Sunday, August 30, 2015

Why is it so Hard?

Dear Talmage,

From the time you were a toddler, you have had a fixation with school.
You were only about a year and a half old when we took our friend, who was blind, to meet her son for his school lunch.
As we walked into the school, you seemed to have a natural sense for where we were going.
You immediately grabbed her walking stick and confidently pulled her down the hall,
leading the way to the cafeteria as if you had been there countless times before.
As we drove around our Texas town, you would memorize and point out each school,
differentiating them based on which of our church friends, piano students and babysitters went there.
When we moved to Utah, your excitement grew even more as the school bus stopped right in front of our house. You would frequently watch, transfixed, as your friend boarded the bus on his way to kindergarten.
On your 5th birthday, you were elated because you were finally the age you needed to be to attend school!
And finally, it was your turn.

I watched your animated face as we stopped by the grocery store on our way to drop you off
on your first day of kindergarten.
I watched as you proudly told every employee we passed that you were going to school.
I watched your excitement and confidence as we walked you into your classroom,
hugged and kissed you good-bye,
and left you sitting with your classmates around that alphabet rug.
And I held myself together really well, even as we walked out of the school and Lincoln started shouting,
"Ta-age? Ta-age? Where-a going?? Where Ta-age?"
And everything was fine when we got home until I put your brothers down for naps 
and the song "Homeward Bound" began to play.

And I sat there on the stairs, my face buried in my arms, fighting back the tears, as I listened to the words,
"Bind me not to the pasture, chain me not to the plow, set me free to find my calling, and I'll return to you somehow."

And as I sat in that crumpled heap, I kept asking myself, "Why is it so hard?"
Why is it so hard to see our children grow up?
Why do important milestones carry with them a sense of grief with the excitement?

Is it because I have regrets about the past?
Is it because each milestone takes you one step further from me and closer to your independence?
It is because I long for you to be able to cling to the innocence of youth?
Is it just because I've loved past stages and don't yet know the joy a new stage will bring?
Is it because I wish I could spare you the pain of growth, even while knowing it is ultimately for your good?
Is it simply because childhood passes in the blink of an eye and then you will be away?
Do I already miss what is not yet gone?

My tearful wonderings were inconclusive,
as I sat there thinking of future milestones that will bring me such satisfaction along with the pain.
But I know that growing up has brought me such joy despite the hardships along the way,
and so it is that I find myself trying desperately to prepare you
for the course of life you will face
and push you toward each painfully joyful landmark in life.

With all my love,

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Giving Hands

After a late night canning (what else?),
and a rough night with Lincoln,
I woke up this morning aching all over with a persistent pounding headache.
As I lay there contemplating the day ahead,
I thought of the hundreds of pears waiting for me in the garage
(they took longer than I expected to ripen)
and the 150 pounds of peaches I picked up yesterday,
in addition to all of the day's normal tasks,
and I began to feel overwhelmed.

In a bit of a frenzy, I threw myself into the morning's duties,
hoping to start my long day of canning early.
And then, just after I prepped jars in the sink,
my boys' excited shrieks announced a visitor at the door.

There stood my mom, who had come to drop off her blancher for me to use,
clad in a purple apron,
cookies in hand for little boys,
ready to help.

And for the next several hours,
she stood at my kitchen sink, peeling and slicing peaches with her able hands
and lifting my spirit with her positive conversation,
as together we worked to preserve food and family values.

Although I was too stubborn to admit I could use some help,
she came to my rescue once again.

And it's during moments like these that I am reminded how grateful I am
for my Mom,
her continually serving, giving hands,
and the sacrifices she has made to make those hands so readily available to us.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Wesley's Woes

With Talmage starting school,
Wesley has been feeling very left out.
The last straw came last week when we went to pick up Talmage's new backpack.
"It's not fair!" he whined, and it was clear he was on the edge of a meltdown.

I empathized with him.
For the past 2 years especially, he and Talmage have done just about everything together,
and now his buddy is growing up and leaving without him!
As we stood there in the store, I suggested he pick out a school supply he would like.
$2.50 later, we had a new set of markers, a clean notebook, and a happy boy once again.

If only all of life's problems were so easily solved!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Letting Go

Today was kindergarten orientation.
It was a short and simple day at school--just a half hour in the library for the kids while the parents met with the teacher, followed by a treasure hunt around the school to get the kids familiar with the locations of key rooms.
Talmage was on Cloud 9, while I couldn't get the pit out of my stomach.

As I've mentioned before, deciding what to do about his schooling has not been an easy or straightforward decision.
And while we've felt guided toward this decision,
walking through halls full of rowdy kids running off the excitement of the first day of school
and surveying the styles and attitudes of children who are trying hard to be teenagers
made me dread leaving my 5-year-old
in a place where I will no longer have control over his environment.

At the peak of my anxieties, we walked toward the doors to go back into the school after walking around the school yard.
A boy, probably about 10, came dashing up to the door to charge through.
And then he noticed Talmage and he stopped, held the door open, and said sweetly,
"It's okay! You can go in. Here!"

And at that moment a feeling of peace washed over me.
It's hard to let go and relinquish my control over his environment and his attitudes,
but we hope and pray that he can be an influence for good.

Last night, Sam gave him a father's blessing.
After he finished, Talmage jumped off the chair and gave me a hug declaring,
"That made me even more excited!!"
When I told him I knew he would do good things,
he told me that if he saw a kid across the classroom who looked nervous,
he would go and ask his teacher if it would be okay if he sat by them.
And then he told Sam he thought he should give me a blessing so I wouldn't miss him too much.
As he stood there, his hands gripping my upper arms, looking soberly into my eyes,
I reassured him that I would be okay and that I was happy he was going to school.

Because as hard as it is, I truly am.

As a side note, this guy is starting a new semester as well, with a full load of graduate courses
in addition to his regular research.
After High School, his Associate's degree, Bachelor's degree, PhD, and now Master's program,
this would be his first day of 23rd grade!!!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Wrinkled Toes

It is so strange to me that Lincoln is older than Wesley was when Lincoln was born.
Various health issues have delayed our plans to add to our family,
and Lincoln is saying good-bye to the baby stage and becoming a full-blown "big boy."

He is talking up a storm, circumventing any "baby-proofing" we have (such as baby gates), loving to play with his big brothers, and going potty on the toilet (although he's not yet fully potty-trained).
He'll be two in just a couple of weeks,
and sometimes I take a look at him and long to have a baby again.
But then I see those pudgy little toes, wrinkled from the water, and I can't help but kiss them
and hang on to the fact that he is still my baby.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Canning Jars

If you need me, I'll likely be in the kitchen.

This week is a big canning week.
I've been wanting to try my hand at canning chicken and when I saw a store ad for cases of chicken at a great price, the fact that I had about 400 pears waiting for me in the garage was simply a fleeting thought and I determined that now was the time to create our supply of canned chicken.
By Saturday night I may never want to see a canning jar again,
but that feeling is very temporary.
Few things satisfy me more than seeing all those glistening jars lined up on the shelves!

In Texas, when I would buy a large amount of produce to can, I often got funny remarks.
I thought moving to Utah would change that since canning is so much more normal in Utah.
But the funny remarks continue!
Today I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some more jars and the friendly bagger asked,
"What are you canning?"
"Chicken and pears," I replied.
"Chicken???" she asked with surprise and confusion.
"Yeah, you have to use a pressure canner, so it's not as common..." I trailed off lamely.
"Do you own chickens???" she asked.

It wasn't until later that I really thought about what that would mean--
raising chickens, killing them, plucking them, skinning them, de-boning them, and then canning them?
I'm so glad this isn't that intense!

Later in the day as I held up a very large piece of raw chicken,
Talmage looked at me, pulled a face, and said,
"It looks like a baby chicken. It looks like an embryo."
It was my turn to be surprised and confused.
"Doesn't it look like an embryo?" he questioned.
"Where did you learn the word 'embryo'?" I responded.
"In The Magic School Bus Cracks a Yolk!" he replied as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
Of course.

Cutting up the chicken became even more distasteful as I kept imagining the pieces being shaped like little embryo chickens.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Summer Showers

Summer is quickly slipping away.
I have been clinging to the days, wishing them to stay.
In many ways, it feels like I will be entering a new stage of life next week
as our oldest begins kindergarten.

This summer has been different than I expected in some ways,
but it's been one of our best summers yet.
The days have been filled with splash pad visits, trips to the pool, playing at the park, family reunions & activities, camping trips, holiday celebrations, bike rides, and lots and lots of backyard water play...
from the hose to the sprinklers to water squirters to mud puddles,
these little boys have thoroughly enjoyed that little backyard
with its big, beautiful tree covering half the area with shade
and soft, green, Utah-grass sprawling within the fenced boundaries.

Oh, how I love these simple days of discovery with my boys.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Laugh A Minute

I just love the stage Wesley is in right now.
He makes us laugh so much with the funny things he says and does.
I try to write our favorite Wesley-isms in my journal,
but he says so many I probably only record about 10 percent.

The other day, he was saying the prayer over his breakfast.
Suddenly, mid-sentence, he called out, "NO!" and then continued his prayer without missing a beat.
When he was finished he told us,
"Satan was trying to make me not pray, so I had to tell him 'No.'"

Yesterday we were watching some home videos we had made from a few years ago.
In one of my very favorites, Wesley is just 8 months old or so and Talmage repeatedly throws a pillow at him.
The pillow would hit Wesley and nearly knock him down from his perch where he held onto the couch.
And every single time, he would burst into hysterical laughter.
The harder the pillow hit him, the better.

This little boy has always been such a bright ray of happy sunshine in our home.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lego Bonding

Sam's dad has been in town on business this week,
so we've gotten to have him over during the evenings.
And oh, what fun the boys have been having with him!

Earlier this year, he brought the boys their first "real" Lego sets.
And they've been crazy about them ever since.
This week he gave them each another set--Star Wars style, this time,
and they've played with little else since.
They're getting a pretty nice Lego collection!

And I love it.
I love the way following the instruction booklets gets them to develop their analytical side
and how the other creations they come up with help them increase their creativity.
I love how excited they are to show us what they build.
I love that they're (finally!) becoming less enthusiastic about weapons
and focusing more on very imaginative, powerful modes of transportation.

But most of all, I love to see them delight in each others' creations,
play so long and so well together,
and strengthen their brotherly bond over these little plastic bricks.

Don't mind Lincoln; picking his nose is all the rage these days.
Also, dirty, disheveled boys in the evenings are signs of a day of great adventures!
(At least, that's what I tell myself when the end of the day always looks like this.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bear Lake

For the past few years, my family has taken an annual trip to Bear Lake.
Since we lived in Texas, we've never been able to come.
But this year we finally got to join in the fun!
I was so grateful to Sam--he didn't think he could spare the time away, but in the end he woke up at 4:00 to go to work for a half day before we drove up and we spent the rest of the day playing.
When we arrived at the lake, I saw my mom, my brother, and my sister-in-law desperately holding down the canopies as strong, cold winds and rain drove most lake visitors away!
But, by an hour later, the storm had passed, the sun came out, and the afternoon was absolutely perfect.

Bear Lake is one of my favorite places to visit--the water is so blue, the sand is soft and smooth, and the lake stays shallow for a really long time so the kids can play relatively freely.

The boys loved their first jet-ski experience.
Wesley climbed up and grabbed the handlebars and when I hopped on behind him he said, "No! I want to drive!!!" Each time I would slow down he would yell at me, "As fast as you were going!!" And at one point during our ride he told me, "I know why they're called jet-skis! Because they go as fast as a supersonic jet!"

Needless to say, tears were shed when it was time to go and the kids are already looking forward to next year's trip!

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