the days are long but the years are short

My babies are gone. Far away in a distant land where they will skip around with fairies and hold hands with superheroes. 

Mama Meg and Peepaw took them to Disneyworld for a long weekend.

Here they are prior to their 6:50 pm flight:


When they gave them the trip as a Christmas present, Maria jumped up with joy and gave them huge hugs.  Mario looked at me and pleaded for me and Jon to go with him. For weeks afterward, he told us that he wanted to go but he really wanted us to go, too.  We kept explaining to him that Peepaw and Mama Meg would take good care of him and they would have so much fun riding rides and swimming in the pool.  He remained skeptical.  

Until about three weeks ago.  Ri was talking to Alana and Gio about going and they were telling her she was lucky.  Mario was listening to the conversation but refraining from joining in the mix.  They all proceeded to play a game together and the conversation moved onto other topics like who had the biggest sword and who made the best Minecraft home.  But that evening, Mario asked me how many days until Disneyworld.  I told him 14 or 15 and he laid his head on his hands and stared up at me in his bed.  

“Are you excited?” I asked him.

“Yea. Will you miss me?”

“Of course I will miss you but I will be so happy thinking about you having a great time.  I have never been to Disney and you get to go at age 6!”  

He smiled and reached out to hold my hand.

Since that evening, he has asked nearly every day “how many more days?”  And in the evening before bed, he has taken his black pen and marked an “X” on the day in order to count how many more days until February 14 – the day they would leave for Disney.  Ri did not any of that to get her going.  She knew how many days by just thinking about it in her head.  She had the flight all planned out.  No iPad was needed for her.  She would read her book in order to complete her 100 minutes of reading that she would be required to complete by the time she returned to school on Wednesday the 19th.  

This week, they woke up every day counting down the number of days remaining until they left.  Whenever they started to fight or get mad about something, I would say “come on, this is Disney week, cheer up!” And nearly every time, they would.  On Thursday night, Jon and I gave them each a Valentine’s Day card, a little beanie baby to clip on their suitcases, candy for the flight, and a $25 gift card to Disney.  Mario looked at the Disney card and got really excited.  “Is this a credit card? Can I buy anything I want?”  His eyes enlarged as he held the card tight against his chest.  We explained it only had $25 on it and that he could buy a lot of little things or one big thing (actually, one little thing at Disney is probably $25).  He looked dejected but still thanked us.

We packed clothes after the present opening.  Actually, I packed while they played in Mario’s bed.  They were way too excited to concentrate on one activity.  I bought them each some new shorts and t-shirts since they both have grown since last Summer (last Summer they fit in a lot of things from the Summer before, so nice…).  Then we read a book while laying in Ri’s room.  Jon came in for the second book and we all laid in Ri’s bed.  I love those moments.  

When Mario got up this morning, he walked into the bedroom and announced “It’s Disney World Day!”  They both got dressed and ate some breakfast and gathered up their Valentines to take to classmates.  I kissed them both goodbye and told them they were the best babies I could ever ask for in my life.  They told me they loved me and they closed the door to Jon’s Yukon.  I got a bit melancholy about them leaving.  I did my normal worrying: “will they get in an accident, will they get sick, will they get lost….”  It is really ridiculous how the mind churns out these non-productive thoughts without any provoking.  But I also felt like time was slipping through my fingers.  Maria walked out the door with her backpack on her back, her hood up, her boots zipped up to her knees all trendy looking. Mario followed her chatting about something that happened at lunch the day before.  They were both talking in complete sentences. When did that happen? Remember when Ri first said “mama” and Mario first said “dad?” They were both fully upright and walking.  And that happened when? Remember when I hoisted Mario on my hip everywhere I went or when I carried Ri in the backpack until age 4?  My doctor told me “the days are long but the years are short” and she hit it on the mark.  

I took off for a couple hours in the afternoon to hit the Valentine’s Day parties.  I got to Mario’s room at 1:50 thinking the party started at 1:30. It started at 2.  So I hung out with the other moms and waited for Mario to come in from the playground.  Kids began shuffling into the classroom at 2, looking up at their moms and waving hi.  Mario came in eventually and glanced up to take an inventory of the moms.  He caught me in the corner and his face exploded with joy.  He smiled wide and ran over to me with his arms extended.  He held my hand and led me to his table and I was his for the rest of the day.  They did all sorts of activities and ate lots of sugar.  And then he made me a Valentine’s card with invisible crayon.  When I wrote over it, it revealed the words “I love you.” Precious.  He allowed me to run down to Ri’s classroom and see her for a few minutes.  That third grade classroom was much more low key. Everyone was at their tables over their heads and they pushed them away giggling and blushing.  and making their Valentine bags.  They had fruit kebabs and heart-shaped jelly sandwiches.  But then I asked if I could get a picture of the girls in the classroom and that started chaos.  The boys tried to photobomb and the girls pushed them away. Boys put bunny ears 


After school, the kids went down Kindergarten Hill to find Mama Meg and Peepaw.  Hugs and kisses ensued and then a race to the car.  I went back to work for an hour and when I came home, Ri and Mario stopped me at the door.  

“Don’t come in the kitchen, mom! Dad has a surprise for you!” 

They held me in the hall for a minute and then led me in the kitchen.  There was our new kitchen table I bought from Amazon for $190 plus $110 shipping.  Jon had asked his friend Jason to come put it together while we were at work (what would he do without Jason?!”).  I screamed with excitement and the kids both smiled.  They love seeing Jon and I happy.  We gathered a few more last minute items to throw in their bags and the kids gave Rocco a ton of kisses.  They wrapped their arms around me and then Jon and told us they loved us.  I told them I loved them so so much and that I couldn’t wait to hear about their days.  We stood on the porch as they drove off to the airport waving and blowing kisses their way.

Then we walked in the house and sighed. Where was the chaos? The coats on the floor? The laughing? 

I took Rocco for a walk in the light snow.  I thought about how lucky I was to have all of these grandparents who give Ri and Mario such an array of experiences.  I thought about Ri and Mario and how daggone big they are getting and how much they are learning and absorbing about this world. And then a worry popped in my head. 

“What if my parents need a notarized permission slip to take the kids on the flight? They don’t have the same last name so security may not let them get on board. Then they would have to miss a day at Disney if they could even make another flight tomorrow….” 

And then I stopped. I stood on the sidewalk while Rocco ate some snow.  Stop it, I told myself.  Let it be.  It is going to be a lot harder when they are in high school and heading out on a Saturday night with friends.  They will be fine. They will have fun.  They will grow up.  Just make those years spread out as much as possible.

To pay attention…


To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.

-Mary Oliver

A hawk schooled me today. There I was with my nose in a book walking across campus when not twenty feet to my right, a hawk blew past me with a large squirrel hanging from its talons. What an incredible sight. I looked around me and there was just one other person walking in front of me on his headphones. He was not phased by the creature. I stood motionless. My eyes moving with the hawk’s flight. It perched itself up in the barren tree content to hold its kill as it watched the kids pass by bundled up against the frigid winds. I braved pulling off my glove to get a picture; it was way too cold to zoom in or adjust. Just snap.

I walked back to my office with my book closed and lodged between papers in my backpack. I looked at the Cuzzins yogurt shop with the chairs flipped over on the tables. When did that place start closing at 2 pm? Maybe some day I will open an ice cream store like Ri and I used to talk about doing on Grandview Ave. when she was 4 years old. I watched as a young kid motioned his arms up and down to the beat of what must have been some good rappin’ on his iPod. I wondered if Mario would be engaging in these same moves when he’s a teenager or whether he’d be jamming out to his uncle Jack’s funk or maybe his own jams; will he learn piano or the drums or the sax, like Jackson? I stared too long at a guy who wore shorts and a t-shirt and casually strolled down High Street in the -4 degree weather as if it was mid-Summer. And I thought of Ri and her ability to go outside during these past couple of weeks with no hat or gloves and survive. She has Jon’s and my warm blood in her. After all, she stayed at the sledding hill a half hour after Mario left freezing and after I begged her to go (noticing it was 1 degree on my phone).

Oh, so this is what it is like to walk without a book in hand or a phone or a magazine or a law article. Oh… what a treat to observe things and people and moments, to imagine what life may have in store, to smile at a past memory with my kids.

Those moments

I chased them upstairs with them begging me “get our butts!” I jumped on the bed where they thought they were safe and I tickeled them wildly and kissed them all over.  They screamed in delight and laughed hysterically as I asked them “who do you love?”  They got the breath to say “you, mom” and then begged for more.  I watched them as they stood in the bathroom and brushed their teeth. Maria in her orange tank top nightie with her fuzzy peace-symbol pants and Mario in only his boxers – just like his dad.  Ri caught me looking at her and kicked her foot out in a karate move.  She stumbled, and leaned forward laughing at her antics.  Mario did his crazy hip thrust dance move while keeping his toothbrush steady in his mouth and waited to see the smile on my face.  It makes him happy. I stood in the hallway and let everything about them absorb into me.  Maria’s piercing eyes; Mario’s taut little torso; Maria’s extreme joy in herself; Mario’s love for comedy; Maria’s beauty; Mario’s handsomeness.  For those precious moments, I was lost in unadulterated love. My heart was floating and happy.  I had dropped everything else – laundry, dishes, work emails – and lived in the those delightful moments with my two little beings who will soon be grown and out of their nighties.  

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”  – Henry David Thoreau



Ri and Mario – ages 4 and 2 

Living in the Moment

I am in full-blown new year’s resolution mode.  Thinking of what I want to change in 2012 and what I want to do better.  Trying not to beat myself up for the things I did not get accomplished in 2011.  Trying to recognize the things that I did accomplish.

Livin' in the moment at Darby Creek

One thing I worked really hard at this past year was being in the moment – with the kids, with Jon, with family, with work colleagues, with running, with wrapping presents, with washing dishes.  I recognize the times that I achieve this task because I walk away from the moment feeling fulfilled.  I still remember two years ago at our old house.  I had picked up Maria and Mario early from daycare in order to spend the afternoon with them.  We got home, picked out some chips and sandwiches and sat in the front yard for a picnic.  My phone rang.  I picked it up.  It was work.  I began to discuss an issue with my colleague.  I continued to make faces at M&M trying to show them I was there with them even though I was on the phone.  After 10 minutes, Maria rose up from the picnic and walked to the sidewalk.  She looked angry.  I tried to push my colleague to the end of the conversation but she kept talking.  Maria started crying.  I realized what I had done and hung up the phone.  I walked Maria and Mario to the alley in the back of the house.  We put Mario in his plastic “car” with a long handle on the back.  Maria went behind him and grabbed the handle.  We took off all the way down the alley.  Mario looked back at us laughing hysterically.  Maria looked up at me giggling.  And I breathed in that moment in order to have it forever.  Two years later I remember it like it was an hour ago.  That is what I want more of for 2012.  More clear moments with family and friends and myself where I allow myself to be fully present.

This poem by Mary Oliver is pasted on my desk and it always reminds me to live more in the moment: 

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?