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!

a breather

(I’ve not posted for quite some time. Some people have inquired – thank you. There may be a post about that eventually but for now the short version is that my windows of time normally set aside for writing have been filled with other things I value deeply…for now. Alright, now on with the post….)

What are these thoughts I keep having? Oh, that’s right, I believe this is called perspective. I often gain it by listening to someone older than me who has survived my life stage and has a grain or two of wisdom to pass on. Or I can take a step back. A break. Time away.

And that is what I was able to do this weekend. My sister took our kiddos (bless you, Karen and Carl!) for a cousin weekend of fun and my hubby and I had the house all to ourselves.

A wonderful chance to breathe. To think. To rest. To gain perspective. And maybe a few other things I won’t mention here….ahem.

Here are some things I hope I can hold onto when the loves of our lives – and the chaos that comes along with them – return….

  • There is always more to do than there is time to do it.
  • House projects always take longer and cost more than originally (and reasonably) anticipated.
  • I really like my hubby. Which is good because….
  • Eventually it will be back to just him and me.
  • We do pretty darn well with our particular situation. You know, not comparing with anyone else just looking at us and the good and bad of what we have been given.
  • I like a clean environment. But my kids are more important to me than a clean house. Or a clean van. But I do like clean.
  • I might be overstimulated most of the time. And that is just my life. For now.
  • No life stage is forever.
  • Three kids is a lot.
  • Breaks are good.
  • My husband and I love our children desperately and while we enjoyed this break so very much, we would not trade the fullness of our life together as a family of five for anything in the world.
  • Our kids are worth every sacrifice we have made for them.
  • My value of people will always trump my value for accomplishing things. That has pros and cons. And I’m okay with that.

Have you any chances to gain perspective recently? Would you share with me?

mantras

Her comments struck me. I was hit with an ah-hah and a rush of relief all at once. I am not alone.

A few moms gather chatting on the playground with our younger kiddos after the olders have been safely swept away into their classrooms. We join together not everyday, but many. There is a certain ritual about it. And honestly, it helps me breathe.

Not because we have such profound conversation while our children run and play. We slur our way through most of it while the coffee kicks in. I am settled in my soul simply because we are together. There is so much extraordinary in ordinary life, if only I see it and let it in.

Out of my mouth came one of the phrases I often find coming out of my mouth toward my children and I expressed the frustration of repeating myself to my friends. When will they learn?

The camaraderie was a warm blanket set on my shoulders as we all related together. And then one of my friends used the word “mantra”. Comfort gave way to peace.

It was as if Legos I had been trying to force together the wrong way had just been straightened out and the puzzle was solved. They clicked.

These things I repeat over and over to my children, they are not just for them. They are not things that can be mastered in one day, one week, one childhood, or even one lifetime. They are learnings of life. They are things that no one ever masters, not my children and not me, but we all simply continue to learn through the process of life.

They are things we need to hear over and over and over again because they are truths easily forgotten. Easily misunderstood. Easily cast aside.

They are in fact, mantras. Things that help us as we chant them over and over. And I realize in this moment that I need to hear these mantras just as much as my children do. Because I want them to become a part of me. But I am not the only exacerbated parent who tires of chanting from time to time.

Every family has different mantras. Some help us, some beat us down. Sometimes the difference between the two is all in the delivery or the interpretation. God, help my tone of voice breathe life into my family instead of shame.

Everyone has say over their own bodies.

We don’t get to make other people’s choices for them.

Listen to your body, it tells us some of the things we need.

Love is not earned.

It’s okay to think different things.

Our choices affect our future.

Outside energy is a good energy to have, it just belongs outside.

Everyone feels disappointed when we don’t get our way. But it’s also important to learn how to move on with life afterward.

Those are some of my favorite mantras from the Koo family, but I am curious…..what are yours?

The Liebster….continued

leibster-blog-award

As per Liebster…11 Random Things About Me

1. My two oldest boys are born on the same day three years apart. My husband says he should have bought a lottery ticket that day.

2. I have at least two books in me to write.

3. My third child was a bit of a surprise.

4. I’m going to get a bunny rabbit soon. Been dreaming and researching for months.

5. I believe everyone on the planet could benefit greatly from a form of therapy called EMDR (look it up….seriously). I know I have.

6. I used to hate the color pink. Then I had all boys.

7. I believe big over-arching core values are expressed in small, everyday choices.

8. I wish I had a little more of an achiever in me.

9. I don’t like soda or coffee or alcohol. Or juice. Basically I’m a water girl. Not because I have some moral high horse to stand on, I just don’t like them. And I think that makes me kinda boring, but my friends seem to like me anyway.

10. My children currently cross the spectrum of preschool, elementary school, and middle school. Boo-rah!

11. I used to think I had parenting all figured out. Then I became one. For that matter I used to think I had life all figured out. Then I got one.

Questions posed for me on hiddinsight….and my answers

1. What are you getting for your spouse/significant other for Christmas?
Totally not exciting, the years have been lean lately…..khaki’s and a reversible belt.

2. Where is the kinkiest place you have ever had sex?
**blush**

3. What is your biggest regret?
Hmmm, don’t know that I have one. All my choices have lead me to where I am now. And some have provided rich life learning I apparently had to acquire through experiential learning.

4. What is something that you have done to keep the love alive in your marriage?
Work through my own issues (with the help of a therapist). The more whole I am the more capable I am of loving my husband.

5. What is your “fettish”?
Accessories (although not sure if that is what you mean by “fettish” 😉 )

6. Where is your favorite place to shop?
I am actually not a shopper (gasp!). It will be the thrift store once I learn the in’s and out’s of thrift store shopping.

7. What is the difference between living and existing for you?
Great question!!! Freedom to desire (and wisdom to find the desire underneath the desire if you get what I mean).

8. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
People are judging me? Danggit.

9. When you are 80 years old, what will matter to you the most?
Same thing that matters the most to me now….people.

10. What makes you smile?
Snuggle time!

11. If not now, when?
Ever since my third son came on the scene unannounced I have learned to roll with what life brings because it will likely be a whole lot better than what I had originally planned.

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.

shotgun

What is he doing here? I am surprised almost every time I notice he is next to me. My son now sits in the front seat of the car. In fact, that was the highlight of his twelfth birthday a few months ago. Forget the gifts or the fun. The best part for him was getting to sit shotgun.

There are some definite up sides to the whole thing. This means that now, in our minivan, the boys cannot touch each other when we are driving around town. Tremendously helpful. Peace is possible (sort of).

And since he is right there next to me, I can pass him my phone when I remember a text I need to send and simply dictate. When his little brother drops something, he can see behind my seat and pick it up for him. He can change the station on the radio (confession: not always a “pro”).

But now I have someone next to me pushing buttons, asking questions about driving (four more years, but now that he can see out the windshield he’s all about it), and just generally being in my space.

And as a mom of three, I don’t have much space. My “adult world”, no matter how limited my visits there may be, has been my place to take off the mom hat.

Now I have a twelve year old who is learning the ropes. He needs to come visit that adult world bit by bit with increasing frequency, just to try things out, look around, and get a feel for the place. Developmentally this is time.

Emotionally speaking for me? Not so sure.

I may, from time to time, feel as though my toes are being stepped on. I may feel a bit territorial. Especially when it comes to my van. The one I have been driving around for the last eleven years. Sharing the van, but having the front section all to my adult self.

But this is good. Always good for me to have something tangible to represent the intangible. I see things clearer that way. They make more sense to me.

So now I see – with my son sitting in the front seat of the van – that I am going to need to share things I haven’t had to pry my fingers from just yet in this adventurous process of motherhood. And like I said, it is time. He is ready. He will never learn to function in the adult world if I don’t let him in.

And so begins the process of learning to have a relationship with my growing-up son who will always be my child, but will not always a child. 

HOLD ON!!!

In that moment, the adrenaline surges as my stomach goes haywire because I know it’s about to end up in my chest. The cars all obediently hooked together have taken their last few chink–chink—chinks on their way up the rails. We can just barely see over the crest of the ride and the impending descent is upon us.

I grew up in the Bay Area, which meant of course that I didn’t miss the magical wonders of The Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. There is a right of passage to it, riding the classic coaster that has appeared in movies like The Lost Boys, Dangerous Minds, and Sudden Impact.

The Giant Dipper is a traditional wooden roller coaster ride. No fancy loop-de-loops or corkscrews. Simply and beautifully, the ride showcases large ups and downs for the purists in the crowd.

And for that reason, the moment when the ride goes from sounding like it will never ….make it ….up ……..…the ……….…hill to a whipping, whirling, out-of-control rush that’s over before you know it has been etched into my brain. To me, this encapsulates the quintessential roller coaster experience.

I have found myself thinking about that moment on the ride in Santa Cruz quite a bit lately. My early years of parenting were wonderful and treacherous all at once. Elusive sleep and demanding little people always underfoot existing side by side with sweet kisses and nighttime stories and snuggles that made my heart burst.

Truthfully, I often felt like the roller coaster fighting to make it up that hill, trying to survive to the next stage.

And suddenly, the top of the hill is in view and I realize in moments this will all be over. The phrase “the days drag but the years fly” is giving way to a blur where everything is flying.

I can see our oldest turning into a young man more and more each day right before my eyes. And I know that his brother is right behind him. And that our baby will be only a blink after that.

There is much life to be experienced in the immediate years ahead. And I don’t want to miss any of it.

I may be a little exhausted at times. I may feel overwhelmed. I may not return phone calls or check my email with a speed or frequency I (or any adult person) would deem appropriate or responsible. I may not read or write as much as I prefer. I may not think we will make it in one piece every now and again.

But I am gripping the safety bar and holding on for dear life as I can see what is to come. I am screaming for fear and for fun and for all of the life in my life that I love with precious ferocity.

And I am determined not to blink.