Thursday, November 20, 2014

Choices

The Man and I are just a month or so shy of six years of marriage, so I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes a marriage work and why. I don't write a lot about my marriage here because the Man likes his privacy and because I'm hardly an expert on the subject--and naturally, I only write here on topics in which I am qualified to give well thought out advice.

Cue hysterical laughter.

Anyway, let me start out by saying I've never been one of those to hold much stock in "true love". I love the Man, don't get me wrong, but it's all too easy to be in love one day and out of it the next. If you asked me what I believed marriage was about, I would've said commitment. And that's a terribly practical answer and not necessarily wrong, but also a little on the cold side.

Commitment, all on its lonesome, can leave you hanging on by the skin of your teeth. That kind of commitment is a little bit like my first birth story: I was doing it without pain medication even if it killed me! (Incidentally, it didn't kill me.) (Neither has marriage.) (The kids might.) (Also, needles in my spine are scary.)

Lately, though, I've been thinking about how marriage, and the deepening love that comes alongside it, is more about recognizing the small moments of tenderness and laughter, allowing the perspective with which you see your married life to be colored by those little gifts.

Maybe it has less to do with "This man is the all encompassing love of my life" (and the flip side of that coin: "so help me, I will stay married to this man or die trying") and more to do with taking note of who it is you married and the incredible person they are becoming.

It's laughing at the just-for-you joke he made (which may possibly have included an Alias reference).

It's savoring each bite of the Vietnamese summer rolls he brought home for you in the late afternoon as a pre-dinner "appetizer".

It's returning the favor when he nails you between the eyes with a sweet potato fry midway through supper. Don't let it bother you when you miss his head by several inches.

It's treasuring the fact that he put sambal on the roasted asparagus, knowing that he loves your culture too.

It's being grateful for the rearranged study schedule, instead of guilty that you're needing extra help at home.

It's racing the shopping carts at Costco after raiding all the free samples together--and not even coming close to beating him…in the shopping cart race, not the free sample gathering. You've got him on that one. Trust me.

It's knowing that no difficult conversation, no enforced separation, no difference of opinion, no full blown argument, no anything will outweigh the fun of being with him because suddenly you find that you're actually paying attention to who he really is, instead of just skating by on emotion or grit.

She's trying to usurp my place with her cuteness and subtle cunning, but I will prevail.
No other pictures available thanks to the Man's strong anti-camera stance.

Marriage, like most things in life, turns out to be more about perspective than I realized. Perspective and laughter and kindness.

And the great thing is that these are choices we can make even when we're not necessarily feeling those same first flutters of what we like to call "love", and not in a grit-my-teeth-and-get-through-it kind of way.

We can choose to invite laughter into our homes.

We can choose to be kind.

We can choose to see them for who they are now instead of who they used to be or who we want them to be.

We can choose--even when it's hard. And really, I think that's pretty wonderful.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Let's Play a Game!

And the game is called: What's! In! The! Library! BAG!!!

Although really, I guess it should be: What's! In! The! Library! BAG!?! But that just seems like I'm confused, and I'm not because obviously I know what's in the library bag.

Moving on.

Here's what we've been reading in our house. Jump on in and share some more suggestions because at some point, our stash will be returned to the library and we will need to restock--and I can do so from the comfort of my recliner now because YAY for libraries with online catalogues and the option to reserve books.


What People Do Storybook by Richard Scarry :: This has turned in a quick favourite with the boys. There has been uproarious laughter as well as a lot of learning going on. I didn't anticipate the conversation about supply and demand, but I gave myself a check mark for homeschooling and moved on.

The Children's Book of Virtues edited by William J. Bennett, illustrated by Michael Hague :: Beautiful illustrations, and the kids and I are enjoying the stories and poems as well. Also great fodder for meaningful conversation.

Feelings by Aliki :: This book couldn't have been more timely (the Terrific but Tantruming Two's are upon us). We followed it up with Dr Seuss's My Many Colored Days and have been really delving into how we talk about and deal with our emotions. And the best part is that neither book is preachy, but they each tackle feelings in interesting and accessible ways.


Urban Babies Wear Black by Michelle Sinclair Colman, illustrated by Nathalie Dion :: Why don't my urban babies drink lattes? Next on the library list is Beach Babies Wear Shades, mostly because I feel like I've fallen down on the job with my urban babies--no opera, no gallery viewings, and not even any taxis.

I'm Dirty by Kate and Jim McMullan :: The boys were anxiously awaiting this book--and I now know more about the backhoe than I ever wanted to know. Next on their list: I Stink. And if you can guess what that's about, you can come read it over and over (and over) again to my children!

Somewhere in the World Right Now by Stacey Schuett :: A fellow TCK and extra-sister suggested this book, and it's no surprise why: it happens to be a perfect fit for our wide-flung family. Stacey Shuett takes you around the world, time zone by time zone, giving you a glimpse into the culture and peoples of each continent. I counted this one for school too. Geography for the win!

Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola :: I love Tomie dePaola. This one was on the heavy side.


The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco :: Littles said it best (and yes, this is verbatim), "The Bee Tree is my favourite this week after the Bee Incident." Who is this kid?! Did I teach him the word "incident"? Is our family truly that awesome? Yes, we must be...

Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman :: David Soman also wrote the Ladybug Girl books, and he's a perennial favourite in our home. Three Bears in a Boat was both beautiful and engaging.

Little Critter's Read-It-Yourself Storybook by Mercer Mayer :: Little Critter will make multiple appearances in our home from now on. That should say it all.

Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too by Anna Dewdney :: The boys and I have long been fans of the Llama Llama books (although getting the Little Man to watch The Emperor's New Groove is like pulling teeth), and we enjoyed spending some more time with Nelly Gnu. The boys now have an uncontrollable need to build box houses, but I distracted them with cardboard swords and shields.

A Child's Book of Art selected by Lucy Micklethwait :: I've been flipping through this with the kids and calling it a day for art class. I do homeschooling the lazy way.


We've been reading a lot lately…and you know what? Snuggling with the boys and reading to them is my favourite part of my "job". It really is. So I make sure to do it. A lot. And I'm really ready for the twins to be able to join the dog-pile of children because cuddles and books make everything better. For real.

Also, for the inquiring minds that need to know, we are working on getting a family picture with all six of us included, but technically (technically!) the picture in the photos (that's so meta) is of all six of us, since it was taken the week I found out I was pregnant with the twins, except we didn't quite know it was twins yet.

{I included the links to Amazon in case you want to read more about the books or look for them yourself, not because I'm getting paid something or think you should only ever buy from Amazon. I didn't buy any of these books as should be evident by the word "library" repeated multiple times in this post...}

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Out of the Overflow

So I've been thinking a lot about what I'm doing here…on the blog, I mean. I write about books and life and heart-issues and my crazy kids and military life and whatever else happens. And Jesus... I'm pretty sure I write about Him too. Sometimes I think I should be more focused. You know, there are food bloggers and DIYers and faith writers, and I wonder at times, have I just not found my niche?


But I like what I'm writing. I like what this space has become. I just don't understand it enough to place a label on it.

This week, though, I think I figured it out. Here's what I've decided:

I'm writing out of the overflow.


Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. {Name! That! Movie!} The word "overflow" specifically reminds me of two separate verses that tie in nicely:

"For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34) and those evocative words from Psalm 23, "My cup overflows."

Naturally and nerdily, I did a little research on the word "overflow" and its related word "abundance." I studied their meanings and word origins and looked through various verses that contained them. And it confirmed what I'd been thinking.


While living in the overflow means rejoicing in the incredible goodness that's been given us, sometimes it feels like drowning.

Let me explain.

Our house is the epitome of this concept. We are running over with kids (obviously), books, dog hair, dishes, dirty laundry, random military gear, etc. My To Do list never ends. My grocery cart is brim full. My stroller needs a couple more seats. And sometimes, I think, when people walk by our house, they can hear the sounds of the Frizz clan pouring out over the window sills--giggling, shrieking, yelling, singing, dancing, stomping, crying.


These are good things. Wonderful, gracious gifts. Right now the branches of our thanksgiving tree are weighted down with cards full of Alex's crooked handwriting. God has filled our hands with wonderful gifts. He has given us a good measure, pressed out, shaken together, and running over (Lk 6:38).

At the same time, sometimes all those "wonderful, gracious gifts" can just be overwhelming. It's like a waterfall, you know? Incredibly awe-inspiring and beautiful, and sometimes you want to feel risky enough to go over it in a barrel…but you're holding your breath the whole way down.

This is the overflow. And I think that's what I'm writing about here.


Sure, sometimes what makes it to the blog is just an excess of coffee or me purging my demons of writing, but for the most part, no really, pretty much always, its one way to let the overflow out so that I let it be that awe-inspiring waterfall instead of trying, desperately, to dam it up and control it.

At any rate, this way, we'll all enjoy the heart stopping excitement of going over the edge together, preferably in an adequately water proof barrel. Someone make sure to pack the snacks.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Thanksgiving Tree

Since Halloween is over (unfortunately leaving a terribly tempting amount of chocolate in the house), I decided to move our tiny pumpkins indoors and start our Thanksgiving preparations. 



Last year I was planning to do a Thanksgiving tree with the boys. We were going to go look for some branches, and then write what we were thankful for on little cards and attach them to the "tree". Then I got put on bed rest. So that kind of blew that idea.

But this year, lo and behold, I am not desperately trying to keep in unborn twins. So Monday, we loaded the twins in the stroller and went looking for branches.


May I say: it was a lot easier to find them here than it would've been in Oklahoma. There are trees here. How fun! Although I really wish that last year we had just found a giant tumbleweed and let that do the trick.


Naturally, the boys each picked their own massive huge branch to bring home, and neither could be talked into a smaller branch or leaving theirs behind in favor of their brother's. This has ended in a somewhat scraggly monstrosity, but you can't say it doesn't have character!


The kids and I have been having fun writing what we're thankful for on the little cards we printed, courtesy of Jones Design Company (there are several different card options, if you're wanting to make your own). Some of us (LITTLES) have had a little too much fun. The Man tried to add a card of his own the other night, but he was holding Bruiser and the wiggles got him. Pen scribbles everywhere.


At any rate, I have since rearranged the pinecones in the pitcher, which then shifted the branches, which put them directly in the line of Bee's grabby hands (I was holding her at the time), which nearly brought our entire Thanksgiving Tree to ruin, but thankfulness prevailed and lived to tell the tale. 

So far, it's been a fun way to make this month special. Except now I'm perpetually thinking about Thanksgiving food. Turkey and dressing… Pumpkin pie… Sweet potato casserole… Gravy…. Yum...

{If you're interested in making your own Thanksgiving Tree and the cards at Jones Design Company aren't your cup of tea, Ann Voskamp also offers some leaf shaped options with verses about thanksgiving on one side and a space for you to write what you're grateful for on the other.}

Monday, November 3, 2014

Rambling. Because I Can.

I'm writing tonight mostly because it felt weird not to. After a full month of daily writing, taking the weekend off was nice but not quite as exciting as I thought it was going to be. Besides which, I thought we'd knock out a few house keeping items after a month of talking about transition.

First off, for the inquiring minds that want to know, this year for Halloween the boys were "happy" until the Man opted out of trick or treating in the rain at which point they were "consoled by the chocolate we'd bought for other kids." Let us hear no quibbling about how "happy" is not a character or something one can dress up as. That's what they were. End of story.

Still happy.
And yes, still in pajamas.
Because why get dressed and make more laundry?

I dressed up as "slacker Mom", and the twins were similarly attired as hipster baby (Bruiser) and international baby (Bee). All aforementioned persons not pictured because they were in pajamas most of the day and only changed into their faux costumes shortly before bedtime. Let's be honest, I changed into a clean hoodie in case I had to give out candy. My hoodie said, "Meh." I thought that was appropriate.

The sword and shield got progressively
more heavily decorated over the weekend.
By Sunday you couldn't even tell
they were made out of a carseat box...

On the whole, I will give this Halloween an "A" for "not on my Agenda", but I get extra credit for making the boys those killer masks, swords, and shields. Floppy cardboard is my friend.

During the creative process.
Not sure what the boys are doing.
Pretending to be dead?
That's my approach to Halloween too.
Moving on, I'm hoping to do a little revamping of the blog this month as part of Prep and Purge November (we also have a couple closets and the garage that need some serious elbow grease). One of the things I'm considering is making a separate Facebook page for my blog. That would provide readers with the option to "like" said page and get updates automatically from there. That way I'm not flooding everyone's newsfeed from my personal page. Thoughts, questions, concerns? Speak now or forever hold your peace?

Other important things you need to know: the twins are both mobile and crawling like little fiends, although Bruiser really looks like he's doing the Worm instead of crawling. They also decided yesterday that the bath was a great place to learn how to pull up. It went something like this.

Bee, kneeling at the edge of the tub: Look at me, I'm all the way on my knees!
Bruiser, pulling up to stand: Oh yeah? I can get up on my feet! Eat that!
Bee, looks at him in disgust and follows suit: Anything you can do, I can do better!
Me, yelling desperately for the Man: I need another pair of hands in here!!!

And that's pretty much how things have been going in our home lately (we did finally buy a baby gate for the stairs, but have yet to install it). Daylight savings spun us for a loop. So much so that any time Bruiser put a finger on Bee today, she decided to shriek hysterically like he was killing her. Considering that they sit next to eat other at every meal and share all the same toys, it's been loud.

The apples of each others' eye.

Littles is continuing to plug away at school. We made our Thankfulness tree today (more on that later) and he's had a little too much fun writing all the words he knows on our "I'm thankful for…" tags. Evidently, he's very thankful for Tiny. What can I say? Tiny has the easiest name to spell in our family.

Don't let his dream boat eyes and
precious half smile fool you.
According to Bee, he's a killer baby.
I wouldn't go that far, but I have been known
to refer to him as "vampire baby",
"cannibal baby", and "little mosquito".
Kid puts his teeth to good use.

There were other really important items of interest I was planning to include, but, as is typically the case, I can't remember now what any of them were. So on that inspirational note, I'm going to go put away the carrot raisin muffins I just made (and grated half my thumb nail into) and head on to bed.

And maybe, just maybe, we'll tackle something a little more cohesive later in the week.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Day Thirty-One: Reality

It rained today (which made me happy), and we had a handful of trick-or-treaters stop by while I was putting the twins in bed and we were diligently exposing our children to the classic TV show, Man v. Food, during Pizza, Smoothie, and a Movie night. (Calling it SPAM never caught on unfortunately.)


It's the last day of October, the last day of daily writing, the last day of thinking purposefully about this weird in between space I'm in right now. Somehow I really think I had tricked myself into believing there would be this massive transformation and the end of October would include a glittery denouement of awesome.

There's not.

Because when you're in the between, that's where you are, until you look around one day and discover suddenly that you're not any more and haven't been for a while. It sneaks up on you like that.


I want to tie it all together tonight, but I'm so tired that I can't even remember what all I've written this month. Although I'm pretty sure I remember at least one note about being tired. And something about bees. And I think I gave you guys a tour of the house.

Basically, I'm pretty sure I covered all the important stuff.


At the end of the day, what I've been focusing on these last few weeks has been the why behind it all.

Our family goes through another move, resettling, rerooting, rebuilding, all for fifteen months, and for what? So we can be together, as God and the Air Force move us around the country. And what a blessing to be together. I'm being honest here: I really love the being together part.

Our family trucks through months of sleeplessness and screaming babies and endless bottles of infant tylenol, and for what? So we can enjoy to the fullest the wonderful gift of two unexpected babies, with or without teeth, who have made our lives richer, if more sleep deprived.

Our family rearranges our schedule to include phonics and numbers and read a-louds and a screwed up cleaning schedule, and for what? So the Little Man can stay home with Tiny and the rest of us while still exercising his brain muscles.

These changes take time. And sometimes they are painful.


Really, transition is a lot like teething. It starts hurting long before you see anything happening in the baby's mouth. First there's the drooling and then the swelling and then maybe a few spots of red on the gum and then tiny pin-prick holes where the tooth might be coming through, and then one morning you wake up and there it is. But while it's happening, the innocent bystander (usually the parent) may have absolutely no idea why suddenly their baby is acting like a complete lunatic unless they pry open the baby's mouth and look in and even then it depends on how far the tooth has gotten…but you get the point.


Even in the teething (and the transition) there are moments when life is good and beautiful, and you have people who love you and good food to keep your stomach in its happy place and rainy days for snuggling and sunny days to sit outside on the quilt in the grass, and you can remind yourself that teething doesn't last forever and that the end result will allow you to eat really wonderful things like pizza.

In the same way, I'm reminding myself that transition doesn't last forever and that the end result will allow me to live more fully because every challenge and every change presents the opportunity to draw closer to Christ.


And if there's one thing that I know it's that being close to Christ is what true life is about, not being stable or thinking I've got everything under control or even feeling like I have a life other than littles and legos and laundry.


So this, let's end here: transition is temporary. At the very least, it can only last 80-90 years. And what do we have at the end? Jesus. The never changing one. The one who never leaves us or forsakes us. The one who always is and always will be.

And we can enjoy the constancy of who He is now while we're in the midst of this, or we can find ourselves lost in these between moments and allow them to swallow us up and take us under.


On a final honest note, knowing Jesus doesn't change the reality. I'm still tired. I still don't have enough time for everything I want to accomplish during the day. I still wish there were a couple more of me to go around. My body literally aches at the end of the day. The Man has given up having conversations with me after 930 because I'm falling asleep mid-sentence when I'm the one talking. Today one of my children (who shall remain nameless) fell down the stairs. Yesterday while I was plunging the toilet, Tiny lovingly fed Bee a whole cashew. This is my reality.

But--knowing Jesus changes the why, because I remember that the reality belongs to Him. And if the reality belongs to Him then it matters. And if this in between time matters, then it's worth it. It's not a waste of time. It's not just a systematic breaking down of everything I am. It's not just something I have to get through.

It is purposeful. It has worth. It's His.

Everything else
is over here.

{Thank you so much for joining me this month. I've appreciated more than I can say your comments and feedback and well-wishes. You make writing even more of a joy than it already is.}

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day Thirty: The House Plant

This year for Mother's Day, the Little Man gave me a potted plant. I mentioned during the house tour that I was going to come back to it later. Considering that this is the second to last day of October, it can't really get much later than this.


The fact that this houseplant is still alive is a miracle. First, it had to survive my black thumb. Then, it had to survive the move here. And finally, it had to survive my black thumb. (Wait, did I remember to mention my black thumb?)

But seriously: green things start experiencing deep rooted (haha) trauma as soon as they're brought into my presence.

I really was legitimately worried that our little plant wouldn't make it through this move though. So much so that I gently suggested to Littles that we regift it to a more stable home before our move. Incidentally, the Man thought that was terrible. But Littles was so sure we could provide all the love and care our plant needed, so we tucked it in between the driver's seat and the passenger seat, and proceeded to drive halfway across the country with it.


It got knocked over a couple of times before I figured out the perfect way to wedge it in there. So yes, there was more than a little bit of dirt scattered along the floor boards, but it was hanging in there. I've never been so proud of a plant in my life.

When we moved in to the new house, I thought we were home free. I put it on the green mosaic table on the porch and patted myself on the back.

The next morning I found it on its side on the porch, two feet away from the table. Thinking some freak windstorm had sprung up during the night, I scooped the loose dirt back in and put it back on the table.

Same thing the next morning. Thinking I'd learned my lesson, I moved it to the ground. But the tragic demolition of the plant continued. One time it even made it all the way to the sidewalk.

Really, now that I think of it, these may have been escape attempts. Maybe the plant was trying to get back to Oklahoma. Or just away from me.


Anyway, having now lost several teaspoons of soil, possibly tablespoons, I finally wised up and moved it inside where it may be exposed to loud shrieking and the occasional thrown football but is at least not in peril of being blown over repeatedly.

Unfortunately, the damage had already been done. A significant portion of the roots had been knocked loose and an unsightly number of leaves were yellowing.

I thought our plant was a goner.

I kept watering it faithfully and whispering sweet words of encouragement…and preparing Littles for the eventual end.

But then I realized what the plant really needed (probably) was just some more dirt. Unfortunately, that was harder to come by than I realized. Our back yard, if you recall, consists of some tastefully strewn wood chips.

But lo and behold, what should our refined and thoughtful guests bring us when they came for dinner last week but a pot of mums! So a couple of days ago, I let our new mums share a little bit of their dirt with my tiny, yellowing houseplant. And wouldn't you know it? While some of the bottom leaves are still yellow, there's already a new bloom, and I would swear on my life that plant looks happier.


So where is my point in all of this? Because you know I don't ramble along about plant life for no good reason.

The point is that I've felt a lot like that plant these last couple of months. I've been knocked about a bit, lost some dirt here and there. My roots, and sometimes my nerves, have been exposed, left to the elements, unprotected. And maybe I just need someone to give me some dirt from a new place so that I can sink my roots back in and get some nourishment so I can bloom again.

There is something about change that shakes us about and leaves us feeling a bit bare and naked. We stretch out our roots to try to find stability again, to try to engage, because we know that rootlessness means stunted growth, but sometimes all we're making contact with is air. We need the gift of a little dirt. We need someone, somewhere, to welcome us into this new space (whether physical and metaphorical) and say, "Here. Grow. Bloom. Set down roots and be welcome here."

Thank you to those of you who are sharing a bit of dirt with me, whether that is in the form of a shared meal or a pot of flowers or the simplicity of a conversation. Thank you. And to those of you looking on as some plant near you tries to put out tenuous roots, give them a little bit of soil--and just see the beauty that unfolds.

My leaves may still be a bit yellow at the bottom, but there are new blooms opening.

Find the rest here.