Thursday, September 26, 2013

These moments.

Sometimes you write a post and it completely wipes you out.  You're emotionally spent because you've just released what's been bottled up inside of you for so long.  You've put yourself out there and have begged for everyone to feel sorry for you.

And then you go pick up someone from Kindergarten.  Someone who is so excited to see you that he jumps into your arms despite the epic battles you fought just that morning.  Then that someone turns to his classmates and pats you gently on the hip announcing, "This is my Mommy. I love her so much."

That's all it takes to forget everything.

I guess this is how we survive it.  It's the same idea behind reproduction. 

Some sort of crazy brain erasing goes on when we are least prepared to let something go.  Just when our knuckles are sore from holding on so tightly to those things we say we are desperate to forget about does something happen that erases every bad feeling - every bad moment that was just etched so distinctly in our brains.

This is how we survive it.

These moments refuel our beating hearts.  They get us ready for tomorrow.

Channeling Katniss Everdeen

I can not tell you how happy I am that it is finally fall.  Autumn looks much better on me than the red sweaty complexion and exposed pasty white legs that summer forces out of me.

Don't worry, I plan to tell you just how much I love fall soon.  But for right now I can only focus on one thought concerning it, and it is that I am so tired of sweating.

I have not missed sweating for two years, I can tell you that.

And being a mother is a tiny bit easier in the fall.  I want to be outside with you.  I want to take you to the park, and pull all three of you in the loaded down wagon.  I want to sit on the front porch and watch you push the stroller back and forth on the sidewalk for hours. Okay, so want may not be the right word.  But I definitely like it more.

Without going into too much details about my son's personal battles during this time, I will let you know that being a mom is super hard for me right now.  I'm just putting this out there in case anyone else is having a super hard beginning of the school year and thinks they are all alone.

You are not alone.

A few weeks ago in our Sunday School class at church we were talking about parenting and someone said, "I thought everything was so hard when they were little, but then they get older and it gets EVEN HARDER."  That took my breath away friends.  My reaction was, "You mean it GETS HARDER!?!?!?"  Originally I was under the impression that I just thought the above sentence in my quiet little well-behaved head, but based on everyone's laughter and looks of pity I quickly realized that I said it out loud. Okay, so I didn't say it, I gasped it.  Like I was hyperventilating.

And it made for a funny moment in Sunday School.

But then I went home and CRIED.  I really cried.  Because God can't possibly expect me to do harder.  I cried in my bathroom, because that is my crying room where I go so no one else can see me cry.  (And when you live in a one bedroom apartment with four boys everyone sees you cry.) It is my crying place.  That, and Target.  It's like I feel so at-ease in that place that all of my emotions just flood out of me. I'm the one wandering around Target after 6pm alone.  On those days I walk slowly down every single aisle of our Target and buy nothing.  Just look.  Every single aisle. Okay, I'm totally lying - not about the every aisle part, but about not buying anything.  I'd like to meet someone who has walked out of a Target without at least one bag.  I'd like to meet them, because that person knows something I don't know. (Like how to resist the magical spell of Target and all of it's beautiful things I never knew I needed.)  So to recap, my bathroom and Target are my crying places.  And my car.  I forgot about my car.

So anyway, I cried. And to be honest, I'm really pretty tired of crying.

I know I can do hard things.

I know I can do them bravely.

I know that in the big scheme of the whole wide world that what I'm dealing with isn't even comparable to the refugee mothers that don't know where they're going to lay their kids down at night.

And in my head I have a voice that is saying, "no one could possibly understand how hard this is. You are alone."  Which is a really stupid thing for my head voice to say to me right now.

So today when I found myself back in my bathroom after battling through yet another morning, dropping Miles off at school, and then plopping Liam down in front of Sesame Street I knew that this is a time to be brave.  If there was ever a time to be brave, it is now.  I need to be Katniss Everdeen brave.

I mean, this is what I signed up for, right?  This is what I spent years yearning and craving as a childless mother lying in bed at night and wondering when it was going to be my turn. 

As water from the shower mixed with the tears that fell from my face it occurred to me that maybe this is a huge compliment from God.  God must have thought more of me than I think of myself.  She must have known a secret stash of bravery was hidden away inside of me that would make it all okay.  And my friends and family.  God must have known I was well-equipped for this challenge.  This deep desire for motherhood wouldn't have been put here otherwise.

This.  This is what I dreamed of for years.  This is what I wanted with every ounce of my being.

All of this.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Vacationing in July

When we first got home there were a lot of things happening that were good for my soul.  One of them was a trip in the middle of July to visit my family and to vacation in a place I've gone for my entire existence.

I love Northern Michigan.  I think I've mentioned it before, but I've even had friends say I should start a campaign for the entire state of Michigan because I love it so much.  While in Northern Ireland, whenever we were asked where our favorite place on the planet was, or a place of peacefulness, I would mention Michigan.  (Which 90% of the people I met thought was the funniest thing I'd ever said."  For various reasons I associate that part of the country with vacation. rest. peacefulness. and God.  I just feel closer to everything when I'm there.  And it felt like the perfect place to spend time with my family as I set my feet on solid ground.

And perhaps the very best part, above the delicious food, and the coolness of the lake....the VERY BEST part was that I got to meet my nephew Xavier for the first time ever in his life. 
But even besides that, this place alone holds so much for me.  Spending two weeks a summer up here for almost my entire childhood, and then two full summers on staff.  It's where I learned to make oatmeal cake bread, and where I worked next to my grandmother - getting to know her in a whole new way.

This is the type of place where you drive up to the wooded cabins along a shaded winding road, and you just know in your gut that you can finally take deep breaths. 

You know there are people waiting for you that love you, and the place is filled with people who want to know more about your adventures since you saw them last.  And people you've known your whole life that are having adventures you want to hear all about as well.

And the soft sounds of boats and jet skis taking off into the distance.  People offering you and your kids rides just because they know it would make them absolutely happy.

And grandparents that will go on adventures with us, and will fill our days with experiences. 
And cousins - many cousins -1st, and 2nd, that we haven't seen in so long, or never at all.  My own aunts and uncles that fill the cabins of this place and never hesitate to act happy to see me.
Visiting my own grandparents' cabin with its permanent fixtures of someone sitting out on the porch, a snack being passed around, and a jigsaw puzzle on the table.
An expanse of land to run around on, with streams to explore, and sand to be sculpted. 

And the beach.  Oh my, that beach.
And a "sea" we can swim in.
A magical part of my childhood that I can finally give my children.

And now for the honesty: I loved our vacation (of course), but it wasn't all warm fuzzy puppies.  Something about the set-up of the place we go reminded the boys so much of Corrymeela (everyone living on-sight, eating in a big dining room, etc.) that Miles and Liam had some moments of difficulty.  By "moments of difficulty" I of course mean, throw-down full-on scream-so-every-person-in-the-neighboring-four-states-can-hear-you difficulty.  And when Dustin had to leave at the beginning of the week for work, I think I also struggled to parent them completely.  Part of me just shut down, whether it was from a lingering sadness that was still fresh, or from having my parents around to take care of my broken heart, or because I thought I should get a vacation since we were on vacation.

I don't know why I thought I should share that part.  I guess I wanted you to know that things that look fun, and beautiful, also have hard, rough, hidden parts as well.  I will remember our vacation as fun and beautiful, but I want a tiny part of my brain to remember that it was also hard, so that when my children say (20+ years from now), "Mom, this is really damn hard."  I can say, "I know baby."

And maybe I'll even throw in a little, "Payback." for good measure.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I might never move again.

Things are happening here.  There are hard things right now, but we're figuring it out.

Some day I hope I can start a blog post without saying things are hard right now.

Before I had kids - before I had tiny little footsteps padding gently across my subconscious every morning while I laid in bed wondering how it can possibly be morning already - I had no idea what it meant to "stick together".  I had no idea what it meant to give up your comforts and conveniences for someone/something you believe so desperately and strongly in.  I didn't know that I would have to/want to make social sacrifices in order to create safe spaces for my children.

I don't think I knew that even two months ago.  Which is a little embarassing.

We are a family, and only now do I truly understand the sacrifices my parents made for my brothers and me.  Only now do I understand the importance of saying "no" to some things you want, and saying "yes" to some things you thought you'd never need.  Only now am I figuring out how to inconvenience other people in order to ask for what we need.

Figuring out day-to-day things has been challenging.  Soon enough this life will feel like mine again. I am a woman of routine, and BOY DO I NEED SOME ROUTINE up in here.

Soon enough. It will come.

For now God has me on my toes, and for good reason I'm sure. I can't wait to tell you all about the fabulously wonderful things we're doing, because that happen too I'm sure.

It's all cyclical, right?

My sons miss their Northern Irish home, which makes me miss it even more than I already did.  Today on the way to work, after much begging to not have to go to school, Liam said to me in the most whiny voice he could muster up, "Mom, you didn't say we have to come here forever."
Me, not understanding at all what he meant: "What do you mean, like here in Illinois?"
Liam: "Yes.  You didn't say that."
Me, in total disbelief: "Liam, this is where we live now."
Liam: "I know, but I miss Corrymeela.  (silent pause) I miss all my friends.  (silent pause) None of my friends are here. (thought-provoking silence) Maybe when I'm with Daddy we can get on a jet and go back."
Slow fade to me; crying silently in the front seat and thinking about everything I've done wrong over the past two months.

Isn't it painful how when you remember the few things you did wrong, you can never call up the many things you've done right?

I might never move again.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Family Pictures

Right before we left Northern Ireland I somehow had the sense (between the tears and irrational thoughts of staying there forever) to get our family photos taken one last time on the beach just down the road from our home. 

We had cloudy weather, and uncooperative children (because, really, when are they ever cooperative?), but Northern Ireland photographer, Lauren Rutherford did an amazing job not making us look like a bunch of neanderthals in at least 70% of the pictures. 

See even more of her amazing work involving much more photogenic families HERE.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Long long ago, in the land of Red White and Blue...

 Do you remember that one time when we came back to the country we had left two years earlier, only to find out it was celebrating it's birthday?

Only six days after we returned home we were greeted by this well-known American holiday.  At the risk of sounding like a real jerk, I've never been particularly Patriotic, nor have I ever considered my country's Independence Day to be one of my favorite holidays.  It's usually hot, and buggy, and right smack dab in the middle of my holidays.  However, there is something about living in another country, and all-so-often being identified as "An American" within seconds of every meeting, that makes you re-examine what building blocks you use to construct your identity.

Something I learned about myself is that I actually love the traditions that come from living in Middle America.  I love the county fair.  I love fresh strawberry pie in June.  I love plucking sweet cherries out of big bowls by the fistful in July.  And I love any excuse for a celebration and friendly parade. 


 And this celebration came at just the right time.  We lined the streets of our new small-town home with friends we've known for a lifetime, and their children that we've known since the day they were born.  We waved at tractors, and horses, and firetrucks, and their riders hung out of windows throwing handfuls of candy at us.  It was a far cry from the parades that were happening at the same time in a country we left behind.  The parades that are oftentimes rooted in hate and can sometimes result in violence.

At that moment I had never felt so far from Northern Ireland, nor so close to the culture I had always considered my home.