Monday, March 24, 2014

Dear Timothy

It's the small things about you that keep a smile on my face.  The way your eyelashes blow in the wind, the way your soft cheeks feel under my lips, the way you belly laugh every time I startle you.  When you entered into 'this phase' I braced myself... this phase of curiosity which, left unguided, would have you eating all the dishwasher soap or careening head first into the deep end of the pool.  This phase of having an opinion yet unable to express that opinion which, to the trial of my patience, has me listening hour after hour to tantrums, trying to problem solve and ever wondering why God doesn't grant mothers with the gift of mind-reading.  This phase of exploring which, while fun for you, leaves tupperware strewn across my kitchen floor and toilet paper strung through the hallways.  This phase of seemingly unending energy which, you may not realize, makes it quite impossible to 'just sit' anywhere.  Church?  A nightmare.  Relaxing at the pool? Those days are gone.  Sitting on a blanket watching the kids play in the waves?  You either want to be in the ocean with them, or filling your swimming suit (and mouth) with sand.  Sit on the side of the pier and watch the boats drive by?  You'd rather crawl along the pier yourself,

and lick the salt from the pavement.

Sometimes my patience wears thin and I feel raw and overwhelmed. In these moments I'm sure you've heard me say I do not like this phase.  I believed myself, too, you know. 

But the more I watch you and care for you and get to know you, I've realized that, actually, most of my days are filled with laughter.  Because licking the pier?!  You're funny.  And I see that for every little (or big) thing that tries my patience and empties my energy cup, there are more little (and big) things that give me happiness, sweetness, and that fill that empty energy cup with love.  And though I may wish that somehow love could recompose itself into energy, I'd rather have that cup filled with love anyway.

You are beautiful, baby.  I love the way your eyes brighten when I walk into a room, the way your eyebrows lift with expression, the oblivious way you smear peanut butter and jelly into every nook and cranny.

The way you concentrate on my words, the way you slowly mimic them, the way you chicken out just before taking that first step, the way your heart attaches itself to a new treasure that must be strung along behind you for hours.

The way you wrap your tiny arms around my neck and bury your head in for a hug, the way you bounce and clap whenever you hear any sort of beat, the way you giggle and rub your eyes, the way you look up at me with that face, trying so hard to tell me what's on your mind.

I love it.  I love you.  And despite what you may have heard me say out loud, I love this phase.
I just also love that it won't last forever.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Friend /frend/ (n): a priceless companion

Brian and Merrill

Nothing says friendship quite like a couple of guys paddling side by side in awkward stance through the ocean.
We rented paddle boards one evening when some of our very best friends flew across the country for a visit.  The guys were surprised at how difficult the boards were to control.  They think the waves might have had something to do with it, but whatever the reason, they spent a lot of time in the water instead of on the water.

Which left me rolling with laughter silently supporting them on the beach. As I watched them fall and fall and fall and climb back up and fall again, I thought about how much I love these people.  And about how friendships, just like paddle boards, can be so precarious.  Sometimes one wave of misunderstanding will be all it takes to break the friendship. It throws you off of your board and sends you crying back to the shore.

And other times the friendship withstands the whole ocean.  This is interesting to me because the waves come, regardless.  Little misunderstandings.  Big misunderstandings.  Offenses and hurt feelings slide under your feet and mess with your balance until, try as you might, you find yourself splashing and submerged in the very wave that threw you. 

And, I think, here is where the difference comes.
In this choice of giving up or getting up.  And then getting back up, again and again and again.

And again.
Down in the waves it feels like your friendship is being beaten... and it might be.  Though, really, it's through that beating that strength is formed.
And then if you stick it out through the storms together, how much more rewarding it will be when the seas calm and you look over to see a (stronger) friend smiling beside you.

Thanks for getting back up on your boards when my waves knock you down, friends.
You're the best.

Monday, March 10, 2014

It was in the Hugging

I spent last weekend in Las Vegas with eleven of my favorite women.
I wish it could have been all of my favorite women.
But I'll take what I can get.
We live in 7 different states across the country,
but one thing brought us back together:
our cherished North Carolina book club.

It was the hugging that got me.
The type of hugging that wraps you so tightly in the arms of a friend that you realize, as your lungs empty in laughter when you break, that you had been holding your breath.
The type of hugging that wraps your hearts and souls together again, and you feel that that embrace remains fiercely strong long after you break. 
The type of hugging that comes at the end of a long separation and wordlessly says it's been too long.  How I've missed you!

It was the laughing that got me.
The kind of laughing that sheds the barnacles of worry from your gut.  That fills your lungs with friendship.
That leaves your cheeks sore and tingly in a way you'd forgotten.
The type of laughing that ends up so intense that all sound is scared away from your vocal chords, and you can do nothing else but lock eyes with a face contorted in a way that you know mirrors your own.

It was the conversation that got me.
The conversations that pull out your truest feelings; feelings you were happy to discover in yourself; or interested to discover in yourself, anyway.
Conversations that shine a light into the soul of a friend, and leave you with even more love for them; because true love can only come when you know someone as they truly are.
Conversations that have no emotional boundaries. Tell me about your happy.  Tell me about your sad. Tell me about your fears, and your stresses, and your beauty.  And I'll share with you about mine.

It was the similarity that got me.
We are mothers.  We are wives.  We love Jesus Christ.  We vacationed in Vegas, but we do not gamble.  We do not smoke, or drink alcohol.
Our similarity is so strong that it was effortless to dismiss the advice of our cashier that we simply must go to a strip club once in our lives, with a flick of our hands, a chuckle, and a phrase: we are good little Mormon girls.  Never a moment of indecision or desire.  Never a discussion.
We know.
A similarity that stitches our souls together in layers of understanding.

It was the difference that got me.
The difference that wraps one friend in a love of art, and blesses our weekend with an art exhibition that was simply unforgettable.
The difference that wraps one friend in a love of fine food, and blesses our weekend with a chocolate factory that serves such delicious hot chocolate that I feel my life has been changed forever.
The difference that wraps one friend in a gift of hospitality, and blesses our weekend with fresh flowers, clean sheets, dusted shelves, borrowed furniture, and a travel basket full of anything we may have forgotten.
The difference that wraps one friend in a love of laughter, another in a love of conversation, and yet another in a love of exercise, and on and on and on... 
The differences that wrap us all in something unique.  Something special.  Something to give.  Something to share. 
Which makes so much to receive.

It was the beauty that got me.
The beauty of the Vegas mountains, yes.
The beauty of the playful clouds, yes.
The beauty of the clean streets, the textured buildings, and the manicured yards, yes, yes, and yes.
But as I flew back over the country to my home I was surprised to find that, though I had been so focused on finding the natural beauty in that desert, the most meaningful beauty that I found was in the hearts of my friends.
It was the love.
It was in our similarities and our differences.  It was in the conversations and the laughter.

It was in the hugging.

Friday, March 7, 2014

February Harvest

Lots of Beauty this Month!

1 - Orchards and orchards and orchards of oranges.
2 - That cloud looks so much like it's bursting with happiness!  I want to look like that... metaphorically, of course.  (It also looks like the Beast when he starts changing into the Prince (but then he starts floating and spinning while the rays split through his body, which is weird, so); let's stick with the happy burst).
3 - Dancing through the sun rays.
4 - That Swiss Family - they were one genius family.
5 - You'll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream.  la-dee-da, la-dee-da, la-dee-da-da-da-da-dum-da-dum-da-dum...
6 - Old Father Seahorse
7 - Fish.  Star Fish.
8 - Beautiful Vine Lady.  She really moved like a vine.  Creepy.  But beautiful.
9 - Fountains in France (Epcot)

10 - Double fireworks show for the price of one.

11 - Texture, texture, texture.
12 - Olympic Party Spoons - super fun and easy party snack that will become part of our lives from now on.
13 - Sunset - breathe in, breathe out.
14 - My Favorite Color.  Also, it was fun to squeeze it out just for the sake of a picture.
15 - Funny Branch
16 - Moon over Palms
17 - Mama and Miles Date Night.  Hot Cocoa and Valentine books.  He was a perfect gentleman and only spilled his hot chocolate once.
18 - Love
19 - Cleanliness is Beauty.  No dog poop to smell or step in?  The greatest form of cleanliness.

20 - The Letter 'L' - my favorite.

21 - Bright Flowers and lovely buildings
22 - The Colors!  Isn't that beautiful?
23 - Happy Stars
24 - Moving Water under the last sliver of sunlight.
25 - New (to me) Car.  Guys... I've wanted this thing for a while now.  It's gorgeous and drives like a dream... plus, love that Honda security.
26 - Peaceful Flight.  Okay, actually... it wasn't peaceful because they were all scattering away after Carson and Miles ran out the back door to catch one.
27 - Patterns
28 - Sunset
29 - Very Last Carton of Money Bleeding Formula

30 - Blooming Rose

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Love Day

Valentines day came again this year.  It snuck up on me a bit since I don't have school schedules breathing down my neck.  No teachers requesting glittered shoe boxes.  No students anticipating personalized cards and candy.  Just me.  Just Brian.  Just our kids.

It was heavenly. 

A few days before the love day I took the kids to the craft store and let them pick out a few card making supplies.  Colored construction paper.  Markers.  Glue.  Pink glitter.  Pipe cleaners.  Red glitter.  Pretty ribbons.
No generic superhero/princess cards.

Once Mr. Everything-Is-Harder-When-I-Am-Awake was down for his nap, we turned on the afternoon Olympics and pulled out our stash.  Then we promised each other we wouldn't look and went straight to work crafting the perfect card for each family member.  I admit I looked a couple of times to control the amount of glue being squeezed onto each card, but I swear I didn't see what they were making.

Once the cards were completed, we shoved them into each others small boxes (way too small... next year we'll have to either make smaller valentines, or get bigger boxes) on the windowsill and stared at them until Valentines day finally arrived.  There was lots of hugging.

LOTS of hugging.

I think next year I'll spend a little less time making sure my kids have the perfect Valentine for their classmates, and a little more time making sure they have the perfect Valentine for their family.  Cause this was way better. 

Plus, I selfishly want more pipe cleaner jewelry.

That evening, we spent four hours reading our love story aloud to the kids.  The first part of the story written and read by me, the second part written and read by Brian.  Four hours.  That's a lot of love.

McKenzie considers it the greatest novel of her time. 
And that's enough for me.