Sunday, March 20, 2016

Spring Break 2016

Spring Break is here. The air conditioner is running.
I undertook the monumental task of sorting clothes last weekend. I didn't think it was going to be as monumental as it was, but apparently I kind of threw things around in boxes willy nilly last year, and this year I paid the price. I boxed up the size 18 months and the size 4 years, and every one of their long sleeves and pants.
And tomorrow it's a high of 68 and a low of 48.
Guess I jumped the gun. March is like that.
Greystoke has had a continuous ear infection for a month. He finally kind of slept last night, meaning I think he only woke 2-3 times from 10-6. Today he was less cranky and demanding and I think he has finally turned the corner. I am tired of ear infections. Tired of watching his misery.
And most of all, just tired.
I feel kind of old. My neck hurts most of the time from sleeping in strange positions.
But when I stop to look at him for even 5 seconds, I just totally melt. His tantrums are adorable. I love when he twists his face up and says: "no!" Especially because he usually cracks up laughing almost immediately after. He's my sweet little tow-headed baby.
Today I took the boys to Incredible Pets.
Aquaman is trying to convince me to buy him a snake. He said "Mom, I just need someone to talk to, you know? And you won't buy me a dog?"
Does he know the right thing to say to a mother, or what? So I told him, we're not getting a snake any time soon, but let's go to the store and pretend we are, and pick out one and where it will live.
I didn't feel that gross about it.
But after about 10 minutes of being surrounded by snake cages I was totally grossed out. I can't. Not yet.
Not a lizard either, sorry Greystoke. A little dog and all its trials is looking better and better. Or a parakeet. Or a fish. Yes, a fish in a little bowl. The perfect pet.
Other than t-ball, and church, and Incredible Pets, so far our spring break weekend has been spent entirely at home.
We made pancakes. I told Greystoke to say "Pancakes!" and he gave me this look...."No!" Oh, couldn't you just kiss those cheeks?
It rained yesterday. And they bounced all over the bed, and we made Lego creations, and built towers with blocks. And just when I was starting to lose my mind from being inside, like Florida does, it stopped raining. And we remembered the puddles.
We have made so many puddle memories here. Aquaman thinks he is too big for almost everything these days. Playgrounds are boring. The zoo is old hat. He's usually much too busy to bother himself with puddles. But yesterday he played in them again.
When he was a toddler it was only wheels. Pushing bikes or cars or trucks through the puddles in the road. He loved watching them spin. Sometimes I already wonder where the time went. There's no going back, and that's a sad thing, but it's a beautiful thing too. It reminds me to seize the day, enjoy the moment. This might be his last time in the puddles. Probably it won't be. Hopefully it won't be. Almost 6 years we have explored every puddle in the neighborhood.
Aquaman was almost the exact same age that Greystoke is when we moved in.
It's so interesting to see how each child approaches life differently, still with the same zest, but at a different angle.
What an intricate and amazing creator we have.
Wipe out.
He's growing up. He's able to laugh at his wipe-outs now (occasionally). Once, he told me when I got mad at him for laughing when I was upset with him: "mom. If I don't laugh, I will cry, can I just laugh?"
Sweet boy.
The Dude is enjoying t-ball I think. The first inning of his game on Saturday he fielded every ball. He was all over, pushing his way in, fighting for it. Totally the opposite of soccer.

After that, the coaches made him stand on 3rd base the rest of the innings to give the other kids a chance.
But you know what that crazy kid tells me? "I think I liked soccer better than tball."
Soccer, where he barely went after the ball and played patty cake on the field with his team mate the whole time. I think he says it just to say it. Just because it feels good to be contrary. Just because he's The Dude in all his 5 year old glory.

Greystoke is a totally different audience than The Dude was back when Aquaman was playing tball. I had to hold The Dude back from charging the field at every game. Greystoke, true to form, just watches the game. He's a visual learner, the first of his kind in our family, and I marvel that his hands are not always everywhere like theirs were.
Aquaman was a different kind of a tball player too.
He sat in the dirt and built tracks. Often, he didn't realize his team had left the field until they started batting. I love these memories.
Greystoke has already woken up once, screaming and clutching his ear, after sleeping only 20 minutes. I hope it is not going to be a long night.
JT is on his 2nd 18 hour day in a row. I know he must be so tired, racing around the hotel getting everyone drinks and bringing them ketchup.
This time of year is always so hard. It's so much work for him, and it's so lonely for me.
He was off on Friday and he didn't have anything he had to do. No work, no Trinity Fitness training. He came home and we all got to eat dinner together. We went and got ice cream and ate it at the park. The older boys watched part of a movie with him. We crammed a month's worth of weekends into one night, and though I have been doing pretty well with it all, this time of year I always struggle with contentment in it.
It blows me away that most families get to spend almost every weekend together. I wonder how different life would be if it was like that for us.
It's not, and that's ok. But sometimes it just hits me for a minute.
I was sitting on the ground by myself at the tball game on Saturday. When Aquaman was in tball, I remember feeling so insecure because other kids had their mom and their dad there. They weren't trying to corral the younger siblings and cheer for the older one, and drag a cooler full of snacks onto the field by themselves. I felt unloved and embarrassed.
I've grown up since then. I know that I, and my boys, are not unloved just because my husband's job and now jobs require him to work the weekends in the spring.
And as I was sitting on the grass there in my one tank top that is not all stained up and my favorite pair of shorts and feeling slightly awkward but mostly just fine, one of the other mothers came up to me and said "we were just talking about how calm you always are. You've got these 3 boys, and you're doing it alone, and you look so happy and calm."
And I could tell she meant it sincerely, and not in a weird underhanded compliment kind of a way, and I breathed a silent prayer of thanks to God, because that is what hard things do for us, when we sit back and rest in His arms. They make us stronger, they make us calmer. They help us look around see that things are not so bad. Things are actually really really good.
You have to see the bad first, you have to feel the sad, at least I think so. To really know the glad.
It's getting late, and I should be going to bed soon. Greystoke will be up again soon, if I know Greystoke. JT still won't be home for hours, and I'll sleep fitfully until he's beside me because I always do, just knowing he's out there all sweaty and tired.
It'll be an early morning since we have to be out the door by 7 on work days. I feel tired already just thinking about it.

But it's spring break, and I'm glad for that. Aquaman got his report card last week. He is below grade level for neat handwriting and correct punctuation and capitals and doing his personal best, and his teacher said he still feels that he is not trying, but I can tell you something else. He's not anxious anymore. He's not crying. He's not exploding the moment he comes home. He is turning in his writing and he is doing the best he can emotionally and physically do, and I am happy with how things are going. For the first time in his school career I did not check the box requesting a conference because I don't see the point in rehashing our differences. One more grading period and then it will be summer and next year we can start again.
In the meantime, he is loving the gifted program. He has reunited with his best friend from kindergarten who is also in the class. They actually play like regular kids on the playground. I can't tell you how it feels to watch him giggling and being lighthearted and not fighting with another child on the playground. To see them sitting close to each other and his not feeling invaded. There are many complicated days ahead for us I am sure, but things are better right now, and for that I am very thankful.
I don't know what we'll do for spring break. Hopefully I can convince them to spend some time on the beach. I know once the water is warm, they will love it there again. The pool is still kind of cold. We've spent a lot of time just at home. Our little house that still doesn't feel that little really. Just...home.
This morning I set my alarm earlier than the kids have been getting up, but somehow they got up earlier too. I sat away from them, desperate for a few quiet moments before the flurry of another day began, and found myself in Isaiah:
"You are my servants. I have chosen you. I have not turned my back on you. So do not be afraid, I am with you. Do not be terrified, I am your God. I will make you strong and help you. My powerful right hand will take good care of you. I always do what is right."
Isaiah 41: 9-10
"Family of Jacob- you are as weak as a worm! But do not be afraid."
v 14
Sometimes you read a verse, and you just know you can shut your Bible and go forward because you have heard from God. I heard Him there. I heard him in my laughter. As weak as a worm. Fragile and helpless.
Right where he wants me to be.
And not afraid.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Musings in March

It seems that life moves extra quickly in March. For most of our married life, JT has been a full time ocean lifeguard, and when you're a full time lifeguard in Florida in March, life gets crazy. The weather is perfect, the beaches start getting busy, the stations and equipment have to be prepared for the influx of seasonal employees, those seasonal employees have to be trained, and it seems like they're always short staffed this time of year.
For the past several years, there has also been competition prep to make things even crazier.
But nothing has compared to this year. Because this year, JT is working a 2nd job, and guess what? This is the busy season for the hospitality industry too. So this week JT worked an 80 hour work week. And this is after his having worked 60 hours pretty consistently recently. He also had dad duty for the older 2 boys on the 2 days that I was at work. Not surprisingly, he is now sick. He is pretty sure he has the flu.

Because that's the other thing about March. It feels like winter is over, even the weather says winter is over. And you want to be out there soaking up the beautiful weather. But March is that month when everyone gets sick. And though we have been surprisingly healthy this year, March brought with it it's usual onset of sickness. Greystoke had another ear infection, another night of croup. And now he has a deep chest cough and is waking up screaming "no! in his sleep again. And The Dude is barking like a dog all night. Aquaman is blowing long ropes of snot out of his nose and then showing them to me.
Boys are so weird and gross.
Of course, there are good things about March too.
My sister K came to visit. It went too fast like it always does, but we soaked it up while we could.

The Dude turned 5 years old last Friday. A whole handful.
And there is a spring feverish feeling in the air. We filled out the registration form for next year last night. I carefully described Aquaman as needing a teacher who is structured but gentle and positive and who does not push him.  As I read the description to him, he shouted "next year is going to be the best year ever!"
Spring break is only 2 weeks away.
Summer camp schedules are starting to come out.
A couple of nights ago, as he lay in bed contemplating all of this, Aquaman said: "Mom? My teacher is a really good teacher. And he is a really nice person. He was just not the best teacher for me."
I got tears in my eyes when he said it. It's a hard and helpless feeling watching your child struggle with something over which you have very little control. I know there will be many such moments in our lives and that it is part of growing up, but he is still so little. I don't like sending him out unprotected.
I have struggled a lot the past couple of months because many of my Christian friends whose parenting I admire home school their kids. And I wish I could too. There is a new hybrid Christian homeschool on beachside that has 2 days of private school and 3 days of homeschool of which they give you the curriculum, and I would love to do something like that.
But what it comes down to is, today at least, and all we have is today, it is just not possible.
This is a new stage of parenting and of letting go for me. When Aquaman was a baby I struggled a lot with having to work, even part time. I felt that the ideal was to be home with him. Slowly time healed that wound. I have seen how God has provided for us with grandparents to care for our children, and part time family centered jobs with great schedules and that I have felt like I could really make an impact with. He is more than provided us with everything that we need.
It is my nature to fight through every angle. One of my nursing school references wrote: "J leaves no stone un turned."
I like to turn the stones over. I like to look at every angle. I am highly idealistic. I am willing to make great sacrifices for those ideals. But sometimes I have to set the stones down, sigh, and admit that this is not the Garden. Life is not always ideal. And my thoughts are so much smaller than His thoughts.

And so I trust that where I cannot go, God will go with him. He will go ahead of him. And He will use these less than ideal conditions to accomplish His will in Aquaman's life.

Some of the rough and ragged and stressed out edges are starting to soften lately, and it's great to see.
Aquaman will always be a quirky boy. He will always be different. That's ok.
I have struggled over the past couple of weeks with embarrassing moments when he wasn't the careful and obedient boy that I wished he would be. He is highly impulsive and emotional, and when he is excited he is wild and loses most of his self control. He vacillates in those excited moments between high and low hysterias. There is nothing you can do to control it, you simply try your best to contain it. I struggle with that sometimes. I know what people are thinking and saying, I have heard it all before.
But just at my lowest point last week, I heard an awesome broadcast on Focus on the Family that talked about different personalities. The speaker said his first child, a daughter, came out of the womb apologizing for being a little late. She saved her money to buy Shakespeare and was the perfect child. They bragged to their friends. Then heaven laughed at them and sent them their son...who was born with a cigar in his mouth. Who prayed every day to drive his mother crazy, and every day God answered his prayer.
I laughed until I almost cried, and then I did cry, later, as the speaker went on to say several things that really resonated with me. 1) Pick your battles with these children. Or you will be picking on them all the time, and they will never know when something really matters. Let go of the control. You can't control them. And 2) Everyone loves their kids, but kids will never really feel that love if you don't accept them. Just as they are. Not trying to change who they are to be more acceptable to you. But accept them with all their quirks. Love them as they are.

I love him. I love all my crazy boys. I love the impulsivity, I love that they don't want to be controlled. What a holy and wonderful word is no! They will need to use it in so many important ways in the future.
And speaking of no, it's still 2 more months until this guy is 2, but I'm just going to say it....he is 2.
In all its take-off-your-diaper-and-poop-on-the-floor, and scowl and hold your ground, or else go totally rag doll limp and screech like someone is killing you glory. 2.
But that sweet, sleepy eyed baby is still in there somewhere. He lays his head on my shoulder in the mornings. He gives the sweetest kisses. When Daddy is rushing off to work again and stops to tell him goodbye and tells him: "I am sorry for leaving again, will you forgive me?" He says "yeah!" in such an exuberant way that you really believe him.
He is as blond as the other 2 are red. He still waves at random strangers in the store and says "hi!". Even when his ears hurt, he assures me: "ear better", almost apologetically. He loves to color, and cut, and most of all he still loves reading books and taking walks, though now he wants to walk by himself so we never make it very far.
He loved seeing Aunt "Tatie" and "Bart". He loves his Papa, and puts Papa down for a nap while he quietly slips out of the room because he already thinks he's getting too big for such a thing as naps.
The Dude turned 5 on Friday. I brought donuts and goody bags to his friends at school, and then we left school early, picked up Aquaman early from school, and went straight to Grandma and Grandpa's house for his family birthday party, because JT could not get off work in the evening, and Grandma and Grandpa were leaving town over the weekend.

He had such a great birthday.
He's talked about it over and over since then. Says he wants his 6 year old birthday to be exactly like his 5 year old birthday, so I guess it was a success.
Aquaman was almost as excited as The Dude. He woke him up and dragged him out of bed at 5:10 am. I heard the ruckus and was sure someone was sick or having a nightmare or something. When I made it down the stairs and saw them both up, I told them to go back to bed. The Dude said "so THAT'S why I am so tired." and fell cheerfully back asleep. But Aquaman lay in his bed "thinking" and staring out the window until the sun rose.

Aquaman made The Dude's day so special. He told him over and over: "this is your day!" It was very sweet.
The Dude got a skateboard, a tablet,  a guitar and a remote control truck. He loved them all with all of his exuberant Dude love. It is fun to watch him become. His heart is so big and he wears it on his sleeve. Before work this morning, he colored me a picture and put it in an envelope which he taped shut and then presented it to me. A love note, he said.
He is starting to read, albeit slowly, but he sticks with it persistently and happily. Last night when we sat down for me to read to him he said "can you read a page and then I read one?" The book was much too hard so he agreed to play a sight word game on his new tablet instead.
He has never been excited about books like his other 2 brothers, but his current obsession is wild jungle animals, and at the library last week he found a chapter book about Cheetahs and practically has it memorized.
He wants to go to zoo camp this summer.

On Saturday he had his first t-ball game and it went so much better than soccer!

3 years ago I was dragging his older brother to these same fields for tot t-ball.
But I didn't have to drag The Dude. He practically dragged me.
3 years ago, it was The Dude looking through these fences, ready to charge the field.
He was a bit of a ball hog, but you really couldn't blame him. None of the other kids seemed much interested in chasing it. He threw the ball underhanded and he threw the ball directly from his glove a few times, but he started to get it toward the end, and he actually stayed interested in the game, unlike the soccer debacle. T-ball requires a much shorter attention span.

This is a short week for school, the boys get Friday off. I'm looking forward to it. They'll be climbing the walls.

I've been really enjoying life these past few weeks. I've been feeling a little guilty about all the hours JT has been working, but it's not really something I can do anything about, and I decided a long time ago that being stressed just because he is stressed doesn't help things at all. So I have taken the time to stop and smell the roses this week. I have dropped everything, rented a movie, and watched it almost all the way through with the big boys on Saturday night. I have been finishing up all the housework on Saturdays and then trying to really take that day of rest on Sunday.
It has done my soul good.
Life is hard, there are so many unknowns around the bend. There are so many struggles all around us, so much pain, so much sin, including in my own heart.
But lately I have been falling asleep reading Ecclesiastes and thanking God for the beauty today. For the joy in the labor of it. For the feeling of a soft bed after a long day. For the laughter of my children. The hugs. The hope.
Meaningless, Meaningless. Everything is not meaningless.
Because He lives. Because He makes the sun set every single day in its pinks and oranges, but sometimes we are so wrapped up in our own little selves that we don't stop to notice it.

Because He has set eternity in our hearts, even as he washes the dirt off our feet.