this strange space | costa rica

Coming down off of a year of intense change and hurt, our family took a trip to Costa Rica for 2 weeks, just us 5.  

We saw monkeys and hiked the base of a volcano.  We swam in the sea surrounded by rugged rocks and twisted tropical trees.  We have 500 pictures of it all, in little rows on our iphones.  

The few times I picked up my camera-sometimes hazy with the humidity-it wasn't to capture the beauty of the country or document us doing something exciting.  It was a breathless attempt to grab onto the quiet magic. 

We ended up renting an open air house in the jungle on the Oso Peninsula, where they don't have electricity and you have to drive through rivers. 

It was there that our family found such tender healing. It goes beyond words.  Hours would pass with no speaking, just the click click of tiny transformers and the breeze in the trees.  I had time to cook and wash dishes while my family played games, filling my heart up to bursting. We spent days covered in mud on the rugged beach, completely free to be ourselves as not a soul walked past.     

At night I lay in Noah's sweaty arms listening to the ocean and the gekkos chirping, in awe of the strangeness of this space.

I saw my children there.  Raw and open, not who I was fashioning them to be, but their exposed souls-terrifying and magestic. 

Here are some of my most treasured photos I've ever taken. 

I wonder if you can see it. 

I wonder if they arouse in you the same heart longing that they have me.  

to sullivan on his 7th birthday

my forever valentine,

Today you are 7.  7 years of being in the greatest kind of love and 7 years of being curious about you. 

You seem simple, but as the years go by I realize how I still don't even know a fraction of you.  You are deep and mysterious.  I'm pretty sure the girls in high school are going to go crazy for you. eyes?  DREAMY.  

I will not lie, currently I'm on the brink of loosing it because I'm so tired.  You took 3 extra hours to go to sleep (which has become the norm) but last night you were up from 12:45 until 4 am jumping out of your skin with excitement.  I'm so nice to you for the first few hours and then I just want you to go the #$@% to sleep.  This area is challenging me so intensely.  It is challenging our whole family unit.  You end up in our bed 99 times out of 100.    

We can't quite figure out what is going on with you.  You blame all sorts of things but mostly I think you were deeply affected by me being so sick last year and having to leave for weeks at a time.  Truly the other children have sailed through relatively easily but you are sensitive and quiet and I think it hurt so bad.  

Last year I was in treatment in Tennessee and I cried all day long thinking about not being with you for your birthday.  They let me call you for a few minutes which broke my heart even more.  

I never want to miss a birthday again.  I never want to leave you again. 

I hope this year we can slowly and gently make you feel safe and secure. 

I feel like half of this last year you were one person and the other half you were another.  You've sadly grown out of bugs,  You now seem a little creeped out by them which blows my mind!  This spring and Summer you could find any bug any time and your hands were filled with them.  A girl at school told you that there were bugs in your food and that was the downhill fall of that.  You were so carefree and gentle and now I feel like you're guarded and hard.  Some of this was because of a bully at school.  Some of it is because of trauma of loosing me for nearly a year and some of it is being picked on (no matter how hard I try to protect you) by an older brother who loves you so much he can't even stand it...and he harasses you.  We are working on helping you stand up for yourself.  It's a lesson I'm learning too.  

Even though things have been hard with you, in the ideal circumstances I see that same gentle boy.  He's still there.  

I love you, and I can't help laughing at your quirks.  Getting dressed and fed in the morning is a HUGE struggle for you.  If pants feel bumpy we might be in for 40 minutes of what I call Floppy Sullivan.  This is where you flop on the floor like you have no bones and don't speak actual words.  This can also be because a cup is different or an orange had too many strings.  It's not every day by any means but when it happens it's quite something.

Ok enough about struggles...these are things I adore about you.

You care for me in a way that the others don't.  You notice when I'm feeling hurt or overwhelmed and you come and put your pudgy warm hand in mine and lean your head on my shoulder.

Your fire in the eyes excitement when you talk about animals and the facts about them.

You are a good friend.  You are trusting.  You've been trying to be friends with this one boy at school who didn't like you.  Recently you were so excited because he was your friend finally.  Turns out he wanted to sell you a cell phone for 2 dollars and you were all over it.  He still hasn't delivered but he sure has a lot of interesting stories about why he hasn't.  You really believe he will do the right thing. 

Everyone loves you.  Everyone.

You are really really good at art.  I'm in awe of what you create.

Your teacher recently me told me that you don't test well but that you are her smartest student.  You are a wiz a math and do everything in your head.

I love when you are in your zone.  This is either playing with fire (outside and safely), digging in the dirt or creating.  You can't even hear or talk when you are there.

You got a gekko for Christmas ( those things turn out to not be very easy to take care of).  You love him-Barclay is keeping him alive though since the crickets you have to feed him creep you out.

You are sandwiched in between two firecrackers and you love them both well.  I wish sometimes that you had a little more space to breathe and be.  We do what we can but in the end that's just how our family is.  

Your face is the cutest face in the history of the world.  I think you could ask me for the moon with those eyes turned up at me and I would find a way to make it happen.

You started playing tennis this past fall and I just assumed it was for fun and that you probably weren't going to be able to hit much.  I was wrong!  I always underestimate you!  I've really got to work on that.  You are a beautiful tennis player.

Sullivan, I actually don't feel like I know you as well as the others.  I'm not going to believe that you're just simple.  I really hope this next year we can get away together, just the 2 of us, so I can discover more about you.  I'm so sorry I haven't made more of an effort.

I love you.  You make me melt with love.  I say this every year but it is ALWAYS true.  You are balm on my heart.

Happy Birthday you beautiful boy.



to barclay on his 9th birthday

to my first born love,

Today has been nine years since they placed you in my arms, screaming and alert.  You were born, I was born.  I kind of feel like I have grown along side you, in my own way.  

Let me first say that I am in awe of you.  You are the most complex human being I have ever met.  I am forever curious about what you are experiencing, feeling, thinking, creating.  You surely are a beautiful creation by God.  You tend to swing to extremes ( I have no idea where you got that from-cough cough).  

You are soft and kind and intense and then you are intense and hard.

You are mature far beyond your years and then you are pure and childlike.

You want to go, you want to stop.

You laugh, you cry.

You love hard, you withhold.

You create, you create, you create.

You imagination is incredible.  I'm so thankful at 9 you still love pretending and inventing games and stories to act out.  You are really into Narnia right now-particularly King Peter.  I'm holding my breath in this next year.  Can this pure imaginative state continue at this age?  Please say it is so.

You want to be an adult.  In fact I think you are more adult than me.  I might have to admit that might be a bit true.  You started drinking coffee in Costa Rica and just love having a cup every now and then.  You are begging me to take a thermos of it to school.  You also have started going to work with your daddy.  It coincides with times when I cannot hold your intensity a moment more.  You love it.  You eat it up.  You have a desk with a phone and some affirmations above it.  You will call me so many times (and this is usually after a fight between us) just to chat casually.  A softening for us both.  You also have your own business cards Noah printed for you.  Barclay George.  Assistant.  I was frozen with my mouth gaping open when you casually handed your card to a waitress and said "If you ever have any buying or selling real estate needs, here's my card."

To be honest it's really hard to show you my love.  Snuggles and back rubs don't work.  Words don't ever seem to sink in.  GIfts fade in moments.  But letting you do big things makes you crack wide open.  Things like running in and paying for takeout (but you tip too much.  ha!), packing lunches for me, cleaning Sullivan's room, starting the car in the morning.  

This year was the year of the "fancy clothes".  You went months wanting to wear pants, collared shirts, a blazer, a tie and a fedora.  And sometimes you wear reading glasses with the glass punched out.  I have been awe struck by how much you don't care what others think about that.

In one way you don't care at all what others think, and on the other hand you are desperate and anxious inside to connect with others.  This is masked with some very immature and hurtful outside actions.

You aren't thriving in school.  It breaks my heart.  You're at a desk by yourself agains a wall because you can't keep your hands to yourself.  Every time she moves you back she can't teach.  You are "that kid" in your class.  You are always in trouble (despite a lot of collaboration between your teacher and me).  You're not mean though, and that I'm thankful for.  To be honest, we are looking to medicate you this year because it's painful to watch you suffer and we have done our darndest to avoid it with diet and therapies and CBD oil and brain remapping.  I just don't you suffering anymore.

This year you started mandolin lessons!  You love it and are good at it.  You also started playing tennis 2 times a week and are also amazing at that.  You're working with an occupational therapist that is brilliant and who gets you.  Like sees the brilliant you.

I have been very moved this week to wipe the slate clean with you.  Years of trying to "fix you" has built up layers of a wall between us.  I just love you and I don't want you to have a hard life.  But more than that, I want you to know that I love you, fully and completely-just as you were created.  I don't want you to think that I am constantly chiseling you to be what I want you to be.  I'm brought to my knees almost daily by my lack of control over you, and I am left with my only option of laying with my hands held open.  

I can see it, Barclay, I can see you years from now.  Your brilliance exposed to everyone.  I can see you happy and thriving and changing the world.  

You are my world changer and I am honored to be your mother.  I am honored to watch you unfurl into who are were created to be.  

love your mama