Thursday, April 5, 2018

The Masterpiece of Today

The desire to write usually strikes me at bad moments. Right in the middle of everything. Or those few quiet moments in the morning.
Usually it is when I am outside. Nature has long been my biggest inspiration. It makes me feel smaller. It makes me feel like a part of something bigger. It makes me feel.
Lately the prayer journal my mom got me for Christmas is what I have been using for my short "quiet" times in the mornings. And lately they have been in the Psalms. Several in Psalm 104. And I have been thanking God that He is an artist. A poet. A musician. A writer. A dreamer. Because those are the things in me that make me feel alive when I stop the constant doing.
We were made to create because we were made in the image of the Creator. We are most alive when we are creating whatever it is God has designed us to create. With Aquaman, who in his logical black and white thinking often feels so far away from creativity, and once told me "I don't have any imagination", creating looks different but there is still art in him. I see it when he brings me perfectly color coordinated minature airplane replicas that he made without directions.
The Dude's creations are artistic too. His legos look more like Dr. Suess vehicles, and he struggles with directions, but his art comes out in his words, in his smiles, in the knots he ties and construction paper robots he makes.

JT's art is mostly physical. He can make an art out of carrying a 7 year old upside down by his feet. His arms are like music when he wraps them around me. His smile is a masterpiece.
Greystoke and Scarlett are still just becoming. But then, we all are. Unfinished work. Each day a new opportunity.
Life is an art right now, a fluid one. A painting that flows along with some point to it, coming up soon, just wait for it. But seeming more like careless splashes of wild and uncoordinated color.
I often feel that I have lost myself in all of it, in the creation, become a part of it and lost my own creative side. Like an extension of everyone else.

People always use the analogy of an oxygen mask when they talk about how mothers should make time for themselves. Put your own oxygen mask on first, then you can help your children with theirs. But sometimes someone TAKES your oxygen mask. Sometimes there is no way to get it on. Or there are just these quick puffs that keep you going and then you go without again for a while.
By now I have learned that there are some stages in life that you just huff and puff for a little while. You just make do. You turn on the tv in the middle of the day and you write while your 3 year old screams at you and your 11 month old snatches a drink from your body and you don't worry about the upcoming craziness of dinnertime.
It's spring break, and this was my first day off this week, and the only day that JT had to work. I wrestled all 4 kids to the eye doctor and spent an hour trying to keep them from destroying the place. Praise the Lord, my wildest child does not yet need glasses, and possibly won't need them until around the 3rd grade, so we can avoid that place. Maybe give them time to forget us.

Then we went to visit the beach, the Jetty, where we finally have annual passes to visit JT whenever we want, which is perfect for this summer because the water is shallow so far out and Scarlett can crawl in the waves and The Dude and Aquaman can catch waves to their heart's content. Today it was a little cool for the water but still quite perfect and we had a good time.
Tomorrow we will all be off together, and we haven't yet decided what we are going to do.
I haven't gotten sleep in I don't remember when. Scarlett has had a terrible cold and cough for a month now. She had a week's worth of Roseola fevers. She is getting more teeth. And she is totally exhausting.

She went straight from her slow and clumsy cowboy walk to a full out run. Her hands are even faster than her feet. She is angry much of the time because she wants to be held or she wants to be running around outside or she wants to be rolling in the dirt, or anything besides just wandering around the house doing the same old things.
Greystoke will be 4 before we know it and he is settling down a little, and returning to his affectionate self. He greets me with hugs instead of glares in the mornings again. When I get frustrated with him, he throws his arms open wide and says "I love you mom!" He has moments of great flexibility. His new stage is asking questions all day long. "What did you say?" "Why?" He never stops asking questions. We got 3 new games for Easter and the most frequent question, usually asked immediately after we play a game is "will you play a game with me?"
I think he loves the mental stimulation somehow. The Dude loves games too, though he is much more likely to throw his cards in the air when things don't go his way. Aquaman will sometimes be convinced to play but he finds games to be "boring". But his OT advised last year that they are good for his social skills and his emotional regulation, so I convince him to play a couple times a week.

And now I had better go. The boys have been fighting all day and wearing out my patience, and trying to concentrate on this computer isn't helping things much. Thankfully Scarlett has stopped crying for the moment. She and Greystoke are playing a game in which Greystoke pretends she knocks him down when she pushes him. She is laughing hysterically.

"These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things." Psalm 104: 27-28

The Creator of the Universe, of the ocean and the beautiful spring weather we enjoyed today has given me enough today. Even when a few puffs doesn't feel like enough. Even when there is fatigue and shortness of breath and even a little anxiety. He gives us our food. He gives us our air. He gives us each opportunity to make each day a masterpiece.

Today my painting feels sloppy. I am tired. But the beautiful thing is, He comes along beside us. He fills in the gaps. He makes our messy handiwork into something complicated but somehow organized. Hints of darkness that bring our the brightness. Crevices and wrinkles that highlight the pathways of hope.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Learning to Walk

 It's spring. Our caterpillars turned into beautiful painted lady butterflies (Greystoke and I got to watch one of them come out of his chrysalis!), drank some nectar while their wings dried and then flew away (but not while we were watching, I guess they were shy).
It's been a cool March. Cold windy soccer practices trying to keep our board game money from blowing away. Taking a couple minute break to warm up in the car.
We've been to the pool but just because we've missed the pool area, not because it is actually warm enough to swim yet.
Scarlett has gotten to wear her fluffy pink coat a couple of bonus times.
Saturday we went to big truck day for a little while. Greystoke was excited but the lines were long, and while we were stuck in one line the "horn free quiet hour" ended and at exactly 10:59 all of the horns started blaring.
So we gritted our teeth for one last truck and then ran out of there with our hands over our ears.
JT has been off on the weekends all month, and it looks like this might last into the future due to a new part time lifeguard that likes to work the weekends.It is nice to be on the same schedule. It is also nice to take a nap once in a while. And I have been doing that more lately since Scarlett has not been sleeping so great again (actually I think she is probably sleeping just fine, she just makes it a bit difficult for me).
Greystoke's puking a few weeks ago turned out to be Rotavirus. We all got it, but luckily the adult version wasn't so bad. The baby version was. Thanks to breast milk and zofran we stayed out of the emergency room. It was a long stinky week. And night weaning had just been completed, so smoothly, and she slept through the night exactly one night. And then the next night she kept crying and crying and finally threw up all over everything. As soon as the Rotavirus ended she caught a cold...and then 2 more. So the point of all of this is that night weaning has gone completely out of the window.

When I tried to ease her back into it she cried almost the entire night. She has stopped taking her pacifier. She was acting cranky all the time and we were all completely exhausted.
One night after JT took her for a walk, I took her for a walk then took her for a car ride...I finally nursed her back to sleep and JT and I talked. The outcome? It's ok. With The Dude and Greystoke I did not even try to night wean until they were 2 for this very reason. Some of it has been illness. Some of it is quite obviously separation anxiety. Some of it is the 4 teeth that she is getting. But when I lay down with her that night and slept in her bed I knew we had found the right answer again. For the first few nights she clung to me as if terrified I might sneak away. Since then she has been much calmer at night (except the night before she got croup, that was a rough one), and the rest of us have all been much more well rested.
This too shall pass. My last baby will be 11 months old in less than 2 weeks. This next year will fly by faster than I want it to. Life since kids moves at warp speed.
She is full of sugar and spice and everything nice. She loves to get dirty and messy, and she loves to get her fingers into things. She is on her feet more and more but they are still quite unsteady because she is in such a big rush all of the time.
She doesn't have time for her tripping feet. She has food to eat and boys' hair to grab and a million things to laugh about.

Greystoke is growing up quickly and I am more and more looking at him and saying goodbye to 3...hello to the bigness of 4.
Now that I have discovered that the way to his heart is games I have been embracing it fully. This is a new sort of child to me. The older 2 needed to be outside getting dirty, running, climbing. Greystoke can do these things quite adeptly, but they are not his passion.
Trying to spend some quality preschoolish time with him, I made him some "ooblek", this goopy substance that is fun to play in. The sort of thing Aquaman and The Dude would have gone nuts over. He looked at me like I was an idiot and wouldn't even put one finger in it. Then asked if we could play uno. So I dumped it out and we did.
No task seems too daunting for him. At the Dude's 7th birthday party he was the hit of Adventure HQ, climbing to the top of the "skyscrapers" slowly and methodically and then jumping headlong from the top in victory. "Strangers" and other children his age seem to be a total mystery to him though. While not afraid of them exactly, he seems to have no time for them.
At night when we read our books (which is one of the few times I am allowed to read to him, despite his loving books, because he is Mr. methodical, and I have never had much time to read to him during the day), he has started pointing at words and trying to sound them out. He does not get at all discouraged or upset if it is hard.

He is losing some of his threenager ways. When he wakes up in the mornings now, instead of glaring at me like he did for a long time he hugs me and snuggles me. He tells me he loves me multiple times per day. He will occasionally let something go when I tell him to, without feeling the need to cry hysterically. He will still occasionally attempt to fight to the death with his archrival, The Dude, despite the fact that he always ends up losing.

He is brave and deliberate and affectionate and easy going, and I love watching him turn from a baby to a little boy.

The Dude turned 7 and it seems to be his turn to go through a rough patch. He had evened out so much around 6, but his fire and intensity and ultra sensitivity have returned with a vengeance at 7. Oh yeah, and not to forget his dogged determination, which can have its down sides.
School is still going fine. He is tired of it, as we all are in spring, but his writing and reading have improved so much this year and it has been a hard fought battle for him. He loves basically everyone in his class, and they all seem to love him. Even his teacher, who has been a bit more intense than we would have liked, is obviously quite fond of him, and for that I am willing to do a little extra make up work for a doctor appointment, even though I think it is kind of ridiculous in kindergarten.
He is a lot of fun to be around, except when he isn't. I forgot about 7 and its emotional relapses. Aquaman was very dramatic at this age too. I am incredibly grateful for the parenting classes we took with Aquaman's counselor, because every time he storms off in high drama, I remember them. Don't engage, it adds fuel to the fire. Stimulation to the already over stimulated.
Despite his amazing attitude, I know school is probably pretty difficult for the Dude. He was not designed to sit in a chair all day reading and writing. Everything has been too hard or far too easy this year, and I know that is confusing to him. So I try to give him grace when he comes home and takes his frustrations out in confusing ways. I try to give him grace when he makes a mess everywhere he goes. I call him my "creative genius" because he is always making something. Creative genius comes with big messes, so I try to reframe it in that positive way, mainly for my own sanity.
He has started getting into the Legos, and will sometimes stay up late into the night. He doesn't make things the way Aquaman does...orderly color coordinated vehicles. He makes elaborate houses with docks and recreational vehicles. They fall apart easily. He doesn't like that. Neither do I, for that matter. My house has been completely taken over by tiny bits of plastic that the baby loves to shove in her mouth.
Aquaman is in the "golden years of childhood", as JT likes to say. He is so agreeable and helpful. He picks up and gets himself ready and helps out with the little ones with very little complaining. He continues to hate school but he gets up and goes without much fuss.
He told Greystoke the other day that he was going to be home schooled next year and Greystoke thought about it for a minute and then said "well I was home schooled when I was 1."
Aquaman is playing soccer now, his first game is on Saturday. I never pegged him for a team sport player despite that he is a very athletic person, and this may be the last time he plays a team sport, but I am really proud of him.
I know it is very much out of his comfort zone. But he enjoys kicking the soccer ball around, he actually even enjoys the running.But the relational side is a bit more difficult.
Among the many reasons I am looking forward to home schooling him next year is that he really struggles in learning social skills and I really don't love him learning them from a big group of obnoxious 10 year olds. Most 9 and 10 year old boys are just plain annoying. And it's fine, it's normal, but he struggles a lot with it because he is an "old soul", he is not like them.
It confuses him a lot when they tease or when his own teammates kick the ball away from him or when they laugh when he messes up, which happens because he is just now learning how to play and most of them have been playing for years.
On the way home from his last practice he was very upset and then I got upset listening to him play the role of the victim because I know that will not go well with him. He ended up upset with me and I had to leave him alone for a while. I came back later that evening and he was much more rational and agreed that maybe that is just the way some boys act and not that everybody hates him.
I hurt for him sometimes because I was an ultra sensitive kid too. I know what it is like to internalize everything, and I know how dangerous it can be to get stuck in that.
God has delivered me out of my ultra sensitivity and my fears now, but I know they are really only a wander away. Every day I must be intentional to put my eyes on Christ and not on the world around me.

I have been realizing lately that I want so much to spare my children those wandering times, but the fact is they are part of the process. I want them to skip the immature mindsets, the self-centeredness, the deep loneliness, but the only way that I got to the place where I am in this life is by going straight through it. And they will have to as well.
That's not to say that I am going to just throw them to the wolves though, because I won't. I also refuse to ignore their cries for help or minimize their feelings. But it's a wobbly tightrope we walk as parents in all of this. Backing up just a little as they grow to let them find their own footing. Letting them learn to walk the same way Scarlett teeters on her feet and ends up with bloody gums. But always being there to clean them up, to hold them for a little while, to let them rest before we set them back up on those wobbly feet again.
I am living in every moment these days. Soaking in every baby giggle. every board game, construction paper robot, perfectly symmetrical lego vehicle. Holding my baby all night long. Sitting in the rocking chair pretending like I am rocking the baby just to sit beside my biggest boy a little longer. And he wraps his whole body around my arm and I hardly feel sleepy anymore.
These days will be over soon. They will stumble up and out of my arms. I will cheer as they go, placing them in the capable arms of their true Father, who let me hold them for a little while. Because He loves not only them...but He loves me. Oh how He loves me.
Scarlett has been dozing in my arms for the past 30 minutes. I went straight into writing after I finished working today because the boys are all out having fun with grandparents and this was my chance. There are 4 loads of laundry waiting to be put away and there is dinner to make, so I will go now.

I could stare into these eyes all day
Gresytoke trying out Aquaman's soccer stuff

Waiting for Zofran with her puke towel at the doctor