The day started early because we had to get the tree. We had it scheduled for two weeks or so.

It is Saturday morning and it’s snowing gently. The boys were hoping to sleep in but the deed has to be early, we were told by our gracious guides into the white woods and meadows. Not enough sleep makes for whining and some inelegant voicing of fears and concerns. As if locked behind a thick glass wall, I hear my own slow, muffled voice explaining why there should be no whining and talking back now. It’ll be fun you’ll see. As if. But imposing with a strong voice is not in me today…

All I can think of when I look at my boys is that I have them. Silly little beings with occasional crazy ideas and a bag full of back-talking words backed by the belief that mom loves them so – and so I do – I look at them and think that I have them. Silly boys, I love you so.

We pack layers of pants and sweaters and socks and mittens and oh, they are so fat on me mom, it’s uncomfortable, oh, I don’t like winter anymore. You do, like all children do, but you live in the now and can’t see past it… They squint with disbelief, get in the car, huff and puff and roll up the eyelids in a final affront as we drive away. Whining and stomping on crisp snowy morning air with booted feet, oh, how to like that? But my mind cannot think of many boundaries or sternness, not now, not today – the day after. I think how lucky to have them. How grateful. Silly little trolls with stomping feet and pouting lips, I love you so.

We park on a white ribbon of a road up on the hills. Silent and majestic, trees are draped in snow so thick you’d think they’d break. Snap? They don’t. Heaviness of the kind that’s meant to be does not break one but makes one stronger. The boys roll out of the car hip-deep into thick rolls of snow. They laugh now and hide their frowns in those thick snow sideburns by the side of the road. I take photos and think of a documentary where polar bear cubs rolled in snow and tumbled down a side of a mountain. White and fluffy, following their mama bear. The boys laugh out loud and that’s the only difference really. I take photos and I think how happy to have them. Grateful. Wild boys with big loving hearts and laughter so clean, I love you so.

“The snow’s too deep, my legs from my knees to the feet are so tired, can I have the sled? The sled is filling up with snow, how much longer, there’s so much snow on my back now, mom…I’m cold…” Those cold cheeks and the warm tears. Frustrated little boys, you did not bury the frowns like I thought you did, they came with us and will now troll all over the white meadows. I wish I knew how to breathe smiles into lumpy moods and often I do but I am not good at it now. Not today, it is the day after and it is hurting so. I turn back to look at the boys and think this is hard and trying me, but I know I have to be grateful. For here they are, I have them to love them so. My boys.

Snow is padding every corner of the woods and shy snow angels are spreading on the white meadow. About time… The boys make snow angels and laugh. Mom, this is fun, can we come again to play in these woods here before the snow goes? Oh how could you say it with such nonchalance you trolls who’ve been stepping on the thin corners of my patience all morning, how cruel of you… Their faces lit up with joy for a bit, but I am afraid they’ll dive into cold misery again. My silly wild boys, I love you so.

We find the tree we want and then make our way down the same path. Some joy, some puffing discontent, same as always. But it’s downhill now, and little feet love it so moods pop up shyly licking their wounds. The boys theirs, I mine. We walk along the path, chatting of winters with rain versus the ones with snow. How lucky to see white meadows and hills I tell them. How lucky for me to see them through the eyes of boys that need guidance, help and encouragement. And trust. My boys, I love them so, and only if they knew how easy it is to not see the forest for the trees.How careful one has to be.

How easy it is to forget to look at how it really is: Them, my boys, needing me to be stronger than I ever imagine myself to be, to pull them along, to allow for their childhood to not be ushered through strange dark corridors, to watch over them. Now as much as ever. A snowy time today peppered with whines, stomping, laughs and tumbles. I wish I knew the order in advance so I’ll be better prepared. I don’t. Unpredictable little boys, I love you so.

Life unfolding, my boys in hip-deep snow taking their snowy layers off and jumping in the car. They wrap themselves in thick dry jackets like blankets and hum “Oh Christmas Tree”… Are you being ironic now? No mom, we like to sing…

A morning spiced with loudness and occasional shrieks of frustration it has been. But they’re here, my boys, silly little trolls with red cheeks and frozen noses. I look at them and heavy thoughts of those little ones who were killed yesterday in a school on the east coast are way bigger trolls than any frustrated children could ever be.The saddest of times, the stark reminders of what we have, and of what really matters. Them, my boys, today. That much I know and I can touch. For tomorrow could be or could not be. A good reason to hold them tight. Again. And hug, again. And again. Just like Sasha asks every night. One more?

On the drive back the boys talk about warmth. Can we go to some hot springs soon, mom? You know what’s nice to do? You get in the rain or snow and then you go in the hot water and it feels so so good, you know? I do know. The cold, the warmth, everything I have is them and now. Grateful that I have warmth.

It snows again, thick and silent. Thoughts are still heavy and hurting. Prayers for the children who are no more, prayers for the hurting parents, prayers that we become kind and forgiving with each other.

Pray for the children. For the ones we’ve lost and for the ones we have. Because everything we have is here, now. Tomorrow is still a sleep away.