Thursday, December 29, 2016

Butterflies

There is something special about tracks in the snow. They show us where we've been... and a keen onlooker can see where they're going... but not necessarily why the tracks are leading in any particular direction. And unless you're there to witness the progress, each print looks the same.

As if there were no more angst or difficulty exerted from one step to the next. Tracks belie effort and purpose.

Ellie made these hand prints in the snow a couple of days ago. She said it was a 'snow butterfly.' Had she not told me that, I would have thought she simply put her hands down to rest... or to see if the snow under her warm little hands would melt.

Her commentary made the marks meaningful. They were a display of creativity and imagination. Soon after this picture was snapped, there was a whole crowd of snow butterflies fluttering across the deck. Her little foot prints interwoven in the joyful display.

If my career were like tracks in the snow, they would look fairly straight. You would see them headed in a similar trajectory, my stride consistent. Not always joyful, but the path would have a contentedness about it. But why did I choose this path? Are those tracks purposeful or was the course selected for safety?

I'm finding myself reconsidering and asking myself all kinds of messy questions. Maybe it's because I've been doing the same kind of work for so long. Maybe I'm ready for a new challenge... maybe I don't know what I want to be anymore.

Maybe I need to simply look at things in a different way... pause and make snow butterflies for a while.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Conscious

Some things never change.

The time leading up to Christmas is filled with activities and bustling. We make a conscious effort to drink it all in, trying to prepare for and enjoy as much as we can.

Cookies are made. Gifts are purchased and wrapped. Advent is observed. Special music is enjoyed. Holiday d├ęcor is displayed amidst the tree. Memories of those who won't be enjoying the season with us are shared. Maybe a tear or two is shed.

It's all done.

The actual day of Christmas, and eve of course... those race past us in a blur that is hardly recongizable. There is joy and enjoyment.

But some things never change.

I don't take enough pictures... I'm forced to rely on my fragile memory to remind me of every little detail. We don't play with the little people. We find the perfect items, just for each of them (or at least hope they think the items are perfect). But the playing is done in each of their own little worlds.

I'm always sad when it's over. Sad that it was wonderful... or sad that I wish I could have made it better or done something differently. But sadness is my companion in each case.

Some things never change.

I see that sadness in Benett's personality too. We have been working through it together. Hand in hand, a little something that we share. And that's where this story changes. While some things never change, life continues to carry us along this winding and twisting path, changing ever so slightly.

This year we introduced a new activity that I hope will become a tradition - the Christmas Pickle. I knew Gavin would find it. He is a resourceful child. It took him about two minutes of looking high and low to realize that laying on the floor and looking up would be much more effective. He won the prize, much to his sister's chagrin.

My kids are no longer the littlest people in the family. They haven't been for two years now. I look back on the time that they were so small and miss those little ones. But at the same time, I love who they are becoming.

I love that the biggest of the littles was the first one on the floor playing with his cousin. Even more, I love that it was his idea... I love his enthusiasm. I just love him. He's a teenager, so be drives me crazy (obviously), but I love him to pieces. Someday I'll find a way to make sure he knows that... he hears it regularly, but I'm not sure that his heart speaks the same language.

Some things never change.
Some things always change.

The conscious effort that we put into family means that what always remains the same is our connection to each other. No matter how much things change...

Friday, September 16, 2016

Shell

I don't recall who wanted to plant them. Maybe it was me. I love the way they stand so tall and lovely, keeping a watchful eye over the entire garden.

As much as I love how they look, my favorite part about sunflowers, and really everything in the garden, is sharing the beautiful details with the little people. We examined way the outside leaves are so think, like a protective shell... how they are covered with the same kind of peach fuzz that is on the back of Benett's neck. How each of the petals are tucked inside, perfectly ordered and folded into place until they open to greet the sun.


As the season evolves from Spring to Summer to Autumn, the sights and sounds and smells of the garden change too. I love that the kids know what that means within their own little world. The way Ellie laments the lack of lettuce in the garden in September, only to find the raspberries is proof. She gobbles the sun-warmed berries up one by one before she can collect a handful to top her breakfast yogurt. We can't enjoy the firefly's light show anymore, but the entertainment provided by a chicken chasing a grasshopper is nearly as fun.

As the petunias have given way to the mums, the sunflowers lost their bright yellow petals and the seeds themselves have turned from green to brown. The heads bending ever low under the weight of the bounty, tonight I decided to harvest the seeds.

After plucking the seeds, washing and sorting and boiling and roasting and stirring, I can say with 100% certainty, that sunflowers are best enjoyed in flower form. If however, the seeds are half as good as they are time consuming to process, they'll taste like summertime in a shell. Which sounds just about right... and we'll have enough to help remind us of summer, well into the winter months.



Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Ready

Today has been difficult.

Not for them, they were filled with that nervous excitement that goes with the first day of school. The two little ones were pure joy, while the oldest of the bunch shared a rare glimpse of worry. Would he get into his locker? What should he take to each class? Where would he meet his teammates for the game? By next week, this will all be easy, but today we shared our nervous excitement.

Like always, we brought out the chalkboard for each to write their name and grade. Taking care to write their name neatly, I hope they can feel the tradition and the history of the small board, worn smooth by so many hands. Theirs and many more before them.

Donning new shoes and something special to wear, they picked up their back packs and headed out into the world. Gavin is in 7th grade this year and growing taller and wiser by the moment. The wisdom is often genuine, only sometimes invented for someone's benefit. He's not a little boy anymore. He's tall and strong and has his own ideas. He is sweet and kind (but not too kind) and ready to have great fun. I think he'll do great things along the way, but there is no sense telling a 12 year old such foolishness.

Benett is in 2nd grade. He is such a practical little person. He wants so much to be autonomous, to do his own thing. I want to let him and hold him back all at the same time. Autumn and the first day of school is like that for me. I want them to go on and up, but I don't. I want them to stay like they are, because they're just perfect.

Benett's whit and personality is so much fun. So innocent but sharp and dry and perfectly hilarious. I hope people continue gravitate towards him for those reasons.

And then there is Ellie. She is never too far behind Benett. I suppose that has been true from the very start. Close in proximity, but never the same she is her own person. I love her joy and spirit. She makes my heart happy.

She will be just fine, but I think I worry most about her. Maybe it's because she's the youngest... maybe it's because she's my little girl... maybe it's because she is so trusting and wants to take care of everyone else. She told me last year that she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up. I think she would make an excellent one.

I hope all of them let their dreams take them as far as they can imagine. And that's the difficult thing about being a parent. We prepare them to go off and do these great things, all the while waiting and wishing for just a few more moments with them.

So as difficult as it is today, we sent them off. Their hearts full and their minds ready to learn, hoping to get them back having given as much love as they received.



Friday, July 8, 2016

Happily

I've never met a little girl who loves to ride on a swing, like our little Ellie. So when we gave the big tree in our front yard a trim, we spotted a branch perfectly suited for a rope swing.

Last night, when the boys were off doing their own things, Ellie and I went to install her newest happy place. The smile on her face seemed to be permanent. As was the tenacity involved in getting onto the disk. She was adamant that she was going to do it all by herself. Each time her palms got more red and sore... but none of that mattered. Ellie was going to swing, getting as much air as she possibly could. All by herself, but with her personal audience close.

I love that spirit of hers. When she sets her mind to something, she's so focused. She won't be satisfied with herself until she can do it on her own terms. She's strong and has this force about her that is firm but sweet. It's what makes Ellie, Ellie.

So now she swings. Each and every chance she has, as high as she wants and all on her own. And as it turns out, her happy place happens to be mine as well.


Monday, February 29, 2016

Path

Today Monte had the opportunity to listen to the Dalai Lama speak. What a great experience to be in the presence of such a compassionate and spiritual being. The topic sounded interesting, as Monte described it, but I was more interested in how the Dalai Lama practiced his compassion and love for humankind. It was evident in the simplest gestures and his interpersonal interactions with the others in the chapel.

Being in the presence of someone who is capable of emanating such a deep love, in that kind of way, sounds very intimidating.

We are all on this journey, traveling a path which is exclusively our own... it's uncomfortable for me to think about this one precious life and be fully open and aware of God's purpose for me. What that means for how I spend each moment of each day, and what that means for my little people is a heavy thing.

The weight of that importance is stifling.

Parents always wonder if we're getting it right... maybe more accurately, we're convinced we are getting everything all wrong. I am anyway. I spend so much time second-guessing myself and wondering how I can be a better mom... or just better in general, for my little people.

In my head, I have things all neat and tidy... planned and considered, logical and age-appropriate, calm and deliberate, loving and unwavering. Outside of my head, real life doesn't happen that way. I'm often emotional and reactive, loud and inconsistent. Always loving... that love may not be readily at the surface, but it's always there. Always.

Indeed, we are all on this journey, but the path is not clear. For those, like the Dalai Lama, who know their divine purpose, I'm awe-struck. Maybe life is simpler for them... they KNOW their purpose. They live that purpose each and every day.

For me, well I don't fully understand mine... but I'm happy to have a partner to walk imperfectly next to... sometimes to follow... sometimes to lead... but always together. For the little people and for ourselves.

Together, we'll all live our lives imperfectly, trying to be fully open and aware. And if nothing else, simply thankful that we are able to spend this one sweet life together, whether or not we understand why. Maybe our purpose isn't to KNOW... but simply to love.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Matey

They were on an adventure. They're usually having an adventure, but this time, there was a treasure map. They set out on a blanket boat, with tinker toy paddles and Teddy as first mate, in search of the great treasure box.

Their adventure took them past the giant terrifying fish and around another scary looking creature, into the boulder canyon. Judging by the delicate way they were holding their find, it was filled with precious items.

This went on for an hour and a half. I'm not sure how it started, but it looks like Benett engineered the scenario. Ellie always seems happy to play along. She sprinkles in details that are uniquely her own, like the pirate picnic they enjoyed, complete with tea and donuts.

I love the way they play. I'm always amazed at what they come up with and mesmerized by the details... I am thankful for lazy days with no where to be and nothing to do, but search for treasure. They found theirs on a map, me on the other hand, I find mine in my living room, floating along on a blanket boat, without a care in the world.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Someday

After we all made it safely home, I could start to enjoy our snow day together. Home feels a little bit cozier, a little more like a refuge, when the wind is blowing and the snow is swirling. On these days, it's perfectly acceptable to snuggle under the biggest and coziest blanket in the house.

But before any of that, my first thought is always about this little tree.

I don my warm winter gear and trudge through the drifts to take a picture of this little tree every winter. There is something about it that calls to me.

It stands small and straight to the west of our house. Someday it will be part of a wind break. Someday the little people will play in its summer shade or the drift of snow that always forms at its feet in the winter. Someday it will be home for a family of birds.

It's impervious to the gusty wind. I love how this little tree stands steady and strong in any weather; calm in every storm. Someday it will be a bigger version of itself... that's true... but even though small, it's already doing the job it was planted to do. It's slowing the wind, collecting the snow and in the summer a favorite nesting spot for at least one Robin.

It's job isn't to be beautiful, though it is. This little tree is a reminder that though small, it's purposeful now. There is no need for someday; today is as good as any. Though it will grow, I like it just fine the way it is right now.

There is something about this little tree that reminds me that today is yesterday's, someday. Why a tree has the ability to remind me of this important lesson, so clearly... I'll never know.

Reminded that someday, I won't have all of my little people gathered around me on a snowy day eager for my company, I'm trying to sit a little longer under that big cozy blanket. There will be some other day for obligations. For now, we are happily right where we should be.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Maybe

Maybe, just maybe, we're back to our old smiley selves today. For the first time in days (for Ellie, weeks) everyone seems to have risen from their beds in a kind of happy state.

It could have something to do with the fact that Ellie was able to sleep in. The boys on the other hand emerged from their bedrooms only to sit on the couch and play video games uninterrupted. That always makes them happy. Although I'm not a fan of screen time so early in the morning (or much at all really) I'm not ready, just yet, to tell them their time is up.

For me, I'm celebrating my new-found ability to breathe through my nose. It's glorious. There's nothing stopping us today... although I'm already planning a nap for later. Even with the nap and the video games, I'm happy and content with the feeling that we're all getting back to normal. With any luck this feeling will last a few hours... or at least long enough for me to start to catch up on all of the things that need attention.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pattern

Today was report card day. It's something I've always looked forward to, mostly because of the opportunity to celebrate the hard work that each of the little people have done.

Of course I think all three of them are pretty special and have a lot to contribute both to their small social circles/classrooms, but to society as well. I've never really worried about them academically. I recognize that this is a blessing and something that not all parents can say. The idea of any one of them falling behind hasn't crossed my mind... but today I pause, just a bit.

Two of the little people are older in their classes, an obvious advantage. Being older and more mature really does help children to firmly grasp concepts and build from them. They're strong readers and have curious minds, two things that create a solid foundation for building upon.

One of my little people is young in terms of class age, curios and creative, like the others, but immature academically. Things don't stick quite the same way. Like trees in the forest, the little people are similar and different all at the same time. I love their uniqueness. I don't expect them to learn or grasp things in the same way... but I have this gnawing in the back of my mind that this little one is going to have to work harder.

I look for patterns in things. There is something reassuring about the rhythm of a pattern... with a pattern eventually things come back to a familiar state. Good or bad the familiarity is comforting. I see patterns in each of the little people. Good things that are steady guiding forces and the weak spots that emerge when things are stressful or busy or when we get lazy.

Each of the little people is unique and today I was reminded that none are the same and cannot be held to the same standard in learning. None will fall behind, getting lost in the shuffle... they have too much of life ahead of them for that... but each will have to work hard in different ways to find their own pattern for success.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Lists

I had big plans for this weekend; there were lists involved. This was going to be the kind of weekend where we got things done... We were going to have homework and projects completed, valentines started, house seriously cleaned, laundry 100% clean-folded-put up and a whole host of other seemingly important, gotta-do tasks, done. It was going to be glorious.

I had big plans for the weekend until the wee morning hours on Friday. That's when Ellie climbed into our bed, hot and feverish, trying to settle her unsettledness. That's when Ellie's cough, which has been lingering for weeks, turned into something else.

The rest of our pre-dawn hours were spent mostly awake; long hours which ended with her and Monte staying home from their day jobs. Quickly followed by a trip to the clinic and a test for whooping cough.

Thankfully she tested negative, but is wiped out, as this photo attests. Ellie never naps. There's too much to miss when one is sleeping, so she tends to stay awake. But this mouth-agape, sound-asleep little girl needs the sleep. Her body needs the sleep. And apparently, so does her mama. If this little one had the headache that I've had for the last two days, I fully understand why she's been so weepy. I feel weepy. My eyeballs hurt to move... or remain still. And this cough is no joke. All I want to do is lie down next to her and sleep. Which is just what I've done.

So much for my list. It was good in theory, but some things just don't turn out the way we'd like... and I guess that's okay too. Ellie and I have spent more time next to each other in the last two days than we have in a long while, and that's better than any list in my book.

And because he knows a good thing when he sees it, Hank has taken full advantage of our weakness and been allowed to jump onto the bed. He's been curled at our side for the majority of the time, keeping us company and very warm.

I'm thinking next weekend is going to be my weekend. Surely, I'll have shaken this headache and cough by then... I'll spruce up the lists and next week will be one for the books. Unless of course, it isn't.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Guinea

He has been saving his money, for something special. Benett just wasn't quite sure what that special things was... until he laid eyes on Pickles.

We researched different kinds of pets; I was in the fish or hermit crab camp. We researched how to care for those kinds of animals and even visited a pet store a few weeks ago to check them out in person. Benett just wasn't sure.

So we consulted the Google, thinking Guinea Pigs or a hamster sounded fun. We decided that if we could find one who needed a home, through a shelter or the Humane Society we'd take a look. That's when we saw Pickle's picture. I'm not really sure what it was the made Benett gravitate towards him, but as soon as he saw Pickles, Benett said we could stop scrolling. In his seven-year-old mind the deal was done.

The habitat (cage) was easy to come by, via a very helpful person on Craig's List. Within a week, Benett was properly outfitted and ready bring home his very own pet. We drove about an hour to the Humane Society and saw Pickles happily munching on hay. Neither of us were prepared for how cute (or how big) Pickles would be.

A day later, this sweet little boy is still on cloud nine and enjoying every second of his Pickles. Feeding him, ensuring he has water and a cozy, safe place to rest... watching his every move. The dog isn't convinced yet... but I have no doubt he'll come around just like the rest of us.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Broken

We were 12 days into the new year when it happened.

Wrestling was supposed to be a great way for Gavin to stay active in the winter months. It was supposed to be fun, friendly competition. It was supposed to be low maintenance.

We were 12 days into 2016 and have an emergency department visit and a broken bone. Wrestling is designed to test one's will. It has taught my boys to know what they are capable of accomplishing. Accomplishing right-handed eating and an inability to remove one's own socks wasn't really what I had in mind.

We were 12 days in and our deductible is nearly met. But Gavin has an interesting story to tell and undoubtedly another battle scar. Luckily, the sixth-grade class is learning about medical scans... MRIs, CT Scans, X-Rays... so he also has extra credit.

We were 12 days into the new year when the boy showed us that he still needs us. Whether he would like to admit it or not, he needs us. I hate to see him in pain; I want him to be happy and confidant... although I would rather have avoided this situation, having him need me just a little bit more than he did yesterday is like a gift. A gift reminding me that no matter how big he gets, he's always my boy. He's still a child even when he's nearly at eye-level with me.

Twelve days into the new year and my family has become a little bit gentler with one another. Gavin hugged his little brother for bringing his schoolwork home. (I checked, he wasn't feverish.) Empathy and kindness are abundant. Loving gestures and silly jokes are commonplace. Helping hands abound.

We were 12 days into twenty-sixteen when my boy grew up a little bit more and a little bit less all at the same time, proving that sometimes when things break they heal at the very same time.