Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Negative Ions

Tuesday was a rough day. The Dude has ANOTHER cold, which is very mild, but inevitably increases his night waking from every 2-3 hours to hourly. Usually when he is up all night, he also sleeps in at least a little, but Tuesday morning he was ready and raring to go (turns out, he had to poop) at 5:30 am.

Work has been rather intense. Mostly due to budget cuts which have not only resulted in layoffs, making the atmosphere a bit tense on top of increasing everyone else's workload, but have produced what feels like a sub-par service to the children we are supposed to be helping. That and a really laborious and disorganized process of adopting a new computer system.

By the time I made it home from work on Tuesday, with the combination of very little sleep and emotional exhaustion, I was ready to forget it all and climb into bed. But JT had a meeting about our retirement accounts, so I was on my own for dinner with the kids.

The chaos of coming home began. Without fail, when my children come in the door after I have been working, they spend the next 10 minutes screaming their heads off. My theory (actually I'm pretty sure someone explained this to me along the way) is that they hold in their emotions until they arrive in the security of home and then they completely fall apart.
Aquaman is such an intense little guy, and you would never know it when you spy on him at preschool. At school he has "great listening ears", and stuffs his wildhearted feelings down in his hoarse little throat and saves them up to unleash on his mother when she is least equipped to handle it. I, after all, have had to stuff my feelings all day at work just like he did.
The Dude just gets upset whenever Aquaman is upset, especially if I get upset over Aquaman being upset (he seems to be quite the peacemaker). If Aquaman is crying about something, The Dude often prostrates himself on the floor in sympathy and joins in the mourning. It's kind of exhausting.

Aquaman arrived home fast asleep at 5 pm which instantly threw me into a bit of a panic, because he is currently sharing a room with his dad and I since The Dude is such a terrible sleeper. I was too wiped out to imagine staying up until 10 pm listening to him toss and turn and ask a thousand "why" questions, without accepting "BECAUSE" as an answer. I woke him up none too gently and of course the emotions came pouring out more intensely than ever, breaking The Dude's heart.
After counterproductively yelling at them to "STOP SCREAMING!", I made an executive decision. We were going to the beach.

The original plan was to go to the beach to try to wear them out and somehow achieve a bedtime before midnight. But JT arrived home before we could even get out the door, and offered to take them instead and let me have some down time. I refused. By then I had realized that it wasn't them who needed the beach. It was their mother.

"Negative ions". Growing up beachside, just a few miles from where we currently live, my mother used to tell my twin sister and I to get out the door and get some negative ions. We always thought it was just one of those quirky southern sayings, but much later in my adulthood, by then an avid surfer, I watched a special about Niagara Falls and discovered that "negative ions" are produced by moving water hitting against a solid surface and that they instantly improve the mood. There is an actual scientific reason why the beach is so relaxing.

But there's more to it than that..
When I step out onto the beach, my whole identity changes. No longer am I a busy wife, mother, nurse. I am simply a part of God's plan.
I get so caught up in my own little life sometimes. But when I'm on  the beach, life stops spinning its plates around me, and I start spinning around with a deeper purpose. A change in perspective. I am still important, because I am a child of God. But not important because I am big, important because I am, by the Grace of God, a part of a bigger story.

The ocean itself paints such an extraordinary picture of our Creator.
There is something so inviting about its power and depth and rhythm. And if you accept its rhythm and fold yourself into it instead of fighting it, there is so much adventure and excitement and mystery in being a part of it. Not unlike our relationship with God. But there is also danger. There is power that induces man to study his own mortality and his very smallness.

"When I consider your heavens,
The work of your fingers,
The moon and the stars,
Which You have set in place,
What is mankind that You are mindful of them?
Human beings that You care for them?"
Psalm 8:3

We played and prayed until the furrowed eyebrow lines of life turned to crow's feet.
We watched the gentle evening sun dance on the water, let the sand sprinkle between our fingers, and chased each other until we were breathless. Though I couldn't go all the way in, I imagined, like I always do when I am close to it, the feeling of the cool salty water hitting my face. The earthiest baptism. Jesus washing the world off my feet.

Though I am in between cameras, I captured a snapshot somewhere deep in my heart of our markings in the sand. The littlest feet of our Surfer Dude next to my bigger ones. And beside these the imprint of 3 year old knees next to tractor tracks.
I know that my boys have inherited (from both parents) this love of the beach. I know because they cried when it was time to go home, and snuggled up in bed for story time that night Aquaman requested the books: "My daddy taught me to surf" and "A fun and safe day at the Beach".
I just hope I can show them somehow that it's not just the negative ions. It's not just the white noise, or getting away from it all, or the thrill of catching a wave.

"Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me."
Psalm 42:7

It's deep calling to deep.
It's recognizing that our significance is not in our busyness but in the depth of who we are in Christ: A tiny but dearly loved part of God's unfolding story.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Reflecting on 5 years of Marriage

I remember it like it was yesterday, but it almost seems like it was someone else.
Walking slowly down the aisle and that first glimpse of JT waiting there at the end. The giddy smile on his face. Taking his hand. Our first dance to "surfer girl" and running to our car through a web of silly string. Honeymoon surfing adventures in El Salvador. Dreaming of the future, little caring what it held.

So many things in a young life are uncertain.The only certainties we knew were that God loved us, and that He brought us together. 5 years, several jobs, a bigger house and 2 redhaired boys later, life often seems even less certain.
But those 2 certainties are forever.

This past week, JT and I had the opportunity to slip away for a 24 hour period and regroup. We had conversations that were not interrupted by little boy tackles or the shriek of a frustrated toddler, or spilled milk. I thought we might have trouble finding enough to talk about, but was surprised to find that we couldn't seem to stop talking. And that the few moments of silence were delightfully comfortable. The best thing about being married is the incredibly close friendship that develops from living life side by side.
I have always had trouble with small talk and with making new friends. I'm just not sure where to start. I crave intimate and deep relationships that skip past the fluff and people pleasing and delve straight into bloody depths of the heart. I've found the true culmination of this in marriage.

Thanks to Groupon, we stayed in the most adorable bed and breakfast; a restored building from 1895 called Riverview Hotel. While the "riverviews" were somewhat questionable, the scene was more than we could have asked for. Just 5 charming blocks to the beach, and one of our favorite complimentary services was the beach cruisers. Stop for a smoothie at the "Heavenly Cafe", then cruise down to the beach, and ON to the beach to sniff the salt air and enjoy the scenery. Waves were nonexisent, but it was almost better that way. There was too much to do and too little time as it was.
A couples massage at the attached spa which incorporated hot stones (amazing!) with rose petals in the shape of hearts waiting for us on the massage tables...then eating chocolate covered strawberries and soaking in the warm mineral pool. Our room had a balcony that stretched along the side of the hotel, but since it was a random Wednesday in May, there was no one else there. We sipped coffee and ate our delivered-to-our-door grapefruit and bananas in our bathrobes, and talked about the next 5 years. And the next 50.

So many dreams, and so much will change. Perhaps JT will be a firefighter...even a paramedic, at our 10 year anniversary. Or, just as likely, it seems, he may find himself content to fulfill God's will in ocean rescue for the remainder of his career. Aquaman will be 8 years old and fully entrenched in school and sports and friends. The Dude will be finishing up kindergarten and we'll be learning more and more about who he is. We're happy with our boys, and questioning whether our family is complete. But there's still the possibility that 5 years from now will find us with another curly haired McVicker to unleash on the grandparents at our 10th anniversary getaway. There's even the dream of becoming medical foster parents someday.
But most of my dreams are that some of the small things will always stay the same.
That the smell of the ocean will always bring me back to that upside down dizzy feeling of falling in love. That when the salt air splashes my face, I will be back in my convertible, driving down A1A in the dark after a Surftober session with this new and intriguing person, listening to Coldplay "you left the sweetest taste in my mouth...a silver line in the clouds..." And wondering what it is all about.
Little things, but in my dreams we will always brush our teeth together in the shower like we do now, go to bed at the same time, and have so much to talk about that we never go to sleep as early as we'd planned.

I look forward, as they grow, to continuing to share smiles over red heads at the funny things our kids do, and to know the joy that can only come from shared love and everyday life.

I hope we can always laugh, as we did on our trip, about our combined overwhelming lack of short term memory. And that we will always remember that lost keys and forgotten pumps are only opportunities to understand how truly Lost we would be without the help of our Father.
I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have shared these past 5 years with this man who has changed the way I look at everyone else and even the world because I never knew that someone could be so incredibly different from me and everything I have known, and still be so...right.

What will the next 5 years hold, or 50? More love, scary changes, many mistakes, little surprises and 2 certainties. God is love. And we belong together.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sunny Sunday with a Side of Rain

It started out a little too sunny.
The Dude was up all night Saturday night due to the beginnings of a cold, not that he is ever a model sleeper! In exhaustion, I fell asleep next to him at about 5 am and woke to that bright sun streaming in the window at 7, and The Dude's hand insistently in mine, with an "uh, uh, uh, uh" pulling me toward the door. It's really hard to be grumpy when the sun is shining through the window, and through your little boy's snaggle toothed smile. Even though he did have green stuff dripping out of his nose.

Off went JT to work, and on went the boys and I to church. It was our day for 3s and 4s, so we added 3 more boys to the mix along with, thankfully, a teenage boy helper who was just amazing. Have I mentioned that I love little boys? Oh, they drive me so crazy and they fill me up with life at the same time. I was only slightly irritated, but secretly delighted (because this means that my own little boy is normal), when I asked if anyone wanted to color and they all screamed in horror at the prospect of having to sit down with crayons in their hands. So we skipped the coloring. To their credit, they sat side by side like little angels and listened to the story about Joseph, and then Aquaman demanded that the story of Jesus rising again be also read, as this is his favorite Bible story since Easter.

Since our theme was forgiveness, it seemed an appropriate request. After all, there would be no forgiveness of sins without the blood of the Lamb. I loved that they loved it. My overwhelming desire for these kids is that Sunday school would not be a dreaded task of "having" to sit and learn, but a delight, an opportunity.

On to music. Where "my" class, and especially my own child spent half the time crawling on the floor and making their brand new toys that an older gentleman of the church just donated fight each other. But I didn't mind. Because every week my son sits on the floor and refuses to participate, and I embarrassing and how useless, but just last week, I heard him, halfway through the week, on the floor playing trains and singing to himself "oh, happy day, happy day! You washed my sins away!" and then I realized that he was listening in his own way. And for Aquaman, listening is easier when his body is in motion.

I read a blog several months ago that helped me relax a little about this constant gross motor activity. The writer wrote of her 4 year old son who was refusing to sit for crafts in preschool. She said she started to get frustrated until she realized that her son's ancestors were hunting with their fathers by the time they were 4. Not gluing buttons to paper cups.
Aquaman is just like his dad. Even now, JT shudders at the thought of having to sit still for longer than 5 minutes, unless he has just run 20 miles and can't move.
It's how they were made, and it's a blessing. But these days it is treated more like a curse.
I sometimes really wish that I could home school Aquaman at least the first few years of his schooling. So that he wouldn't have to endure the anti-little-boy school system of being forced to sit still for hours at a time. But alas, this does not seem to be an option. So I will begin now to pray for teachers with a heart for little boys. And JT is just going to have to take him running (or surfing, or swimming) every morning before school. :-)

After a children's ministry meeting which I didn't make it all the way through due to The Dude being 2 hours late for his nap and Aquaman trying to eat all the candy in the middle of the table, we headed home. The Dude was passed out in the stroller within 2 minutes. I was getting excited. Though Aquaman no longer naps (if he does, he is up until 11 pm, ugh!), he does take a nice "rest" in our room in the closet playing with his trains. This meant I might actually have a few minutes of quiet! I hurriedly made his lunch and cleaned him, brushed his teeth, read him a story, and whisked him up to the closet. I boiled up some tea, threw some laundry in, grabbed my Bible and journal and hit the Roku to turn on Calvary Chapel's service. Sat down and ahhhh.
Aquaman had to poop.
And though he is 3.5, this means he needs a diaper, because he has an irrational phobia of pooping in the potty.
"My tea!" I complained to him. "my nice cup of hot tea is going to be cold!"
He looked very worried about this.
So the diaper went on. He went upstairs to the bathroom to work his magic, and with a contented sigh I settled back down on the couch. Sipped my tea, made some notes, studied my Bible.
The Dude woke up. The banging of Aquaman's feet on the upstairs wood floor were too much for him.
Aquaman was worried when he saw me heading into the bedroom.
"What about your tea, mommy? Won't it get cold?" I was worried too.
Nursed The Dude back to sleep.
Then Aquaman was ready to be changed. Tossed the poop in the potty (which is no small task since Aquaman has some sticky poop), while Aquaman made comments about the food contents that appeared to be in it, cleaned him up, and washed our hands. Aquaman ran into the living room, stuck his fingers into my once delicious cup of tea and announced "good news mommy, it's still warm!"
I had to hug him for that. But I gave up on the tea (which was actually quite cold).
He went back up to finish his rest, and I got 5 more minutes of quiet time before The Dude was up again.
Thankfully they did let me finish the service while they ran laps around the living room.

Time to go swimming, so after a 20 minute ordeal getting everyone dressed we headed down the sidewalk with all of our gear. Within 5 minutes, the rain started, and we had to leave. Heads down in defeat, and disappointment, but God had better plans for our afternoon. Saturday I had made raspberry/pineapple/zucchini/spinach/grape juice popsicles, and they may sound gross but they are delicious. So we opened up the garage to watch the storm and ate our popsicles. The Dude kept saying "MMMM!!" with spinach and snot all over his face and I fell in love with him for the thousandth time. The brief downpour ended, and since we were appropriately dressed and covered in slime already, the logical next step was mud puddles. Warm and wonderful mud puddles. Aquaman kept throwing the mud up in the air and saying  with total rapture: "it's like a bath, but DIRTY!"
Better than any boring trip to the pool on a sunny day.
I'm writing because I want to remember these days that go so fast and leave me feeling completely inadequate. I want to always remember these little boys with mud all over their faces and open mouthed burps and the sweetest of kisses. But I also want to remember the sheer movement of it all.
I've been struggling a bit lately to figure it out, to do it all. I've a true Mary heart but feel forced into a Martha world.
I'm learning to capture the little moments, and laugh. And not be afraid to do a little crying during the long nights when sleep seems such a distant memory. I've learned that one of the most important things is being willing to say that you're sorry- even, and especially, to your kids. But even bigger than that, being willing to accept the forgiveness that comes so easily to them.
Most every day I feel completely incompetent to do the task that I have been given. How, when I also am gone at work 9.5 hours a day 3 days a week, can I keep the bathrooms clean while still teaching my kids the importance of God's word (this turned out to be easier than I thought...Aquaman is actually more receptive to being taught memory verses when he is down on the floor with me cleaning the bathroom). How can I teach them to be patient without completely losing my own patience?

It occurred to me the other day, in the midst of the beginnings of a panic attack over how this would all be accomplished...that this, like the many sleepless nights I have had since Aquaman was born, is a gift. A responsibility, and a privilege. The gift of not being enough by myself, or even with the help of my husband. So when the fear rises up in my throat and threatens to overtake me, I can remember Phillipians 4:13. "I can do all things through CHRIST who strengthens me."