worry

Tomorrow, a High of 2

Grateful for heat and a hot gas fireplace and worn-in flannel pajama pants and the draft stopper Sophie made with Nini for the window by her bed and the space heater in the boys’ bedroom and my black kettle and a (mostly) working stove and being able to put additional quilts on all of my sleeping children tonight. Grateful for the wonder of what negative daytime temperatures feel like without the worry.

May all living things find such simple, necessary comfort tonight and tomorrow.

“[W]hat a severe yet master artist old Winter is. … No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel.” —John Burroughs

A New Ball Game

Now that Sophie’s older, I hesitate writing—deeply, sincerely, truthfully (the hard truths, anyway)—about her. I have a few, very specific memories from age 5. Her story is becoming her own now and I feel it’s her place to tell it someday, if she chooses—not mine.

That said, our stories often intertwine. As they did tonight.

I vividly remember sitting in the car and the smell of my new soccer ball between my knees. I was in the first grade. And terrified. It was a new game to me. I didn’t know the coaches. I didn’t know the players. I wasn’t certain of all the rules. I was worried, worried, worried—about making a mistake, messing up, not doing it right.

Sophie started soccer last week. It’s clear a good portion of her DNA is from me.

They’ve had two practices and one game. Tonight was practice No. 2 at 6:30pm. Andy had a softball game. At 6:30pm. I was flying solo.

The practice did not go well. Sophie insisted I hold her hand the entire time. (Side note: Her coach is great—constantly cheering her on, running a lap with just her to make her feel more comfortable, etc.) I tried to stay by her side, but I have two other children. James was screaming/crying/whining on the sideline the entire time. Owen was wearing yellow (thankfully) and at one point I (easily) spotted him playing with another kid and another parent on another field. (I’m drinking a glass of wine as I type this.)

My friends helped. A lot. They kicked an extra soccer ball around with Owen and James. They rummaged through my van for books for Owen and James and then read books while Sophie clung to my hand. They advised me to enjoy my previously mentioned glass of wine.

Near the end of the practice, Coach K asked if I wanted to play in a game. I looked up and spotted a flash of Owen’s yellow shirt semi close to the field Sophie was playing on. James was sitting in his Thomas the Train lawn chair, screaming. But sometimes we as parents have to make hard choices. And on this night, it was clear that Sophie needed me most.

“Yes,” I said.

The game was this: All the kids had their own soccer ball and dribbled it around the field. If they hit one of the coaches with their ball they got to tell that coach to make a loud animal sound of their choosing. Cute and clever.

However. My focus in all this wasn’t to really dodge balls. Instead I (in my ballet flats and skinny ankle jeans) was trying to keep track of Owen’s yellow shirt, mime to James that it’s OK and I’ll be with him soon, and persuade Sophie that soccer is really fun and that it’s OK to make mistakes. This made me a very.easy.target. Two minutes in I was surrounded by seven different kids consistently hitting me with their soccer balls and screaming “monkey!” “elephant!” “lion!” “zebra!” (and apparently my zebra sound isn’t up to par).

Parenting those first few blur-filled months is hard. But every few years you find yourself in an entirely different ball game.

When I was in junior high, I played intramural basketball. I was terrible, mostly because I was so timid—and like a certain 5-year-old I know, terrified of making a mistake. My dad went to all my games. I knew how to dribble. How to shoot. I knew the rules. What I needed was a lesson in aggression—and the knowledge that if the whistle is blown because of something I did, it’s OK. So he told me I had to foul. At my next game, I had to foul.

I don’t remember everything about that game. But I remember being nervous. Really nervous. And then I remember thinking of my dad and feeling brave. Really brave. And then I remember fouling, intentionally. And then, while my coach pulled me aside to explain to me why what I had done was wrong, I remember looking up at my dad, standing in the bleachers, clapping.

Sophie, if you’re reading this as a teenager or adult someday, and you remember how you felt at practice today, know this—I felt the same way. I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t know when to push and I don’t know when to pull back. I don’t know how much hand-holding is OK and I don’t know how much bravery it’s right for me to expect. I know this is something you really want to do (because you keep telling me so every time I tell you it’s OK if you don’t want to do it) but I don’t know how to take that. Just as you’re so desperate for a play-by-play guidebook, I am, too.

Which, I guess just means we’ll just fumble through this together. And I hope, soon, I’ll find the answer, just as my dad did. And it will be you on the field, filled with bravery, and me in the stands, clapping with relief/pride.

“Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple.” —Johan Cruijff

The View From Up High

Sophie and I went for long overdue haircuts tonight. I love our haircut nights. It’s a night out, just the two of us. I get to see my friend Nicholena. Sophie gets to inform Nicholena how I have no idea how to do her hair (picture Sophie piling all her hair onto the back of head, as in a messy bun) in the mornings before preschool, so Nicholena teaches me. Sophie is happy. I’m happy. My hair feels good again.

On the way home, we passed a carnival. On a Thursday night. On Colerain Ave.

Sophie was wide-eyed, looking at the ferris wheel while we sat at a stop light.

It was 9pm. On a school night.

I looked at her. I looked at the ferris wheel. I looked at the clock. I looked at the red light.

I could give her a bit of magic, I thought. Or we could go home.

I turned in. We parked directly behind a large trailer. The entire rather large carnival seemed open—the rides were running, the people in charge of games were yelling—but there were only a couple people milling about. I found the ticket booth.

“Is she old enough to ride the ferris wheel?” I asked. There were two older women in the booth, hair piled on top of their head, all thick makeup and bright red lipstick—I swear it was if we had walked onto a movie set. They peered over the glass. And mumbled something. After several attempts I heard “38.” Sophie had to be more than 38″ tall. I pushed Sophie up against a stick with heights marked on it. She passed. And she was thrilled.

$7.50 and six tickets later, we walked over to the ferris wheel. There was no one on it. We passed no one while walking to it. I looked at Sophie, expecting her to be nervous. She was clutching my hand, giddy with excitement. She kept looking up at it, the pure lighted beauty of it.

We got on.

A man strapped us in, put down a metal bar and took all six of our tickets. And off we went.

It was higher than I expected.

And faster than I expected.

Sophie and I held hands tight. As we neared the top and started to go down, my stomach did a flip-flop. I closed my eyes.

What had I been thinking?

While I clutched Sophie’s hand tighter, she opened her eyes and mouth wider. And squealed with delight.

We went around.

And around.

And around.

And around.

I suppose, because there was no one at this strange Thursday-night-on-the-side-of-a-road carnival the man in charge of operating the ferris wheel was giving us an extra long ride.

For 10 minutes we went around. And then he stopped us.

At the very top.

We just sat there, slowly swinging.

Back and forth. Back and forth.

Sophie was thrilled with this development. While she was reaching her free hand up above her head (I was still tightly clinging to the other one) screaming “I’m touching the skkkyyy!!!” I began to question my parenting. Who has a carnival in a deserted store parking lot on the side of the road on a Thursday night? Do carnivals like this have licenses to operate? Permits? Does someone do a safety check? How often? How is it possible that I can spend hours researching car seats and plugging electrical outlets and cutting up blueberries but then put my daughter on this?

We started moving again. “I want to let go, Mama!” Sophie said. And she let go of my hand. I turned and looked at her.

Every once in awhile I know that a moment I’m seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, will be with me always—in every tiny little detail. I felt that, knew that, when I saw her face, the ferris wheel lights backdropped against it. It was the look in her eyes, in particular. It was pure joy.

And that’s just it. As parents we worry and plan and prepare and analyze, agonize, all so we can get on the ferris wheel, hold tight and then just let go.

And so I did. I let go of her hand, and I let go of my worry, and for a small moment I let life be.

And then the operator stopped us at the top, again.

I grabbed Sophie’s hand. She looked at me. “Just because,” I said, trying to smile. “Just because.”

Because that’s just it, too. As much as we have to let go, sometimes, even when they may not want us to, we also have to hold on tight.

The next time we passed the operator I said, “Sir? Sir? Thank you sir but I think we’re done!”

Sophie looked at me. “I don’t think he heard you,” she said, as we went around again. (I’m pretty sure he did hear me by the way he was laughing as we passed him.)

The next time around he stopped the ride. We thanked him. Sophie was high on excitement, high on the thrill of her first ferris wheel ride, high on the idea that sometimes an ordinary Thursday night can become extraordinary.

I was simply thankful to be back on solid ground, on the way to our Subaru that held the well-researched car seat, on the way to the house where I cut blueberries for much longer than needed.

I was thankful for the feel of Sophie’s hand in my hand, and thankful for the moment she, we both, let go.

I was thankful for tonight’s view from up high.

“I see nothing in space as promising as the view from a Ferris wheel.” —E.B. White

A Lesson In Parenting Found in a Bottle of Glittery Nail Polish

Sophie wants to wear nail polish. Apparently all her friends do at preschool (including a boy she’s friends with). I painted her nails once, over a weekend. She loved it. My thought process isn’t completely clear when it comes to this matter. I will try to use bullet points to organize it a bit more:

Reasons Why We Haven’t Let Her Wear It:
• too young
• all my women’s studies courses
• it’s good to learn how to wait for things in life
• premature sexualization of children
• it chips and looks awful 30 minutes later
• bright red polish looks strange on a 5-year-old
• fear of her caring too much how she looks

OK.

I’m sure many of you are thinking “but, but, but.” Just like Sophie. Last Friday she had some friends over. A couple hours into the play date they all came down and Sophie asked if I could paint everyone’s nails. I told her no. I told her I didn’t know how the other parents felt about it.

She threw a fit.

A fit!

I pulled her away from her friends, and took her upstairs. The following came out of her mouth:

“You never let me do anything!”

“All of my friends are allowed to wear it!”

“You’re not being fair.”

And, my favorite: “You’re treating me like a 2 year old!”

Well, of course I wasn’t going to paint her nails after all of that.

But still, her tantrum gave me pause. I thought about all the reasons I don’t let her wear nail polish. And I argued them, in my head— essentially making another list, with rebuttals.

Reasons Why Maybe We Should Let Her Wear It:
• too young (How does one determine this?)
• all my women’s studies courses (I don’t even really know what this means.)
• it’s good to learn how to wait for things in life (This is true.)
• premature sexualization of children (I’d have to read more about this but honestly, I don’t have the time.)
• it chips and looks awful 30 minutes later (This is true.)
• bright red polish looks strange on a 5-year-old (Andy brought this one up. But a paler color could solve this.)
• fear of her caring too much how she looks (Honestly, I don’t think it’s about that. Not yet.)

Monday morning I took her to the doctor. Sunday night her temperature spiked to 105.6°. Turns out she has strep. So, she missed Tuesday and today at school. Tuesday night I went to the grocery store. And I bought her pale, pale pink polish—full of glitter.

It was perfect.

It looks childish—not much color and all that glitter. It was the perfect sick day/rainy day treat. She found so much joy in it.

Maybe, I thought, I was over-thinking, this whole nail polish thing.

So I didn’t over-think at all when Owen and James asked for some, too. Everyone got glittery nails, and everyone loved them. It was akin to face paint (which we do almost weekly). Or dressing up (which we do almost daily).

It was fun.

Of course it was good to not cave to her in-the-moment tantrum. But I also think it was good to think about what she said (no matter how scary teenager-speak like it was). And to really sit down and think about why. And then to decide that maybe, just maybe, it’s not that big of a deal.

Because honestly? Half the time I don’t know what’s best. I know there will be things I don’t let her do now that later, I will realize it would have been OK for her to do younger. Just as I know there will be things I do let her do now that later, I will wish I would have made her wait. But. I do know today I had three small children running around the house, happy (so happy!) with glitter on their nails. And that made their morning a little more magical. And that made everyone’s day, mine included, a little brighter.

There can’t be harm in that.

“While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.” —Angela Schwindt

Dinner. Exhausting, Frustrating, Hilarious, Every Night (It Gets Better, Right?) Dinner.

Dinner was late tonight. Andy was at Target with the kids, I was at Trader Joe’s (thankful to be solo on my trip, given the whining I heard in the background when I talked with him on the phone). While at Trader Joe’s, I picked up sushi for dinner on a whim. I don’t know what I was thinking. Sushi was not well-received by our children. Owen hadn’t napped. Sophie was giddy/out-of-sorts because we had ripped all the carpet out of her room (we tend to make rash decisions like this on Sunday afternoons, only to question our sanity around dinnertime). James was getting too much enjoyment out of making an already unhappy Owen more unhappy.

Andy said he needed to take five minutes. His trip to Target with the kids resulted in buying two packs of birthday candles for my birthday on Tuesday simply because the kids couldn’t agree. Apparently both Owen and James wanted to sit in the child seat in the cart (common), so he put them both in the cart’s basket until they could decide, on their own, who would get to sit in the actual seat first. Screaming ensued. People stared. He tried to turn it into a game—answer the question first, you get the seat. This didn’t work. And the entire time Sophie completely ignored the situation, picking out “beautiful things” for my birthday (I am both eager and anxious to unwrap what she found).

So Andy took his break. I had three crazy children losing it at the dinner table over sushi. “Cover your eyes!” I said. “I have a surprise.”

This always works. Even when I don’t know what the surprise is.

I scanned the pantry, desperate. I found food coloring. I turned their milk bright yellow. Andy, done with his five minutes, came downstairs and added some chocolate chips to their bright yellow milk.

They loved it.

For about a minute.

Then they wanted the chocolate chips, at the bottom of their glasses. We said they had to drink their milk. They started plunging their hands in their milk, reaching for the chips, mouths now stained yellow, screaming about the sushi.

When do dinners get easier?

Sitting down as a family is important to me. Occasionally we have winter picnics in the family room, or I do, when Andy’s out for the evening, with a movie on as a treat. But mostly, we’re sitting at our dinner table. And there are tears. Poking. Complaints about the meal. “Did I eat enough for dessert?” over and over and over and exhaustingly over.

We have our moments. Moments when someone does something funny and all five of us laugh, even Andy and me, true belly laughs—not intended to just humor the kids, but real. I love those moments.

Sometimes there’s real conversation. Sophie tells us a story about something that happened at preschool. Owen tells about the trains at the museum at Christmastime (again). James sings us his coconut song (when asked).

And we’re making (small) strides. We’re teaching them to say “May I please be excused” when they’re done. Sophie’s very good at it. James forgets, then, when reminded, runs back to his seat, climbs up and screams “Excused? May excused?” Owen remembers when he sees Sophie do it first.

But the rest of the meal …

What should be the most enjoyable part of the day is often the most challenging.

Am I alone?

I just want happy. By 6pm, I need happy. I need a nightly feast.

“Be not angry or sour at table; whatever may happen put on the cheerful mien, for good humor makes one dish a feast.” —from Gentle Manners, a Shaker book on manners

Sophie’s Surgery Update

Quick update: Sophie’s surgery went very well. Turns out she had three hernias (two inguinal ones, left and right, and an umbilical one) so her recovery will take a little longer. (No ballet for three weeks—we’ve yet to break this news to her.) But she’s sitting up on the couch now, coloring, watching The Last Unicorn and, I’m sure, contemplating when she’ll get her next popsicle.

Thanks for all your love and well wishes.

Cherry Scented Sleep

Sophie’s scheduled to have surgery tomorrow. She has an inguinal hernia. It’s minor, outpatient surgery—the actual operation only lasts about 45 minutes. I had the same surgery when I was 6.

One of the biggest comforts in my life has been my dad always saying he would take on any illness, surgery or procedure for me, if he could. I always understood the love in those statements and now, I find myself repeating them.

We bought and read Sophie the book, Franklin Goes to the Hospital. She loves being read to but often she’s fidgety. However, she was perfectly still during the entire length of this book, and so quiet after—even when we tried to talk to her about it.

We took her on a tour of the hospital—Cincinnati Children’s Liberty Campus. It was wonderful. She practiced being weighed and having her blood pressure taken. She sat on the bed that she will be wheeled in from the prep room to the room in which she’s given the medicine to be put to sleep. She got to smell all the different scents she can choose from—bubble gum, grape and, her favorite, cherry. She got to practice putting the mask on a doll on a bed. She got to ride around in the wheelchair she’ll sit in when leaving the hospital. She loved it.

They sent her home with goodies, for her and the boys—gloves, masks, hospital cap, gas mask, disposable thermometer and coloring pages. Since then, every so often I’ll peek into her bedroom when she has the door closed and I’ll see this:

When I ask her the scent her baby doll chooses to go to sleep, she always says, “all of them.” She then pretends to cut, then cuddles her doll baby—her doll baby always gets through the operation just fine, as I’m sure Sophie will, too.

I get to hold her, well, one of us gets to hold but I think Andy knows I’m, selfishly, wanting to do it, while she’s put to sleep. And we get to be there when she wakes up.

She’ll be fine. They do these all the time. It’s so minor. We’ll most likely be home in time for dinner and she’ll most likely be back at school, running around, on Monday.

Still, I’d do it for her in heartbeat, if I could.

“Perhaps it takes courage to raise children.” —John Steinbeck

To the Woman Who Sold Me Stamps At the Post Office Today:

I would have liked to zip in and out sans kids but because you close at 5pm and my husband doesn’t get home until 6pm, I had no choice. Plus, I want to take my kids to the post office. I want to explain how “mailing a letter” works and what “stamp” means and I want to help them understand how our mail gets from here to there.

My children are 4-1/2 and 2-1/2. The line was long. When Sophie complained about having to stand, I talked to her softly and she stopped. I made everyone stay close to me. No one was running around. They started humming and singing, and I asked them to do it quietly. When Owen and James started whining and asking to go home, I held them one at a time. Yes, the other child was whining while waiting his turn to be held but I did what I could.

So, dear postal worker, when it was my turn to make my purchase I was sort of upset when you pointed to Owen, who was in my arms, and said “You have a spoiled one there, don’t you?” And then, when I mumbled a response while lifting each child up so they could see over the counter (something they love), “I have a stamp that says ‘spoiled’ if you want to put it on his hand.”

I would love to have toddlers who never cry and whine when having to wait in a long line in a place they have no interest in. I would love for them to always be content standing next to me (although, I admit, after awhile I’d miss occasionally holding them in my arms). I’d love to go somewhere with all three of my children and once, just once, have such a quiet and calm experience that no one even so much as glances at us.

But right now, that’s not possible. Both my boys are getting over colds, colds which required regular at-home nebulizer treatments. They’re hopped up on steroids, too, which makes them more irrational than usual. Owen also is battling an ear infection and is on antibiotics. And yesterday, they only got a 40 minute nap.

These may sound like excuses and, perhaps, they are. But just know that I’m trying my best. I’m trying my best to lay down rules and expectations for my children while also taking into consideration that they don’t feel good. Maybe I shouldn’t have given into Owen’s whine/cry to be held but honestly, I don’t mind holding him—especially when he doesn’t feel good and especially when he just wants to see. The woman who sold me a cup of coffee understood that yesterday. As I picked up each of my three children so they could see what I was seeing over the counter she smiled and noted how hard it must be for young children to miss so much when everything around them is so tall.

I realize I should let these comments go. But these comments are like tiny gnats buzzing around my head that I can’t seem to kill. They bother me. They make me wonder if I’m screwing this thing up, if I really am raising spoiled children. And part of me hates them because maybe there’s truth to them—Owen and James have been so whiney lately. I try not to respond to it. I try to insist on “nice words.” But, sometimes, I fail. Especially in tiny, crowded post offices when I’d rather just hold my child than deal with—and make everyone else around me deal with—a full-blown tantrum.

As a mother, every day I feel like I’ve failed some way, some how. I make mistakes, constantly. I question myself and worry, worry, worry. But I’m waking up every day. And I’m getting them out of bed every day. And I’m trying to teach them, guide them, share with them, show them, play with them, feed them and care for them the best way that I can. And I know my best isn’t as good as it always could be, or should be. But I’m trying.

In closing, I know my son was acting spoiled. I’m sorry about that. But I don’t need it pointed out. And I certainly don’t need to stamp it on his hand. What I need is a knowing smile, a small word of encouragement, a friendly “hello” to my upset child or, at the very least, just my stamps and receipt so that I can exit as quickly as possible. I imagine throughout your day you experience many unpleasantries—upset children, upset customers, maybe an upset boss. But I was doing what I could to make your day as pleasant as I could—given that my three children didn’t want to be there. In return, I had hoped for something different than the offer to advertise my parenting failures on my son’s hand.

Sincerely,
a sometimes-frazzled, constantly worrying, hoping-tomorrow-is-better mother of three

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

She’s Fine

I try very hard not to overreact to medical issues with my children. In fact, I usually under-react. Twice now, during well-child exams, the pediatrician has discovered ear infections. Cue the oh-so-that’s-why-he-has-been-so-cranky-and-tugging-his-ear-and-this-cold-never-seems-to-go-away-I’m-a-terrible-mom response. I will never be one of those mothers insisting on antibiotics unless absolutely necessary (largely because I’ve now had c-diff for a year and a half thanks to antibiotics I was given for a cough). I often take the “let’s give it one more day” approach before asking the nurse on the phone “do you think we really need to come in?”. And my last post, the one in which I talk about taking Owen in because he was having trouble breathing? The pediatrician said it was “probably” OK I didn’t take him to the ER the night before leaving me to believe I “probably” should have.

For a month, Sophie has had small bruises running up and down her spine. Her shins are always bruised. She’s active. She wrestles with her brothers. She falls and bumps into things and apparently has no sense of spatial relationships when doing somersaults in our crowded living room. But the bruises on her spine did give me pause. I would wonder how they got there and then I would explain them away in my head, thinking about the time she slid down the steps or the side of the bed.

And then last night I found myself up with her from about 3am on. She had a fever. She couldn’t sleep. I gave her Children’s Advil. We watched the Sprout channel. I noted the dark circles under her eyes and thought about how tired she always seemed. I made her oatmeal at 5am.

At 8:30am I called the school to say that Sophie couldn’t come—she had a fever. The kids and I watched our morning show. We played Set Junior. We had a hat party, cleaned the playroom, did chalk drawings, dressed up stuffed animals, had lunch. Sophie seemed fine.

She was curled up on the couch, eating popcorn and watching a movie, her dress bunched up around her when I noticed the bruises again on her bare back.

I don’t know why I did it, but I did.

I Googled “child bruising spine fever.”

Two seconds later I found myself on The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s home page.

I messaged Andy. “Just call,” he wrote. “Better now while they’re actually open.” (When I do finally cave and call the doctor, it’s usually nights/weekends, which I’m sure our pediatrician loves.)

So I called. And they asked if I could come in at 4:30pm. It was 3:45pm. Now, looking back, I’m sure they gave me that time because that was the last appointment time before they closed for the day but after spending five seconds on The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s home page I was sure they gave me that time because they needed to see her right away and that I was going down in the record books as the worst mom ever for not taking her in a month earlier when I first noticed the bruising.

Andy must have sensed my underlying panic, because he met me there.

We waited a long time.

The pediatrician looked at her spine. He noticed two very, very small bruises near the bottom but said the other discoloration was the result of some big vein that runs along the spinal cord and a shadow. He noted the dark circles under eyes and asked her if she was tired. She gave a very dramatic yawn and fell back on the examining table, as if going to sleep (yes, we’ve entered that stage now). He felt her belly and checked her lymph nodes and listened to her lungs and noted her temperature and looked for other bruising (there was none besides the usual shin bruises) and noted her excellent weight gain. And then he checked her ears.

She had a g** d*** ear infection.

Of course. I mean, she did tell us last night her ear was “hiccuping.”

So.

Not only am I the mom who consistently doesn’t take her children to the doctor when she should for ailments that require antibiotics to cure, I’m also the mom who when she does take her children to the doctor is convinced her children have cancer.

I can only imagine what’s being written about me in my children’s charts.

“If you treat a sick child like an adult and a sick adult like a child, everything usually works out pretty well.” —Ruth Carlisle

Worse

I don’t know what’s worse. Using my legs and arms to pin Owen against myself, a nebulizer mask over his mouth and nose while he thrashes and screams, feeling him soften every few moments only to say, muffled and between sobs, “all done, Mommy, all done.”

Or looking at the look James gives me at the doctor’s office while I’m doing this to Owen—watching James cry and scream from across the room, not understanding that what I’m doing to Owen doesn’t hurt and is, in the long run, going to make him feel much, much better.

Our entire family got hit with a cold this past weekend. Colds always land in James’s chest and he had already done the doctor’s visit with the nebulizer treatment and the every-four-hours at-home albuterol treatment. He’s on day three of steroids. This has become the norm for James. He’s calm with masks over his face now. He inhales the medicine, knowing it’s helping him breathe, feel better.

But Owen. This is all new to Owen. Andy and I averaged about two hours of sleep each last night, staying up with him, watching the retraction in his chest, listening to the wheezing, calling the doctor on call, sharing James’s albuterol with him, debating the ER.

So tired. Everyone is so tired.

Owen had to have two 10-minute nebulizer treatments at the pediatrician’s office today. Ten minutes is a long time when you’re pinning a 2-year-old down and when the 2-year-old’s brother, full of steroids and lacking sleep, is beside himself with worry for his twin brother.

When it was all over, I asked James if he wanted to hug Owen. James said, between tears, “yes.”

Oh my heart.

Of course Owen, furious at the world, refused to accept James’s hug and pushed him away.

Still.

Even on the bad days, the really bad days, there are moments—these small and beautiful moments.

Slow inhale.

Slow exhale.

Breathing.

We’re all breathing.

“There’s no other love like the love for a brother. There’s no other love like the love from a brother.” —Terri Guillemets