Saturday, August 23, 2014

Travelling Circus: a PCS in Progress

Well, we're one leg of the trip down, and wow. Some experiences leave you speechless, but not this one. No, not this one. But let's bullet point it, because while this time zone says it's an hour plus until bed time, my other time zone does not.

  • No matter how much you congratulate yourself for getting out the door on time, there will come a moment, about two hours in, when you have someone else's poop on you and your husband has someone else's pee on him, and you wish that you'd delayed your departure just long enough to tie all four kids to the roof of the car.
  • Not throwing into the cooler what was left of the bag of chocolate chips was a mistake I may never live down.
  • At some point during a PCS (permanent change of station) it is perfectly acceptable to reach the point where you're all funned out and you'd like to stop the ride and get off. At least, that's what I tell myself. I hit that point yesterday when Trigs escaped twice in a 24 hour period and Littles accidentally locked us out of TLF during the 100+ degree afternoon heat.
  • Going anywhere with four kids four and under requires well thought through logistics. Travelling  1500 miles with said four kids and two pets is capable of logistically breaking even the best minds. Let's just say that sharing a tube of toothpaste with my husband is no longer (logistically) the best option when fire safety rules dictate that we split up two kids and one adult per room. 
  • The Man is doing some serious heavy lifting this trip pulling the trailer and wrangling the pets. I got the easier job of driving the van, but my ear drums are being systematically shattered by our lovely children.
  • Tiny is about to experience the conundrum of the true TCK (third culture kid). The last two hours of today's drive he declared emphatically (and repetitively) that he wanted to go home. Define home, buddy, define home…
  • The great thing about this move is that if I screw everything up, we're just moving again in 15 months, so I can get it right that time!
  • New Mexico is a cruel, cruel land with wide open spaces and closed down rest areas and the promise of a Dairy Queen (with a much needed bathroom) that turned out to be completely and totally burnt down.
  • I forgot what true hills looked like. I forgot what real green looked like. I forgot what actual mountains looked like. Stunning. Seriously.
  • Driving across the U.S. is helping me learn my American geography the hard way. It would seem that Manhattan Transfer led me sadly astray with their song "Route 66". Amarillo is in Texas, not New Mexico. Evidently, as a child when I thought learning geography from American jazz singers was a good idea, I missed the "Gallup" inserted between "Amarillo" and "New Mexico". Yes, I recognize that this is not their fault. I'm still blaming them.
  • Full confession (and I'm hiding this low on the list in hopes that most people will miss it): the movers may or may not have packed up a bag of onions that I accidentally left in the pantry. No comment.
  • While my kids may have access to DVDs while traveling, they still indulged in classic road trip entertainment: playing trains, coloring, making paper airplanes, and picking on each other.
  • There will come a day when getting back on the road is worth more than getting a blizzard at Dairy Queen. Check for signs of insanity and resign yourself to the inevitable damages caused to your psyche by PCSing.
Let's close with a couple pilfered photos (thanks, Holly!) of the Defender Mobile and it's Very Owen Travelling Circus as we peeled out of TLF this morning. Oklahoma, you made us look good.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Open Letter to the A---- AFB Golf Course Rabbits (Part Two)

Dear Rabbits of the Golf Course,

It has been almost three years since our first correspondence, and the time has come to write you a goodbye note. It's been, well, a love/hate relationship for quite some time now, and though it pains me to say it, I don't think that I will miss you. I did, so very politely, ask you to do your utmost to avoid exacerbating my already slightly insane dog to no avail. And while you have, quite graciously, provided me with endless Watership Down and Redwall jokes, my arm sockets are more than a little tired of being so badly abused by your presence.

I recognize that the score has been unfairly evened at this point since Trigger did abscond with one of your young ones a couple weeks ago. I truly apologize, but I did try to warn you. It was inevitable that at some point or other I was going to be dumb enough to think Littles capable of holding the leash for me momentarily. I'm blonde. I realize.

At any rate, I expect you to do your best to derail my last early morning run in the true spirit of revenge. And by derail, I mean, of course, to pop out from under some nearby bush right at that fortuitous moment when I'm airborne so that when Trigger takes off after you, I get yanked halfway to kingdom come. I more than anticipate that you will doggedly (did you see what I did there?) pursue us during my entire three miles so that Trigger will wake up the entire base with his pathetic howls of desperation. You are merciless like that. And devious.

I would excuse your behavior, since I too would be more than a little upset if someone ate one of my babies, except for the fact that this has been going on for three years and Trigger only partook of his Afternoon Snack of Young Bunny two weeks ago. Maybe if I had allowed him a few Afternoon Snacks of Sinewy and Tough Jackrabbits along the way, we would be on better terms. Hmm. Something for you to think about Friday morning.

To conclude, I'm glad that we are moving to a place known for its whales instead of its rabbits. Whales seem significantly less disruptive. You should take notes.

Yours in farewell,

PS It wasn't me. It was you. msf

He's watching you.
And in his mind you are very tasty.
And entirely catchable.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Open the Window

The last few weeks the Man and I have been spending a lot of time thinking ahead to what's next: looking at different housing layouts in our next city, googling restaurants and places to go, going over his school schedule, you know what I'm talking about. It's exciting to dream about what is coming, to anticipate this next phase in our lives.

Bruiser refuses to grace you with his face.

One evening after a dinner conversation almost exclusively about housing, I was at the sink washing dishes, still thinking about floor plans and furniture placement when I realized I was missing one of my favourite parts of my day: watching the sunset out my kitchen window. I raised the blinds out of the way so I could look unimpeded and was so glad that I did. The field across from our house was green (it's been a surprisingly rainy summer). A rabbit loped along the fence line. The sky faded from a dusty pink to a worn purple.

I looked up last night and saw this real live Angry Bird
(you're welcome, Micah)
who posed for me while I clumsily zoomed in and drove as close
to the light post as I could.

This isn't profound. I know it's been said before. But I think sometimes we need the reminder to look out of our own metaphorical windows. Sometimes we get so caught up in what's next that we forget to enjoy what's now.

Books and water and toys and empty milk glasses and dog leashes
and life.

We're in temporary lodging (TLF) now. The kitchen sink here butts up against a wall. When I wash dishes, I look at the dishes (which may result in cleaner plates, who knows?). But always there is the choice to be in the now, whether that's choosing to get together with friends one last time instead of mentally checking out early or getting out and enjoying a new playground instead of hiding in TLF waiting for Saturday to come or fitting in a few more early morning runs so I can catch the pre-dawn Oklahoma star show.

This goofy dog has been keeping me company in TLF
while the Man deals with the house.
We may or may not be bonding.

I can't look out my kitchen window to see a spectacular sunset any more. But I can open my eyes in so many other ways. Sometimes I think it would be easier not to pay attention because then I wouldn't be seeing all the things that I will miss (and I could concentrate instead on all the awesome things to come), but closing my eyes doesn't make me any happier. It only flattens my current existence, cheapening it of its worth.

So, all together now, let's raise the blinds. Watch the sunset. And I do mean, of course, whatever that looks like for you.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Party at TLF

Moving is fun, you guys. The Man does most of the work, and I sit around and play with the kids. So, this is what he's in charge of today (you  know, supervising the movers and bribing them with pizza so they don't break our stuff):

Picture courtesy of the Man.
He's skilled. I'll keep him.

Incidentally, before we left the house, the boys discovered a new "slide". They think moving is fun too.
The Man got this shot too.
Caught them giggling in the act.

On our last day in the house, Bruiser decided to explore his hair options with this sweet little mohawk. It was short lived, but I enjoyed it while it lasted:

If Bruiser hashtagged: #nofilter #iwokeuplikethis

The boys have been enjoying their PCS presents (because we are good parents who try to make moving fun for everyone, even when their "slides" have been packed). $3 sunglasses from Payless. They're cheap dates (and maybe we are cheap parents). Here, Tiny is modeling them before the sun had even come up. The Man and I have been busily cracking Stevie Wonder jokes at their expense.

I could eat this child, he's so cute.

The Little Man and his bed head are so cool in their shades that they can't even muster up a smile. (Can you see from the window that the sun. is. not. even. up. yet.)
I cannot pretend to understand.

Bruiser wanted to see what the big deal was, so he borrowed Little's shades for a bit. Unfortunately, the awesomeness that ensued upon the combination of Bruiser and Batman sunglasses was so overwhelming that it literally ripped his shirt open.
Imagine a light breeze to finish out the Fabio effect.

Anyway, sorry, back to the move. While the Man has been supervising movers and doing actual work, I have been doing my usual, by which I mean creating monster trucks for rubber frogs:

Froggie later received a speeding ticket.
Cops are so prejudiced against monster trucks.

And helping Littles with this masterpiece. He informed me, quite seriously, afterward that he could probably be an artist like Aki. Also, I had done some delightful chiaroscuro shading on the water droplets that he lovingly "fixed" because, as he put it, he likes there to be colour everywhere. I did get him to sign in the bottom corner but he promptly coloured over his signature because (ahem) "he likes there to be colour everywhere" and God forbid there be an empty space in the "A" where there was no colour.

The squiggly green things in the water may or may not be tadpoles.
We never decided.

We've also been enjoying the 102 degree heat by spending lots of time outside. The boys throw balls and add to their collection of bumps and bruises by playing tackle football on the sidewalk, and the twins mess with water bottles and eat grass. We're nothing if not well rounded.

That quilt was a wedding present.
I'm not quite sure the friend who gave it to us had any idea
how it was going to be put to use.
5.5 years and 4 kids later...

All that to say, party at TLF. Because I'm here now and, let's be honest, while the move hasn't changed much for me yet (taking care of the kids at home v. taking care of the kids in temporary lodging…same/same), cabin fever, man, it's real. Come keep me entertained. And then while you're here, I'll let you address the deep theological questions that Tiny has been asking lately ("Who is God?") since apparently moving brings out his philosophical side.

And of course, we'll talk about how moving is so fun.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Moving to the Land of Milk and Honey

[Monterey], are you there? Do you swear you won't forget me? If I found you would you let me come and stay? I ain't getting any younger and before my dying day, I want space not just air. Let them laugh in my face: I don't care!

...Dreams come true. Yes they do. In [Monterey]…
Santa Fe, Newsies (with changes provided in handy little brackets)

Okay, so the song is supposed to be about Santa Fe, but I don't think Jack Kelly would mind my poetic license. You see, somehow in my mind, Monterey has turned into this place where all my problems will  magically disappear. Once we get there, the twins will start sleeping again, Tiny will miraculously potty train himself, Littles will learn to read all on his own. The dog will never run away or steal the pizza off the table. The cat will be healed of his bulimia and cord chewing problems.  Pet hair will sweep itself; dust bunnies hop themselves straight into the trash; dinner will cook of its own accord. I will be able to recline on a purple couch while being fanned by peacock feathers and fed grapes.

Ah, Monterey. It's going to be wonderful.

In the meantime, we are neck deep in packing. I mislaid our packing list today and about had a heart attack. Don't worry, though. I did find it. Otherwise I would be drafting a new list right now instead of blogging.

In between memorizing the packing list and setting it to music, I have been tickling the palates of my family with incredible empty-out-the-fridge delicacies such as last night's PCS pasta:

They're lucky I didn't add in the angel hair.

Tonight I challenged myself with some bruised potatoes and a bottle of Zesty Italian. I'll be honest and say that the twins have been far more impressed by my culinary experiments than the rest of the family. 

Incidentally, tonight I told the boys I would be making Oatmeal Refrigerator Bread so that I could finish off the yeast (and oatmeal, honey, buttermilk, and flour, but you know what I mean). We got all excited about fresh bread for breakfast, and I packed them off to bed before going to the kitchen to get started…only to discover that I didn't have the two packets of yeast I needed to bake bread. Thankfully, my Super Neighbor saved the day because going to the commissary the week the movers show up would be unbearably shameful, even if it was just for yeast.

Anyway, we're pretty much packed at this point. See evidence below:

Safer than carseats and more fun!

And our road trip is planned and the movers are scheduled for this weekend, although they are coming to take the washer and dryer tomorrow. Why, I don't know, but yay for no more laundry? Well, until we move into TLF (Temporary Lodging Facilities).

Isn't it thrilling getting a play by play of this move with us? In that spirit, let's end on a completely unrelated note. You know your child's teething when she's double fisting the frozen blueberries.

Imagine this accompanied by cheerful growls.
In Monterey, of course, teething will be completely painless. And the post-blueberry floor will mop itself. Dreams come true…in Monterey. Yes, they do!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Meditation

The Man got home last night from a few days out of state, bringing home with him a lovely bout of food poisoning, so we are missing the chance to worship with our church family for the third (or fourth) week in a row. If it hasn't been one thing, it's been another. So I am grateful that even if we aren't meeting with other members of the Church, we have access to the Word of God at all times, even if we're reading our Bibles while the boys alternately play monster trucks and David and Goliath while booby trapping our living room to oblivion.

This morning I have been rereading the story of Christ's anointing in Bethany that is found in Mark 14. I read it last night before bed and wanted to come back and revisit it in the light of day. Then I though I would share with you the little bit that I learned because it's Sunday, and Hebrews tells us that we should not give up meeting together, and if I can't meet up with the Church in the body, I might as well meet up with it in the mind.

Last night as I read, I heard God whisper to me, "Your life is that perfume poured out before me." And I thought: seriously, Lord? My life is diapers and dinosaur books and dishes and discipline (both for myself and my children).

Sometimes I think I could be doing something better for Jesus with my life than what I'm doing. I think I should be writing books that change the world or serving at a soup kitchen or, I don't know, curing cancer. Sometimes I'm afraid that other people think that too. That they look at my life and see a waste. That they think: that woman needs to stop pushing out kid after kid after kid and just get a job.

But what I heard in my heart last night was Christ, the one who welcomes little children, saying, "Leave yourself alone. Why do you trouble yourself? You have done a beautiful thing for me... You have done what you could."

I thought today of the doctor who has contracted Ebola while serving the suffering. I know that many have said he shouldn't have even been there in the first place. They have said that doing so was neglectful of his children and his wife. They've called it a waste of his life.

I'm one hundred percent certain that Jesus is whispering those same words over him and his family right now, saying them back to us. "Leave him alone. Why do you trouble him? He has done a beautiful thing for me… He has done what he could."

I wish that we as a Church could rest in those words, acknowledging that when we serve with a whole heart where He has placed us, we have done a beautiful thing for Him. Yes, others may not understand. There will be those outraged at the "waste" of our lives.

But Christ ties the gospel directly to the giving up of worldly goods, of success, of rationality, even. He looks at this woman, giving up everything she has in a desperate effort to please Christ, and He says, "Everywhere the gospel is told, what she has done will be told too."

He doesn't ask us to be understood. He doesn't ask us to do what makes sense. He didn't even ask this sacrifice of us. He would have died for that woman with or without her bottle of perfume. But when we truly love Him, when we truly understand His love for us (which is the only way we will be able to love Him in return), when we truly get the gospel, the pouring out of self is the natural response.

Because we know that no matter how much we give Him, He is always giving us more. As we pour out the perfume of our life at His feet, Christ, our True Life, is pouring back into us. I love this way of knowing that in Christ "our cup overflows."

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Getting the Kids Started Early in the Modeling World

{I have no excuse for that title other than that I just  gave up when I realized that the wheels of my brain had ground to a complete halt. ...Oh, hello, bed! It's nice to see you.}

Two months ago (or so), my lovely friend Angela came over to take some pictures of the twins. She is exploring photography, and I am always generous enough to lend out my children as needed. She came by tonight to tell us goodbye. She leaves early tomorrow for a few weeks out of the country and won't be back until we have already packed up and moved out. So, feeling a little sad and already missing her, I decided that now was the appropriate time to share these wonderful pictures with you (that somehow got lost in the last 2.5 month long haze of sleep deprivation). Plus, I wanted to feel like I'd done some writing without actually doing some writing. You understand this, of course. 

Without further ado, the artwork of Angela:

Littles made sure to break in the camera first.

Bee was extremely uncooperative during our photo session until she passed out for about ten minutes midway through. She woke up happy and hamming it up. Unfortunately, it was at that point that Bruiser decided he was done for the day and took his own little siesta. Needless to say, pictures of them together? Didn't happen.

Bee, the frilly version.

Man, he makes that bow tie look good.

We had some snuggles together. 

This was the yawn that did her in.

We had a little too much fun dressing Bee up as a bookworm. (Angela may or may not have had a little too much fun dressing up Bee period.)

And yes, I wholeheartedly admit this is my favourite photo from the lot. Possibly my favourite photo ever.

Finally, here's Bee, the femme fatale. In retrospect, she really out staged Bruiser in these pictures. Sorry, buddy. But I'm not sure you would've pulled off those pearls.

Incidentally, Angela also took the beautiful picture of cake face Tiny that I posted back in April.

I don't have a good tie up to this post other than to say, I'm adding Angela to the growing list of people I'm going to miss and not just because she takes great pictures of my kids. And now I think I'm going to go sleep. Once I kick Tiny out of my bed. Don't ask.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

What's On My Bookshelf?!!!

I'm sure you've all been waiting with bated breath for the next installment of the thrilling saga of Friz Manor: Who Slept Last Night, but I thought we'd take a break from our regularly scheduled programming for a brief game of What's On My Bookshelf?!!!

Prizes will be allotted to readers who 1) have read any of the books I am about to reference, 2) guessed any of the titles currently on The Shelf, and 3) care to provide further reading suggestions to keep me entertained during the long watches of the night when Friz Manor: Who Slept Last Night is singing the same song, second verse, a little bit louder, a little bit worse.

{Prizes include but are not limited to, of course, my undying affection and a brief but priceless moment of internet celebrity.}

Now, let the games begin!

The first category is Books In Progress. I currently have rather a lot of books rolling at this point, possibly because I keep forgetting which books I'm reading and possibly because my attention span is incredible short.

So, at the top of the list is Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full by Gloria Furman. The Man brought this one home for me in May (he has this wonderful habit of bringing books home for no reason at all), and I've been dipping in and out of it since then. I only have thirty pages left at this point, and I'm kind of sad that it's almost over. It is the best presentation of how to live out the gospel in the mundane moments of motherhood that I have ever read, and I need these reminders. I need that perspective.

Coming up in second place, also brought home by the Man, is a set of short stories by the inimitable Dorothy L. Sayers (man, I love her). Let's be honest: this is a bathtub book. It's a "I just want to curl up and read something enjoyable at the end of the day" book. It's a just before bed book. Which is probably why I haven't made it through more than a handful of the forty-four stories (did I say Complete set of short stories? because it is Complete) since things like baths and bedtimes and leisure are hard to come by these days.

Next up is Tsh Oxenreider's Organized Simplicity, which makes me want to purge all of our belongings. Enough said. No, not enough said, I am also planning a date night (hahahahahahaha…sorry) when I will annoyingly ply the Man with question after question regarding our family's purpose statement and other things along those lines. He will respond with characteristic grace and eye rolls.

The second category is Books Completed. I've been knocking a few out, left and right, you know, in all my spare time. Naturally, I did a quick foray through Moby Dick and then polished off Great Expectations and a light read through some commentaries on Revelation. Kidding! Au contraire, mon frere, the lighter, the better these days, because I am reading (in general) with my eyes crossed and my brain half asleep.

Last night, in the haze, I read the great classic of literature Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde (please tell me that's not really her name). While I won't pretend it's the best book I've ever read, there were a few amusing parts, and it kept me mildly entertained. Every now and then everyone should enjoy a princess book. Especially when said princess gets turned into a Chinese-speaking frog and accidentally kidnapped. I'd give it a 4 out of 10.

The day before yesterday I reread Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I vaguely remember reading it at some point some where, but I really couldn't tell you when or where, so I thought it was worth a reread. With the exception of an "adult" (really? can we just say unnecessary?) scene, the plot held together well, the premise was intriguing, and the characters relatively believable. 6 out of 10. And now I want to know what my "grace" would be. But really, I just want to be "graced" with the ability to make people (who shall remain nameless) fall asleep at my command.

Last week I read Shauna Niequist's Cold Tangerines. Thoroughly enjoyable and thought provoking. It was encouraging, funny, intellectually stimulating. I've been on a bit of a memoir kick lately, and her writing was fabulous. So, spoiler alert, her next book, Bittersweet, is in my Books I'm Planning To Read category. Anyway, 9 out of 10.

{Ugh, I'm at the end of my can of mixed nuts and there are only peanuts left. What kind of a bad joke is this??!! I'm leaving the peanuts for the Man.}

As I was reading Cold Tangerines, I was also dipping in and out of Stephen King's book On Writing. Which entertained me a great deal mostly because when the Man asked me what I was reading and I told him, I could tell that he thought I was reading Stephen King's book on writing, which I was, but it was also Stephen King's book On Writing. No one else would find this entertaining but me. Anyway. Stephen King's book On Writing (I can't stop myself) was a great read but, unfortunately, annoyingly inspirational for someone who currently can't even manage a shower every day much less half an hour of writing time. But if you're a writer, go read it. It's now up there with Steven Pressfield's The War of Art and Strunk and White's Elements of Style (which King references plentifully). 9 out of 10.

Finally, I (finally) read Kisses from Katie by Katie J. Davis. I'm still trying to figure out what I want to say about this book. Because it's the kind of book that makes you want to change your life dramatically and go save the world. And I think that's a good thing. But I also know sometimes that's more possible than other times. And sometimes it's more about changing the way we live the lives we have now and by doing so, saving the world. I'm not sure. I will say this though, of all my book choices over the last couple of weeks, this was probably the worst choice, because it was hard to fall back asleep after reading it because I was praying so hard that God would show me how He wants me to live my life. And then I'm reminded that the "least of these" that Jesus and Katie Davis are talking about includes my teething, tossing, and turning (loudly) twins. And 9 out of 10.

{I keep sifting through the peanuts hoping to find any lone pistachios hiding in there. I got lucky once.}

Moving on, let's close out this episode of What's On My Bookshelf?!!! with Books I'm Planning To Read! (I really should've come up with catchier category titles.)

The Man and I took the kids to the bookstore this weekend to pick up some new books for the road trip. Naturally and unfortunately, they chose a horrendous amount of Thomas books. They can make us buy them but they can't make us read them. Just kidding. They really can. Anyway, the Man and I were going to pick out some books for ourselves but book shopping with four kids under the age of four (and a stroller that barely maneuvers through the aisles) is not the most relaxing thing ever. So we opted to plan our purchases and make good use of

Incidentally, and as a side note, most of the books I've been reading lately have been courtesy of an app called Oyster. I like reading on my phone at night because then I don't have to turn on a light while I nurse.

Anyway, I plan to purchase an actual book with pages that can be turned and smelled and enjoyed for myself in honor of the move, and I think I'm going to get Myquillin Smith's The Nesting Place, because is there a better time to read a book about your home than when you're getting ready to set up your home all over again? I think not. So I'm really looking forward to that.

I'm also, as previously mentioned, planning to read Shauna Niequist's Bittersweet (and I'd love to read Bread & Wine but they don't have it on Oyster), Clay Clarkson's Heartfelt Discipline, and Bill Bryson's  The World As Stage (because can anyone have too much Shakespeare in their life?).

And now, as a sincere apology for writing an obscenely long book post that probably only half a dozen people cared to read, I offer up to you this picture of my terribly cute children enjoying an unseasonably cool rainy day.