I know he died, but how is he?

"Hi Mama. How's Grandpa Sr.? I mean, I know he died, but how is he?"

Such a simple sweet question from six year old Nathan. Caught somewhere in the middle of not really understanding what it means when someone dies, and having a sense that death is not the end. And totally heart breaking. Death is even harder when you have a six year old.

Grandpa Vogele is the first person to die who Nathan will remember, does remember. On Saturday night when I told Nathan I was going down to Maryland on my own, instead of my trip with the boys planned for Monday, because Grandpa might die tonight, he asked "but how? how can someone die at home?" Because our bodies are done, but we are lucky enough to be comfortable in our own space; that is where we all hope to die sweet boy. Still, Nathan got out of bed in his pokeman pjs, crying, putting on his socks and snow boots and jacket, determined to come with me.

And then Sunday night, "I know he died, but how is he?" So we talked about what death means, that the next time Nathan comes to Maryland we will remember Grandpa Sr. and celebrate his life and miss him, but we won't see him. That when I see him this week, I am just sitting with his body, remembering him and missing him, that we do these things because his body is all that is left here on earth, but we know his spirit is not changed, and we miss being able to see him and hug him and talk to him, but he is not completely lost. We talked about what his body looked like - calm and peaceful and comfortable. Nathan was so mad and sad that he didn't get to even just see Grandpa Sr. one more time. He handed the phone to Tim, crying, "I just can't take anymore." Then he wanted to talk some more.

Nathan asked if I would send him a photo. I said I'd take one and we'd look at it together. I told him I would bring the picture he'd drawn so that his picture could sit with Grandpa Sr.'s body too. I told him how much is Grandpa Sr loved him. And then Nathan said "You know Mama, if you want to take a break, and not talk about Grandpa Sr. for a little while, and then talk about him more when you're home, that's okay." "Do you need a break buddy?" "Yah." "Okay. If you want, we can talk about him more when I come home."

Nathan is the sweetest boy. And death is even harder when you have a six year old.

Motherhood is...

Motherhood is being about to step into the shower when you hear your almost six year old who you thought had already left for school with Dadda call your name, and stepping your naked self out of the bathroom so that he can clomp through the house in his rain boots and damp jacket for one more hug.

It is also finding a plastic toy in your coat pocket, being about to put it away, realizing it's the toy the boys have been fighting about all week, and putting it back in your coat pocket.

The Tooth Fairy and Other Myths

It all started with a Dec 9 trip to the dentists office after weeks of a loose tooth:

"Mama, can the dentist just pull it out? It hurts."

And pull it out the dentist did, which is how on opening night of the Highrock Christmas Concert AND The Christmas Revels, with Mama and Daddy on different stages and our good friend Bill hanging out with the boys, we suddenly had to figure out Our Version of the Tooth Fairy.

When Nathan first discovered he had a loose tooth he promptly announced that he knew the tooth fairy wasn't real, so we figured we'd get to skip this one. But as the tooth got more and more loose, the idea of a tooth fairy took hold. So when Nathan came home from the dentist, tooth in hand, just two hours before I had to leave for the theater, asking "Do you think the tooth fairy will leave me a treasure chest? I hope it has gold doubloons..." I sent a panicked note out to a strategically selected group of friends:

"Hey Friends,

We are wholly unprepared for Nathan to lose his first tooth today. He's had a loose tooth for a while, but has also been unconvinced of the tooth fairy, so we thought we were getting off easy. Nope! And of course Tim and I both have performances this evening.

SO - We are now in search of international currency. (Nathan loves collecting foreign coins, seems to think the tooth fairy is a pirate, and we really have no idea how much a tooth is "worth" these days anyway.)

If you are going to see me or Tim tonight, or live close enough to swing by our house, and you have an interesting looking coin or bill that you can afford to part with, would you mind bringing it to us? Tell us the exchange rate - we'll happily buy it from you.

Nathan plans to leave the tooth fairy a snack, so who knows, there might be something interesting in it for you too.

Thank you!"

And thus began our globe trotting pirate tooth fairy. I gravitated to international currency rather than spending money because 1) I didn't want to get into the arms race of tooth prices and 2) Nathan is so torn by the concept of money (is it better to have a $20 bill or to spend part of it on those marbles I really want??) I just didn't want to add to his wallet. And he does love collecting coins.

For his first tooth Nathan received two coins from New Zealand and we got to see how the queen had aged from one coin to the next (who knew?). Tuesday night for his second tooth Nathan received a coin from the USSR (I guess our tooth fairy is a time traveler too). And thanks to our fast acting friends we're in good shape for the next few teeth.

The fact that Nathan has lost his first two teeth on either side of Christmas seems appropriate to me, since we treat the tooth fairy and Santa in about the same way - we're fine with these stories being out in the ether, we think they add a bit of fun and magic, but we mostly let society talk about them and aren't going to go to great lengths to keep up the story.

We manage our vague Santa by talking about how Santa is not the point of Christmas, but a reminder of God's love and generosity that we want to share with others and with the world. It helps that the message of love and generosity can work even for a family that doesn't believe in God, so it's an idea of Santa that works out in the world. AND it means that whether or not Santa is real doesn't really matter. We also talk a lot about the things that are magical about Christmas and highlight how they don't have to reply on Santa to be magical. Tim and I are already preparing how to celebrate when the boys stop believing in Santa, so that they feel the new knowledge is a new gift, rather than a letdown. I think we have a few years though.

So those are the myths that hang out at our house these days.

Daylight Whatever Time YEAR TWO

We set the clocks back and then we had an election that could very well set the country back.

But in our little family Daylight Saving continues to be more a blessing than a curse. For whatever reason, the boys who were up excited for school in September are getting tired and ready to sleep in by November. And the clock saying it is an hour earlier than their bodies think is just the trick for smoother mornings. Now a week into it, feeling I'm sure the stress of the adults around them, by the end of the day they are exhausted, happily asleep by 7pm, but that's okay. Shifting the whole day forward an hour feels good.

These days Liam comes home from school singing new songs. Nathan is becoming an incredible artist. And while we're exhausted (both parents doing Christmas shows this year, what were we thinking??) and sometimes short on patience, this is a great season with our boys.

This is not becoming a political blog (we can barely maintain a blog blog!)

When we found ourselves in the NICU almost 6 years ago, we started blogging to keep family & friends up to date and to keep our own record. When we launched this blog into the world we said we were preemie parents learning that parenting in the real world is really just parenting. What does that mean almost six years removed from our first NICU stay? I think it means learning to love and parent wherever or whatever moment we find ourselves in, even if it is not the place or moment we hoped for or expected – it’s still all the same learning to love because the real world is unexpected. I think that is why at this unexpected moment, this feels like a good thing to take up again, mostly for our own record. And maybe there will be some cute kid photos along the way.