Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Paths of Life

I've been spending my time in the mornings mostly praying and writing lately. Trying to read a little bit less and meditate a little bit more. So that later, during the crazy times when I might not have the chance to actually sit down, or maybe when I'm drifting off to sleep, I can bring it back to mind.
 Hoping to bridge the distance from my head to my heart, despite the busyness, the constant urgency. It has really helped.

"You have made known to me the paths of life. In Your presence is fullness of joy. At your right hand are pleasures evermore."
Psalm 16:11

For some reason this has been the verse that has stuck in my head this week.
I pray it when I am uncertain...which is a lot.
I pray it when I can feel His presence as thickly as I can touch my children.
And when I start to wonder if He's even there.
 This has been a really busy month. Birthdays, anniversary, mother's day, and the end of the school. A preschool performance, and water day. The Dude had his last day of school this week.

And Elementary school field day, and the class picnic.


Despite the occasional frustrating overly emotional moment and the slightly more frequent over-the-top silliness of being a 6 year old boy, Aquaman is going through a really great stage right now. I can see the Holy Spirit working in his life on pretty much a daily basis, and it is incredible to behold.
 This week when JT brought Aquaman to the book fair after school, the librarian stopped him and said that there had been an incident in the library that day in which one of the children who mainstreams into their activities broke down sobbing during a memorial day movie. She said that Aquaman was the first one to his side, "showing an extraordinary amount of compassion, and using words so wise they sounded like we would be coming out of an adult's mouth".
She stopped me again the next day to tell me the same story, telling me that she hasn't stopped thinking about that moment, and how she wishes she could give Aquaman a hug.
When I talked to Aquaman about it later, he shrugged, saying he didn't think he really helped the boy anyway. But when I told him that this was just a small example of how the Holy Spirit is working through him to help other people, he perked right up.
It is awesome to see how God has used his sensitive spirit and his own struggles with fear to help others.
"He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us." -2 Corinthians 1:4

 A couple nights later, he sat right up in bed just before he fell asleep (he has a knack for wanting to have these deep conversations when I am way too tired), and said "Mom- sometimes it's very hard for me to concentrate on God and heaven because this world has so many distractions."
I told him that I have the same problem, and how I have been trying to meditate more on God's word throughout the day to bring myself back into focus. He said he wants to read the Bible more, the real Bible, not just the bible stories....because "there's things in there, wise things, that most people don't even know about." But that the words are too small, and there's too many of them, and they all swim around together on the page.
We've been spending more time reading together since then.

 He's changed so much this school year. He asks me in the mornings to "make his hair all crazy" whereas last year, he was very concerned about it being flat. He walks right into his class without even looking back.
"the boy with the red eyes who just wanted his mom" on the first day of school wrote him a note last week: "you're a good friend. I like to play games with you."
His best friend is a girl in his class who is a total tomboy and loves spiderman, and is even better at math than he is. They like to count and multiply things together. At recess they pretend to be Jedi knights, even though last year the very name would have terrified him.

 He's ready for summer. He even seems ready for 1st grade. He's still different. The other children eagerly participated in their math game performance at school. Aquaman barely paid attention, almost missed his cue, made faces, and complained that his game was boring.
Reading and writing come easily to him in some ways, and very hard in others. But I think he will be just fine.
 The Dude just finished up 3 year old preschool. He is excited about summer, though he liked school quite a bit. Yesterday on his first day off, he helped me clean all of the bathrooms. He's still at the age where he wants to help all the time. Where he drives me crazy most of the time. He makes ridiculous and almost impossible demands. He's easier to deal with one on one when occasionally he can just have his way. He wants so much to have a say in things, and that can be so hard when he's surrounded by a bossy big brother, and a baby brother who still needs a lot of attention.
 Greystoke is getting on his nerves. He gets into his stuff. When I'm not looking, The Dude will throw balls just a little too hard at him. The first time, Greystoke will blink a little and assume that The Dude meant the best. If I don't stop it in time, The Dude will throw just a little bit harder, and Greystoke will burst into baby of the family tears.
 But The Dude is a giver too. He is kind to Aquaman much of the time when he doesn't deserve it. He likes to make everyone laugh, and he's really quite good at it.
This week he has started boogie boarding all on his own, and the last day of school, I made all of his dreams come true by taking him for a walk on the overpass heading to the Crown Plaza on A1A.  You would have thought we went to Disney World.
 Greystoke is pushing toys around everywhere, and walking while holding hands. Yesterday he took 2 steps to me. Noni and Papa got him new shoes, but he's not a big fan.
 It will probably be another couple of weeks before he sets out on his own. He still often prefers his butt scoot as a mode of transportation. And he is just soo...happy and content being who he is. There's no need to jump to the next thing.
 I love the excuse to drop everything occasionally and take him for a walk outside. I love to stare at him. I forgot how much fun 1 year olds are...I only remembered them being exhausting, but the rapid pace at which they are learning and developing is fascinating to watch. It's almost hard to accomplish anything else. He is learning to communicate so much better, if not in words. He's like this little....person.
 Work is crazy. It's Saturday, so I've almost forgotten it by now, but it's been wild. Everyone is quitting...or getting fired. Everything is changing. Management is brand new and completely clueless. But....despite the craziness...I still feel at peace being there. I feel like I'm supposed to be there.
 Sometimes I feel the anxiety pressing...shouldn't I be working more. I have the potential to make so much more money...and the medical bills seem like they are always rolling in...and these boys already eat so much....and the house needs repairing. But then, that "peace that passes understanding" comes over me. That "fullness of joy". And then I remember that I am right where I am supposed to be.
 Tomorrow is my birthday. In a kind gesture that could only come from a child...Greystoke gave me the stomach flu for my birthday.
 I'm not entirely positive that I have it yet, but it feels pretty likely that it's coming. And not just because Greystoke threw up on me, first in my bed, then on the rocking chair...a total of 9 times yesterday. And not just because we had to leave the beach in a rush this morning because The Dude started getting queasy, and, since I started writing this post, threw up so violently on the tile that Greystoke burst into tears.
I'm waiting now for JT to come bursting through the door from work, sick himself, considering that he was also in the bed that got puked on the first night.

Ahhhh the joys of motherhood.
 
Funny how the 3rd child changes you though. I can remember laying on the floor 2 years ago when this happened and thinking...I just can't have anymore kids. I can't keep doing this. But this time, it's just kinda like....well...it will all be over in 24 hours and life will get back to normal, and everything is just fine.
Happy birthday to me :)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

100%

Dear JT,

It's mother's day, and you're at work like you have been every mother's day since I became a mother, except last year when you had 2 glorious weeks of paternity leave off with us after Greystoke's birth.

 I miss you, and I'm looking forward to seeing you tonight. But I know that you're having a great day, doing what you love: training the seasonal rookie lifeguards for another year of protecting the beaches. You're the good cop. You do everything with them. Even though you kind of like when you make them puke, you're probably also the first one beside them. You moan and groan in your sleep from trying to swim faster than them. I love that about you.

I'm having a great day too. My mother's day gift to myself was to skip church this morning. I love church, I think church is very important. I will get the 3 kids up and dressed and off to church by myself for the next week and the next week and the next and I will love it. But today, I needed to not get dressed. I needed to not rush out of the house and chase the baby around the nursing room because it's nap time but he won't sleep, but he's too sleepy to go to the nursery. I needed to sit and read my Bible while the boys watched Sesame Street and ate their bagels and not feel like I needed to rush to the next thing.

After I finished my reading, I told the boys that we would be watching church on tv, because it's mother's day and today I don't want to get dressed for a while. I told the big boys that I expected them to make me some treats, fan me with homemade paper fans, and put away all of the laundry. Aquaman laughed because he gets these sorts of jokes now, but it was kind of nervous laughter. The Dude laughed because he doesn't get my jokes at all, and he's really squirrely and in his own world these days.

Then, because I think they were just a tinge afraid that maybe I really was serious, or maybe because they actually understand a lot more than I think they do....they disappeared upstairs to play Legos, and closed the door behind them.

I lay in our bed and put Greystoke to sleep, which, as you know, is no small feat. I turned on our wedding DVD, which I have been watching in bits and pieces since our anniversary, and I was almost to the end. I watched us pull away in our car, hung with silly string, yelling goodbye to all of our friends and family, driving just a few miles down the road to the 1 bedroom condo we would share together, and I remembered that nervous feeling of beginning.

Then the slideshow from our wedding came up, with all our baby pictures and I saw each of our 3 boys in yours, and even, surprisingly, in mine.

And then picture after picture of me in your arms, of surfing together, praying together while on a mission trip.

"The God of second chance will pick them up and He'll let them dance through a world that is not kind....and all this time: they're sharing with the One who holds them up when they come undone- beneath the storm beneath the sun."

It's only been 8 years since that day, and so many more years stretch in front of us. They've been quick years. The quickest years of my life, because they've been the happiest.

There's been mostly sun, but there's been some storms too. I've come undone a few times. I've doubted your love. I've doubted my own.

It's only been 8 years, and so many more ahead, and they've gone so fast, but even so- so much has changed. We look a lot the same on the outside, you and I, time has been good to us so far. I'm not sure how, but I've lost 10 pounds since that day. Looking back at those surfing guns I've got in those pictures, I'm guessing it was all muscle weight.

You can measure time best in the children. My four flower girl nieces, alternately flitting and pouting down the aisles are all in middle school now. Our 3 little boys were not even on the radar yet.

Yesterday I watched the ceremony part of the video, while I was putting away 6 days worth of laundry, because, well, there's just never enough time in the day. The Dude came in, naked, to watch a few times, and to ask when I was going to take him swimming, even though we had just spent 2 hours at the beach.
Greystoke kept trying to climb off the bed onto the dresser, so admittedly, my eyes weren't on the screen the whole time.

Still, I found myself staring at that girl in the white dress, trying to remember her. Trying to go back. There were a lot of familiar things in her, like a comfortable old friend, but a young one. There are a lot of things she wouldn't understand about me. And I bet there's a lot of things that would drive me crazy about her. But the most familiar look I saw was the way she looked at you.

I still feel that same way about you, JT. I know I don't get to gaze into your eyes a whole lot, because the couple of times I've done that in the past several years babies have fallen off of couches and older boys have almost broken your nose. But it's simmering in there in still.

 I miss a lot of things about us back then. How I got to be more a part of the things you love most- like swimming and surfing and working out. These days I feel certain that my calling is to care for our children so that you can fulfill your deepest callings out there in the world, and I have a lot of peace and fulfillment in my own calling.

But now there are joys I never could have imagined. If I thought it was awesome to watch from the shore when you surfed 15 foot El Salvador waves, that is nothing compared to watching you give The Dude his 14th hug of the night, or clean up Aquaman's 15th spill of the day while gracefully assuring him that accidents happen.

You, and your love, are more than I ever dreamed it would be.
The great Weaver of all beautiful things started an awesome work the day He called you to Him, and on that plane ride on the way home from Haiti, and our beautiful wedding ceremony, which, watching it again yesterday, I can only describe as...Holy. Sacred.

I am in awe of Him still when I kiss you goodnight. And I'm remembering my vows to you today.

"For the rest of my life, I will be your biggest fan.
I will be your playmate, and your soulmate.
I will always love you, even when we trade our surfboards for rocking chairs."

My surfboard has been hung up for a while. I traded it for holding your sons in my arms. Your go-to is a stand up paddleboard now. You're pretty awesome on it.
We both agree that we have no interest in world travels anymore. We get excited when we talk about family trips to the Springs.
Our trips to the beach now most often involve digging boy-sized holes and chasing naked babies.

And in another 8 years, who knows what the trade ups will be? The only consistent thing in this life...is change.

And Covenants.

 I give you my 100% today, even though sometimes my sleep deprived, air-headed 100% doesn't seem like much.

 I love you forever, JT.

Friday, May 1, 2015

One More Day

 Tomorrow my littlest baby boy turns 1 year old. Last year at this time, JT and I were drinking Tropical Smoothies in the car while The Dude slept. We had just come from the doctor, and I would be induced the next day. It's hard to even remember who I was before I met this guy.
Funny how one person can change you so much, even when he is not your first.
 Each of my children have forever changed who I am and will be. Each one has forever changed the way I look at the world, and how I respond to it.
 I've learned tolerance for things so different from me, that I've struggled to understand. And acceptance for things a little too like me that have been just as disconcerting.
 When my oldest was set, screaming, in my arms I knew the powerful love of a mother for the first time. When my middle boy was placed in my arms for the first time, crying but instantly quieted at my voice, I felt that same power. And when my baby boy, the 3rd boy, the boy I never wished would be a girl though so many think I should have, lay quietly and soberly in my arms for the first time it was as powerful and life changing as the first.
 That's just how God works because He's always working. With new beginnings and new hope and new life.
 Last year at this time, Greystoke's name meant very little when I said it. Sounded maybe even a little foreign and weird when I spelled it out for the nurse in the delivery room.
Now it is laced with meaning and emotion, and this strange, settling, sort of...calm. The kind of calm that he has brought to our family.
 Greystoke is changing a lot. He still prefers to be held. He still wants to nurse a lot, especially at night, and I'm a little afraid that he has another ear infection brewing because he's been stuffy for over a week, and grabbing them, but I'm hoping if he does he can just fight it off like he did the last one.

He is getting on his feet more and more, and yesterday, for the first time, he discovered how he could push a toy with wheels around the living room, though his front half was trying to go a little faster than his back half could go. 
He is crawling up the stairs now with ease, and remembers to turn around and go backward for a quick descent.
He is still very quiet. He doesn't make the same noise as the other 2 always have. Very few shrieks and squeals, less babbling. But he does have some true words. Ball, is quite consistent when he feels like it. Wooooow and Whooaa remain favorites when something crazy is happening, like bouncing up and down in the crib. Occasionally, he graces Daddy with a Dada. And, only when crying and looking for me, me with a Mama. I've heard him say "what" and "that" a few times.
I understand his quietness, and I appreciate it. I am quiet too. I love the quiet. It leaves me room to think and daydream, and just be. There is nothing more settling to me than a comfortable silence. And we have that a lot, my baby and I. 

 Playing on the beach last night, watching him point at the birds as they landed nearby, I had a sudden flashback to one year old Aquaman. "Bird" was one of his first words, and he said it like "a bir!" Later, when you would ask him his name, he responded the same way. I only realized later that he was actually saying his name, and not just telling me that he was a bird.
He used to laugh so hard with me, even though he didn't know the joke.

 Aquaman has had a difficult week. We missed a few of his reflux meds earlier in the week and he began complaining of stomach pain, but I figured it would go away. But by Tues night he had a low grade fever and was still complaining. There was brief concern for appendicitis, but I think that concern has passed. The temp is gone, the stomach ache hasn't. He hasn't eaten more than 2 bites of anything pretty much all week. Today I sent him back to school, because his fever was gone and I wasn't sure what else to do, though he was up again in the middle of the night sure he was going to throw up. I left a note for the nurse to let him come home if he gets too miserable. But I know my Aquaman and his sensitive conscience.
I've picked him up with a 103 fever and glassy eyed because since he knows how much he hates school, he figured he better not try to get out of it.
Sweet kid.
 But other than the belly issues, he is doing just awesome.
He lost another tooth last night, just pulled it right out of his mouth like it was nothing. I never thought he'd be so tough about such a thing.
He's got friends. He's trying really hard not to be bossy with them. They seem to get him. Most of them even have the same hair, funnily enough.
 His reading gets better every day. I still have to make him read most of the time, but sometimes I catch him when I am reading to The Dude, sneaking a book out of the bookcase. I'm trying to get interesting books at the library to dangle at him, without actually pushing them at him, because that's how Aquaman works- it has to be his idea. There are very few words he doesn't know during his reading time now. He reads one line and then he talks about the pictures for 10 minutes, and he wonders why it takes him so long to read a book.
He just likes to talk. He has a lot of ideas, and a lot of questions. He sees things most people would never see.
 We've been talking a lot. Talking about Jesus, talking about how to follow Him. I still read to them in the mornings, but sometimes it gets so crazy. I've found that the best way to minister to my children is simply to be there in the moment. To have time with Jesus myself before the craziness begins, so that when a moment comes when I have an opportunity to teach, I am ready myself. He always listens. For all the stubbornness he has, all the intensity, I have never seen a child more interested in hearing the word of God even when he is being corrected. God has placed a new heart in Aquaman. It awes me to see it.
 And The Dude- what can I say? His current favorite game is called "rough catch". It is best performed in the nude. I don't entirely understand the concept or rules, except that there are probably none short of that if the baby gets hold of the ball there will be no mercy.
There is a lot of bouncing around, quick falls, and occasional screams. There is usually a ball. Doesn't matter what size. He loves to play. His head is the size of an 8 year old's, and his bottom is the size of an 18 month old's.
 And his heart, well it can't even be measured. He is infuriatingly contrary, but he wants so much to please, especially his big brother. He and Aquaman have, as suddenly as they began fighting all the time, started really getting along again lately. They play chase games with Greystoke's "Lambie", much to his chagrin, as he huffs and puffs after them on one knee and a foot.
 But lately, Aquaman has been wanting to get down and play with Greystoke, who is increasingly more interesting and interested, and that breaks The Dude's heart. That's his Aquaman, after all.
 But he's doing ok. He loves to sing. This morning he played and very seriously sang and danced to every song on his "Big rock candy mountain guitar". He can't wait for his "end of the year performance" at preschool, and neither can I.
 Work is wild. There are a lot of bad and stressful things happening there. I have wondered if I should stay, but for now, God says stay.
It is the best place I know how to minister to the least of these. And if I help one person while I am there? That is enough for me. So I lay low, and do my best, and come home to an even more chaotic scene. And maybe someday God will move me somewhere else, and I get excited just not knowing where we'll be in 10 years, and what He'll do. And knowing that it doesn't even really matter what it is, as long as we're following where He goes.

I'm even starting to look forward to summer.
So much has changed since last summer. This year there can be long hot days at the inlet like we had the other day. It was amazingly relaxing.
 And messy picnics and lots and lots of water play.

 And rough catch. Teddy bears.

 Exploring the world through a one year old's eyes.