James & Owen’s 1st Day of Preschool

I have a lot I want to write right now but it’s too much. I can’t put my thoughts together. Sometimes, three-year periods bear little change. Others start with you in the NICU with two little people who—combined—weigh less than your cat and end with you watching them walk down your front walk wearing backpacks.

This picture pretty much sums up the morning. James has just found out that we aren’t going to be in preschool with him (we thought this had been made clear much earlier—apparently not). Owen (who is usually our more timid child) is thrilled.

Check out their personalized handmade backpacks. Andy’s aunt Susan made them by request—contact her here if you’d like backpacks, totes, diaper bags, clothes—she can make anything. (The boys love their backpacks. Thanks again, Aunt Susan.)

At one point Owen clenched his fists and just stood on our porch shaking his arms—he was so excited.

James is (sort of) smiling here only because I was making an absolute fool of myself in our front yard, trying to get him excited/cheer him up.

We drove.

James cried.

“Preschool will be fun, James. OK?” Owen said over and over again.

At Country Hills Montessori (the same preschool Sophie went to—the one we fell in love with) we were supposed to kiss, hug and go. Owen knew what to do as soon as he walked through the doors—where to put his backpack, where to wash his hands … Sophie had talked through all these steps with both Owen and James all summer long.

Owen didn’t look back.

James clung.

“What should we do?” I asked one of the teachers, who was at his level, holding her arms out to him.

“Kiss, hug and go,” she said.

So we did.

After I peeled his fingers off my wrist.

We heard the sound of his cry all the long walk back to our van.

(Parenting can be hard.)

The first day was only an hour long.

I spent it at Fort Thomas Coffee, with a latte, coffee cake and a copy of Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings.

I have long designated this future kid-free time as time to work on my freelance projects, excited about the possibility of not editing at midnight. But today, this first day, I designated this time as mine.

I didn’t read, though. I wondered if James was still crying. I uploaded Instagrammed first-day-of-preschool pictures to Facebook. I wondered if either had had an accident. I ate my coffee cake. I wondered if James was still crying.

And then it was time to pick them up.

Mrs. Richter gave me a thumbs up while helping load another set of twins into a mini van in front of me.

They had done well.

They came out, all smiles and waves, wearing the same clothes I had sent them in, excited to tell me everything—excited to go back.

I thought of the NICU, the times I kissed, hugged and had to go. How hard that was. How hard this was. And then how OK and, ultimately, good it all was, too.

The night before, my parents stopped by for a last summer hurrah—Coney Island, Skyline, Graeters. My mom gave me a gift—a beautiful Liberty print handkerchief, with hand-rolled and hand-sewn edges. (It has since seen some use.) And a card, with this written on it:

“Opie: Cage sure looks awful empty don’t it Pa?

Andy: Yes son, it sure does. But don’t the trees seem nice and full?”

A Picture of Sophie

So the reason for the last post is this picture. Andy has a computer hooked up to our TV and I don’t really understand it except that I know it requires a web of wires behind our TV stand that are completely disorganized and that I hate, and that normally I can’t do to the TV what I want to do to the TV, in which case I just hit “help” over and over and over on our universal remote until I can get Little Bear to play for three screaming children.

Anyhow, when the TV is dormant for some period of time all our digital pictures (and I mean all, including the one of me drinking my third or fourth cosmo underneath our ping pong table at a summer party at our old house before kids) comes up in the form of a screensaver. It’s actually pretty awesome (until said picture shows up for all family to see) … it’s like a digital photo album you just sit and watch—the kids, in particular, love it.

Tonight, after catching up on Breaking Bad, the above picture came up. I love it. I do not remember it. And for good reason … it was taken May 31, 12 days after the boys were born. I was so sleep deprived and worried about the health of my too-small boys that I don’t remember much from that time, sadly. But then I have this, this unexpected gift. This picture I don’t remember taking (maybe I didn’t), a moment I don’t remember being a part of (maybe I wasn’t), a time that has slipped away but yet I still have a glimpse of it.

I love photography.

And, I suppose, I have to admit to loving technology, too. Because even though I spend way too much time hitting “help” on our TV remote (daily), I’m gifted this—glimpses of moments in time tucked so far away in my brain I know I wouldn’t remember them if not for a bunch of pixels coming together for my benefit.

People talk about house fires and that the lives in those homes are all that matter. I agree. Of course I agree. But if I lost my pictures … I probably wouldn’t. At least the digital ones. They’re probably somewhere safe out there in Internet land and if my house burned down and I hit “help” enough (or Andy took over the situation), they would come back to me. But then there are all of my older ones, disorganized, in shoe boxes, but still very much loved. Because they’re not just pictures. But the moments I don’t—can’t—remember thanks to all the mundane/wonderful life stuff occupying my brain.

And more often than not, those unexpected pictures—moments—can do wonders for my mood, my memory, my brain, my appreciation of all things life … even those moments of life not previously remembered.

“A great photograph is a full expression of what one feels about what is being photographed in the deepest sense, and is, thereby, a true expression of what one feels about life in its entirety.” —Ansel Adams

Owen & James’s Hospital Pictures

Over the holiday I did something I’ve been meaning to do for 19 months—I finally ordered the boys’ hospital pictures. When I called to place the order, the woman on the other line asked me their birthday twice. Then she said she had to make sure the pictures were still in their system. (Apparently, most parents don’t procrastinate as long as I did.) She then asked me a slew of questions to verify that I, indeed, was the boys’ mother. These questions included the boys’ height and weight, to which I answered “small.” (Apparently, most parents also have their children’s birth height and weight memorized.)

But we worked through it. And I spent a ridiculous (but well-deserved) amount of money for eight digital images. But they’re lovely images, no? Although I wasn’t with them in the NICU when these pictures were taken, the photographer took the time to place items she found at their stations around them—blankets knitted by Linda, perfectly sized handmade toys Nini brought home from Italy. They’re wearing preemie outfits purchased by Grandma.

Their birth story, along with their actual heights and weights, can be read here. I remember being so concerned with their size, so concerned with the grayness of James’s skin. And yet, so amazed with both of them, too.















And now. Just look at them now.

“… So we grew together
Like to a double cherry, seeming parted,
But yet an union in partition,
Two lovely berries moulded on one stem …” —William Shakespeare