16 June 2014

Of My Twenties

In less than two weeks I will turn thirty years old.

I have less than two weeks left as a twenty-something.

I recognize aging as a symptom of being alive, but I still find myself aching as I grasp the truth. Less than two weeks left of a decade I could never have predicted.


In the summer of 2004 I crossed the threshold of this era of my life. I was working as a counselor at a girls camp in Maine and marked the occasion with a bouquet of roses from my best friend and a movie with fellow counselors. At the time I had no reason to believe I would ever travel to Russia or even have any interest in its language, culture or people - I definitely would not have believed that before I turned 21 I would have fallen in love with all three while riding marshrutkas beside the Volga River. I didn't even know where that was.


The summer of 2005 found me fresh off the high of my unexpected international experience and working at McDonald's  -yet another unexpected twist. I had just heard of something called Facebook for the first time, but was busy with a new blog, so I wasn't really interested in signing up for something else. A serial single, I might have laughed (while secretly hoping you were right) if you'd told me I would be a married woman before I was 22 - to a boy I had yet to meet.


By summer 2006 I was a newlywed and a college graduate about to embark on my first (and would I have believed?) only year teaching Spanish in a public school. I was waiting for my husband and new best friend to graduate and then who knew where life would take us. But by the next summer I would be a homeowner, planting tender roots in a town where I had never intended to stay.


Summer 2007 - settling into my new home, making it ours. I still had a job and had no clue I would be packing up my classroom in about a month, especially not by choice.  And my husband? The one who was starting a new job just after my birthday? He would be working a different job than that, even, by next year, and that would be the one to settle us into this town for good. That husband of mine and I were going to Ecuador with our church soon and did I know that would be the last time for five years (after seven years of various expeditions) that I would be boarding an international flight - and the next time I did would be with my four-year-old daughter? Did I know that daughter would begin filling my womb that very winter?


And that's how it went, as that whirlwind of a decade went on - summer in and summer out for six more years. Every summer either pregnant or with a new baby.





In fact, it was one year ago on my birthday we made the trip to tell our families, Joey wearing his new shirt declaring him a "Big Brother," that we were expanding again. And did I know that would also be the last time I would tell my grandmother I love her?


Ten years, one wedding, four babies, two houses, six jobs (between two people), two dogs (come and gone) and three cats.

The one constant? My little silver Chevy that has seen it all.

And God. He has carried me here, to the threshold of yet another new beginning. Another decade.
And while I mourn the loss of my twenties, I eagerly anticipate the future.

My new future as a thirty-something.

14 June 2014

Of My Backwards Dad

I can see it now, the maroon trucker’s hat (though in those days they were just called ball caps, back when hard nylon netting and a cheap polyester wrapped around a foam core was what all baseball hats looked like) with the bold white lettering spelling out “SPUD.” I don’t know why he owned that hat, but I know when I realized “SPUD” backward was “DUPS” Dad decided that would be my nickname. It wasn’t a long-lasting name, but it came out every time he wore the hat.

And I can see it on his head as we finished one of our many camping trips along the Platte River, the ones where we had our perfect spot, backed right up in the alcove bordered by a thin strip of woods before we met a small stream deviating from the larger river – the stream Dad fell in once, when we visited for a day in the winter and he didn’t realize he was heavier than the icy barrier could handle. He wore that hat as he and I competed in the ritual egg toss that signaled the end of our camping adventures. He always saved at least three eggs from those he cooked every morning on the Coleman camp stove – because he couldn’t go a morning without his sunny-side-ups - so each of us could have a shot at besting the others, seeing who was really the best at tossing an egg with Dad.

And that name, “DUPS,” isn’t the only time he took the “backwards” approach. Maybe I was so fascinated by reading backwards because my dad taught me the alphabet backward before I learned it forward – a fact I’m still a little proud of to this day, because it makes me unique. And I can still rattle it off, starting at “Z,” just as fast as I can forward. Thanks, Dad.

So, for all those times he seemed to be doing it a little backwards, a little unconventionally, I still appreciate the Dad my father was. He wasn’t always perfect, and he still isn’t, but he has never given up, on himself or on us, and has only improved with age.  Happy Father’s Day to the reason I’m here.

04 June 2014

Of Being a Mother of Four

Despite the raging amounts of insanity that can occur in this home on a daily basis, I have learned, within the past couple of months, that there are some distinct perks to being a mother of four (other than knowing, of course, that I have birthed four beautiful children who make me crazy, yes, but also make me laugh daily and I consider myself greatly blessed).

One of these being the insta-excuse I now have for what might previously have been labeled "laziness," "poor time management," or "crazy emotional psychosis." Now it's simply, "Oh, don't worry about it, you're a mother of four!"

Late for church? I'm a mother of four. Messy house? I'm a mother of four. Screaming like mad or curled up sobbing in the corner? I'm a mother of four. Oh, did I forget your birthday? Oops. Did I mention I'm the mother of four?

It's as though toting four little people around as my personal entourage has suddenly depleted me of all expectations of acting like a responsible human being (unless, of course, those four monkeys are running around like hooligans [ok, three would be running, the fourth might just be crying], in which case, I have failed the only responsibility I have been given - being the mother of four).

Don't get me wrong - I hate the idea that my inability to keep all my ducks in a row is often blamed on my children who are, in fact, a few of those ducks themselves. To me, it's like saying it's ok if my children look like ragamuffins because I own a lot of dishes that need to be washed. The fact is, I'm responsible for a lot of things and those adorable little people are my primary priority, but I hate feeling like a failure in other aspects of life simply because I'm a mother of four.

Because four is apparently the magic number at which sanity has clearly left the room and a woman is now over-extended beyond capacity.

BUT, on the flip side of that coin, on the days when I can make it happen and we can get out the door and we arrive somewhere on time, or I've vacuumed the house, or I put dinner on the table, I'm suddenly super woman.

It's like people are amazed I can still dress myself, let alone do anything else meaningful. So anything above keeping those children alive is a miracle. And I am, thereby, a superhero by the mere fact that I can still complete a sentence and fold some laundry.

Yay me!

It's an ego boost, really.

So, let's re-cap: as a mother of four I'm now off the hook for any semblance of responsibility, but if I do accomplish something, I'm amazing.

Not gonna lie, things could be worse.

03 June 2014

Of Summer

Today was the day the kids have been looking forward to since last August. They have asked almost weekly over the past nine months, "Is it summer?!" (Yes, they even asked as we drove past snow-covered trees and stepped over ice slicks in the parking lot - we might need to work more on our seasons.)

And today was finally the day I could say, "Yes." (without going into the technicalities regarding solstices and the like). Because today was the day we signed up for the Summer Reading Program at our local library.

Because they understand that summer at the library means toys - particularly a small new treasure to take home each week. And everyone knows that's what the library is for - toys (and computer time). Those bookshelves everywhere? Those are just something to run between on our way to the toys.

Fortunately, with those months between the summers, they have learned to enjoy story time at the library and the stacks of books mom picks out to coordinate with the homeschooling theme for the moment (this week is elephants). They enjoy picking out their own books (typically board books, since those are the only kind Mommy lets them look at in the car on the way home - I'll risk my own pages, but the library books are a little more precious!) and movies (but not Pokemon, because . . . well, just because).

But we all know this was just the build-up for the main event. Because nothing beats a sticker chart and a treasure bowl.

Or basically free stuff.

Okay, so maybe they're my children.

This year's Summer Reading Program theme is "Fizz, Boom, Read", which means there are now science-related toys to play with while visiting the library. I'm telling you, it's all about the toys.