“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Monday, September 30, 2013

Born Third

Dear Max,

Today I went to the store and bought you diapers. I've decided that makes it official: we're ready for you. And I think, little boy, that you are just about ready for the world.

You are busy moving all the time, and I know that things are getting to be pretty cramped quarters in there. I feel your pain...since I share it.

I have spent a good deal of time trying to figure you out, your personality, your quirks, even what you might look like. Don't worry. I'm not foolish enough to commit to any preconceived notions just yet. I knew that your big brother Noah would be nothing like your big brother Joey, and I was right. I also know that while I can't imagine a third personality in the mix, that you'll come out and surprise us all by being just completely you.

Being born third is a big deal, I think. I was third in my family, and, like you, I was born much later than my older siblings. This can be hard, little boy, because there are going to be times you'll feel left out, lonely, and even forgotten. I've learned over time that that last is never true: nobody forgets you. They keep right on loving you, even when you don't realize it. Especially in our family.

There will come a time when your big brothers will seem impossibly grown up. It might even be right away, because Joey is eight and when you're very small, eight is a big deal. You are going to feel like you will never catch up to them. I hope you won't try, little boy. You are a blessing to all of us, to slow us down and help us hang on to a magic that was almost lost to us. You will be the sparkles in the air around us when we all want is to be hard and cynical and mature. That's an important job, and don't forget it.

There will come a time when your big brothers really will be all grown up, and you will feel so far from adulthood that it will be like having four parents and no siblings at all. It's the time when the third-born feels like an only child. I understand this all too well, and guess what? If you play your cards right, it's pretty great. You get all the benefits of having a big family that loves you, but of being the complete center of attention. It can get annoying, true, with everyone focusing on all your mistakes and overloading you with unsolicited advice, but love it up while you can. Because before you blink you'll be a grownup, too. That's not something I even want to think about.

And don't forget that while you're still small and your brothers are big, you'll quietly witness all of their mistakes. You'll watch them fail and struggle and make good choices and bad choices. The best thing to do, buddy, is just hang back and absorb it all. They'll never want to hear what you think, no, no--you'll be young and inconsequential during their moments of spectacular failure (a thing you shouldn't feel bad about, since they are struggling and don't want to imagine their baby brother might know better than they do). But do listen. Do pay attention. And by all means, do remember. Because your tracks will cross all those same paths, Max, and when they do, you'll be prepared. You'll have seen it all before, sometimes twice, and you'll already know what works and what doesn't. And you'll have spent so much time admiring your brothers, and sometimes hating them, that you'll get to pick and choose which things about them you'd like to keep for yourself and which things simply don't work. You'll see Noah's unending stubbornness and know when to use it and when to let it go. You'll see Joey's heart of gold and know when it's time to put up a protective armor to keep yourself safe.

You, my darling boy, will be the very best of us all.

Because that is what being born third, late, and last means. And in the meantime, we are waiting to meet you. We are excited! We love you so much already, whoever and whatever you will be. That's how our family works, Max. No matter what, and always.



Tuesday, September 17, 2013

First Words

Since I've been pregnant, bedtime has gone from a military sort of affair to a chaotic one. The larger I grow, the harder it is for me to crouch down with Noah or keep up with Joey. For the most part, I think both boys mean to be considerate and helpful, but let's face it. They're two little boys who have a thousand, no, make that a million times more energy and agility than I do right now. I'm pretty sure they look at me and see the lamest, most stick-in-the-mud mom ever. And poor Joey. When I'm stuck on the floor like a turtle on its back, he's usually the one who has to help shove me up in the air. UNPLEASANT, I'm sure.

But sometimes things do go just right, like the other night while Joey showered and Noah, all fresh and clean and smelling delicious, snuggled up to my side in my bed, leaned against me, and said, "Momma?  Can we do stories tonight?"

I love when he calls me Momma, because it's become rare. It's usually Mom, with an occasional Mommy. I also love "doing stories," though it's something my husband started and that he is more likely to get to do. Noah assumes we all have our roles, and he doesn't much like us to be outside of them. So if Daddy came up with "doing stories," it's Daddy who must be the one to do them. But every once in awhile, I get lucky.

"Sure," I said. "Should it be a 'Once upon a time?'"

Noah thought about this. "No," he said. His face turned up to mine with a huge glowing smile. "I like the one about how you met Daddy."

Noah is my little romantic. When watching Disney movies, he makes everyone be quiet for the "love part."

I smiled at him. "Okay," I said. "Should I start, or do you want to?"

"You tell it."

"Okay. A long, long time ago, when Mommy was just a young girl, only fourteen years old, she went to a dance at a school called Canisius High School."

"Mommy?" Noah interrupted.


"Can we skip this part?"

"Well, what part do you want to hear?"

"What's the first thing Dad ever said to you?"

And somehow, the way his voice became all mystified and whispery, I knew Joe had never actually included that in his own telling of our story. In fact, I realized it was something I hadn't thought about in quite a long time. So long that I didn't immediately remember the answer.

What was the first thing Joe Bielecki ever said to me? And then, it hit me. As the memory flooded into my mind, I found myself grinning as my eyes watered.

I looked down at our little boy, so like us both.

"The first thing Daddy ever said to me was, 'You're short.'"

Noah's eyes widened as this sank in. And then, he opened his mouth wide with a hoot of laughter, flopping over backwards into the pillows and clutching his tiny belly.

"He said that?" he gasped out. "'You're short!'" And then exploded into more giggles.

Yup. Sometimes it doesn't take much to fill your heart with joy and love.

Monday, September 2, 2013

New Beginnings

Well, this is it. Tonight is it. It is the final hour of my stint as a Super Awesome Stay At Home Mom. Everyone keeps asking me, "How do you feel?" It's a question with fifty meanings of course, because I'm eight months pregnant and it's hot out and tomorrow I'm leaving my children and returning to work after two years of not working. Not that being home with Joey and Noah hasn't been work. It's just that doing something you love every day, and wearing whatever you want when you do it, and having a bathroom at your immediate disposal, doesn't feel as much like work as...well, work.

I am excited. It's an adventure to go back and have a room filled with faces who are waiting to hear me speak. I'm not their mother, so listening to me isn't being nagged as much as it's about getting good grades and establishing a positive reputation. They laugh at all my jokes. Middle schoolers think I'm really funny. I do know basing my self-worth on the opinion of a seventh grader isn't ideal, but there are days where it really makes a positive difference in my life. I love when people laugh at my jokes, and it's a very small, select circle of people who do. Middle schoolers just happen to fall into that circle.

I'm also excited to read poetry and write essays and talk about the crafts of reading and writing. I love when students walk into my classroom for the first time, a place I like to call "Bielecki Land" (which comes complete with its own queen--ME--and laws I can make up as I go). Their faces are so expectant and open. They have no idea what I'll be like (I'm told I'm very loud) or what they'll learn, and even the very worst ones have a light, an optimistic spark, on the first day.

It's just that in my heart, I can't stop repeating an old favorite movie quote again and again: "Well, I'm gonna get out of bed every morning...breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won't have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out...and, then after a while, I won't have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while." (It's from Sleepless in Seattle. A little melodramatic, but par for the course if you know me).

What I remind myself of is this: No matter how hard it is to go back to work--and this is the really important part--it's temporary. Temporary is a concept I struggle with. When Joey was born and went through his colicky phase, everyone kept promising me, "It's only temporary," and I felt like punching them all in the face. "Temporary?" I wanted to scream. "Screw you! He screams for hours for no reason!" But what I've learned is...everything is temporary. Life is all ups and downs and lots of changes. Even the things that last manage to evolve so much over time that at the end of a journey, you can't believe what it was when it began.

So I'm telling myself: If I can do this thing, a thing that in great scope of life is small and quick, if I can get through it, it will be that much sooner that I hold my brand new baby boy in my arms. I will introduce him to his brothers and cuddle him for those amazing first few weeks. I will get this incredible chance that I didn't think I would have again. And that will be temporary, too, but if there is anything I have learned in being a Super Amazing Stay At Home Mom, it's that loving and raising a child is the most super amazing thing I'll ever get to do.

Here's to new beginnings.