jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

Swooping Like Birds

Sunday morning started slowly. We were in recovery. Recovery from the first full week of school and a Saturday where the kids played four different soccer games on four different fields in two towns, a half hour apart, between the hours of 8 am and 5:30 pm. (May we never have an 8 am game again.)

Plus someone got a fever midway through the day. Also, hot.

We survived, sure. But it wasn’t pretty. That made Sunday a day of rest, in every way we could manage it.

We woke up late, and I made whole wheat banana waffles. Then we lay around while we figured out the day. At a certain point someone asked me what an isolette was and so I sat in front of my computer, don’t mind if I do, and started scrolling through a multitude of old photos of our four kids.

We looked at videos of newborn babies, images of tiny preemies in isolettes in a hospital NICU, photos of my belly so ridiculously distended it looked painful. We even had a re-enactment of exactly what it looks like to have an 8 lb. 14 oz. baby under your shirt. It was epic, as my eight-year-old would say.

Then we ate an equally fat-tastic lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit. After such decadence, we were ready for something big and mighty, athletic and challenging.

And so we stepped out into the almost-fall gorgeousness that only New England can muster. Helmets were acquired, bicycle chains were adjusted, and we were off.

I ran beside my children and then behind them. The four of them pumped their legs like little steam engines, up, down, up down and they swooped in and out of each other like birds, the first fallen leaves swirling in their wake. It was such an unbelievable sight it left me breathless.

children on bikes riding away

Little legs pumping
September 2015

We passed a couple with their two young kids on a scooter and a bike with training wheels, and as my four flew past, I heard the man say, “That is awesome.”

And we were. Awesome, that is.

Just the night before, in search of a special memory article for school to inspire creative writing, my son and I had uncovered an old baby board book we’d made just four years ago. It described an adventure in this very same park, but in the woods, along the paths.

We all curled into his bed together and before reading Ozma of Oz, we traveled back in time.


Ready to explore the world
November 2011

On that day we’d all worn boots and hoodies, our youngest, barely toddling, was pulled along in the red wagon. And everything we’d encountered that day was written in the book. Roly poly bugs tucked under rotten logs, ticks scaling our pants legs, scat and horse poop leaving evidence of the animals that went before us.

The first pages of our book  September 2015  Created November 2011

The first pages of our book
Created November 2011

We described our journey along the paths to an enormous field lined with tall trees and adorned with horse jumps scattered periodically which we’d climb, balance along and then jump off. We’d called this field magic field, because to a mom and four young children, it was. Magic, that is.

Last page of our book  September 2015  (Created November 2011)

Last page of our book
Created November 2011

We pointed at the ridiculous illustrations, really just a bunch of incoherent scribbles, and nodded at each discovery we’d recorded.

“Do you remember…?” I asked them, as they lay with their sharp, big-kid elbows, bony spines and heavy bodies.

“Yes, I remember,” they’d  replied.

For a split second as I read, I was back in that day, with my youngest in the wagon and the other three in their little hoodies and sturdy boots, their wobbly legs and wandering feet, a whole aimless morning to explore the woods hand in hand, a slow and steady exploration, an opportunity to figure out the world. I could picture exactly how it felt to turn each rotten log over to find something new and unexpectedly exciting writhing just outside the light.

And now, whoosh. Birds in flight. On to the next great thing.

Our afternoon spent biking was one of those absolutely perfect adventures where even the chain falling off one bike and then the other was no problem, where someone almost caught a frog at the river, but instead soaked his new school sneakers, but who cares? We ate granola bars and sipped apple juice, talked about school and birthday parties and canoes.

After we returned home we threw on bathing suits and drove to the beach for just a quick run in the surf, a last gasp effort at summer.

And I felt it. I felt us each adjusting to the new normal, like we always have.

mom and son

New normal, hanging on
September 2015

Once I was a mother with no children, but a belly so round and beautiful, it could block the sun. Once they were tiny things in isolettes, with tubes and wires and monitors.Once they were learning to breathe, learning to balance, learning to walk. Once I was an exhausted mother, corralling four barely there toddlers, desperate to teach them to be strong, to be brave, to understand the world around them.

And now. Now we are bold adventurers racing ahead, each with a quest of our own, yet to be determined, but for the moment, utterly awesome. How the seasons change.

Now they fly and swoop like birds, and I sprint behind, heart-racing, trying to simply keep them in sight, trusting that they will wait, knowing that they are ready, hoping that we will remember this, too.

10 comments on “Swooping Like Birds

  1. afthead
    September 23, 2015

    Beautiful words. Beautiful images. Beautiful children. Beautiful momma.

    • Burns the Fire
      September 24, 2015

      What afthead said. xo

      • jgroeber
        September 24, 2015

        And you, Ms. Brenda Burns the Fire. How I love seeing your little red icon pop up. Never fails to make me smile. xo

    • jgroeber
      September 24, 2015

      What a sweet and lovely comment for such a rambling sort of blog post. Thank you.

  2. Brenda Marsian
    September 24, 2015


    • jgroeber
      September 24, 2015

      Ah, thank you. It’s the day of soccer that got you, isn’t it?

  3. pujagokarn161289
    September 25, 2015

    Reblogged this on thecocoonchronicles and commented:
    The woman writes beautifully but this piece overwhelms your heart..

  4. pujagokarn161289
    September 25, 2015

    Very overwhelming! You should consider making a book of all these pieces and publishing it. Your kids will be amazed to find themselves portrayed so beautifully in all of these. It’s something of you and your relationship with them that they’ll always have.

  5. lafriday
    September 26, 2015

    They will not remember, but you have captured it all for them so they can be reminded. And they won’t understand how profoundly you love, cherish and celebrate their every move until they experience it themselves. What a gift you have given your four beautiful children by writing it all down.

  6. Anna Spanos
    September 27, 2015

    Beautiful as always, almost makes me want to move east, in hopes I might get an afternoon that beautiful soon (along with the beautiful words to describe it).

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This entry was posted on September 23, 2015 by in Memory, The Children and tagged , , , , , , , .

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