Saturday, January 17, 2015

on growing up in gladstone

I drove through my hometown today on the way to a birthday party. Most of my family lives around my hometown, but my parents no longer live in the house I grew up in. I drove by the house, just to see it, just to see if it looked like I remembered. It did, and it didn't. It was both bigger and smaller, if that makes sense.

And what a weird lot we lived on! Front door on one street, garage down a hill on a completely different street. Pizza delivery guys could never find our place. My dad would always send someone down to wait in the freezing cold garage with the pizza money. It was always raining - because Oregon - and you had to be down there for a while just in case the delivery guy arrived early because the doorbell on that side of the house didn't work. I can still feel the cold from the concrete floor seeping through my thin cotton socks.

A lot didn't work, or ceased functioning as it was supposed to,  when I was growing up. That is why I am so amazed when J fixes, designs, and builds things. I'm always like, wait, you can fix things the day they break, or the week they break, we don't have to live like this forever, what?

In my childhood home we turned the shower in the main bath on with a screw driver for a long, long time because the tap broke, and the shower in the master bath never worked. It always leaked into the hall closet. My parents didn't get it fixed until just before they put the house on the market, and then it dawned on me that it's totally not normal to use a master bath shower stall as Christmas gift storage.

But we had a nice house, and a big lot, and there was a little fort my dad worked really hard to build. There was room to roam and a wooden bridge to the front door. I found a locket under that bridge once. An old, rusty, cheap thing, but that one little piece of treasure convinced me there was a trove down there so I spent a long time in the cool dark underneath the weathered wooden planks trying to find money and trinkets.

That bridge! You had to be careful when it rained - again, all the time, because Oregon - because you could easily lose your footing while walking across. It was quite a long bridge, and sometimes it was best to just go slow and edge your way down to the door while holding on to the side. Other days we thundered up and down that bridge so many times it's a wonder we didn't fall straight through. 

One year there was a big storm and a tree fell across the bridge. We had to go out the door, over the tree, and up the stone stairs to get to the car for a few days. I thought it was great, and that maybe we could leave it there, but that was one home improvement project that was swiftly taken care of.

Out front of the house there was a big rock, and I remember my dad telling me stories about people - or something, bugs maybe? that lived under there. I want to say Frick and Frack, but I may be mis-remembering. I got my love of books and stories from my dad. I fell in love with reading in that house with the bookshelves lining the downstairs hall and one long wall in the garage.

The small town library could not carry enough for me to read. I read everything in the age appropriate section and then I began picking out books at random. If it was big, I took it home. That's how I ended up lugging an old, thick, yellow hardcover copy of Gone With the Wind home when I was 8. I loved it. I had no idea there were undertones I didn't understand.

Our church - the one my parents still attend - was a few minutes from our house. We were there often. My father was an elder, my mother began the preschool program and then ran it for a long time.

There were siblings to play with and friends in every other house. We roamed a lot, it was a safe little town. We lived near the middle school so we would wander around that property quite a bit. We were pretty free and no one worried about us too much. It was small town living, but not really, really small town living.

There was one elementary, one middle, and one high school. I was jammed in with my age group, and couldn't get out. I didn't really fit in. Or I never really felt like I fit in, but I had a few good friends at school, and some friends outside of school at church. I still wanted to go to a boarding school thought. I read too much and thought I would fit in better at a boarding school - I guess? I spent most of my time wanting to get away, and thinking that things would be easier elsewhere, but perspective comes with 30, and I can see now that wanting to get away from that upbringing is pretty ridiculous.

I broke a few rules. I did at least one really stupid thing, but my parents found out instantly (small town) and that was the end of any rebellious streak I might have had. I mostly followed the rules, and spent time with people who followed the rules, and looked forward to the future.

I don't know what I expected of my life, but it wasn't this quiet existence. I always thought I was going to change the world, because I was eighteen and that's what all eighteen year old kids think, but this quiet life that has developed is quite nice.

I haven't really kept in contact with anyone from my hometown. There are a couple people on my facebook list, but I don't know much beyond the superficial about their lives. My brother was a year behind me in school, sometimes he knows things, but mostly he doesn't, and I don't, and we're both happy with that. I've never been to a reunion. I'll never go to a reunion.

Back in high school I thought I had to fit in to be someone, but then I learned I can be whoever I want and find my tribe wherever I want. And it's pretty awesome when your tribe is your family plus; when the people you care about extend beyond the immediate and friends work their way so deeply into your life you hope they never feel the need to extricate themselves.

I was lucky. I couldn't see the luck because I was too busy contemplating piercing my eyebrow and dying my hair purple, but I was lucky. I had a smooth ride, my parents stayed together, when money was tight I didn't know about it, and the house I grew up in was safe and charming.

Perspective, friends. Perspective.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I finally understand ...

... my love for Target equals J's love for Home Depot.

J loves to wander around Home Depot. I hate it. I want to get in, find what we need, and get out. I don't want to talk about what pulls we should buy for the kitchen for ten minutes. I don't want to wander from bath to kitchen to paint to flooring then head back to the bath section to check one more thing ... J walks into Home Depot and gets ideas and inspiration, while I feel the need to sit down and have a snack.

However, I love wandering around Target. It calms me down, and makes me happy even when I don't buy anything. I'm pretty sure the zen feeling I get when I walk into Target is the same zen feeling J gets when he walks into Home Depot.

The other night we went to Home Depot with a list of things to buy, but we ended up not buying anything. I was really tired, and a little bit confused as to why we didn't buy anything, and so was B.

"Let's check out!" B said.

"We don't have anything to buy," I told him.

"But why not?" he asked.

"This trip was about gaining knowledge," J told him.

"Knowledge? What's that?" B asked.

And J proceeded to explain what knowledge is to B, which he is so good at. J talks to B like he's 10 and a lot of the time B - surprisingly - understands.

I'm not good at house stuff, and it is becoming very, very apparent. J has ideas, and he color matches, and he knows this flooring will look good with that counter, and I can't imagine how any of it will look when finished.

The other day I told J he is the project manager. I'll just do what he says, and I'll try to do as much as I can so he can focus on the big things only he can do. It's funny, working on this house as much as we are is making me love it even more. It's a sweet little house with so many quirks and charms.

My mom came over today and instantly noticed the dining room looked bigger, though she couldn't say why, so that project was a success! This weekend we have another long to do list to take care of. Every weekend we have a long to do list to take care of. Have you ever sold a house? How long did it take you to get it ready to put on the market?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

broken lights and other mishaps

That was the theme of our weekend.

We have three standing lamps in our house. When Bennett was a baby he broke all three shades attempting to scale the lamps. We've lived in blinding conditions since, too wary to buy new shades. And, let's be completely honest, a little lazy too.

Yesterday we went on a home improvement buying bonanza. We bought three new light shades, paint, and a few other things. We put the new shades on as soon as we got home, then we put the first coat of paint on the dining room walls.


After dinner, and once the kids were in bed, we were hustling through paint coat number two. We were (stupidly) using one of the standing lamps as a work light. It got knocked over, the new shade shattered.

Today J set out to put a new light above the sink. I'm pretty sure the light that was up there is original to the house. The one we bought yesterday was way too big so he ran out to get a much smaller one. On the way into the house he knocked it into the door frame and broke it.

I'm not kidding.

Two shattered lights in less than two days.

We've been all in on the house lately. If you follow me on Instagram and want to scream at the amount of home improvement pictures I apologize. It's all we're doing right now.

I'm packing things, and donating things, and giving things away. We painted the dining room yesterday. We touched up the paint in the hallway yesterday with the wrong color. We thought we had a match, but we woke up this morning to a two tone hallway and the realization that we have no clue what the hallway paint color is. J pried a piece off the wall and took it in to get a color match. Fingers and toes crossed it's a match, otherwise we'll have gone from a few touch ups to repainting the entire hallway.

We're still a ways out from putting the house up for sale, but we're trying to get as much done now so that we can focus all of our time and energy on the kitchen when its time comes. We were going to reface the cabinets, but we stripped a tiny bit of a side away - not a door - and found straight grain fir.

It's gorgeous, and I think it might look really nice completely stripped and stained, but that means we have a ton of paint stripping in our future, and we need to find new cabinet doors that will look nice with straight grain fir. In 1940 straight grain fir was common and inexpensive, but it is quite a bit now so we need to find a cheaper wood for the doors that will look nice with the fir. We also discovered that our small kitchen has a lot of cabinets and they are all custom/built in.

This is a lot of work, but it's also kind-of fun. I found a bunch of exciting things in the closet upstairs yesterday when I was cleaning it out - a puzzle for B, a box of toy dinosaurs that J forgot about, also for B.

J is in full on project mode. He's busy, and distracted, and scattered, and when he talks about moving from here into a house that needs remodeling I get a little scared. Maybe we should just buy something move in ready .... But looking for a new house comes after this one sells. If it doesn't sell it will be all fixed up for us! I'm already sad about maybe possibly leaving it. I love this house. It just doesn't meet our needs anymore.

Monday, January 5, 2015

on music classes and shy children

The kids had their first music class this morning. I heard whispers of a magical teacher back in the fall, but couldn't get the kids in a class until the winter sessions started. I asked the kids grandparents to help with the class as a Christmas gift, because I thought it would be nice to have something that lasts a while that isn't a toy.

The classes are word of mouth only, and I feel quite lucky that we got in since every class every session is wait-listed. And the classes are all mixed ages so I can take Bennett and Ainsleigh to the same class. We couldn't get into the time I wanted, but 8:45 isn't too much of a stretch for us.

Anyway, this teacher, this Mrs. D, she's AMAZING. Today was our first class, and I felt fairly anxious about it because new things and situations make me feel sick, but I'm trying to manage the anxiety so the kids can have a normal life and do normal things. So I was up some last night worrying about all manner of things I didn't need to be concerned about, but I got us there on time and I didn't yell at the kids in the process even though everyone slept late (of course) and the morning was a little hectic.

Bennett didn't want to have a thing to do with any of it - instruments, dancing, singing - but after a while Ainsleigh got up and wandered around a bit. Bennett is extremely shy. I keep trying to encourage him to do small things - like hand out Christmas treats to neighbors he knows - but even those tasks are difficult for him. This class is 10 weeks long, so I hope he joins in at some point. He did get comfortable enough at the end of class this morning to lick the window. Seriously, three year olds.

But the teacher was wonderful and didn't seem to mind that Bennett licked the window. Or that other kids were all over the place, checking everything out, staring out the windows, making faces in the mirrors, etc.

If you have busy kids and feel like you can't take them anywhere because they are high energy and can't sit still, try to get into this class. It is so nice to be in a 45 minute class that everyone can enjoy - parents and kids - because kids are allowed to be kids. And somehow the teacher is able to manage 12 roaming toddlers and babies, and their parents/caregivers, without chaos reigning.

Bennett has already learned a couple of the songs (we were sent home with two CDs and a book) and I think he will enjoy going back next week even though he says he doesn't want to go back until he grows up. I'm just excited to have something to do once a week during the winter months!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I feel like I should ...

sit down and commemorate this year.

I can't believe I didn't write about this Christmas. I thought a lot about what to write, but I felt like I've said it all before (more than once) so I just didn't open the laptop. For at least two weeks I left it sitting on the floor upstairs and thought about all of the redundant things I could write when I passed it on my way to bed at night.

There was a fair amount of depression keeping me from writing this season as well. Depression has the ability to suck joy from every. single. thing you find joy in so I found myself avoiding writing, and dreading time with friends, and wishing I could be alone under the covers for two solid weeks.

This year I discovered that you can pour all your energy into enjoying and loving the holidays, and still yell at your kids - a lot - because you don't feel as happy as you think you should. This much effort = this much joy is not a real equation, but I thought I could force it into being. (As you know, I've never been very good at math).

There were good moments. The kids were fun to watch. I sat on the couch on Christmas night watching B play with his new toys. I looked around the house, and thought about the guests coming the next day, and then I pulled a blanket over my lap and just watched him get lost in new worlds.

And then somehow a week went by and now it's New Year's Eve, which has never felt like a holiday to me. Ringing in a new year is momentous, I suppose, but we never stay up to see midnight. I need sleep far too much for that right now.

2014 was a pretty good year. We became members at our church. I grew closer to a few friends, and connected with a few new people (one of the scariest things an introvert can do). 2014 was a year of community, and learning how to care for the people around me. My perspective on what is important really narrowed this year.

It was a year of spiritual growth and choosing to really own my faith. I began reading along with the She Reads Truth devotions in August and I haven't stopped, which may seem like a small achievement, but for me it's huge. I'm excited to start the 365 day plan tomorrow. I've been wanting to read the Bible cover to cover, but I've felt rather intimidated by it. It will be nice to do it in community.

I anticipate change in 2015. I don't know the plans God has for our family, but we are hoping to move house sometime this year. We would like a bigger kitchen and a second bathroom, but we like our location and community so leaving will be difficult. There are so many factors that must fall into place for us to move I feel a little uncertain it will actually happen, but we are beginning to fix up this house to sell so perhaps it will all come together!

Tonight at dinner we asked Bennett how he would feel about moving somewhere else. He listened to us chat for a bit about a house we are interested in before asking, "But what about our blue house? I like that one." So we'll see how he feels if we buy a new house!

I'm trying to keep perspective and have a grateful heart. Not only about moving house, but about all the small things going on in our lives. We have so much, but it's easy to get caught up in what's missing, or what could be improved. I feel completely overwhelmed about making the right decision about a house, but this last year I've learned to give all of the worry and anxiety I carry to God. It's a slow process, and I often forget to let go, but I feel much less stressed about everything when I rely on the Lord to guide us.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. This year I had a real sense of the space where Charlotte should be. I could see her spot by the tree and at the breakfast table, and when I saw the kids playing around her spot I felt proud of us for creating life around the space. This was our fifth Christmas without Charlotte, and while it doesn't get easier (the day to day does but the holidays don't) there is so much healing in the life and family we built after we lost her.

The song "Come As You Are" by Crowder was on repeat this year:

Come out of sadness
From wherever you've been
Come broken hearted
Let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

There's hope for the hopeless
And all those who've strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There's rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't cure

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Fall in his arms
Come as you are

There's joy for the morning
Oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Come as you are

I feel like I really came home this year. I settled into my faith. I gave up on trying to figure out all the pieces of my life and let God have control. He's a better driver anyway.

Ainsleigh is asleep. Bennett is heading that way. The house is quieting, we'll be in bed by 10:00. Life is predictable, and small, and quiet, but I like it, and I can't wait to see what God has planned for us next year.

Enjoy your new year celebrations!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

a little update

I am a terrible record keeper. When I see those calendars where you fill in a square for every day of your child's first year I feel a lot of shame, because I don't keep track of anything. I write a lot down here, but I definitely recorded more of Bennett's life than Ainsleigh's. (When she confronts me with that particular truth I'm going to tell her I was far too busy keeping her safe/putting her hearing aid back in to do much else.)

I'm going to start posting regular kid and life updates here so I have a bit more of a record of how the kids are doing/what is going on in their lives. I am still planning on creating baby books, so I need to write down what I can remember from their babyhoods NOW (since it's so fresh and all - *sarcasm*)


This afternoon my physical therapist said, "you're well on your way to being one of those hunched over old ladies, but this exercise will help prevent that. And it will ensure you don't get a double chin."

Well that's one way to make sure I do my exercises at home.

Healing is slow. Progress is back and forth and frustrating. But at this very moment I am not in pain and that is a vast improvement.

I was in fantastic shape before I had Ainsleigh. How can one little pregnancy set me back so far?!

Speaking of Ainsleigh, she learned how to growl this week. It's the cutest thing, but it's also a little scary. She's completely enamored with the new sounds she can make, so we get to hear them all the time. Ainsleigh has this deep growl that absolutely cracks me up. If you con her into putting her hands up (where's your head? usually does the trick) while she is growling you can tickle her underarms and make her go from a low down growl to a high pitched shriek. It's pretty entertaining.

The Bennett battles are fairly epic right now - I need a lot of time outs - but he's much more than a boundary pushing bundle of attitude. He's clever, and funny, and everything is AWESOME right now.

He sat really still for a haircut today, which I thought was really impressive.

The Polar Express scared him, "a little bit." Kiddo jumped in the air and threw his popped sorghum grains (corn allergy) everywhere and then he had the shakes until we turned the movie off, but he still insists "it only scared me a little bit."

Bennett's favorite Christmas movie of the ones we've watched so far: Charlie Brown. I haven't watched it in years, but I related to Charlie Brown and his feelings of depression; that's basically Christmas for me - "I should be happy!"

We don't pray before every meal. Dinner is constant. Lunch is hit and miss. Breakfast never happens. Bennett is the reason we sometimes pray at lunch, and he always prays over our evening meal. Here's an example of one of his prayers:

"Thank you for our love. And our food. And tacos. And cheese. And tortillas."

He often starts with thank you for our love, or Jesus, followed by naming every item on the table. After he prays he sometimes asks, "Was that a long one?"

Bennett and Ainsleigh are now old enough to go off and play semi-nicely with each other for a while. They like to climb on Bennett's bed, or into the play kitchen, or chase each other around the house. There is some pushing and shoving, but most of the time if they're off by themselves while I'm cooking or cleaning I let them be. They're developing a relationship and it's the sweetest thing to watch. My heart just about explodes when Bennett says, "Hi girly!" with a laugh when he sees Ainsleigh after she naps.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

on yoga and deseeding pomegranates

Going to physical therapy twice a week makes me want to get back in shape. I've lost the baby weight - YEAH! - but now I need to get in fighting shape. In Hawaii I hiked a mountain with B on my back in the Ergo and I didn't feel a thing but lightness (and a fair amount of sweat). My goal is to get back to feeling that strong and able.

All the chiropractors and physical therapists I see say the following, or a version of it: you're so tight, so tense, you carry so much in your shoulders, can you drop your shoulders, can you breathe a little more, can you feel how stiff you are?

It's like grief moved into my bones, great wisps of it like fog settling over a valley and wending its way into every hidden crevice. My tendons and bones are all knotted up from years of tense living, of failing to have faith, of believing that all the good is just temporary and there's another shoe hovering just off the page where I can't quite see it and at any moment it will drop so I hold myself tightly day and night in worried anticipation.

It's no way to live, folks, but it's the way I've been living because all the bright, sparkly words - faith, hope, believing - didn't come around for a good long while. And they're still new enough that I don't quite trust them, so I step tentatively out, one toe tapping the idea of living with the bravery that can only come from Jesus, but I'm not quite ready for all in yet; there's still too much tension in my spine.

After Charlotte died I ventured into the exclusive world of aqua fitness for a while. It was really healing, surprisingly so, and no one seemed to mind that my friends and I were years younger than everyone else in the class. I think it would be nice to do that again, but I can't figure out the kids, the time, the logistics, the swim suit ...

I keep talking about doing yoga because I loved the few yoga stretches that we did at the end of the aqua fitness class, but every time I look up classes online I just feel intimidated and like I might be too Baptist to participate. I also think I might benefit from a little yoga because I have so much anger and could really use some calm down breathing time a couple times a week.

This afternoon I was deseeding a pomegrante, which can either be a meditative experience, or a futile, frustrating endeavor. I was strictly in the meditative mindset at first. I was feeling very calm and working through all sorts of things while I immersed the deep red pomegranate sections in cold, biting water and pulled the seeds out.

After finishing half the pomegranate I rinsed the seeds in a colander then reached to put them on the stove while talking to B. I dropped it, all of it, all over, and all my meditative goodness went wooosh and I lost my ever loving mind. And then B said, "Mama, it was just an accident. It's okay." And I sat on the kitchen floor a moment and held him on my lap and thanked the Lord for his sweet self.

Then I pulled the rest of the seeds out with bitter, angry hands while a just woken up Ainsleigh pulled at my leg and begged for seeds with a newly discovered, "mmmmm" that means "feed me, feed me now or I'll scream." I really wanted to throw the entire mess out. I swept up the ones that fell on the floor (beyond rescue, my floors a mess, the seeds covered in kitchen detritus and dog hair) and was so tempted to throw everything away, but there were edible seeds and the kids love them so I continued on.

And this is progress for me because I tend to be one who gives up. I tend to be someone who doesn't like to do the hard work, who would rather buy just the seeds next time I go to the store even though I told J it's ridiculous to pay so much money for seeds when one can buy a whole pomegranate for much less and do the work oneself, I mean, really, it's not that hard!

So that was humbling, and somewhere in there, I'm sure, is a lesson about Jesus and how He doesn't throw us out even when we're a broken mess and can't figure out how to be brave enough to try a yoga class.


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