Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vacation (Well, Kind of)

Pompano Beach, FL. This was the site of our first family vacation in 2 years. Kind of.
I say kind of because it was also kind of a work trip to which we tagged along. But considering it was all volunteer work, maybe that counts as vacation. And considering, despite the pressure that JT felt organizing it all, that he also had a pretty good time, I think it definitely counts.We were pretty anxious about how it was all going to go. An almost 3 hr car trip with 2 boys who hate their carseats after 5 minutes, and also both have a history of motion sickness. And considering we hadn't travelled with them since Aquaman was just a little older than The Dude, and The Dude was only 4 months old...well we had no idea what to expect.

It was much easier than the last time.

We had a blast. We left early and the boys took drowsy but restless Dramamine naps during a cloudy, drippy, but strangely relaxing drive, in which we spent half of it sending mass text messages about hotel lobby meetings, and ensuring that all the equipment was going to make it down. We stopped at Cracker Barrel and Aquaman warmed his hands on coffee, and The Dude shoved pancakes in his mouth as if he had not eaten in days.
The hotel was worth the 4 hours it took  a month ago of conversing with the sales agent in order to reserve all the rooms we would need, and it was even worth the price. It was right on the beach and had a beautiful courtyard and pool area, but the boys were so enamored with extra soft and elegant beds, the pbs "just for kids" tv, and the way the room "smelled like candy", that I practically had to drag them out to explore.
The Dude, in front of our hotel. I want to go back to this moment.
It was cool and rainy, ideal for a Florida family that is already growing tired of summer. They took 4 baths on the first day.
They chased the pigeons. Because apparently in Pompano Beach they have pigeons instead of sea gulls, which made the whole thing feel novel, and slightly less clean.

I could feel my body heave this big heavy sigh that came from somewhere I didn't know existed, and something heavy rolled off of my back, and the knots that have been in my stomach for a while eased. We were getting away.

It was familiar enough to be perfectly comfortable, but unfamiliar enough to completely clear my head from all of the things that have been spinning around in it for so long.
They played with their cracker barrel toys, alternating between the beach and the pool while Daddy took a warm up swim with some of the other members of the team. At the pool, I didn't get a picture of it, but they made a friend, who said his name was "Peyton, and he came from heaven." Aqauaman spotted him from far off, and announced: "He has a lot of other friends in that pool, but he doesn't have any other friends with orange hair and blue eyes, and I bet that's just the kind of friend he's been waiting for." Peyton had a school bus monster truck and they were instantly connected.

"ohhh mom..."
In the evening, there were tiki torches, and Aquaman liked those, so I made him stand by one. He looks like a teenager already, complete with rapidly developing deltoids, hands stuffed in his pockets, and a totally bored expression...
The Dude wasn't terribly certain about sleeping in a different place, so he was a bit restless in the middle of the night. Which meant he slept in until almost 8 am for the first time the next morning.

When we arrived at the beach for the competition, I presented them with brand new Monster Trucks with the intent of keeping them entertained for the next couple of days on the beach. Monster Mutt was a big hit. The Dude wanted Aquaman's truck. As usual.
Tent city.

Aquaman "surfing" on the swing. They had the most incredible playground.

I can't believe how much fun these guys are right now. Yes, they have their fights, but they are such good friends, and complement each others' personalities so well. I am so thankful that they have each other, and so awed by God's provision for them in each other. And though I hope we can hold off a little bit longer, I am already looking forward to seeing how our last one (God willing) will fit into the mix.

Add caption

When JT and I were still dating, he was working at a horrible job in a hotel as a housekeeping supervisor. He was way overworked, way underpaid, and constantly depressed. He did not even have the time or energy to work seasonally as a lifeguard. But he told me once when we were swimming together: "my dream is that, whatever I end up doing, you and our kids will go to lifeguard competitions together, and someday even the kids will compete too." I hadn't remembered that until this trip. It reminded me of how much we have to be thankful. No, this is not the perfect job. There are relational issues and there are financial issues, and there are definitely scheduling issues. But JT is doing what he seems most made to do. He is doing what we never dreamed he could do, back when there was no such thing as year round career lifeguards in our county. I can remember joking when pregnant with Aquaman that we would have them by the time Aquaman was old enough to start a career. And here we are, JT having been a part of the grassroots beginning of it all. It's an honor, really.
We passed a fountain on our way in. I thought it was quaint, and looked like fun. We left the beach midday to warm up at the hotel since it had been raining all day. The boys took a bath, we got into new dry clothes, and we came back out. Into the fountain.
Which it turns out, was not just any old fountain, but a bona fide splash park.
And then it rained. And we were colder and wetter than ever before. But we decided to go back down to the beach anyway.
To watch our own personal Iron Man doing what he does best. Being JT.
I love this guy.
I don't love him because he gets first in every event. He doesn't (though he did win his age division run-swim-run!). I love him because of his big, open heart, and his big dreams, and his amazing endurance. All those things that make him so uniquely JT.
The boys did some playing with one of their favorite lifeguards: "Makoto"
While JT row, row, rowed his boat, with a team member who had never actually rowed a boat before. They don't get as much practice rowing boats, since their raggedy team boat is always broken. But it's awesome to see nonetheless.
The boys were so inspired they had to go up to the park and work out themselves.
Aquaman begged and was taken down to the ocean. Where he body surfed fully clothed and complete with sunglasses, which never came off, even though he went under several times. The pompano lifeguards thought he was adorable.
The second day on the beach was encased in full sun, and it was long.
Here is "Makoto" knocking some of his teammates down because JT told everyone to yell: "attack!" for this picture, and he took it literally. This is why he is one of my boys' favorite lifeguards...
Did I mention that the 2nd day on the beach was long? It went from 8 am-9:30 pm. They had to bring a truck on the beach and use the headlights for the last event. The boys ran their own races in the grass to pass the time, and JT joined them occasionally to ease his anxiety, since the final tally was drawing near. He also spent some time watching the event, and clutching his electrolyte solution, also to ease his anxiety.
They ended up placing 2nd. Which I know was disappointing to them because, of course, everyone wants the gold. But is still pretty impressive, considering the first hodge podge team JT started pulling together was only 3 years ago, and the other teams have been in existence for decades.

But what was most impressive about them was that there really weren't any superstars on their team. The winning team had a single girl who scored more than a quarter of their total score.
JT's team wasn't like that. They didn't win many events. They came in last on several. They dragged their beat up equipment out there next to sleek surfskis that cost 10 times what theirs were worth. They finished every single race. They worked together and they stuck together, and they placed 2nd because of not one person, but because of every single person on their team.

And the whole time, all I could think about was one of my favorite bible verses. And the one that always makes me think of my husband:

"Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him."

-1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Now we are back to the everyday grind of our lives.

JT came back to all kinds of work drama, and not nearly as much time to breathe as he had hoped.

I came back to dropping my boys off in the mornings and going to work. To unending laundry. And to working out the details of the ever changing future.

My stomach issues are mostly under control, thanks to drastic changes in my eating patterns, some medication, and a lot of prayer.

But the God who took us to the refuge of vacation: to see, for a few moments, the fruit of all our labor; the God who let me forget almost everything else and spend time enjoying my family for a few days; and the God who put many many superstars to shame by giving a faultering, floundering, but diligent team a 2nd place victory-

He came ahead of us home too.

"You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah." Psalm 32:7

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence Day

It's the 4th of July, and I'm not firing up the grill. In fact, there's chicken soup bubbling in the crock pot since this morning. It smells like home.

I didn't make a flag cake, but we're planning to bake up some kale chips, and probably raid the freezer for the leftover ice cream from JT's last competition team meeting.

We won't be going to the fireworks. This is one of the busiest days of the year at the beach, and JT will be working long and hard in the sun. The boys are sun tired from the beach and scared of loud noises.

I'm counting on an early kiddo bedtime, and a little Netflix this Independence day evening.

And I'm happy.

Aquaman is driving Mater through the sandbox, talking in the high pitched voice that means he's deep in imagination land.
 The Dude is driving his Cozy coupe around JT'S just-cleaned-out garage, and probably quoting the Little Tyke's Land movie under his breath: "that's not very nice, Metro", and laughing hysterically at his own private joke.

We just got home from my parents' Home Alone reminiscent house, our last 4th of July visit there. I think I said hi to everyone, but there was so much chaos that I couldn't be sure. We all went to the beach together, and I watched, next to muddy puddles with trucks in them, as my sisters, brother-in-law, teenage nieces and nephews get knocked over by the waves. We got sand in every crevice, and I missed a spot of sunscreen on my shoulders.

I'm tired, from being up at 5 am. But it's a good tired. A free tired.

4th of July has always been my favorite holiday, because there's less pressure than a lot of others. You don't have to prepare gifts and food for days. You just show up for some beach volleyball or to lounge in the pool and eat simple foods like hamburgers that don't take much preparation, and you just enjoy each other.

I also love fireworks. I think they're romantic. My husband doesn't. All he sees are dollar signs going up in smoke. He's not generally so realistic, so I find it endearing.

I bet it will be just a few years and we'll be heading out to the fireworks again with mosquito repellent, and sparklers, and those wormy little snakes you light on fire that make black marks on your driveway. Bet we'll even throw some chicken on our $20 grill and next year, I may even make a flag cake.

But for now, I'm finding freedom in paving our own way.

 In embracing these times and all their nuances and complications. I'm feeling festive listening to my children yell at each other that they are going to be sent to the scrap yard, as they play bumper cars with their Cozy Coupes: one that Aquaman got for his 2nd birthday, and one that I got for Christmas as a toddler.

I'm looking forward to welcoming my sunburned husband who probably chased down 10 missing kids on the beach today home to a (relatively) cool and clean house, and the way that The Dude will hug him like he'll never let go when he walks in the door, and the way that JT will let him elbow him right in the teeth and keep smiling, and the way that Cozy will come out of her all-day hideout in the closet with her butt bumping her nose she'll be wagging so hard, and even though JT has never been a dog person, and even though she digs up the courtyard and scratches up the doors every chance she gets, he won't be able to help but to stop and pet her.

Now Aquaman and The Dude are standing right here next to me smelling like peanut butter, because Aquaman said his tummy hurt, because the air outside feels like "hot breath", and the Dude said "oh no!" when I handed them both crackers to settle their stomachs, because he wanted peanut butter on his. And my mom just called to ask if we wanted any food, because they have so much of it.

And it's a Happy 4th of July. It's not like I thought it would be, and it's everything it's supposed to be. And there is so much freedom in that.