April 22, 2014

Not What I Asked For

This morning I was on the phone with my Dad finalizing plans for their trip out to see us. I told him how excited we all are to see them. Dad’s voice warmed on the phone, reassuring me that we were not half excited as he and my mom were. We talked about the kids and how much of a blessing they are. I told him, “They’re so much better than I ever could have asked for.”

Both my kids are so incredibly much more than I could have thought up. They are so much more complex, layered, and nuanced then I could possibly have imagined. There are a million things about them that I’d never think to ask or include if I made a list of what I wanted my kids to be. They are exactly what I never knew I wanted. I might have known H was a girl and J was a boy, but I didn’t know how amazing they’d be. The children I imagined when I was pregnant were nothing but poor shades compared to the full, shining roundness of their reality.

I watched them in the morning light with shining eyes and imagined that if they made my heart this full, so full I wasn’t sure if I would cry, laugh, or just burst—how much more must God feel when he sees us love each other the way we should.

Then H threw tantrum number one of the day. No, she would never get dressed. Ever again. She was literally one minute away from wearing fleece pajamas to school on this warm spring morning. Sigh.

Then J decided morning naps are lame, ruining my plans to get the grocery shopping done before school pick up. That segued perfectly into H’s afternoon tantrum in the produce section of the commissary. We left the grocery store with only vegetables and the sense that, God’s gift though they might be, there are times when I could just as easily sell them to gypsies. I wondered how God feels when we don’t appreciate each other and treat each other badly. Does it break his heart as much as when I see my kids hurting?

It might seem like a day of perfect highs and deepest lows, but it’s really just a Tuesday. It’s an everyday opportunity to remind myself how lucky I am. This is not the family I imagined in my head. It’s not the family I thought I’d have, with three angels in heaven. Yet, it is exactly the perfect family I could never live without. H is one of the most frustrating human beings on the planet, and yet her sweetness, creativity, and toughness inspire me. J doesn’t have access yet to a full toolbox of Mom button-pushing, but there is no sweeter sight and sound then his laughter at belly tickles and neck nibbles. I haven’t mentioned Josh, but believe me when I say I’d be lost without him. If I’m going to have the best of life, with the best kids I would never have been able to ask for, then I will grudgingly, I mean, gratefully take the hard times too. I repeat my refrain, mantra, prayer: “If I do the hard Mommy work now, then they’ll be awesome adults later.” Then I pray for patience. And chocolate.


April 8, 2014


What is it about hair? We carry our babies around and stick our noses in their hair. We breathe the scent of shampoo, breast milk, clean, and love. No matter the color, it grows in fits and starts—baby fine and often uneven. We are proud of how much they have or amused by how little. Somehow, it seems nearly criminal to cut it. We have, after all, created a miracle on two legs. Perfect in every way, why would we seek to alter that miracle by doing something as ordinary as cutting hair?

You can see why J has only had extremely half-hearted hair cut attempts. He had an “official” first hair cut at his birthday. He was so squirmy I had to stealthily chase him with scissors to even it out afterwards. After that I’ve just trimmed his bangs when he starts to resemble a sheep dog.

The other night, it was time for a shearing. I’d put it off for a week because I kept forgetting until bed time. Cutting a 16-month-old’s bangs is a two person operation. One person must sit the baby on his lap while the other attempts the trim. We dragged a chair into the kitchen, draped an old towel onto Josh’s lap, and deposited J. I brought out H’s safety scissors (safety first, people), and got ready to do battle.

I got one clip done before J thought he’d like to struggle. Somehow Josh had the idea of distracting him with food. A bowl of cut up watermelon was on the counter. He grabbed it and started popping watermelon in J’s mouth. Sweet and delicious, the watermelon kept him happy a few minutes more. Then Josh popped a piece in my mouth as I crouched in front of them quickly trying to even out the hair above J’s eyebrows.

J’s eyes lit up. You could almost hear him think, “You mean I can feed her?!” The next thing I knew, a piece of watermelon was being shoved in my mouth by sticky, chubby fingers. I laughingly chewed, while keeping one eye on the hair cut and the other on the pleased grin plastered on my son’s face. Several more pieces of watermelon followed. Both my hands were busy cutting hair, so I had to bob and weave to help J successfully aim the chunks into my mouth—flickers of pink fruit flashing in my periphery. The whole time, I’m laughing and thanking him for being such a sweet boy and such a good sharer.

Josh declared the haircut reminiscent of Dumb and Dumber. I smacked him. I am by no means terribly adept at cutting hair, but it’s straight, and the rest is entirely shaggy. It hangs over his ears and curls up at his collar. It is endearingly messy. But he might grudgingly get more hair cuts in the future just for the chance to see his eyes shine and his nose scrunch in delight as he tries to feed Mommy whatever else happens to be at hand.

Post hair cut swinging.

April 2, 2014

Want to be Friends?

In the Methodist preschool at the bottom of my street, sitting at a round table near a bright window, approximately 100 years ago, I made my first best friend. I honestly can’t remember if I went up to her, pony tail swinging, or if she came up to me, but I do remember that the conversation went about like this:

“Want to be friends?”

We quickly discovered that we both liked ballet and that was that. We were best friends until I moved away just before the fifth grade. We were in every class together, we played all the time, and I even visited her a few times after we moved when we were in town seeing my grandparents.

 Circa 100 years ago. Who wouldn't be friends with a cutie like this?

It’s a singular time when making a friend is just that easy. There’s no fear of rejection, no worrying that you’ve said the wrong thing, no wondering if you should call or if she should call, no hurt feelings if you see her out with someone else. That all comes later.

When you’re a military family, not only do you move all the time, but you make friends all the time. Unlike moving, which is pretty easy for me to grasp and organize and become fairly efficient at, making friends remains more challenging. I’m an introvert by nature. The thought of going to mixers and socials on my own, while not terrifying, is not appealing. Likewise, starting conversations with random women while getting my nails done or waiting in line to pick up kids. It’s not something that comes natural to me.

At a time in life when I feel like most people live near their closest friends—the ones they made in preschool—I am getting ready to move again. Having only just started to feel somewhat settled in Illinois, we are off to Kansas and what’s more, we’re off to Army life for a year.

The one bonus to so much moving is that after a few years you tend to know someone or at least have a mutual friend with someone in the place you’re going. In fact, one of the other Air Force families that will be stationed in Kansas is best friends with one of my friends from another base. Instant friend, right? I always hope so. But what I have learned is that all those other people know other people too. It’s no longer the case that it’s your first base and everyone is new and it’s a super-intense bonding time. And I’ll tell you, I’m still friends with those girls, and I know any one of them would have my back today. No, the further you go in life, the harder it is to become enmeshed in the web of true, long-term friendship. There are prior friendships, school obligations, and life obligations that often make it hard to form those deep bonds.

All I really want is to live in the same town as my parents and my awesome sibilings-in-law and one of my oldest middle school friends and let my kids grow up in a space where there are all these grownups that love them the way we do and where there are all these cousins that can be their forever friends. It kind of kills me that I can’t provide that for approximately 10 years.

This is the first move too, when H will be in elementary school. From here on out, it’s just going to get harder on her. I wince because I know that we have some rapid fire years coming where we may bounce around a bit. For my very introverted girl this could be an opportunity for serious growth or an impetus to hide in her inner world. That means I have to set the example.

I don’t love the idea of starting over AGAIN. Of worrying that I’ll say the wrong thing or make friends with someone who turns out to be false or feel like I’ve failed to find that close friend in a new place. But if I don’t try, how can I expect H to? And if I don’t show her over and over that we can go out and be friends and make ourselves vulnerable, how can I honestly support and understand when it doesn’t work, as it sometimes doesn’t?

I yearn for the times when a mutual love of ballet could cement years of friendship. It seems so easy. But I’m not a kid and there’s more to life than the smooth precision and easy joy of dance class. There’s struggle, and grief, and grace, and joy to fill life out in ways I couldn’t imagine as a child. And as sorely as I wish that I could stay safe in my circle of already friends, who know my wrinkles, I also have to remember how much those friends have made me grow by challenging me in ways I never expected. Who’s to say this next friend might not be one I’ll cherish forever? How could I miss that chance?

So, want to be my friend?

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