let it grow

How many of us glance in our sleeping children at night and still think of Newtown? I do. Every single night. I walk over and look down on them, snuggled in sweet innocent sleep, place my hand on their warm rising chests, and kiss them on the forehead. Sometimes when I linger and whisper into Caroline's ear that I love her, she says it back to me in her sleep.

It wasn't just yesterday anymore, but it wasn't that long ago either. I caught wind of the story last week of the parents of one of the victims meeting with the suspect's father and seeing the accompanying photo of them walking arm in arm away from the school that day in December without their baby brought me to tears again. It is still just too much to absorb and definitely way too much to accept.

I wanted to run this weekend in the Sandy Hook Run For the Families .I sat with the registration screen open for days on my phone in January. I couldn't pull the trigger because a run in Danbury, CT meant either leaving my family for at least an entire day on the weekend OR bringing them along and having to face potentially terrible questions. I couldn't do it. Then the race moved to Hartford and knowing that isn't too far from my parents I briefly considered running there too, until I saw that because of the relocation they were now encouraging people to run wherever they were as "virtual" runners. Using my membership in a local organization, I approached the leadership, got myself on a first name basis with the police chief, created, copied, and distributed flyers all over town, approached the school for grounds use and inclusion in the packet of information that goes home with kids each week, and planned a course by running and driving around town looking for routes that could use sidewalks. I had no idea what I was doing. NONE. I did this, myself, with the support of my husband, kids, and family, a friend who helped me post signs with a long forgotten staple gun the morning of, and four wonderful volunteers from the high school.

Approximately 30 people ran with me on Saturday here in town, and about 15 others registered but due sickness, schedules, or the absolutely freezing cold and wind didn't quite make it to the starting line. My sister-in-law Colleen who had planned to walk with my nephew decided it was too cold for him (it really was!) and RAN! She had a baby at the end of January. She ran.

We raised over $800.00 for the Sandy Hook School Support Fund towards a total nationwide of $438,131 that will directly benefit the families of the victims.

It was cold. I hadn't warmed up at all, but my heart was full. Caroline handed out the green ribbons I had pinned together at the start and bottles of water at the finish. I held her image in my mind throughout my run, how she loved to be helpful and she wasn't sure what this was all about, but she wanted to be a part of it. One of her classmates walked with his mother, he told her he wanted to do it and even though she has had knee and hip surgeries, she walked because when your six year old tells you he wants to do something like this you find the strength within yourself. Had it not been so cold, it would have been a beautiful day to run. The sun was shining through the clouds and I kept looking up, remembering the terrible images I have held in my heart for three months, and one foot in front of the other, the run was done and there was Connor racing to me at the finish, Caroline handing me a bottle of water.

When the planning and stress of organizing started to get the best of me, I reminded myself I was running for the Carolines; mine and theirs.

We were a small, but mighty group and if they do this again next year in CT, I am just crazy enough to volunteer again to organize something bigger, with a kid fun run, and real timing devices because it is the very least I can do to remind Newtown that we are still with them and we still remember and we won't forget.

Somewhere along the course, the "Let It Grow" song from the Lorax blasted into my earbuds. The kids love this movie and Caroline sings this song all the time. Sure, The Lorax is about conservation and ecology & the song is about letting a seed grow, but it's a pretty amazing metaphor for anything you think needs changing. "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better it's not."

... and what a message to send, 15,000 strong in CT, thousands more nationwide running in unison together. I care. I care a whole awful lot. It has to get better. I feel honored to have been just one tiny seed finding a way to grow the message of love and hope with a prayer for change. It's an uphill climb, but love has to win. There has to be change, for the Carolines, Connors, Lyles, Tenleys, Joeys, Dannys, Ryans, Brookes, Jacquelines, Claras, Owens, Cates, TJs, Samanthas, Amalies, Bens, Ethans, Annas, Zoes, Lillys, Maddies, Teddys, Charlies, Sams, Alessias, Veras, Henrys, Charlottes, Christians, Alexes, Quinns, Gabys, Nates, Nolans, Timmys, Shanes, Declans, Chloes, Teegans, Jamesons, Rylans, Grants, Addisons, Bennets, Abbas, Brendans, Maeves, Laurens, Joshes, Zacks, Rheas, Tommys, Alyssas, Allysons, Leahs, Michaels, Livys, Camerons, Lylas, Mias, Collettes, Claires, Roses, Nickys, Dylans, Amys, Nicoles, and every other beautiful amazing child in my world that I have left off this list. They deserve better. We have to let it grow.


unceremoniously

Steve has been working since before Christmas in spare moments collected on weekends to refinish a gorgeous bed that once belonged to his grandmother for Connor. I never got to meet his Nanny, but if she was anything like Kiki (and I am sure she was) she is smiling down and clasping her hands together laughing at the sweet thought of her great grandson resting his head on this bed. Steve invested in sanding tools, tried multiple methods to strip the layers and layers of stain and finish, roughened his hands with various grades of sanding paper and sponges. This past weekend he stained and finished the head and foot board, letting them dry for 24 hours in too cold to dry conditions. I have to admit I had my reservations. Steve doesn't exactly have a reputation for being handy, but it really looks handsome and amazing. Steve is obviously quite proud and Connor was so excited to "test" it, that the potential sadness we could have felt taking the crib turned toddler bed apart was overshadowed by all the goodness.

Pieces were pulled out one by one and the kids pranced around his bedroom excitedly. We hit a very small snag, but it did not stop us from putting together a plan for him to actually sleep in his big boy bed last night. He was asleep within five minutes, snuggled under sheets and blankets for the first time in his room, in the bed that will be his for always.

Poof. His babydom is gone. He is Connor the big kid who sleeps in a real honest to goodness bed and wears Spiderman underwear.

I thought I would be sad about this. I worried I would feel pangs of hurt and woe. I knew I would shed a tear. I was wrong. It feels right to have him growing and to put that crib downstairs in pieces. It might someday hold another baby in slumber, but not one in this house as far as I can tell and predict the future. It's another reminder to us that a phase of our life as a family is complete and the chapters move on fast and furious..

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Today is Steve's birthday. He turns 35 today (!) and in doing so, he undeniably enters his mid-thirties. I was too young to watch "thirty something," but given our day to day life, I can imagine that I would have really enjoyed it. It would sort of be like "how I met your mother" used to feel to us, before they dragged it out way to long and got away from what made it good.

35.

When I met Steve we were 22 years old, him just out of school and me just finishing up. I came to know how I really felt about him by writing the longest letters of all time for him to read both ways on a a trip to Ireland with his family. I knew he hated flying and I wanted to be helpful in passing that time anxiety-free. I remember when we were saying goodbye before the trip that he couldn't understand why I was suddenly so sentimental, but I think by the time he came back he knew why, and so did his family.

Back then, we had nothing to do but watch 24, work our first entry level jobs where we spent more time on AOL IM with each other than doing actual work, eat disgustingly delicious hamburger helper, and dream about where we might be in ten or fifteen years. The story was unwritten and held such promise and excitement. I'm not saying that potty training your three year old isn't exciting. The possibility of the combined savings and freedom to travel without a single diaper or wipe, well, that's pretty exciting. Did we sit on the couch looking out the window imagining we would one day cheer like the patriots won the big trophy for a kid peeing on a tiny seat? Probably not, but the day to day is anything but boring. The fact that with some family assistance and a planned after school program event will allow us to celebrate his birthday with dinner AND a movie, well, that's the most exciting thing ever. Well, that or the plans we have for traveling with our old enough to appreciate it kids.

We own a home, two cars, have two children, and are both gainfully employed in field we enjoy during an awful time for our economy. I think our 22 year old selves would be impressed and if not, let's see them do better.

Steve's birthday inevitably makes me think of moving back to MA. It was three years ago today that he officially relocated from CT to MA. We had arrived like wet rats on the steps of auntie c and hokie's new house on their rain soaked moving day, preschooler and baby in tow and we sighed the biggest sigh of relief. We were home, we would figure the rest of it out. I realized last night that when we moved Caroline was barely three, Connor just 6 weeks old. We moved to CT before she was born. When next year creeps around, a figurative tipping of the scales will have already begun as the time we have lived back in MA will start to grow heavier than the time we lived in CT, further into the past and behind us. It feels like yesterday. Time sliding away. The weight of being there so far away from Boston, at times felt like it would always be too heavy and attempts to move it just resulted in exhaustion. Take that 22 year olds, we lived away, successfully, and got back, let's see you try!

In that time, so much has changed, but things, the important ones, remain the same. Our family, our life, our home, I wouldn't change it, Steve. I like it just the way it is.

Happy birthday.