Friday, March 13, 2015

that one time i went to kansas.



For Luke - Happy Birthday.
______________________________________________________________________________-

I used to travel a lot more in my younger years. Even my fear of flying couldn’t prevent me from buying a ticket, boarding a plane and finding myself outside the geographical boundaries that usually outlined my life.

As I’ve gotten older, and as finances and schedules became tighter, travel has been put on the back burner. I am sometimes sad that Luke and I didn’t see more of the world together before we had kids. But I know that as our littles become less “little” we have many travel adventures ahead – and it gets me excited. Many of my daydreams involve seeing my kids at Disneyland or Luke in Ireland or all of us in India.

But I know that wherever I go or wherever I’ve been, there will always be a special trip that will always reside in my heart. It’s among the most magical, beautiful, meaningful trips I've ever taken. It was the time I went to Manhattan, Kansas.

No, not New York. Kansas.

In 2006, four months into our marriage, Luke found out he was being deployed to Iraq. My world was rocked. I went from being a blissful newlywed to a wife of a deployed solider (to forever be known as WOADS). I was nervous and scared and knew I would Miss. Him. So. Much. I couldn’t believe I was doing the first year of married life without him – and even worse – I couldn’t believe he’d be out there, alone, in what seemed to me at the time such a dangerous, threatening place.

Before heading to Iraq, Luke spent four months training in Fort Riley, Kansas. Toward the end of his time there, an opportunity arose for me to visit him. It would involve buying an overpriced plane ticket, enduring a long layover, arriving in Kansas City, Missouri, renting a car and driving two hours at night to Manhattan and only getting to spend less than 24 hours with Luke before he had to report back for training.

Of course I went.

So I boarded the plane, nerves in tow. I sat through my layover, restless as could be. I got my rental car, not believing I had two more hours ahead of me. I made the drive from Kansas City to Manhattan, reading my "Mapquest” directions through the dim rental car dome light, having to make u-turns, stop for directions and know no one would be able to come find me if I got lost. I checked into the LaQuinta hotel and waited for him to arrive. 

I cried like a baby when he walked through the door and realized he was worth all of it and more.

The next day we only had until 5 p.m. before he’d have to head back. We hit up the local Chili’s for lunch, ventured to the Walmart, and walked around town. There wasn’t much to do, but we didn’t need to do much. I was nowhere I knew and no place exciting, yet it was one somehow one of the most special, endearing days of my life. 

He left that evening and I slept in a puddle of tears in my little La Quinta bed, woke up with a brave face, drove the two hours back to the airport, then boarded the plane to make my way back to a home that didn’t feel like home without him. But somehow, when I think of this trip, I don’t remember those parts.

I remember how, for a little while, a LaQuinta hotel felt like the Four Seasons. A Chili’s restaurant felt like a cafĂ© in Florence. A Walmart felt like a London boutique. A walk around a sleepy town felt like a waltz along the Seine. And seeing my husband after all we had been through and all we had to go through was better than the view from the Eiffel Tower.

It felt like the best place I’d ever been.

After weathering that storm and two kids later, he still has that effect on me. Whether we’re on a plane to Mexico, on a road trip to Vancouver, in a hotel in Seattle, at the beach in Edmonds or on the couch watching Veggie Tales with the kids.

Wherever we go or don’t go in the future – I will have no regrets. Because my journey gets to be forever with him, and that’s all that matters.  


Monday, March 9, 2015

three.



Photos Courtesy of Lisa Barton Photography

Miss Makenzie,

I kind of find these birthday posts a little daunting. Not because I don’t have enough to say, but because there is so much and it all seems so inadequate.

I want to tell you you’re the sweetest. But that doesn’t truly describe how you throw your arms around me and squeeze the hardest you can, and I can actually feel what love is. How you kiss my cheek and hand at random moments and it stops me in my tracks. How you can talk forever about how much you love us and it's like the most beautiful song my ears have ever heard.. How your young soul is so completely filled to the brim with a brightness and warmth that shines so magically through you. It’s visible. We are fuller and better people for getting to see it.

I want to tell you that you are funny. But that doesn’t quite paint the whole picture. You make us laugh by making up silly walks and crazy voices and funny faces. By telling a joke, then saying “just kidding, not funny.” By insisting you’re not bossy while still being bossy. By creating goofy rules for us to live by.  Your smile and laugh are two of the most rare and valuable gifts this world will ever know. We are so lucky to get to wear your joy every day, and you are so unknowingly generous to give it.

I want to tell you you’re strong-willed. But that may be too weak a word. If you are determined to do something by yourself, it will get done, even if it makes us 20 minutes late. And on those occasions when we don’t have 20 mins to spare, you can sure cry it out with the best of them. "I don’t want to. Let me do it. No, no, no." At times it makes us crazy, but realizing that you are still learning and growing, I know someday this will be one of my favorite qualities of yours. I’ll be able to focus less on the “willed” part and see it as what helps make you confident, determined, resilient and STRONG.

I want to tell you you’re beautiful. But that doesn't even begin to cut it. Because sometimes we just stare at you – and not for the reasons you may think. Being your parents, we will always think you are the most beautiful girl ever created. But what really makes you beautiful is that light, that generosity, that joy, that strength that is inside of you. It draws people in. That is the best kind of beauty, Kenzie girl. The kind that radiates from within and is so blindingly obvious that it brings beauty to everything and everyone around you. 

I want to tell you that I love you. But wow. That little four-letter word falls way, way too short. If you only knew that when I smile at you, every one of those smiles is a brand new one, reserved only for you because only you could produce it. And that I can literally feel my fingers and toes tingle and my heart swell when we are cuddled together, touching cheeks. That you exceed any dream or expectation I could’ve ever had about you, and ignite a pride and thankfulness in me that is simply too big for words.

As the page turns from two to three, I will store carefully the details and memories from these past wonderful, challenging, glorious years. And I wait with baited breath to see what this new chapter – THREE – will bring to us and our sweet, funny, strong-willed, beautiful girl.

Who is so, SO much more.

We love you, baby girl. Happy Birthday!

Love,
Mom






Wednesday, March 4, 2015

God bless you, I love you, Goodnight.




I remember the first time Caleb told me he had a bad dream.  My mind raced, my stomach sank, my heart broke. I wondered if it was that abominable snowman from Rudolph, which we let him watch countless times during the holidays. I wondered if it was something we inadvertently let him see or hear. I wondered if it was something he saw when he wasn’t with us. Guilt. Worry. Guilt. Worry. The tension I feel almost always between “you can’t always be in control” and “you are responsible for it all.”

I can remember having bad dreams, or even just being scared at night, when I was little. I remember one of my very first prayers - I was young enough to only know simple words, but just old enough to know who God was and what He could do. It went:

Dear God,
Thank you for this day. Please let us have a nice sleep and no dreams.
In Jesus’ Name I pray,
Amen

I would utter that prayer silently every night my head hit the pillow. I would repeat it in my head when a gust of wind or roar of thunder would jolt me into wakefulness. I would say it when a seemingly innocent dream sequence would take a turn for the worst and I’d wake up startled, hoping it wasn’t real. And every single time, I was always comforted, I always felt safe, I always knew my request was being heard – and more importantly –I knew that God cared and would do something about it.

The other night, Caleb stumbled into our room, half asleep, whimpering a little. We contemplated putting him back to bed, but instead let him crawl into bed with us. We recently got a king sized bed, meaning MORE ROOM and less of a chance that Caleb, in his crazy middle of the night ways, would be left sleeping on our faces.  We left a hole between Luke and I for Caleb to nestle into, yet I instinctively pulled him close to me and held him tight. He must’ve fallen asleep the moment I held him because he laid there completely peaceful and still, breathing steadily into my neck. As I stroked his hair and kissed his forehead, still groggy myself, I found myself praying in my head over and over and over again,

Dear Lord,
Please let him have a nice sleep and no dreams. Please let him have a nice sleep and no dreams. Please let him have a nice sleep and no dreams …

There is so much I don’t have control over and so much I am responsible for. That tension can make me worry like crazy. But in that tension is the truth of what I’ve known since I was old enough to know anything.

It’s the truth of who He is and what He can do.


I can rest in that. I pray Caleb can and will, too. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

five



Should I even try to describe the emotions I feel leading up to the day that you turn five years old? 5?! What in the world?

I remember when I was in the throes of the hard newborn days, my friend told me, "Just remember, the days are long, but the years are short."

The longer I am a mama, the more true these words become.

I think of a squishy little baby in a swaddle and see the handsome boy in Superman jammies that he grew to be. And, well. It’s almost too much.

All of it was new to me, Caleb. Strapping you into a car seat, feeding you, burping you, changing you, swaddling you, calming you, bathing you, putting you to sleep. I fumbled, I second guessed, I panicked. And I learned.

Maybe the only thing I didn't have to learn was how to love you.

The day you were born is that perfect day I play over and over and over in my head when I need to smile. Hearing your crackly newborn cry from behind the sheet while cheers erupted from your family waiting illegally just outside of the operating room. Seeing your dad’s face when he first saw you. It’s a face I’ve seen on him in some form or another almost every day since. The look of pride. He was so proud of you. He is so proud of you. That day, he got to meet the guy who would become his forever best buddy.

And I remember the moments later in our dimly lit hospital room. Your whole family waiting for you - til even the wee-est hours of the morning. I got to watch them all pass you around in your little swaddle and hat. I got to see their faces as they whispered to you and kissed you and just stared. And you still do that us, Caleb. You still bring smiles, and thankfulness and joy. I see it all the time. I feel it all the time.

Five years has seen diapers turn into big boy unders. Rice cereal into Indian food. Car seats into boosters. Baby Einstein into How to Train Your Dragon. Biting your bottom lip into ... well ... biting your bottom lip. Scribbles into words and pictures. Strangers at daycare into trusted teachers and lasting friends.  An only child into a big brother.

Somehow, suddenly, baby Caleb turned into five year old Caleb.

It has been breathtakingly beautiful and unbelievably hard. I have loved every minute of watching every detail of you. When I heard that baby cry on Feb. 28, 2010, I was so glad to see your exact face. It was the one I’d always wanted. And today, five years later, I’m still so thankful that yours was the face God graciously chose for our family. I’m so thankful that you are the boy that is my son.

It’s hard to say goodbye to the baby years, but it’s easy to see who you were, who you are, and who you may become and be so EXCITED. Thank you for painting joy on our faces every day. Thank you for pouring love straight into our hearts. Thank you for giving us the most humbling pride of being your parents.  

Bugs, Buggy Boo, Little Man Magoo, Baby Guy, Caleb B., Brother - Love you to the moon and back and a million kajillion.

Happy five years.

You still make us smile like no otherhttp://amarvelouslife.blogspot.com/2011/05/blog-post.html

Friday, February 6, 2015

murphy's lie.




Last week, Luke left for a six day business trip. I spent one, fun-filled day with the kiddos – my spirits were high – I felt encouragement from friends and family – I was doing GOOD.

Then the next morning came. Whimpers of “mama” from my two year old’s bedroom and the cry that her tummy hurt. I scooped her up and brought to bed with me, expecting we’d both just fall back asleep until her brother woke us up.

But then she said, “It really hurts,” in a voice that was unfamiliar and impossible for me to ignore. We both sat up.

And that was the beginning of Puke Fest 2015. I grabbed a Pyrex dish from under the kitchen island (p.s. throwing THAT away) and she tried really hard to aim into it, but most ended up on me, her, her blankets and just about everything that wasn't the Pyrex dish.

Without going into all the details, let’s just say it wasn't pretty. The girl was miserable. Caleb confusedly followed us around with the Pyrex dish as we trudged through the cycle of changing clothes, cleaning up messes, sipping Fresca and eating crackers. Puke, then repeat.

We prayed and I think it reassured her and I KNOW it reassured me. Daddy called many times and, as much as I felt bad for myself, I felt bad from him also. He’s always on the front lines with the kiddos and I know he felt the sadness and guilt that she was so miserable and that he wasn't there to help. And we had four days ahead.

I thought, if this HAD to happen, why couldn't it have happened a week before when I had Luke here? Or a week when I didn't have big meetings and deadlines at work?! And if she HAD to be sick, why not the usual fever that goes down with Tylenol and gives way to all day snuggles? Why this violent tummy bug that she NEVER gets?

I thought of how Murphy’s Law – anything that could go wrong, will go wrong – couldn't have applied more. 

I called in for back up and my sister dropped everything to pick Caleb up and get him out of there. The rest of the day, Kenzie hung on me like an orangutan as I unsuccessfully attempted to do laundry and disinfect and shower. After awhile I gave up. Our clothes were going to smell, the house was going to smell, we were going to smell. I laid on the couch with Kenzie right on top on me. Her favorite movie, Mr. Peabody, played in the background (it’s about a dog who adopts a boy and they travel through time – riveting). I stared out of the window at the annoyingly sunny backyard and thought about how I had an out of town work meeting the next day and projects due on Wednesday and whether I should take Kenzie to the walk in clinic or wait to see if she improves and WHY this was all happening this day of ALL days on this week of ALL weeks to little, incompetent me of ALL people.

Caleb spent that night at Bina Aunty's while Kenzie and I snuggled together in bed, Pyrex bowl by our side, both exhausted for different reasons, but exhausted just the same.

And then the next morning came.

I was able to get out of my work meeting to stay home with Kenzie and I was happy to see no signs of her sickness from the past day. Her appetite was back and so was her smile and silliness. We spent the entire day playing babies, coloring pictures and fluttering around in our butterfly wings pretending we could fly. We cured our cabin fever by venturing out and enjoying the crisp, sunshiny day. I took a conference call during nap time, then typed away on my laptop in my bedroom - making a considerable dent in my work project for Wednesday – while Kenzie quietly played with her paints on the floor.

While Sunday felt like Murphy’s Law had struck again, Monday brought with it the perspective that it’s never really ALL bad or ALL wrong. Through the cracks and crevices of a bleak day, light always finds a way to peek out. Light in the form of a patient, compassionate kid holding out a Pyrex dish for his sister. Of a tired little girl resting in my arms, telling me that I'm all she needs. Of a sister and aunt who doesn't hesitate when we’re in need. Of a husband's loving phone calls that calm both of his girls and make hard moments feel better. Of a boss that would understand and of work that could wait. Of sweet snuggles and uninterrupted time.Of bouncy curls and butterfly wings. Of watching a movie about a dog in a time machine all the way through for the first time ever and realizing it’s actually not that dumb. Of family bringing over Indian food for dinner and sitting around table with me. Of words and actions pouring out of people's hearts and filling mine. Of conversations with God that may never have happened otherwise. Of a sun that still shines even when I stubbornly shut the blinds. Of knowing that “little, incompetent” me doesn't exist because of mighty, powerful Him.

Because of it all, I know. Murphy’s Law is kind of a lie. Everything that COULD go wrong will never ALL go wrong. There will always, always be something right.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

what. a. game.


Image courtesy of Google

"For there is nothing impossible with our God"
Luke 1:37

it's no secret that the 2015 nfc championship game was something to be remembered.

for seahawks fans - we'll never forget it. we lagged, we were mediocre, we were expected to lose until two minutes into the fourth quarter. some stayed with us and believed, some left early, turned off their tvs and radios because the disappointment of it all would be too much. no one could fault anyone for doing what they needed to do.

as a girl who was there when rick mier  (and can i just say i loved him and rooted for him every sunday) was our hope, i get it. it is no small thing to have a winning season. it's no small thing to win a wild card. it's no small thing to make it into the playoffs. and it is for sure no small thing to win your way into the super bowl.

this is big.

and we've done it twice in the last two years.

no one could dispute that russell wilson was special. we saw that in him as a rookie. we knew that when we narrowly escaped winning the division finals with atlanta three years ago. we noticed that he was - of course - disappointed but also so excited because he knew good things were ahead. he was excited to play with the team he loved and see what they could do.

we've seen what they can do.

i love the heart of this team.  richard sherman, who is smart and talented and runs his mouth like no one you've seen. and marshawn, who is a beast and plows over the biggest of guys and waltzes into the end zone like it's no big deal. and doug baldwin who leaps to make the big catches. and luke willson. and jermaine kearse. and pete carroll in his tennis shoes. and everyone and everyone.

and the 12s. i feel like our hearts have always matched up with theirs, but with this team, we're at our best.

and then there is the other side. there is aaron rodgers biting his lip, shaking hands, doing the obligatory press conferences, through his crushing disappointment. there's mike mccarthy, who spoke to a reporter with tears welling up in his eyes, telling the world that it hurts, but that he's proud of his team. there are the faces on the sidelines that break your heart because you know they know that victory was so close to them - they could almost touch it, taste it. until it was ripped away. we can relate. we've been there. we may be there again. it's not fun.

i see wilson pointing to they sky, saying God is too good through honest, thankful tears, telling everyone that He prepared him for times such as these. that nothing is impossible. not for one second do i believe that God loves wilson more than rodgers or even (gasp) kaepernick. i know that's not how it works.

but there is something inspiring about wilson's humble confidence and his boldness in pursuing the talent that God gave him. He simply trusts the Lord to do what He'll do.

our kids will hear about this game for years to come. i hope what they'll learn from it is that it's great to be the winner. but on any given day you can be the loser, so have compassion. and never give up - even with two minutes left in the 4th quarter. keep fighting and keep believing. have a humble confidence in the talents and gifts that God has given you. He is always your hope, and that means NOTHING is impossible.

and.

go hawks.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

out there.

“Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” 
- Elizabeth Stone
I wasn't really surprised when his doctor said his tonsils were huge. It explained his interrupted sleep, constant congestion and missed breaths.  We made the decision to take them out sooner than later. 

The week before his surgery, my heart was conflicted. And the night before. My sweet, unsuspecting boy who only expected ice cream and popsicles. I wanted to wrap him up and say to heck with it. If you have colds for the rest of your life and never sleep, no worries, I will be right there with you. It might get a little awkward when you're in college or married, but we'll manage.

But we did it. And in the mercies of all mercies, the surgery was so easy. Our nurses (they deserve a whole separate post) loved my boy so perfectly - a boy they totally didn't even know, but made him and us feel so known. To the point that he was wheeled away smiling and waving. I wanted to give them all long, lingering hugs and tell them all I was forever in debt, but I restrained myself and just said "thanks, thanks SO much."  My heart let out a sigh when I remembered that we were covered. Not a tear was shed until the doctor met us in the waiting room and told us everything went perfectly. Only a fraction of the fears I feared gave way. I was ensured that God had him. It was mercy.

Watching him recover has been hard and beautiful. I never want him to hurt so, yes, at times it is so very hard. But his resolve. His fight. His sweetness and bravery. The quiet humor he shares with us in whispers and smirks when he doesn't have the energy to do much more. The days of cuddles and shutting off the responsibilities of life to be present with my family. Little Kenzie girl talking to him in her baby voice, putting his blanket on him, making him laugh.

(Side note: Kenzie wanted to talk and talk and talk with Caleb and he wasn't saying much, so Luke said, "It hurts Caleb's throat to talk too much, so let's let him be." To which Kenz said, "I love you, Caleb." And Caleb answered, "I love you, Kenzie." And Kenzie gasped, "Oh Caleb talked! He loves me!!")

And it's not lost on me that we are lucky. That some parents pray for this to be the least of their troubles. Ugh. Yes. This brings me closer to that.

God for sure gave me a new heart the day he gave me my baby boy.  And then renewed it when I got my baby girl. And then He told me that my heart would forever be out there, so very vulnerable forever.  But that it was okay because He was trustworthy. I could trust him with a love so great.  

There's no doubt about it, my heart is no longer my own. It's out there.  It's on the playground at recess. It's there in the middle of the night when temperatures are spiking. It's at the door when we're having time outs. It's at the feet of the bluest ocean skipping rocks. It's on a road belting out our favorite songs. It's in the kitchen chasing a curly haired girl.  It's on a couch telling my boy he can trust me because I'm his mama and I would do anything for him.

It's in an operating room where I am not. 

But where He (thank you, thank you SO much) still is.