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It is no small thing to talk about the child who made me a mother at age 24.

Isaac’s cries, his coos, his giggles, his feet plumping up, taking one tentative step then another- these were the things that ushered in my adulthood. They were the soundtrack playing while I became more patient, a bit stronger, more selfless and a bit more myself.

These days I am reminded of Isaac’s toddlerhood (not the tantrums or the sobbing, mostly) but the incredible deliciousness of discovering his apartness from me and the novelty getting to see him from a far. I remember noticing his growth- how large he would seem in my mother’s arms, or at the top of a slide. I remembering him returning to me more himself than before with a satisfied grin and sturdier legs – a being who owned his space in the world.

These years will be more of the same. I am proud to be your mother- the one you can leave and return to as more and more of yourself. You are funny, you are kind. You are smart. You have more thoughts at one than most people I know. You are fiercely independent and helpful at the same time. You are a loyal friend, brother and son.

When you were born, the nurses put you on my chest and my first words were struggling ones- words I know now are the very essence of young motherhood trying to integrate the pure body experience of pregnancy with the reality of a needy,wet human in her arms. I said, “Is that you? Is that you? Is that who you are?”

Every day since day that you have told me, “Yes.”

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September is more than half gone, and yet it is still the first Monday all three of the children are off at school. It’s like that, Kindergarten. Your five your old goes off on the bus,  catches all the germs by licking the Legos, and then comes up and collapses in your arms on Friday afternoon.

He’s recovered now. So it is my first Monday of shipping them off. Were it not for my sister, I might have spent the day in my pajamas watching Mad Men on Netflix. Instead I am writing in a coffee shop with her. I have a coffee cup, a cell phone and a red netbook.  It turns out I look exactly like people who do this all the time.

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NaNoWriMo almost ate me, but in the end of it all I ate it up. I did want to finish 50,000 words. I just had no idea what it would take until about 2/3 of the way through.
Here are the top 5 ways I plan to “win” next year:

1. Have Youngest Child Completely Potty Self-sufficient.
My kids have rich inner resources, it all turns out & NaNoWriMo was a grand experiment in Bea‘s Benign Neglect Principal. It turns out that when face with no other alternative, my kids really do go play & really quite nicely. However, my youngest – the one who is not in school all day – has learned that certain requests cannot be ignored: potty needs, hunger and thirst. I did learn how to ignore fake hunger and fake thirst, but had to figure out when they were fake. This ate up a good deal of potential writing time. In addition, there is no ignoring the potty-ing needs of a 3 year old boy. He is trained, but does not exactly clean up independently, so even if he is faking, he still needs to wash up.
2. Start Writing Immediately.
I think I was gun shy or waiting for inspiration to strike big, but NaNoWriMo is about getting your rear in the chair and putting words on the page. By week 2 I had mastered this, but had was already behind in my word count significantly. I am happy to say that I learned to swallow my pride and just get words out of my brain. It’s surprising what is in there! I did not any sort of plan going into NaNoWriMo & I think story-wise that worked out fine for me. The story wrote itself – the 17,000 words or so I got out – it grew and changed. I knew 3 days in I was writing a murder mystery & I was extremely surprised by that news. It is exactly the type of novel that needs lots of research, but I wrote it anyway. Editing is for a later time.
3. Write Constantly.
By the end of NaNoWriMo, I had learned to use small bits of time and not just large gobs of it for writing. This was a huge breakthrough for me in writing fiction. I was pulling the heaviest laptop known to mankind all around the house and plugging it in wherever I was needed most – including when my youngest two kids were bathing. I learned to tune out background noises and to pop up and stir the soup and get back to writing. In short, I learned to not wait for some pristine monastic environment to descend on my busy life as a mother of three boys and a husband who works insane hours. Now I know how much I can do with small bits of time and it is an amazing gift.
4. Don’t Make Big Plans
I’m pretty sure that I didn’t sign onto NaNoWriMo until the middle of October. By that point, things were already on the November calendar…perhaps too many things for one woman who is also trying to write a novel. As valuable as small bits of time proved to be, large gobs of it were invaluable and hard to come by. There were things I could have rearranged, canceled or postponed just to maximize the time I was home alone with words and no kids underfoot. Next year I need to mark out time well in advance -those large gobs of time are the way to catch up from behind.
5. Need Less Sleep.
Oh, I just need to get better at staying up late. It seems the only thing I can’t sleep through is the Internet. I can fall asleep reading, knitting, talking, watching TV or a movie and writing a novel, but I cannot fall asleep on the Internet. Many evenings after I settled the kids into bed, with great intentions I set about to write for 2 hours before going to bed myself. Occasionally this worked out, but more often than not I was asleep inside an hour. Eventually, I was just putting my pajamas on before writing – at least I was extremely cozy.

NaNoWriMo was amazing. I loved it & will go back for more, with slightly older children who are easier to neglect. They will all be older, wiser and slightly more independent – if only on the potty -I have high hopes of needing less sleep with every passing year.

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