Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A good night.

We went out together tonight, just you and I. We first stopped at Old Navy. I wrapped you in my jacket as we ran from the car in the snowstorm. It's funny, you insisted on leaving the house in only a t-shirt. After all, we were going to buy you a new sweatshirt. So it makes sense. You were uninterested in shopping in general, flitting about and buying a bouncy ball. You tried on jeans in the fitting room, barely glancing at them. You were much more interested in making elaborate faces in the mirror.

What has gotten into you? You are so entertained by yourself these days.

Something perked you up after we bought some shirts. Barnes and Noble was next door. We hunched down in the weather and hurried over there. If I had any doubt that you were a shopper, it was shattered after ten minutes of being in that store. You could not make up your mind. This series is better than this series because of this.

There was a moment when I just stopped and stared at you. It was when you were looking through a children's book about paper dolls and fashion. Your neck craned down, your new sweatshirt that you are already in love with was zipped up tightly, and you sank into one hip. Your skin was radiant and you had no idea anyone else existed. I couldn't take it.

How am I out with you, a beautiful 7 year old, talking about other first graders and Easter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Junie B. Jones? And another part of me is carrying a baby in my belly. A possibility. A miracle. A chance at another amazing configuration. So much perspective I have now!

I am in constant awe. I try to keep my jaw shut, I do, but on nights like this, it gapes open. I look at my oldest daughter in the rear view as I drive up a snowy hill. Your face is so open. You concentrate on your book (Bad Kitty Takes a Bath) and don't say a word. You've been a delight. And we've had an evening together where I'm not working crowd control. I'm focused on you. Sometimes I miss you so badly. In the chaos and the hurried bedtime routine and catching my breath after caring for Lillie, I really miss you. You used to be our only one. How life has changed!

It was nice to be out with you tonight. And Graciegirl, you are fantastic.

Monday, March 29, 2010

34 weeks

Photo by Grace

You started sucking your fingers today. I could feel the tap of the back of your fist against the inside of my stomach. A rhythm, just like Lillie used to do in her last month. It endears me to you. How are you feeling in that warm bath? Is your soul fully intact? Do you hear us?

Grace scratches my belly. She talks to you in baby talk. Ruby loves you with her eyes closed. Lillie points at my tummy and says, "bee-bee". Or other times, she pushes on you really hard. I hate it, but you probably don't even notice.

The country is preparing for your arrival. It's spring now. I saw a fly buzzing outside the kitchen window. A FLY! People are laying out blankets and picnicking. There are political changes and the rivers and creeks are swollen with snow melt. This community whirls around you. You don't care to keep up, after all, you're not even born yet.

Six more weeks, baby. It's a journey, I feel like giving up but I don't have much of a choice. You are going to practically double your weight and there's nothing I can do about it. And once you're born, 8 plus pounds, I'll be so proud of every inch of your perfectly crafted infant body.

It's hard, though, I'm not gonna lie.

When I'm not thinking of you, I feel large and icky and tired and itchy. I cringe in the mirror and breathe heavily while I walk down the hall. My fingers feel like sausages when I play the piano. My throat burns after dinner until bedtime. I feel really old and really swollen.

When I am thinking of you, I feel excited and lucky. You kick Lillie steadily while I rock her to dreamland and then you keep going while I eat ice cream, and sit at the computer. Then we go to bed, you and I. I lay on my side and read a book, you moving like a hurricane. The corners of my mouth turn up as you keep turning and kicking and sucking and twisting.

I wish I could spend the entire pregnancy in bed or in close proximity.

We've almost made it. When it's time to come out, let's take it nice and easy, eh?

We all love you, beautiful little girl.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Photo

I would love a sneak peak inside every other home in America. Specifically those with young kids. On Sundays. When everyone's fighting and screaming and laughing and running and enjoying and doing art and eating... And fighting and screaming...

When I was young, my parents had activities for us to do on Sunday and their main goal was to make us peaceful so we (and they) could feel peace. Twenty years later, all I want to do now is feel a little peace on Sundays. Quite the contrary. I feel like the ref at a UFC fight.

But it wasn't all bad.

We ate some warm bread just now and the girls are sitting quietly. One more hour until bedtime. Lillie's just thrown her dinner on the floor and all the other normal things she does.

So we start another week (hooray!). That's one week closer to the big extrication. The one where I cease to house a body underneath a very thin layer of stretchy skin.

I can't believe she'll turn into one of the above. It's quite the miracle.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Damage.

Came out of my room after a 45 minute doze... of course interrupted every 5 minutes, but I went back to sleep every time.

I usually get a little nervous when I get up to survey the damage.

First up, the bathroom, a few pieces of wet toilet paper on the floor. Toilet seat has droplets of water on it. Water is a slight yellow color. Not a good sign. Bathroom vent cover is in the garbage can.

Two tubes of toothpaste strewn on the counter, one is missing it's cap. I assume it has either been flushed or thrown behind the toilet... but can't locate it. Purple liquid soap container is lying on it's side in the sink along with some piles of liquid soap all around.

Moving right along.

Lillie is sitting in front of the TV with a chip in her hand... so hand in toilet, air dried, then eating a chip. Just don't think about it... I wash Lillie's hands. Walk past the computer, there are finger prints all over the screen. I discover my keyboard and mouse extremely askew. There are three "untitled folders" on my desk top that have recently been created by baby girl smacking the keyboard like a piano a few times. There's a few open videos... So Ruby's been in iphoto snooping around, watching our old videos. Ruby's put on Cinderella and is watching it about an inch away from the screen. There's chips on the floor.

And my favorite pair of earrings are bent and lying on the table, lifeless.

Think that's about it for now.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's good.

He stays up late worrying about things. That he's not doing enough. I usually good grief him the next day asking him what on earth he was doing staying up so late worrying.

He says he has a house full of girls, who else is going to take care of them?

I don't like to admit my dire femininity. Or admit that I really need to be taken care of. After all, aren't I an island? I could look after myself just fine before my brawny man came into the mix, thank you very much.

But at this point in my life, I find myself giving into all of it. Yes, think of ways to make us a fortune. Yes, make some phone calls in my behalf. Yes, take in the garbage cans. After so many years I have finally come to terms. I'll cook him some supper after he comes home from a long day at work. Because I care.

But let's be honest, I didn't even get up off the couch when he walked through the door tonight. I clocked out. I promptly requested he cook us girls some quesadillas. Grace ran up and plucked his phone from his pocket and started playing games (running the battery down), Ruby stormed down the hall crying (because she didn't get the phone first) and Lillie pulled at his pant leg and yelled at him incessantly to play doggy.

It's midnight. He fell asleep on the couch at 9. Tonight's not a night for worrying.

Seriously, I love the guy.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Driving down Cottonwood Canyon at sunset.

My mind has gone off a cliff. Feels like driving in the rain. I was on my knees cleaning the girl's room (because it's easier than trying to reach down from a standing position). After I separated their clean clothes from their dirty, I spotted a small pile of toys in the corner. I didn't know what to do with them. I couldn't remember. Is there a place in our house for toys? I couldn't remember. So I had to leave and come back. Wipe my brain clean, like a chalkboard.

It was that bad.

It's literally all I can do just to concentrate on moving about. Take care of the basic needs of me and my family. But intelligent conversation? There is no way. The thoughts are there. I can feel the strength of them. They're pushing against that wall of fog in my head, and they can't make their way out. I feel around for them, kick up some dust, maybe one or two really important things surface, and the rest recede as quickly as they came forward.

This might be hard for someone to follow, sure, but imagine how hard it must be for me to explain intelligently that I'm getting dumber! Really think about that. An eloquent way to state, "I don't think straight". I'm not even sure who's fault it is. The pregnancy? My three kids? No one's?

What's my name again?

So many questions...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Eating and loving.

Here she is eating cinnamon toast and telling me "Shhhhh" with her finger. She's a little off the mark (always includes smooshing her nose).

There's a huge possibility that you think she's cute. Like a cute little toddler with a button nose and round eyes. Whispy dark hair. But no one lives and breathes Lillie like we do. It's impossible to see her as clearly as we do, and I know that. Having her and all the other girls strikes me with disbelief. That billions of other parents feel the same way about their own. How could there be that much love and cuteness?

I think other children are adorable, of course. But the love affair I have for my own children's faces, their white skin, dark hair, cherubic little chins, is out of this world. It's all-consuming. I look at these photos and they absolutely stun me. Sure, she's a handful. She makes the back of my neck and shoulders hurt with all the stress she causes me minute to minute. But she's a little soul, that one.

And she loves food. More than any other person I know. And that's saying something.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

First Born.


You will be 7 tomorrow. I heard your Dad's voice floating down the hall tonight after he got home and you and Ruby were already tucked into your beds. He went in there, left the light off, sat on your bed and told you the story of your birth. I couldn't help myself, I got up and went in to listen. It's not every day a man like your dad recounts the sacred moments of his wife giving birth to my first baby. You sat there wide-eyed. Don't worry, we censored it for your nearly 7-year-old mind.

You've got this intuition. You know everyone's name. You know your classmate's habits, strengths and weaknesses. You remember three years ago. You remember that one rainy day in the spring of '07 when we lived in Florida and we did such and such. Your brain is a bottomless container of what's important to you. You blow us away.

You read as good as the fifth graders. And I am saying this not because I had anything to do with it. I didn't teach you to read. The year before kindergarten I gave you a tub of peanut butter and asked you what movie you wanted to watch and told you to relax. Put your feet up. It'll be a long 12-plus years of education. No need to start now. And you didn't start. You waited until the first day of kindergarten and took off.

That's why I swell with pride. Because it's all you. Your strength is your own doing. All I do is pat you on the back and kiss you into dust.

A lot has changed since that first day of kindergarten. The pain of you having moved on from our little world has dulled. It's not on the surface like it used to be. I clutch your arm as I drive you the few blocks to school each morning, one hand on the wheel, the other pinching your bicep through your puffy sweater. You just look out the opposite window, so used to my tendency to hold on.

You're our grown girl. The one that your sisters look up to, the one all the pressure's on. Let me tell you my Grace Mary Smylie, you are the one for the task. You have everything. And the entire family looks to you. I hope you aren't opposed to that height. No matter how much I try to equalize things for you, the fact still remains: I don't know what the heck I'm doing. And you're my first. The one that's pouring the cement, putting up and taking down the caution signs. You poor baby.

Just know that I see you as my best friend. When I laugh with you, my laugh lingers a little longer than yours. My hand holds yours long after you've let go. I watch after you as you walk into school. My mind follows you as you weave through the treacherous world that is first grade.

There has never been a more stunning beauty. A sharper mind. A more compassionate soul. You're so much older than you are.

Yours forever,

Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Laundry, etc.

I had some deep thoughts today. I've been analyzing myself. Am I swell, or not so swell? What are my credentials? When I hear other mothers talk about household duties, or table settings, or great meals, or preparing family lessons a month ahead of time, I just think "that's not me". It's my auto-copout.

I do laundry. I knock it out, throw it in their drawers, call it good. I hang up our shirts within a day or two of washing. I cook, sort of. I bake on a whim. I rarely plan. Do I really try? Do I give it everything? Do I put my full effort into these responsibilities that are mine and only mine? Let's face it, no one else on this earth will do them for me. It's up to me. For the next twenty or so years.

I think I've been afraid for a long time of being just a "wife and mother". I try to add all these other things to my life, things that make me feel like I'm still dabbling in the outside world. Little side-jobs that distract me from the back-breaking task it sometimes is to take care of a home and family. Family mottos are great, so are chore charts and budgeting wisely and planning weekly meals. But I've ignored my need for them because they feel so mundane and unrewarding. "Let the children be, let me conjure up something hot and edible at 6p.m., no sooner. Let other mothers sweat and plan and be occupied with the every day."

I feel like I just do daily damage control. Oh, Grace got mad at Ruby again, let's deal with it the quickest and quietest way possible so I can go on with whatever I'm doing... But maybe I should plan ahead? When Grace does this, I will do this. Be more consistent. I know, I know, I sound like an idiot. Like, really, how basic can one get? But I've created these children. I've created this world for myself on my own accord and I need to be more present.

I need to change. I am not happy with how I'm doing as a housewife (who else hates that word?) compared to my potential. I am talking specifically about the duties of a home. Running a household. Mothering (with patience) is hard, too, but in order to feel good I think I need to organize my home. Not just physically organize, but in every aspect. Plan ahead, think ahead, not shiver at the concept of planning meals a week or even a month ahead of time. I need to take control. I'm not talking perfection here, just a constant vigil on what I could be doing better.

[And the feminist in me shakes her fist...]

This is what I'm doing right now. Taking care of my kids and my home. This is what I'm responsible for. Why not be better at it, lower my eyes and brace myself? Besides, my own mother did more than give me the tools! Why not stretch myself to actually put on that heavy weight and run the place? It's something that I've put off long enough. If it's bound to take up my time, I better be darn good at it.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010



You are so wild. And loud. And demanding. And crazy. And funny. And loud. And you drive your sisters insane. But they adore you.

How have you weaved your way into our hearts? You take so much of my time and my brain power. Take it and do what with it? I have no idea. But there are so many moments in between that are so endearing. That I look at you and recognize your fight and want to boost you up to get what you want. It's weird... I'm not sure who's team I'm on. Mine or yours. Or yours or the universe's. Or yours and everyone else's. But you fight, really hard.

And you're beautiful. So I think I'll keep you.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Sunday Photo Attempt.

Motherhood's a bit like driving across the Golden Gate Bridge in a thick fog. Where am I? What am I about to run into? It's a little scary, a little exciting at the same time. I pray that I don't get hit head on by a semi truck or flip over the guard rail into the bay.

But in the fog, somewhere, are these little faces. A weekend of crying, screaming and wailing. A weekend of tickling, laughing and nuzzling.

My eyelids are burning from lack of sleep. I texted Jake today, "are you so tired?!" We stay up late each night talking. We don't have a tv in our room which lends to deep conversation starting at around midnight, ending somewhere after 1 a.m. 95% of our conversation revolves around our girls. The unknown, the worries, the stress, the adoration.

It's nice to know Jake's the only other one on this earth that has the exact same kind of love for my children as I do. It's comforting.

We've got a pretty normal week ahead of us. Including the painstaking task of gestating #4. She's getting heavy and big and I'm only 31 weeks. Last night, after a little family birthday party for our girls I found myself laying on my bed surrounded by my two sisters and two sister-in-laws. They were there to feel my tummy. To feel the sweeping motions of a new person arriving to our family in May. They felt her kicks and stretches and were bright with excitement. This baby will be so loved.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Oooooooh Ruby. It's your special day. The day above all others. And you're turning 5. Daddy and I started a tradition awhile back where we decorate your room with streamers after you fall asleep the eve of your birthday. We call it "streamerland". And you know how Dad is, he doesn't just sort of decorate, he REALLY decorates. There are streamers everywhere, you have to part them all the way from your bed to the door in order to get out. Like icicles hanging from the ceiling. I reminded you that this would be happening tonight sometime after you went to sleep. Of course, you can't sleep anyway. You're still awake kicking the wall, I can hear you.

What a year it's been! A year of learning a bit of reading and writing, a year when your obsession with drawing has surfaced and held your dad and I in amazement. You have us in your clutches. I am convinced there isn't a soul on earth, having gotten to know you, wouldn't fall down at your feet and want more of Ruby. More of your heart, more of your mind, more of who you are. You're an amazing feat of humanity.

Happy Birthday, little one. Onto Kindergarten and who knows what else. Please just know that every inch of you is loved so fiercely, there's no more room in this little house to contain it.


Mom and Dad.

Monday, March 01, 2010



Sometimes we talk about how much space there is between us compared to our newlywed days. How the girls have wedged their bodies and their hearts in between us, between our conversation and coherent thoughts, inside our rational ideas. There's no escaping them, and we've learned how to somewhat cling to the us, the two of us. But really, what would we be without our girls?

I remember the day you told me you wanted to marry me.

I remember the day we found out we were pregnant with Grace, the look on your face, me in my cut offs that day, both of us so young.

I remember the day she was born. How we both cried. How a bright heaviness was in the room, pulling us together, making our dreams come true, creating in just moments a bond we could never break. How you stayed up all night with her, holding and rocking. Her birth taught us how valuable we are to our own family, to our own God.

I remember moving with you. So many places. Getting the girls settled in their beds. Always that first night in our new place, staying up so late laughing, unpacking, arguing about little things, laughing later, living day after day in our new life.

I remember flying on airplanes with you. First to our honeymoon, alone, on our own little cloud, across the country. Then to Arizona, California, Florida, each place adding experience. Each child adding chaos and entertainment.

There are so many memories only you and I can recount. That's the special part.

Tonight I rocked Lillie in her room. It was a no-go. I gave her a pack of m&m's at Home Depot (I know, you told me not to!) and there was no way she was snoozing anytime soon. So I just rocked her for awhile. I heard your voice float down the hallway. So deep and familiar. So strong. How long in my life I wished for a big strong man in my house to have that voice, that deep one, that filled the air. Calming my nerves, making me feel loved.

I heard a higher version, an inflection saved for our daughters. One of them was out of her bed and on your lap at the computer. She talked with you and without hearing the words you said, I could tell you were caring about her, caressing her face, telling her she was loved and beautiful and worth so much.

This is precisely why I love you. If I could pinpoint it, it would be the love you have for me and our children. It wrenches my heart. It melts away your imperfections. It makes me love you madly, makes my heart beat strong, gives me chills.

I love you, of course, told you a million times. And if I had a bunch of money, I'd buy you a motorbike and a couple of timeshares.

Happy Birthday.