glowing oasis

I wish every night could be like tonight. But I suppose then it would not have felt so special, so wonderful, so absolutely like an oasis to a weary traveler journeying through desert lands.

I have not posted here for quite some time. There are a plethora of reasons but they mostly boil together to just one.

Sometimes in life, I have to lay down the things I love, like writing, because the rest of life is stretching me thin. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially.

The perfectionist in me screams and shouts that I don’t really need breathing room. What I need is to simply organize differently and push myself harder like everyone else. Then I can do it all.

I hate that perfectionist.

But then, magically, a night like tonight sneaks in. An old groupon we purchased a few months ago during a brief moment when we had the tiniest bit of breathing room in our finances is about to expire.

So we pack up the boys and head out to a fancy restaurant. One of our favorites back when we were dating and had what I believe is still called “discretionary income”.

I prep the boys.

“Dad is taking us to a fancy restaurant. Probably the fanciest restaurant we will ever take you to. At these kinds of restaurants it is important to use your best behavior. When we get there, I will have a story to tell you about this restaurant and your dad and me.”

After we arrive, before they seat us at our table, I take the boys aside.

“Your dad and I came to this restaurant on the night he asked me to marry him. We came here to celebrate. That year, there were really big storms and on the night we came, this bottom section….here, come here and see….these big windows were all boarded up and no one was sitting downstairs here.

But this was one of our favorite places to go, so instead of leaving, we went upstairs. Come on, I’ll show you.

Right over here is where we sat. The rain was falling hard and the waves were high but we could hardly see because it was so dark. I remember watching the storm through the stain glass in this window.”

During dinner, the boys all got along and used the best manners they could remember. Bravo boys.

My oldest son tasted crab cakes and lobster for the first time. He loved them both. We could be in trouble.

After dessert, all three boys hopped over the rocks separating the patio from the beach together in search of shells. I sat back with my husband and took the moment in.

The glow sticks Phil thought to get for the boys lit up the van the whole way home. Camaraderie, nostalgia, joy, and love saturated the air. Tears slowly seeped from my eyes. Oh, how I wish I could bottle this night up and keep it forever.

This post was written several months ago….I was surprised this evening that I got it all the way onto WordPress but didn’t finish to publish! There will be more coming and this is not a current snapshot but it is an accurate one from the time it was written. Keep checking because I will be back!

unexpected

He had just given me my toilet back. Now he was telling me we would be without water for another 24 hours. Or more.

“But……we are going to have a baby…..tomorrow morning.” The plumber already knew that. They had been working long hours to get me working pipes before I popped.

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Later that night there was a drug bust across the street.

The next day four different shifts of women rallied around our older boys to care for them while we birthed their brother.

The omen was clear. Chaos would abound.

Which is exactly why I never planned on having a third child. In my opinion control is preferable to chaos.

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Lucky for me, life does not always go according to my plan.

Because chaos has, indeed, abounded since that day five years ago when our third boy entered this world. But so has endless amounts of love.

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And somehow the fact that he is a whole hand old today is making me pause extra-long and think about the enormity of it all. (That and the fact that we did all of his celebrating this past weekend so there is nothing left for me to do but be sentimental.)

An era is ending. And that era lasted much longer than I thought it would. About five years longer. But what a beautiful era it was. Hard. Gruelingly hard. But simultaneously boundlessly beautiful.

Zachary was my gift to get to do it all over again, one last time. To live in different skin than I did the first two times. More comfortable skin. Completely imperfect and still quite messy skin, but somehow more peaceful skin.

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The one thing I wanted to do more than anything with my life was be a mom. But once I got there all of my “stuff” came to the surface and it was like breathing through mud. Slowly, very slowly, I have been working through all of that stuff. Learning to be loved. Learning to love.

And I have nothing but gratitude. Because somehow, the third time around I was free to enjoy the process. Somehow I was enjoying not only Zachary growing up but all three of my boys at the same time, in this new skin.

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And although my children are not out of the nest yet, the fact that all are now out of the formative years seems significant. And today I have not only been delighting in this child and all of who he is, but also in all he brought to me.

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Happy birthday Little Z. And thank you.

rookie move

I know better. Rookie move on my part. Reverse psychology is a risky strategy to use with a four-year-old. Backfires happen easily and in the blink of an eye. They are highly unpredictable creatures.

And that is in fact what happened to me today. I meant what I said as a threat in hope that it would stop the whining. “Well then, maybe I should just not take you to school today!” I touted.

Preschool, I might add. The school that he loves and couldn’t wait to go to five seconds before we got into the car. Of course that threat would work.

Not so much.

Before I knew it, I was in a power struggle with my youngest son. I wanted him to go to school. Badly. That is one of the few times during the week I actually get to myself. But I had threatened and he took me up on it.

And just like quicksand, the harder I tried to get out the deeper I sank. And the deeper I sank the more committed I was to winning. And the more furious I became that I don’t control other human beings. Or at least the small one I was working with at the moment.

When we got home, I sent him to his room. This was another move in my strategic game. Yes, I was playing emotional chess with my four year old. Not one of my saner moments.

As he cried in his room and I ate some breakfast (never parent on an empty stomach), I reached out for help and called my husband. Sometimes all I need is someone outside my current struggle to bring me back to reality.

After I hung up the phone – now having food in my stomach – I realized…..the best way out of this was to put the game away and just tell the truth.

As a parent, sometimes the hardest thing to do is admit to my children when I have screwed up. The whole idea seems counter-intuitive. Kids need to know their parents are in control and know what they are doing. Admitting I don’t just seems wrong.

But what I have noticed time and time again as I have copped to my shortcomings is that it actually settles them. Not in a disrespectful way, either. In a genuine, the-world-seems-safer-now kind of way.

I totally don’t get it. I just know it to be true.

So I went into my son, scooped him up out of his bed and snuggled in with him on the couch. I told him I made a mistake. I told him I shouldn’t have said I wouldn’t take him to school. School is important and we don’t get to decide we don’t want to go just because. And I said I was sorry.

I told him what his choices would be moving forward. We snuggled some more. And then we headed out. No drama. No tears. No games.

Just us.

i wanna be a dancing fool

How does he pierce his soul right through his body like that?

There will be no picture with this post. Even if I could catch this on camera, I would never make public such a private and sacred moment of one of my children.

Every once in a while I can catch a glimpse of my son dancing when he thinks no one is watching. This child has more soul in his pinky toe than most people house in their entire being. I am in awe when I catch these moments.

Clearly he is a safe person for himself. I marvel at the beauty of such a thing.

He has some serious moves. I mean it. I LOVE to watch him get his groove on. But I don’t know if he really has rhythm or if I simply see him through the lovesick eyes of a mother.

What I do know is that he is engaging his entire self – body and soul – with the music. He is expressing himself in a way that is beautiful and fun to him, and in that moment nothing else matters.

And that is exactly the way I want to live my life.

But the last few years, I have found it difficult to locate the rhythm of the music playing in my life. There was some “stuff” that came up two years ago requiring intense therapy, and while the rhythm of my life was the same as it had been, I was entirely different, so syncing up was a problem.

Then this last year when I had finally stabilized, the rhythm of my life completely turned upside down. New schools, pre-adolescence, and all the topsy turvy that goes along with learning to navigate a new stage in the life of our family.

And just now, when I think I might be getting a handle on things, my youngest drops his nap. Naptime has been a beloved part of my life for almost 12 years.

Truly, this new shift frees us up to have much more fun and flexibility as a family. But it’s new and different and I haven’t quite figured out the rhythm of the last five transitions we went through so how could I possibly figure this one out?

Can you call something a “new normal” if everything changes again before the actual sense of normalcy kicks in? And the question burning inside of me is……when will I write?

I don’t know. All I know is that life seems to be changing songs on me quicker than I can find the rhythm of any of them.

But then I remember my son when he dances. And I remember that the most beautiful part of dancing is when someone lets go and engages all they have in the dance whether they have rhythm or not. 

mysterious middle child

I find him the greatest mystery of the three of them. He is both the most like me and the least like me all at once. One of our friends (who relates to him and seems to “get him” in a way that I long to) told me he is probably a mystery to himself right now, too.

He feels things deeply. And a lot. And he doesn’t quite know what to do with it all. And neither have I. Who grows up in a family that deals well with emotion? No one that I know.

But I have been learning about my own emotions and how to handle them and not to fear them, and – of course – that helps me with his emotions too. And we have been working together on our feelings and accepting them and making space for them and communicating them.

It is incredibly difficult work.

For an eight year old and a thirty-eight year old.

But there is this song by Jason Mraz, who was already a favorite at Chez Koo, and it came on right after the board break that took all of who my son was. Of course. The song is called, “I won’t give up”.

And so this has become his song, and it helps me understand him better. Every time I hear it my soul belts out every word. Because it seems like our song, too. He is my son, so I love him more deeply than I ever knew I could. Deeper than I even understand.

At the crescendo of the song, the words hold so much more than what they say. “I had to learn what I’ve got, and what I’m not, and who I am.” I think those are words of life. My life. And my life with my mysteriously beautiful and wonderful son. Without understanding it all the time, we are becoming. Together.

So give the song a listen. After all, I figured out how to put it here for you (which you should be highly impressed by even though it is not centered, considering I am the world’s largest tech-no-it-all 🙂 ). You won’t regret it. Maybe it will become your song, too.

presence

I have seen a shift in him. When he used to tout, “Don’t worry, Mom! I can do it myself!” before he proudly headed to the bathroom, glad to display he is just as big and capable as his older brothers, now he shyly says, “Mom, I want you to come wis me.”

His sub-conscious imagination is flourishing, developmentally right on time. There have only been a few bad dreams so far, but they have affected him. The last one took a toll. That night I was in his room three times and woke up with him next to me, a bit foggy on when he actually arrived there.

After that night I noticed he wanted company at times when previously he would have shown off his cool skills of self-reliance. He does not want to be on the other side of the house without a companion. And his preference is Mom.

I will be honest. I don’t mind. In fact, even though it may be a tad inconvenient at times, I find it rather comforting myself. I know what it is to need the presence of another safe human being. Not to have them give me anything or tell me anything or solve my problems for me, but just to be with me. In my fear. In my insecurity. In my emotional need.

Having a tangible safe person with me reminds me that the things in my head are not real. They are abstract and they cannot come and hurt me. Which of course seems obvious now as I write, but when I am alone and my imagination runs and panic races its heat through my body I am less sure.

In my son’s normal developmental stage of imagination going wild, I am reminded of what a gift it is to simply be present with someone. Not to solve or fix or do for them, but just to be with them. Someone who doesn’t force me to face the fears inside my head alone, just to make me stronger. But instead says we are in this together. I am with you. No matter how rational or irrational your fears are, I will not leave.

And so when he is the first one up and comes to me at six o’clock in the morning and says he wants to snuggle I actually physically smile. Because it is so beautiful to be together. Present with one another. And I love that he is not too proud or embarrassed or ashamed to ask. I hope he never is.

my moment on the couch

Why is this so hard? I leave the boys in the garage, buckled in their seats and ready to go to the World Famous San Diego Zoo. They are only missing the keys to the van and me.

I, however, need a moment. A moment to breathe. A moment to let myself feel as frustrated as I am. A moment to give myself some compassion and try to pull something out of myself I don’t think is there.

Because parenting is hard sometimes. Really, truly, very hard.

I had been listening to a bounty of bickering ALL WEEK LONG. I had done what I could to set us up for success at the beginning of Spring Break. I noticed the boys were having a difficult time remembering how to talk to one another, how to listen to one another, and how to treat one another with a general sense of respect.

You know, the kind of respect I, as their mother, would hope they would treat any other human being with. Apparently brothers are exempt “human being” status. So I reminded them what respect looks like and that every person is entitled to being treated with said respect, even brothers. And I told them this was our project for the week.

Needless to say, things did not go as I might have hoped. By now we were all completely saturated in our collective humanity. And in my desperation and exhaustion with it all, I was looking for my children to be different and change their behavior to be the way out. But I know that I know that I know that I know….that the only way out is for me to lead them.

But I don’t think I can. I don’t think I can change my attitude. Because I am so utterly tired of their bickering and arguing and childishness. However, they are children. And I am the adult.

And these are the moments when parenting is entirely impossible. When I have given all of the patience and grace that I think I have inside of me. But the job requires more.

So I let myself have that moment, inside my house, on my couch. And I practiced giving myself compassion, mercy, and tenderness. The kind I imagine God has for all of us, even parents who have reached the end of themselves like me. Honestly I didn’t think it would help much but it was all that I had.

I told myself this job is just as holistically difficult and insurmountable as it seems. “Of course you are spent and frustrated and done with bad attitudes,” I said with gentleness. And maybe a touch of attitude all my own. And I soaked in that compassion and understanding for a moment.

And then I reminded myself that they are not going to change their attitudes until I change mine. And it will be hard all day long to lead them out of here. And it will likely be hard the next day, too.

“But you are their leader,” I said. “So lead them.”

sparkling goo

What kind of creature leaves behind such a beautiful trail? My kids and I all squeal when we walk outside after a good rain. The thought of one miss-step leading to a crackly scrunch followed by slippery ooze underfoot is enough to turn my karate-chopping boys into prissy little girls as they make their way down the path that heads away from our porch.

Seriously, snails are not the most enchanting creatures. They are slimy and – dare I say – gross. And now that the weeds are mostly gone (at least for the time being), they cover my walkway after the slightest bit of moisture released from the clouds.

Yes, they have cool shells. And yes, they make their way through this world on one foot, which is quite impressive. And yes, I DID graduate from the college with a slug for a mascot (UC Santa Cruz banana slugs…..the ecological mascot……whoot-whoot!). But no, I am not a fan of this family of creatures as I play frogger down my path to avoid killing them and leaving their disgusting goop on my shoe.

However, I must admit they leave awfully pretty art for me to appreciate after they are gone. And, quite frankly, the more they leave behind the better. Shiny, delicate, light-catching patterns mask the aging and barely-there paint of my concrete walkway.

How ironic that such a putrid creature can leave behind something so lovely. And I start to think of what I have left behind this week. It’s not nearly as pretty as the snails. And I think myself to be so much better than those snails.

During Spring Break with all my children home and driving each other nuts, the imprint I leave behind at the end of the day is more akin to a snail smooshed by my shoe than glimmering doilies of delight and joy.

But then those beautiful trails catch my eye again and I am reminded. A mucous-propelled creature left those trails. Redemption is alive and well. There is hope that somehow, someway even my ugly days can be refashioned to bring beauty.

zachary and the zoo

English: Bai Yun, a female Giant Panda at San ...

Image via Wikipedia

How could I have almost missed this moment? His eyes danced with the sun while they shined with joy and a sparkle that makes my insides go crazy. The skin on his cheeks looked rich as butter and flawless as porcelain. We were being taken up and away from life down on earth. For a few moments we hung in the air as the skyfari took us from one side of the World Famous San Diego Zoo to the other. And it was bliss.

And I realized in those moments how glad I was that I had made the time to be there with him. Just my youngest son and me. His older brothers and I did this much more frequently. But the more people in our family, the more practicality seems to necessarily out weigh fun.

But today I could hear the zoo calling us and I was willing to answer. So I left the dishes in the sink, the dirty clothes in the closet, the half written post on the computer, and the emails I am so far behind on in my inbox. I packed up a pbj and apple slices and off we went.

But I second-guessed myself the whole morning. Did I pick the right ball to juggle today? The elementary school had a short day that would cut our time at the zoo short, so maybe we shouldn’t go. The house has to get cleaned sometime, and today is house-cleaning day. I also have some writing I really need to get to.

And through the entire internal battle, I had this nagging feeling like I needed to take Zachary to the zoo. But my uncertainty in what to juggle this morning left me feeling a little like a failure at everything. And I was beating myself up on that skyfari for not being a better juggler.

However, even through that beating up, the moment of beauty and love imprinted itself on me and a few days later I could see it for what it was. A reminder that I am loved no matter how much I question myself or how poorly I juggle.

my loves

I thought I would be swallowed up by the testosterone in our home. That I would cease to exist in the land of males I was immersed in. The day after I found out our third child was going to be another boy I was pissed. Toilets. Do I need to say more?

Fortunately I moved through my issues before that beautiful baby was born. And truthfully, sometimes I even like being the only female in the house. Don’t tell anyone.

So years later on this Valentine’s Day I find myself tickled that I have four great guys to love. I seem to be giddy to celebrate each one of them. What a lucky girl I am.

And I thought I would take a moment to honor them here. Call it bragging if you like. There are still plenty of other days I curse the toilet they pee in (or more accurately miss), just in case knowing that makes reading this more palatable.

Colby

Today the middle child gets to go first. When I look in your eyes I see the most beautiful soul I have ever beheld. Both innocence and mischief dance on your face in the best of all combinations. You are my mystery man, one that I marvel at in awe. You are so different than me, and yet you love me so well. Everyday you give me the gift of your love and grace.

Zachary

My baby I never planned on having. I didn’t know how much I needed you. Because of you, I get to have a second go-around with motherhood, and I think we are all better for it. I love that you now own your name, emphasizing the “ary” when others fail to do so. You who opened your eyes wide from the moment you came out of the womb are filled with wonder and expression. I know delight because I feel it every moment I am with you. I am enamored by you.

Joshua

Watching you come of age is the most touching and beautiful thing I have ever witnessed. You struggle in your tenacious way with the deep questions of life and I am blown away by the stirrings in your soul, honored that you share them with me. I taught you perfectionism (sorry!) but now I see we are learning grace together as well. Your company on this journey fills me and inspires me every day.

Phil

The biggest of all my men, you have my heart. You have shown me faithfulness in its purest form. You have loved me for better and for worse. When I was young, I dreamt more of a lifetime with someone – of growing old with my best friend – than the wedding day starting it off. You have been my dream come true. Like I sang to you on our wedding day, you are my knight in shining armor. Not because you heroically save me everyday (which you do) but because you valiantly love me everyday.

I have not lost myself in all of you, but you have discovered and uncovered and recovered the best in me. Thank you, my loves. Thank you.

Happy Valentine’s Day.