Snapshots

These days are a blink and I’m a fool if I don’t believe its true.  I don’t want to forget…..

telling the kids in the van today that our friends daughters’ were making headbands to sell to raise money for orphans in Ethiopia and Caleb’s immediate reply:

Rylee, can I give you some money so you can buy yourself one from them?

as she got out of the van at her friends’ home he handed her cash from his stash that he always has on hand because he is our very frugal saving one

despite his penny-pinching ways, he has a heart that is gold and he didn’t think twice about gifting not only his sister with a new headband but for a cause that he knew meant something

the bigger ones naturally holding hands with the littles when we walk-I won’t ever not love seeing that

the way Phineas says “I need it” about everything.  no ability whatsoever to distinguish need from want.  and the application of that to his two year old life is constant entertainment for the rest of us.

how much fun can be had on our giant new bed.  ridiculous much.  five kids and a daddy wrestling.  reading books in heaps of pillows and blankets.  middle of the night snuggles when bad dreams keep little people awake.

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realizing that if I feel too far away from the one I love in said giant bed, king size pillows are big enough for two.

the endless list of reasons why I’m thankful our kids get to learn at home with me and with each other, that in all its imperfectness (and even now, at the tail end of the year when I’m so ready for summer!), I still believe it’s the best place to be

looking out my window to see this a few hours ago:

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Caleb had his magnifying glass and was crawling around with Finn on hands and knees searching for spiders….every time they found one Finn shrieked “PIDER!”

later they spent an hour collecting varieties of mushrooms for their “mushroom museum”

how Finn says thank you every time I change his dirty diapers

the love I get to show through serving these ones in our home by feeding, clothing, driving, teaching, correcting, forgiving and encouraging for hours upon hours every day after day

that my boys notice my sparkle – if its a bracelet or dressy earrings, they notice

whether you’re 10 or freshly 35, the gift of friendship is a profound treasure

these and a thousand more – forcing myself back into the counting of the gifts because I know I need to remember, need to practice what I preached (literally two weeks ago!) and lift my eyes up to where it all comes from

The little things

Finn’s dripping mouth from finding the runaway dark chocolate covered espresso beans that fell under the counter.  As if the boy needed more energy…

His crazy delight in chasing dust particles in the gleaming morning sunshine that somehow still streams in despite what must be the dirtiest windows ever!

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Kyler: “Oh mom, guess what Finn loves?  He loves it when I put baby spiders all over his naked belly!”  (I instruct the removal of dozens of newly hatched miniscule spider babes from the rotund belly of my beloved two year old – but even ten minutes later I am pulling the itsy bitsy’s out of his hair…)

Caleb: “Want to see my new friend?”  (he raises his arm and shows me the beautiful yellow moth that he’s “trained” to hang out on his arm – then explains that he’s classified this one using his butterfly and moth field guide)

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The snickers’ fairy from church.  The sweet lady who I have not even met, who is part of the long line of amazing people who’ve helped with meals during this challenging stretch….how could she have known my penchant for Snicker’s or that putting them into a “salad” might just feel like my birthday came two days early?!

The exceeding relief that comes from crossing “trim goat hooves” off the to-do list, even if it’s 7 weeks overdue.

How Rylee delights in playing vet (but not really playing, because she truly does such a great job!) and doing excellent work treating bloat in one goat with a little homemade remedy.

The book Rylee is writing for her little sister’s birthday on Sunday.  All on her own accord.  Sweetest thing in the world.

The privilege of sitting for coffee and meeting someone who is bravely, tirelessly standing up for the unborn’s right to life in America and around the world.

Kyler listening to me pray this morning, patiently waiting in the chair next to me for my amen…”Mom, you’re thankful for too many things!”.

When life is too much

I find it abundantly ironic that in the ‘draft’ folder for my blog, from about one month ago,  there is a blog titled:

Road signs of ‘too much’

It is blank.

Not a single word written about the given topic.  Obviously there was a bit of “too much” even then or I wouldn’t have felt apt to write about it.  And obviously the too much was too, too much because I didn’t write about it.  Or anything else for um, how long since my last post?

Perhaps you thought this was an “on purpose blog break”.  Well, no.  I would like to say there was great intentionality in my not writing.  But it’s so much less lovely than that.  It was more like a barreling freight train of one thing after another.

It was too many early (and I mean early!) morning wake ups with Finn thinking that the rooster’s crow was actually meant to beckon him out of bed.

It was drives to co-op/church/grocery/, teaching classes, keeping on top of kid schoolwork, chores and projects and all end of year things.

It was my sister in the hospital for a 5 days and the wanting answers to hard questions and not being able to understand why.

It was the list of the little things that only grows and never diminishes and stares me in the face every single morning like a bad report card.

It was losing any reasonable sense of rhythm or routine and being too many steps behind before my feet even hit the floor every day.

It was the ever present fact that seven people here need to eat every day, many times, and they need appropriate clothing to wear and the young ones were created with daily need to be nurtured, cared for and loved.

It was the giving without end and not stopping to see the writing on the wall.

So it truly is no wonder that once the kids caught a cold virus and I succumbed as well, my body would give me up.  It’s as if it said, “we can only handle one of you, so we choose baby and you’ll have to fend for yourself”.

It started out innocently enough, a fever, cough, sinus congestion.  I took all the herbal goodies I give the kids and expected a full recovery the next morning.  When our pastor announced I was home sick from church and would anyone like to help with meals I thought that was WAY overboard.  If I’d been there in person I’m sure I’d have mustered the gusto to say “oh no, we’re good, we’ll be fine, someone else must need it more!”.

Humble pie my friends, a giant serving.  Monday rolled in and I could not see past the pressure in my head and the pain in my ears and the burning in my throat.  The fact that kids weren’t well either made survival more doable.  Lots of couch time and resting and I tried driving to do something I deemed “imperative” but prayed all the way home my failing body would get us all home in one piece.  It would be almost a week before I felt well enough to even drive again.

Kids began to mend and I sat on the couch unable to even lift my head for more than five minutes.  Eyes half glued shut from symptoms of complete immune failure.  Unceasing pain from my eyelids to my toes, which until now I never knew could ache.  A fever that wouldn’t break for six days. Broken blood vessels in my cheeks, nose, inside my ears and an eye half bloody from all the trauma.  I have never been so sick I could not think or read or properly respond to people.  I could not think myself well or will myself strong enough to heal.  Everything felt like it just quit.  And entirely without my permission.

The fact I would asked my mother to drive all the way out to our house, drive me and my five children to a doctor almost an hour away from here speaks to my diminished state.  I sat sobbing in a doctor’s office, whom I’d never seen before, trying to explain to him my stamina and strength so he would understand how completely incapacitated I was.  He gave me something but it wasn’t strong and said no to my begging requests for more intervention, he was confident it was viral and my body would eventually “turn back on” and conquer it.

8 days was the sum total, in bed or on the couch directing life and children and living helpless, dependent on the kindness and care of all sorts of people.  And when I felt the fog begin to lift and I could sit upright and think with actual words, my mind trailed back.  To weeks and weeks of no margin, of no rest.

I sat outside once I was well enough, in the hammock (that never gets used, because there’s never time to lazy away in a hammock…) holding a book about rest.  My mind said I should be reading it but the rest of me still refused.  All it could do was note the dozens of shades of green in the trees in our yard.  Listen to the birds all fluttering in their spring time flurry.  Watch the kids play in the sprinkler.  Be thankful my eyes could open without pain and see all the loveliness.  Say yes to popsicles and yes to most things because saying no was too much still.  And they’d been such troopers.

Just when I thought they weren’t onto quite how ill I was, Kyler blurted out at dinner one night “Mama, I sure hope the baby in your belly doesn’t die because you’re so, so sick.”  I explained the incredible design and how the body can take good care of baby even when mama isn’t well.  He was mostly relieved, but still skeptical.  We all breathed easier last night when we got to see little 14 ounce baby sweetness on the ultrasound monitor.  Most darling tiny hands and feet and nose and everything.

I’m still waking up, but doing it as slowly as I can.  Fairly certain that this was not without purpose and I’ve some things yet to learn about how to be me, how to live this life of mine in a way that can keep going, keep growing.  I don’t want to miss any of it.  Being a spectator to my own life for over a week was so much less than wonderful.  But the observations and takeaways can change me, they need to change me.

The gift of time

Just over a month ago I rather impulsively rented a house not too far from here for a weekend’s respite.  I was feeling so pressed in on, so weary and desperate for some room to breathe.  The pull of homeschool and all the rest of life weighs heavy around March or so every year.  We aren’t finished yet but the daily grind has been grinding for quite some time.  So I suppose ground down sums up how I felt quite nicely.

Chris was gracious in the face of my declaration that I needed a break.  He knows how hard I work and he is faithfully, relentlessly and sacrificially giving of himself the minute he walks in the door from work every day.  Truth be told, he probably could use a break too.  But he didn’t say a word, simply “yes”.  If I’d had the sense, I’d have done better planning little bits of time here and there to rest throughout the year thus far, but I didn’t, so that was that.

I said more than once, almost apologetically, “I just need to think in full sentences for more than five minutes, to truly R-E-S-T.”  Honestly I wanted more than anything to have dedicated time set apart for my cup to be refilled so that I could continue giving at this capacity.  The level of output motherhood requires is far beyond anything I could have imagined.  And I’m in this for the long, very long, lifelong, haul.  The only way I can do that with any measure of grace and sanity is listening to my heart when it feels this way.

Up until the week before I wasn’t sure if any friends would join me while I was away, but three did, and it was such a gift.  We ventured around quaint Coupeville on Whidbey Island and conversed and rested.  I’ve been holding out on posting because I have some really fun photos too but the computer isn’t working right now on the photo-front.

My takeaway from the weekend is tough to hone down into one thing.  But learning to listen to my heart/body/mind and knowing when I’m over the top and absolutely need to step back a bit from life so that I can keep going, it’s worth doing.  The payoff for everyone in my life but especially my family is so great.  In leaving and listening, I was actually loving them well.  Strange, but true.

In my dreams I came home, rested, refreshed mama who tossed her head at the shenanigans of her children and magically got the house in tip top shape.  But alas, when I woke up today, people still complained about breakfast options, someone spilled milk (and cried loudly about it!) before I’d even had my coffee, Finn still woke up WAY too early, there is stuff from the trip stuffed in the back of the van and the floor is in terrible need of a mopping.  Since it’s spring break I thought I’d give a try at the old “stay in my pajamas till after lunchtime”.  But sadly, that only left me wanting to live under a fuzzy green blanket on the couch and not talk to anyone.  Which really works poorly when there are five people who look to me for direction on a minute to minute basis!

*I finally got some of my friend Shauna’s pictures to load at least!*
Quaint really is the right word, don’t you think?

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The only one

It’s six o’clock in the morning and my alarm goes off.  I hit the snooze but only twice.  I’d gone to bed the night before thinking “Easter is in four days and we haven’t even done an amazing craft project or talked deep about the meaning of this, the most holy day in all our faith”.  Right as I will myself out of bed to do some thinking, preparing, praying on the matter I hear a banging so loud that Chris leaps out of bed running.  Sounds like someone is taking a hammer to our front door.  He quickly realizes its Finn.  Pounding on his door from the inside with his little two year old fist and a plastic baseball bat.  He’s learned to climb out of his crib, strip himself naked, turn on the lights in his room and then perch precariously on his toy tool bench so he can peek out the window down our street.  Every morning.  But usually he hollers or taps softly.  And usually at a decent hour.  Just not today.

My attitude goes down a few notches as I face the prospect of finding peace and quiet with a precocious little man by my side.  I coarsely tell him that I’m really quite unhappy he is awake at this hour and his brown saucer eyes just look at me and smile.  He wants a cheese stick.  I want coffee and quiet.  I wonder if TV would keep him busy for a few minutes.  Not a chance.

While I make coffee, Finn finds his way into the laundry room, grabs two cans of Guinness left over from St Patrick’s day and hands them to me. “Need this.  Now.” he states emphatically.  I smirk just a little and say “um, no.  those aren’t yours.”  But he is two.  And two doesn’t lend itself well to sharing or being told no, especially before the sun is up.

I try to put on a tractor movie.  It’s the first time I’ve ever even attempted to occupy him with TV.  Totally fail.  He screams when I leave.  I offer him an orange.  He takes it and I go to finish with the coffee.  I come back and he shoots me an angry glare.  “Squeeze oranges.  Hmph.” he says while avoiding eye contact.  I look down and he’s squeezed a (very) juicy orange all over his shirt, pants, carpet, shoes and the couch.  Just to spite me I’m quite sure.

I lose my cool.  Tell him we don’t have a working washer at the moment and would he like to clean the carpet and wipe off the couch.  He crumbles and whimpers and says “oh, sorry mama” and helps me scrub the floor.  My contemplative morning in quiet is long gone.  I settle for sitting next to him while he eats, at the counter in the kitchen.  The words of Ezekiel sit on the page and I try to focus and soak in some piece of bread that will feed my soul this Thursday before Easter.

It is lament and prophecy one after another, depressing and weighty.  Words blur and I wonder if God could possibly say anything to my annoyed but tender and heavily burdened heart this morning.  There are so many broken pieces around me and so many questions that aren’t being answered in the way I want.  I give it one more chapter.  I get to chapter 34.

My eyes well up…this may not be an “Easter” passage but it’s the glimpse of God’s heart I need right now, this very minute.  He paints this gentle but oh-so-strong picture of his sheep and I hang on every word:

I myself will search for my sheep
I will seek out my sheep and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness
I will feed them with good pasture
They shall lie down in good grazing land
I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep
I myself will make them lie down
I WILL SEEK THE LOST
I will bring back the strayed
I will bind up the injured
I will strengthen the weak
I will rescue my flock

Not a passive word in the lot.  Not I might or I could.  But I will.  And this shaky heart of mine that’s worn plain thin today needs to hear the I WILL.  I need to hear that He intends to feed my heart with good things, to strengthen me in my weakness and make me lie down when I need it.  He will bind up the places that are broken, how many times have I watched Him do just that?

And when I start to wonder what does this have to do with Easter, with the greatest sacrifice ever made it becomes clear in an instant – Jesus was the means of the rescue.  Long after those words were penned by a prophet, He came and lived those words so we could see.  He made a way for me to come.  To find my way to the cross and leave my burdens there, my bad choices, my deepest secrets and my gaping heart wounds.  To find new life and freedom that only comes from laying my own life down.

We never did a stellar project that drove home the holiday today.  But we lived and breathed together.  They watched me hurt and wiped my tears for a situation that’s so beyond my control but so near to my heart.  I talked soft to Audrey as her tremendously empathetic self wrapped little arms around me this morning, I told her “I just want to fix it, I want to make her well.  We keep asking and God isn’t doing what we’re asking.  And that’s so hard.”  Her response to me is one I hope I never, ever forget – in her tiny voice, so matter-of-fact, she looked up at me and said:

You can’t mama, there’s only one who can, you know?
It’s Jesus.

And that’s the simple truth.  He’s the rescue.  He’s the one who WILL step in and bring back lost ones, bind up broken ones.  That’s the bread for my soul today and tomorrow and the next day.

Mud and mothering

Friday found us exploring mud flats an hour north of here at a spectacular estuary where many small rivers flow out to a flat, shallow plain.  It is a totally unique and rich habitat for many creatures.  We learned first at the local visitor center more about the area, then set out to explore.

There were bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, snow geese and a multitude of other smaller lovely birds.  I squealed with glee more than once at the sight of something interesting, different, special.

Escorting five children under ten to a mud flat was a new thing.  New things force me to plan very well since there are likely variables I don’t know about and we are often far from home.  I planned and packed for two days.  To heighten the anticipation (and survive the long drive) I put little booklets together for each child.  Word searches, crossword puzzles, coloring sheets, vocab lists, creature charts – all related to the unique environment of the estuary.  I even brought out my always fun laminator and made color picture identification sheets so they could name the things they found.

Planning and preparing aside there was still the inevitable moment of crisis the morning of where we needed to go but someone had worn their boots in (not around) the creek and they were completely unusable AND when I said (taking deep breaths, trying to be kind) “I’m doing all the work here, please would someone help us get out the door!?”.  When I figure out how to depart for a big adventure and NOT have that happen, I promise to let you know the secret.

Back to the mud.  As soon as we were all properly booted up and loaded with our supplies and Finn was tucked safely in the Boba pack, we emerged onto the flat beach.  The day couldn’t have more perfect, we’ve had so many weeks of rain.  Cold, just about freezing rain that makes outdoor play last only 10 minutes and the view out my kitchen window gray and drab most days.  But there was no rain cloud in sight.  Only a vast, panoramic view of the archipelago that sits just beyond the shore of this body of water.  Little islands, bumps of all shapes spitting right up out of the water, green and rich and beautiful.

There were crabs to be found, mud snails to collect and compare and mud, glorious mud to sink into.  I wasn’t quite so brave, sporting a 30 pound toddler on my back, but the kids didn’t hold back.  They explored out into the water, found the deepest, stickiest mud and moved rocks at least half their weight.  Oh how boys thrive with the chance to grunt and lift and catch and discover!

When there seemed to be more mud ON my children than on the mud flats we decided it was time to wrap it up.  Oldest boy had already weathered the losing of his boot in the mud and walked several steps to me while someone retrieved the boot.  I thought that might be the end right there.  But did he ever rally and pull it together and we forged onward.  There had been sitting in the mud.  Digging deep in the mud.  And falling straight into the mud.  I promise we added at least ten pounds to our clothes/boots by the time we found dry ground.

A head to toe change of clothes was required for entrance back into the van.  A cup of still-warm cocoa from the thermos and a brownie from the pan was also in order for all.  We sighed when we discovered the running water was turned off for winter.  Baby wipes just don’t hold a candle to this sort of filth!

I could only laugh, what else does a mother do with all these kids and all this mess?  It spoils the fun right out when I choose the freaking out over the finding joy.  These are the things we’ll not forget.  These are the things that leave me feeling just a tiny bit more brave for the next adventure we find.  These are the things that are so very worth all that is required of me to make them happen.

When my hubby called and my pocket answered without me knowing, he would tell me later, “I heard you talking…oh my were you excited, going on about the day God gave you and how blessed you all were and the beautiful this and that and so on”.  I replied, “Well, in case you wondered, now you know.  I’m the same expressive, optimistic me when you aren’t here.  Even when I don’t know you’re listening!”.

Lest Finn be left out of the giant mess of fun – about one minute after we departed, all clean, him having made the whole endeavor on my back – he gagged on a cheese stick and promptly vomited his entire lunch all over himself, the car seat, floor…everywhere.  I had to pull over, strip him down and use the remaining 15 baby wipes to try and get things under control.

The jeans weighed so heavy and Chris took one look at them and said no way they were going in the washer like that.  An hour later and a driveway covered in mud flat mud, they had been hosed sufficiently to go into the wash.

I learned the same lesson I wrote about here, again.  I love learning it.  Sometimes during the learning but always after.  We can do more than we think.  The joy of conquering great things, mud flats or the like, is one of the ways we weave a family.

The gift of a good day

Truth be told every day is a good one.  Every day holds something of a treasure.  The only question is, will I find it?  Sometimes I have to look darn hard to see past the wet boots left out again, the sassy attitude, the scale that lies to me every morning and the spilled honey collecting all-things-fuzzy on the kitchen counter.

But for one of my kids a normal day is somewhere on the spectrum of mildly unpleasant to downright dismal.  There are daily tears over spelling or something.  Sensitivity is high to….well, everything it can feel like.  At least two pencils get broken every day over handwriting.  Doors slam and words are spoken that break my heart and make me wonder if really I am up to this task.

Nearly every family has someone in them that requires some extra grace.  Really, isn’t it every single one of us some days?  When I gingerly coach our other kids on how to respond, I often tell them:

You have two choices to make.  You get to react in frustration to something that feels largely unfair.  Or you get to learn to love when it’s not easy and that’s called grace.

It’s a tightrope that I walk daily and no doubt I am messing it up.  No doubt I’m leaning the wrong way part of the time.  But my heart is good.  And I have to believe that truly that counts for something.

Learning to love when it’s not easy is a life skill we practice on a daily basis around here.  By practice I mean, learning it over and over and over again.  We may be really behind on multiplication tables, in fact I’m certain of it.  But we are learning love, how to give and receive and grow more when you don’t feel like it.  These things might top the times tables when all is said and done.  Just maybe.

Given that little history, you can imagine my deep delight when we were gifted with TWO days in a row this week of calm responses, reasonable reactions and pleasant conversations.  To put the wonder of that into words is beyond me.

It was a break in the rain for me.  And I love rain.  Really.  It brings the greatest beauty to my life.  After a long while though, I just get plain tired of being wet.  Instead of the beauty that comes from the perennial downpour of wonderful and crazy-tough stuff life brings, I simply want a day of respite.

Not that I feel entitled to it, I don’t.  I just want it.  Want might be too mild a term.  Desperately need it so I can keep stepping forward every day in this one life that is only mine to live, that might be more like it.

So when the days came, they surprised me and they were sweeter than anything.  I have relished every minute.  I’ve whispered constant thanks for the gift.

Given just a little bit of reprieve, I’m fairly certain I can weather many more normal-for-me-but-quite-likely-crazy-to-anyone-else days to come…and for that this mama is

yes, thankful, again (you might be tired of hearing it, but that’s okay!).

Being okay with imperfect

By the time Thursday rolls around I’m a little weary.  I might have skipped washing my hair so I could sleep in till 6:10 a day.  Or two.  My days begin promptly at 6:00 AM and don’t end until kids are in bed at 8:30.  And goodness knows a whole lot happens in those 15 hours every day of the week.

It’s not like we sit around in our pajamas all weekend but there is something very lovely about having Daddy here to share in life with us.  He even gives the kids Sunday morning off their farm chore duties.  Pretty awesome (even if his real reason might just be that he loves it when we get to church on time!).  The “doing it all together” instead of just me makes me slow just a bit.  So getting to the Friday finish line, having taught, shuttled, directed, cooked and trained my way through the week feels like a feat.  Every single week.

Which brings me back to Thursday….I had just taught a room of 9 and 10 year olds at our literature co-op.  I don’t know why but I’d been so nervous about it (I think it had something to do with not wanting to embarrass my kids who were in the class).  So nervous that I sweated through my nice shirt and had to run to the van at break to get a jacket.  Classy.

We made it home and I hoisted the brute of a two year old out of the van and tucked him in for a nap.  I made a promise of a good snack and a movie (with the ulterior motive of wanting an hour long nap).  Just as I was about to fall onto the couch in my less-than-fresh clothes, someone yelled “It’s Miss Vicki walking up the drive!”.   Miss Vicki is our Children’s Pastor at church. Yes, we had a meeting scheduled and no I did not remember it.

There was a puzzle undone on the floor.  The counter was covered with stuff of all sorts.  The need for a vacuum was high.  I remembered my shirt issue just as the doorbell rang.  I opened the door with a big smile and invited her in.  The kids took over chatting and I excused myself upstairs.  A clean shirt.  Some perfume.  Lip gloss for good measure.  Who was I kidding?  Lip gloss?  Had I seen my own downstairs?  Like lip gloss would fix it!

She is a gracious woman.  She moved a sweatshirt from the couch and sat down.  We talked and dreamed about a tea party for all the girls and moms at church.  I exuberantly offered to host it here.  And I did explain, “Really, my house can be clean and tea-beautiful, I promise!”.  I hoped she believed me.

There was a time just a few years ago I would have DIED to have this day play out.  And I would read blog after blog about people with more kids than me with perfectly laid out days and systems in place at every moment that ensured no chaos.  Ever.  But that’s not us.  And finally, wonderfully, that’s okay with me.  I’m learning to simply do what I do:

Smile big.  And invite people in….to my heart, my life, my mess.

So whoever you are and whatever you do, just be you.  People don’t need perfect.  People really just need love.

Will I remember this?

In this season with many littles, I ask myself these questions a lot:

Will I remember this in a year?  Will my kids remember this in a year?

When it’s Bible study night and we haven’t met for a month and I’m looking so forward to 90 minutes of fellowship – and Phineas sobs when I try to leave him with sweet Ava.   When I give up trying to go and scoop him right up and head to Bartell’s down the street to get a binky because we forgot one and he’s sleepy and that’s partly why his face is so crumbled. I tell Ava, “I know this might seem silly, driving to go buy a binky and all….but someday, it really won’t seem so crazy!”.

When I resort to going up and down the elevator with him while I wait for the other kids and he won’t take off the enormous sound proof headphones because he associates them with the tractor and his daddy and he spent an hour sitting on it just saying “daddy, tracker?” over and over with the ridiculous ear muffs on.  We quit pushing buttons and I am thankful for this little 5×8 foot space so we just stay there.  I tell myself not to be embarrassed when someone pushes the button and finds me inside the elevator, sitting on the carpet with a box of bunny grahams and a happy toddler with headphones that say he’s an air traffic controller.

When I hurt a boys feelings for telling him he’s silly and he yells so long because I hurt his heart.  I have to apologize and his eyes are so sad it breaks my heart.  I hope he forgets how unkind I was to him.

When we let everyone go outside till 10 PM to make snowmen in the dark and they are frozen but delighted to the core.  Even Finn keeps up with the snowball making and cries when we have to go inside.

When little girl asks me, because she really needs to know, “When is Finn going to change the world Mama?” and I realize she heard me say that to a friend about her vivacious baby brother.  I tell her with a smile, “Oh he’s not the only one….you all get to change your world, whatever place God takes you – you get to change it for good if you choose!”.  And I mean that with my whole heart.

When I finally figure out that for the one who loves people more than anything, doing math alone was the end of the world.  Math with siblings is “the most fun ever, Mom!”.  How am I so lucky to get to teach math to these eager little people?

When I sit rocking a teething toddler after bedtime and he lets me cradle his 30 pound self like a baby and the instant he sees my face at his door his flowing tears stop and he breathes out “mama” as if I were his very life.  and he says the same thing over and over until I understand:

Song?  Do you want a song?

Yeah.  Fong.  Unshine. Away.

I sing the same song about sunshine over and over until he’s trying, in sleepy, baby, binky-in-mouth fashion to sing it with me.  It’s the sweetest thing I’ve heard in forever.  He lets me hold him for what feels like an eternity.  He points to my eyes, ears, nose, “mouf” and names them all in the dark.  My legs hurt.  I recall the work I still have to do and the sleep that is beckoning me.  But I stay.  I sing again and my voice catches because this, this is a moment I want to remember.

I want to be all here.  Though these days require more than what I feel like I can give, I won’t ever get the chance to do them over and I want so bad to remember all the little gifts along the journey.

Learning grace

I notice a perfect lip-shaped imprint on my water glass.  It is pink lip gloss, perhaps a color I would like but not when it wasn’t my lips that left it there.  I catch her eye and noting the lip gloss, I ask for another glass.  She apologizes profusely that she didn’t notice it and brings me a clean one.

My four year old tea-date and I order our drinks and tea accompaniments and we wait.  The fifty-something year old server is the only one in the tea house and she is spread thin.  I see beads of sweat on her forehead and I smile at her.  “It’s so hard to get good help” she tells me as she whisks by.

My little lady and I talk about tea manners and how to hold our cup and talk all things girl together.  A quite elderly lady walks slowly by, listening to the little girl banter across from my seat, she grins wide and whispers “I love this, this is too wonderful”.  I nod in agreement and keep listening to the sweet face across the table.  She won’t be four forever.  I won’t be her whole world like this for long.  I listen and I savor the minutes, the sweetness.

My coffee comes, fairly warm, and I try to wait for the hot cocoa to come so we can sip together.  But ten minutes pass and there is no cocoa.  I remind her that we did order it and she apologizes again that she forgot it.  I observe her righting mistakes all over the place, trying to keep up with an impossible pace.

Audrey tells me what she loves most about having a big sister, how lucky boys are because they get to be married to pretty girls someday and have lots of kids with them and how fun that is – she determines tea dates are fun and “we should do this again” she tells me.

Our bill comes and it’s wrong.  I gently note the errors and she goes back to rework it.  She returns and I put cash inside and she thanks me for understanding and I reply with words that come without thinking…

I live under so much grace, how could I not extend it to you?

I’ve never said it before or read it in a book but its a truth that sinking deep into my heart, that I’m holding tight to and learning how to live out in new ways.  She stops cold, wraps her perspiring self around me and hugs me, total stranger, so tight.  Thank you, oh thank you, I’m going to remember that.  I needed to hear that.  She tells me she’s sorry, again, that she’s too sweaty to hug and I just keep smiling.

It is the absolute truth to me, the daily grace of a living, real God that loves so fully, so infinitely.  I feel it covers over mistakes, hurts, misses and frustrated-mom-moments like today when someone shattered a snow globe in the kitchen and went running away instead of alerting me to the danger and then I had glass shards in my socks and…grace wasn’t a frontrunner just then.

I forget. Every day.

And every single day I get the chance, again, to pick up the mantle of grace and hold it over those around me.  Knowing full well, I don’t deserve it, neither do any of us.  That’s why it’s called grace.