Wild + Precious Life

I am laying in bed with my youngest, watching him sleep. Well, not really sleep. I’m watching him do a pose that mimics a turtle struggling to get off its shell and back on its feet, as he whispers to me that he’s “yoga-ing” and that he would “also like a cookie, please.” These are the moments.

Grant

Throwback to the days of baby tree pose.

A few months ago, our boys began sharing a bedroom. This was part of Operation: Take Back the House, in which one of the boys’ bedrooms became a playroom, now housing every block, puzzle, toy, and LEGO ever created. Probably some the kids invented, as well. In my efforts to minimize and organize, I’ve noticed LEGOs multiply like rabbits when you aren’t watching. I digress.

When the boys first shared a room, we’d read their bedtime stories, tuck them in, and say goodnight, leaving the room just as we would before they were sharing a space. This led to a week-long adventure that lasted until at least 10pm most nights, and ended with an American Ninja Warrior style furniture moving contest (did you know a three-year-old can move a bed?!) And so, we began staying a bit longer after lights out, to encourage peaceful, restful sleep. Also, to prevent injuries. And nudity. Because that’s also a thing with boys, I’ve learned.

Tonight, I’m watching as Grant slowly relaxes and begins to enter the sleep zone. I notice his soft, blond hair. I marvel at his still-chubby cheeks. I try very, very hard not to laugh when he asks for a cookie (third time). And I cannot help but think how blessed we are.

You think that a lot as a parent…how blessed we are. When you see these children, these lives you’ve been trusted with, and you feel the weight of that responsibility combined with an atom-splitting nuclear love. An unimaginable and indescribable love.

When I stop to consider the science behind creation, it’s really something. The odds of our existence – of those cells combining out of the tens or even hundreds of millions of possible combinations, and they made a person. They made my children. They made you. Isn’t that incredible? You are here for a reason; a purpose. God has a plan for you.

It’s so very easy to feel small at times, isn’t it? With seven billion of us sharing this earth, how could we not feel small? That maybe our voice, our thoughts, our ideas don’t matter as much as those of another. Or that maybe it’s not really important that we follow through with that plan, that idea, those actions, because surely one of the other 6,999,999,999 folks sharing this planet has thought of it as well, so they’ll probably take care of it. Right?

But you matter. Because when you do consider the science behind your divine creation, you should realize how important you truly are. God could have made anyone – ANYONE – but he made you. Your existence was timed and intentional, regardless of what our brains may tell us at times. Your life is very, very big.

We are perfectly imperfect, placed here for a reason, called to a higher calling, to use what we have, whatever that may be, to do good in this world. To make it easier for the other 6,999,999,999 hearts sharing this space with us.

I look at my sweet, now-sleeping boys, and I see their wild and precious lives. I see the tiny humans they are today; I imagine the amazing humans they will grow to become. I realize that we are perfect in our imperfections and that they serve a purpose. I know that we were put here to do big things, no matter where or who we are, because big doesn’t always mean sending a rocket to Mars. It takes just a single raindrop to nourish a blade of grass, but imagine how lost those fields would be without those little drops of rain. Big, right?

One of my very favorite poets wrote:

Who made the world?
The swan and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

— Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”

I do find myself pausing, absorbing the world around us, taking in every small thing – the way the flowers burst into being after rain; how the cicadas sing in the warm, humid night; the tiniest of stars, twinkling in the night sky. These things are so wild and so precious, so beautiful and important…and how are we any different? Aren’t we just as wild, our lives just as precious? When did we forget our value, ourselves, our meaning?

I’m watching my boys, and finding I am reminded of the amazing love we were given. The love we should share. It’s bigger than we can comprehend; that’s why we are called to share it. Isn’t that what we should do with our one wild and precious life?

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The World on Your Shoulders

It’s nearing 8:30p in our house, signaling the beginning of “Adult Time.” The kids are in bed, sleeping soundly. The chores of the day are (somewhat) finished. The pets have been fed, and are now lounging lazily about the house. In another half hour, my TV will be filled with zombies and my glass with Shiraz. It’s a beautiful Sunday night.

Tonight, like most nights, we started our bath and bedtime routing around 7:30p. I bathe Grant while Evan bathes Miles; I sing Grant to sleep, then I read Miles his 487 library books and we snuggle, and it’s lights out. The routine rarely changes; but tonight, while the routine remained the same, something in me changed.

As I sang, I gave Grant his last bottle of the day (ha – until 2am, anyway). He dozed off, and I put him over my shoulder, trying with futility to draw out one last burp. But, once sleeping, Grant is content to do nothing else. And so I sat, and I rocked in the still, quiet nursery, with Grant on my shoulder. It was then that I felt it.

I noticed the weight. His weight. The weight of my child on my shoulder. The familiar old adage of, “Carrying the weight on his shoulders…” referencing Atlas, crossed my mind.

So this is what it feels like.

My child, my world, on my shoulder. I sat and felt his body rise and fall with each breath. I listened closely to his baby noises of sleep: the grunts, snuffles and sighs. I felt his small hands perched on my chest and arm, holding on to his mama. I smelled his head, and that sweet, baby scent filled my lungs. In the still, quiet nursery, I felt my heart near to bursting with the overwhelming love that I carry for this tiny, tiny person.

Yes, this is what it feels like.

In those moments I could remember, experience and foresee a lifetime of worlds on my shoulder. It doesn’t seem so long ago that it was Miles perched on my shoulder, sighing a sleepy breath into my neck, drifting off into dreams. I can still feel the warmth of his precious body, although it’s been months since he has fallen asleep on mama. For you see, my baby is a big boy now…and it happened in the blink of an eye.

Although it was only minutes, it felt like hours, Grant snuggled up to me. But soon enough, Miles was ready for his PJs and story time and just like that, Grant was slipped into his safe, warm crib, and I was off to mama my first baby.

Snuggled up to Miles, reading our books, he sighed next to me on the pillow. We’d had a very busy and very fun day at church, and with our friends and family. Lots of running and playing and yelling and kicking the soccer ball into our goal. You know, big kid stuff. I could see the joyful exhaustion on Miles’ face as he climbed into bed. And now, sighing next to me, I could feel his sleepy body against mine. As we started the fourth book, he rested his head on my shoulder, and just like that it was there again: the world. My world.

These very young years truly do slip by in an instant. Life marches on, and days can be busy and hectic. But I have learned that no matter the day, I must must must stop and savor every single moment.

Earlier this week, we’d had a run of early evening rainstorms. Grant was already asleep, and Evan was giving Miles his bath while I stood at the sink, washing our dinner dishes. The teeniest, tiniest of frogs jumped onto the outside of the kitchen window. As soon as I noticed the frog, all I could think of was how much Miles would love to see this. And without a second thought, I went into the bathroom and scooped him up in a towel, mid-bath, so he could see this tiny wonder on our window. We stood at the kitchen sink, just the three of us, and Miles stared in pure fascination. We talked about where the frog might live, what his little frog house could look like, what he may have eaten for dinner, all while the shampoo bubbles dripped onto my kitchen floor. The floor, the dishes, those things didn’t matter in that moment; what I cared most about was watching my son discover this tiny frog, and it was worth every single second.

When I’m rocking Grant in the wee, small hours of the morning, I know how brief this time is. I know that soon he’ll be rolling over, crawling, walking, running, and talking up a storm. In those middle-of-the-night times, I may be tired, but I am so incredibly thankful for the joy and privilege to be mama to these two boys, and to sit there with my tiniest one, perched on my shoulder.

Each age brings new adventures and discoveries; each age is incredibly fun, and challenging, all at the same time. As Miles has grown older, I’ve said, “18 months is my favorite age…” then “two years old is my favorite age…” followed by “2 ½ is my favorite age!” You get the idea. I have realized they are all my favorite because we are so fully in the moment at each age, we unquestionably experience them as the best possible age, ever. A head on my shoulder from a sleeping infant, or during story time with my toddler, will turn into a head on my shoulder during a dance at his wedding. As much as I beg time to just slow down, I also remind myself that my boys will be just that – my boys – forever. We will have our “world on my shoulder” moments at every age. And while the thought of these young days passing does make me sad, I am filled with excitement and encouragement for what our future holds, too.

To know the weight of this love for my boys, my world, is unexplainable. There is no other love like it, although it does give me the tiniest of hints as to how God loves us. He does a pretty good job of carrying us on His shoulder, too.

The boys will get bigger, yet my shoulder still carries them – my world – on it.  Always.

Not a Hippie

I sort of have a reputation for being a tree hugging-fruit leather eating-greeting the sunrise with gratitude hippie.  Now, I am the first to tell you I’m really maybe 60% hippie, because I do like shopping at The Gap, eating cheese fries and spending an inordinate amount of time reading celebrity gossip.  More often than not, friends and acquaintances choose the “hippie” reference when we’re talking about things like politics and social issues.

You should know that we tend to nerd out on politics in our house (but in a cool Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert way).  We never miss a debate.  We watch all news coverage.  Election season is a major sporting event.  Policies, platforms, campaign speeches – it’s exciting.  Unless you’re living off the grid (Hippie Level 100), you’re probably well aware that we are entering another Presidential election season (SUPER EXCITING) which means more than ever, these discussions among social circles are occurring.

Now, I’m not here in an attempt to change any person’s view or beliefs, because we are all entitled to our own (hello, Democracy).  And I’m also not asking for you to attempt to sway mine (hello, R-E-S-P-E-C-T).  I am only here to clarify something…

I am not a hippie.  I am a Christian.

Sometimes I receive comments and criticism from folks with beliefs differing from my own; I am always open to lively discussion and comparison, but I find more and more that my explanation of beliefs is based less on what some interpret as a Liberal POV, and more on me just living my faith.

I believe in equality.  I believe in fairness.  I believe that we are called to help the least and the lost, always.  I believe that we are all deserving of forgiveness and grace, and that regardless of past actions, our lives are valuable, full of wonderful potential, and worth living.  I don’t believe I have the right to make choices for others; they have their own free will, and I know nothing of their own personal situations.  I don’t believe I have the right to judge another person’s morality; that’s the job of my Creator, and I’m fairly certain that He can handle it. (Judging a person’s obeying of the law is not the same as judging or governing their morality).

Most importantly, I believe in LOVE.  Unconditional, unquestionable, unfathomable love.

I serve a God who believes in second chances, clearly evidenced in scripture by those He chose to do the greatest of His work.  I serve a God who loves us  – all of us – equally.  To understand the depth of that incredible, amazing and powerful love, consider this: God loves Charles Manson just as much as he loves YOU.  Does that thought make you uncomfortable?  It shouldn’t; I hope it fills you with hope and peace and awe, because it’s completely true.  This doesn’t make the actions of others acceptable, and it does not mean they are condoned, but it does mean that those people would be welcomed with open and loving arms by my God should they truly desire forgiveness and accept Him as Savior.  Because he wants us – all of us – to come home to Him.

And so, when I’m told that I am a liberal hippie, I’m really forming my belief by considering what Jesus would do.  Would he belittle, condemn, and disown?  Or would he reach out, help, and love unconditionally?  I’m going with Mark 12:30-31 (Rules: Love God, Love Your Neighbor…simple, right?)

Not a hippie.  Just a Christian.

My+God+Loves+Everyone

Let Them Be Little

Earlier this week, while dropping Miles off at school, I noticed a dad who completed his entire arrival-drop off-departure while on his cell phone (obviously a “business” call).  I’d venture to guess that his son is about three years old.  He held his dad’s hand, struggled to keep up with his fast paced walking, and continued smiling while looking up at his dad.  His dad never once looked down to meet his son’s gaze and return the smile.  He shuffled him through his classroom door and waved goodbye, without a hug, without a kiss, without saying, “I love you.”

His son didn’t seem fazed, and maybe he’s accustomed to hurried mornings, but his father’s actions – or lack thereof – bothered me, deeply.  Am I more emotional now that we have Miles?  Most certainly.  There are situations and occurrences we witnessed in our childless life that I didn’t think twice about; now, however, it’s a different story.

Before we had Miles, I would always wonder how parents handle certain inevitable situations that I may have once considered “bad behavior.”  Things like running up and down the aisles in Publix, throwing loaves of bread.  Or taking an entire plate of spaghetti and turning it upside down on the table, while out to eat at a restaurant.  Or talking too loudly during church.  I have witnessed parents discipline in ways that caused me to cringe, and I have witnessed parents portray an obliviousness that left me confused.  And before we had Miles, I wouldn’t have noticed a parent rushing their child to daycare, school, soccer practice, or through a grocery store.  Kids are slow, right?  Seemed normal to urge them along.

Then, we became parents.

I am sure I’ve said many, many times before (and will continue to repeat) that once we had Miles, life as we knew it changed.  Of course there were moments of struggle (new parents are really clueless those first few weeks…) but those are absolute blips on the radar in comparison to the overwhelming love, joy, happiness and general awesomeness we experience on a daily basis.  Not a moment goes by that I don’t look at that kid and think to myself, “My God, we are blessed.”  He is the sun rising and the moon setting in our days.

As children get older, they develop their own personalities.  Becoming their own person brings new behaviors; some are sweet, some are funny, and some are just whaa? moments.  And many, many moments will mimic situations I witnessed before becoming a parent.  I have a different perspective because now, as a  mom, I get it.

Those parents I previously thought were oblivious to their children’s behavior really weren’t (well, not all of them).  I know this because I am not an oblivious parent.  I am fully aware that Miles is “singing” along during the offertory at church.  I know that the instant I give him his spoon to “feed” himself, he’s going to fling zucchini at the cat and stick the spoon up his nose.  There is no trip to Publix that doesn’t end with a toy “dropped” on every aisle, and extra grocery items in the buggy that I’m certain I didn’t have on the list.  Know what?  That’s okay.  Know why?  He’s a baby, bordering on toddler, and these are just the things they do.  He is full of curiosity and wonder (also, feistiness) which we find charming and hilarious, all at the same time.  Miles is free to be Miles, even if it means blowing raspberries at strangers in Target.

We have chosen to let Miles experience life at full sprint…what better way for him to learn?  We have chosen to laugh at the moments that may cause other folks to just cringe.  Just a couple weeks ago, Evan was getting Miles ready for bath time (we call this “nakey baby time” in our house).  After the usual nakey baby song and dance, Evan picked Miles up off the changing table and proceeded to make his way to the bathroom.  It was in that instant that I saw it…poop.  Poop coming out of Miles’ tush, onto the changing table, onto the floor and onto Evan.  Miles was flapping and smiling and waving, per the usual.  My eyes met Evan’s, and we froze…then, we erupted into laughter.  You cannot fully comprehend the humor in poop until you have children.   Life is hysterical.

Rather than become exasperated, we find the joy and humor and absolute silliness that we have in our lives now.  How can I look at that spaghetti smeared face, dumping his sippy cup onto the dining room floor, and not become filled with love and gratitude?

As working parents, life gets busy.  Very busy.  Perhaps “busy” is an understatement for the hurricane of work-errands-chores-parenting that must take place on a daily basis.  But what I’ve learned is that you’re only as busy as you choose to be in that moment.  Sure, there’s laundry I need to fold and the dishwasher needs to be unloaded, but I’m going to push those chores off until after Miles hits the hay, because stacking rings and reading books is so much more fun.  And I’m sure you’d be surprised to know that most days of the week, I’m running late for work, but that doesn’t stop me from spending those extra ten minutes with Miles at school, watching him play with the other kids and giving him oodles of hugs and kisses before I head out the door.

You are never, ever too busy to stop for a moment and cherish your children.

We have chosen to never let “life” interfere with our blessings.  There are many evenings we’re tired (or is it exhausted?) but, truth be told, it’s the best kind of tired.  Feeling a wave of exhaustion hit as soon as I close the nursery door at 8pm is just the result of us living the best moments of our day to the fullest extent possible.

Miles is only little for a short while; soon we’ll have a toddler, then a preschooler, then an actual kid, followed by a preteen and (shudder) a teenager.  Before we realize it, Miles will be in college.  Miles will be getting married (after she passes my “marriage qualifications exam”).  Miles will be starting his own family.

I never, ever want to miss a single smile, hug, kiss, smile, or belly laugh.  I want to be present for each and every moment that I possibly can.  And I want him to have complete joy in being little, regardless of how messy or loud that joy can be.  He is only little once.

I came across this print on Etsy the other day, and found it perfectly encompassed the way we have chosen to parent:

“You will never have this day with your children again.  Tomorrow they will be a little older than they were today.  This day is a gift.  Just breathe, notice, study their faces and little feet.  Pay attention.  Relish the charms of the present.  Enjoy today, it will be over before you know it.  Let them be little.”

Unspeakable Joy

Unspeakable Joy

L-I-V-I-N,

Kristin