The volley

Let’s catch up. I have a few things to tell you and then so many more to unpack with you, buckle in.

We started school this year at an entirely new school. My kids went from a private school to a public school and everything is going well.

Along with all of this change my daughter started a sport she’s never played with a team she’s never met and her first match was also the first day of this new school and everything is new – are you getting my drift? I spend a lot of time in bleachers waiting with her for her turn while she barrels through her nerves and anxiety and shovels every bit of it at my feet and then stomps around on it, like a tantrum. And I think to myself, this shit is ridiculous. Enough of this. Pick your damn self up off the mother loving pavement, Child, and go. get. it. But I don’t say those words, no I do not.

I spend that time rubbing her back and listening and offering a little hope, but not too much because then she accuses me of not understanding, so I wait with her. That is all she wants. Someone to bear witness to the waiting for her turn. When is it going to be her turn? Why isn’t it her turn yet? And the stage-fright. It’s tennis, but people are watching, so that takes it to a new level of MAKE IT STOP.

I didn’t play school sports for my own reasons, all of them selfish and kind of childish. I didn’t have a lot of school spirit. But this kid, she wants to do it all. Paint her face and wear the logos and do the fundraisers and buy the duffle bags and sign up for every club and get as involved as possible. She makes me tired. Because I still facilitate her social life, so when she signs up for something – in essence she is signing me up too. And you know what? I LOVE IT.

Here we are, doing all the new things and both for the first time ever. It’s pretty great. It’s great that she’s still inviting us along for the ride.

My life is now a serious matrix of overlapping schedules and carpools. I am always supposed to be in more than one place at a time. So far, it’s working just fine. Somehow.

I’ve tried to catch up over the summer or just chronicle our days and trips and memories but every time I came to this place and logged in and started writing I couldn’t bring myself to publish any of it. I’ve had kind of a bumpy summer? How do I say this without sounding alarming but also telling the truth THAT EVERYTHING SUCKS. I try not to spread the wealth too much. The wealth of emotional bankruptcy. That bitch came to win, and let me tell you, she swept me off the floor.

I’m mourning a great, very personal loss. In the wake of other very personal losses. Right after the other, all stirred up in a pot, on and on and on they go. Swinging at me like a batter bent on revenge. I see you: I’m awake.

I took a break from my other writing this summer as well, for the same reasons, everything was angry in response to my pain. But I also started this really lovely, very daring personal project before the summer came. And if the only thing you take away from this rambling is this: please pull for me. I think this is big, if for no one other than me, it’s monumental. And I need the timing to be right and the people to be in place and the conversations that have yet to happen, for those to have a way paved before them so I can have them. I need some cheerleaders. I need someone pulling for me, even if you don’t know why or what for.

As I was journaling recently I came face to face with some fear, not new. It’s the ugly side of my vulnerability. I am my own roadblock. Afraid of looking like a fool, but realizing that if everyone I’ve ever quoted or loved or admired let their fear stand in the way of their message or art or gift for the world: I wouldn’t have their words to help me or their photos to inspire me or their songs or poems or paintings to take my breath away. I wouldn’t have a full understanding of how big my own dreams are, how rare my own beauty is, how daring my own words could be.

And I learned: I’m not done yet. I have to keep showing up.

Just like my daughter needs someone there to witness her showing up, even when it’s scary and new and nothing feels normal, she needs someone who believes in her, not because we have to. Or because she’s shown great athletic prowess – but because we know she can. If she keeps showing up, if she keeps trying … eventually the ball will make it over the net. Eventually she’ll move from the bench to the court and without ever thinking of how or why, she’ll volley.

Not because she knows how – but because thats what you do when the ball is yours.

The wild one

And just like that, we’re half way through summer.

A rejuvenating few days in the city: who would have thought I'd take away deep rest? But I did, and clarity, too.

We’ve been back to Windmill Island a number of times, as recent as just yesterday. It is my favorite place in Holland and right now, this week, is the best of the flowers in bloom. It’s wild, in the best way.

Some home improvement projects are underway (as I type our front door is being replaced, hallelujah!) and we are excited to work on the curb appeal of our little secret house. It’s been 5 years and we still get comments like “I had no idea your house looked like this” once people step in. Our street-side appearance is misleading, but in a good way. A simple, don’t think too much about it, way. She looks untouched from the front and when you step inside, she’s all the old wisdom with none of the baggage.

This room is discovering purpose. #inprogress

A little Sunday prep for the week ahead.

My kids have had a blast at sleep away camps and we took an eventful family trip out East over the 4th of July holiday. I had a job in Chicago in June that we stole away, just Aaron and I, to work and explore together.

Home is where ever she is. 💜

"Danger: KEEP OFF ROCKS" 👌 #challengeaccepted #lakeontario #hamlinbeach

A small bit or respite, a little bit of quiet.

We’ve had plenty of lazy days at a friends pool, the beach, day trip adventures and family visiting from out of town.

Lolo's!

I love this summer.

That summer time vibe ☀️⛱

Epic adventures with Oliver today.

Fogging for mosquitos, saving kittens, chasing cousins, karaoke in the rain, passing out extra dessert to neighbors, bonfires, and alllllllllll the laughter. 💙

And, as always, we’ve been busy in the kitchen with little delights.

Just making mini hand pies today. Delicious endeavors.

Michigan blueberries 💙

There’s a feeling to this summer: Settled. We are growing and dreaming and living and we’re safe. We are so excited for what’s next.

Dreams and apple trees.

I’ll leave you with something I posted on Facebook yesterday, it just rings true, and I want you to have it, too.

“I’ve had a moment of simple reminders today, where the fire deep inside is ablaze with unadulterated passion for living the life before me. Not the one prescribed to me by outside sources, or the one presented to me, on a platter, as if this next choice will cement the rest of all the choices. But the one I can’t stop dreaming about. The wild one. The exploration one. The one where I’m not afraid of making mistakes or seeing the world all over again. The one where I decide to try again. And again. And again.

The one where I stop making excuses for why I’m not living it yet and start saying yes instead of “later.” I AM ON FIRE.

We all are.

Can you see my smoke signals? They’re everywhere. This way! Over here!

Let go, Let’s go.”

Backyard Tourist: Windmill Island, Holland, Mi

Such a fun morning being tourists in our backyard. Windmill Island is free for residents of the @cityofholland and it's a hidden gem. Beautiful gardens, parks, tours of the mill, horses! We will be back again and again.

It’s the first Monday of Summer Vacation and I’ve decided to take a relaxed approach to how we fill our days. The months are going to fly, this I already know, with sleep-away camps and sports camps and a few camping trips already planned, we’re going to arrive at the beginning of the next school year as if we left for a walk across the State and only ended up rounding our city block.

The kids wanted to roller blade and I wanted caffeine so we geared up and headed downtown to JP’s Coffee for my must-have and then meandered down to the Window on the Waterfront for theirs.

Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists

It’s gorgeous with plenty of wildlife to watch and the end of the Spring flowers to see. We saw a family of swans, muskrats eating and swimming, and lots of birds and bugs.

Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists

As we were leaving I remembered Windmill Island is close to the park and, if I was right, it’s free for residents of the City of Holland. I wanted to check it out.

Backyard Tourists

TRUE! Free all day long for us, every day they’re open (save for the week of Tulip Time). I was super excited.

Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists

It was fabulous.

Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists

There’s so much to see and do, and with this being free to Residents, it’s like our own personal oasis. The carousel ride is free, the park is updated and multi-aged friendly. There are picnic tables literally every where. Water you can kayak in (bring your own), all kinds of flowers to meander through, it’s stunning. There’s even yard games for the kids to play and music is often wafting in the background. A small cafe and gift shop and tons of opportunities to learn more about the Netherlands. There’s horses on the island you can watch or bing an apple to treat. They’re nice, and they’re used to people. You can bike around the island as well (bring your own, or bike TO the island from your home).

Backyard Tourists

We enjoyed a lively and informative tour of the working Mill and even met the Miller in house.

Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists
Backyard Tourists

You can buy the flour milled right here in Holland on Windmill Island, too. We tried but they were sold out today.

Did you know that they used to use the blades of the windmill as a local billboard to communicate? And during the wars they had signals to the town about where the troops were. Fascinating. The entire mechanism of the mill is crazy complicated and our Miller is the only female certified Miller by whatever association based in the Netherlands – it’s very prestigious. And she’s going for her Masters. Or something. On the tour we took there were folks from Germany! They’re touring the great lakes and made a stop in Holland to see the Windmill.

People, if Germans travel to see this gem and it’s in our backyard for free … I’m telling you. Geek out and get out. I can’t wait to go back.

It was a great (and mostly free) day. (I spent $2 on my cup of coffee. 😉 )

Backyard Tourists

Remind me of this when I forget, which might be often. Or just every January.

I want you to be ridiculous. I want you to say YES to the weird stuff. You’re not having any fun? Change that. We can absolutely be sojourners on this ride, and we can be missionaries to our neighbors – or we can pack up everything and move across the pond. Let’s do it all. Let’s not wait another day to start living. Your bank account might never be wide enough for the dreams you can dream but may your heart always be strong enough for the weight it will carry.

You can’t afford a trip to Europe? Do you know someone who’s been? Invite them over to tell their stories and ask to see their photographs. Make food you might taste over there and drink the drinks you envision yourself having. Sit outside in a garden. Call the visitors bureau and ask them about the city. If you can’t call: research, here I’ve done some for you … Travel ideas for Italy. Pinterest is a thing: use it.

Streets of Madrid

Go there, do it. Even if you can’t literally go any where. Enlist help from someone who loves hosting, ask them to show you or help you, invite friends (new and old) to enjoy a night on the canals.

You don’t have to own a boat, rent one; it doesn’t even have to have a motor. Or you can ask a friend or family member who owns one. Buy the hat for the captain, sit down, play the music, and watch the landscape pass-by as if you’re in Italy. DO IT. Why not?

Fathers Day 2015

When you feel ridiculous you should always have weird looks and stares from those around you who can’t see the beauty of dreaming just yet. They will soon, keep going. When they ask “why” your answer is always at the ready … “why not?!”

Dreaming isn’t an idea that you never realize. Dreaming is the opposite of fantasy, it’s your reality waiting to happen.

It won’t give you permission and the first step into Ridiculous is chilly. You might feel foolish and childish. You might fain mocking from the crowds but here’s a secret: they all wish they could wade into this water too. So keep going. Start swimming.

Lakeshore, showing them the beach

They will know who I am by your love for each other. (Paraphrased from John 13:35) Love is so many, many things. Mowing someone’s lawn, visiting the sick in your hospitals, making meals for young mothers, lending your hands, giving to causes with time, money or talent. But love isn’t a chore. Love is also being first in line at the roller coaster with your wide-eyed 9 year old for the first coaster ride of their life. It’s the sheer volume of happiness they eek out as you ascend and then rip down the rafters. Love is showing up to the dance recitals and hosting the sleepovers, it’s making the pancakes or warming up leftovers. Love is beneath the sheets, but also in the backyard. It’s touching your loved ones gently and ushering them closer for an embrace. It’s always an offering, never an obligation.

You guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love is the high five and the posters on the sidelines when your people run the race they never thought they could finish. It’s the Holiday dinners and traditions for some of us, it’s the stockings and wrapping paper for others. It can be too much and not enough all at once. Love is overwhelming, like standing in a field of wild poppies for the first time and noticing that if you had never taken the wrong turn you would have gone the rest of your life not knowing that this existed. And it would continue to exist, without your permission or need for interference whatsoever. It’s there because the seed was planted and the clouds broke open and sang them into the air, a duet with the sun. It’s there, we just have to see it.

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Love is so contagious. Be ridiculous. And then pass it on.

As time passes

I’ve been more aware than not lately about how fast my kids are growing up. You were all right; mothers before me, and Grandmothers at the grocery store, and you well-meaning strangers who preached “how fast it goes” as you watched me struggle to enjoy the chore of raising little people. It wasn’t always a struggle, mostly it was the best happy I’ve ever known. But it was exhausting. And could someone please just tie everyone’s shoes for me and get the socks and diapers and sippy cups and cheerios and changes of clothes and the list doesn’t ever actually end. Parenting small people is a run-on sentence with no correct grammar and absolutely no access to spell check or a period.

Jessica, March 2017

Oliver, March 2017

I think the pause to consider this task comes as they enter middle school. When the phone calls from school are no longer about what your kid did in class that day but now it’s one of them calling to ask me to bring them their violin, shoes, coat, lunch, or homework that they forgot.

They went from being little floating pods in a happy, cartoon society to being aware of the contents of their life and keeping track of themselves and their work. They’ve turned into non-functioning adults. Practicing ones. With a lot of hormones and room for error. And a mountain to climb in front of them called Learning.

Jessica is making breakfast for her and Oliver this morning. 2 pans on the stove, lots of chopping, using the oven. My favorite part? The towel across her shoulder, just like me. She's fluttering around from counter to counter and every once in a while sh

My mancub sewing by hand.

The pace of raising them has changed, and the conversations, too. They’re part of them, which is so weird and so cool. We’re not making administrative decisions any more, not on most things, now it’s collaborative. Do you want to play this sport? And if you do, are you really invested, so should we also try this camp? I see you really enjoying this particular outlet, how can we support you to succeed? You’re both social butterflies, how can we accommodate your friends and our sanity at the same time? Where do you fit, now? Where are you going? How can we help you get there?

When you come home to a note from your kids that makes you cup your face and cry for all the right reasons. Hey you there? Your countless hours in a thankless job matter. Kids or no kids. You are seen. You are loved. You are enough.

They've graduated from the kiddie hot chocolates. Probably years ago but this just caught up with me. #16ouncesplease #canihaveacookiewiththat #takingkidsanywhere #allthequestions

I love them so much. And as I remember their pudgy little hands and the way they’d pronounce words or the sound of their morning voices from home videos; as I look at old photos and remember the memories we’ve made, and have been making for what seems like forever now … it really is too short. I’m struck with how it’s already almost over.

I’m not ahead of myself here, just finally catching up, I think. We’re past teaching kids how to pee in a toilet, tie shoes, their ABC’s, we’re past car seats entirely, and there are no training-anything’s on their gear and equipment. Both of my kids have bigger feet than I do and when I’m doing laundry, it’s almost guaranteed I’ll give Jessica my clothes and take hers to my closet.

These are people! They are their own persons. And it boggles me that we get to live with them. They’re so nice, these kids. I say that publicly a lot, but they are. I like them. They’re so nice. Pleasant, fun, kind people. Who have faults, yes. But mostly, they’re my favorite humans to be with.

They don't even know they're getting their reading minutes in before dinner. *popcorn* (it's like parenting fairy dust, sprinkle that shit everywhere) 👏👏👏

This shift started happening when Jessica lost her first tooth. I was very much in the mindset that they were a part of me before they lost their teeth. They grew in me, I gave birth to them, I sustained their life for the first 9 months of their life with my breasts. I didn’t know where I ended and they began. I was worried about their temperature at all times – too cold? Too hot? Coats? Shoes? Their hunger was always on my mind. When did they last eat? When are they going to want to eat again? And when I wasn’t feeding and comforting them, I was bathing them and reading to them and keeping them on a schedule so they would stay healthy and grow strong.

But then she lost her first tooth. Jessica lost a part of her own body. It was hers. It was not mine. And I realized her hair was her own, and her body was her own, and if she felt cold or hot or hungry or angry or excited or confused – those were all of her own feelings. Her own experiences. They were not mine.

Thank God.

The pressure was off. I didn’t have to own them, and strangely I didn’t want to. They’re both different than me. So different from each other. They want different things and think completely different thoughts. They come to conclusions in different ways and they celebrate in their own unique language. They love differently and need love differently. They’re magnificent.

At Jessica’s third grade parent teacher conference her teacher shared with us a story she had written. I cried because she wrote and Aaron cried because her story was about him. I didn’t want her to grow up in my shadow, always being asked or tasked with being part of me. Writing is unique to who I am, it’s an essential part of my life … it’s also the gift I get to give to the world. But whatever Jessica’s was: we hadn’t really discovered yet. And I didn’t want to push her towards my own, because I could make it easy for her and it would be exciting for me. I wanted to know what her gift was, what passion she had inside that hadn’t come to the surface yet. But hearing her teacher tell us how well she wrote, how thoughtful her prose were. That she was a storyteller by nature … I thought, yes. We are a little bit the same. She is still mine, I’ll always be hers.

This past week Jessica got in front of her peers and school, in front of parents and grandparents, and she performed a couple of poems for the audience. She made it through the first round of performances (just for her teachers and 6th grade classmates) and was selected to perform to a larger audience. She picked her poems on her own, they were not your average rhyming poems. They’re serious and thoughtful, deep and meaningful. Just like her.

Forensics Poem, Jessica 6th grade

(Video of her performance above, click to view)

Everything comes full circle. I can be hard on myself but when I see the same depth of emotion in my kids, I finally accept my own.

I haven’t known where I fit in this story, it’s been a good one but something of a first go for me. I can’t use my family of origin as a map of where to steer this ship and the masts who should be anchoring me along this journey are no longer part of my fleet. I feel lost so much of the time.

Without a bearing on who I am or where I came from, I don’t have pillars to hold onto anymore. But as time passes I’m finding the way to the deep and sinking down in the fertile ground of new beginnings.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

And I realize that while I’ve spent the last 12 years teaching them how to walk; they’ve been teaching me how to love.

Oliver turns 8!