Tuesday, November 29, 2011

a lesson in hope.

Yesterday morning Sparky needed some space. He tried the kitchen and came crying when his brothers wouldn't leave him alone. I sent him to their room. They never want to play in their room. Except for right then when their big brother was playing in their room. He came down the stairs, more discouraged than ever, with an entourage trailing behind him. "Mom" he said, "I just want to be alone for a little while." The look he gave me then finished his sentence with an unsaid, "is that too much to ask!!!"

My heart went out to him. Any mother can relate. Plagued with sympathy irritation I made it my personal mission to get him that alone time he so craved. We tried locking him in the bathroom. That worked for a while until Iggy remembered that the claim of needing to go poop opens doors all over the world. Finally we awoke baby sister to set him playing in my room with the top lock latched. Whew for Sparky. Uh-oh for mom. Once the younger boys gave up scratching at the door like hungry cats they protested the situation with an all-out battle against order and cleanliness.

Over the next hour our ordinary day fell apart into a hellish scene from my worst nightmares. I lost my temper like I lost my wallet a few years ago- it was never coming back. I coveted my eldest son's freedom. I resented my husbands escape (as if work is an island in the Bahamas). I despised my baby's cry. I found myself fighting a three-year-old on his level. I sentenced a toddler to life-in-prison for climbing into the fridge to procure a glass of juice. I cried. I let a tiny attitude problem turn into the mean reds of mother frustration.

Writing this now, I can't believe I was that hopeless. I see the faces of my children and I wonder, did I really wish them away only a day ago? How could life seem so bleak then when it's to good to be true today? That's the kind of power I have over my own self. My attitude is everything.

Once I'm that low only a miracle or a good night's sleep (which is nothing less than a miracle) can pull me out. I didn't want to pray because I felt like such a monster shouldn't be allowed to approach God (in my right mind I see that's ridiculous, but when I need help most I'm never in my right mind). Instead I dreamed of jumping into my car and driving toward sunshine until I left the clouds of Oregon behind. I seriously wondered if the car had enough gas.

Just then I caught Iggy trying to cram a 2nd DVD into the computer. I ran to prevent the catastrophe, grabbed it out of his hands, and only then noticed which disc he was trying to play. You see, several months back I had borrowed a copy of motivational speaking tour called "Time Out for Women" but had not yet taken the time to watch. I thought, "I need a time out this very moment." I felt as if this might be a little help from on high. I fed each of the children, it being time for lunch and naps, and tearfully tucked each child into their bed, couch, bassinet, and floor (because a different kid naps in every room of the house).

In went the DVD. My hands folded laundry while my heart was comforted by words of "Infinite Hope" which was the topic of the tour and exactly what I needed that very moment. Hope.

"Here's another thing about Heavenly Father's love. It comes in unforeseen ways. Sometimes in ways that you never could have predicted. And yet is always exactly suited to our needs." Exactly as I heard these words, the sun broke through the clouds and into our window, warm and real. Just for me.

If you ever lose hope like me, in the way that I've just explained, you'll appreciate the advice by Emily Watts that became an answer to an unsaid prayer of deep sorrow. The peace her instruction gave me was a miracle if ever I've experienced one...

1. Never let go of the hope that children can improve, can progress, can grow. And not just children, but that you can improve and progress and grow.
2. Never lose hope that the work of motherhood is worth it.
3. Never lose sight of the hope that Heavenly Father knows who you are, knows what you do and stands ready to help you do it in ways that are so unforeseen that you might just have to blink to even recognize that that's what's happening.

I know He's there. I know it.

Mountain-top love.

I always forget to take our picture when we go out for a date night. I'm afraid I'm going to forget about the times we go do that stuff. Really afraid. Yesterday I was so bummed that he had to go to work that I totally forgot that we'd spent a wonderful weekend together. I have a weird memory. A selective memory. A self-serving memory. I think things like, "we never get any time alone!" when we absolutely do. A lot.

So I wanted to write a few quick notes here. Reminders that we really are romantic sometimes. Let me paint the picture...

1. We sat in the corner of a crammed bistro. We were overdressed and old compared to the crowd of angsty college students around us. There were free cookies, fresh out of the oven, and we ordered hot chocolate. So many students had come out to hear their friends perform in an open mic night (or because they heard about the free cookies) that the tables were being used as seating. The table next to us couldn't take the pressure and split. Literally in half- crashing with the weight of a bunch of girls who fell into a pile on the floor. Once we found out they were alright, we still didn't laugh (right then) because it would have been rude. Instead we played cribbage, listened politely to the poetry readings, and footsied under the table.

2. We dined at McMenamins. Decadent for our little budget. Every bite was heaven. While we played cribbage we reminisced about our courtship and even confessed a few secrets. After knowing one another well for nearly 9 years, those giggly secrets are becoming more rare. We were sublimely content together in our little booth.

3. We walked around goodwill. I ogled the $10 jewelry they keep in their glass case. Duke found the perfect corduroy sports-coat. They had to kick us out at closing time (which happens to us a lot).

4. We played footsy and cribbage while we ate cheesecake and chocolate pie at The Konditorei. Our deserts didn't disappear completely because they were so deliciously rich. We stared at our food and eventually pushed the plates away, which is a very abnormal scene around this household.

5. We drove with friends to Portland for a night of dancing; can you believe it? The sweet music of the 80s rang out all around us. The Crystal Ballroom's floor bounced to the beat as we jumped and swayed and generally rocked-out amidst the crowd. We didn't dress-up per say, but I crimped my hair, wore bright-red lipstick, and felt super adorable. Duke pegged his pant-legs for the occasion. We people watched. We ate pizza on the ballroom's balcony at midnight. It was the dancing experience I'd had a hankering for. We stood in front of a giant fan to air out our armpits and everything! I'll admit that we'd never heard The Cure's "Close to Me" before that night. When it came on we looked at one another and all the background noise and movement faded into a dark blur, just like in the movies. All I could see was him. All I wanted in the world was him. We were 18 again for a dance. I know he felt it, too (she said in her most cupid-struck tone) because although we never said a word about it, on the drive home he simply stated, "we should download Close to Me by the Cure." I loved him then with that mountain-top love, you know? Like if our passionate feelings change like a tide. This was the tops.

I should probably quit before I make someone throw up.

Oh, hey we're on a sugar diet together and everything smells like cookie-dough right now.

The end.


I am shockingly optimistic about his terrible twos.

He can be moody-broody. If looks could really kill, his stink-eye would burn his victim into charcoal so that the wind could dramatically blow them to pieces. I can't help laughing when he does it- here's the part where the hope comes in- and as soon as I crack a smile he feels so proud that he's made me happy that he forgets why he was mad in the first place.

I've never met a more forgiving child. A more cheerful child. A more grateful child. His most-used words are "thank you" and his most horrible tantrums end in laughter.

I'm sure he will get into a ton of stuff he shouldn't. I'm sure potty-training will present the regular challenge. But he'll look at me with those beautiful blue eyes and grin his goofiest grin. And I'll melt like a Popsicle on the fourth-of-July (which is a lot less painful than being turned into a charcoal statue and blowing away, but it leaves a bigger mess).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

get it while it's hot.

I've been slowly coming around to the realization that life will not always be exactly the way it is now. My siblings will probably move away. My children will grow tall. My grandpa will one day leave us to be reunited with his life's love.

This Thanksgiving I've been thankful for the present. For the joy I have each day with my family around me. When we went around the dinner table, taking turns to express our gratitude for something special, I shared my love for photography. Really, I meant I am thankful for now. And that I have a way to preserve it for later. Leftovers in the freezer when the holidays are past for a time.

So I made a special effort to catch the reality of now. No cheeses. Just the way it really is at Grandpa's for dinner. I hope you enjoy a peek into our present and a record worthy of our future reminiscing.

Just try to sneak a piece of Turkey...

Duke's not afraid to chop fingers...

Even hiding in the washroom, everyone will come sniffing.

The boys play underfoot in the kitchen, no matter how many times we tell them to take the party elsewhere.

Mom is always the master chef. The rest of us help with sides and such.


I will sneak you a couple of bites. But don't tell daddy.

Uncle Brenny sets the table. He'll be off to work soon, but we love the time we have him to ourselves.

We leave our plates upside down until we give our thanks.

And more turkey thieving.

Kissing when we find ourselves in an empty room for a brief moment.

Baby faces. Snuggling. Loafing. Reading. Texting. Talking politics.

Oh, and grandpa has the best toy closet.

We come together for the feast. Smiling. Sharing. Laughing. Thanking. Talking talking. Praying.

And eating.

After the plates are scraped clean everyone lobbies for the position of "baby-holder." In this case grandpa wins. His booming voice sends her slumbering.

We slow down to half-speed. We half-chat. Half-nap. We're fully content.

Then a few of us remain at the table for games (usually dominoes) while the rest of us retire to the living room for relaxing or wrestling, depending on our preference.

Uncle Billy soaks in the craziness during his visits. I think we fill his chaos tank to keep him going while he's at home in the beautiful Washington forest. He always comes back when his tank runs low.

I cherish so many things about grandpa's home. It really a place of love. When my grandma was alive she often sang...

There is beauty all around,
When there’s love at home;
There is joy in every sound,
When there’s love at home;
Peace and plenty here abide,
Smiling sweet on every side,
Time doth softly, sweetly glide,
When there’s love at home.

I imagine she watches over us often and is proud of the legacy she left. The home she built with my grandpa wasn't made with walls and a roof, but with loving invitations, effort in areas of kindness and acceptance, and with a constant devotion to family.

Things are always changing. How wonderful to be alert to the present joys while they're happening. I want always to live in thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

baby face.

My, how we are loving our baby girl.

People keep asking me if I've noticed anything different between her and the boys yet. No, not really. Except when she gets mad, she gets MAD. Like if I'm nursing her and I stop to burp her before she's had her fill, she absolutely flips. Or if I bend her finger slightly-crooked as I try to get her tiny hand in a sleeve, it's the end of the world. But I bet there are many sensitive boys and a large sampling of rough-and-tumble baby girls out there, too.

Here she is, mad that we didn't immediately free her from her car-cage when we walked through the door...

Generally though, she is the sweetest baby you'll ever see. She sleeps through most night, lets the boys smother her with affectionate (slimy) kisses, and takes in the world with wide-eyed-wonder. When she's not sleeping (20+ hours a day), she is usually contently eating. When she's neither sleeping nor eating, she wants us to stand her up. She holds her head high and works her muscles, like she plans to be the first jazzersizing baby.

And she sticks her tongue out...

We fit the stereotype of doting parents perfectly, don't you think?

I'm pretty sure her fist steps will happen on water. (Since she's perfect, you know. Get it?)

Easy home-made nativity.

How about an easy jenga-block and linkin-log nativity idea?

I loved this project! This whole set only took me about an hour or so to make! And since I used the scrap fabrics that I already had, it's very "us." Meaning we match it. Literally.

Anyway, I nailed some linkin logs together to make the stable arch and manger. 8 jenga blocks did the trick. And 3 small linkin-logs for the sheep and baby.

(Don't you love our cluttered counter? It's a peek into our life right now, behind the scenes. Breast pump. Sea monkey tank. Ingredients for grilled-cheese sandwiches.)

Back to Bethlehem! I cut out a bunch of rectangles of fabric to make their little robes and hat-things. I also used any bows or buttons that I liked. It was like picking all of the costumes for a tiny church play! Only the children would be screaming if you secured their clothes with a glue-gun.

Luckily we had a little, button star floating around the house so I grabbed that up and used fishing line to attach it to another small button (about an inch and a half apart). Then I hot-glued the small button to the bottom of the archway.

This morning I found these three kings hiding in our vacuum. That's another thing I like about this nativity. It's just blocks! I don't have to worry about a piece getting lost. I've got a partial jenga set left over (mostly scattered around in the backyard mud) in the case a shepherd leaves home to seek his fortune.

Yarn hair. Ribbon wings. I set the angel on a wooden block.

My favorite are the sheepies. Using white and gray yarn, I fashioned small pom-poms and fluffed the string out. They cheer me up.

I love hearing the boys play with the figures. I especially love when the cradle baby linkin-log Jesus in their arms and take turns giving him kisses. Heaven.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I've got everything that I need right in front of me.

I'm pretty excited for the new muppet movie.

Mostly because of what I've heard of the music. Duke and I couldn't resist learning this one together...

The song is too new, so there aren't any chords posted online or anything. We spent a couple of hours trying to learn the song by watching tiny clip fragments that have been released. Time well spent, since we were working together, growing closer, and laughing a lot. We're pretty proud of ourselves.

I love singing with him. I love having him by my side. I love being so in love.

PS-Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords supervised the music for the muppet film. Huzzah.

In the case that someone wants to sing along with their sweetheart, I'll post what we came up with for chords. No promises on accuracy. Enjoy, you lovers everywhere.

(Click the picture to enlarge)