Friday, June 20, 2014

Carly's world.

Carly's world is spinning and changing.

In Carly's world, preschool was as good as it gets. She loved her teachers and loved going twice a week while still getting a lot of time at home. The end of the year brought an "End of Year Celebration" and a field trip to the zoo (which the twins got to go to; little big kids). She had a good year, and reading the evaluations from Fall, Winter, and End of the Year showed me just how much she has grown. She has really blossomed and loves learning. It is typical, now, for me to say she knows all her letter sounds and can count from 100 to 1 backward and reads Tolstoy. She doesn't. We will be working this summer to get her ready for Kindergarten. But I can tell she is ready to spread those little wings of hers, and I can't wait to watch her fly.

[First and last days of school. Growing brick by brick.]

In Carly's world, daddy is gone too much. The weeks since we have been back from Pullman have been long hard ones for daddy, and in turn, for everyone. I dare say we have held it together rather well, but Carly has always been a daddy's girl, and she feels his absence. She misses him and his role in her evening routine. She misses the one-on-one attention from him, the nightly reading of picture scriptures. The other night she was refusing to go to bed and she cried, "I just want my daddy!" I wish she could have a little perspective, that little 4-year-old brain of hers, that this is but a moment in time and before we know it we'll be settled and scheduled again. But I have a hard time keeping that perspective myself sometimes. When daddy does come home, when daddy does make it to a baseball game, when daddy can tuck her in at night . . . she's beaming.

[When grandma's in town you get pony and camel rides at the zoo.]

In Carly's world, mommy is packing all her stuff in boxes. And mommy is looking a bit tired and overwhelmed. I think the reality of our move is starting to sink in. She is showed pictures of a house she doesn't know, frames are coming off the walls, shelves are being emptied. As exciting as a move can be, it is also hard. It is hard for adults who fully comprehend the benefits and understand what is going to happen. I can only imagine how Carly feels. We are leaving the only home she's ever know and a place we love. It is hard on all of us.

[Morning story time with big sissy.]

In Carly's world, all her friends have moved away. One by one we have bid them farewell, with another one driving away tomorrow.  Her little friend Remi moved in May, and a week later Carly was whining and cried "I want my Remi back!" Her "best" friend moved last week, after one last playdate for the books. Later, we went to the park and Carly asked if any of her friends were coming. I couldn't help but reply, "There really aren't too many left." It is hard to watch, her little heart more impacted by these goodbyes than I was expecting. I know how she feels. My heart aches with every goodbye, because her little friends are the daughters and sons of my wonderful friends. I have gone through this Michigan journey with these wonderful ladies. At times it felt like we'd never see the light at the end of the tunnel, that it would never end. Now I'm wondering how it ended so quickly. What a blessing it has been to have friends to laugh with, complain to, eat with, and run with. These friends have been my sanity and Carly's joy. Goodbyes are too hard.

In Carly's world, t-ball isn't quite what it was cracked up to be. She loves playing t-ball with daddy in the park, but when you're on a team you only get to hit once per inning, and you have to stand out in the field waiting for a ball that never seems to come. Carly can often be found sitting, twirling, facing the wrong direction, or digging in the dirt. Luckily she has a most excellent coach who is great with the kids and does well to get everyone a turn getting the ball. Yesterday she didn't want to play at all and seemed to actually be feeling emotionally overwhelmed by the prospect of playing first base (with all the craziness in her life, I'm thinking first base was just the straw that broke the camel's back). I stayed by her at the beginning of the game, talking her into a little confidence, and by the end she was going much better. I'm not so sure t-ball is her thing beyond playing as a family for fun. But she certainly can whack the ball off the tee. I'm impressed every time. And just because this needs to be recorded to remember: her team is called the Honey Bees.

In Carly's world, comic villains are downright scary. She recently started getting into Wonder Woman after picking out some Wonder Woman underwear. We picked some superhero story books out at the library. They were kid books, but still had the well-known comic book villains because a superhero needs to beat someone. Well, I filled her poor little brain with terrifying characters and here we are 10 days later and she won't go to bed alone. She says "the bad guys just go around and around in my brain." She asks "Is the Joker real? Is Mr Freeze real? Is Poison Ivy real? Is the Penguin real?" What?! You can't remember your lower case letters but you memorized all the villains? It was a big fat mom fail on my part, and we are still working on getting her to feel comfortable at night. She was still fascinated by Wonder Woman though, and after years of princesses I thought it was a nice change of pace. So I found a book on Amazon that told the story of Wonder Woman's origin as an Amazon princess. The book only had two scary pages, one where she beat burglars and one where she fought a dragon. I ripped those pages right on out, and now we've got the perfect Wonder Woman book for Carly.

[Even Queen Elsa needs to work on her lower case letters.]

Carly's world is feeling shakey. I can see it in the way she reacts, hear it in the tone of her voice. She seems to feel unsteady, unsure. It has lead to behavior issues, rudeness and being disrespectful. It has been so frustrating, because Carly is such a good kid with a love for life and a heart of gold. The other day I was putting the kids down alone and Carly wouldn't stay in her bed. I was frustrated, and told her to lay with me on my bed until the babies quieted down and then we'd go back to her bed. She was asleep in minutes. She was so tired. I looked at her sweet sleeping face and I was reminded that this is my Carly, and she still has a heart of gold. She's just struggling. Things are changing. She just needs to know her mom and dad are there for her no matter what. She's little, I thought. It is ok to let her be little. Since then I've been laying on the ground at the foot of her bed while she falls asleep. Not too close, but not too far away. And while a gaggle of parenting experts would tell me I'm wrong, I want her to feel secure. I want her to know she's taken care of and loved. That, despite the change and the tension and the crazy, we are a family and we'll always be together.

I love my sweet firstborn. I'm proud of her goodness, her humor, her sense of fun, and her desire to do good. She's my helper and my friend. It is my job to be the steadying hand in her unsteady world, and I've set new goals to be just that. She is my world, and I'm thankful to be a piece of hers.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

considering lilies.

When Chris accepted the job at Washington State, we decided to buy a house. We were waiting, because if his job was not in a place we could see ourselves staying long-term, if it was a "starter" job, we wouldn't take the plunge yet. But he got the perfect job at a great school in a great place, so we decided to buy a house. Eight years of marriage and three kids in a small two-bedroom townhouse have me aching for a place that fits our family. We got the job so early in the grand scheme of things, it left a lot of time for waiting and wondering and planning. Finally, we got close enough to start the ball rolling. We got pre-approved for a loan, we found a realtor, we started looking online. This has all taken place over the last several months, the waiting and planning and thinking . . . and worrying. As numbers started coming together something became very apparent: Pullman wasn't nearly as price-friendly as I was hoping. It is no Michigan or Texas or Idaho. Our options were looking limited and my very small very basic list of "wants" was looking like it couldn't be met. I began to become a bit disheartened. I clung to hope and clung to faith. Buying a home for our family within our means was a righteous desire. I remember sweeping one day and feeling so overwhelmed. I thought in frustration I just want enough! And that voice, the voice that answers my worries with it's ever-omniscient one-liners reminded me: You have always had enough. We have full tummies and warm beds and coats on our backs and shoes on our feet. We have always had enough.

One February night as I was stressing over houses, Chris told me, "It is like that scripture. Consider the lilies. Heavenly Father will take care of us." I listened to him the way a stressed person listens: my heart believed by my head stood firm in misery. A few days later I was doing my personal scripture study. Our stake presidency had asked us to read the 4 gospels, and I just happened to be in Matthew 6: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow," the Savior says. "Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field . . . shall he not much more cloth you, O ye of little faith." The Spirit spoke and tears sprung to my eyes. If God will take care of the little things, then maybe me and my little family and my desire for a home would make the cut.

But you know me. The worry continued. Luckily, Heavenly Father didn't give up. Third time is the charm, right? That weekend Chris and I went to the temple. I sat in the room waiting for the session to start and in my head, as loudly as if I was listening to a stereo, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (and perhaps some of my mother, as I've heard her sing this song on numerous occasions) sang "Consider the Lilies." It is such a beautiful song. And it played in my head the whole session. When I got to the Celestial Room, I went straight for one of those beautiful white Bibles and opened to Matthew 6. I read the words again, but this time it was burned into my heart.

"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?"

The Greek translation explains "take no thought" means "anxious concern". In other words: don't stress out so much. But this was my favorite: Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Doesn't life mean so much more than what house you live in? Isn't a nice safe clean functioning house a blessing, regardless of the year it was built or the curb appeal or the kitchen cabinets? Happiness can be found in any home. I spent a significant part of my childhood living in a smaller "older" home. I have the very best memories in that house. It was my home, and I was safe and happy there.

"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the field . . . shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"

Just in case I didn't catch it the first two times. But how about that "O ye of little faith"? That was for me.

"Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? . . . for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things."

And I welcomed the tears. I welcomed the Spirit burning in my chest. I welcomed the evidence of a loving God. For your Heavenly Father knoweth ye have need of all these things. He knows what we need. What we need. And while sometimes it is in ways we don't expect, He takes care of us when all is said and done.

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

We went to Pullman at the end of May. Our house hunting adventures will be coming to a blog post near you soon; I know you'll be waiting on the edge of your seats. We pulled up the the last house on our first day. It was a house I had written off, a house our realtor said she really thought we should see, but I was just filling time. But when I saw it something jumped in my chest. After our offer was accepted, we scheduled a second showing, a longer one that would allow us to spend some time in the house and take measurements, since we would not be at the inspection. When the time came to leave, I didn't want to go. It was our home. I could see our kids running down the hall from their bedroom, excited for Saturday morning pancakes. I could see family movie nights in the basement. I could see soccer games in the backyard. I could see after-school snacks at the counter. I sat alone on the living room floor, filled with gratitude, while Chris chatted with our realtor, and a song came to my mind.

Consider the lilies of the field
How they grow, how they grow
Consider the birds in the sky
How they fly, how they fly

He clothes the lilies of the field
He feeds the birds in the sky
And He will feed those who trust Him,
And guide them with His eye.

Monday, June 2, 2014

walk the walk.

Chris walked in MSU's graduation in early May. He was initially against the idea. He knew he wouldn't be done with his dissertation and felt like it was awkward. But HELLO we have been here for 4 years and he had worked his cute little tail off and he was on schedule to finish in July and I did not go through all of this to leave Michigan without pictures of him graduating and wearing those very expensive fancyland robes we decided to buy with our tax return because he'll be wearing them for his entire career.

Obviously, I won that battle, because he agreed to walk.

His robes came a few days before the ceremony. He held them up and I saw his initials embroidered into the tag. Tears sprung to my eyes. This man really rocks my socks and to see his success playing out has been sweet. Though when it comes to looking cute in the doctorate hat, naked Q takes the cake.

Chris's parents came up for the ceremony. One of Chris's conditions about graduation was that we find a babysitter for the twins. He was quite enlightened, as the ceremony ended up be ridiculously long. Each doctoral candidate came up and their adviser was to say a few words, lasting about a minute. Well, apparently a "minute" means more to some than to others. We did bring Carly, and she made it through an hour plus, just long enough to watch daddy get hooded, and then it was off into the hallway for a chocolate doughnut. I wasn't all that frustrated with her, as I didn't mind the excuse to sneak out myself.

I called the graduation a "celebration" rather than a graduation. One of the reasons I wanted Chris to walk was to celebrate how far we have come with the people who helped us come so far. Chris's adviser, Jim, and his wife Linda have been such a blessing in both Chris's career and our personal lives. The kids get to see Linda frequently and they love her like a grandma. Chris's friends in the program have helped keep him sane and made the journey enjoyable. Chris parents have been there every step of the way, lending support and watching kids and offering advice. Four years ago this PhD journey felt like a never-ending one, but it is amazing to look back and see how all these people have smoothed out the bumps in the long road.

I wish I could sit here and talk about how strong and supportive his wife has been. Rather, she was a little crazy, giving birth to twins and losing her mind and getting easily frustrated, stressed, and overwhelmed. She held it together as much as she could, but poor Chris often did more than his fair share. I'm so so grateful he is such a good man. I'm grateful he understood and loved and supported, when often he was the one who needed understanding and love and support. I sometimes feel Chris has come this far despite of me rather than because of me, but I know he would disagree. This is a journey we have taken together. These have been 4 of the sweetest years, and this time will always hold a most special place in my heart.

After he walked the walk, he went back to talking the talk. He had a meeting with the stats consultant that afternoon, so he quite literally dropped his robes off in his car and headed off to work. Isn't that the most friendly reminder that you're not done yet? After his meeting, though, we did meet him at Red Robin for a celebratory dinner. Because it was graduation day, after all.

Two days later we celebrated his birthday.
Thirty-one years old and looking better every day.
I could not be prouder of him.
And I could not love him more.