Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Anniversary trip

At some point in the recent past, we decided that taking our children with us on an Anniversary Trip would be a good idea. It was, for the most part. A good idea, I mean. Although there may have been one, "What were we thinking?" And a, "Was this(bringing kids)your idea?" And possibly a, "Call your parents now and book them for next year."

It was mostly due to the rain. A six day relaxing getaway. Time spent parked in a beach chair while the children played in the ocean waves. Relaxing while catching sun rays and getting a nice golden hue on our pasty white legs. Tan lines. Tan lines is what I was looking for. 

Nothing went as I envisioned. It went so, so much better.
This is not the house we stayed in. :D This is the main house, we stayed in the guest house above the garage. 

 The view was uh-ma-sing. Seriously, slow clap for AirBnB and the brilliant people who built this beautiful house. The owner was Minnesota nice. I threw in an, "Uffda," but he didn't acknowledge that I could speak his language. Super nice family though and nobody fell to their death from the killer loft! Adrenalin dumped into my gut every time somebody came down from the loft, but all was well in the end.
It rained the entire time. Not one sunset. No tan lines. No blue skies and mild humidity that could only be enjoyed from the salty ocean. Rainrainrainrainrain and cold. We were forced to get creative. Night one was spent playing Monopoly until TWO THIRTY IN THE MORNING. It was the electronic version. When Jude and I gave it up at midnight, I was still basically playing as I heard the beep-beep-beeping long into the night. It may go down as one of my favorite memories of all time(not the incessant beeping, but the other parts).

The next day, we figured out just how 4X4 the Pilot really is. We took that baby on a 4x4 only beach and had a blast. There are wild horses on this stretch of beach. The many, many wild horse tour companies promised a view of these ponies within their 2 hour, $195(for our family) tour. Once we let most of the air out of our tires and kicked into LOW, we were cruisin'. 

We saw this guy pretty early on... 
and these guys a few minutes later, right where the sand got really loose. We were told it's lucky we saw them that quickly and easily as it usually tends to take an hour or two to find them. 
We got the added bonus of an unidentified object that lots of people were stopping to see. Turns out, it was a very smelly, very dead dolphin. 

The next day, it seemed like it might be a nice day. It wasn't for long. We went to Bodie Island Light House, which we visited in 2008. For some reason, the pictures of that visit have vanished from my hard drive, except for from ye olde blog. If you're interested, you can see them here. My beebees were so little!!
After the lighthouse, we hit the beach, but it was too stinking cold and windy to do much more than grab a few shells. 
The next day came, cloudy and rainy again, but slightly warmer. We went back to Coquina Beach because it had been so empty the day before. We were one of two families on the whole stretch of sand. 

I took a chance with my camera and begged the martyrs for a few family pictures. You'd think I'd asked them for a kidney. I got eight whole pictures. I'm really not complaining at all. I'm thankful for all eight pictures and the willingness of my beloveds. 

Simon said he's never making a face in a picture again because those are the ones I chose to print BIG and hang on the wall. YUP. 
Did you know that Grave Digger lives in Kill Devil Hills? Yassss. We successfully dodged all souvenir purchases and managed to only ride the monster truck. Best $30 ever spent. 

By the last day of vacation, we'd had enough of the rain and clouds and close quarters of the beach house. We almost packed up early and headed home to the pups. I'm so glad we stuck it out another day. "I don't want to go walk around in the stupid sand. I want to go kayaking." I pushed my agenda and got these boys back to the stupid sand. They loved it. 
It's another place we visited back in 2008. It was a really weird experience of passage of time realization. Watching Titus and Jude was like reliving the experience from 8 years ago. Super crazy. 

...and this is when we got ringworm...Just kidding. Unless it takes a while for ringworm to show up. This just shows you how much it rained while we were there. Giant puddles everywhere!
We finished up our trip doing the thing the big boys loved best: kayaking. They loved it so much so that they are pooling their money and watching Craigslist to get a boat of their own. 
The two bigs went for a quick swim in the Sound(successfully tearing up one of their legs on barnacles) and then we had just enough time to get some more family pictures before the light went away. The boys were all very excited. ;)
So excited that this one kept threatening to throw me in the water. I promised to drag him in with me if he did. 

Simon flashing signs that are actually Roman numerals to commemorate the reason for the trip. Psh,  cover up, your homeschool is showing. 
Sean came up with this one last picture. He said, with a very Al Bundy-esque face, "Eat your heart out, Hallmark." He's a cheese ball.
That was that. A trip with no agenda other than hanging out. I would've preferred sunshine and warmth, but perhaps it wouldn't have been such a memorable trip without all the rain and cold, grey skies.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

I still do.

Fifteen years! We made it fifteen years. It hasn't been hard, it hasn't been easy. In light of society and the big, fat joke that marriage as an institution has become, I think we're doing pretty great. We make each other madder than anyone else on this planet is capable. We have our moments, hours, days of bickering like children, but the overall trend is upward.

We balance each other. He is my sounding board and my voice of reason. He is truth when I want to listen to lies. He is the only person that has the power to calm me down. There are times I get so anxious about the dumbest things and with a word he brings peace.

He is the hardest working man I've ever met. He is one of those guys that works smarter in lieu of harder, but if he gets his teeth into something, he'll work harder than is usually necessary(i.e. a lawnmower we bought at the flea market...that he has rebuilt Johnny Cash style, one piece at a time...the story as a whole is one for the books).

He says I am the only person that can make him feel guilt about anything. The other day I mentioned, "It's been 11 months today." Since I lost the baby. He didn't say a word. Just completely ignored my statement. Being me, I didn't let it go. I let it go for the minute. I even let it go for the day, but, he broke my heart. I didn't think he cared. I brought it up again yesterday. I casually (ok, maybe not casually...) mentioned that he didn't acknowledge my statement. And then he said everything I wanted him to say the first time. That of course it bothers him. That people ask him every single day how many kids he has. That people say things to him like, "Gonna try for that girl?" Knowing that he has the same moments of heartache that I do was enough. Most of the time, we're okay with communicating. Sometimes, we still have our hang ups.

It is still my daily goal to make him laugh. I smile so big when I can get a good, hard laugh out of him. It's not easy.

He doesn't mince words. Never. He is always bold and upfront and honest. All reasons he makes a terrible first impression in a world that likes to sugar coat and puts feelings ahead of all else.

He encourages me and makes me feel valued. He gives me his most precious resource, his time. He doesn't give a crap what other people think of him. Not even a little bit. You should see the snow boots he bought for our one winter in Ohio. Bo-bos does not even describe these boots. I still give him a hard time about 'em.

He is hilarious without trying. Side splitting, gut clenching hilarious. Even when he's being really hard on the boys for something they deserve, he'll be lecturing full force and throw something in there to break the tension that cracks us all up. He has the craziest analogies, that are usually medically related and disgusting, that make so much sense. Yesterday, for example, he referred to a dog scooting it's butt on the carpet as being in the full breech position. I will never hear birth stories the same.

He is fair, always. He is unique. He is incredibly handsome. He is the smartest person I've ever known. He is loyal. He's got my back. I have nevereverever doubted that.

He is an incredible dad. The type that stays up until 2 a.m. playing Monopoly with his kids. The type that gets super involved in whatever they care about. As far as this parenting gig goes, he's the good one. I'm the quantity, he's the quality.

I've never met anyone like him. There are times I get a good hard look at him and can't figure out how I ended up here or why he picked me. I'm glad I snagged him at 17. If I'd waited, who knows? Most people look at me like I'm insane when I tell them we got married at 18 and 21. I had someone once ask me, "Did you have to get married at 18...?" Not in the sense they meant, but the answer is...yes. Absolutely.

We were so young and dumb and in love and oblivious to things like bills and debt and responsibilities-beyond what movie we should rent at Finklea's. We figured it out together. We figured it out by listening to sound advice, mimicking what seemed to work in others' marriages, avoiding pitfalls we saw in others', and also by falling flat on our precious lil faces more than a few times.

Sean is an amazing leader and he's always made it easy to follow. I guess it's because I know that he's our family's biggest fan and puts us first. When he burned every bridge at the hospital in our home town and he said, "Screw it. Let's travel." When he mentioned, "What about the Air Force?" He's big on taking risky leaps of faith, but he's always landed firmly on his feet.

He doesn't seem to notice my flaws. When I'm having an ugly day, when my hair is so funky that it adjusts my attitude, he looks at me like he can't figure out what my problem is. I don't get it.

The last fifteen years have been quite the adventure. I am so proud to have stood by his side through it all. I meant my vows. I meant them blindly 15 years ago. I meant them without knowing what they meant and now that I have a slightly better idea of what they mean, I still do.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

One was like a giant experiment. Some days the results came as expected, but most days the experiment brought unpredictable surprises. I remember at some point, once the exhaustion cleared and life took on a sense of normalcy feeling like every single day was like Christmas. I was so young and didn't have a freakin' clue, but the joy was palpable. I made a lot of mistakes with Simon, but somehow he's turned out to be a good egg.

Two was terrifying. I didn't want to leave the hospital with a second kid. I wanted to stay in the hospital bubble where I could handle things. One small room, a staff that would come when beckoned, it worked well for those first two days. Going home freaked me out. When I set Felix down on the living room floor on his quilt, it wasn't until Simon snuggled up next to him and whispered, "I wove you, Fe-u-wux," that I realized all would be well. I righted a lot of wrongs with number 2. I went with my gut more. Stopped letting what I thought I should do rule my parenting. I let Felix sleep in our bed. I nursed. I never let him cry it out.

Three was awesome. The easiest adjustment. The easiest baby. We had four days alone with just Titus and it made all the difference in the world. Three was so much fun. Just fun. No chaos, no fear, all fun. He was the most adorable baby ever.

Four was the most insane decision we ever made. I thought it would be easy and it was until he became mobile. With four, I have no control. Four has caused me to not give a damn about anyone's opinion. Four has taken away any iota I had of other mother judgement. Four has taken every ounce of the sanity I had left.

Five was the most heartbreaking experience of all. The thought of five caused sheer panic at times, but once that passed, I was so excited. There are still so many what-ifs. The pain is still there. I know one day it will turn into a scar, but for now the pain still feels like a scab. It hurts when I rip it off, but it's getting better. I'm ready for the scar and know it will come with time.

The funny thing about this motherhood gig is that no matter how demanding it is, I'm always ready to give more. I've figured out that the more I give, the more I get. There are the daily frustrations of terrorist negotiations over car shaped buggies. The shrieks that have to be deciphered. The give and take of grace versus punishment. The growing pains of toddlers and teenagers and the other in betweens. The doling out of judgements in the fifty million arguments that take place daily. The lack of privacy. The lack of patience. The constant noise. The dirt. The inside out socks. The ass hattery that is a male child.

Despite it all, I wouldn't change a thing. I wouldn't alter the age gaps amongst them or the fact that I had a kid at twenty. I wouldn't change the dynamics of having all boys. I wouldn't even change losing the baby, because I trust that God has it all figured out. This job is frustrating and hilarious and heartbreaking and so, so rewarding.

Each one of the five has taught us so much. They have changed our lives, changed each others lives and changed with the changes forced on them. I'm sure we're botching this parenting thing pretty majorly in the day to day, but when I catch a glimpse of who these boys truly are...I'm in awe. There are days I really congratulate myself on the job well done and then they do something so incredibly stupid that the humble pie smashes itself right in my face. It's an interesting gig and I'm so very thankful I picked a good man to raise these yahoos with.  We make a good team, Sean and I. It's amazing to watch their interactions and see just how much a kid needs their dad. I suppose that's another subject for another day. :) But really, where would I be without the man who made me a mother?

Happy Mother's Day to my mother who showed me how. To my sister who has plowed the road before me. To Sean's mom who raised the one that I love best. To all my mom friends who listen to me rant and make me laugh and speak truth and calm me down. To all my friends who aren't moms, but love my kids as they would their own and teach me not to take things for granted. To all of you, Happy Day. :)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Dear Gerry,

On April 19,  Sean's father was laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery. I don't think I can truly put all the emotions into words, but I'll give it my best shot. As we sat at the graveside ceremony, it was hard to feel it all. I was concentrating on not concentrating. I was forcing myself not to look at Sean or Mickey. I was trying to focus on my camera as Mickey had asked me to photograph the event. I was trying not to appear completely obnoxious by fidgeting with camera settings. I wanted to experience it, but I also wanted to document it. 
 I felt very out of place. I had a moment or two of, "Should we be here?" Did we really have a right to celebrate this man? He touched many lives and I felt like perhaps there were others who should've been on the front row of this ceremony. 
 And then the Navy Chaplain(who happens to be my brother) said his name and our right to be there was confirmed. We are his. We may not have had a lot of time with him, but I think we had a pretty good relationship, given the many complicated factors that go into living this life. 
 It was a small crowd that made the trip to Arlington, but it made the gathering that much more intimate. 

 As soon as I started seeing those white headstones, it got real. I couldn't figure out what to photograph and what not to photograph. The formal parts were so quiet that it felt very wrong to lift my camera. A lot of the pictures were taken blindly, from my lap. 

 This part always gets me all a-sob during movies and it was exactly as portrayed: sad. 
 So, so sad. 

 The salute was made, the bugle was played and just like that, the ceremony was over.  

 I feel like we left so much unsaid. There are so many memories that we didn't get to make. If I'd known, I would've ignored all protests and made sure to have gotten some pictures of Gerry and Sean. If Gerry were still here, well...

Dear Gerry,

I'm sorry that we didn't get more time. Time for memories and pictures and stories and life

Thank God, we now get to practice what we preach. Your life and death and that one weekend we had together is our chance to put our faith to the test. If we truly believe what we say we believe, then we know this isn't it. Arlington is not your final resting place. Our story isn't over and because of your last minute profession of faith in Jesus Christ, we get more. Thankfully, you recognized your sin and need for a Savior, so it ain't over. Who needs pictures when we get eternity? 

I'd like to say thanks. Thanks for giving me the greatest gift I never would've known to ask for. Thank you for the gift of life to your son. Thanks for the unnaturally strong genes that came through in the form of four handsome boys. Thank you for this life I get to live all because you had a part in creating this man that means the whole world to quite a few people. 

I want you to know that your legacy lives on. We don't quit; we don't stay quiet. I told your story to a lady at the park the other day. With tears in her eyes, she thanked me and said she couldn't wait to share your story. You live on through the love of Mickey. You live on in the lives of your son and grandsons and, truly, all who knew you. 

It's pretty amazing knowing your remains are at Arlington. You are a hero among heroes. Your name will be there and it will not be forgotten. I thank you for your legacy that I get to be a part of every single day. 

Romans 10:9