thoughts from last night.

I spent last night at the local urgent care. I've been frequenting different urgent cares more than I anticipated this summer. (With V breaking her arm in Maryland and all.) Let's hope I get a year off starting today. 

Poor Timmy. Birdie slammed his finger (unknowingly...obviously) between the heavy sliding doors separating the family room from the sun room. At first I didn't really know anything had happened because Timmy didn't scream out right away. I assume he was in shock. But as he pulled his finger from the door, blood was spraying all over the place, and I knew it was serious. The laceration required 3 stitches, and by the pictures you can see that the only way to perform the little operation was to bind him in a baby papoose. The whole thing was as awful as you can imagine. It was just me, Timmy and Birdie, and I struggled to soothe either child. 

He's all bandaged up now and on his way to healing, but my heart still feels a little shredded. As I sat by his side, rubbing his cheeks with the corners of his blanket and softly singing "You are my sunshine" repeatedly, my heart ached to see him in so much pain. He didn't understand what was happening, and he definitely didn't like being restricted, and all that he wanted was for me to hold him. The moment I did, he quieted down and nestled his little head into my shoulder cavity--the way only kids can, and time stood still for a minute. 

This morning as I contemplated the experience, I thought of my relationship with my Heavenly Father. Just like Timmy, I hate being restricted. My natural inclination is to rebel against anyone/anything trying to restrict me. But sometimes God has to restrict me, and he does it for my benefit, even if I'm thrashing at the seams, trying to break free. But in those moments, if I can calm my spirit just a little as Timmy did a few times last night during the operation, I can feel a gentle voice inside my head humming or whispering words. Sometimes I think those words are just my own, but what if they're not. What if God does for me exactly what I did for Timmy? What if he sings to me? Or whispers encouraging words to my soul? Why couldn't he do that? That's what I've always done for my children when they're hurt or sad and don't understand why they're going through something hard. Why wouldn't he do the same for me? 

I believe he does. I believe he's there, even in our restrictions and pain. He knows us perfectly just as I know my own children. They are under my stewardship just as I am under his. I hope I can remember this when I am asked to pass through something that makes me want to cry big alligator tears and scream for someone to hold me because perhaps then I will be still and realize he's already there.

I used to be cool.

Four days a week I drive up behind a black Honda Odyssey with a bumper sticker that reads, "I used to be cool." And everyday I laugh. It's like those words scream at me. Me and my mom butt of a van. All vans look like they are dragging along a mom butt behind them. I had to swallow some serious pride when Tim and I took hold of our van keys nearly 3 years ago. It was like a sucker punch to both of our stomachs. And no amount of telling us about all the bells and whistles the van had to offer could lessen the blow. We knew it--we were about to drive around the mom butt for the foreseeable future.

And so yes lady with the black Honda Odssey, I hear you loud and clear. I used to be cool too. ;)

I've always thought the bumper sticker referred to the car and not the person in the car, but tonight as I walked Blue around my dark neighborhood in Tim's saggy, old basketball shorts, no bra, a family reunion shirt and greasy hair, I thought of that bumper sticker again. Have I been wrong all along? Does it refer to me and not my van? I thought of what I must look like to anyone passing by in their car and thought, perhaps it does refer to me and my tired, mom look. Perhaps it does.

I thought about this all the way home as Blue meandered around the dying flower beds and mailboxes. Am I not cool? (To be quite honest, I don't know if I've ever actually been "cool.") But is motherhood equated with being uncool? I'd bet the people at the post office this morning thought motherhood was very uncool when Birdie decided to throw a screaming tantrum with drool falling out of her mouth just because I wouldn't buy her greeting cards we didn't need. (Why does the post card always have that annoying rack?!) And people probably don't think it's cool when I walk around with boogers on the edge of my sleeves because my kids have an endless supply of boogers and I'm always experiencing a tissue shortage. And I bet people really don't think I'm cool when I step on an airplane with 5 kids in tow because all their thinking about is how long the flight is and what amount of time my child/children will be crying during it.

There are so many uncool things about motherhood--like the ones I just listed. I totally get it. I do. I find myself lame more than I can tell you. But do you know who doesn't think I'm lame (unless I'm doling out chores and such)--my kids think I'm cool.

Mya is constantly asking for advice on style, and she's told me a lot that she can't wait to get older to borrow a few of my pieces. Elle begs me to straighten her hair just like mine several times a week. Birdie always mimics the way I talk and what I say. Just today I heard her telling Blue, "Well, cap Boo. Cap." (Cap = crap) And I laughed out loud. Genevieve is just like her daddy, and she usually doesn't want to do anything after school unless she's hugged me first and told me about her day. And Timmy is a human heart-eyed emoji, and he always has those baby blues directed at me.

I am the luckiest. Six people and one dog think I am the coolest thing on the planet. When they're not being stinkers, they often treat me like royalty. They're always wanting to brush my hair, do my makeup, help me bake, help me wash the dishes, read me stories, sing me songs, tell me jokes, do private concerts for me, show me crooked hand stands, hold my hand, and snuggle in bed. The list could really go on forever. I am so loved within these walls that sometimes I don't want to leave; there's a lack of love outside.

So I may be uncool in my Odyssey (I fully recognize that I am), and I may look like a mess 50% of the time, but I don't really care. Someone will always think I'm cool in this house, even if that person is not even 2 years old yet.

Ten years.

Ten years. I have loved the same man for ten years. And he has loved me too. I keep trying to think of some eloquent way to say all the words that are bursting inside me, but I keep falling short. I'm afraid words cannot adequately describe what I have felt and still feel during these past ten years, but I will do my best.

Without giving you the false impression that our marriage is perfect (I find perfection rather boring), I must admit that our marriage is as ideal as one can be. It is as sweet as apple pie and can also be as salty as the best french fry. Tim is my person. I am his. We'd be lost without each other. I can, without a doubt, state emphatically that we are each other's top priority. He tells me at least once a day that I am his favorite, and I do my best to tell him he is mine.

Of course there have been aches and pains and tears; no relationship can grow without them. But we have always been able to dig our way out of the darkness and find ourselves smiling and laughing again.

Please allow me to talk freely for a moment--I give you complete permission to roll your eyes, but I have write about this man that I married. People tend to tell me that I put Tim on some lofty pedal stool, and perhaps I do, but it's very hard for me to find glaring faults. I guess if you want me to make him feel more human, I'll tell you that he's the type of guy that when you tell him to wash the dishes, he will, but he'll overlook the dirty counters. To his credit, he always tells me that if I just remind him to wash the counters he will, but I never do because I always feel like it's an obvious task that needs to be done once the dishes are loaded in the dishwasher. So there--he's human. He's not perfect. He makes mistakes. But man, those mistakes are so small, it's almost embarrassing to write about.

Tim is good to his core. He is always honest and kind. I tell my girls to look for boys who are just as honest and kind. He has a way of running his hand through my hair or holding his hand over the small of my back that just makes me feel cared for and loved. He loves me so much. He tells me at least ten times a day. He is funny, smart, interesting, sensitive, thoughtful, and sweet. He has had to sacrifice most of his interests because we chose to grow our family by five more people plus one dog. Last year, I think he only watched one Michigan football game during the regular scheduled hour due to soccer games and other family outings, but he didn't complain at all. And if you know him, you know how much Michigan football means to him. And that's just one example of things he's learned to sacrifice over the years.

I love different things about Tim at different times, but lately I've been so attracted to and inspired by his ability to motivate people, especially me. He never uses many words, but rather he listens, nods and smiles, and once he's taken everything in, he asks a few simple questions to nudge further learning. He does this with me, our kids, the people at work, the young men at church and even peers. He is so subtle in his approach that people don't even realize he's motivating them, and they suddenly want to be better and make goals, but they don't know where those ideas come from. Tim motivates just about everyone he meets. He amazes me.

Everyday I am grateful that God placed us in similar places at just the right time. I could not have anticipated how good life would be with Tim. We both kinda jumped at marriage because we liked each other a whole lot and it seemed like the right thing to do, but we had no idea what we were doing. But we're figuring it out day by day and year by year. God has been so kind to us, even in our adversity, and we recognize his goodness all the time. I can't imagine my life with anyone else in any other place. No matter where our physical home has been or is, wherever Tim is, I am home.

a couple of thoughts on the world today.

Today I sent these goofballs off to third and first grade, respectively. These two don't get enough credit for all they do around the house, and having them in school will be a difficult transition for all of us--especially the babies--because they just add so much light, imagination, laughter and craziness to our daily routine. Without them, I swear my babies just look at me like I'm chopped liver, which I sort of am some days.

As I watched them hop out of the van and walk confidently into their elementary school, a piece of my heart sank--as it always does--at the beginning of each school year, knowing that not only will I miss the added joy they bring to our home but also that I cannot be with them everyday to protect them from any danger. As much as I love public school, I do not find it a safe place anymore.

In fact, I don't find many places safe anymore. I find myself shying away from big events such as concerts, parades, sporting events because you just never know what could happen. Obviously if the special event is something I've been dreaming of seeing/doing, then I can be persuaded out of of my fear, but for the most part, I don't like being in uncertain places.

I sound paranoid. I'm not. I promise. But I realize I sound like I am. Oh well.

On my walk with Blue tonight I thought of a phrase in The Book of Mormon that always remains in the back of my mind. I remember I was in Argentina when I felt the words first jump out at me. As a quick background of The Book of Mormon, it is a book of scripture, written anciently by prophets in the Americas. Tandem with the Bible, which I read almost daily, it helps me come to know Jesus Christ better.

But back to that particular phrase. In addition to spiritual guidance, the Book of Mormon also details the history of two different civilizations--their ups and downs, their strengths and weaknesses, and their wars against each other. Near the end of the book, the final prophet, Moroni, writes of the destruction of his people. He is alone and hiding from the people of the other civilization so as to stay alive. Describing his people (who were supposed to be the good guys), Moroni writes that they were a people "without civilization."

I had read this phrase a number of times before it stood out to me in Argentina, but I happened to read it the day after I heard of rioting in a well-known town below Buenos Aires. George W. Bush was visiting the country, and the Argentines of the area were not happy with his visit, so they burned most of the main drag by throwing torches through store windows and lighting fire to cars and buildings all over the place. The damage was tremendous. I saw the pictures in a newspaper that our neighbor had on his kitchen table. I was appalled. I couldn't believe something like this could happen, and then I remembered that phrase: a people "without civilization." And it hit me, they were no longer acting like humans, they were acting like animals, without regard for anyone or anything.

I remember saying a prayer that night, thanking God that riots weren't usual in the United States.

But now they are. Riots are normal now. People aren't considerate of others. Kindness is waning, especially where the roots of racism run deep. Not only are we fighting racism in our own communities, but we also have to be aware of imminent threats of terrorism, which has become so imbedded in the society that it's hard to be sure who is good and who is bad. It feels crazy. It really does.

I try to teach my kids kindness and respect. Believe me--we have had our fair share of difficult discussions; my kids do not live in a bubble. But I do not want them to live in fear, so I put on a brave front and do my best to smile as I let them walk away from me and into a school where I cannot be to protect them. I also don't want them to grow up thinking certain people act a certain way or are a certain way. I did not grow up that way, and I am doing my best to instill in them a way of seeing everyone in the best light possible. Whether someone else is a different race, religion, gender, etc., I try to help them find common ground. And we talk about the uncommon ground too because I would rather them be open about their questions with me than forming an incorrect opinion without all the facts.

We talk a lot about facts, but we also talk a lot about feelings. I think this is perhaps what is missing in society today. Everyone wants all the facts, and they aren't really concerned about the feeling aspect. You see it with religion. You see it in politics. You see it in the news. You see it everywhere. But what if we go back to feeling love for one another, and what if we go back to hoping that God is real and is actually watching all the craziness happen, and what if we go back to desiring the best for our neighbor. Wouldn't the world be a better place? Wouldn't our homes?

I guess my biggest fear these days is that people will lose themselves and become as the people of The Book of Mormon--without civilization. I am doing my part to fight this. Are you?

(On a side note: In an effort to be more neighborly, we invited our entire street over to our house for dinner this weekend. We were overwhelmed by the turnout. Every single family we invited came. Tim snapped this picture of our neighbors mingling and getting to know each other. I truly believe people want to and can be kind--sometimes they just need a little nudge in the right direction.)

Saying goodbye to summer

I have at least three thousand pictures saved on my phone or computer from this summer. Most the pictures are candid, with the kids swinging high into the sky, playing broom ball in the street outside our house, drawing chalk people up and down our driveway, chasing ducks across the lawn and back into the lake, fishing with a few pieces of bread and a net, kayaking to and from the beach to our dock, lying in the sun and finding pictures in the clouds, and make-believing the heck out of this summer.

It has been a wonderful summer. My kids have rarely asked for screen time; in fact, I often have to coax them inside to wind down from their busy outdoor lifestyle. I feel like I've been mostly absent from friends and texting (sorry friends!), but I also feel like I have really lived in the moment this summer.

Today as I rested on my neighbor's lawn and listened to the giggles of Genevieve and Elle as they worked together to make the swings twist around and around, I looked up to the sky and wondered how is this my life?!! My life is so rich and full of love--love that I offer to others and love that I receive from them in return (especially from my children). I sat there and wondered if I felt like I was lacking anything in my life and couldn't think of anything. Sure, we don't have furniture to fill certain rooms of our house and we aren't up to date on the latest technology trends, but I have all that I need (well, I guess I could use an extra hand or two because I almost always have three kids begging for my attention).

My life is not without heartache or pain. Believe me...I feel it. I have strained relationships with a few people, and those relationships tug at my very core (just ask Tim). Sometimes my kids yell at me. Today, one spit at me (she was quickly sent to time out). Sometimes my kids tell me I'm mean, and I feel sad because I don't really want to be mean, but I have to be firm. But no matter how many times my kids tell me I'm mean or I'm hurting their feelings, they have never uttered the words that I fear the most, "I hate you." I think those words would crush me.

This summer has brought us together in so many ways. We've really discovered the area in which we live, and we've tried so many new things together. It's also been hard from time to time because we're really all we have so we have had to learn to work through our differences quickly because there aren't any neighbors to run to; we have had to learn to run to each other.

I wish I could tell you about all the plays/recitals I watched over the summer months--each one with a new theme and a new song/story. I wish I show you all of the towers my kids created with those awful, tiny Legos. I wish I describe all the happy memories we've created all over the map--Texas, California, Illinois, Indiana and Maryland. It has been a good summer, and I'm sad to see it go.

34 + 1 day.

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 34. I love my thirties, but I can't believe I'm 34. Life feels like a dream. So often I'll be out with my kids--no doubt looking ragged and tired--and someone will whisper to me, "Enjoy it all. Enjoy all the fingerprints. Enjoy the tiny, squeaky voices. Enjoy the noise. It will be gone before you know it. And it will be too quiet. And you'll wish for all the craziness again." I used to shrug and say, "I'm sure, but what I wouldn't give for a quiet moment now," but now I try to do as I'm told an appreciate all the chaos because my oldest baby is almost 9, and my youngest baby is basically off to college. Haha. But seriously. He's got such an old man face and demeanor that I see his life before my very eyes.

34. I am not who I thought I'd be at 34. I'm not sure who I thought I'd really be, but I'm sure I didn't see this vagabond life in my future. I thought back to when I turned 17--half my life ago--and I remember I could sense freedom in my veins. I turned 17 just before my senior year and felt like everything good was in front of me; I'd already dealt with my fair share of crap and figured it couldn't get much worse. I started researching colleges, buying color block dishware and stretching my curfew to new limits. I thought I knew what I wanted out of life, but the only problem was that I didn't know who I was. I was a mix of the people I hung around with. I was whoever my then-boyfriend wanted me to be. I was what my parents wanted me to be. I wasn't me.

I remember the first time I realized I didn't know who the hell I was. My roommate was out, and I was alone, lying on the cot-style bed the university provided for us in the dorms. I looked at all the pictures I'd tacked to my wall, and I didn't recognize the girl in any of them. I was too many people, and I knew it was time to strip away all the layers and find me.

Because I knew that if I didn't know who I was, then I most certainly didn't know where I was going.

Now 17 years later, I know who I am, and I like who I am. I like my strengths and appreciate my weaknesses. When I see pictures of myself, I feel proud of everything I've become. I see hard work in my muscles. I see long hours in my wrinkles. And I see love in my smiles. I've learned to be flexible with my future plans--nothing I've ever planned has really panned out, so I'm learning to trust in a greater plan. It's worked out okay this far.

At 34, I am happy. I am incredibly in love and connected to my husband, perhaps more so than in any previous year. I feel comfortable in my skin 40%-50% of the time. I feel sexy when I'm on a date. I feel strong when I'm doing pushups. I laugh at my kids more than I ever have. I catch myself smiling at the little things so often through out the day.

Thirty three wasn't perfect; I doubt 34 will be either, but if I stay true to God and myself, I know I will continue to find happiness, even if I don't know where I'm going.

Horseback riding

When I was little, I used to pray to go horseback riding at Convict Lake. It was a privilege--one we did not get every year--but when we did, I felt so special. I always felt larger than life sitting on one of those gentle giants. This year, when I told the kids we were going to the lake again, the first question they asked was if they were going to be able to go horseback riding. Not knowing if it would work out, I didn't promise anything, but I was so happy we could fit it into the schedule.

My children have a natural affection for animals. We joke that they are animal fairies--especially Genevieve. She can calm even the most anxious animal in a barn; it's pretty spectacular. I worried Birdie would get nervous because even though she loves most animals, she gets scared of the really big ones. But with a little coaxing from me, Genevieve and my dad, she mounted the horse without a tear. I was so proud! All the kids did great, and I can't wait to go again!