I try to wave the kids off to school each morning when I'm not frantically taking care of last minute "Oops, I forgot to have you sign this, Mom" kind of things (We've had one of those already, four days into the school year!). We had a lunch box full of candy, too, this morning, but that's another issue entirely.
There's a kind of contentment in sending the kids on their way in peace. I usually sit on the porch steps watching where each kid sits when they climb on the bus (they all ride the same bus--country living), blowing kisses which inevitably embarrass the big boys, but tough, they can deal and better yet they'll thank me one day. The last thing imprinted on their impressionable little brains is their pajama-d mother, hair a mess, frumpy wool socks, and a smile. Who could ask for anything more?
School is back in full swing and I'm taking time to notice all the little things that I haven't made time for all summer because I was too morning sick to notice or care. Early morning sunshine, dew on the grass that glistens, and the smells, I can appreciate smells again! It's all fantastically beautiful. I grabbed my camera and walked down the street, still in my pjs, capturing all the loveliness around me. It felt so good, like I'd found a little piece of myself again.
Now I best get Sam out of his crib. It sounds like a war up there. He's yelling at something and it's hilarious.
Last day of school
(Annie finished yesterday, hence the bed-head. Lincoln was just cold...and grouchy. And take note of the hole in Will's jeans. Yep, the last day of school.)
The month of May swept me away. Poetic but true. It was survival mode until school got out. Today was the day, the blessed end of another school year. I am relieved. Summer vacation is one giant cleansing breath for me. Something I yearn for and crave and anticipate.
I don't know about where you live, but here they save all the craziness until the last few weeks of school. Field trips, concerts, programs, in addition to all the regularly scheduled activities. I had a hard time keeping track of it all even with a calendar conspicuously taped on my kitchen cabinets. I looked at it constantly each day just to make sure I didn't miss anything.
I've felt a bit of a loss not having taken many pictures or written for nearly a month, and at the same time it was a blessing, one less thing on my plate. Life is sure to settle down now and I can once again find my grove.
We had an easy-peasy sort of day. Kindergarten ended yesterday but the boys had a half-day. I went to school to drop off a few things and slipped into the kids' classrooms for a little closure. Sam is William's class mascot. Without fail, they attack him the moment we walk in the door. They were playing Around the World with multiplication facts. Do you remember that game? The kids thought it would be fun to "challenge" Mrs. Carter. Nice. I made it halfway around and was beaten. 7x6, the fact that will live in infamy. Luckily the winner was a little girl I go to church with so I couldn't harbor ill will too long. After all, she was only ten AND she's a doll. I cast my competitive nature aside and bowed out with grace.
We grabbed our first snow cones of the season, checked out a gazillion books at the library, ate dinner on the fly as we scrambled to Annie's soccer game, and made it home in time to introduce our kids to a favorite that I haven't seen in years: The Man from Snowy River. They loved it. Jim Craig was dreamy once again as he subdued the brumbies.
I've commanded my children to sleep in until 8 AM. We'll see how well obedience reigns in this house.
Making choices is easy. It's the consequences that give us trouble.
I love that my kids are testing the waters in this little microcosm we call Home. Simply put, home is a school. A safe place to mess up, make it right, and move forward without judgement, all the while learning that our choices matter. I firmly believe that happiness is a result of choosing what is good and right. If I can help my kids discover that truth for themselves when they're young, oh man, that'd be awesome. For them and for me.
We have good days and bad days. Set-backs galore. But we learn through repetition. Isn't that the human condition? I need to remind myself of that more often, especially when I think my house is full of little thieves destined for bank robbery. Your money is not safe here. Trust me. You leave a quarter on the counter, BAM, it's gone. "Wasn't me, wasn't me," they say. Honesty is the best--and sometimes, overlooked--policy. But were working on it. Over and over and over again.
Just to be clear, William (above) wasn't caught thieving. He didn't do his dish job in the morning and I refused to pick up the slack, so there he sat after dinner, mad as can be, because not only did he have to unload the dishwasher, but he also had to load the breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes, too. Not fun. But I bet he'll think twice, in the future, before heading out the door for school. At least that's what I hope.
And the best part of all is that I love these kids like crazy, head-over-heels. Even when they muddle through things. I muddle too, all the time, and they still love me. That's the gift of Home. We're in it together, for better or for worse.
We have three kids playing spring soccer. Saturdays are crazy. I have dreams the night before that I can't find a shin guard or a jersey or a sock. It literally feels like the end of the world. You know those dreams. It's nice to wake up. Nice to know that I'll have time to find that missing jersey.
We took a break from activities during the winter. It was a good thing, until it wasn't. The kids got tired of each other. It happens. There is such a thing as too much time together. As much as I love them, even I need a break once in a while. It was time to get the kids involved in something again. I could feel it.
My kids needed to remember what it's like to commit to something and stick with it. Even if it's cold. Even if it's raining or snowing. Even if they're tired. Following through. That is a big life lesson, the difference--if learned--between mediocrity and greatness. Little moments along the way build on each other, proving to them that they are strong, capable.
Enough theory, let's get down to the nitty-gritty.
Watching kids play soccer is hilarious. Lincoln is an animal. He scores the goals. Sometimes, I question his form.
Other times, I'm not so worried. Attaboy.
Annie, sweet girl, is trying to figure out how not to run flat-footed. She Pounds. Down. The. Field. It's painful (painfully funny) for Ben and I to watch. Painful and so adorable. She'll catch on. It's her first time. She's always excited and a little unsure.
We teach and teach our kids to share, take turns, make room, and then we throw them on a field and expect them to jump in front and push their way to the goal. My boys never struggled with the transition. They're boys through and through. Annie, well, she's working through all that.
I love the smell of spring, it smells like soccer. I love watching my children and their beautiful, strong bodies, running, laughing, collapsing from exhaustion. It's a good thing, exhaustion, because then they go to sleep at night without any trouble, right?
To tell you the truth, I rather enjoy having sick kids, when my sole responsibilities are to nestle them, tend to them with stories and whispered endearments.
Naturally, there's diarrhea and barf, but I can deal with that...even if it lands on my running shoe, seeping into my sock, in between my toes. I am no stranger to the grossness of bodily fluids. It's inescapable. I deal with little bodies, daily.
While Sam is playing or napping I've been reading The Aviator's Wife, by Melanie Benjamin. I was haunted by a previous book of hers, Alice Have I Been, and couldn't wait to get my hands on her latest. It's the story of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of the famed Charles Lindbergh. Oh, my heart. I will never complain of my middle-class anonymity again. The cost of wealth and celebrity is too high. I had no idea.
This was a day to count my blessings.
My life is good. Even if it's buried in diarrhea and barf. I'll take it.
The minute I start thinking I'm ready to have another babe something throws me for a loop. Sam used to be so easy, so manageable. In other words, I had complete control.
There are days when I'm ready for Sam to nap at 9 in the morning. Evil mom that I am, I entertain the thought that it would be nice if he stayed asleep until Ben got home from work. Some days are like that. Consecutively. Heh.
I love the kid. I do. I kiss his face all day long. But my mind gets so tired from keeping up, being patient, trying to teach instead of get upset. It's hard work.
I need to keep reminding myself what my mom always says, "Life by the inch is a cinch. Life by the yard is hard." It's true. I can get through an hour, an afternoon, a day, even. But when I start thinking about an entire week, I feel inclined to run. Away. Fast.
Such is my season. I'll get by. I know it. I just want to do it right.
Last year Ben got a little too excited about the chicken coop building project and made more nesting boxes than we needed. This spring we bought five more chicks to, hopefully, fill up those nesting boxes. Unfortunately, we may have come up a little short again.
Two of the five chicks died. A day after we bought them.
Unfortunately, Lincoln's chick, affectionately called Fun Chick, was among the deceased. It was a sad day. As Lincoln is the tender-heart of the family, you can imagine the sackcloth and ashes at our house.
It was only fitting, as a way to help Lincoln with closure, to hold a funeral. It was Sunday, so naturally our thoughts were lofty and reverent to begin with. Um.
Lincoln made the preparations. He found a little box, lined it with grass, and gently placed the little chicks inside. He picked a spot next to the coop for the burial so they would be close to their family come resurrection day. All took a turn with the shovel and Lincoln set the box in the ground, deep down, so Charlie-the-dog wouldn't sniff it out and exhume our little friends.
We sang "Families Can Be Together Forever." Some were more solemn than others, as you can imagine. On the way into the house Lincoln said to me that he tried really hard to not cry.
A few minutes later he found me in the kitchen making dinner. He crumbled into my arms. The tears. We sat by the stove and let the tears flow. He was going to miss Fun Chick. And then a quote passed through my mind from The Mill on the Floss, "We should not pooh-pooh the griefs of our children."
For well over a year I've been toying with the idea of painting my main living area: entryway, family room, kitchen, hallway, stairway...maybe even venture into the laundry room. I'm trying to create a restful, peaceful space with a splash of color. I can't sacrifice color, it makes me altogether too happy.
This room-makeover from The Lettered Cottage is stuck in my brain. I love the lightness, how the wall color (Oyster Bay, Sherwin Williams) doesn't get in the way, but adds to the overall feeling in the room. I love the wood and natural elements, like the rug, the reclaimed wood tables, the linen arm-chairs. The french doors make me happy. I'm not sure if I'm red as much as I am a deep, buttercup yellow? I think it'd be so fun to paint my patio doors. This inspiration picture is totally doable in my house, I think I could recreate the feeling this look evokes without having to spend too much money, re-purposing what I already have. All except the tables. I love that coffee table. Hmm. I'll have to get creative.
My house is filled with natural light. I want the space to feel light and airy, but I'm afraid of one thing. My friend's husband paints high-end homes for a living. They used to live in the mountains of Colorado. She said that so many clients would NOT paint their interior spaces really light colors (whites, blues, grays) because it was cold and snowy much of the year. It made them depressed, too bland.
I live in Idaho. We have a LONG winter. Too long. Will I feel the same way? I want to feel warm, not cold. But I want to stay away from beige, brown, tan, yellow paint colors. I want that Oyster Bay! I'm thinking that adding color to the space will warm it up.
I've ordered these jute rugs for my dining area and entryway. They should be here any day now. I can't wait.
I just need to make a decision about the paint...should I go for it?
Lots to say about Spring Break and General Conference this weekend, but I'll leave you with this...for now.
It's never too young to start a strapping young boy on a longboard. I always wished I was cool enough, carefree enough, to longboard on campus when I was in college. I walked. Everywhere. Hoping not to trip going up the stairs when a guy I had a crush on was watching. It didn't work. Up I fell. That relationship was relatively short-lived.
First day of Spring Break was about as mellow as you could get.
I heard this a few times, "You are the meanest mom on the planet." I love my kids. The gratitude oozes from them.
Why my kids want to watch movies instead of playing outside is beyond me? Honestly, I think they're trying to switch gears. Winter in Idaho is like hibernating (if you don't ski or snowmobile). Now that things are thawing, it's time to shift our focus outside instead of in.
Once I get them out the door, they're fine. They remember how warm the sun feels, how fast they can ride on their bikes, how much freedom they have because I can't see them (they've abused this a time or two already, ALREADY! Boys.).
I had nowhere to be except home. I watched the kids play, soaking up the sun (my freckles are back). Pirates. My boys were pirates up in the trees and I loved it. They're so funny.
"Avast ye, Scurvy Dog."
"Get on the boat, ye Scalleywag." That's what they called Charlie who was lazying below.
Annie, well, Annie's different. She sat by me and COPIED A BOOK word for word in a notebook with a pencil. You couldn't have paid me to do that as a kid. She kills me.
It was all about simple fun today. The best kind in my opinion. I appreciate my kids so much more when we have no plans, nowhere to be, and we can just play. I hate being a nag, I hate deadlines. I'm a fun-seeker. Playing is what I do best (this is a good thing...and a bad thing).
Today I got my wish...until we went to the library later that afternoon.
Sam's been a hoot lately (yes, I'm channeling my mother). I found a crate full of Lincoln's old clothes and Sam's claimed them as his own. They're big-boy clothes: jeans shorts, polos, flip flops, not the coordinating garb of babyhood (as much as I love babyhood, I adore a toddling baby).
He walks with me, holding my pointer finger, instead of being held all the time, which isn't always a good thing. Freedom has its challenges. Once given, it's hard to take away, so I have to figure out beforehand if this is a carry-him errand or a let-him-walk errand.
If Sam could be outside all day long, he would. We have a lot of big windows along the back side of our house and since the weather's been nice, I'll let him explore our backyard on his own while I fold laundry or clean the kitchen (not to worry, I'm always watching).
The best part about it is Charlie, our dog. He's like a built-in babysitter that I never have to pay, always within arms reach of Sam's squishy self. Charlie keeps Sam from wandering too far. He's a baby-herder.
Spring is finally here. It took long enough. The doors are flung open. The breeze is fresh and cleansing. We can live outside again. All's right in the world.
I recently watched a documentary called First Position. It follows six dancers (boys and girls), ages 10-17, preparing to compete in the Youth America Grand Prix, one of the world's most prestigious ballet competitions. Their stories are extremely varied and so completely different from my life.
I'm not a dancer. I'm not graceful. I can't even do zumba without embarrassing myself. But I know beauty when I see it. Dance is beautiful. Our bodies are amazing (heh, some more than others).
I watched these kids, awed by their discipline, amazed by the sacrifices of their families, impressed by their maturity, and yet I felt sorry for them, too. Being "the best" at anything is hard. These kids have given up much to be where they are. Their childhoods aren't normal, they're focused, driven, disciplined.
After this show I've thought a lot about expectations and my kids. On one hand I'd say that kids are capable of so much more than we expect from them, and on the other, I wonder if expecting that much is even the right thing to do (I should probably read that Tiger Mother book)? Balance is tricky. Each kid is different.
Some people are meant to lead extraordinary lives. Most of us are simply ordinary. I get caught in a trap every so often when I'm knee-deep in monotony, when all I seem to do is change diapers, vacuum the floor, make dinner, help with homework. I read about people who are adopting kids from Africa or being published or fighting for morality at the UN, and suddenly my bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios looks somehow not good enough.
Then I discover a talk like THIS and I'm filled with hope again. "Those things which we call extraordinary, remarkable, or unusual may make history, but they do not make real life. After all, to do well those things which God ordained to be the common lot of all mankind, is the truest greatness." Pass the Cheerios...
This much I know, we all have a purpose. No one is here simply to exist. The hard part is figuring out which road to take, which road is best for us. As for me, I'll leave ballet to the experts...who may or may not be 10 years-old.
(FYI: while I'm typing this, Ben is doing the Insanity Workout. It sounds painful. He asked if I wanted to join him. I declined.)
I lay in bed this morning thinking that my mom was two years older than I am when she gave birth to me. Every so often I see my life in parallel with my mom's and it's weird to think that she was ever an unsure mother with little kids doing her best not to screw them up. I only knew The Mom that had it all together, probably because I'm the youngest.
Now that I've birthed my own wee babes, I don't think we ever have it all together or know all the answers, but with time the day-in-day-out routines become second nature, which may appear to kids as having it all together. I felt secure as a kid, knowing that if I forgot my lunch on the counter, Mom would stop by the school office later that morning, lunch in hand. Every week she gave herself a manicure. Every morning, before I was school-age, I'd watch her doing her hair and make-up. Honestly, I don't EVER remember her not doing her hair or putting on make-up. But what I learned from her wasn't about hair and make-up (heh, I have never used bright blue eye shadow). My mom was balanced. No extremes. She prioritized well, did what was needful, and still found time to trim her cuticles and paint her nails. She gave me a blueprint for a balanced life. Bless her.
I don't mind getting older. I actually like being in my 30's, except for the fact that it hurts to do a round-off, it's unsightly to attempt the splits, and, well, forget a back bend. Some things are better left in the 20's....
I'm excited when I think about the person I'm becoming. I'm growing and stretching. I'm learning to forget myself, to put others first. I'm developing my mind. I'm broadening my perspective. I'm feeling comfortable in my own skin, appreciating who I am, however flawed.
I must have a lot of growing up to do. I wasted so much time and energy in my teens and 20's worrying about body image, appearances. It's nice to let go of that stuff, or, rather, to put it in proper perspective. A beautiful mind is far more desirable than a pretty face. A meaningful conversation is way cooler than a good hair day. Sharing yourself, honestly, vulnerably, with another person is life-changing.
We live in an area brimming with my own family's history. My People, so to speak, have been here over a hundred years. Both sides. Every so often my mom will take me driving through the surrounding rural areas telling stories about her own childhood, as well as the people and places of her, and therefore, my, past.
Because I didn't grow up here I figure she's making up for lost time. The more I learn about where I came from, the more I feel bound to these people, these places. I've said before that sometimes I feel like the rogue descendant of these duty-bound, stalwart people, but as I get older, I feel that maybe I'm not so different from them. I come from a line of feisty women. In that, we are the same, for better or for worse.
There's a cemetery outside of town filled with people I love and people I'm connected to but never met. I laugh whenever my mom tells the story about visiting her father's grave when she was troubled, talking to him because she felt close to him there, only to have her SIL reply, jokingly, "Ann, I hate to tell you, but he's not there." It's true, but there's something in the quiet of a cemetery that allows for that feeling of closeness.
There's a special little grave we visit every March 20th. Three years ago, my older brother and his wife, in Connecticut, had a baby boy who passed away hours after he was born. They chose to bury him in this little cemetery near us, in Idaho.
This year was no different. It was cold, rainy and snowy, but nonetheless, we sang a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday" to Baby Toby. I wonder if other families do similar things?
After our visit with Toby, we walked over to our own burial plots. Last fall we bought four. Morbid, I know. Have you ever thought about where you want to be buried? It's unusual, and ironically common, seeing as none of us can avoid it. Funny.
I am comforted knowing that death is not the end. God has a grander purpose. He is our Father, we are his children. God's way is all about loving family relationships. He's provided a way, through Jesus Christ, for us to live again with those we love. Would it be heaven otherwise? I don't think so.