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I just dropped my sons off for their high adventure with our church group. They will be gone for a week backpacking. They have to carry everything that they will need. They’ve been preparing for weeks for this outing; packing their packs, weighing, readjusting, taking things out, adding things they almost forgot. As I dropped them off, the bishop commented on the weight that they are able to carry. This is not their first trip…they had a shake down hike a few weeks ago. Yes, my boys have grown into strong manly-type boys, I said. When did it happen? I really pondered on this as I drove home after dropping them off.

I remember when they were born. How I loved my babies! I loved the weight of their small bodies as I carried them in a little bundle. I used to love the way they snuggled and suckled contentedly as I nursed them. I used to wonder at the miracle of it. First I wondered at the miracle of their little bodies that I carried within me, feeling joy and wonder each time they moved and kicked. And then I wondered at the miracle of their growing bodies on what my body continued to provide for them. Oh how I loved nursing my babies…particularly those early or late hours when they would wake and it would be just the two of us and I really had time to enjoy my baby and the wonder of it all.

I loved it when they were toddlers. It is so much fun to watch a child grow…to joy in each new thing that they learn. Oh…they were exhausting, yes! I call that chapter of my life my the “Chasing Nathan” years. I remember the day that I found my (three? or four? year old) son on top of the refrigerator. How on earth did he do that? How did he do that so quickly while my back was turned? Never a dull moment!

I remember how one son used to leap from the floor to the top of my kitchen counter tops in one jump. No warning, no running jump, just a quick movement and there he was! How many times did I get after him for that? I’m so glad he finally did stop doing that!

Just a few days ago, they were playing with their trucks in the backyard sandbox; building mounds and tunnels, making all of those boy noises that boys make without being taught. …and I know that it was just yesterday that I glimpsed my oldest son in the backyard with sticks (no…swords and daggers) in every conceivable place in his clothing. He had sticks in the back of his pants, sticks in the front. He could reach behind his head and pull a sword from out of the back of his shirt…or pull a “dagger” out of his shoe. He was prepared to fight the foe; anywhere he reached, he would be able to grab a weapon to vanquish the enemy. He was quite the ninja! Oh how I had to smother my smile.

The other day, I had both boys go with me to the grocery store. As we headed off across the parking lot, I noticed how small I suddenly felt. Suddenly both of my boys were much taller than me. I remember feeling safe and protected with them. If someone meant us harm, they would defend me. Odd thought…as if there were danger on the way to the store. But a mother takes joy in her tall sons just as she does in her small ones. I never knew. Something inside me always cried out a bit as they grew up and I could no longer nurse them, as they passed each stage, I was always so sad to see it left behind…even as I took new joy in each new stage of development…and in the person each son was becoming. I guess I’m still doing that.

I remember watching them work alongside their dad…astonished at the tasks that my small boys were able to do. Today they are hard working boys. I watch their strong, young bodies as they chop wood, lift and haul, working hard taking care of the yard and the garden.

I remember bathing their little feet and soft downy heads…and then in later years, washing their very dirty feet from hours in the sandbox and scrubbing hard to get the sandy grit out of their hair. Now I wonder what happened as I see their big hairy man-legs, their extra large feet, and the stubble that is just beginning to grow on their chins.

Yesterday was one of those days when I was reminded that though my boys look like…are…tall responsible young men, sometimes they are still boys on the inside. They had a moment when they were not getting along with each other. Each wanted his own way with something trivial and an argument had ensued. I sat them both down and we had a discussion about how we should treat others, about pride, about wanting one’s own way and about giving way for others, about thinking about how the other person must feel…about character…about maturity and how a man behaves when confronted with frustration and about how a child behaves. It was a long talk…moms are good at that. I was frustrated with them both. Later they each came to me and apologized…and I heard them apologize to each other. This morning, they had a surprise for me. In the midst of their getting ready to go…at 4am…they had cleaned my kitchen for me…working together (yes!!). They even scrubbed out the sink. They wanted to make up for…and cheer me…from my frustration with them the day before. Yes, these boys of mine really are growing into fine young men. Oh how I love them!

A couple of weeks ago, we attended the family day for my husband’s place of employment. It’s a fun place for my boys to visit because my husband designs tools that are used to build airplanes. The tools and the airplanes are really cool stuff for them to see and to have their dad tell them about…and they love to see just what their dad does at work. In fact, they understand more of what he actually does at work than I do. This time at the family day was one of those moments when I wondered again where the time had gone…only because last time I had gone with them had been so many years ago and there was such a contrast.

Last time, I had my five small children whom I had to watch very closely. The crowd of people was very large and I had spent most of my time keeping track and counting heads…my greatest fear has always been to lose a child. They were small then and easily lost among the crowds.

This year was so different. I again (like the trip to the grocery store) felt small as I walked with my husband and four of my children…only one of whom is still smaller than me…and three of whom (my two sons and my husband) towered over me (my oldest daughter…who is still shorter than me, stayed at home that day). Oh, I still counted heads…mothers probably never stop doing that. It’s just that I needed only to look up. It was so easy to find most of them over the tops of the other heads in the crowd…and it seemed to me that we made an imposing looking group as we toured the factory. As we all walked 3 and 4 abreast at times…I can’t quite describe the feeling…I was surrounded by these tall boys…almost men…I felt that same sense of wonder that I used to feel as I nursed them late at night when they were so small.

I used to be surrounded by my small children whom I was constantly bending over to, constantly keeping track of…much like herding cats sometimes…and suddenly here I was…am…with this family of tall children. …and I really don’t know quite how or when it all happened…

What a wonderful and glorious journey it is to be a mother of sons…and daughters! Small ones and tall ones! I am loving each part of this wonderful journey together.

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