Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Roller Skates and Real Change

It has been a death defying morning.

Literally.
We had a picnic lunch in celebration of our survival.

Littles roller skated out the kitchen door and down a two foot drop into the garage; he knocked one of the jeep doors over onto himself; he fell off the 3 foot tall night stand (again--roller skates); and he still thought that roller skating up on the playground (and I do mean "up" on the 4 foot high platform) was a good idea. Tiny, on the other hand, managed to light a match and drop it (still lit) onto the carpet and also turn the gas stove on full blast when I wasn't watching. The boys ended the morning with a brawl over who got to get Bee a spoon at lunch that included one child throttling the other one by the neck. Brotherly love. And pyromania. And roller skates.

Who thought roller skates were a good idea?

He was getting cocky yesterday practicing on the carpet
and decided to try the tile for the first time…it wasn't pretty.
I can't count the number of times this kid has wiped out. 

Anyway, by no small miracle, all four children are in bed right now (and I am hoping I don't incite the jinx by writing this), so I thought I'd make good use of my time and write…instead of doing something more practical like cleaning the kitchen or prepping for the move. The Man wants a sane wife at the end of the day, after all, more than a clean house. I think.

The twins were a huge help when we bunked the boys' beds this weekend.

Lately, I've been thinking about ways that I have changed since the kids arrived. There's the obvious--stretch marks and a crusty kitchen floor--but there have also been a few more subtle changes along the way. For instance, I hate fake flowers. Absolutely think that they are terrible. Why have fake flowers when they a) don't have any fragrance and b) are just a cheap imitation of reality? But right now, in fact, for the last three months, there has been a vase full of fake flowers next to my coffee pot. Yup. I'll let you take a wild guess about who gave them to me for Mother's Day.

Aside from changes in decor (did I mention Little's contribution to our bedroom wall art? and experienced moms, please tell me, when is it okay to get rid of your children's artistic efforts?), I've also had to man up in a few areas. Like when I find a mouse baked into my oven. Do I scream? Maybe a little. But then I made like an adult, cleaned it up, and helped my poor traumatized children move on with their lives.

He brought a snack for the road.

Speaking of trauma and manning up, few weeks ago, the Man decided that the state of egg-lessness in our home needed to be rectified. I don't eat them so I don't cook them. And since he's rarely home for breakfast, the boys haven't really been exposed to them at all (unless you count putting them in baked goods). So, he lovingly cooked up a whole batch of breakfast burritos.

The boys were more than a little hesitant to try them (considering that Littles thinks the Man's cooking consists of calling in pizza--not true), so I said I would try them too. Moral support and all that. Think like a team: eat eggs. Besides which, I generally re-try eggs every year or so to see if my taste buds have moved on with their lives. They've been given a good long break since I've been pregnant for going on 5 years now and no one in their right mind would expose themselves to their most hated food while pregnant.

I made it all the way through that burrito. Yep. Even if it did start coming back up about halfway through. And I made it with a smile, if a somewhat queasy one. Then I filed that experience away under "things I do for my children" and moved on with my life.

These kids have starting joining us in our eating escapades.

In a full spirit of confession, being a mom has also made me realize just how ugly my sin is. We've had a rough couple of months sleep-wise (I'm starting to sound like a broken record), and there are few things more capable of bringing out my awful than sleep deprivation. I have had thoughts I never thought I would have. I have said words I hoped never to hear coming out of my mouth. I've been impatient. I've yelled. I've gotten angry about things that really don't matter. And at the end of the day, I've found myself broken hearted at who I am when things get uncomfortable.

This is still where I am a lot of the time. It's easy for me to get stuck on the failures, reliving them even on the good days. But I am trying (so hard) to learn that the glory of the good news of Jesus Christ is here even in this. So often I come before Christ, begging for forgiveness, asking how he can love me in all my ugly, but the reality is that my failure does not come as a surprise to Him. Not at all. His grace accepts all of me. His cross redeems all of me. His empty grave renews all of me.

This was just supposed to be a funny post about my silly children, but the truth is, though I am not the woman I was before they came into my life, the main reason is that they force me closer and closer to Christ as I desperately try to figure out how to parent them past the sleepless nights and the rearranged expectations and the toddler tantrums. Fake flowers and taped up scribble sheets and choked down breakfast burritos are hopefully only the outward sign of a heart that is being relentlessly drawn closer to the only one who deserves a Parent of the Year award--the one who gave his own life so that his children could be with him forever.

Early morning snuggles are the best, aren't they?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hope Revisited

A few months ago, I wrote about hope. I'd like to revisit that topic.

I was reading the love chapter earlier this week as I nursed--which means I really wasn't thinking about hope at all. I was thinking about how J.B. Phillips translated "love is not rude" to "love has good manners". (So stop talking with your mouth full! It's unloving! And if you don't change the toilet paper roll, you might as well just tell me you hate me!) And then I got to the very last verse:

In life we have three lasting qualities--faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of them is love.

All those months ago (or was it weeks? time is screwy these days), I asked what we do when our hope dies. I've finally figured out what I think the answer to the question is: love.

When our hope is deferred, we choose to love. To love ourselves, to love the faulty humans who surround us, to love Christ, and possibly most importantly, to rest in His love for us, because we are faulty humans and consequently, our love also is faulty.

So, at the end of a long day when things have not gone as planned,
when the laundry has not been finished,
the dishes have not been done,
the floors have not been vacuumed,
the muscles of my body and mind have not been stretched,
all because of the tyranny of the urgent (also known as the tyranny of twins and toddlers),
and I look in the mirror and lose hope that life will ever be manageable again,
that my body will ever be, well, not saggy and flabby,
that my mind will be able to process more than nursing schedules and tantrum management,
that our home will ever be salvaged from the dust bunnies that have taken over,
that I'll ever get things rolling towards this move…

I must make the choice to love.

I remind myself that I love my children and my husband,
and that a great part of love is service,
whether that means kissing invisible booboos
or choosing to do dishes with two babies strapped to my front
or leaving behind unfolded laundry to fit in some outdoor bonding with my sons.
I remind myself that I need to love myself,
which might mean cutting a little slack,
or crediting piggy back rides as an aerobic work out,
or believing the Man when he tells me that what I've done with my day is enough.
Most of all, perhaps, I remind myself that I love my Jesus,
and that means believing him
when he tells me I am fearfully and wonderfully made--yes, even on the days when I feel like a failure.

Because that's what love is:
believing the best
of others and of ourselves.
And when we can't hope any more,
when we find ourselves wondering if this is the best we get,
we choose love
(to believe the best even if this is the best we get).

Because love will always bring us back to our greater hope,
the one True Love who gave everything so that this
right here
right now
isn't the best we get,
but is only a shadow,
a taste,
a hint of what is to come:
forever with Him,
transformed to reflect Him,
completely satisfied in Him,
hope realized.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Firsts

There have been a lot of lasts lately. It's PCS season. So, you know, last time having dinner with that family. Last time at the playground with those kids. Last date before our babysitter moves to Illinois. You get the picture. With all that said, it's been nice to have some firsts. So, let's celebrate some firsts, shall we?

In the traditional sense, Bruiser is leading the way with a couple teeth. We need to get the biting under control quickly though. That kid is rabid.

You can see them if you look closely, hold your tongue right, and squint a lot.

Little's survived his first wasp sting. Technically, his first two wasp stings or were they yellow jacket stings? It doesn't matter. The point is that he screamed a lot less for the second one than the first. Desensitization at its best.

Bee blew her first raspberry on my arm the other day. It tickled. She was proud of herself.


We had our first bout of twin on twin wrestling. Bruiser got the jump on Bee. He may be small, but he's quick. I predict that his first words will be "smack" and "down". Also, Littles and Tiny may or may not be starting a betting pool. The odds were on the heavyweight Bee before this surprising upset.

Please don't tell me if all my wrestling terminology is wrong.
The Man isn't home tonight to help me in my ignorance.

The twins got their first bucket swinging experience. Tiny also had his first time of accidentally swinging upside down when his bum slid off the swing when he was about six feet up in the air. Luckily all my "hold on tight" lectures had apparently sunk in and the Man was able to rescue him before he broke his neck. When I die of a heart attack, we will all know who caused it.

I promise the huge forehead is a result of bad camera angles.

She was smiling right until I took this picture. I promise.
And yes, that might be a tiny, fuzzy mohawk developing on the top of her head.

The big boys began their foray into baseball, which evidently is going to be their first official sport. I was really pulling for soccer, but the Man sabotaged me. He's sneaky like that. Fine: I have big plans to brainwash them all the next time he deploys. He'll come home and they'll all be musical loving, Indonesian speaking, soccer players.

This stud takes his baseball very seriously.
His bat is also starting a reign of terror in our home.

The Man is in the process of getting a really great picture of Littles here.
I'd include it but he didn't send it to me.
So instead I'm posting this picture which shows you the astounding green of our well-mown weeds.
Is this Oklahoma? I can hardly believe my eyes!

Bee borrowed my clothes for the first time (it's a long story--don't ask). I almost think she pulls off my super awesome Neverthirst t-shirt better than I do...

She makes that shirt look good.

The twins got their first big kid stroller ride. No one fell out of the stroller, so I think we're winning. Also, that's Bee's first sippy in the cup holder. Technically it's the communal sippy because I'm hygienic like that. Honestly, I was going to get Brusier one too, but they were all out of "boy" colors, and I figured sharing with Bee for a couple weeks would be less psychologically damaging than having his own pink and flowery sippy. 

There was nothing exciting happening over the edge of the stroller.
But don't they make you wonder?

Bee also showed first evidence last week of her own special brand of humor when she spent a significant portion of lunch fake sneezing and laughing at herself.

Unfortunately, neither the twins nor the boys have decided to impress us with the first of breaking the ongoing run of sleepless nights (it's a thunderstorm! it's a bad dream! it's a new tooth coming in! it's Mommy and Daddy's eyeballs falling out from exhaustion!), so I'm continuing to live on a healthful diet of coffee and sugar, which isn't doing much to help the sudden influx of what I'm referring to as PCS pimples. But who knows? They could decide, tonight even, that a well-rested Mommy is a first everyone could enjoy.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Absolutely Luxurious

It's been the kind of month that's required frequent self-medication with chocolate chips. 

The twins decided that sleep was for lesser babies, and we have all spun into a vortex of exhaustion and insanity.  I hesitate to say that things are improving only because I'm a firm believer in the sleep jinx, and I don't want this to backfire on me, but today, I found myself with both the time and energy to engage in what suddenly has become a luxury: writing.

Everyone is happier with a little sleep.
And a few chocolate chips.

Also a luxury these days: eating my own meal without having to share with Bee and Bruiser who have suddenly decided that real people food is the most thrilling excitement of their lives. Please don't judge my lack of an appropriate introduction to food. It's hard to diligently space out perfectly pureed fruits and vegetables when Bee is literally grabbing my turkey sandwich and shoving it in her face.

This kid tried (and failed) to steal my frozen yogurt.
It was a low point in her day,
and I'll be honest: it is so hard to say no to this face.
Anyway, through all of this, I'm learning a lot about expectations. And hope. And how easy it is to think completely irrational thoughts when I'm over tired and there's been a baby screaming bloody murder in both ears. And that's been good, you know? Also, it's been really nice to know that the Man has my back through all of this. He's a good partner in crime. And he doesn't judge me when I say really mean things in my sleep (which I do when I am over tired--and no, there is no logical explanation for this).

Here is Littles sporting the bite mark of
the wild Tiny, native only to the jungles of Frizlandia.
I told you, we've all gone a bit insane.

But the twins put themselves to sleep tonight without at least half an hour of walking the floor with them praying desperately for them to just pass out, and so I am celebrating by being here. With you. And some typed words.

The fact that I'm blurry is not due to Little's camera skills.
Nope, I was literally starting to fuzz around the edges
from lack of sleep. Seriously. No lie.

Also, we are moving in two months! And I thought that you would be excited about that too. Especially if I manage to produce a few completely incomprehensible posts about boxes and moving trucks and road trips and doing a Permanent Change of Station. Yes, fifteen months counts as "permanent".

All that to say: hurray! For the little luxuries life affords. Like sleep and writing and turkey sandwiches and the Man and precious children who help sand down the rough edges just a smidge.



{I'm trying to include a video of the twins laughing their heads off at my sister and brother-in-law--whose visit has been a big luxury. Posting this video has been the bane of my last twenty four hours, and I'm pretty sure it's still not working. So tell me if it actually is!}

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Joy Choices

We were in the middle of our Sunday afternoon drive tradition when I told the Man I'd always wondered what wheat felt like. He grew up in the country, while I grew up in the concrete jungle, so he's starting to get used to me saying things like this.

It was a somewhat enforced Sunday afternoon drive since we'd had a rough night with the twins and a ensuing nap battles, and they had finally consented to fall asleep in the car, and there was no way we were messing with that. So the boys sipped strawberry limeades, and we drove through fields of gold brown Oklahoma wheat, and the Man and I talked about big things and little things and wheat.

He said wheat was kind of fuzzy.

"Really?" I replied.

And he pulled the car over to the side of the road so I could jump out quickly and find out for myself.

It wasn't fuzzy. It was prickly and proud, and one of the little seeds rolled out into my hand, and I crunched it between my teeth, and it tasted like joy.

The Man asked me that night what my favourite part of the day was, and I told him it was when he had pulled the car over so I could experience the feel of wheat first hand. 

Turtle number two and happy boys

Three weeks ago, before the Man was home, the boys and I woke up to an empty Saturday after a long week of grumpiness, tantrums, and missing Daddy. When the Man is gone, it's always the weekends that are the hardest. During the week, we can pretend he's at work, stuck at the squadron for this or that, but when the bleary weekend comes, the reality that he really is gone always hits again.

I sat on the guest bed in the nursery, feeding the twins with my eyes closed and my head tilted back against the wall. I wanted nothing more than to climb back in bed and get another few hours of sleep. Instead, I decided to pile the kids in the car, and we went to pick up donuts. When we got home, we grabbed a blanket, the stroller, and a to go mug full of coffee and walked ourselves and our donuts down to the creek to look for turtles.

The donuts disappeared even more quickly than usual, and the boys could barely wait for me to finish my coffee so that we could go turtle hunting.

We found 6 turtles that morning, and I got a great work out off-roading with the twins' stroller.

I wanted nothing more than to quit that morning when I woke up. We were so close to the end, with the Man's return just around the corner, and all I had to do was grit my teeth and survive. Making what at first seemed like a choice that would just wear me out more brought me my favourite memory from the entire 8 weeks of separation.

Some women go to the gym

Yesterday was another nap war with a few side skirmishes in congestion and crankiness. Every choice had to be purposeful.

Bang my head against the wall or bathe screaming twins?
Complain or cook dinner?
Cry or cuddle babies?

It was a one step at a time day. And there were moments that I lost it. But when I found myself taking a picture with both twins strapped to my front while I stir fried beef and green peppers and brokered train deals between the boys, and I was somehow still laughing? Well, I knew I'd won. At least that day.

Sure, I was dog tired and I could feel my spine compressing vertebrae by vertebrae (I've always wanted to experience life as a short person), but there was still joy, and I had found it. I had made one tiny joy choice after another, so no matter how difficult the day became it never turned into a bad day.

In retrospect, it's easy for me to over emphasize what I need to live a joy-filled life. Even when I think I'm being low maintenance (the words "all I need is a cup of coffee, some time to write, and the twins to take a nap at the same time" may or may not be my new mantra), I'm still asking for more than I really need.

You see, I already have everything I need.

I've already been given every spiritual blessing in Christ. It says so in Ephesians 1:3.

So if I can just remember that, and then ask Him for the strength to take the next step, to make the next small joy choice, there never have to be bad days, even when there are challenging ones.

Sometimes, it's about pulling the car to the side of the road (all the while risking waking the babies) so that you can pluck a handful of glowing life and taste it on your tongue.

Sometimes, it's about donuts and coffee and turtles and the early morning sunlight on the laughing faces of your children--but please let the coffee be caffeinated.

And sometimes, it's about getting to the end of a day where the twins traded off screaming for four hours straight, and knowing it was still a good day because of the many, many blessings that I was able to see because in Christ I could choose joy.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Pictures and The Princess Bride

Let's be honest: I've fallen off the blogging band wagon. So my goal for today was to write something, anything, on here. And as luck would have it, I think it's mostly going to be captions for a massive amount of pictures. So let's get this done!

Incidentally, the Man and I watched The Princess Bride this weekend, and I threatened to do a post that consisted solely of Princess Bride quotations. I don't really plan to follow through with that, but…don't be surprised if a couple random bits pop up.


"Are all these children yours? Gracious, you have been productive." <--Name that quote. And no, it's not from The Princess Bride.


Littles took on a friend of ours with pugil sticks. He's a natural.


See? Jonathan didn't rig this at all...


My mom is the best Skype picture taker ever. She loves to take pictures of me and the kids while we're eating breakfast and then send them to us. Normally, I'm super grateful to see pictures of my bleary eyed, bed-headed, pre-coffee self, but then she sent me this picture, and I suddenly became glad for her trigger finger and the Little Man's inability to get through breakfast without Skyping with Neni.

Incidentally, for those of you who can't tell the difference, that's Bee, not Bruiser. Pajamas are equal opportunity in our family.


The boys are starting the twins early with the lego mania.


"Beautiful, isn't it? It took me half a life time to invent it."


"The chocolate coating makes it go down easier. But you have to wait fifteen minutes for full potency. And you can't go swimming after for at least an hour."


"I challenge you to a battle of wits."


"Oh my sweet Wesley! What have I done?" (I'm sorry, Bruiser. I couldn't help myself. It had to be done.)


"You mean you wish to surrender to me? Very well. I accept!"


I am waiting for Vizzini! I mean, Daddy.

I confess that this post has just drowned itself in Princess Bride quotations. Also, I promise that Tiny was much happier once the Man got home, but this was his first day of the wonderful sick that proceeded to infect every single one of our children over the last two weeks.


Tell me those are not the cutest babies you have ever seen.

Next come twenty different gazillion pictures from the Little Man's pre-school graduation.


Bee was absolutely enthralled waiting for the ceremony to get rolling.


The Man is going to kill me for all of the following pictures of him, but it's just so much fun to be able to take pictures of him instead of just sending pictures to him. Plus, he makes Bruiser look good. And vice versa.



There's Littles getting his "diploma". The graduation was nautically themed--personally, I think those sailor caps are significantly more flattering than mortarboards.


There's our little graduate.


If we splice together this picture...


…and this picture, all of our family would be present. Minus Tiny's eyes and Bee's face, of course. Pictures are hard, man.


Bee to Bruiser: "It's not my fault being the biggest and the strongest. I don't even exercise!"


Still Bee to Bruiser: You WILL hold my hand!


This is how the boys spent our rainy Memorial Day weekend. It was fantastic. Someone needs to tell me that my tent making skills are epic. I should list that on my resume.


This is how the Man spent his rainy Memorial Day weekend. He should list that on his resume.


It's been a wonderful five months with these rocker babies.


And evidently, it really wore them out.

Me too, guys, me too.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Weeding Hope

{I've been sitting on this post for almost three weeks now--seriously--because I haven't come to a good conclusion for it, and that's embarrassing. In consequence, I haven't written anything else either, which is also embarrassing. There is no logic to this, I'm aware. Anyway, in an attempt to move on with my life, I'm going to post this and hope I can get back to writing other things. Maybe one of you can find a way to tie this up a bit more neatly for me.}

In preparation for the Man's mother visiting a few weeks ago, I decided to tackle a few projects around the house that had been thumbing their noses at me. Don't worry, the house is now back to its usual state of post-twin disarray (yogurt finger smudges are the new wall decor and crayon scribbles the new faux carpet).

The Little Man being well aware of my driven tendencies, decided to get a jump on the work load by tackling some yard work while I was finishing my morning coffee. He came cheerily in from the backyard around the time I was deciding that I might actually want to face life and informed me that he'd taken care of the weeding for me.

Pause for effect.

Now, I will be the first to tell you that our yard is more weeds than anything else. In fact, it is more honest to say that we mow the weeds than mow the grass. So the sinking feeling that I had in my gut was completely unwarranted. There were certainly plenty of weeds to pull. But I've learned to trust the Mother Instinct over the last few years. It doesn't stop certain things from happening (like when Tiny dumped the entire bottle of baby wash that I had just bought) but catching my children in the act sometimes minimizes the damage. Anyway, the Mother Instinct instructed me to throw on a pair of shoes and go survey my newly "weeded" back yard.

Sure enough, littering the "grass" were all of the tulip bulbs that the Man had painstakingly planted two years ago.

I thought I was going to throw up.

And so that you are aware that this was an extreme over reaction, you should know that a total of one tulip bloomed this year, and it was short and runty. I have a black thumb, and we are in year three of Oklahoma drought.

I don't know, though… There was something about it. Until Littles pulled up those bulbs, I could keep hoping that they were going to bloom one last time before we moved. Once that possibility was removed, it felt…a little like grief. Which was weird. Because they were just. tulips. Unblooming ones at that.

At any rate, I thanked the Little Man for his weeding prowess, and we had a short discussion about what weeds are, and we proceeded to pick up all of my decimated tulips and move them to the trash bin. Somewhere in the midst of the clean up, Proverbs 13:12 came to mind, just the first part: Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

I truly hoped, however unfounded, that those tulips were going to bloom for me this year. They did last year. But all the rest of the tulips in this town had bloomed, and mine didn't show any signs of following suit.

Hope deferred, friends, hope deferred.

And the truth is that I wasn't going to get to see them bloom next year either since we won't be here next year but that's another story for another time.

So what's the point? I've been waiting three weeks to figure that out.

I feel like there should be some great revelation in the second part of the verse, "A desire fulfilled is a tree of life."  I know this. I'm getting The Man back today--desire fulfilled, tree of life. But I think the question I am raising is how do we heal a heart that's been made sick by a deferred hope? And no, I'm not just talking about uprooted tulips here.

When the grief of broken hope has tangibly sickened our hearts, where do we go? Yes, I  know the easy answers, the quick neat bow to tie on this, but I'm questioning how we plant new desires in sickened soil and then wait to see if those seeds turn into trees of life.

For the woman who has suffered through miscarriage or still birth. For the one in the midst of a broken marriage. For the person who has relapsed into depression or sickness or, yes, even sin. When we are confronted by the death of our hopes, where do we go? What do we do?

Is it really as simple as waiting on Jesus to bring healing and new growth (and perhaps facing the reality that there's nothing we can do in and of ourselves and there never has been)?

I told you: no neat conclusions, but I'm going to go ahead and put this one out there so I can stop thinking about dead tulips and the existential side of weeding.