Monday, July 28, 2014

#514, Lansing

[our first ever family visit to MSU]

Dear #514,

Remember when we met? You seemed palatial. Coming from a 500 sq ft apartment in a sweltering southern city, you were paradise. We painted one of your walls blue for our little 1-year-old girl. The decorations went up. It was clean and organized. We had it good. Life was smooth.

Then remember that second positive pregnancy test? It was early, but still showed up positive instantly. That should have been a sign. Remember the sickness? When I couldn't even take care of my little girl? Remember how I threw up on your walls and behind your parking garage? Sorry about that. Then there was the day I came home and cried in your living room after seeing two babies on the ultrasound rather than one. I was so scared. I didn't know how we'd do it. But we brought those two beautiful babies home and they were crazy but they were perfect, just like their big sister. And here we are, two years later, and we did it.

#514, remember Chris's first semester? We didn't know what to expect. He did so great, and kept doing great. We celebrated the passing of tests, the end of semesters, the success of comps, the completion of the dissertation. Years that crawled by and simultaneously flew. He has a PhD! We moved to Lansing for that purpose, and now it is done.

 Do you remember when Chris and I slept in your unfinished basement? Two babies were giving us a run for our money and impossible John needed his space to cry it out. So he got the small bedroom, the girls got the master, and we moved our bed to the basement. We had to unscrew the railing to get it down there. It was the first time you felt way too small. There were just way too many of us all the sudden. But we made it through that too. We moved all the kids in together and when Chris and I got a bedroom back, man, it felt so fancy. Windows and walls and a door! We were outgrowing you, but you continued to keep us safe.

Do you remember the birthday parties? Carly's friends in the kitchen eating at the little table. The twin's first party, with their cupcakes smeared on their faces? Do you remember the leprechaun treasure hunts, the Easter outfits, and the Halloween costumes? And that brick wall out in front. It was perfect for a photo op, so much so that the kids would run and line up when I requested a picture.

Do you remember the long sleepless night with two newborns? Colicky John and I would watch Sabrina. We'd watch Grey's Anatomy with tiny Quinn and Chris would make her "dance" to the closing credits music. Do you remember the tears of that hard summer. Two babies and a hard toddler and a mom who didn't know how she'd make it. But we did. We all made it. We always made it.

Because along with the hard was the good. There were first smiles, first giggles, first crawls, and first steps. There were daddy monster attacks, forts built, songs sung, and kisses and hugs and funny conversations. Life with these people is just so full of joy your walls couldn't contain it.

We loved to walk your trail, play in your park, and scribble on your sidewalks. You had the greatest maintenance men, or "fixer boys" as Carly lovingly called them. They were quick and kind and last week they told Chris just how much they'd miss our family and our smiling waving kids. You were close to our friends, to our church, to our favorite parks, to my beloved running trail, to our library, and, most importantly, to Dairy Dan's. I've been having chocolate turtle flurry withdrawals. I consumed way too many of them within your walls.

#514, we outgrew you, but you were our home. You held our sweet, scary, silly, and sacred moments. You kept us safe. You helped us grow. Look how much my babies grew while we called you home. Carly was a tiny thing when we moved in, and now she's tall and brilliant and amazing. John and Quinn are kids, walking way too quickly away from babyhood. You are the only home they know.  They left their scribbles on your walls and their handprints on your brick. And I left a piece of my heart right there with you. Because even though you're only a little townhouse in South Lansing, you will always mean the world to me.

We said goodbye last week, and today Chris packed up our belongings in a big truck. Tonight you sit empty. I was reading back on my blog from when we announced we'd be moving to Michigan, and this is what I found:

Its weird to think ahead, to think of what our Michigan years will bring. Like how Carly will be nearly FIVE when we are done. How hopefully she will be a big sister. How Chris and I will both be old. How we will have a home we've lived in for years (we've never lived in the same place for over a year in our entire marriage). How Chris will be a doctor. It will be a fabulous 4 years.

Thank you, #514, for being our home while all those dreams came true.


Monday, July 14, 2014

three favorite moments.

I had three favorite moments last week.
They left my heart full.

Early in the week I was stressed. Really stressed. The move is here, so quickly I can't believe it. My heart hurts from goodbyes and my brain is buzzing from a never-ending to-do list. One morning I was rushing about while my kids played together so nicely. It was a blessing. They play so good together, the three of them. They got dressed up for a ball, but John wanted to go to a "train show" instead. It was all very cute. Before I knew it, it was lunch time. I threw together sandwiches, crackers, and fruit. I plopped the kids in their chairs and rushed out, planning to use these few extra minutes to get something done.

I was almost to the stairs when I heard Carly's voice: "Ok, babies, lets say a prayer." It stopped me dead in my tracks. We always pray over ever meal. I had forgotten, but she hadn't. "Fold your arms, babies," she said. There was the quiet shuffling of little arms folding. Then she prayed. She spoke gratitude for the food and asked that it could be a sunny day. She said amen, and two little voices echoed, "Amen!" And they began to eat. I sat on the stairs and tears sprung to my eyes. I was so grateful for her goodness. I went in and told her how proud of her I was, and sat at the table and ate with my kids. And my heart was full.

Carly had her last t-ball game. I'm not going to lie, I was pretty thrilled it was coming to an end. The final few weeks were like pulling teeth to get her to go. For whatever reason, she was no longer comfortable and confident with the situation. Big tantrums and endless pep talks. I realize she is four, but we felt the principles of sticking with your commitments and doing something hard even when it isn't your favorite were important. So we pushed through. The night of her final game came. She cried that she didn't want to go. I told her it was her last game. "Then I'm never playing baseball again!" she said. It was a deal.

I don't know what happened, but she looked light during that game. Like she had let go of her worries and was just playing again, the way she had at the beginning of the season. She had a smile on her face and laughed with her teammates. She chased absent-mindedly after balls. She had some great hits. At one point John ran out on to the field and I chased after him. "Mom!" Carly called excitedly. "I'm having fun!" After the game she got a cupcake and a trophy and she looked so happy, so proud of herself for being brave. And my heart was full.

On Thursday, Chris defended his dissertation. Can you believe that? I sit here typing the words and I still don't believe it. I still can't grasp the fact that after years of work and waiting and worrying and tears and sleepless night and stress and prayers . . . Chris defended his dissertation.

The day of the defense we got up early and headed to campus. Chris's wife made him late, so I ended up dropping him off and parking so he'd have the extra prep time. I readied the food while Chris set up. He couldn't get the projector to work. Over and over he tried and it wouldn't work. Tension hung in the air. His adviser came in and gave it a go. One push of the button and it decided to work. Thank heavens. It was slightly symbolic of Jim's hand in Chris's PhD, I dare say. Chris gave a great presentation and got a lot of good questions from his peers. Then everyone had to leave while his committee grilled him. I sat outside that closed door with Linda. We had a great chat while my heart raced. An hour and 15 minutes passed. A member of his committee came out and gave us a smile and a thumbs up. He passed. He has revisions to make, as everyone does, but he passed. He made it. We made it. He came out and we hugged and I felt so incredibly proud of the journey we had made together. And my heart was full.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

may & june.

May and June were fast and furious. For Chris, they were filled with long dissertation writing days that extended into the wee hours of many mornings. For me and the kids, well, we had a lot more fun than he did. We spent our early summer at parks, at lakes, riding bikes, and missing daddy. Really, that is pretty much it. It is a simple yet sweet life.

May and June brought Mothers and Fathers Days. We don't go too big on such holidays around here. A small gift or treat and a load of homemade cards. This year was fun because Carly made some Mother's Day surprises at school. Her class compiled a "cook book" where each kid explained how to make something. Carly laid out the recipe for pancakes, including "2 spoonfuls of love." She also made me a book of drawings of things she likes to do with me. She's the best. Thanks to Sam's Club, I also got an amazing new blender for a price that didn't make me want to pass out. I no longer swear at my old one, so its a win all the way around. Father's Day Saturday we headed up to campus and stole daddy away from his writing for a bit to walk and feed the very aggressive and scary campus ducks. Chris is an awfully good daddy, and the fact that his kids have missed him so much is proof of that. 

May and June brought sunshine, and humidity right along with it. I swear we went straight from cold to hot and humid. We typically get a space of enjoyable weather, but not so much this year. Thank you, Michigan, you're making it a bit easier to fly away without tears. The humidity makes me grumpy. But we survive it by hitting the water. Its too hard for me to take the kids to a pool by myself, and as it turns out they aren't too big on the splash pad. But the lakes, well, these Michiganders love the lakes. And it works for mom too because they are shallow. We love spending the day at the lake.

May and June brought visitors and visits. The kids headed to Indiana for a few days while Chris and I flew out to Pullman. They love grandma and papa's house and still tell me about the cow bus they rode and papa's tractor and papa's fire. Later grandma and aunt Sarah came up for me to get a jump on packing and spoiled the kids with all sorts of fun. Sarah and I escaped for a trip to Ikea, and now I really NEED to move into my house. Oh, I wish she wasn't a country away.

May and June brought the beginning of packing our life into boxes. My goal is to bring a fraction of what we currently own, and so far I'm doing well. I sure love taking loads to the Goodwill. I have to pack while the kids are asleep, to avoid traumatizing Carly. I also slip things out of her room without her noticing. We recently got an amazing deal on some new couches an older couple was selling. We have had our old ugly couches our whole marriage after buying them from a BYU professor on the For Sale board at the Wilk (is that still there?). We wanted to get new ones but now that we have to buy a washer and dryer, we weren't sure how we were going to furnish two living spaces. Enter nice people selling nice couches for cheap. When I walk in our living room now I feel like I'm in someone else's house . . . someone with nice couches. I was feeling pretty happy but Carly was BESIDE herself. I sold our old couches and when we were moving them out she was crying and asked to hug them goodbye. Thankfully, she has since gotten over it. I'm feeling grateful she won't be here when it is time to load up the moving truck.

May and June brought an anniversary. Eight years of wedded bliss passing with little fanfare. I think we sat at the table and ate ice cream for about 15 minutes before we both got back to doing our respective tasks. Eight years ago we had no idea what was coming our way, and the fact we spent our anniversary taking care of three kids, working on a dissertation that would soon be complete, and packing boxes to move into our first house . . . it was symbolic of this good and simple life we have built. I love my husband. I'm glad we are on this wild ride together.

May and June brought bike rides and bike rides and bike rides. These kids love their bikes. Quinn has a special fondness and possessiveness over hers. She is a bike prodigy of sorts, already a peddling pro (she goes so fast I have to jog to keep up), and she can't even speak in full sentences yet. John didn't have a bike of his own for a long time, and I just didn't want to fork out the money for a real bike when we wasn't even close to peddling. Then he rode a neighbors little plastic trike using his feet Flinstone-style, and I had my answer. Thanks to Amazon Prime he had a bike a few days later. He can cruise on that thing, shuffling his thick little legs so fast. It is impressive. So now I just walk. I just walk while they ride. I have to give a push here and there and straighten someone out here and there, but it is pretty awesome to just walk I have to say. Sadly, when bike rides end tantrums begin. Quinn would probably ride her bike all day long, and often asks to do so first thing in the morning or when it is time for bed. It is hard when mom makes you get off to do other things.

May and June brought a completed dissertation. Did you hear that!? At the end of June Chris sent that baby in. Now he is prepping his defense, after which he'll spend a few weeks doing revisions. So the party isn't over (the party is NEVER over), but it was a major milestone. The day after he turned it in, we escaped for a beach day at Lake Michigan. It was a much-needed day together. Lake Michigan is right on top of the list of things I will miss about this beautiful state, and a warm sunny blue-skied day with with our little family and some friends did not make matters better. It was a most beautiful day that ended with dinner at Qdoba and ice cream at Culvers so really it doesn't get any better than that.

May and June were good to us. I really can't believe how fast they went by. I was feeling like our move was taking forever to get here, and now it is sneaking up on me. These days are fleeting. I can feel them slipping away. These days where it is just me and the kids filling time with whatever suits our fancy. Soon we will be with family, then we will be in Washington, and then school will start and, forgive the drama, but life will change forever. I want to hold on to these days, because that little rhyme you hear about how babies don't keep . . . it's true. They don't keep. I'm so happy we have had this May and June. It felt so hard, so crazy, so busy, so stressful. But looking back, it was also really really sweet.