Tuesday, April 15, 2014

On Cleaning, Growing Tulips, Getting Dirty, Eating Smores, Watching Golf, and the Birthday Season

Typical of weekends, the particular one we just experienced came to a close before I could get my bearings.  Yesterday morning I woke amazed (and a little distressed) to find that I've been flung into another new week. 

Let me take a moment to catch up and share some recent happenings with you, stream-of-consciousness style.

1) House Rental Season (spring edition) is upon us.  As I've written before, as homeowners in a university town, we periodically rent our house to alumni who are visiting for a special event, like graduation, or football games, or in the case of this past weekend, an exhibition football game where the team breaks in half to play itself while over 70K fans, all of whom have been deprived of football since the fall, come to watch. 

Preparing for a rental entails extensive cleaning, which ultimately means that my house was gleaming.  (Note the use of past tense here.  We're once again back in our house with our three children, which automatically implies that surfaces no longer gleam.)

2) Things are growing.  On Sunday afternoon I strolled the yard on my daily tulip hunt.  Yep, they're coming.

3) Days of sunshine make you realize what you're missing when it rains.  Friends, we were spoiled this weekend with two days that epitomized what spring should be about: beautiful blue skies, warm sun, and light breezes.  Once we returned from the rental, the girls played in the yard and made a happy mess of themselves, which solidified our decision that it was high time to start a campfire in our fire pit and roast marshmallows.

I've come to the conclusion that one should never bring clean children to a campfire -- only dirty children -- as it's inevitable that marshmallow will end up smeared on somebody's clothes.  And face.  And in their hair.  And, in the case of my five-year-old, inside their ear, which really seems to demonstrate a special talent.

4) I appreciate Smores more each time I eat them.  This sentiment can stand alone without further explanation.

5) I love watching golf on television.  Don't judge.  Don't tell me it's boring and slow.  I already know that it's slow, and sometimes I need boring.  This weekend was the Masters, and I loved listening to the hushed announcers with their pleasing British and Scottish accents.  I loved watching the innovative camera angles as we're flown in an aerial view over Augusta National.  The lush greenness!  The azaleas!  The fact that Bubba Watson won the green jacket again!

Oh, yes, I can handle this kind of boring as a backdrop to my Sunday afternoon and evening.

6) There are three more weeks of the semester.  Four, if you're including finals week.  Not that I'm counting, but I have roughly 300 more pages of student essays, 56 more speeches, 66 student blogs, 33 final projects, and 56 final exams left to go. 

But I'm not counting.

7) The Kramer family birthday season is upon us.  My oldest daughter turns nine today.  Nine years old!  Obviously, this has unfolded day by day, yet a part of me is surprised by the fact that I've been mothering this long.  Another part of me feels every day of it, all 3,285 of them.  What a ride it has been.  What a blessing!

By this time next month, we'll have celebrated the birthday of my husband and my other two daughters, which means that I'm going to hang a "Happy Birthday" sign and leave it up for the next four weeks to account for this massed influx of spring births.  (Once and done decorating, my friends.)

Wishing you a glorious day!

Augusta National Golf Course pictures compliments of Robert Du Bois and Torrey Wiley, respectively (Flicrk.com)

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

He's Not Overwhelmed

Several Sundays ago, the youth pastor at my church preached an amazing message.  I'm still mulling over his words, especially on this nugget, which I'll paraphrase for you: Jesus never got overwhelmed by anything he faced.  Instead, he overwhelmed it.

Such a difference!  How often do I let mountains in my life overwhelm me?  I cannot forget that Jesus wasn't overwhelmed by disease and sickness, or hardship and trials, or sin and death.  He overwhelmed those very things by his presence! 

If you're facing an overwhelming situation and feeling hard-pressed on all sides, remember that the Jesus who disrupted a funeral procession to return a son to his mother is the same Jesus who intercedes for us today.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Adventure Waiting to Happen Right In Our Neighborhood

I have a suspicion that spring has tricked us.  Last week, we were graced with two promising days of sunshine, but since then we've descended to temperatures in the upper 30's and low 40's coupled with dreary rain and wind.  (Even as I type, I wear a blanket wrapped around my shoulders.  I can't shake the chill.)

That being said, my family recently has discovered something, or more aptly, somewhere.  It's a small path just a few minute's walk from our house that leads through woods along a shallow creek bed. 

I can't divulge more information regarding its location, though.  It's a secret.  My oldest daughter is intent on keeping it this way, with the exception of sharing its whereabouts with a select few neighborhood friends who have either proven themselves trustworthy or who appear sufficiently directionally-impaired, and thus, would be unable to accurately convey directions if interrogated.

As for me, I'm just amazed that this place exists.  It's less than five minutes from the house where I've lived for nearly eight years.  What else don't I know about my neighborhood?

I hadn't known that braided vines dangle from the trees, creating an ethereal vibe like I've wandered into a Tolkein forest.

I didn't expect that the make-shift bridge my husband erected with a single board would draw out calm, encouraging leadership from my eight-year-old as she coached her younger sisters to watch their steps.

I hadn't remembered how kids could be enthralled with being outside: touching moss, inspecting spiky jaggers on a bush, listening to a bird's call, or overturning rocks in a stream bed in hopes of finding a fossil.

I feel like Mary in The Secret Garden, as if we've discovered something that's been locked away.  I'm not the only one; yesterday, my oldest stood at the window as rain dripped down the screen and said, "I want to go back to our path."

I understand.  So does my husband, who was the first to discover the trail and since has returned multiple times with pruning shears to carefully clear a walkable route.  "This is what childhood should be about," he noted.

Explore on, kids.  Explore on.

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Saturday, April 5, 2014

What's Trending: Pinpointing Those Little Things You Love

As I type, my two younger daughters are in the bathtub, splashing and singing the Frozen soundtrack.  It's such a common sound in our house (the Frozen soundtrack more than the splashing) that it's easy to tune out, just like banal elevator music.

But something makes me listen intently for a moment.  A few years from now, I won't be hearing these sounds.  I like these sounds.

I wonder, what else is trending in my household?  What other actions and noises and sights are so common that I too easily overlook them?

Well, each time either my husband or I come home, the kids instantly freeze when they hear the garage door opening, shout HIDE!, and scurry into hiding spots as if they were cockroaches and a light had been turned on.  Then, while Joel or I set down our bags and hang up our jackets, the other parent nonchalantly announces, "I lost the kids again," to start the seeking process.  Nobody ever seems to tire of this.

My three-year-old cannot articulate consonant blends.  "Pre-school" becomes "p-cool."  "Star" becomes "tar."  "Sparkly" becomes "parky."  Given this, it's not uncommon for her to say, "Mommy, I made a parky tar at p-cool today!"  (I don't want her to grow out of this yet.)

Whenever we're in a public restroom with one of those high-octane, excessively loud hand dryers, this same child shrieks in crazed delight and stands underneath, her hair whipping across her face, like it's a shower of hot air raining down.

My two younger daughters arrange food on their plates according to size and then assign the individual pieces names and identities.  "This one is daddy, this one is mommy, this one is me..."  Then, they bite off the heads, but never with malice.

Eventually, I'll forget many of these small details once they fade from daily life.  They'll be replaced with new behaviors and practices, but today I wanted to capture a few for posterity.

What's trending in your household?  What do you want to remember long after it's gone?  Is a child adorably mispronouncing a word or phrase?  Do you have a silly ritual?  I'd love to hear!

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

What a Little Fresh Air Can Do

As the sun sunk toward the horizon yesterday, my kids played in the backyard with the neighbors.  Oh, friends, it was a glorious display of play: uninhibited digging and running and gathering and exploring.  I loaded the dishwasher overcome with the sweet realization that even their shouting is much more pleasant as it wafts into the house from a distance than when it's coming directly from the room where I'm sitting.

This is what a little fresh air can do.  It shifts perspective.

Nearly all the work that I do on a daily basis, beyond the time I spend in the classroom, involves paperwork and being on the computer.  There's a continual ebb and flow of paperwork (distribute, collect, evaluate, return) and email (check, read, respond). 

Progress is made, of course, but it's mostly indicated by a check on a to-do list.  I think this is why I long for visible progress in other areas in my life, why I take such simple yet profound pleasure in manual tasks like cutting the grass, painting a room, or organizing a closet.  This was once one way; Look, now it's another!

So, yesterday, when the sun was still warm before dinner, I walked through the yard gathering sticks, raking leaves, and cleaning winter debris.  My husband started a fire in our fire pit and we burned brush.  Somehow, as the leaves crinkled and branches smoldered in the fire, I saw life with more clarity.

I wasn't racing the clock, or staring into a screen, or striving in any way.  The physical movement, the sunshine, the dirt under my fingernails, the smell of overturned earth -- all of it -- felt like a gift from God, a reminder that spring arrives, that newness comes, that winters do end, that progress is made.

This is what a little fresh air can do.  It encourages the soul.

Continual confinement within the walls of the house and the cooped-up absorption with small, indoor matters is forgotten when I'm plotting the garden, or noticing the breeze in my hair, or reminding my three-year-old to not jump head-first off the swing set, versus jumping head first off the back of a couch. 

I'm pretty sure that getting outside makes me a better mother and a calmer person. 

This is what a little fresh air can do: everything.

Check out Then I Became a Mother: humor, hope, and encouragement for moms!  Available in both Kindle and paperback editions.  Enjoy!

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