I’ve learned to like bagels with just cream cheese.

Toasted bagels with plain cream cheese.

I realize that this morning as I’m making coffee and toasting my bagels. “I’m so American,” I think. My South African dad loved his cream cheese on toast with a big helping of strawberry jam on top. Delicious. A memory I can taste straight out of my childhood.

This morning is Tuesday but it feels like Monday because of the holiday yesterday. I walked the kids to the bus stop and Zoe held my hand the whole way. My shadow. Keeper of my heart.

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The boys are so big – it surprises me to go to the store with them. How Jackson will pick out his own socks – always trendy and very long. He could practically wear them as leggings. Labor day has become our thing – the kids and me – because Peter always works. Last year we did the last day of the state fair together. This year we went to Target for new bedding and socks. It was as boring and also as wonderful as it sounds.

The last time I bought them bedding the boys must have been around 5 and had no opinion on the matter. This time was very different. Micah lovingly coaxed a NFL-themed comforter out of me and he can’t stop pointing out to all of us that, “The Lions are there – did you see them?! They’re really there.” He’s a Michigan man to his core and yes, yes, the Detroit Lions are right there wrapped around his tall and gangly dreams every night.

He tells us he’s going to play football and be a farmer in the off season. Who are we to disagree? He’s the child who can accomplish pretty much anything he sets his mind to. He speaks in goal-jammed sentences when his inner Eeyore shuts up for long enough to let him believe it’s all possible.

We walk to the bus stop or mix cupcake batter or lie around and watch TV and these are my people. It’s real. I’m really here with them and the air has turned a tangy, shade of crisp and we’re ready for a change in the seasons. My parenting has grown up and all three of my children go to school on the bus now and here I am making coffee and a bagel. It’s so ordinary that I have to pause in the middle of my life to take note of it. How I arrived here at 42 and three semi-independent kids and I get to be part of this family and it’s worth pausing over.

Late Saturday night or maybe it was Sunday morning, Peter said to me across the pillows, “Remember when we had Jackson and Micah and you were pregnant?” And it all came vividly back. We both started laughing. How did we survive it? That’s not a rhetorical question. I remember that tiny rental with its fake wood paneling and the one tiny bathroom and we must have been insane. I realize that one day I better keep my mouth shut when one of my kids tells me they’re pregnant with a third when they can barely afford the first two and they all look like they haven’t slept in years.

We just didn’t know better.

We just kept doing the next thing. Commuting and paying off debt and cleaning the carpet under the dining room table. Again.

You don’t realize then that what you’re doing is so extraordinary. Because everyone around you is doing it too.

You don’t realize until one morning a decade later you’re making coffee and a bagel by yourself and it hits you that you made it to the next level of the game.

You open up the front door wide and let the flies and hints of Autumn drift in and you look around your house and your memory and you’re so grateful that you got here. It’s so fascinating to watch your tiny humans turn into tiny people and you never can tell what they’ll say or love next.

But you get to be in it with them. Not just helping them survive. But walking with them. Unpacking the days and their thoughts and when you go to the food court your boys can stand in line and order all by themselves.

These are the day of miracle and wonder.

Don’t even get me started about it all.

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