Monday, April 28, 2014

Happy Togetherness

I had plans, you know.  Plans for the way our lives would be here in Miami.  I knew we were in for a year of lessons, a year of growth, and (hopefully) a year of reconnecting.  After last year, I felt our family was in desperate need of something I call 'happy togetherness'.  Of course, technically, we'd spent lots of time being together throughout last year.  We ate dinner as a family and gave hugs and kisses at bedtime.  We asked 'how was your day' and 'will you please pass the pasta',  but the circumstances that piled into our lives had increased the level of stress to a point that made it very hard to really connect.  We looked at each other, but we didn't really see each other.  We helped each other, but we didn't really serve each other.  We loved each other, but we didn't really cherish each other.  My plans for this year included changing that.

It worked like a charm.  The first several months brought the kids and I closer than we had ever been before.  We spent every waking hour together.  I became more than a mother, I became a school teacher, too.  I taught Miles how to read, Carson how to write, and McKenzie how to do long division.  I started to see them as people again, and not just mouths to feed and small creatures that generated an unspeakable amount of laundry to wash.  I remembered the reasons why those sweet little people were so individually unique and awesome.

But, just like everything in this life, there have been side effects.  And I think the side effects have hit McKenzie the hardest.  She has such fun with her brothers, but without school she misses her friends dearly.  She hasn't had a chance this year to really be a 9-year-old... and I see that, with her brothers so much younger and her parents so much older, she feels caught in a middle zone with no one to relate to.  It hurts my heart to see her lonely, and thankfully the adrenaline of a move to the beach carried her a long, long way, and now the adrenaline that comes from her anticipation of a move to Vegas (complete with her very own room and a promise of a school class full of kids) is picking up a lot of the slack.  But, still, I see the want in her, so whenever a chance presents itself to be with a friend, we jump on it.

Taryn is her dearest friend here in Miami, and she is so incredibly sweet.  I see McKenzie's eyes light up whenever she is around and I will forever be grateful for the warm, accepting personality that Taryn has shared with McKenzie this year.

McKenzie already gets teary when we start talking of leaving Taryn, and I am touched by how quickly bonds of friendship can form.
In me, too, you know.
I had decided I wouldn't let my heart get intertwined with other women this year because of how painful it is to leave - but life doesn't work that way.  This move is just going to hurt again, darn it!

McKenzie is old enough to have experienced both the good and the bad this year, and to recognize the difference between the two.  She will keep many of these memories, and I'm guessing that the years will shed most of the loneliness from her mind and reveal that her most potent feelings were of happiness.  Happiness will fill her when she thinks of friendship during this year, because Taryn will be there in her memories.  As for me, I have learned this year that no matter how much family time you spend together, a balance is best - because friendship is remarkably important, too.

Regardless of the side effects, though, I am intensely grateful for this chance that we have had to spend a full year focusing on our family.  The hours and days and weeks and months that we have logged together as a family have hopefully given McKenzie, and her brothers, and her parents, a sense of solidarity and of unity.
Because even great friends come, and go.
But the family bonds that form during times of Happy Togetherness?

Those are eternal.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Birthday Happy

Kenz took this picture and I absolutely love it!

Two years in...  Am I the only one who loves being 30-something?  Through my 20's I kept having to fight the feeling that I was trying to get somewhere... 'Enjoy the Doing' I had framed and displayed in my house to remind me to slow down and stop reaching forward - reaching forward to some goal that I couldn't even put my finger on.  The end of my husband's schooling? Perhaps.  The end of moving around to temporary homes?  Maaaaaaybe.  Though, I don't really want to finish schooling because I love this life... and I don't really look forward to settling down forever, either.  In fact, any option I thought of didn't feel quite right... and sure enough, when I turned 30, still in the middle of all of these changes, I felt a strange relaxing feeling that I had arrived.  Reaching forward to my 30's?  Well, I guess so. 

Plus, I must have subconsciously known that this delicious Oreo ice cream cake would be waiting for me on my 32nd birthday.

I've always had a desire to be older than I actually am.  In fact, I remember as a child overhearing my mother tell one of her friends that she thinks I have an 'old soul'.  I think so, too.  I haven't always loved this about myself and, in fact, spent some time in my adult life trying to change it.  I was so inspired by those friends around me who seemed to be able to just laugh and let the cares of the world brush from their shoulders.  It looked so freeing and they looked like they were having so much fun!  I wanted that, too, because compared to them I felt old, and boring, and serious.  I can be silly, too, I consciously decided one year.  And so I began to be like them... carefree!  Silly!  Giggly and funny!

...It was not good...

Turns out you can't force it; and when I tried, it felt miserable and... well... forced.  That year I realized that I'd much rather watch others be silly.  I'd much rather be the one to laugh at the jokes than to come up with them myself.  And then, whenever anyone needs an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on, well, then it's my turn to shine.  There is fun and beauty in that, too.

Being 30-something strangely gives me permission to simply be who I am. I've lived long enough to see that there is a place for me in this world.  And that I don't have to be carefree to be deeply happy.  I appreciate the part of my personality that can sit on the balcony on my 32nd birthday with my camera and a sunrise, and feel so content and full that I think the beauty of that moment could carry me through the rest of my life. 

I'm not old, boring, or serious... I'm me.  And being 30-something somehow fits me better than any age I've been before.  It feels so comfortable.  So refreshing.  So promising.  I'm learning how to prioritize my life better.  I'm spending more time on the important things and less time trying to figure out what those things are.

For me, being 30-something means more than a decade of marriage...whatever kinks were in the beginning have long since been ironed out and when new kinks snag us we're able to work through them with the understanding that only comes with years together.  Brian has spent these years weaving so many strands of golden love through my heart that it can hardly be called my own anymore.  Strands that can only be crafted from kindness, gentleness and honesty.  Strands that can only be woven by hands that have proven, time after time after time, of their unconditional love.  Years of crafting; years of weaving; this man has filled my heart with his own love.

For me, being 30-something means my house is full of children.  It's said that a mother's job is to teach her children.  But I'm afraid that the roles have been reversed in this household.  I'm the one learning kindness.  I'm the one learning patience.  I watch their examples and come away inspired to forgive quicker, to hug more fervently, to obey when I'm tired and to let my tears turn to giggles before they're dry.  I'm the one learning to be honest, to be quick to smile, and to focus on my small accomplishments--and to not be so hard on myself when I fall short.

(Birthday picnic with long, beautiful shadows)

As I look through my pictures, I see over and over and over that my days are framed by beautiful sunrises and beautiful sunsets.  But the most beautiful thing of all is what is pictured between those frames.  Being 30-something is good to me. 
I think I'll stay.
You know, I think I've always been here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

On the Backs of Giants

I kissed my kids goodbye tonight just before taking the elevator down eleven floors and walking three blocks to sit on the cozy, brown, leather couch nestled in a quiet corner of Starbucks.  The last thing I saw in my apartment was Miles's glass-blue eyes turned down in a sad protest.  I want to come with you, he said. 
I promise you would be so bored, I replied.  I assured him that I was only going to sit on a couch and stare at my computer (I didn't mention the hot chocolate I knew would be simmering to my right because that would have just confused him (Bored? With hot chocolate!?  Not possible.).). 
I still want to come, he said.  I gave him one more hug, told him I would check in on him when I came home, and pointed him in the direction of Daddy.  And as I walked those three blocks, I thought about how lucky I am to have someone in my life love me in the way that only a child can.

Now, I've found my way to that cozy, brown, leather couch nestled in a quiet corner of Starbucks and I can't help but stare at this beautiful picture of my own parents.  It seems to complete the thoughts from my walk as I think to myself about how lucky I am to have people in my life that I love in a way that only a child can.  I look into my mom's eyes and see everything.  Thirty-two years of unconditional love has poured out of those eyes right into my soul.  She fills me with confidence. Her example of selfless love and service to her children inspires me and drives me to work to be a better mother myself.  Yet her example and the inspiration I feel from it is paired with unquestionable acceptance from her, and consistent assurance that I am beautiful just the way. I. am.  This combination is unique, I think, and something that I cherish from her. 

And my dad... my dad.  Our souls are crafted from the same mold.  He understands me in a unique and personal way that I have not found again.  He listens to me and guides me still in the gentle way of a good father, without judgement, and with quiet and profound encouragement. 

I feel like I am building myself on the backs of giants. 

And to my children: you are building yourself on their backs, too. 

You don't know it yet, but you are lucky (as am I) to have been born into this family.  Of course, none of us are perfect, but you have examples all around you of how to bring happiness into your lives.  Of how to love another person and how to build a strong marriage.  Of how to show love to others and to God. 

I hope you will watch your grandparents.  On both sides.  Feel their love for you and learn from their wisdom. 

They are remarkable examples of faith.  Of courage.  Of obedience.  My life, and your Daddy's life, were crafted in their hands, and I pray you will let them have a place in crafting yours.  They love you too, you know. 

So much.

And they want you to be happy.

And now you know what, Miles?  I'm going to pack this up and come back home to check on you and give you a kiss goodnight. 
That's what my mom would do.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

March Harvest

March was full of beauty!

1 - These birds fly over our balcony once or twice every day.  It is truly a beautiful sight!  This picture is really just a grab-my-camera-and-run shot... I'd love to actually sit out there and plan for a shot that truly captures the magnificence of it. The problem is that the birds refuse to get themselves on a predictable schedule!

2 - Carson.  He melts me.
3 - Cool patterns
4 - Delicious dessert at a delicious buffet.  Pretty colors.
5 - Back-lit bacon... beauty comes strangely sometimes!
6 - More fun patterns
7 - Timothy.
8 - Bright Colors
9 - Clouds
10 - Sunset through palm trees

11 - Isn't this the most beautiful sea-thing ever?!  Every time I see this picture I stop and stare at it all over again.  Such an amazing color.

12 - McKenzie saw these clouds when I was away and hurried to quickly get the camera to capture it so that I could see it when I got home.  I love that she thought of me when she saw something beautiful.
13 - Storm over the sea.
14 - Nana teaching McKenzie how to crochet.
15 - Sunrise light down the coast.
16 - Sunset at the pier
17 - Usually eyeballs make me shudder; but Timothy's are absolutely gorgeous.
18 - Sweet Miles
19 - Long shadows at sunset
20 - Creepy sky.

21 - Almost cloudless sunrise. 

22 - Frozen Yogurt with McKenzie.  Those little pink balls are some kind of fruit that literally burst in your mouth!  I need to find some and keep them in my fridge at all times.
23 - Playing in the ocean
24 - Fire Sunset
25 - Superman
26 - Interestingly fun light!
27 - Morning at the pier
28 - Reflections of beauty
29 - Watching the clouds change color as the sun sets
30 - Umm... I seem to have a lot of sunrise/sunset pictures this month!

31 - Teaching Miles how to ride a bike with this background?  I almost died of happiness.

On to April!