Sometimes the boys have this amazing ability to pull me out of my own head and make me totally present in my life. There are times – more than I would sometimes care to admit – when I get so deeply lost in thought that I don’t realize I have been sitting all stony faced for five minutes not talking to anyone. I am looking at you, bottle-feeding moments.

Today was one of those days. I had just fed Owl his little serving of rice cereal and sweet potato baby food. Nummy, huh? I was staring off at Penguin, who was sitting across from me and chattering about something. I think he was complaining about the size of his taco, telling Papa Bird that there was no way he could hold something so big so place it into his mouth please and thank you very much. I was drifting in and out of presentness (<– not a word) when I took note of a very soft but insistent touch taking place on my hands. I looked to the left and there was Owl, sitting in his high chair, staring intently at my hand and grabbing each of my fingers in turn. He would grab and hold my thumb, then my fingers, then that fat, nubby part of your palm and then my knuckles and then start all over again. I had realized, to some extent, that I had placed my hand near him to calm him when he started fussing, but it was a slightly unfocused gesture of love. But then I felt the velvety skin of his little hands running up and down my fingers and it felt so delightful that I couldn’t help myself – I sat there dumbly and smiled, taking it all in.  As of late, Owl has been using his hands more for this very purpose. Some days he balls his hands into little fists and pummels the crap out of my face. In a show of love, no doubt, or maybe just to see what it would feel like to beat your mother senseless about the mouth and jaw. Other times, like at night before bed, he runs his hand up and down my arm or across my cheek. I can remember Penguin doing this as a baby as well and, as with him, it stands as one of the strongest indicators I have that my little baby is starting to grow up and engage in the give and take of loving touch. He may not totally be aware of what he is doing or why, but it must feel nice to do this – to rub Mama’s arm. He must get something out of it, even if it is not a cognitively advanced appreciation of the need to embrace our loved ones as a show of mutual adoration. It feels good, and that is good enough for me.

I other so-cute-my-heart-might-burst news, Penguin did something very sweet today. I didn’t witness it, but I heard about it later and I quite nearly fell to the floor, drowned by the charm of it all. Penguin has been very upset about me going to work as of late. He wants me home all the time.  But I digress. Since I knew he was upset, I taped a little video on my cell phone of me saying I loved him and missed him and I would see him as soon as I could. I then sent it to Papa Bird’s phone with the instructions that he play it for Penguin. Well, he did just that and Penguin was so delighted that he played it over and over again. When it came time for nap, Penguin said, “Oh , I can take a nap with Mama today. Mama on the phone!” And he took Papa Bird’s phone and lay down with it, playing the message from me as he fell asleep.

I know.

I am not sure why I thought my life was sunshine and roses before children. Maybe because I got to sleep in (or sleep at all), got to eat at tons of restaurants that did not have the requirement of being “family friendly,” go to the movies late at night and lounge on a couch staring off into the television. These things are all well and good and sometimes I miss them with a longing that can only be described as “intense.” But my life before seemed amazing only because I didn’t know what a life with children could be like. Didn’t know that it would be so tough and so great, so tiring and so invigorating all at once.  This is an infinitely richer experience, even though the running around ragged prevents me from always being aware of it in the moment. But when I am, the love and the gratitude I feel radiate through every strand of every cell in my body.  And there is gratitude – great, grooved, heaping gulps of it.