Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Shore

"I will be your shore"
Those were the engraved words on the inside of JT's first wedding ring, the one I put on his finger that May afternoon in the church where I grew up.
The ring that slipped to the bottom of the ocean exactly 6 years later, ripped from JT'S hand as he duck dived under an unusually large wave.

We replaced the ring, of course, but I didn't get in engraved because I ordered it online and was unsure of the size, so I wanted to be able to return it. Someday I'll add it again, but it doesn't feel completely necessary.
Maybe at the beginning of your marriage you need your theme engraved on your ring. But rings are all just temporary anyway. I wasn't upset when it got lost. That's what happens to things. And after a few years of wearing that ring, the imprint is there on his finger anyway. Seeping into the capillaries. The way our hands meet under the covers in one more goodnight. Pumping backwards into the heart where the imprints are decoded, saturated with warmth, and pumped back out again. Sending vitality to the lungs, the steady in and out of breath and life. To his muscles, that are always working in some direction, because that's JT. That's who I married. That's my ocean.

The New Years Eve before we met, my friends and I played a game where we each selected a song that was to represent the year before, and the song we hoped to represent the next one. I still remember which songs I picked. "Oh what I would do to have the kind of strength it takes to step out of this boat I'm in....onto the crashing waves.....The Voice of Truth says do not be afraid....out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen to the Voice of Truth."
That was my song from the year before. God had been teaching me bravery. He had been reminding me to listen to Him...not the many many voices of fear that I had habitually chosen.
My song for the next year?
"If I were the ocean, you would be the shore. One without the other one would be needing something more."
I still remember the way my best friend sighed in satisfaction at the beauty of that line. Or perhaps at my vulnerability in admitting to everyone that my greatest hope for the year was to find my ocean.

I identified with the ocean. I spent a lot of time surfing back then. I loved the way its restlessness swallowed me. I loved the power of it encircling me. How it made me feel helpless and yet brave at the same time. I loved the fear that choked me, and the way it felt to paddle toward the biggest wave out there praying my favorite verse from Psalms: "You have made me bold with strength in my soul."
I am not naturally bold. My soul has, from childhood, felt anything but strong on its own. But in the ocean, I felt surrounded by God's power. I knew I could be more than myself.

But always I knew, in the deepest part of me, that who I really am was not the ocean. Who I really am is shore to ocean.

"The heart can think of no devotion greater than being shore to ocean; holding the curve of one position, counting an endless repetition." -Robert Frost

I did indeed meet JT that year. The reminder to me of how God speaks to our hearts. How He fills us with hope and with knowing.

And now, here we are. JT is at work on a Saturday. He has worked a lot of Saturdays since the day we married. I knew he would. On top of his regular ocean rescue job, he has now started a second job working as a banquet server at the Crowne Plaza. Tonight, after he finished lifeguarding, he headed to his 3rd night in a row working until 1 am.
It will be about a 68 hour workweek this week.

And I miss him. But now, more than ever, I feel the confirmation of my call to be his shore. I love the way his waves always come rushing back up on shore. Sometimes slowly, and lingering in tide pools, and sometimes crashing in. But always bringing in more to build me up. The way the ocean pushes up the sand so it is bigger and stronger. I love that my mere presence causes him to rise up, to change, to meet me there. We are so differently inseparable. Complicated and weaved together.

Today The Dude had a soccer game. I am still learning how to be a soccer mom.

 I may only be one for one season. I wrestle those long socks over his shin guards by myself every week. I drag 3 kids and a soccer ball, and toys and a blanket across the field and I dance the delicate dance of parenting a 4 year old through something new.

 I prayed about soccer, I really did. I didn't want to do it if it wasn't right for us right now. I felt certain that God said to do it. It has been hard. Last week, The Dude sat on the field most of the game, all hot and sweaty and not interested in running. When he finally got up to run into the fray, he focused more on pushing other children to the ground than he did on kicking the ball. I ended up having to drag him off the field....well first I had to take his cleats off so he wouldn't injure me in the process.

This week I was smarter. I let the coach tell him what to do. I smiled and waved when he sat on the field, and he smiled and waved back...then worked up the energy to get up and make a show of running after his team. He spent a lot of time on the bench since he spent a lot of time sitting on the field. But he made contact with the ball maybe 3 times. His coach was incredibly patient. And when his game was over he dragged his dirty self to the car with a smile and said he had fun. Despite the heat, I did too.

Last night I went to an informational meeting about the cub scouts. They had come to speak to Aquaman's school earlier in the week and gave a presentation. When they started talking about smores and camping, Aquaman was hooked. So Grandma came and watched the little ones while we went to the meeting. It was clear from the very beginning that cub scouts isn't going to work for our family. A parent has to come to the meetings, the meetings are on Monday nights, a day that I work, and with all the working JT has been doing it really isn't in the realm of possibility for our family.
Aquaman was extremely disappointed for 10 minutes until I offered him a scoop of ice cream to cheer him up. Now he says, it's cool, he can just stick with surfing and swimming.

 And he already has his eye on the robotics club next year, but you have to be in 2nd grade.

He loves science, and building. He comes home from school and tells me every detail of interesting things that he has learned, and there is a big part of me that loves what he is learning because it's stuff I don't know enough to teach, and there's also a part of me that draws back because I see how important those authority figures are to him, and how their expertise is so fascinating to him, and how easily he will be confused when those authority figures teach him a truth that has been distorted and broken by this world. Because this world is so confusing these days. Truth is twisted by everyone, not just the "liberals" but just as much by the "conservatives" and even by Christians who want to sway others to think the way they do. Or to fear what they fear.

I kind of wonder anyway if cub scouts would be one more opportunity for him to be taught a morality that is relative and worldly. Sure, sports and robotics clubs are secular, but they are mainly sports and robotics focused. The whole point of cub scouts is to teach good citizenship, and without being grounded in the word of God, how could they possibly do that appropriately? Rules without relationship? Or moral relativism? I shudder at the thought of either one.

But I don't fear. Well, I do, but when I do, when I start to get overwhelmed by all there is to be overwhelmed by, I open my Bible. Because sometimes all those devotions, or listening to the radio, and even Christian blogs just totally confuse me. But God's word never does.
This week, on a day when I felt utterly discouraged, God told me to read Isaiah 30. I have read it over and over since then. There's just something special about hearing God tell you to read something specific. It has happened over and over in my life...but not every day. So when it does happen, I read it a lot. I pray about it a lot.

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength."
These were the words that immediately put my heart at peace. Of course. Be still. I can be good at that. I am not so good at many many things, but I can truly be good at that.

Greystoke is growing up and every day he blows me away with what he is learning, how he communicates, who he is becoming. He is silly with Daddy. He gets so excited just to see Daddy's picture (which unfortunately this week is mostly all he has seen), But when Daddy does come home he runs to him and tackles him. He sits on him and then pretends to fall while making a silly face and throwing his head back and saying "whooooaa". He reminds me so much of Aquaman at this age. Aquaman was a really silly toddler.

He is able to tell me what he wants much of the time...and much of the time I am left wondering. At 5:30 pm tonight he told me he was ready for bed, sitting at the top of the stairs with his head on the landing, saying "nigh nigh".
His first phrase was the same one that The Dude spoke: "Mo Wawa!" (More water, he was playing outside with pots and pans full of water and they spilled).
He loves walks, and you can't say walk without taking him for one immediately. Sometimes he sits patiently in the stroller. He is so patient so much of the time, this is entirely new to me in parenting and I am blown away by it. But sometimes he wants to walk himself. And he stops to examine every try to knock it down, to watch it bounce back up again with a giggle.

He loves his brother. He and Aquaman are so special together, Aquaman is so gentle and giving and protective. And The Dude....will give him a push whenever I am not looking. But they love to laugh together, and when Greystoke is not tired, he loves it when The Dude knocks him down.

He gives me sweet kisses right on the mouth, and wraps his arms around my kneck and squeezes me when I pick him up after a day at work. I could eat him up, when he is sleeping

 and even when he is crying at me again to read him another book.

 He is beautiful.

I am tired. I started this post when Greystoke was napping, and everything fell apart. The Dude was restless and Greystoke took a short nap, and nothing has gotten done at all, because at 4 I got tired of trying and took everyone to the beach where they got pummeled by the rough surf and attacked by jellyfish. But somehow when we came home we were all in amazing moods. And 2 out of the 4 of us that could talk said the beach was our favorite part of our day.

They were tired, they passed out early tonight. And I am ready to fall into bed before Greystoke wakes up for just one more snuggle. We read another chapter of "Ramona and Her Father" because we have been blazing through the Ramona books, and the last thing Aquaman said to me before he fell asleep was "The Quimby family is really cute. I like these books."
I like them too.

JT will still be pounding it on the banquet floor, and I bet he looks amazing. He always does.
I'm looking outside at the certainty of the moon, even shrouded in its September haze, and thinking how the tide will be coming in soon.

It always does.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Rain on a Sun Day

I don't have much to say today, and the house is screaming for attention.
But I have a few minutes, and way too many pictures to stay completely quiet much longer so here I am. The big boys are on their way to AWANA with Gramma, JT is at his first day back  as a side-job banquet server at the Crowne Plaza, having swept out of here looking and smelling very good. I didn't want him to leave, this is our time. But I am proud of him for always stepping out.

Greystoke is whimpering in my lap watching Veggie Tales and spitting out sticky honey nut cheerios onto the floor.

Since my last post, we celebrated Papa's birthday.
And Aquaman's. He brought donuts to school. Sticky, messy ones. Sorry Mr awesome 1st grade teacher.
Aquaman is so fun and easy to please. He tends to have one current obsession every couple of years. So far there has been trains, particularly Thomas ones when he was 2-4, Monster trucks from 4-6. And now? Miniature Legos.
The bane of my vacuuming existence.
But it is so much fun to watch him enjoy. And he can spend HOURS building and playing with them.
It's the hottest time of the year, but the end is in sight. My favorite months are quickly approaching, and so we embrace these last 6 weeks or so of stifling heat. By hitting the beach on early release day....before the storms hit.

The Dude and Greystoke remind me so much of Aquaman and The Dude at these ages. Every now and then they just really hit it off. They laugh and play and tackle each other.
This is usually right before the screaming starts.
And then....back to friends again.
Double trouble.
Aquaman had his open house at school last week. He was so excited. His journal entry that I was supposed to read when I was there said "I am so excited for you to come to open house tonight!" He made me look at every page in his math notebook and his journal. Which I LOVED too except we had Greystoke and he kept shrieking and trying to tear the pages.

Once again, God has done the amazing. He has placed Aquaman with the perfect teacher for him. He is totally thriving this year. And to top it off, his best girl friend from last year's class got unexpectedly moved into his class last week. And while I was at Open House, he was greeted at the door with a huge hug from another little girl. Ladies man.
I am making a big effort to concentrate on Greystoke during the couple hours a week I get with him while the other 2 are in school.
I just wish the playground wasn't quite so hot.
And most of the time he ends up just helping me do the things I desperately need to get done when I don't have 3 little boys under my feet.
Particularly The Dude. Since school has begun his behavior has spiraled into blackness. There have been days, quite honestly, when I have really struggled to like him.
He seems to have no self control left by the end of the school day. He finds a reason, at least once a week to make a huge scene when we are picking up Aquaman. I mean, like 2 year old style, but in a 4.5 year old big flailing and LOUD body.
From what I can tell, he holds it together fine at school. And on the weekends he is manageable, and today I would even call him downright sweet.
Some things are easier. He is a little easier to reason with. He is remembering some routines a little better. The charts help a lot...visual reminders. But wow, there are some days when I really start wondering who I am going to be unleashing on society.
There is so much pressure in parenting. But then I have to take a deep breath, ask God for guidance, and just follow Him each moment. He's got the rest.
And I have a vague recollection of feeling this exact same way about Aquaman when he was this age...Aquaman who, though he certainly has his moments of attitude, is so much easier to reason with now that he has just a few more ounces of maturity to handle his larger than life personality.
Last Saturday we took a day trip to Tampa.
The boys were amazing in the car. Greystoke hardly slept a wink, but didn't cry at all on the way there.
We met my sister C and her daughter K and spent 5 hours at the Children's Museum.
They had fun, and it was great to see my sister and niece.
But I think the hardest thing about 3 kids is you cross the point where you can really play with them into the point where you are just keeping them from hurting themselves, each other, or other people, and are following the rules. That takes like, pretty much all your time and energy.

Aquaman and The Dude's favorite part was learning how to hook up electrical circuits.
Greystoke, in his teddy bear slippers, liked the....what else....balls.
We cleared out Publix. People literally ran from my crazy boys with the shopping carts and we got the whole place to shop at our leisure.

The Dude especially loved the fire pole.
And they all loved the only ride there....the elevator.      

Aquaman may actually be getting too old for the children's museum...or at least too big and rowdy. And that thought is kind of sad.
On the way home it got dark, it rained, and the baby screamed all at the same time. But the other two were really pretty amazing. Thanks to Drammamine, no one threw up, and we all made it home in one piece. I fell into bed thinking that I was a little crazy to do that. But when I went to clean my car out in the morning, I was really fun.
Labor day came and went. More hot. More 5 minutes at the park and then we were all too sweaty.
And this week was busy...after all having the holiday off, I worked Tues and Wed, then saw a patient with Greystoke on Thurs then had CPR certification on Fri afternoon. In between there was grocery shopping and 5 days worth of laundry to put away, and 3 boys with their first colds of the season, and a 16 month old who is still so laid back but is starting to get some real opinions.
For several days out of the month around this age, I start to feel very hormonal, like my cycle is trying to start again, but then suddenly remembers that I must still have a newborn since though he sometimes to forget to nurse during the day, he still lays next to me and nurses most of the night.
I get....crabby. It's annoying. I'm happy, happy, I've even got the joy joy joy and then suddenly...MAD. I hate it, and it requires a lot of prayer to get through it, and then it is gone. But it made some of the days last week hard.
Especially when combined with The Dude's early teenage attitudes.
His soccer practice started this week. It's by a baseball field. The first night was kind of stressful because I wasn't prepared for all that....
But the game yesterday was sooo much fun. It is just the right thing for The Dude right now. Lots of positive attention, and right in his element.

Even though he has nooo clue what to do.

I think he was racing toward his own goal in this picture....

After a few well timed stiff arms, one of the other mother's suggested I should have picked football for The Dude...

Well I did it. All the pictures are over. It's still hot out, but I think Greystoke and I will do his favorite thing,.....walk.
Today it rained most of the day, and so I did one thing each boy liked with them for 20 minutes. I played Candyland with The Dude, Legos with Aquaman, and tried to take Greystoke for a walk. But it was raining and he was crabby after his nap.
We'll go try again.
And then pick up these Cheerios before the ants find them.