Circle Games, Cupcakes, Earthquakes and Other Reminders


So much for writing everyday.

Luke was twelve when I wrote Summer of the Pigeon. That summer, I did write each and every evening. In retrospect, I probably should have been blogging and not trying to make a book. Maybe things would have turned out differently . . . 

When I wrote that book, I had three children, not four. Twelve, seven, and eight . . . kids just out of that “holy crap parenting is impossible” stage to the point where I just wanted to freeze them all in time. I remember writing that if Sean and I ever had a fourth child we would have to name him Oblivious Cliff. Oblivious for the fact that he would have come from a night of drunken stupidity (careful what you wish for) and Cliff, for the one we would surely walk off of if forced to raise another child. 

I think about that paragraph now and wonder if Quinn will read it one day and feel bad. We did, at least, not name him Oblivious. This summer it is William who is turning twelve and I do, indeed, have four children. Seventeen, thirteen, eleven, and two. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the “two” was a surprise. Though if you want to know the whole truth, the only one we planned was Lizzie and even then I’m pretty sure that it was just me who planned it. Sean had no idea. 

When I found out that I was pregnant again I could not bring myself to tell Sean, but it did not take long because I am not very good at keeping secrets, especially ones of  the holy crap variety. At the time, I was part of a job share and so I had the later part of the week off. I remember going to lunch with Sean (after he knew). We ate at Harley Davidson and we could only stare at each other . . . not lovingly, really, just in a “we are in this together and holy shit” kind of way. I remember that they served hot peach cobbler with white vanilla ice cream and I could not get enough of it. Peach cobbler will forever remind me of Quinn. 

Once we were brave enough, we rounded up the older kids in the living room to tell them the news. The boys were really stunned, but happy, and Elizabeth cried and cried because she did not want her family to change. “It better be a girl,” she squeaked between tears. 

We told my parents at Luke’s fourteenth birthday dinner. They thought we were joking. We let Lizzie call other relatives and tell them and they would just say, “Put your mother on the phone,” because they did not believe her. 

Then there was the twenty week ultrasound, the ultrasound where the doctors concluded Quinn was much too small and that I either had my dates wrong or we were in for trouble. This was a turning point for me because I suddenly, desperately loved this unknown baby and felt incredibly guilty for ever having freaked out about it. I played Leona Nass’s song Ballerina to Quinn over and over again: 

I’ll never feel the weight of your hands
Inside mine like diamonds
Lace so fine ballerina
Cupcake and my earthquake
Wakes me from a sleep that
Never comes are you breathing
Waiting for me

I didn’t really want you
But I want you now
Was so foolish of me
To feel you tumbling down
Into that empty room
The lights went out
I want to rescue want to scream out loud

I didn’t think I needed you
But I need you now
Was so empty in me
To feel you crashing down
Into the empty world
The music stops
I want to rescue want to scream out loud
You will always be mine

The room spins 
Pull you from me
My body burns
Tell me of the rainbows
The colors that the rain throws
Ballerina dance softly
She knows when to come only
When she’s called I’m slowly coming to 

I didn’t really want you
But I need you
Was so foolish of me
To feel you tumbling down
Into that empty room
The lights went out
I want to rescue want to scream out loud . . .

Cupcake and my earthquake. I would sing this with tears rolling down my face. I would play this on my iPod, holding it against my belly in the antepartum unit, begging Quinn to stay. Later, once Quinn made it home from the NICU, my lactation nurse stopped by my house and dropped of a Christmas ornament in the shape of a cupcake. I am pretty sure that if the house ever burned down that is one of the things I’d try to rescue. The doctors saved Quinn’s body. The nurses saved my spirit. 

So I haven’t been writing everyday. I think about who I was back then, when I did write faithfully. I can see, clearly, a summer night in which we were watching Michael Phelps swim at the Olympics. Luke’s preteen body was lying on the top of the couch, his two siblings sitting below him, snuggled together, eyes glued to the television. I remember feeling that I was finally over the hump, over the toughest days of parenting (I was an idiot). 

I had a very hard time enjoying parenting when I had three kids under five. This summer I have read a lot of mom blogs and I am sympathetic to those of you who feel exhausted and burnt out and guilty and beside yourselves. I have been there. It was when I wrote Summer of the Pigeon that I finally was starting to feel free of that and felt that it was time to “do me” again. And then came the peach cobbler . . . 

My mom was only five years older than I am now when I had Luke and she became a grandmother. For me, having Quinn is like getting to love a baby like a grandmother, but getting to be his mother. I am so madly in love with him and because I have been down this road before all of the exasperating parts about parenting a toddler again are gone. I highly recommend an oops . . . if anyone out there is reading this, is turning forty and just found out they are pregnant, then all I can tell you is that having another baby later in life is like getting to dance with God. 

So Quinn, if one day you are reading this, know that you are the opposite of Oblivious Cliff. You are my sunshine. For real. Today, while Lizzie and William slept until noon and Luke was away in his pre-collge program, you and I spent the morning swimming in our tiny above ground pool. You learned to blow bubbles and kick yourself across the water. I floated with you in a tube and I said, “Quinn, I love you,” and you replied, “I love our pool.”

I don’t know if it is my destiny to have writing urges on the years that my boys turn twelve, but I certainly hope that it will be more consistent than that. I do think my “pokiness” with writing this summer comes from the fact that I just want to spend time being a mother in a way that I didn’t have the patience for in the first round. Plus, I am kind of hyper focussed on my health right now, but I’ll save that for another blog post (long story short, yay Dr. Toth, you were right and I am better). 

Earlier this week it was really hot and after dinner all six of us jumped into our teeny tiny pool, nestled behind our decaying house. We looked like fat potatoes bobbing to the surface of a boiling pot, all crammed next to each other. Sean joked that this moment was likely to be our Google Earth snapshot and we all laughed until I reminded him that our Google Earth picture, in real life, is of a time when all of the kitchen appliances were on the porch. Just so happens that was the summer Luke was twelve. 

I’d like a retake, Google Earth. Quinn is here now. The refrigerator is back in the house. Take a shot quickly, before Quinn turns twelve too. You can take it tomorrow. I will be back in the pool, floating in an inner tube with Quinn, singing Joni Mitchell’s Circle Game song to him: 

And the seasons they go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

In case you didn’t know it, Quinn, the circle only became full when you came out to wonder. 



                                                                                    (photo credit Jo-Nell Sieren, Chicago)



About kellyinrepeat

mom, wife, artist, writer, teacher, dog lover, pie maker, who believes that all things are possible
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4 Responses to Circle Games, Cupcakes, Earthquakes and Other Reminders

  1. Timmah says:

    You are a wonderful writer. My soul gets touched by the way you paint your emotional experiences. Your feelings go to the core and brush the divine.

  2. Lisa Pieper says:

    Thanks Kelly! As you know we too have a third surprise boy and I so clearly remember that crazed holy crap time when Jym and I could barely even look at each other. I feel the same way about O as you do about Quinn (although thank god without all you had to go through to get him here and healthy!). He is AMAZING and life with two teenagers who are here but not is made a whole lot better with one child who still snuggles and laughs and reads aloud to us. By the time he is in the distant world of separating from us I believe E and Em will enjoy us more again…time will tell but we are blessed aren’t we?

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