Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Just Pictures

I've been staring at this week's pictures hoping some inspiring words would come to me as a result, but alas, I'm coming up dry.
So I think I'll just let the pictures do the talking. There's 2 weeks worth of pictures since last week I was busy writing my goodbyes to Cozy.

The above picture shows what it's like to be a little brother. Most of the time, Greystoke is a total champion. Even here, he is being one. The Dude had just manhandled him by the arms into this very comfortable position.

Life has been crazy, and it has been good.

Saturday was the fall festival at The Dude's preschool, and Aquaman had his face painted like Batman. Here he is as Batman Claus. He did not want to wash it off, but mean mom who didn't want his sheets to be black made him.

Bah Humbug.

Sunday we made black Halloween cupcakes. They made a mess, and were a lot of fun. Aquaman said "can this be a new Halloween tradition?" And I loved how simple he is to please now. Oh, please please please can you be so happy about black cupcakes in 10 years sweet innocent boy?

Probably not.

Greystoke is starting to sit up all by himself, and Aquaman is very proud and nurturing of this new skill. He only forgot about him like once, or three times. And he only has one small bruise on his cheek from this forgetfulness.

But, like I said, he's a champ.

Sunday was Bible Hero night at Awana, and the boys were King David and little David, per their request.

Very fitting.

We're having a lot of fun, and we're getting a lot done, and we're getting nothing at all done.

This week I made the hard decision to put The Dude in preschool 5 days a week instead of 3.
I love having him home and spending time with him. But I had to be honest with myself- with all of the work that I have been doing, half the Thursday and Friday mornings he ended up watching 2 hours of tv, or going to time out 20 times while I worked on paperwork.

He loves preschool, and it is much more age appropriate than hanging out while his baby brother gums on his favorite chewy ice pack and I put away my 6th load of laundry.
Aquaman never had trouble playing by himself, but it's been hard for The Dude lately, when I am so busy and he is so used to having Aquaman around to play with.

I plan to make that 2 hours between preschool and Elementary school gets out his special time. To go over Awana stuff (so he can say his own verses without Aquaman beating him to it), or swing on the swings. Whatever he wants to do.

Greystoke is growing up.

He sleeps maybe, max, a couple hours at a time in his bed. Some nights he spends half of it in ours.

During the day he takes 3 20-30 minute naps.

And he's happy as can be.

And so am I.

Weird thing is, I don't even really feel that tired anymore from it.

I kind of just love every minute of it.

Aquaman got his 1st TK1 report card last week- awesome as usual.

He also, randomly, just up and decided to ride a 2 wheeler, even though I had recently decided he probably never would, and that I didn't care.

I just love how he surprises me sometimes.

I mean, just when I think he has a mental health issue, or anger management problem, he will do the most mature and kind and amazing thing.

I am excited about watching him grow up. He's going to be quite an interesting young man.

The Dude too, but given he's in the 3 yr old stage right now, I'm mostly just hoping to keep him out of jail someday.

Aim high, that's what I always say.

While they loved the pumpkin patch, they were all totally unimpressed by my attempts to take a picture of them.

Seriously? How DO people get all these awesome look at the camera pictures? Do they stand on their heads, or bribe them with candy?

We have an old mattress of ours that ended up on the living room floor on its way out to the trash can.

And we have a bedroom full of the cutest boys I've ever seen.

And it's almost Halloween.

And we're happy.
We're messy, and tired and unsure of ourselves.
But we're really really happy.

That's all I've got.

It's time to carve some pumpkins with my pumpkin haired boys.

(in other news, Greystoke is still mostly bald, but his eyelashes seem to be coming in red :))

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

11.5 years

I guess you could say, at age 33, that I've been a grown up for a while. I don't look in the mirror often. I'm always on the go, always got something to do. And staring at my imperfections is not really my idea of a good time, nor is constantly trying to cover them up. I'm happy with who I am. I'm content with the way that I look. God and my husband think I'm beautiful without a trace of makeup, and that's all the really matters to me.

I guess if I spent more time looking in the mirror I'd recognize that the years have made me older.

You'd think having 3 children would force the reality of my age. That 6 years of only shortly unbroken all night parenting, and constantly juggling a work schedule around school schedules and managing to work just enough to keep my children fed and comfortable, and not enough to miss investing in their childhoods would have made me feel responsible.

But if I stop to admit it, I have still kind of continued to think of myself as a kid in my 20s. Reckless and carefree and full of unbounding energy.

Maybe its the pace which with life has accelerated since the adventures of marriage and parenting began. Maybe because I haven't had much time to think about who I have become.

But it wasn't until this past Sunday that it occurred to me that I had done it.

I am officially a grown up.

On Sunday, I said goodbye to the sweet little puppy I adopted the day before my 22nd birthday.

I was fresh out of nursing school when I picked her up from the foster home where she was living, and she played or slept with her head on my feet as I studied for boards.
I took her out at 4:45 am before leaving for my first job at a hospital an hour away, and missed her wildly every day while I was gone. I remember wondering how I would ever leave my children behind to work when it seemed so sad just to leave her.
She was just a dog, but to me she was a promise from God. Secretly, I called her Cosette Rainbow, because she was my rainbow. My reminder from God that He had good plans for me. That all the struggling through college and nursing school and the confusion of early adulthood was preparing me for good things.
I imagined that she would be a therapy dog, and I took her to obedience training, and I tried to bring her everywhere I went to "socialize" her, and I just knew that if I was responsible with her that God would give me the family that I so longed for in my heart.

She loved me, and I adored her, and she licked my cereal bowls clean in the morning and slept in the bed with me at night, and I didn't care.
She lifted her nose to the air and howled whenever she was particularly excited.

The little puppy grew into a 60 pound greyhound mix that loved to run on the beach. She tagged along whenever I checked the waves.
She lived with me in my first apartment, in the beachside ghetto.

The therapy dog stuff wasn't meant to be. It turned out that no amount of "socializing" kept her from being terrified of strangers, and eventually she became quite aggressive towards them.
She liked to dig. And when she got upset she chewed things.

One night when our weekly bible study group was getting ready to start, there was a knock on the door, and it was my future husband.
Cosette barked her head off at him, but he still came back the next week- with dog bones in his pocket.
She loved him quicker than she loved other strangers, and so did I.

When we married, she couldn't stay with us, as I moved into his condo which didn't allow large dogs. My parents graciously kept her for me. They filled in her holes, and repaired her damage, and buttered her bread for her. I still brought her to stay with me sometimes, especially when I was lonely and JT was frequently working the weekends.
When Aquaman was born, she always heard him wake up from his nap before I did. She lay close to him wherever I set him.
My first baby became the dog who got hair on my baby, and I had less and less time for her.

And then about 18 months ago my parents began preparing to move, and without a yard themselves, and with my mother's health problems, it was time for me to take my dog back, and we all found it to be a difficult adjustment.
Unsure if the HOA would even let me keep her, as she was over the weight limit, I tried to find her another home, until I was eventually told by the owner of a rescue society that some dogs are one family dogs, and they cannot be re-homed.
And so we settled down to keep her.

And we had some good times. She was always patient with the boys. We took a lot of walks, all of us together. She took naps on the couch with JT.
She got a lot of Beggin strips.

But she wasn't the same dog, and I wasn't the same owner. In the beginning she sought out the attention she used to get from me, but busy with work and small children I was rarely available to give it to her. Her dog heart was broken, and she began refusing to look me in the eye.
She was terrified of the boys as they grew, though they really did try to be kind to her, and spent most of her days hiding in the closet, and her nights and time when we were gone getting into things and destroying things. She became more and more anxious, and so did we.

It was just barely over a week ago, as she lay in the kitchen with her head on the floor and her mouth bleeding as I surveyed the door that she had just chewed almost completely through...when I looked at her and realized that I still loved her. Still loved the dog she once was, and still loved the cowering anxious mess that she had become, and that it was my job not to let this continue any longer. And that it wasn't my fault.

It wasn't my fault.

It just was.

She was unhappy. And she was unhappier still when she made us unhappy.
And it wasn't fair to the people I love to continue the level of stress she caused in our household just to keep an unhappy dog alive.

I used to think that if I just kept feeding her, if I just kept walking her, and if I just patted her on the head and cleaned up her messes, that would be the responsible thing to do. In some ways, for a while, it was the easiest thing to do.

But the right thing, and the easy thing, are often not the same.

And Sunday I cooked her some ground turkey. Because meat made her happy, even though it often made her sick. But I knew she wouldn't have time to get sick this time. My parents, who loved and care for her so long, and my baby in tow- we stepped into the veterinary clinic and asked them to let our dog go peacefully.

I held her in my arms, as she eased down to her side. And I kissed her head, and looked in her eyes and told her I loved her, and told her that she was a good dog, and for the first time in a long time I meant it, and as she looked back into my eyes I could tell that she knew I did. And then she closed those eyes.

I cried a lot as she slowly slipped away, and I cried a lot that night.
I cried because she was a good dog, and it wasn't her fault, and I cried because I want to forget this past terrible year with her and remember her as she used to be. And I know I will.
I cried because somewhere, as my dog lay dying in my arms, there was a child dying in her mother's arms because she didn't have money or access to health care, and yet at that very same moment in that brightly lit and clean vet clinic, someone was paying thousands of dollars to prolong a dog's life.

And it's hard to comprehend all of that.

But mostly I cried because 11.5 years went by so fast. And so much changed, and now those years are over and I'll never get them back. And the next 11.5 years will go even faster, and there will probably be more and harder goodbyes.

The next morning when I came down the stairs, she wasn't waiting at the door to go out, and there were no accidents to clean up, and the brown dog ticks that we have been battling since she went to the kennel a few months ago were gone, and last night's trash was still sitting neatly right there in the middle of the kitchen, not scattered all over the floor.

I stood for a long time and stared at that trash can, remembering.

I left a piece of my heart there on that clinic's floor. A piece of my childhood heart.

Because in the end, she couldn't grow and couldn't change. And like a beloved teddy bear that mourns on a shelf, she didn't want me to grow up either, but I had to.

I don't know if I'll ever see her again, I don't know how all of that works. But I think I will, somehow.
And I know that a part of her will live inside of me, because she is a part of who I became, during a time when I was just starting to become.

My first dog got hit by a car when she was just 4 years old, and I was 12. We had to put her to sleep. I wrote an essay after that about how she taught me what love is. I still have it in a folder in our linen closet that doesn't have any linens in it...just pages and pages of paper full of my ramblings.

And now my 2nd dog is gone, and right now it feels pretty certain that she was my last dog, and I am writing about a different kind of love. A love that has to try even when it feels impossibly hard, and a love that knows when it's time to let go of the trying. To admit that you can't do everything. That every time you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to something else, and so you have to be very purposeful with your yeses.

It's a grown up kind of a love.

I love you, girl. I still do. Thank you. For the good times, and for the hard times.

And even, maybe even especially, for the growing up times.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Don't Blink

The house is quiet. Eerily, and mercifully, and wonderfully quiet.
The big boys are spending the night with their grandparents, and I can only assume based on past history that they are still awake and running wildly around their house, because it's way too exciting to sleep.
JT is in bed. He was up at 4:10 this morning to lifeguard a triathlon.

I just laid Greystoke into his crib, so fast asleep that his mouth was hanging open. You know, the good kind of asleep. The kind he didn't have much of today.

Today I think he slept 45 minutes all day.

My relaxed, self-soothing sleeper has, well, for lack of a better description- stopped sleeping.

And that's ok.
We've been trying to work on it. JT has been putting the other 2 to bed at night so that I could try to help Greystoke fall asleep in his crib without nursing, because I know that's why he has stopped sleeping. Nursing to sleep is just too lovely. This isn't my first rodeo. My baby boys like comfort. And an all night bar with their favorite ambiance and flavors is just too comfortable.
It started out just waking every 3 hours, and has moved to 2, and often every hour.

The "sleep training" or whatever I am doing, doesn't seem to be making much difference, and as usual is quite frustrating. I can spend an hour helping him fall asleep for a half hour nap.
There have been many tears, but I have not left his side, and most always my hand stays on his back. But tonight, when I picked him up and saw how his face was blotchy from crying, and a little trickle of snot ran down his nose, and his face just lit up when I smiled at him...I couldn't do it anymore.

I picked him up and gave him what he wanted. Some might argue, even what he needed.

I'm typing with 1 hand now because, after 15 minutes he is already awake again.
Is he teething? Does his tummy hurt, is he overtired? Or did he just wake up one day and realize that he's not just an extension of me. That we can be separated. Does he just want to be closer to me, especially during the long quiet night hours when my arms are empty and there are no interruptions?

I don't know.
And what's weird is, I take great comfort in that answer because I don't have to know.
And I don't have to take control over the situation, and I can try to improve it but I don't have to worry about it, because like all things parenting has taught me- sometimes the best thing I can do is just ride it out, and pray for God's strength to bloom in perhaps less than perfect conditions.

This probably sounds morbid, but I was thinking the other day about how I would handle the loss of one of my children, or my husband, and I thought how I should like to respond as Job did by praising The Lord for what He gave, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. May the Name of the Lord be praised."

What peace that would be. What a calm anchor in the storm.

And it struck me, as I struggled through sleepy eyes and foggy brain to keep up with the 100 miles an hour of the other 2 boys, that it's the way I respond to the little things that will determine how I am able to respond to the big.

And so, tonight, I'm confessing with my mouth: the Lord gave me 3 blessed months of sleep with my 3rd born. I felt rested for the first time in 6 years. My mind felt clear and bright and I felt calm and capable and not completely overwhelmed.

And now the Lord has taken my sleep away, and He has a good reason to do so, and it's going to be more than fine. It's going to be great.

Because yeah, I wish I had more patience. But having patience with your little boys when you are well rested and have a pretty naturally laid back personality anyway- I could almost do that on my own.
Patience when you haven't had a full REM cycle in weeks, that takes supernatural power,

And he's so little, and so sweet. And some day these few nights will seem like a drop in the bucket, and I won't even remember th way he felt in my arms all night, but I'll remember that I loved him and nurtured him with all I had, and I'll be glad for it.

We had our first taste of fall last Sunday, and it made me so excited for the season to come, even in the busyness of it all.

Sometimes I feel a touch of panic, like I'll never catch up, and then I'll remember how this season of babyhood is one of the hardest, even in its happiness.
Somehow the first few months, I feel sheltered from doing it all, I let it slip and I don't mind. But by 5 months I feel like I should be getting a handle on things, but there's no handle at all.

There's just mounds and mounds of laundry and the dishwasher is always running, and no one is sleeping, and the baby is moving around a bit, and the older ones are starting to think this whole baby thing is overrated, because Mom is always busy and tired.

And that part is hard. So I've just been trying to be in the moment, and I'm trying to take a lot of moments. Not when the housework is done because, let's face it, it will never ever be done again.
But just deep breaths, answer the million questions from the 6 year old, and give a million bandaids to the 3 year old, and kiss the drooly cheeks of the 5 month old- in the moment.
The days go by in a blur, and I hit the pillow after kissing everyone goodnight, and I wonder if I did ok, and I know that I messed up a lot of things, and that I did a lot of things right, and that God's going to weave it all together into a work of art, and I'm so so grateful for His grace in that, and I hope that I've shown that kind of grace to my family, and everyone I've come in contact with today.

And now, somehow, it has gotten late again.

And the sweet little mouse with no hair who never sleeps is resting in my lap after I tried to set him down twice while writing this.
and I suppose you could say he's spoiled, but he'll be forced into the cold world with nothing but a mattress to drool on in what will feel like minutes, really.
And I pray he'll look up, and that somehow God will weave these quiet moments in my arms into a part of his what he understands about Love, and that he will know he is Loved, not because he is convenient, or because it is easy, but because God has made him, and can't help but love him.
I heard a song from a long way back the other day, and at night time, it's been running through my head lately:
"Don't blink.
Just like that, you're six years old and you take a nap...
And you wake up and you're 25 and your high school sweetheart becomes your wife.
Don't blink- you just might miss your babies growing like mine did-
Turning into moms and dads...
Next thing you know, your better half of 50 years is there in bed, and you're praying God takes you instead."
"Trust me son, 100 years goes faster than you think.
So don't blink."
-Kenny Chesney