Making Music Happen

Most of you who know me personally know that music is a central theme in my family and our home. It was a huge part of my past (having worked for 6 years toward a guitar performance degree) and a significant part of what made me who I am today. Although I rarely play anymore, as life, work, and children have engulfed my time, it does give me a certain measure of credibility and experience in working with and alongside my husband in his ongoing and consistently driven musical efforts, and also in instilling musical passion in my children. I have discovered that the active practice of our life’s various loves often waxes and wanes as time marches on and our circumstances change with its beat. But just because we may not participate actively in the same passions throughout all stages of our lives, does not mean those passions have died. For whatever length of time we did practice them, we wrote them on our hearts and made them a part of whatever we choose to practice in the future – in my case, blogging, gardening, hosting book clubs, raising children, and supporting the passions of those I love (just to name a few). But I digress…

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This post is about music. And it has been quite a week for musical happenings in our home. The first and most minor event is that I restrung my classical for the first time in years! Given the above diatribe about life’s changing passions, I hope this does not cause any of you to immediately assume you will be hearing the classical renderings of Diana Scarborough (as last heard circa 2005) any time soon. But it is a step. A small step. It opens the window a crack so that if I feel the whim and decide to exercise my fingers a bit, at least it won’t sound like doo doo. (Did I just say doo doo? I’m such a MOM!) But the most pleasant side effect of this effort is that my hubs, who plays all the time, will now be able to play my guitar if he wants to. And it is a BEAUTIFUL instrument. I know that I am biased toward it in the much the same way parents are toward their children (OK, maybe not that much), but it really is lovely. This classical can sing. And it has been hanging on the wall, un-played, for far to long now.

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The second musical event is that our oldest son, Aiden, was given his first real instrument! From the time he was old enough to favor one instrument over another, drums have always been his biggest love. And the kid’s got rhythm. He doesn’t just beat around and make noise like most 4 year-olds would. He creates beats. He jams. He writes lyrics and melodies to accompany his playing and he gets after it. When a good friend saw him playing at a party recently, he was so taken with his ability and inspired by his passion that he determined then and there to buy him his first kit. The very next day, he did! It arrived in the mail a few days later and he has been playing every day since. Lessons will be soon to follow, but for now, we are just letting him revel in the excitement and joy of playing something his size that belongs to him and makes him feel proud.

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The last and most important event is that Jonathan (aka Hubs) has completed and self-released his first album – an accomplishment several years in the making. Music is easily his biggest passion and the thing he gains the most fulfillment from in life. He has labored for a long time to meticulously perfect and pour himself into these 11 song. Writing, performing, and producing every bit of it in our home studio in the sparse time that life, work, and children have left him to work on it. But he never gave up, even when he felt like it didn’t matter anymore. That it could never get done. That he could never find the time. He did. He pressed on and now he has something beautiful to show for it. The beginning of a legacy. I don’t know if thousands of people will hear it in his lifetime, but some will, and those who do will be changed by it. And now he has walked through that door, closed it, and is free to walk through the many that lay ahead. I am so proud of him. And if any of you would like to experience the reason for that pride, click his image below to hear a sample, download the album, or order an actual CD. It is surprising, unique, and full of life… just like he is. I am excited to share this piece of him with the world.

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Growing Art – A Garden of Much More than Plants

There is an art museum not too far from my home – although, I must admit, I am lucky to live in a place where nothing is too far from my home. However, with two small boys in tow, I am not prone to frequent its subdued, quiet, sacred halls. The natural history museum, yes! The children’s museum, absolutely! The art museum, not so much. That is, not until recently. About a year ago, the museum architected a large outdoor space they called “The Art Garden“. It is a collection of manicured, multilevel garden beds, regularly dispersed with outdoor art including statues, glass art sculptures, artist-designed furniture, and water features. There is also a large open grassy space with a stage at one end where they regularly host concerts and other presentations. And at the center of this astonishing space is the one feature that makes it such an appealing choice for those of us with little people. There is a children’s fountain complete with tile mosaic underfoot and a continuously changing pattern of water sprays that is sure to delight not only the children, but all those looking on.

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I recently took my boys there for some “cultured” play time, and as I sat back and watched them run and jump and frolic in the water, completely un-self-conscious or even aware of all those looking on, I began to ponder the nature of art and its effect on those who view it/participate in it. This is a place where art is grown. The plants themselves are part of the art and they are growing and changing every day. The culture surrounding this space is something that is gaining momentum all the time and growing into an effectual catalyst for the revitalization of downtown. But the thing that struck me the most was the fact the children themselves, growing, developing human beings, became a part of the art of this place as they played. It wasn’t just the parents sitting and watching their children play. There were others who sat and watched, without the hindrance or distraction of smart phones, books or other shields between them and the outside world. They simply watched, as youth and exuberance and vitality displayed itself in front of them. And they drank it in. You could see its effect in the lines of their faces and the change in their posture. Art is meant to refresh – mind, body, and soul. To speak to hearts, situations, and cultures. To effect change. And these children – mine and others – were doing just that.

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It is humbling and awe-inspiring to be the care taker of such valuable works of art. I hope I can manage, every day, to fully appreciate their worth.

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To Owen On His First Birthday

Shortly after Aiden turned one, I wrote him a letter chronicling his first year in our lives and capturing for posterity all of those little details that we so often forget as parents. It is something I have saved for him that I hope he will one day cherish. Well, Owen hit the milestone of one year a little over a month ago and I wanted to do the same for him. Although the letter is for him, this is a safe haven for it to live and a place where, hopefully, he and I can touch the lives of others in similar places in their journeys:

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To my sweet, spunky little man,
What a year it has been! You, my darling little Owen, have been and will always be my baby boy – but this first year has also changed you into quite a feisty little kid. I am constantly amazed by the differences in you and your older brother. When Daddy and I decided to have you almost two years ago now, it was partly because we felt confident in the place we had gotten as parents. We felt strong and stable. Like we had done it once and done it pretty darn well, so why not do it again? And from the very beginning you have broken every mold and shaken everything we thought we knew as parents, demanding that we learn again and learn differently. Insisting we see you as your own person. And we love you for it. Although we did not anticipate the level of the challenge, we are becoming stronger because of it. We decided to have you by planned c-section and assumed this would make the birth process much smoother and less traumatic than it was for Aiden. Little did we know that you would decide you wanted to come out 5 weeks early! I went into early labor and then on bed rest for a month to try to protect you, Tiny Small, and keep you safe till you were ready to take on the big world without help. It was an amazingly difficult time, but also amazingly eye-opening as many friends and family stepped in to help us through. They brought food, came to stay and help with Aiden and the house, made me stay laying down for your sake, and some even gave money to help while I was off work. They are part of the reason you are safe and healthy today. Then, when the day finally came, it was beautiful! It was indeed much less traumatic and I felt so very connected to you in those first days in the hospital. It was precious and intimate. And all I kept saying was how happy I was. You completed our family and I could feel it from the beginning. You were a nursing champ, just like brother. But that’s about where the similarities stopped. You never wanted a passy or sucked your thumb. You were a booby baby and you loved (and still love) your little monkey lovey. Not just to snuggle, but to eat up. It is always soggy but you don’t seem to mind. You have never been one for schedules, much to Mama’s chagrin. But I think this will serve you well later in life – develop into a sort of easy-going, go-with-the-flow kind of nature. I think this schedule aversion may be due, in part, to the fact that we sold our house when you were 1 month old and moved a month later. Right around the time Mama went back to work. You can imagine the chaos all of that change added into your very new life and routine. But you took it like a champ. I guess when the entire world is new, a new home filled with boxes and strangers and work is, well, nothing new!  This schedule aversion also led to a very tired and frazzled Mama because it was nine months before you consistently slept through the night. Sometimes you just wanted to nurse and snuggle. Other times you were ready to be awake for hours from 1:00 to 4:00 in the morning. But as harrowing and exhausting as those times could be, they also contained some of the sweetest memories. There was nothing quite like nursing you in the dark in your room. Calming your fears, quieting your cries. Letting you know you were safe and loved. By four and a half months, you learned to sit up on your own but it was still weeks before you could roll over. This was when you and Aiden started really developing your bond because you were able to be a more active part of your environment. Laugh and respond to his interaction. In this first year, you two have developed something special that I LOVE to watch. No one can make you laugh as easily as he can. Of course, no one can frustrate you quite as easily either, but what are older brothers for, right? Currently your most frequent words to him are “Don’t” (said like DOAN), “Bad” (BAH), and “No, no” (Nah Nah), but your most frequent reaction to him is giggles. You started crawling at 8 months, just after your first Christmas. We celebrated at home and it was quiet and lovely. At 10 months you got your first teeth and since you waited so long to do it, you decided to go ahead and do it right – pushing through 6 front teeth in 2 days, poor guy. At 11 months you realized that moving around on your hands and knees was for the birds and you started walking, MUCH sooner than Brother did. The promise of running is yet to come, but you still chase each other around the house doing all manner of crazy things. Just the other day you painted his room and yourself red while I was fixing dinner! You always march to the beat of your own drum. Although you like Mama to hold you an awful lot, you also like to call your own shots. You will very independently march yourself around the yard, experiencing things with all of your senses (even taste) and fear for nothing while Aiden asks for help washing sand off of his toys ;) Your favorite toys seem to be both balls (you’re quite good at throwing for your age) and all of your various weapons. We never let Aiden have guns when he was little, but when we finally relented and got him one, we always cautioned him to “never shoot people.” Well, apparently my “boys will be boys” philosophy has gotten the better of me because now you run around shooting all of us with a loud, “BOW” and we simply play along and fall down dead. You think it is hysterical! For your first birthday we had a monkey themed party, in honor of the previously mentioned soggy monkey you love so much, and it was a great success. Many friends and family came to help us celebrate you. Although you seemed rather bewildered, you didn’t cry for the happy birthday song as both Daddy and Aiden had done for their first birthdays. I think you take a bit more after Mama in few ways – your propensity to take risks, your strong, independent (yes, stubborn) nature, and your looks. This warms my heart a little bit, since Aiden has always been a little copy of his Daddy in so many ways. I used to ponder before you were born how it would be possible to love another child as much as I loved my first-born. You proved the age-old truth that love does not divide, it multiplies. I still love Aiden every bit as much as before, but you thoroughly squashed all of those fears and wrapped me around your tiny, chubby finger from the moment you looked into my eyes. I loved you instantly then, more now, and immeasurably for the future. May every year to come be as rich and full as this first one has been and may we always remember to count all the joys and forget all the pain.
With all of my heart, always,

Mama

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A Trip Down Postpartum Lane

Although I did not fully intend to take a maternity leave from my blog, it seems that scheduling, exhaustion, and emotions have effectively accomplished that for me. The miracle of life continues to be extraordinary for those of us who brought it into being, but for those who did not, I know that reading a daily log of my new son’s eating, pooping, and sleeping schedule may be somewhat less than thrilling. Unfortunately these are the things that consume my days as of late. Combined with an ever-present struggle to maintain my sanity through the fog of postpartum hormones and little to no sleep, it has been hard to find the energy and inspiration (much less time) to sit down and write. But writing is an integral and important part of my fulfillment – and hopefully important to some of you, my readers, as well – so I am making the time. Forgive me if the subject matter is somewhat sub-par. It is where I am now and it is what I have to give.

The involuntary drugs I am constantly hopped up on – otherwise know as postpartum hormones – are a cruel and unusual reality. I know that they are the cause of much of the way that I feel (which makes me feel crazy), but the feelings themselves are real and valid. I cannot simply ignore them. Allow me to give you a tour of what goes on in my head most days lately:

I find it exceptionally difficult to separate myself from my tiny newborn son. Even now, I have his video monitor right next to me as I write and I find myself looking at it at least as much as I look at this screen on which I am typing. For nine months he and I were connected. Two people existing together in the same body but separate. And as much as I hated pregnancy there is an odd and intense separation anxiety that happens when he is no longer part of me. It feels unnatural, in a way, for him to be across the room, even though I know it is, of course, not. I am jealous and possessive of him and feel disconnected from everyone else. Like no one else really understands… or cares. And I don’t blame them. Perhaps my life has changed radically over the last three weeks, but theirs hasn’t. Sooner or later, my new baby is not the center of everyone else’s attention. But most of the time if feel like it should be, darn it!

Everyone treats a pregnant lady, especially a big pregnant lady, special. But almost as soon as the baby is born, all of the special attention transfers to him. And this too feels unfair. I had major abdominal surgery 3 weeks ago and now, for all intents and purposes, am housebound while still trying to care for both of my children. I deserve to be treated special too, right?

And my hubby, whose life has also changed dramatically, has the added privilege of dealing with all of my insanity. This often makes him withdraw, because really, what is there for him to do besides take care of all of our practical needs (which he does superbly)? He can’t even begin to touch everything that’s going on inside me. This, in turn makes me feel distant from him and guilty for making him have to deal with me. He practically had to beg me to go out to dinner with him tonight and let my parents, who are visiting, watch the boys. And yet, it feels so wrong for me to leave the baby, that I almost resent him for insisting we go. Crazy, right? I know.

And you remember those fears I mentioned a while back about whether or not I would be able to love Owen as much as Aiden, who I have adored intensely from the moment he was born? Everyone told me that I would have no trouble. That love multiplies rather than divides. They were, of course, right. I adore Owen every bit as much as I do Aiden. But the irony of it is, I sometimes find myself even resenting Aiden for demanding so much of me at a time when I ought to be able to enjoy my new baby as much as I was able to enjoy him. Thankfully, I don’t think I’ve ever shown him these feelings but it’s bad enough that they’re there. Especially since he has been SUCH a wonderful boy since we came home from the hospital and SO tender and loving with his new little brother. It is astonishing and beautiful to watch and makes my heart swell.

Then there are feelings of inadequacy. Like I just can’t handle each new step along the way – leaving the hospital; Jonathan going back to work; visitors coming; those same visitors leaving; returning to work myself… Jonathan is going out of town 3 time in June and I don’t know how I am possibly going to manage the boys by myself while he is gone. I know I will. I have to. I just don’t believe that I can.

And in the middle of all of this, I am having to search for new childcare for when I return to work. This gives me constant and recurring panic attacks. If I have so much trouble leaving my baby with my mom, how in the world will I be able to leave him with a complete stranger in 5 or 6 weeks. I have no idea.

Add to this the fact that this baby, who I am so protective and possessive of, is one giant bundle of need – perpetuating a cycle of nursing, diaper changes, gas pains, fitful and broken sleep, and repeat – and you have the recipe for a perfect storm.

I know that all of this will pass. I had many of the same feelings after I had Aiden, perhaps to a worse degree. But when you are in the midst of them, flooded with emotions and hormones that you can’t control, it is sometimes hard to remember that life will return to normal. A new normal perhaps, but normal nonetheless. So in case any of my friends are planning to come see me anytime soon, bear in mind that this is the me that exists on the inside – even if what you see on the outside is remarkably held together. And if this inside me is too scary, I completely understand. I’ll let you know when the fog clears. If not, come help me weather the lonely craziness and I’ll try to keep the monster at bay. Besides, Owen is so incredible cute and wonderful, that seeing him is worth braving me ;)

A Letter To My Unborn Son

Dearest Little Owen,

You are due to arrive into this world and our family in only two days. Judging by all of your wild and crazy movement and your attempted early escape four weeks ago, I think you are ready! I may not be a first-time-mom with all the eager overconfidence that makes each pack of diapers and each little outfit an exciting trip down possibilities lane – everything new and unknown and full of potential. But even as an experienced mama, I am nervous and excited to meet you. Whereas the first time around, I was so eager to teach my son everything I could about life, this time I am more eager to learn from you everything you will be able to teach me. I know I have already learned far more as a parent than I ever imagined possible and I am excited to see what new challenges you will bring into my life and the life of our family. I know you will not be a replica of your brother, but with him as my only experience, it is sometimes hard to imagine in what ways you will be different – your own unique person with individual traits and desires, habits and interests, and contributions to all those around you in this journey called life. I selfishly hope that you will look a little more like me, since your brother looks just like his daddy – although you’d be luckier to look like him as well. I hope that you and your brother will be the best of friends and be able to teach each other things that your daddy and I never could. I hope that you will grow to be a generous, caring, responsible, and inspirational man one day. That you will be more apt to listen than to speak. That you will never take others for granted but learn everyday how to meet them where they are in their journey. That you will always know, no matter what, that your daddy and I LOVE you and will be proud of you for the good choices you make, even if they are different from the ones we would choose for you. I hope that you will always be full of wonder and hunger for life and that you will not let the world and its ailments drag you down. I hope that we are able to be good examples for you as you grow, but more than that, I hope that you will surpass us in character and accomplishment as you make your own path. I hope that I can love you as only you deserve to be loved. I have already started and I know that my capacity for this love will only grow as you do. I can promise you that, at times, I will fall short, but I will never give up and I will do my best to be humble and forgiving and I hope that you will do the same for me. My sweet, tiny little man, I hope you have a wonderful birthday. I can’t wait to meet you!

Love, Your Adoring Mama