Monday, July 27, 2015

Braving the Drainage Grates

I just finished reading a book by Brené Brown called Daring Greatly, and it deserves to be talked about much more than I'm going to talk about it tonight, but I told myself I would only write while the zucchini bread bakes and since it's one of those quick breads...well, this is going to be quick. In fact, it seems there's just enough time for a story.

So here's the story. The book I just read is all about vulnerability and bravery and risk. Naturally, it was not applicable to me at all since I never struggle with fear or trust or feeling ashamed of who I am in the least. Cough, cough. But that's not the story.

That book, right on the top. Not the one Bruiser is reading.

The thing is, I have this child, this amazing, wonderful, hair brained, crazy child who sometimes (occasionally) struggles with fear. In fact, he has been known to have nightmares before he even falls asleep. Although, come to think of it, that may just be him stalling at bed time.

So, it took him a few months to come around to the idea of getting into the ocean. We had to give him numerous pep talks. And possibly bribe him with marshmallows. But we got there. This week he told me that sharks can eat your bones off, so I suppose his fears were well founded.

This week I discovered that he was scared to walk over drainage grates. Which I kind of get. What if it's not stable? What if it slips and you fall in? What if your favorite toy that you didn't even know you were carrying somehow drops out of your pocket and disappears into the great unknown? What if something with slimy tentacles reaches out and grabs you?

Anyway, when he told me he wouldn't walk over the drainage grate, I told him to walk around it, but being a good mother, I also demonstrated (and got his brother to demonstrate) that there was really nothing to be scared of by walking over it several times myself. Then we kept going to wherever it was we were headed. I thought that was the end of it.

I know. She's adorable.

But today we pulled into the library parking lot and were heading in to exchange books, and this unnamed child was dawdling by the car, so I called out to him to come on so we go in. Instead of running towards me, he asked shyly if first he could walk across the drainage grate in the middle of the parking lot.

I promise I checked for cars first. And I also made him hold his brother's hand. But I've never been so proud of him. And I didn't even have to offer copious amounts of sugar to get him to do it.

Lovely, isn't it?

There was no reason that he had to rise to the occasion, nothing to force him out of his fear, but he knew that he didn't want to keep on letting his fears limit him. And so, instead of waiting until he was backed into a corner with no other option but to face his fear, he attacked it head on.

May we all be so brave. Here's to you and here's to your drainage grates. Walk on over them. Grab hold of your brother's hand if you need to, but walk on over them with gusto.

But before you do, go read Daring Greatly. Just don't accidentally drop your copy into the drainage grate while you're crossing.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Bigger the Book Bag...

We walk into the library, twins in the stroller, a boy on either side, and tell the librarian that we have books on reserve. They don't even ask for our name any more. They know it's us. We're the ones leaving with half the contents of the bookshelves.

On each of our weekly visits to the library, we have been accompanied by our trusty book bag, a gift from our old library. Every week, we shove dozens of books into its canvas expanse, the braided straps pulling taut under the weight of covers and pages and ink. For as long as Tiny has been alive (which isn't really saying much), we've been toting our weekly reading in that bag.

It's had a good long life. And now, preparing to breathe it's last, we are retiring it.

This month...I bought a new book bag.

For those of you who think a designated library book bag is an extravagance, I beg to differ. We have other bags. That's not the point. But our library books live in that bag. We take a book out to read, we put it back in. It's the only way I manage to keep from losing books. I have a friend who has a shelf set apart for their library books. Unfortunately, due to the Man's and my assiduous book buying skills and the fact that we seem to lose a book shelf with every move, we're already rather short on shelf space. The bag system works. It also enables me to move library books from one room to another with little effort.

So, needless to say, I put a lot of thought into our new bag. It had to be sturdy. And it had to be at least the size of a small child.

After a little digging, I found what I was looking for and went ahead and ordered on Amazon. It arrived just in time for my flurry of summer reading (I've got to get my kicks in before Littles' starts school again). Considering that we get out about two dozen books each trip and we're at the library almost every week, it's proving a good investment.

And if I suddenly and mysteriously decide I hate books and no longer want to spend a good chunk of my free time at the most wonderful place on earth (where you can get free books), I can always recycle it by using it to tote the twins around from one place to the next.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Ants of August

July is seeping out under the door and with it summer. I told the Little Man we'd take two months off from school, June and July, and because I am both lazy and a woman of my word, we have done so. With aplomb. Other high achieving homeschool moms have already gotten things rolling, but not me. It's kindergarten: why rush? There are cars to be played with and beaches to explore and lazy mornings around the house.

More later about the bag Blythe is sitting on...

I did, however, finally order curriculum last week, and somehow doing so has triggered my inner nerd. No amount of the Man telling me how long it will take to arrive can keep me from checking the mail multiple times a day. Something within me has kick started and I want to sharpen an entire box of yellow number two pencils. That, in turn, makes me think of You've Got Mail, which is totally beside the point. The point being: my inner nerd is a bit antsy.

Bruiser has a good arm.

The antsy-ness is a wonderful thing (why is "antsy-ness" not a word?). I transformed two old baby blankets into floor pillows, thereby ridding myself of three of the last four hideously ugly throw pillows that came with the couch (waste not, want not). Also, fabric glue is my new best friend. I finally reattached the toggle that fell off the wind chimes two months ago. And yesterday, the boys and I dug out from behind their bunk bed half a deck of cards, three stuffed animals, one sippy cup, and sundry bits of trash that were mostly book shreds (Tiny is a picker), random bits of tape, and a discarded band aid or two. That felt good. Oh, and I rearranged our tables.

Floor pillows make everyone happy.

And let me just say, happiness is a checked off To Do list. It is also finding your driver's license that Bruiser stole from your wallet and promptly threw away. Said happiness was greatly heightened by the fact that I had already gone through the trash twice before I finally found it...but that's another story.

Normally there is no bike in the dining room, but the cat in the laundry basket happens fairly often.

Side note: Bee would say that happiness is hiding under the dust ruffle of Bruiser's crib and giggling hysterically when we pretend like we can't find her even though her foot is still sticking out from under the bed.

Bed-head and pilfered breakfast grapes. What could be more fun?

At any rate, there's something in the air. What is it about in-coming August that makes me antsy? Not antsy in a "something's got to change" fashion but antsy with the desire to work hard and make something beautiful with what I've been given.

Do you ever feel the same way?

Thursday, July 16, 2015


I ordered curriculum for the Little Man's next school year today. I also took both the big boys to the dentist, which somehow they enjoyed more than normal people should. Bee comes equipped with a stand up ponytail these days, and both twins are expanding their vocabulary by the day. Everyone is growing up, and they refuse to stop, even when I ask nicely, which I have to say is not very loving of them.

Anyway, you don't need another post about how "the days are long, but the years are short", no longer how true it may be, but I have been thinking about that lately.

The concept of quickly passing time has been resonating with me even more as last week we got news of our next duty station. Though orders are not yet in hand and we've known from day one when we'd be moving out, something has shifted and the clock has started ticking, whether I like it or not. I know this because I've started list making: things we want to do before we leave, ways to make Christmas fun while moving halfway across the country, and yes, what to pack where.

And yet, how badly I desire to not rush this. There are still friends to make, relationships to savor, routines to enjoy. Every morning I look out our windows and say, "How did I get this view?" The every day must happen, but with it comes the chance to truly relish where we are right now, and I don't just mean where, but when. This moment won't come around twice.

On my list of "things to do before we leave", sandwiched in between a day trip to the redwoods and more time at the beach, are these two words: stay engaged.

It is so easy to check out early. To be mentally planning where everything is going to fit in the trailer before it's even in the driveway. I mean this literally and metaphorically. And I'm not just applying it to the move.

We're only going to be in this house for 5 more months. I want to enjoy these beautiful windows and the brilliant blue bay in the distance. I want to say thank you for the closet space and the scratched up floors where we've played cars and had tea parties. I want to make the short walk to the commissary and the playgrounds as often as possible and be so glad that I don't have to get in the car for a few minutes of fun or a can of fire roasted tomatoes.

More importantly, I'm only going to get these relationships for the next five months. Sure, "in the Air Force, we don't say good bye; we say see you later", but a lot of these friends are not "see you laters", and I know that. I want to learn from them while I can. I want to bless them while I have the chance. I want to stay engaged.

In the same way, the kids are only going to be this age for so long and I'm only going to have a student-husband for another few months. I want to notice when Bee's ponytail tickles my nose. I want to pay attention every time Bruiser makes me reread Muddy Trucks (and all the times I make Littles read it to him instead). I want to snuggle Tiny before he gets too big for my lap even when he's digging his elbows into me. I want to pay attention to each one of the last few moments of Littles actually being little before they slip through my fingers unaware. I want to take advantage of the fact that the Man gets to be home.

Sometimes it's easy to check out early. To count the hours until bed time. To zone out as we go through the same things day after day: the same meals, the same books, the same tantrums. It's easy to dream about someday when things will be different and forget how wonderful now actually is.

I don't want that to be me. So, on my permanent to do list: stay engaged.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Morning Reminders

I've been trying to up my running game lately. This means getting up before the kids and getting Trigger on the leash before his excitement wakes up the entire house. The twins have been sleeping better the last couple months since the Man finally talked me into letting him man the night shift, so, on what has somehow become a regular basis, I've been rolling out of bed and slipping into running shoes.

I haven't run this much since college when I messed up my knee. And it's great. I'm not talking so much about the running (although I'm a dork and I do enjoy it), but the early morning quiet and the time to pray and the chance to allow my introverted self to start my day with a bit less of a bang is amazing.

I'm not going to lie, though, my favorite part of running here is being on the look out for the wildlife. Monterey is fun like that. My first couple runs I saw this incredibly fat hawk that was walking around like a rooster because it was almost too chubby to fly. I've seen deer and rabbits and squirrels. One time, my sister and I even saw a coyote. And on the days I run down by the shore, I've seen pods of whales just out past the breakers.

It's hard to beat whales, let's be honest, but the hummingbirds come in a close second. There's just something about the whisper-flash of iridescent green. They are ephemeral. They remind me of the kingfishers from home who joined me on my morning runs in high school. 

Years ago, when I ran on an orange track in the shadow of a volcano, one of my dear aunt-friends told me that my kingfisher sightings were one of God's ways of telling me how much he loved me.

Now, half a world away, the hummingbirds tell me the same thing.

That's worth getting out of bed in the morning.