Angela Amman

Unexpected moments in the morning

mornings with kids

Reading on the couch? That’s one of my favorites.

Mornings are not my favorite — even on the best mornings, when my fingers don’t fumble for a later alarm and I manage to accomplish a run while still getting all the lunches made. Even the best mornings involve some sort of rushing, sometimes from the kids and sometimes from me, particularly in the winter when gloves know you’re late and hide in random corners with Lego pieces and empty Tic Tac containers.

They don’t like the cold, either.

We had a not-best morning last week. On those, even my most practiced, steady effort can’t hide my frustration, and I feel the clutch of defeat in my chest as I reach for their hands to cross the stress. Some mornings like that end in tears, quiet ones pooling in eyes and lodging in my memory long after frustration floats away on the wind.

Last week, the not-best morning offered a gift as the almost-frozen garage door creaked open. The sky, caught at exactly the right moment between dawn and sunrise, greeted us in layers of sherbet shades — pinks and oranges none of us had expected.

We stopped walking, suspended in awe and frigid air at the top of the driveway.

“Oh. The sky,” one of us said, and I don’t remember who or if we even spoke it aloud.

We stared, hands together, and the heaviness of the imperfect morning lifted.

I didn’t hurry them across the street.

Our feet moved forward, cautious by habit on the icy buildup near the curb. Their cheeks had pinked by the time we reached their respective doors, and with the sherbet sky overhead, I took an extra moment with each goodbye kiss — mittened hands on the sides of their faces and full eye contact and smiles.

I saw them, the way we all saw the sky: beautiful and perfect and unexpectedly complicated. I yearned for them to see me, too, to feel the apology for trying to rush them, to feel how much I love when they linger in my sight.

If we had been on time that morning, we could have missed that exact painted sky.

I need to remember not to miss the pink skies; they won’t always be there for me to see, a gloved hand nestled in each of mine.

A few more hours of five

letter to my sonMy sweet boy,

I hugged you more times than I usually do tonight, extra tight, and you laughed every time I said, “It’s the last time I’ll hug my five-year-old!”

Six years old involves adding another hand when counting on your fingers, though you hardly use your fingers to count anymore. You insist on hearing the same books as your sister and listen when she’s talking about homework, and I think you forget you’re not in second grade, too.

 

I forget sometimes, too, and I treat you like you’re older than you are. You share bedtimes and movie privileges, and you definitely don’t think the age recommendations on LEGO sets apply to you. You’re younger and times, too, crawling into my lap when you’re tired and resting your palms on my cheeks. As the nights grow colder, footie pajamas work their way into bedtime rotation, and when you rest your head on my shoulder, hair wet from a shower and zipped into cozy fleece, I can almost see the toddler you were just moments ago.

We blink, and you tell a joke bordering on potty humor, because the word “butt” is hilarious to you every time — and your daddy tells me you might always find those things funny, which makes me sigh a little and laugh a little, because your amusement is contagious, joyful, and free.

You are laughter and motion, laser focus on building and schoolwork, and impatience when you’ve lost interest in something.

Your heart and enthusiasm often trip over each other and add volume to your voice and giggles to your sentences, and I wonder a million times a day if you’ll ever remember to walk instead of run.

Secretly, part of me hopes you don’t, that you keep that joy tucked around you and don’t let it be tempered by expectations about slowing down.

I hope you can cling to both sides of six, the part of yourself that methodically pieces together minuscule  parts to make ships, fliers, and creations of your own imagination, and the part of you that runs through the yard with your coat flung open, red cheeked and embracing the wind. There’s beauty in both parts of you, my love, and I hope you teeter between the two for years to come, for the rest of your perhaps.

You are almost six, and I learn from you every day: how to love more purely, how to live more joyfully, and how — almost — to find humor in punchlines involving bathrooms.

Love always,

Mommy

Practicing gratitude

practicing gratitudeChaos surrounds me; paper, books, and errant sponge curlers litter the kitchen table, and I don’t even want to turn to look at the playroom behind me. Lego pieces took over this morning; various piles of colored blocks, raided to complete sets or craft personal creations and parental booby traps.

Two piles of envelopes contribute to the table’s mess: Christmas cards and thank you notes.

I started strong with Christmas cards, powering through part of my list and then stalling in the face of last-minute shopping, baking, and trying to fit in my work hours while at least attending to the kids at meal times. Pajama days reigned supreme this break, and I’m mostly fine with that, except for those lingering cards and the countless other organizational tasks that fell apart the last couple of weeks.

Late cards still count, I hope. The wishes for happy holidays stretch into the new year after all.

For the most part, I could tuck away the thank you notes for another day. A quick email isn’t the worst way to say thank you, especially when accompanied by a candid shot of the kids enjoying their new books, toys, or building sets.

The blue and silver cards remain. We work on them in bursts, from yet another list I made with the kids’ help. I furrow my brow and pretend I’m not sure who gave what, because it makes me smile to hear how quickly they recall the givers as well as the gifts.

Abbey adds personal notes to some of them. Dylan started with lofty intentions but now just writes, “Thank you. Love Dylan,” sometimes with an extra heart and sometimes with an exclamation point, depending on what he’s in the mood to do.

I address theirs and write my own.

My hand tires a little, and some part of me nags at myself that there is likely something more important to do in this time: extra laundry or putting away some of the things that have been displaced lately.

I keep going. With each signed card and envelope licked, I remember moments of celebration this Christmas: trying to get a photo of the kids and their cousin in oversized gift bags, playing at the playground during our unseasonably warm Christmas day, the first taste of my mom’s annual batch of pumpkin bread.

Mom drilled the practice of thank you cards into my head and my fingers during my childhood, and her example of practicing gratitude still reaches across the miles between our homes.

I can tick off thankfulness lists on my fingers, but sometimes I don’t take the time to really reflect on the people and experiences making up the moments worth remembering. With three of us at the table together, talking and laughing about our holiday, I feel my gratitude flexing and expanding. The chaos becomes less important as I remember how many giggles echoed in my ears the last couple of weeks; tiredness and too much noise and petty arguments fall away in the face of that laughter.

I hope they feel it, too, the love behind the gifts they opened under the various trees that made up our Christmas. Saying thank you, in our imperfect handwriting, is our way of sending love right back.

Decorating the tree

Christmas ornamentsThe ornaments clump together, and I suspect I will move some of them between now and Christmas. Some are facing the wrong direction, and others are obscured by fellow ornaments crowded near each other on branches. I will straighten and balance and maybe bring some of my favorites to the front.

But I won’t move them tonight.

I thought I’d loosened the tree decorating reins last year, when I separated the ornaments into piles and let the kids hang their own.

This year, I sat on the floor and untangled hooks, opened boxes, and unwrapped tissue paper. They danced between the tree and me, sometimes in less time than it took me to blink. Other times they lingered, choosing a location carefully.

I kept a few precious ones near my side and hung them myself, but far fewer than I expected: a gorgeous, swirled glass bulb crafted from the volcanic ash of Mount St. Helens, a hand-painted Nativity bulb.

For the most part, though, I threaded hooks and let them climb on a dining room chair or crouch on the floor, searching for the right place for the ornament in their hands. I couldn’t help reminded them to be careful, with some more than others.

“That’s one of my favorites,” I told Abbey about an etched glass oval ornament. My Grandma Rose gifted it to me, and it’s dated 1977. Between the delicate Santa figure etched on one side and thoughts of my grandmother, it’s one of the most precious things on our tree each year.

Last year, I remember telling her I’d hang that one myself. Today, watching her gently place it on a branch, slowly and deliberately, pieces of my heart slid together.

My trust in them grows a little more each time I give them a chance to do something on their own — especially the things I don’t necessarily want them to do.

I laughed with their enthusiasm over ornaments they love, and let them walk to the tree, our memories cradled in their hands. Seeing them transfer gentleness and care to something outside themselves might be more beautiful than any ornament clustered together on the branches.

Besides, the glow of the lights turn even the clumpiest branches into Christmas magic.

NaBloPoMo November 2015

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