Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My "Empty" Nest

I'm not even sure how to talk about it.

Let's start with this: Caiden started Kindergarten today.  There.  Let's just pause and let that sink in for a second.

I don't seem to know what has happened.  Yesterday I was a stay at home mom.  Today I am a person at home--alone--having lunch by myself.  Its kind of eery.  It feels a little bit like what I would expect phantom limb syndrome would feel like.  Or is it empty nest syndrome?

This is a new season for me.  As in: I haven't taken the plastic wrap off yet, new.  I hope you'll bear with me as I adjust.  For the past 7.5 years I have been having lunch with one or two little munchkins everyday.  Today I ate alone for the first time.

As my kids have become (relatively) older and (relatively) independent, I have been in for a few surprises.  If you've heard my engagement story, then you know that I am extremely hard to surprise.  Even so, the emotions conjured up by my children have really surprised me.

I didn't expect to feel so proud, so overwhelmed, so goofily giddy and smiley when Caiden came tromping out of those double doors of school after her very first day of Kindergarten.  Its hard to imagine that she can survive without me.  It feels like I've let her go in the deep end of the pool and let her swim on her own.  Is she really big enough to sit at a big cafeteria table and take her lunch out of her lunch bag and eat it without knowing that I'm right there by her side, loving her?  Can she assert herself in a group of people without me next to her, giving her confidence and assurance that she is worth listening to?

And so many other questions flit through my mind as I see her proudly standing there.  And I know the answers, or at least I gather them as I see her smiling and confident.  I'm so proud of her.  But so glad that she is not alone.  I'm so thankful that God is with her wherever she goes.  And He knows her even better than I do.  He knows her innermost thoughts.  She's in good hands.  I'm so thankful.

But I'm surprised when I'm overwhelmed like that, because if you would've asked me about Kindergarten yesterday, you would've gotten a practical answer.  I mean, in my mind its just Kindergarten!  But when it comes down to it...  They're my kids.  That's all.  I freak out when they're injured, I lose my voice cheering when they shake a little bell in the Christmas choir, and I gush when they make it through their first day of Kindergarten.

You made it, Baby.  I'm so proud of you.  You are a Kindergartener.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

To Know and be Known

One of the greatest desires we have in this life is to be known--for someone (or everyone) to understand us deeply.  To get it.  But the problem is, the search for that kind of intimacy can often lead to embarrassment, betrayal, and heartache.  But there is hope for us, because the very depths of that desire is most surely, completely, and definitely met.  Someone knows, sees, understands, and loves us completely, wholly, fully, and forever.  Nothing we can do, say, think, or feel scares this person or puts him off from us.  Listen to this:

O LORD, You have searched me and known me,
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge it too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.

If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me,"
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother's womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with you.
Psalm 138:1-18

Such rest and contentment is to be found in those lines.  We can finally stop striving to be known and understood.  Because we already are.  He knows exactly who we are.  We are understood more deeply than we can even comprehend.  Not only does the Lord understand our thoughts, but he knows them before we even can formulate them.  We have a Creator.  And Oh, He is wonderful!

And even greater than all of that--He wants us to know Him.  And He sent Jesus so that we could know Him.  The Creator of the universe has made Himself available to be known by us.

Get this: The most famous person of all is giving you a chance to be part of His inner circle, to know Him intimately.  This is bigger than being "Facebook friends" with Kobe Bryant or having the personal cellphone number of the President of the United States.  This is absolutely the best thing that could ever happen to you.  And it has, through the person of Jesus Christ.

"And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ.  This is the true God and eternal life." -- I John 5:20

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Vacation, Adventure, and Intrigue

I love being warm and I love the sun.  If you had a fishbowl view of my life at home, you would be able to see me migrating to different corners of my house, following the sun and basking in it like a cat, or a lazy basset hound every single day.

So, as you can imagine, a week at the beach is just the thing for me.  Camping on the beach in Carpinteria has been a summerly experience that was started the year I was pregnant with Elliott.  That means we have been enjoying "the world's safest beach" every summer for roughly 8 years now.  And this year was no exception.

It was an adventure on the way down to Carpinteria, in that we weren't sure where we would be sleeping when we got there since we had left a day earlier than the reservation Dave's parents had made for the week would begin.  But we headed down anyway, confident that we would find a one night camping spot somewhere along the way at one of California's many state parks.  But we didn't. Not a single spot anywhere could we find.  I wasn't worried about it, though, until I was made rudely aware of the fact that it is illegal to sleep in your car on the side of a public street.  What???  After that, I started to feel a little bit homeless.  But we continued to Carpinteria anyway and got there around 5 pm.  We hit the beach and the kids gladly romped around in the water and sand after our 6 hour journey finally landed us at the shore.  We ate dinner at a mexican restaurant and when Dave asked me, "Do you want to sit inside or outside?"

I promptly replied, "Inside!" as the uncanny feeling of being homeless was creeping more and more into my consciousness.  So we spent quite a while there after finishing our meal, because after all, where would we go???  But it turns out we know people in the area and we know people who know people in the area, so it really wasn't anything much to be worried about--we were bound to find a driveway somewhere where we could park and sleep in the back of our little SUV.  But we didn't need to do that after all, because a sweet friend had an extra room and we got to sleep under a real-life roof for the night.  We woke up early the next morning, snuck out of the house, and went to a cafe named "Esau's" for breakfast.  Then we hit the beach again while awaiting the arrival of Dave's folks to claim our campsite for the week.

The rest of the week was as you would expect a week of beach camping to be.  Elliott was braver this year and spent most of his time in the water--surfing, swimming, and (he newly discovered) boogie boarding.  We hunted sand crabs, dug giant holes in the sand, biked to the candy store quite a few times, roasted marshmallows, and played games.   By the end of the week we were happy, fat, and tan.

And then the way home was an adventure of its own.  Elliott's window in the back of the car got stuck rolled all the way down, so we had to drive the 6 hour drive home on the 101 highway in 95 degree dry heat with the windows down and the incessant fluttering of the wind whipping by the windows of the car.

By the time we reached the bay area, the wind was much colder and the blankets came out.  The kids didn't complain at all, surprisingly, but still, by the time we arrived home, we were all thankful for the cessation of all that noisy wind!  Finally--Peace, quiet, home!

I printed a few pictures of our beach week and stuck them on the fridge tonight in hopes that the warm and sunny days of vacation linger in our minds and bodies just a little bit longer as we now face the more frigid few days of summer we have left in Berkeley.

Vacation was great, but it is good to be home.  School starts in a week and a half.  Elliott and I are kind of nervous, but Caiden is just plain excited.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Bags for the Beach

Its time for our yearly trek to Carpinteria where we can camp next to the ocean along the "World's Safest Beach," but still walk into town for coffee, candy, ice-cream, pizza, and groceries.  Its like the spoiled man's idea of camping.  We like it.  (Toilet paper and showers are a huge draw for me.)

What is Carpinteria?  Find out here, I've talked about it before...

Since we're going on vacation, of course I had to reorganize my house.  Oh, and I weeded out the DVD collection, got rid of a bunch of clutter, and made new beach totes for the kids to use at Carpinteria. While I was at it, I also decided to pick up some plaster of paris so we can do this craft while we're at the beach.  I'm basically crazy.  I curbed myself at a new wardrobe, because that would be a little over the top--even if it does seem logical to me.  I always end up feeling like I need to redo my life (and buy new luggage) before I embark on a journey.

But its all finally done and here I sit--exhausted--feeling very proud...and organized.  I thought I would share my little craft idea with you; it was quick and easy.  I was going to sew some little totes, but instead, I ended up finding some thin, canvas totes at Michaels for just a few bucks.  It was a time saver.  I cut out some cute shapes from interesting fabrics and stitched them onto the front of the bags.  We put a gallon size ziploc bag inside each tote labeled: "Elliott's Sea Treasures" and "Caiden's Sea Treasures," because I always end up being the designated junk holder/loser at the beach.  Now, when Elliott and Caiden roll out of bed, they can grab their totes, throw in their bucket and shovel, and hit the sand in style, fashioned with love.  And they can keep track of their beachy treasures without getting sand all in my purse!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The (Kids') Secret to World Peace

Elliott and Caiden love each other to death, but they sure do have their occasional moments where nothing seems to go smoothly between them.  When they're on the same team they're like a well oiled machine, but when they're not--good grief--watch out!  All day long, most days this week, I've had to intervene and try to bring peace to chaotic situations between them.  I was about ready to lose my mind!

And then, out of the blue one morning this week, I woke up and the kids were already playing.  It felt like a scene from a Disney movie where a princess walks into the middle of a beautiful meadow, the sun is shiny and casting a warm glow, the birds are chirping, and everything is peaceful and wonderful.  There they were: playing together so sweetly, looking out for each other, working together, thinking of each other--it was incredible.  As hard as I had worked all week to get them to do this, to love each other, nothing seemed to work.  This was like a miracle.  Then, as I was watching them, some little kerscuffle came up between them and I heard Caiden warn Elliott, "Be kind.  Remember, be kind."  It seemed to trigger something between them and suddenly they worked out peacefully what yesterday would have turned into a very loud nightmare.

Later that day, David told me how cute and sweet they had been earlier that morning before I was awake.  He had overhead them in their room saying things like, "Isn't it so nice that we're getting along?"  And so the day continued on its pleasant course.

I cached all these things in my brain, you see, and today when things started getting a little crazy, I tried out their new secret password I had so stealthily overheard yesterday and said, "Hey guys, remember?  Be kind... Be kind."  And it worked!  I'm trying not to use it too much and overdo it, though.  I want the magic to last as long as possible!

But really, I treasure these moments.  I don't know why it happens, but my heart just about overflows with love and gratitude when I see my children love and appreciate each other.  Maybe its because they're happy. I don't know.  But I sure do like it.

(All those days in boys scouts weren't lost on David, by the way.  He can still build a mean blanket fort and tie lots of kinds of knots.  He built this one for the kids this morning, stopping to do it even though he was already behind schedule for the day.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Piggy Tail(s)

It was a one out of two kind of day today.  By the time we sat down to supper, I felt totally frazzled and frustrated and looking over at Caiden I thought how appropriate her appearance was to represent the day: half of her hair was still up in a piggy tail while the other side had fallen and was getting spaghetti sauce in it.  One cheek was puffed up like a chipmunk from an allergic reaction to a bug bite and all the while she was complaining about how she hates the sausage in the sauce and "will I still be able to have dessert?"... And then the doorbell rang.  Gah!  People had started showing up for a prayer meeting before David had even gotten home from work.

If my mind was Caiden's head, it would have one piggy tail up and one piggy tail down looking crazy and tangled with spaghetti sauce in it.

The funny thing is, David didn't even notice her hair until bedtime...  All I could say was, "Its been a long day."