Thursday, May 10, 2018

Moving Military Kids

April was the month of the military child, and I planned to put up a post about my military kids at some point, but suddenly it’s May. And we're in the middle of another move. 

I hear a lot this time of year about how amazing our military kids are. And that’s true. They are resilient, courageous, and resourceful. But you know what else? They are also just kids. And we ask a lot of them. This is our eldest’s fourth move, and he is eight. That is fairly normal for military kids, if not on the low side. That means four times, he has said goodbye to his church, his neighborhood, and his friends. Four times, he has watched his entire home be packed up and taken somewhere new. Four times, he has started over again, making new friends, trying out new foods, exploring new places. Four times (more than that, really), his dad’s job has changed dramatically, which causes a marked shift in our family life. This is not unusual for military kids.

The highlight of temporary housing for Twinkles:
joining Trigger in the kennel.

I’ve seen the effects of stress on our kids more than usual this time around. One of my children had two a day accidents for two weeks until we started loading the trailer, at which point things went right back to normal. Two of my children responded to move month by refusing to listen to anything I said (it made for a fun last few weeks—ears seem to be mostly functional again). Early bedtimes have been resumed due to an uptick in meltdowns, tears, and in-fighting. Flexibility is up. Normalcy is down. Last minute changes (and last minute emergencies) are king. This is move month for the military kid.

Road trip stops

Doing it right

Move month is also Littles hanging out with his dad while the movers load the truck. It is teaching the kids how to say goodbye well. It’s having the Bigs help me take pictures off the walls, and Littles informing me that taping nails to the backs of frames is his favorite part of moving. It’s telling Bruiser every day how much longer until we leave to see grandparents. It’s getting in extra snuggles with all the kids and extra family time since the Man isn’t at work. It’s being blessed by neighbors and friends who want to see you one last time or bring you a meal because they remember how tiring it can be to move. It’s taking down bed frames and realizing that your kids are disgusting because no matter how many times you’ve vacuumed their room, they still manage to hoard stickers, old bandaids, and half eaten, pilfered biscotti behind their bunk beds. It is surviving broken dryers, flooded lodging, changed plans, long hours in the car, and each other's sometimes shortened tempers.

Sometimes you make use of deserted parking lots to
get a little scootering in while the baby nurses.

Moving is exhausting

Move month is a chance for these kids to grow and learn and explore…and receive extra cuddles because their hearts are feeling a little tender even if they’re excited about what’s next. I’m thankful for my military children, not because they are super human but because they are mine. They’ve greatly enriched my experience of being married to military, and I hope that they will love the way they’ve gotten to grow up. I know it’s not necessarily normal. But then again, because of it, neither are they.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Painting over Paintings

The Man is at the house hanging out with the packers as they box everything up, and I'm at temporary lodging listen to the kids play a very loud game of pretend that involves a set of rolling ottomans and probably imminent death. This is moving. Moving is also going back to the "old house" at least twelve different times for all the things I've forgotten (Tim's Atlanta Braves cap, the dog lead, the french press), frozen waffles (that the kids inform me are better than the ones I make homemade), squeezing in last minute stuff (like a half marathon, a women's retreat, and more time with friends), and trying to keep suitcases from exploding all over lodging (a near impossible feat).

This time, though, the biggest symbol of our move was painting over the "mural" in our living room. 2.5 years ago when we moved here, we discovered that half the walls were concrete and utterly immune to my attempts to hang pictures. I got a concrete drill bit and that worked in some places, but the living room wall refused to comply. Finally, I talked the Man into making a date night out of splashing some water based paint on the wall. I then spent the next few days taping off what I wanted, scrubbing off the rest, and adding a border to make it look like there was actual planning involved. It became a conversation piece every time we had guests over and really defined our living room. It became a happy memory for me of painting with the Man. It also helped me work through some of the sorrow I felt about my miscarriage and our latest move. And if you don't understand how splashing paint on a wall can help you process grief, I can't help you.

When I painted over it, all those memories came rushing back, and not just the memories but how they made me feel. I remembered both the laughter and the grief...and felt a little overwhelmed by how much there was of both of those even as we prepare to head to our 5th home in ten years. It took three coats of paint to cover up, and I left behind a plain white wall that the next tenants can break a drill bit on in their fervor for hanging paintings.

I may have cried a little bit, but as the Man said: there will be other walls to paint. There will be other memories to make. Other ways to remember. Other fun date nights. Other griefs that remind us of God's goodness. And we may paint over our favorite murals, but it doesn't actually get rid of them. It just puts them under a couple layers of paint, saving them for an archaeologist to find some day or--and this is more likely--preserving them (and the pen scribbles one of your artistic children added when you weren't looking) in your mind--and on your wall--forever. Even if you're the only one who remembers that they're there.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Before the Bluebonnet Goodbye

We've lived in south Texas for three springs now. The first spring we were settling in, and I thought: next year we should definitely get family pictures taken with bluebonnets, because have you really lived in TX if you haven't taken bluebonnet pictures? The second spring our family was adjusting to the joy and chaos of our bonus baby. Then this spring we were getting ready to move. And I had an unexpected minor surgery that left me with a less cool version of Harry Potter's scar. And the Man had some last minute trips to squeeze in. And we had a fun round of hand-foot-and-mouth. And the girls kept ending up with bumps and bruises on their face because they insisted on playing Swamp People with the boys and face planting off the curb into the road. But I really felt strongly about the necessity to embrace meaningful cliches because "have you really lived in TX if you haven't taken bluebonnet pictures?" is the spiritual equivalent of "have you really lived in OK if you haven't eaten at Braums?"

Thankfully, we were able to find a photographer brave enough to photograph the seven of us and flexible enough to reschedule us multiple times, and behold: bluebonnet pictures...and our first official family photos since the twins were ten months old. We'll take it. Here's to military spouse photographers, unexpectedly cold Texas mornings, kids who hide beneath borrowed blankets in between pictures, and husbands who buy you coffee on the way to the shoot and cheerfully smile the entire 30 minutes--even though they hate family pictures and possibly smiling.

{All photographs by Lilly Love Photography.}

PS Next set of family pictures, we will explore the cliche of "Have you really lived in FL if you haven't swum with the sharks?" Kidding! But maybe we'll let Bruiser dress up in a shark costume for them... msf

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Parade of Parties (Otherwise known as Move Month)

It might be move month if...'re trying to get the pets' shots updated and end up with a fantastic fiasco of a Wednesday instead that included getting two of your fingers bitten repeatedly by a pissed off feline, a subsequent ER visit, and dragging all the kids, both cats, and the groceries into the house while being pelted by hail. Also, of course it's move month because now you're anticipating meeting people at your new base while possibly missing a couple fingernails.

Trigger was much more cooperative than Oswald.
Also, after he got groomed, he was so fluffy that I wanted to die. spend a lot of your spare brain space pondering the deep thought that in order to feed your whole family, you have to buy the party sized lasagna.

The rest of your brain space is used cramming in
a few more days of school.

...every box out of the pantry and every jar out of the fridge is celebrated with Random Dancing. Also, the most exciting meal of the week is Pasta Scrounge, where you get to choose from ditalini, rotini, or egg noodles at dinner since they all had just a little bit left in the box. Finally, adulting means finishing off the jar of dark chocolate hot fudge sauce...just so you can get the jar out of the fridge before the move, of course, and not at all because you are massively sleep deprived thanks to a no-longer-baby who still demands to middle of the night nurse.

When the Nap Poop kills your afternoon plans,
hot fudge sauce can be there for you too. finally recognize that your family looks like a parade during their morning walks around the block.

...your husband gently suggests finishing a project later or letting him help when he gets home from work, and your response is a panicked, "No! I want a check mark on my To Do list if it's the last thing I do!"

I made the kids take a picture in front of this before I painted over it.
They were gracious. As ever. And I bribed them. Maybe. decide to squeeze in family photos really quickly (because you have a deep need for the cliche Texas bluebonnet pictures), which then have to be rescheduled because a kid gets Hand-Foot-and-Mouth, which then have to be rescheduled again due to freak weather...but you still get amazing pictures before your mil spouse librarian suggested a great mil spouse photographer and mil spouses stick together! (HOOAH. Or something like that.) Also, I guess I should post some of those to the blog at some point. Hmmm...

...everyone is freaking out about everything all the time. Including you. And the baby. But not me. I'm totally zen all the time. Just so you know.

She's a pro at pulling nails. want to get rid of All the Things. But you're not exactly sure which of the things you might actually want at the next house. spend an inordinate amount of time painting walls and filling nail holes while thinking vaguely about all the other things that you'd rather be doing (taking a bath, reading a book, drinking coffee...) and simultaneously gleefully anticipating the check marks you'll get on your To Do list for "repaint" and "take down pictures" and "fill nail holes". come up with multiple blog ideas but can't find the time (or the working fingers necessary to type--thanks, Oswald) to write them down. Then when you do get the time, you are sandwiching it in between other things and trying to multitask and consequently accidentally lose a long, newsy, and potentially hilarious email that you were simultaneously writing to a friend.

Littles insisted that I get in at least one of the pictures. reward bad behavior by putting your kids to work taping nails to the back of pictures only to have them tell you that this is their favorite part of moving. Thank you, Type A military kid. You win at wrecking my discipline attempts.

Twinkles thinks she's ready to start school. By which she means, she's planning
to scribble with pen on any flat surface she can find while your back is turned.

...every annoying thing you notice about your current house makes you glad that you're moving because you won't have to deal with chipping paint or mildewy shower ceilings or algaed windows at the next house. keep trying to squeeze in time with between the painting and vaccine updating and nail hole filling and freak out-ing...because you know that they are the part that you're really going to miss. Even more than your really awesome breakfast taco place down the road. And that's saying a lot.

So, might be move month around here...

Monday, March 26, 2018

Theology for Your Progeny

The kids and I are studying the theory of evolution this week in science. We spent some time discussing what a theory is, why some people believe in evolution and some people don't, where science leaves off and speculation begins. You know, easy concepts that most six to eight year olds can grasp without any trouble.

Anyway, through the course of our discussion, I explained (once again) what the Man and I believe. The kids have heard the gospel more times than I can count. Sometimes daily. But each time the Man and I are careful to explain that our beliefs don't carry over onto them. As I said today, "Your dad and I want to share about Jesus with you because we love him and because that's what we believe to be true, but you have to make up your mind for yourself. And we're not going to shove Christianity down your throat." Because that just doesn't work very well (note multiple historical examples--I picked the Crusades).

I share this because we recognize that there is a fine line between sharing our love for Jesus and the truth of the gospel with our children and refraining from beating them over the head with our Bibles. With that said, I wanted to give you a few resources that do a good job of presenting Christ to our kids. Please note that The Jesus Storybook Bible (still the twins' favorite) isn't on the list simply because I already wrote about it on here several years ago and because it's been getting a lot of attention lately (I had a friend receive three copies when she had her first son last year).

First on the list is one that I've only read snippets of but has come highly recommended by many friends, The Big Picture Story Bible by David R. Helm. I heard it described as a step before The Jesus Storybook Bible, if you have slightly younger kids who can't hang in there for all of Sally Lloyd-Jones' poetic language. The pictures are on more of the cartoony side and there's less type per page, but it shows the whole arch of the gospel from Creation to Christ in easy to understand terms.

Then if you want to take a step back even farther, there's the board book The Biggest Story ABC by Kevin DeYoung. The illustrations are beautiful, and it does well for your littles who just can't sit still for very long. I liked that it didn't dumb down the theology even though it was written for smaller children, but it gives just enough to introduce the big ideas of Christianity to a young kid.

Once your children are getting older (and tired of being subjected to The Jesus Storybook Bible every night by their routine loving little brother), you might want to give The Ology: Ancient Truths, Ever New by Marty Machowski a try. My mom gifted me this one for my birthday this year, and it's really a beautiful book. Andy McGuire's illustrations are a perfect companion to the systematic breakdown of theology through story and instruction. I also appreciated the inclusion of more scripture (because we don't want to just read storybook Bibles to our kids...we actually want to read them the Bible).

The Man and I have also started working through a few catechism questions with the kids a night, just so they understand what we believe and why. I had a friend suggest My 1st Book of Questions and Answers, and it has been a perfect fit for even the twins. It gives verses that inform each of the answers as well, which has been really helpful.

The Man's parents gifted the kids Trillia Newbell's God's Very Good Idea (with super fun illustrations by Catalina Echeverri) for Christmas this year. I loved this unique way of presenting the gospel that included snippets of history, a lot of diversity, an excellent explanation of sin (that went past "stop doing bad things--shame on you!"), and a beautiful introduction to Jesus' love, forgiveness, and plan for all of us.

I included this picture just in case we were all taking ourselves a little too seriously.

Finally, at Christmas, my sister sent us Everyone A Child Should Know by Clare Heath-Whyte. It took me until late January before I managed to pry it out of Tiny's grasp (he likes to hoard books under his bed), but now it's one of the kids' favorite parts of family devotions. Each spread shares a brief story of a Christian who influenced history (think: Rosa Parks, Augustine, Eric Liddell). Honestly, I wish this book were longer, mostly because my only complaint is that they could have included more examples from non-white believers--of which there are so many. Still, I love that the kids are a) learning history and b) learning about heroes of the faith and c) seeing what the Christian faith should actually look like when it's worked out in the day to day. Side note, Bruiser told me today that his heroes are God...and the Flash, so I think we're going to keep reading this book and hope that one day he will include Hudson Taylor or George Müller.

These are just a few examples of tools you can use with your children, but they will never be a substitute for reading the Bible with your kids and, possibly more importantly, them actually seeing you walk with Christ day to day. My hope is that I can enjoy Christ with my children, learn alongside them, and one day joyously see them walk closely with him.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Saturday Prayers

In children's church this week, we talked about some of the miracles Jesus performed in the book of Matthew, and then the kids worked to memorize Matt 9:36, which says that when Jesus looked at the crowd "He had compassion on them." My initial reaction was to remember the many times my heart hadn't been filled with compassion towards the suffering, the many times my heart hadn't even been filled with compassion for my own children. I prayed immediately that Jesus would help me be more like him, that he would take my old heart and give me a new one full of love. But I admit, I felt guilty about the many times I don't treat others with compassion, the many times my selfishness or impatience wins out.

This kid doesn't require much work to love.
Except for when she poop bombs nap time.

Then I remembered that when Jesus looks at me, he has compassion for me too. He looks at me and he loves me. Sure, he's fully aware of the times I lost my temper and yelled at my kids, but he still loves me. He is full of compassion for me and longs to heal me of the sickness of my heart that twists who he originally intended me to be into something ugly. He does not look at me in disbelief, frustrated that I am screwing up yet again. He does not look at me in impatience, astounded that I yet again need his help and forgiveness. He does not look at me as a problem to be solved, something broken that needs fixing, or a minor inconvenience to his day. He looks at me as his dear child, who was worth the payment of his life.

Watching the Hot Cross Buns bake.
They look so calm.

It's an illusion.

I write this after a long week with the kids. The Man was gone on a work trip, and I was not at my best. Every day was a struggle to present my children with the mother they needed, the one I wanted to give them. And many days I felt that I failed. It was hard to hear at the back of my mind, over and over again, that Christ was looking at me with compassion. I didn't want compassion--I wanted my kids to get a break from me. I wanted a break from them! But instead of a break, I was given Christ. He gives us himself so that we can persevere, grow, and give him to others. Much like the feeding of the five thousand with the five loaves and two fish, when Christ gives us himself, it doesn't look like much at first, but it is amazing how it multiplies when we give thanks and keep breaking off pieces to pass to the next person.

When the Biggest Big helps fill in for me...

This kid is so compassionate, he let's
Rolly read over his shoulder...

So here it is, Saturday morning after a challenging week, I can hear the rustle of legos from the Bigs room and the twins trying to rope Twinkle into playing Pretend in their room. The cats are curled up beside me in bed. My husband is on a plane, flying home to us (hurray!). Soon, we'll be up and making crepes and bacon (as promised earlier in the week) before I con the kids into helping me clean the house and go for a walk. But for right now, in this brief moment of quiet, I'm praying for myself that I would be more like Jesus--full of compassion--because I'm looking straight into his eyes and seeing the gentle love he has for me. If you'd like, I'll even pray it for you too.

Monday, March 5, 2018

SorryNotSorry Saturday Sunrise

Dear driver who nearly ran over me but did apologize,

I'm sorry I yelled at you. I was playing chicken all morning with drivers who woke up with the sole purpose in life to first blind me with their headlights and then run me off the road into ankle deep, sopping wet grass. You were the first person to apologize for nearly mauling me, but, unfortunately, when you rolled down your window to yell "SORRY", you positioned yourself for the fall out when the straw broke the camel's back. Sure, I played  the Mom Card--you guys need to watch where you're going!--as if the five of you colluded together at 6 in the morning to space yourselves out along the road and try your best to give me a heart attack. I also may have exaggerated slightly--I've been run over five times already this morning!--which was blatantly and obviously untrue because if I had been run over, I wouldn't have been out running still, but keep in mind that every word counts when you're slogging through 9 miles and slipping in an "almost" would have weakened the point. Still. I realize that my response wasn't exactly loving.

Consequently, you may choose from a variety of different response options should you try to run me over again next week.

Option A) I have five kids! Is this an offer to help my husband raise them?

Option B) I get that you need to retake driver's ed, but this is not the right way to ask!

Option C) I am not a small woman. I will put a large dent in your car!

Option D) I know where I'm going if you plow me over. Do you know where you're going if you hit me with your giant SUV? Jail.

Option E) You're forgiven. Go forth without hitting anyone else, drink some coffee, and sin no more.

I felt extremely guilty for the next mile after I yelled at you (which, incidentally, somehow managed to improve my pace--so, thanks for that), but when I got home, my husband informed me that you probably deserved much worse. In his defense, he was most likely imagining his life without me, which would call for a fairly strong response on his part. Rumor has it, he actually likes me, and not just because I keep the masses relatively under control. Still, if I ever see you again, I will graciously accept your apology and then graciously proffer one of my own, because I try not to yell at total strangers. Only at my children when they shoot me with nerf guns before I've had my coffee or leave half a PB&J smeared across the floor at lunch. Because I have standards.

For now, you should know that next week I'm coming armed with a paint gun and will take aim at any car that attempts to run me off the road.

Crazy early morning runner lady

PS I'm including this picture of myself eating pineapple out of a super sweet pineapple bowl with a tiny fork so that you can see what I look like when I'm not drenched in sweat and yelling at you. I don't look insane at all, right? Right? RIGHT?!

PPS I'm also including this picture of my youngest progeny. This may confuse you initially, but look closely. While at first she appears adorable and innocent, sitting on the curb, eating her apple like a little paragon of virtue, when you look closer, you will note that she has the crazy eyes. Run me over next week, and the Man will sic her on you.