Monday, June 24, 2013

The Man

Don't know if you've noticed, but we've been at this schooling thing for quite a while now.  Medical school, internship, residency, chief residency... he's done it all and he's done it so perfectly.

Now, I suppose the word perfectly is a little weighted... and I suppose it can mean different things to different people.  But, for me, the definition of 'perfectly' in this instance has nothing to do with a lack of mistakes, and everything to do with balance. 

And he is a balance master.  Giving his demanding job as much as he needs to, and still having so much left to give to me and our kids.

This man is my life.  He makes us laugh, keeps us loose, and can tackle a sink full of dirty dishes or wrangle four children into bed with the best of them.  And... he also cuts into eyeballs.

I am so, so proud to have him by my side.  (Even if I won't snuggle up to him on an operating day while he's still wearing his scrubs... what if there are, gulp, eye juices on them or something?)  Congratulations, my love, on a job well done.  You're the best eye-sight saver I know.

You should have your picture on a Wall of Fame or something.... oh hey!  Look at that.

You know, I've been thinking a little as I sit here in my very favorite rocking chair tonight surrounded by cardboard boxes.  The whole house is filled with boxes, actually, and my heart sinks a little when I think about tomorrow night.  Because tomorrow night this favorite rocking chair will not be here in my favorite room.  Instead, it will be sitting on a moving truck - crammed in with all of our other furniture.  And all of our other belongings.  We'll drive away from this home that we love.  This place that we love.  These people that we love.  We'll drive away from the fireflies and the tree-lined freeways.  From the squirrels and the Carolina rain falls.

My roots run deep here.
So deep that saving most of them is impossible.
They must be cut.
And, oh, how it hurts.

But... this man.  This handsome, caring, goofy man will come with me.

And that makes it so, so much better.

I'm proud of you, Bri!  Thanks for graduating.
Now, how about one more year of schooling?

Monday, June 17, 2013


This little man is perfect.  Kissable, chunky cheeks.  Free smiles.  Giggles at nothing in particular.  In fact, today I was cutting up some apple slices for the kids' lunch and, after hearing baby giggles from across the island, I looked up and found that he was just sitting in Kenzie's lap, staring at me.  When our eyes locked, it sent him into another round of giggles.  The kids and I laughed back and we all spent the next several seconds laughing together.

To an outsider's eyes, it might have been strange to see such a mundane task such as slicing up apples turn into a giggling fit... but to me, it made perfect sense.  That is who TK is.  That, among other things, is what he has brought into this family.


And so... so... so much love.

I sat in the pew at church on the Sunday that Brian blessed this sweet little baby and listened to his beautiful words.  Even though I can't see heaven, and even though I can't see my Heavenly Father who lives there, I believe He still communicates with us... in fact, I know it.  I've felt that communication several times myself, and I believe that the communication that flows from Heaven down to a worthy priesthood holder in the act of performing a blessing can be one of the clearest signals available to us.  So, with these beliefs, listening to the words of a priesthood blessing has always been a sort of window to the heavens for me.  A chance to hear what the Lord has to say... and what He had to say about Timothy was: Love. 

How much love he has brought into our home.
How much love his parents and siblings have for him (happily, Miles now falls into this category!).
How, as he grows, he will have a gift in being able to share his love for others.
And, perhaps most importantly, to share the love of the Savior to others as well.

And I realized, as I listened to that blessing, that I was smiling and slowly nodding my head... yes, I thought, that's true.  You are so sweet.  So beautiful.  And so loving.  

Timothy, I can't wait to see who you grow up to be. 
Actually, I can wait a little.
Because I have a feeling you won't let me kiss those chubby cheeks forever...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Eagles are Out

There I was, driving to a school party, happily singing along to a country song on the radio when this sign popped into my field of vision and squeezed my heart in its ugly vice.  Actual tears, folks.  I had to hide in the parking lot for a few minutes to get myself back together.  Sometimes the reality of this whole 'moving thing' hits me like an unexpected tidal wave and just drenches me.  But... as much as I hate to leave this school, it's pretty nice to have the last weeks of it behind us.  In the last two weeks of school, I spent a portion of almost every day within its walls.  I spend a lot of time there, anyway, helping out in each of my kids' classrooms, but these last two weeks were a bit much.  I wonder what it's going to be like when I have three kids in elementary school...  so many parties... so many lunches... so many performances and programs... teachers and gifts...  The school is worth it, though.  And, more importantly, so are my kiddos.  I love that they love to see me in their classrooms.  I love knowing their friends and I love that their friends know me.  I love knowing their teachers on a personal level as well as a professional level, and I am happy to have had the chance to spend so many hours there.

Anyway, this next picture kind of sums up the last two weeks of school for us.  This kid never falls asleep in the car.  But he was so out this time I couldn't even wake him... and then I noticed the two school Visitor Stickers on his shirt, a third one stuck to the armrest beside him (all from different days), and his lunchbox thrown on the seat next to him.  Sorry, bud.  You sure do have a different life than your older siblings had when they were three...

Here are some of the school-things that kept us entertained:

A Kindergarten Musical: Hats!

Okay, so this happened a couple of months ago... but it's school related, so I'll put it in here anyway.
What's cuter than dressing up a bunch of kindergarteners in hats and then having them stand on risers to sing songs about hats?  Probably nothing.  Carson's kind of a big kid in his classroom.  So, early on he found the other big kid and they became best buddies.  Can you find Abe Lincoln and Wizard... they're BFF's.  I love the way Carson's homemade hat pushes his ears out.  He looks like a little elf. 

It was exciting for me to see the performance excitement spark in his eyes.  Great job, bud!
Golden Skippers

Every Tuesday morning throughout the year, we'd wake up a little early to get McKenzie out to her Golden Skippers jump roping rehearsals.  The final Tuesday, we parents were invited to come and see all they had learned throughout the year.  I saw that she had learned all sorts of things... like, how to jump over the rope a few times... and how to pass it under one leg while rotating it for a friend... and how to try again and again and again and again to jump into the rotating rope herself... but the best thing she learned was how to carry her jump rope around her shoulder and look cool while doing so.   You can see her awesome skill in the bottom left picture in the collage above. 

She may become a famous jump-roper in the years to come... but for now, she just has a blast with all of her friends.

Go, Kenzie!

Art Exhibit at the Mall

Carson was shyly honored to have his school self portrait chosen to be displayed at the art exhibit in the mall.  There were only a handful of kindergartners with the same story, and he needs a little self-esteem boost every once in a while, so we played it up and made a night out of it.  We traveled the halls of the mall and ooohed and ahhhed at his self portrait when we found it.  We took pictures and then celebrated by eating dinner in the food court.  Have you ever tried to feed your family at the food court in the mall?  TERRIBLE economic idea.  I think we spent close to forty dollars to fill all of my bottomless pits - and the food wasn't even that great.  Next time, we'll hit Red Robin.  But, that's beside the point. I'll give you a high-five if you can figure out which portrait is Carson's...

Wax Museum

The third graders spent the last couple of weeks of school learning about famous historical people.  Each child picked one famous person to dress up as at the school 'wax museum'.  They then researched this person, wrote a short speech and memorized it to deliver as this person, and found a costume to don to be this person.  McKenzie chose Annie Oakley.  Thankfully I had a long brown skirt and a cowboy hat... McKenzie looked awesome, and she practiced her speech over and over and over again.  She even threw in a little accent.  The night before the performance, she called the whole family into the living room and asked if she could please practice with us as her audience.  Why, yes!  She told us that she and all of her classmates would be lined up against the wall with a fake button on the floor in front of them.  The entire school would then mill around the halls and whenever anyone stepped on her button, she would recite her speech.

The morning of the performance, she had a nervous excitement following her around as she checked and double checked that she had everything she needed.  Fifth graders would be watching her, you see.  And you know how scary they are.  I told her she would be awesome and that I would come and push her button about halfway through the hour... just before the fifth graders.  The time came for me to hop into the car when I got a call from the school.

"Kenzie fainted."  What?!

I dashed to the school and found her, dressed as Annie Oakley, sitting in the office with a juice box and a water sitting beside her.  She had her head bowed and broke into tears when she saw me (not common).  I sat beside her and wrapped her up as tightly as I could and gently asked what had happened.  She would not say a word, so I got the story from one of the adults who had been standing nearby.  She was in the middle of her speech when... she just fell.  She hit her eyebrow on the tile floor, and regained consciousness a couple of seconds later.  I hugged her closer and pushed her hair back to see the goose-egg.  Yep.  Ouch.

Poor girl.  I kept thinking that she was going to break her silence, or at least lift her head, but after forty-five minutes she still hadn't said more than a word and was still very curled into a ball with my arm wrapped tightly around her.  I was in charge of a pizza party for her class that was starting right about then, but McKenzie did not want to attend.  The mothers who had been sitting with us offered to throw the party for me and I brought my sweet girl home.  When we were alone, she told me that her tummy had been hurting, and then she started seeing spots on one kid, so she looked at another kid, and then he had spots too.  Then she just remembers being on the floor, looking up into a friend's mom's eyes who was saying, "Kenzie?  Hey, Kenzie!  It's okay!"  Poor McKenzie was terrified.  And embarrassed.

So, anyway - no pictures of the wax museum... but trust me, she was great the night before.  And she looked just like Annie Oakley (or at least, like a third grader dressed up like Annie Oakley).

Pizza Parties, Ice Cream parties, Saying goodbye to Teachers

It's always so, so nice to have teachers that really care about your kid.  These little ones have been through so much this year... they've had to fight a bit for happiness with so much drama going on around them.  But their teachers were right there for them.  Every step of the way.  They helped me troubleshoot problem behaviors and figure out where they were coming from... they stayed positive and lighthearted and let my kids feed from that when I couldn't offer it to them myself.   

Each class had a pizza party the last week of school, and McKenzie's class also had an ice cream party. (In the school, out of the school, in the school, out of the school, in the school...)

But then we were done

I sent the kids off on the bus that last day of school with gift cards for their teachers (sorry... it was the best I could do this year), and an extra hug and smile of encouragement.  I knew it would be a hard day for McKenzie - and a half an hour before the bus dropped them back at home, Miles and I made a special trip to the store to grab everything we could think of that could go on an ice cream sundae.  We had it all arranged on the island just before I saw the bus creeping up the road through the rain to our corner.  I ran outside with the umbrellas to greet them and Carson came off the bus with both hands raised in a 'school is done!' fashion.  I clapped my hands together and cheered for him. 

"Hooray!  Summer is here!" I said.  I continued to clap and smile as McKenzie came down the stairs with her head bowed and shoulders slumped.  I put my arm around her, waved goodbye to our wonderful bus driver, and told all the children at the stop to come in for ice cream sundaes.  They ran (fast) into the house with all of the umbrellas and I looked down at McKenzie.  "You okay, girl?" I asked.  Her brave face disappeared and she crumpled into a tearful heap and buried her face into me.  I hugged her so tight I was afraid of breaking a rib and all I could say as my heart broke in two was,

"I know, sweetie... Oh, I know..."

We stood there, getting soaked, for at least a minute, but eventually pulled ourselves into the house and filled our bowls with ice cream.

McKenzie and I left the little kids in the crazy kitchen and snuggled down into the couch together.  "You know," I said thoughtfully as we cradled our ice cream sundaes in our laps, "ice cream really does make everything seem better."  She smiled and dipped her head into my arm for a hug because, you know what?  It was true.

Oh, Easley Elementary. 
We will miss you.

And we may need a lot of ice cream in the near future...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Story of a Carolina Beach

If the old adage is true that a picture is worth a thousand words then I have a novel of pictures that if converted into words would total approximately 530 pages describing our recent vacation to Topsail Island.  I will not share them all with you (you're welcome), but it's been very difficult to choose because I tried, this time more than others, to only take pictures that told the story of our deep love for these Carolina beaches.  Each picture that was kept reminds me of a priceless moment spent in a priceless place and, after taking this week-long vacation eight times in the last eight years, it breaks my heart that these quiet beaches are going to be much harder to visit from now on.  I do pray that we will fall in love with our new home as deeply as we have fallen in love with this one.  And I'm not just saying that... In fact, it's been the central topic of many prayers.  But, I'm actually still trying to maintain a certain level of denial so that I don't spend my last couple of weeks here acting like a wet noodle.  So - let's move on, shall we?  Allow me to tell you my story of our beautiful North Carolina beaches.

The week starts quietly.

It ends quietly, too.  And somehow the points between that beginning and that end string themselves together ... quietly. 

I don't mean 'quietly' in the sense of noiselessness.  In fact, at no point in the entire week is there a complete cessation of sound, what with the 8 bedroom beach house full to bursting with busy bodies and the ocean consistently breathing out its crashing song.  Instead, the quietness comes from a feeling inside... deep, and real.  A quietness that dulls the pecking worries of the world and releases me from the stressful barriers that must be maintained to keep a social tactfulness.  What I mean by that is that there are no awkward excuse me's when my boogie board bumps into a stranger... and no trying to explain to my children, again, that unfamiliar towels are not for drying sandy feet and no reminding them that strangers have a much bigger personal space than do friends.  These things do not happen because there are no strangers here.  We are all friends.  Dear, dear friends.  Which makes it easy to be myself.  I can let the good in me shine through our conversations and I can be unafraid when my bad comes shining through, too.  I am loved here, with these people.  And we have the beach to ourselves. 

The mornings start early.  Someone wakes up with the sun by 6:30am, and usually that someone is small and loud and excited to wake up all of their other small and loud friends who are sleeping next to them.  They are called children and are quite unable to understand the value of falling-back-asleep or the even more coveted value of letting-the-other-sleepers-stay-asleep so, soon all of them are awake and running through the hard-floored, echo-y house, calling for adults and for breakfast.  The adults are much harder to pull from their beds.  Mostly because they went to bed just a few hours earlier after a fun-filled night playing games, or chatting, or hot-tubbing, or watching a movie, or eating the after-kids-go-to-bed snacks.  Or all of the above.

But, sleepy or not, the duty of parenting calls. So half of the adults kindly tell their partners to keep sleeping, and crawl out from under their warm, somewhat sandy sheets.  They shake the sleep from their heads and trudge downstairs to say hello to the other parents who are slothfully pulling down boxes of cereal.  The bed-headed kids are then bribed by screens of all kinds to stay quiet until the other adults awake.

The whole house is awake and moving by 9:00, and the first of the children begin appearing in their swimming suits.  The swimming suit fashion catches like fire and soon everyone is sporting one.  The smell of sunscreen floats through the air and the sliding glass doors out to the beach are opened 153 times as the eager children run from the deck to the living room to the deck to the living room, checking to see if an adult is ready to take them across the wooden bridge over the sand dunes.  The sound of the waves and the smell of the salty air excite me and hurry my pace. Sometimes I'm the first adult ready, usually I'm not, but the children do not care.  At the sight of any adult walking through the sliding glass doors the children burst out and sprint to flood the beach, dragging their boogie boards behind them. 

While some kids boogie, other kids fly kites.

(I love that the kite is upside down here... it just seems so... Miles)

(I watched Claire fly this kite for probably 20 minutes before I reached for my camera.  She just stood there, in that exact spot, the whole time... flying her 'tiny kite' and watching the blue tails blow in the wind.  She is one of my very favorite three-year-olds.)

While some kids boogie and fly kites, others play in the sand.

Or snuggle.

Every day is remarkably the same.  Time follows along a seamless and predictable path and one child felt proud to have it figured out by mid-week.  "I get it, Mom," he said.  "We wake up and eat breakfast, then kill some time, then go out to the beach, come in for lunch, then kill some more time, then go out to the beach again, come in for dinner, kill some more time, and go to bed."  Well, when your week consists of only three things – eating, killing time, and beaching – I see no reason to change it.  Of course, using a soup analogy, the predictable flow of the day is simply a broth.  The unique people and conversations keep things interesting and add an unpredictable array of spices and meats.

I thought 'killing time' was an interesting way to describe our down-times.  And, for a kid, I suppose it probably feels a bit like killing time.  For me, however, I like to think of it as a 'rest time'.  The kids are usually involved in one of the following:

1) Screen Time.  Large, large quantities of screen time.

2) Foosball tournaments.

(This was Miles's absolute favorite... he made himself a force to be reckoned with, and it was fun to see the older boys seek him out for a game).

3) Playing games.

4) But mostly screen time.  Large, large quantities of screen time.

The adults killed time by reading books, checking e-mail, dozing on the couch, preparing food, talking, talking, talking and laughing.   So much laughing.  This trip, we laughed away an entire afternoon taking pictures of ourselves after I kindly demonstrated the difference between taking pictures from below vs. taking pictures from above.   (Taking these kinds of pictures is a skill I learned from my dear friend, Melissa)

I'll refrain from posting my friends' ugly pictures... for now.  Leverage, you see.  Anyway, they're not as lucky to look so eerily like John Travolta when he's all dressed up like a woman in Hairspray.  (Look again - you'll see it.)

Lunch is always delicious.  So is dinner.  Four out of five meal-times, I simply walk from the beach into the house and am met with fantastic new smells as one of the other families puts the finishing touches onto the meal that they've been preparing for the house. The other time, I get to prepare something myself... always picked carefully to balance deliciousness with ease of preparation.  We sit together to eat.  More talking.  More laughing.  Always complimenting the chef.  The beach menu is always one of my favorite things. 

After lunch clean-up and a little more 'killing time', the ocean starts calling again.  This time we might catch some sand crabs, get buried in the sand, or build sand castles.

Maybe we'll find the jackpot of sea-clammy-things and fill up a couple of boogie boards.  (Lily, while throwing handfuls of the creatures to the pile said "Looks like we're eatin' well tonight!"  I laughed.  Hard.  Mostly because... gross.)

Or scour the shores for shark teeth.

We ladies might sit in the sand and chat with each other and the babies while the men play a game of Frisbee 500.

And we might laugh when they lose their frisbee in the surf because they look so much like sad little puppies,

but we cheer extra loud when they find it again.  We watch them play and we comment, every single year, on how lucky we feel to have such great, great men in our lives.  I feel secretly lucky to have the greatest one out there... and I know that each lady feels she has the exact same secret about her own.

Eventually, someone gets cold and pulls the party back inside.

So we eat some gourmet dinner and then, maybe on a special night we might go back out to the beach in our pajamas to play a life-sized version of foosball.

Or, on an extra special night, the adults might take shifts out to eat at a local sea-food restaurant.  Half the adults go out while the other half feed the children, then they swap and the late group goes out while the early dinner crew puts the children to bed.

(Brian and I went in the late shift with these crazies.  We spent the drive out there belting out the newest hit pop song and belted it out even louder when we realized we were all just a little embarrassed to like it so much...  and then, can I tell you just how much I love this picture?  First of all, Kathleen's mad-eye-Moody eye makes me laugh but then, at the same time, these faces almost make me cry because I just love them so, so, so much.)

(We tried a lot of new foods... some good... some not so good.  Take a closer look at Merrill's face... I couldn't crop it out when I realized he's 'helping' Cami eat the crab.)

 Or, on an extra extra special night, we might let just a couple of the kids stay up past dark to look for ghost crabs with the adults.

(All four of these faces are priceless... excited boys and proud daddies.)

Yes, this beach is a special place.  Are Carolina beaches more special than most?  I don’t know.  All I know is that this is a very happy place for me.

And for my family.
We will miss you.

But, at least we left our mark.