Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Miscellany/ What I Learned This Month

Wow, what a "weekend"!  What a week!  What a month!

I didn't post at all on the blog last week, but I think I actually spent more time working on it than ever.  In spite of being super busy with school and extra-curricular activities, Jayna changed my design, which, I don't know about you but I think it looks awesome!  Unfortunately, it meant changing the template, which meant that all my AddThis buttons disappeared.  I thought it would be no problem to reinstall them, but now, many hours later, all I have are the follow buttons on the side of the blog that do not look pro, but they're the best I can do.  For now...

Also, the reason for all the work on my blog is that... I decided to do 31 Days challenge! I'm super duper excited about the topic.  I'll get to that in a minute, though...

Let me first tell you about my weekend.  Usually, on Saturday mornings, we head to Bellows, one of our favorite beaches on the island.  But two days ago, we woke up to rain, and anyway, we had some things we wanted/ needed to do, so we skipped the beach.  There was an air show going on, and we thought maybe we would hit that later in the day, and Matt and I were going on a date in the evening to see The Hundred-Foot Journey.

So I made pancakes, Matt headed out with Lilly to do errands, Jayna and Skyler were doing school work, and I sat Wyatt in front of Mighty Machines, one of his favorite shows EVER, while I did some random cleaning and sorting. One second he was calmly watching TV, the next the couch cushions were in serious disarray, and he was saying, "My face hurt!  My face hurt!"  I'm still not sure whether it was somersault practice or jumping like I've seen lots of, but his chin was split open in a way that band-aids can't fix.  So I packed a little bag with books and favorite toys (but no snacks!  NO SNACKS!!! *kicks self*) and off we went to the ER.  

After waiting two hours, we finally got a bed and a PA came in, took one quick look and said, yep, stitches.  But Wyatt proved that the force was strong with him, and one more quick look before they decided they would definitely need to sedate him.  (Hello, meet my son.)

Anyway, I'll try to keep what was a frightfully long day short here, but they couldn't sedate him right away because of how recently he had eaten, so it was initially scheduled for 3:30/ 4.  Then it got pushed to 5... then 6... because the Pediatric Sedation Room was being used.  I tried to remember that those kids needed it more than Wyatt, but when you're dehydrated, starving, cold because the thermostat was set to Polar Vortex, and have no phone battery left to let Matt know how long it would be.  Not to mention my hungry/ tired/ cantankerous toddler I was trying to keep calm.  

And then the PA that replaced the first was very patronizing, which is one of my top pet peeves, so it took pretty much every ounce of my self-control not to lie down on the floor and cry.  Then a guy was put in the bed next to us and he had apparently nearly cut off his finger while working on his motorcycle, and hearing everyone taking about it plus sound effects, and my vivid imagination filled in for what I couldn't see, and everything combined made me very nearly about to faint.

I think we finally got into the sedation room at 7, Matt came with phone charger in hand (hooray!!) (since one of my last texts was about the battery almost being out), but Wyatt didn't come out of sedation a quickly as Skyler had when the same thing happened at about the same age.  He was really sleepy and loopy and kept throwing up when we tried to give him liquids, which they don't like to see, so we ended up staying there for three hours.  So I was gone a total of 12 hours for five stitches.  Bye-bye, Saturday.

Here's my little Wy-ldman.
He often sleeps with his eyes like this, even when not sedated.  It's a little creepy...  Matt says he is keeping an eye on things, making sure he doesn't miss out on anything.

BUT, all this to say, it's the perfect intro to my theme for 31 Days of Blogging!!! I'm going to write... Drumroll please... 31 Days of Surprise Endings.

What I learned in September is that life never stops surprising you.  And I was reminded that sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes it's bad, sometimes it's embarrassing, and sometimes... It's hilarious.  And a lot of the stories of what I've learned will be on the blog in the month of October!  I can't wait to share this with you!

I learned you should never say to yourself, You know, it's true that homeschooling gets easier the more you do it! because you will inevitably then have a day where every single one of you cries, and a couple of you might even throw ugly tantrums (yourself included).

I also learned (when I finally got to the movies yesterday afternoon) that they are, in fact, still making (a few) good movies.  Not only was The Hundred-Foot Journey fantastic and truly delightful, I saw at least three previews for films I want to see in the coming months.  There is hope for humanity after all!!!

I learned that you should never consider a lesson learned because life changes just a little and then, like the tiniest turn in a kaleidoscope changes the picture entirely, you're re-learning the lesson like you had never encountered it before.

Anyway, I'm so excited about October!  I hope you're following along using one of my rather sad follow buttons so we can talk about it! :-)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Five-Minute Friday: Hold

{This is something new I'm trying!  I wantto make it a practice to write more.  I need so much encouragement, though!  Sometimes I don't blog because I feel like I don't have time.  I just found out about Five-Minute Fridays today, and thought, Hey, I could do that.  I could write for five minutes!

Every week there is a prompt word, and today's is "Hold."

He's only two (well, almost three), but his little head across my faces pressing against my nose, almost smothers me.  This is what I'm thinking as I lie there in my bed, awake this morning as the light starts it's crescendo through the blinds.  My left arm is tucked under him, and I know that if I move he will wake up.  And if he wakes up now?  This early?   Well, anything I would call "success" for the day might very well be in peril.

I think of the Mary Cassatt paintings I wrote papers on in college.  The child so large and awkwardly perched on the women's laps so as to almost take them over.  This has been my weeks lately, feeling almost taken over by the needs of my children -- loving them infinitely, but sometimes frustrated by what I'm not "accomplishing".
Image: here
Image: here

And yet, there's nowhere else I'd rather be than almost smothered by that head, held by that little hand holding mine as it lies on my rising and falling chest.  I haven't nursed him in well over a year, but as he sleeps, I feel that familiar movement of his jaw, like he's dreaming of nursing again.  And I think, could there be anything sweeter?  

If this is mutiny, if this is the over taking, let it be so.
Image: here
{P.S. I seriously love Mary Cassatt.}

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Me and My Super Purse

{For the past couple years, I've been -- slowly, very slowly -- minimalizing.  Okay, you probably wouldn't look at me and say, "She's a minimalist."  But I've been trying, through trial and error, to figure out what "enough" is.  This essay was written a while ago, a version of it published two years ago in that same defunct magazine as the essay I posted here.  *Sigh.*  Since then, though, I've been paring down more than just what's in my purse.  I'll be posting more of this quest here on the blog soon!}

“Hey, do you have any horseshoes?”

It was one of those moments when I didn’t realize at first that someone was talking to me.  Because it’s kind of a funny question coming from a stranger at the park, as I pushed my baby on a swing.
Instinctively, I looked behind me.  This had to be some kind of joke.  Sure, I knew there’s a game involving horseshoes, but it was such a random question from a complete stranger that I knew I couldn’t have heard him right.

“Excuse me?”  I asked.

He rolled his eyes and enunciated, “I.  Said.  Do.  You.   Have.  Any.  Horseshoes!” 

The amazing part of this story is that I didn’t reach into my purse say, “Sure, I always keep a couple with me, right here next to my tampons and lip gloss.  Never know when you might need to shod a horse!”  Everything else is in my purse.  Why not horseshoes?  Instead, I shrugged and shook my head apologetically before the man stomped away, obviously disgusted by my lack of preparedness. 

For most of my adult life, I’ve had what you might call an obsession with creating the Super Purse – something far more than a mere fashion statement, more like a vital appendage.  I come by such craziness honestly.  My parents worked for a NGO in Bangladesh when I was born, and I started traveling when I was ten days old.  The lesson I learned at a young age was not so much to pack light but be ready for anything.  One of my earliest distinct memories is that of the omnipresent roll of toilet paper in my mother’s purse.

The obsession truly manifested itself over twelve years ago {update: as I said, this is an old essay} as I stepped out the door with my newborn daughter and realized how much I needed to navigate a child safely through this world.  And to be honest, I take a certain pride in being ready for any problem, anywhere.  When I carry my Super Purse, I’m the closest I’ll ever be to a bonafide superhero.  There’s my wallet and phone, of course, plus a few diapers, wipes, and “hand san”.  But oh, my friends, that’s just the beginning! 

Hungry, fussing child but there’s one more sale to hit?  Behold the Ziploc bag full of cereal!  Long wait at the doctor’s office/ restaurant/ airport?  No sweat since I have these three books, a notebook, and a box of crayons!  Someone falls at the park?  That’s exactly why I carry a choice of Band-aids (Barbie or Scooby Doo?).  My husband, who, like the children in Mary Poppins, is always astonished by what I pull out of the Super Purse, has become convinced that if we were lost in a forest, we would survive as long as I had it with me.

Still, the old “ounce of prevention” adage quite literally weighs heavy on my shoulders.  There’s much more than an ounce in there! And as the stranger’s request demonstrated, there are plenty of times when I’ve fallen short of being truly ready for anything. 

But as my kids get older, I’ve realized that maybe, just maybe, I don’t need to try to prepare for everything.  Maybe I can lighten my load a little.  They are learning to take more responsibility for themselves, not just “carrying their own loads” but mine as well – handing me tissues now when I’m crying or saying “I’m sorry” to express sympathy instead of regret.  And they’re also surprising me with grace.  I watch between fingers as they slide past disasters, and my jaw nearly drops as they face tough times with much more bravery than I can muster.  I smile with surprised delight at the made-up songs coming from the backseat about “beautiful Mommy” on days when I feel anything but.  Even having had so many ups and downs, knowing well what I was getting into, nothing in the world could have prepared me for the overwhelming love for another newborn, warm and wet and crying, being placed in my arms. 

One of these days I might just leave the Super Purse at home. 

Or, at least, take the crayons out of it.

{So can you relate?  Do you carry too much on your shoulders?  Have you been paring down?  I'd love to hear from you!}

Friday, September 12, 2014

Loving the Bye-Bye

{I just came across this essay that I wrote many years ago, and a form of it was published in a now-defunct magazine.  The crux of it was edited out (mind-boggling and heart-breaking).  Anyway, even though it's old -- we don't have the Bye-Bye any more and now it's Wyatt, two kids later, who comes to our room every night and now it's Kimye, not TomKat -- everything I said here is what I still feel and pertinent to this blog.  Enjoy!}
Matt in Gibraltar, climbing out of the Bye-Bye during its hey-day.  Jayna in the foreground, my big girl so tiny!!  Can you believe they called  this a parking spot?!?
 The following words will destroy any coolness factor I may have: I love my mini-van.  With just my thumb, I can open and close the doors and windows.  It runs smooth, seats eight, and has a six-CD changer and triple-zone climate control to satiate our music preferences and inner thermostats.  The only problem with it is that my daughters still love The Bye-Bye.

The Bye-Bye is our old car -- a four-door sedan, the first car we ever purchased brand spanking new.  Its paint is called something like "Bronzed Pewter" by the manufacturer, a fancy way of saying shiny taupe.  Nothing is automatic, not even the transmission.  I roll down windows and unlock doors the old-fashioned way.  It goes sixty miles per hour… sooner or later.  After almost a decade, the air-conditioner and CD player still work, it gets forty miles to the gallon on the freeway, and it's the first car I ever owned that I didn't have sweet-talk into starting.  So I can honestly say that I have a healthy respect for the Bye-Bye.  But love?  Not exactly.

The girls, however, truly love the Bye-Bye.  The other day, I ran a quick errand.  "Want to come with me?" I asked Skyler, my second daughter. 

"No thanks." She didn't look up from her game or even pause for a second's thought.

That's when I dangled the worm that I knew would catch her.  "I'm taking the Bye-Bye…" 

She ran to get her jacket.   

I understand the love.  My eldest daughter, Jayna, was buckled in her infant carseat as we drove it off the lot.  Skyler came home from the hospital in it.  It traveled with us to Spain for a three-year military tour.  The Bye-Bye was always there; the mini-van is just a flashy Johnny-come-lately. 

It's one of those things that demonstrates how both girls love what stays the same in their lives.  They are just like their mother in that way.  The fastest way to send me into Panic Mode is to utter the C word: change.  "What will I have to give up?" I wonder, or, "Where will this take me?  Where will it send the ones I love?" 

And with the omnipresence of change, it often seems that the question should no longer be, "What's new?" but, "What isn't new?"  DVD players took over the VCR's that were a technological marvel in my childhood.  Brangelina and TomKat have replaced Bennifer.  Pink is the new black.  Orange is the new pink.  Thirty is the new twenty, and fifty the new thirty.  Therefore, I treasure all the more the fact that my husband has had the same haircut for our entire marriage or restaurants that never omit "my usual" from their menus.

To be sure, some change is for the better.  I'm thankful that women can vote.  I appreciate the enormous advances in telecommunications that allow me to be in touch with friends in Australia that I haven't seen in years.

But my knee-jerk reaction is to create boulders that -- over the years, the varied locales, the additions and subtractions in our lives -- declare, "This will not be moved."  Friday nights are Nacho Nights, Saturday mornings are for pancakes.  Stories and prayers come before bedtime.  Ouchies get kisses and band-aids; good grades get a dinner out.  Because this is what I want my children to know wherever change takes them: that my love is for always.

Ironically -- frustratingly -- it seems to be only what I wish would change that never does.  But as I witness my daughters loving the Bye-Bye -- with all its flaws -- I can't help but think that maybe I'm missing something.  Maybe the answer isn't always fighting to keep things the same while wishing I could alter circumstances or irritating personality quirks.  Maybe, sometimes, it is in accepting what I can't change, and loving wholeheartedly in spite of it, that I best demonstrate my devotion.                

I realized this one recent night, as the clock on my bedside table glowed 2:13 and I rolled over to find Skyler standing next to me.  She and Jayna share a room adorned in pink and purple princess d├ęcor.  They each have their own cozy and beautiful bed.  And yet, almost every night, there is a rush of footsteps down the hall and suddenly, in the doorway, a small and barely discernible silhouette appears.  A kicking, blanket-stealing Skyler climbs under the covers and before long Matt and I find ourselves bruised, cold, and balanced precariously on the edges of our bed.
 In an effort to preserve our sleep, we have bribed and cajoled her -- all to no avail.  We've tried locking our door, which only results in distraught wailing that quickly dissolves our determination.  We tuck her in with fingers crossed, hoping that nothing will awaken her till the morning.  Sometimes we're lucky, but not often.  So I wasn't the least bit surprised to find her standing there. 

"What's wrong?" I whispered groggily, though I already knew the answer.

"I need to sleep in your bed."  

I was tired, trying hard in my sleep-addled state to summon some willpower.  "What's the matter with yours?" 

"There's no one to cuddle!" 

All too quickly, I could feel myself relenting. "You could cuddle Jayna in her bed," I suggested, immediately recognizing the futility of my proposition. 

"No!  I want to cuddle you!" 

How could I argue with that? 

Fully aware that soon her foot would be wedged into my ribs and that the rest of the night would be spent fighting for a small corner of the blankets, I picked her up and nestled her between her father and I.  Her breaths soon became slow and deep.  I kissed the back of her sleeping head, inhaling the sweet scent of her hair, and I hoped that she knew the words my heart was speaking.  My love is for always.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Lighting up the Cave

"Would one of you ladies please loan me your diamond ring for a minute?"

What a question.  Sure, there were a handful of us women in the little crowd of tourists there in the deepest, darkest part of Timpanogos Cave in Utah, and most of us wore a diamond on our ring fingers, but no one wanted to give it up -- not even for a few moments, not even to the park ranger who requested it.  The other women were probably scared that something would happen to it.  But I... I was just afraid.

I loved my engagement ring and adored the man who had humbly knelt in the middle of a quiet forest and asked me to marry him that day almost five years earlier.  But that was when we were both in college, and my diamond -- though it was two months' salary for him at the time -- was small.  It wasn't the kind that made people gasp and gush over it, no matter how special I thought it was.  It wouldn't, couldn't, be big enough or clear enough or anything enough for whatever reason the park ranger was asking for it.

But the silence was getting awkward.

"I promise to give it back," the ranger said with a grin.  The other women shifted uncomfortably and looked at the ground.  "It'll be pretty neat..."

"You can use mine!" I heard myself volunteer.  And before I had a chance to second-guess, I handed my quarter-carat solitaire diamond to him.  

"Great!  Perfect!" he said.  If he thought it was too small, he didn't say so.  He started to explain what he was going to do next.  There, in the bowels of the cave, he was going to turn off all the lights.  He asked us to stand still so we wouldn't trip over anything because there would be no light whatsoever, and then he reached up to a switch and... there was darkness.  Such darkness I hadn't known before. It almost took my breath away, made me feel swallowed up because it was so thick and tangible.  

For a few moments, he let us stand there, taking it in.  We strained our eyes hoping they would adjust and we could see some sliver of light somewhere.  


"Now watch what happens when I shine my flashlight on this diamond," he said.  And suddenly the walls of the cave, so utterly black just a moment before, lit up with thousands of tiny lights, radiating from my diamond.  We all gasped a little.  I was so amazed.  My diamond ring could do that!

That was one of those moments that has stayed with me because it was so profound and beautiful.

But last year was a hard year.  It wasn't that any single disastrous thing happened, and I know without a doubt it could have been worse.  It was just messy and exhausting, full of mistakes and regrets.  We were trying so hard to feel settled quickly after yet another move (our ninth major move in fourteen years when we hadn't even spent two full years at our last two duty stations... But who's counting?) that we rushed into things and tried too hard and kicked ourselves hard when we had setbacks.  I think said the worst things I've ever said as a mother and have never felt less equipped for what my life was.  I wasn't writing anything of value because it felt like there was just nothing inside me from which to create.

By the end of February, ten months after our move, I wasn't just tired.  I was utterly spent.  I knew I needed silence and stillness for a little while. 

It was during that time that I bought Emily P. Freeman's book A Million Little Ways.

I'd read other bloggers raving about it, and it had a five-star rating on Amazon.  Usually I'm under-impressed when people are getting this crazy about something, but some of the reviews said things that made me think, I could maybe use this.

I started reading, and...  Well, I'll put it this way.  My husband, when he was going through flight training, was taught to recognize the signs of hypoxia, or lack of oxygen, in case the instruments fail.  In fact, many pilots don't recognize the signs until it's too late, and they lose consciousness and crash.

That's where I was before the book: hypoxic and unaware.  What I saw as failures as a mother, as a writer, as a wife; insecurities about these spheres of my life; fears about the future -- all these things were making the air awfully thin.  Emily Freeman's words breathed life into my soul again.
"There is no art in anxiety.  We try to manage the future, a time that doesn't even exist yet, and we wonder why our stomachs hurt."

She writes about recognizing and appreciating what makes you an artist -- and we all are artists.
"We are the mirrors of God on earth, the megaphones of glory, the hands and eyes  and hearts of heaven."
 Teachers, accountants, stay-at-home moms, doctors, musicians all have an art they were given to create. 
"When an artist chooses to be generous, everyone wins."  
She also writes about giving yourself time to pause, trusting God's timing and the seasons of your life, enjoying the art that others make without comparing yourself to them while appreciating that each of you has a very specific role that only you can play.  
"If waking up to your desire is bringing you closer to someone else, if it allows you to be vulnerable in ways you weren't able to be before, if it reminds you of your desperate need for God, then your art has not been wasted."
There is so much good in this book, I'm having to remind myself to hold back and let you discover it for yourself.  It was almost spooky for me to read, because it felt like she was reading my mind, addressing the fears or thoughts that I hadn't told anyone.  
I'm not sure where I'd be right now if I hadn't read this book when I did. It scares me a little to think about.  This blog would not be here, for one thing, and I'm not sure what good I'd be doing for my kids or husband. 

But instead I'm here, writing again, hopefully caring for my kids and supporting my husband better, a little braver when I think about what the future might require of me.  I'm remembering that cave again, all lit up from my diamond and thinking, Maybe I can....

{Disclaimer: this essay was not in any way a push for a new ring.  My husband got me the ring I wear daily now for our seventh anniversary.  He always gets me the best he can... But all that is a story for another day! ;-)}

{Another disclaimer: this review is totally my opinion.  You can get the e-book right now for $1.99 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  But if you ask me, you could pay a lot more for it and you would not be losing anything!!}

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Checking In

I know.  Who starts a blog, and then ignores it for a couple weeks?  Who, I ask you?

Oh yeah.  Me.  But it's been for good reasons.

  • I've been trying to get another year of homeschooling started.  Technically it started at the end of July, but the first month just requires a lot of momentum.  
  • The kids and I, one by painstaking one, got the second stomach flu of the year.  (No pictures of that.  You're welcome.)
  • My sister-in-law came for a visit with her husband and adorable son.  We were busy having a whole lot of fun.

  • I turned another year older.
  • Matt took most of last week off, and we staycationed.  And let me tell you something awesome about living in Hawaii is that staycationing is so not lame.  It's all the fun of going to a tropical island for vacation, minus the plane ride and the horrible long line at security.

  • Oh yeah!  For my birthday, I got a GoPro!!  Fun!!

My arm looks crazy long here.  Not the best photog skills.  Anyway, I'm figuring it out!  The day I took that pic was insanely fun.  And that is about all the photographic proof unfortunately.  You'll just have to take my word for it.
Anyway, I'm working on some things that I'm pretty excited about!  If you're reading this, thank you!  I'll be back soon with more!!