brothers’ cheeks and wants to be included in play.  She is an old soul.  Her smiles and sighs still make me want to pass out from delight.

I recently read an unforgettable memoir called “When Breath Becomes Air.”  Dr. Paul Kalanithi blessed the world with this book before he passed away from Stage IV lung cancer at the age of 37.  His book took my breath away as he was clearly brilliant and unbelievably in touch with his mortality.

Kevin, on the other hand, read a few chapters and put it down.  “How could you put it down!?  I wanted to read it in one sitting.”  I suspected he didn’t want to read it because it is just too sad.  Kevin explained that he didn’t want to read it because the dude is on another level of brilliant and he could not connect to those heights.

True, his intelligence was almost comical.  Laughably smart.  And as a neurosurgeon, his contributions to the world were quantifiable yet immeasurable.  Death does not discriminate.

I also happened to read this book when Olive was the EXACT SAME AGE as Dr. K’s own infant daughter.  Here is a message he wrote for his daughter before he passed away, before he had a chance to complete his memoir:

“When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied.  In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

If I may bite offa this brilliant man for a moment…

Olive, I hope we always remain as close as we are right now, as you peer into my eyes and beat my bosom as you nurse.  I know mothers and daughters are notorious for butting heads and not seeing eye to eye later, but please know that you were just a daydream of mine until God deposited you in my 39.999 year old womb.  Unlike Dr. K, I *had* known a joy like this in prior years, through your brothers, but I didn’t know that I would get to experience this again, for what must be the last time.  Please know that when your not-young mom swings you at the freezing playground, she still resists the urge to lift her mittened-hands to the heavens in gratitude and in awe of you.  (I also don’t lift my hands because I got to spot you on the baby swing.)

Olive you.  I hope I get to be around for a LONG time.  To see my Olive tree grow.

Thank you, Dr. PK, for sharing your story with us and reminding me again that every gummy, babbling, suddenly-not-sleeping-through-the-night, pudgy-cheeked, breast-pumping-at-work-during-appointed-time-slots, moment is a gift.

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Ladybug’s Landing

It’s been a couple months since I blogged. First, different things came up so I didn’t have the luxury of writing at night.  Then we made it back to LA for our annual trip home.  Well, MY home.

It’s been hard adjusting back to NYC life, my home of nearly ten years, after getting a taste of what my life could be like in a sunny, palm tree-lined land where I could see my family weekly instead of annually, and where my kids could grow up with my best friends’ kids.  I’m sure I said that exact same thing about a year ago. I just feel so done with everything.  The weather, the congestion, the potholes created by the snow, the commute to our car, the repeating myself over and over again as I hear the boys going back and forth between lovefest and fighting every few moments.

Even blogging and Facebook make me say, “Eh, why bother?” Life feels “thinner” or less full here away from the different way of life on the West Coast, away from the folks who’ve known me since I was a kid.  Or from birth.

Daily tasks are just plain harder to accomplish here where space is at a premium and you don’t know how freezing it will be on any given day.  To walk out the door still requires pre-bundling. Don’t even get me started on the huge disparity in customer service in SoCal vs my ‘hood.  Folks be asking how it’s going while they SMILE at me, assuring me to take my time, asking if I need help with anything!

Finally, at the risk of sounding REALLY Californian, people’s auras were downright different.  People were happy and light as they hiked through the canyons, not pummeled by constant cold weather and rush rush rush. I’ve been sighing too much.  I’m still surprised by adult life even at my mature age.  It sure takes a lot of energy to maintain a household, a family, a marriage, not to mention friendships, individual needs, wants, and goals.

Then I go through a cycle of guilt when I hear about a young mama passing away suddenly at the age of 30, or yet another unsuspecting soul being stricken with cancer.

In my recent rut, I wake up with my hands outstretched to the heavens, praying that God will give me strength for the day ahead when I don’t FEEL the motivation I used to have. The spring in my steps.  The extra boost of mom stremf.  My mojo is lost or at least temporarily misplaced.

It’s funny that in my slump, when the last thing I want to do is take care of other humans, my kids end up encouraging me when I least expect it. Just last week, I was probably sighing again as I refilled their drinks and got up to fetch another library book to keep them from asking for TV.  While up, I put away a few toys, threatened to throw away Starscream if I stepped on him again, and peeked at the cable box’s clock to see when I can just sit in silence with no one asking me for one more thing.

Ellis climbed right up onto my chest with his huge round eyes.  Like a cat. He peered right into my “I’m So Over This” gaze and pointed out solemnly and loudly, “Mommy, you so lucky.”

“Lucky?”

I didn’t feel lucky in that moment.  I felt like the kids’ fat maid who needed to get fired.

“Why is Mommy so lucky?”  I itched to know. He got even closer to my face, with his wet tulip mouth and no sense of boundaries.  He placed his pudgy hand on my forearm.

“Because a ladybug landed on you, Mommy.  At the beach, the ladybug landed on YOU.  You lucky, Mommy.”  He looked very serious like a little preacher.

I remembered. I remembered how we got to play at the beach on Kevin’s birthday during our trip to LA.  It was around 85 degrees that day, the day after NYC had yet another snowstorm.  So hot that we even got to go in the water.  I was able to wear short shorts.  And my beloved Crocs.

A light grey ladybug landed on me while we were eating our gas station samiches.  I wanted to take a picture because I treasure magical moments.  He flew away before I got to memorialize him.  We all oohed and ahhed that the ladybug had landed on Mommy of all people!

That memory had stayed with little E.  And he had felt the need to mention it now when I felt so very uninspired.  The night before Ellis reminded me of this moment, a couple weeks after it had occurred, I had actually Googled “meaning of grey ladybug” while I was supposed to be using the bathroom.  Just sniffing around for some magic or meaning as I struggled with the minutiae of life.

My dumpling son is right.  I am lucky.  Even when I don’t feel it.  It sounds so much better coming from his innocent face instead of well-meaning adults.

And even when I couldn’t yield a Google search result explaining that a light grey ladybug landing on you while at the beach can only mean that you will win the lottery that month. IMG_1091 IMG_1087 IMG_1081 IMG_1072