Or…

I could write a flowery post about making cookies after school, or giggling over trivia questions after dinner. I could tell you with proud smiley face emojis about the helpful children folding laundry and cooking the pasta for dinner. I could take a radiant picture of the beaming ten year old leaving dance class, having wowed the teacher.

Or.

I could rant about the teary start to the day due to a coat not fitting over sleeves. I could lament and drag with deep annoyance about the sullen response I got when calling the oldest teen to dinner. I could snivel of the forgotten birthday party this weekend, that ruined the ten year old’s day at school. I could take a pitiful picture of the piles of laundry, or papers and clutter on the coffee table, or the boots and sneakers all blocking the door.

Both stories would be true depictions of the day. Both stories could stand alone as my reflection of the last 18 hours. But reality is somewhere in between. Every high, will be, at some point followed by a low. As does the reverse also hold true: there is always a silver lining and a light at the end of the tunnels. As exciting as a roller coaster is at the theme park, it is not how I would like to live my daily life. Momentum for the highs of parenting doesn’t have to come from these sinking low down in the trenches. Somewhere, there is a more even balance.

Our world is complicated and messy. It is filled to the seams and bursting. Sometimes it seems there really is no room to breathe without comparisons to our parenting, our children, our bodies our lives. But our survival depends in the stopping of comparing our houses, lives, or bodies to the neighbor down the street and the old high school chum we found on Facebook. Are they sharing the first story, without letting in any of the second? Or are they dwelling solidly in the second, and not allowing any joy of the first to shine through?

At the end of the day, your life is what you make it. And there is beauty in the chaos. There is order in the mayhem. Together we can find it, if we pause to look a little closer. And on the flip side, can you find the true joy, if you have not experienced the deep heart break? They must go together: the yin and the yang.

So today I challenge you to share the mess, the struggle, the wicked hard choices. But also to look for moments of rapture and joy and wonderment. For it is somewhere in the murky middle of these two emotions that we will truly find happiness.

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the in between

The clatter of dishes and the shuffling of bags, and feet, and lunch boxes

A far off rumble, and the squeaking of door hinges

Last minute kisses and requested plans;

All is eclipsed by the silence that follows.

A pop from the wood stove. The ticking of the clock.

A single coffee cup set on the counter, almost echos in the chill.

Perhaps clicking of a keyboard, or the slide of the stool across linoleum, will fill the yawning space.

Of course, there is laundry (there is ALWAYS laundry), or dishes,

And another couple lunches could be made.

But I like it here.

Quiet.

Dark.

Still.

Planning the potential.

the space between

the shift,

of children.

Why I am crying

I said I couldn’t do her hair in two braids before school – she had to go out to catch the bus in four minutes.

I never got a picture of my ten year old in her soccer jersey – the exact same one her sister wore four years ago, which I also don’t have a picture of.

I forgot to get cat food – and the cat refuses cream, sausage, and hamburger that I specifically made for her.

(My head feels kinda fuzzy and like it’s being squeezed.)

And then there is the lost hat. It was bought on the father daughter trip to Norway, the only physical reminder she has of the beautiful country she visited and stretched her wings. And now it is lost somewhere in the school – or beyond by now.

The coffee pot is almost empty. And I will need to make another pot. But we are almost out of coffee beans, another trip to the store.

The chickens, oh the chickens. I hope we don’t lose another one this fall. I will check them at least ten more times today. And perhaps I will put your old radio out to keep away the varmints today.

(Oh how I would love to sit still, stop moving for an hour or so. A rest would do me good.)

The wind is blowing, the rain is coming. I have to build a fire in the wood stove. But, there is no newspaper left, or kindling either.

The bagels are burnt.

The laundry is mildewing in the washer, forgotten another day.

(Waiting for a soccer practice to end, my head against the cold window pane, I almost fall asleep.)

The dishes are piling up.

The beds need new sheets.

Nobody can find their water bottles anymore. And dance class starts in ten minutes.

(The dazed feeling is being replaced with aching at my temples, and pressure on the back of my head. Perhaps some water?)

The car needs gas. The gas station is on the other side of this traffic filled, small town Maine road.

There are no parking spots at school pickup. And here come those rain drops…rain drops keep falling in my head.

And now, I must cook a health pre-soccer playoff game dinner. Will pasta and sausage red sauce do? I don’t have the energy left to do anything more.

(The chickens are all good, the children have been fed. ‘Family games’ have been played. It is time now, for bed.)

Ten year anniversary

Today is the company bbq and celebration of milestone anniversary years for employees. One of them is me: Ten years! Wow, my littlest whole life. Which makes sense, seeing as I started gardening when she was a couple months old. Usually she was sleeping in the shade of the apple trees, or strapped to my back while I pulled weeds and trimmed hydrangeas.

Come to think of it, I believe I actually started the winter before she was born, working in the office taking orders at Christmas time. Amazing to think that far back. Back to when I only had two kids: one barely a toddler and one precocious preschooler. Back to when mornings started with giggles in my bed at 5:30 am, and ended with snuggles in their little beds around 7:30. (To be followed by dishes, laundry and cleaning the living room, of course. And finally falling into my own bed around 10.) But thinking way back to a little sedan car, with only two car seats. (With at least six sippy cups, ten board books, three single socks, and a huge multitude of odd snack parts tucked all around those two car seats.) Now, it is a mini van exploding with soccer cleats, basketballs, and beach towels, with ballet tights in the cup holder, Advil in the glove box and three inch thick books across the far back seat.

Back then my days consisted of hour plus trips to the library for story time, followed by another hour in the neighboring bakery with hot chocolate and bagels. We planned these outings around naps times, and lunch times, and squeezed in a grocery shopping trip once a week. I would struggle to navigate that huge car cart though the store (with two giggling girls ‘driving’ for about ten minutes) to buy well planned out ingredients for family meals. That was back when dinner would be eaten around the table, all together at 6pm, like clockwork, (complete with candles, and grace, and daily thanks giving).

The five of us, haven’t eaten together at that table for at least a year (unless you count super special occasions like Thanksgiving or Easter.) Grocery shopping still happens about once a week, but consists of me zooming around in half an hour to get things like granola bars, pizza toppings, already cooked chicken and two gallons of milk. I usually forget at least ten things on the list because I am thinking about which kid I have to pick up or drop off at what kind of event. We do, of course, visit the library, where we all go off in different directions and return to the check out desk ten minutes later with at least three books each. This is not followed by leisurely drinking hot chocolate with mounds of whipped cream, but instead by a cruise to the Mills for a few jumps off the bridge or the lake for quick swim out to the buoy line with some friends. We plan our days around practices and games, always with a book to read, for when a ten to twenty minute wait will save us from driving back and forth again, for another’s event. We eat dinners at the coffee table or the kitchen counter, usually most of us together for at least those ten minutes. (But we still find time and space for a candle or two, and of course we say our thanks for the day.)

Those were different days, ten years ago. Good and bad, seemingly simple compared to today’s crazies, but they had their own, just different, level of crazies. Now is also good and bad, and there is simple to be found here too.

Today, for instance, during a quick trip to town, for a needed piece of sporting equipment, I took just one child. She is old enough to sit in the front and converse with me. She told me some of the plot line to her latest book she is reading. We discussed middle school, and the growing excitement of a new school, new friends, and new opportunities. She came with me, as well, to pay the cable bill, waiting patiently and quietly in the chair while I chatted with the employee behind the counter. We discussed wildflowers and weeds growing along the road, on the drive home. And together we marveled at the new gas station being built so quickly along the way. Nothing extraordinary, just simple time spent with one child. The others where happily occupied with their own adventures of a play date and soccer practice. Nobody was left out, or left behind. Nobody felt cheated of time, or space. Just me running a few simple errands with my growing middle child.

The day also has its crazies: a pick up and drop off at the same time as the bbq, of the overlapping practice and rehearsal times for the eldest. The growing list of school supplies that need to be bought, that is almost screaming at me from the kitchen counter. The gardens I need to tend outside, vying for my time inside doing a different job for the company. Not to mention a forgotten shirt, a costume payment due, the chickens to be put in before dark (a fox is prowling round), and the littlest still recovering from a week long cold. There is no time left for naps anymore, though I am quite sure we could all benefit! And lunch was kind of forgotten in the middle of this crazy, end of summer day. But dinner is taken care of, the BBQ! With friends and family, and eventually all my kids will be there, with me. I will get to feel appreciated for my years working here.

And I will smile for the NOW moments, the joy in their faces when they shine on the stage, or succeed in the play on the court, or make a new friend on the field. I will try not to get caught up in worrying about next moments. I will pause to smell the flowers, admire the sunrise, sit with the rainclouds to find the rainbow. My small children are growing into amazing young adults. It is scary and sad and beautiful. Like the baby robins that flew from the nest this week, in the apple tree that the littlest used to nap under. Everything grows and takes flight. We just must remember to breathe.

The beach on a Friday late afternoon

Too many cell phones, not very many books to be seen, or even magazines laying across snoozing faces.

Too much young teen skin and teen attitude to go with it. Testing the boundaries of the beach, the parents, themselves.

Screeching “Marco”, follows by hollered “Polo”. Splashing and laughing and bit of crying ensue, all the be repeated…again and again.

Baby cries and toddlers squealing. Running from mom, all clean and bare, right back into the water, and sand, and mess. Some mothers cajole with icies, others scream or chase, another sends the eight year old sister after the escapee. Child retrieved, but finds the slowest way back, weaving between the towels and sand castles.

The gulls stand watching for the moment you are not looking. Earlier, it would have been better picking among the lunches of watermelon, ham salad sandwiches and cheese sticks, all so easily dropped in the sand. Now it is only stray cheese puffs or the last of the melon chunks left on the corner of the towel.

The lifeguard must have left at 2. Leaving everyone free for shoulder jumping, chicken fights and back flips. And the abandoned sand castles are happily smashed and wrecked by neighboring 10 year old boys. The stomping leading to splashing and a wrestling match breaks out.

Soggy sandwiches and sandy popcorn are being packed back into coolers, now all empty of the ice, and the edible snacks. The sodas have been finished, all that is left is water. Creating space for a tantrum from the children, wanting more sugar.

One couple and their toddler attempt to build a sand castle, down by the waters edge. The parents use words that are so very big for the child. He stands and watches the proceedings, unaware of why they are building motes and castle walls. And he is baffled when told he cannot smash it, until it is all finished. The father wanders off to swim and the child is distracted by a passing fish. Leaving only the mother, alone, building a sandcastle fit for for a queen and her whole entourage.

Another young mother, who looks to have had a long day at the beach, returns from the rest room trip, (all much happier than when they left., children in tears.) But one is still not happy and although she is playing in the water, keeps yelling ‘help…’ with no reaction from anyone. Her intermittent screaming doesn’t stop.

More and more people are leaving. The screams have dropped to far away giggles and occasionally understood words of a far away conversation.

Three bathing beauties remain. Practicing ballet lifts and flips and turns. It is these three that have brought me to the beach, so very late in the day. After we have done our gardening and shopping and banking and laundry (always more laundry), we ventured out for a quick dip before the evening activities of dancing and dinner and family time.

These three who push me to my limits (and then some), who fill me with love and pride and amazement (as well as frustration and angst). These three who folded laundry without being asked today, who made their own breakfast and lunch, who look out for each other more fiercely than a momma lioness. But who also couldn’t get ready in the hour I left them, (while I ran the errands), who forgot to bring themselves waters and snacks, who will most likely leave the towels and bathing suits on their bedroom floors when we get home. These three angels are mine.

They are thankful for the water, the sunshine, the sand. They did not even bring their phones to the beach, (why would they need a phone, they say). They are laughing and listening and playing. They shine brighter then the sun on the water. And a with a mere whistle, I bring them in. No yelling, or hassling. No sandwich bags or plastic wrappers to chase, to beach toys to find, not even a chair to rinse. Just my three girls, wrapped in towels.

Home we go.

Refreshed. Ready to take on the weekend.

Tricky times

The best weapon ever: Strong willed, independent, and fierce women. These are the words my husband used to describe our daughters, as he left the house this morning. I was lamenting about having a teen (and preteen) and navigating the very complicated world of teenagers these days. How to support but not hover, ask but don’t nag, stay involved but let them learn by their own failures. Tricky.

It has been a week of learning, (hopefully on both sides). There was the missed connection for a pick up from a friends house to get to the last dance class on time. And the bad reception leading to poor communication. As well as the changing in plans which interrupted the other sister’s plans. The lists of chores, some done, some ignored. But there was also the amazing reports from their visiting aunt, who took them for the day. As well as the day the big sisters taught the little sister to jump off the bridge, as well as teaching the momma to let go. And the great communication after an evening movie with friends. And the wonderful moments driving here or there of connecting and chatting. As well as the acknowledgement that we are all learning, trying, figuring the world out as we go.

I hope we are doing it right. I wonder what else is in her head. I pray we will come out with less pain than I suffered in my teen years.

And THAT perhaps is the source of my angst. Remembering my teenage years. Remembering the mistakes I made. And later, seeing the hurt I inadvertently caused others. Seeing how a decision one way or the other caused the outcomes (desired or undesired). I want to, somehow, protect her from the pain I went through.

But I can’t. I know. We must each walk our own path. And find our own way, experience our own pain. And then, we must each figure out our own healing from the pain. (However long that may take.)

In my husbands words, I see I have done what I can to help my daughters, (as difficult as having strong willed children can be, it will be worth it). We have raised our three daughters to think with their heads and their hearts. We have taught them to plan and prepare and try to see what will happen next. We have shown them they are strong and fierce and amazing. We have sparked their interest in team sports as well as solo sports, so the my can understand the value of team work, perseverance and hard work. We have (tried) to let them fail at the smaller things, so they can develop the skills to recover and rise above the difficulties. We have tried. That is all we, as parents can do.

The rest of the story is in their hands. And I must let that be. I must let go, as I did on the bridge: three, two, one: GO!

The morning after the dance

There may not be much money in the bank, but there are plenty of bobby-pins on the kitchen floor. And the laundry is never, ever, going to be finished, but our dance clothes are washed, folded and repacked by the front door. The covers are falling off the bed, and the duvet could use some fresh air and sunshine, but morning snuggles from a fast growing nine year old are way more important. The flowers from last night are still in their wrappers, but at least made it into water, although that is an old spaghetti jar rather than a vase. And the biggest two lovely ladies are still sleeping soundly with raccoon eyes from the mascara that didn’t wash off, while the cat meows for her second breakfast.

Yes, our life is hectic and crazy. But it is full, full of love. We do not take much time to pause and ponder or contemplate. (As I used to say in response to the grocery store comment from strangers of “wow, you have your hands full” … “yes, my hands and arms and life is full of love.”) We dance with our hearts, we try with our hearts, we love with our hearts, we fly with our hearts…and our feet and friends and joy follow.

Yesterday was, perhaps, the easiest and best dance performance I have ever been in! It was amazing how well practiced we all were in the transitions. The show flew by, but not in a blur. I saw it all and was able to be in the moment to see it all and help as needed. But also relaxed enough to enjoy it all, and perform well myself! Was it the new venue, the extra run through, or the love we all feel for the leader, and our impressive dance family? Impressive, amazing, wonderful, delightful…I can’t seem to find words poetic enough to describe how good the whole afternoon and evening felt!

And still this morning, I am high in the adrenaline of it all, but yet relaxed and awe inspired by the sunshine, bumble bees and singing bird on my deck. I am thankful and appreciative of all that I have, all that others give and how it all comes together just so.

This momma is indeed a busy bee, but today I am finding my bees knees of happiness and loving it!