Thursday, August 27, 2015

The incredible expanding shrinking family

While my mom was dying of cancer I took all her family pictures (years and stacks of them, gathered from all over the house) and put them in scrapbooks.  What else do you give your dying mother for  Christmas, right??  I called it blitzkrieg scrapbooking, my brother and I sorted by year and decade as fast as we could (judging sometimes by clues in the picture like cabinet style or which house or even linoleum) and then put those pictures on pages.  In the end we had 3 large volumes, two of regular pictures and one of portraits throughout the years.

It was interesting for me to look at my parents' life together in this way.  Starting with the few pictures we had of them each as children, on to pictures of their wedding day and beyond.  Seeing pictures of them with me, then that picture once my sister was born when my mom had given me the world's worst haircut ever.

(She always said she thought it was darling but I cringe every time I look at the picture and am retroactively grateful each time that she let my hair grow out again.) The next pictures show three young children,  my brother Val a curly haired pink cheeked cherub. 

None of these pictures were a surprise to me: as the oldest child I had witnessed this part of my parent's life. 

 What was surprising to me were the other pictures, the ones after I married and left home.  It was a time before frequent visits were affordable and there were easy ways to take and share pictures, and many of these pictures were new to me.  I hadn't realized that just as there was a photo history of our growing family, there was a family picture of our shrinking family; first a family picture without me, then several years later a picture without Margaret as well.  

Slowly the family shrunk just as it had grown all those years before.  

In the end there was a picture of my mom with Laila and Jeremy.


Our growing family was no surprise to me, or at least the part of it that grew in the normal way.  We, like my parents, had a series of family pictures; first with Cindy Lynn, then with Cindy Lynn and Jason, and later with Josh as well.  

Then came the big change--family pictures where is seemed everyone was holding a baby after Rachel, Jenna, and Jared were born.  

After that the only change in the pictures was their age and the amount of grey in our hair. 

I think that a part of me thought that this was how our family was always going to be.  Logically I knew that the kids would go to college, but that logical awareness must not have penetrated deeply. It caught me off guard when we began to have pictures of family activities with just the 5 younger kids, and positively startled me after Jason went to college and on his mission and we had pictures without both of the older kids. 

But that's when it really started surprising me.  Because now Cindy Lynn had married, and so sometimes we had pictures with everyone and this new family member, and then other times pictures without any of them.  In my mind I started calling it the incredible expanding contacting family.  That process has only increased in the last year with Josh at college too, leaving just the triplets at home.  And with the girls in color guard and Jared in wrestling, sometimes we have only two children at home, and sometimes only one!  Until the moment where everyone is home together again and we enjoy the expanded family once more, now expanded even more with the addition of Kate.

If I'd thought about it before, I would have anticipated the shrinking family.  But I never could have anticipated the changes in the other direction, that our family would both ebb and flow throughout the years. 

Last week was the full expansion, with Cindy Lynn and Mahon in Oregon and both boys home again on break for school.  It was wonderful to have everyone all together; loud, full house, full table.  But in a short time it will change again and within a few weeks we'll be back to our new smaller family once again, this time augmented from time to time by Cindy Lynn and her family.  

It has been interesting as I have searched through old pictures to find the ones I wanted for this post.  Because I saw something that I had forgotten in my thinking about the incredible expanding/contracting family.  What I saw was this--that as my parents' family was shrinking, a bunch of little families were forming and growing, branching off from the place that they had started.  That was us.  And now we're where they were then and it begins all over again. The endless cycle of the incredible expanding contracting family.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Grocery store inspiration?

The week before we went to the beach I was at the grocery store one day.  I walked by the kiwis and the thought popped into my mind, "I should get some kiwis, Jared has a canker sore."  (We find that eating kiwis seems to help our canker sores heal better.)  So I bought a couple.  When I got back to the house Jared started saying how much his canker sores were hurting and I was like "here you go, kiwis."

I didn't think a lot about it until I did a bunch of grocery shopping yesterday.  I passed the kiwis and thought that maybe I should get a few, I even touched them to see if they were ripe.  But then I thought that we had lots of fruit at home so it wasn't a good time to be getting extra fruit.  Well guess who told me last night that they have a canker sore?

I had put granola on my list for yesterday too.  Winco has a bunch of granolas in their bulk section and I love their pumpkin flaxseed granola.  I got to that part of the store and was about to start to measure out my granola when I remembered that the day before Jason had told me that there was still quite a bit of granola in the cabinet.  But I shrugged that off and bought the granola anyway.  Then when I went to the cabinet this morning for a little granola snack I saw that actually the container was empty, so I *did* need that granola and was glad that I'd gone ahead and bought it.

My wonder isn't so much about grocery store inspiration as it is about inspiration in general.  It's something I struggle so much with understanding, and this makes me wonder if one day when we can see back onto this life clearly will we see that there was so much more "information" available to us that we just didn't usually manage to "hear?"  I wonder...

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Summer's End

This morning there was movement in the house early, feet running up and down the stairs, people talking in the kitchen, voices calling back and forth. Today is the start of band camp; for all intents and purposes the end of our summer. No more late night hanging out, no more sleeping in, no more lazy mornings. 

As always I am heartbroken to see it end, but this year perhaps more than most. This year when Jason heads back to BYU and Josh goes back to BYUI, the triplets will head off to high school and I will be here all alone for the first time in 27 years. I had enough time alone this spring to begin to get excited about the projects I can finally accomplish. And I will be able to spend time with Cindy Lynn and Kate. But there is no question that I will miss these languid summer days with their long books and movies and dinners on the deck in the cooling summer air.

This evening Russ and I sat on the deck until dark, talking and sketching plans for a deck addition.  The evening was quiet and I was startled to realize how much I was enjoying being out there with only him.  Then it was 9 and we heard the tired chatter of the kids being dropped off and suddenly the house was full and busy again and I was happy that we were all here together.

Last night we played a game, all crowded around the table.  They were noisy and obnoxious and in each other's faces and it was wonderful.  I feel such a need to make the moments count, as many of them as possible.  We're on a countdown to early mornings and full days and homework, so we have to enjoy this time as much as we can.

Will I ever figure out a way to let the summer go easily, to look forward without sorrow?  Or even with anticipation?  Maybe, but definitely not today.  Today I would grab with both hands and hold on with my feet digging into the sand to get another day of summer...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My ducklings

They were waiting in a group when I got off the airplane, and when I turned to walk to our next gate they followed behind me in a line like ducklings behind their mother.

This is not a situation I am unused to--I feel like I spent years of my life with my kids trailing behind me (or alternately pushing them in front of me), frequently looking back to be sure that I hadn't lost anyone.

Yesterday's line was a little different, though.  Unlike the lines of yesteryear, this line was made of grown and almost grown children, children who no longer think I know everything and who are regularly irritated with me.  Children who roll their eyes and chafe at my suggestions,  children who do not want to follow behind me anymore .

But yesterday, a day when we had frustrating flight complications, they all seemed happy enough to follow behind me again, trusting that I would be able to get things worked out.  And as I looked back behind me to ensure that I had everyone (the habits of a lifetime do not die easily) it made me smile to see them behind me again... my ducklings.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Strong Tides

The waves have been big this week,  probably due to the storms that we have had. Sometimes rough, sometimes just closer together than we are used to, we jump and dive and are occasionally rolled over and over to emerge sputtering and wiping our eyes.

Russ had not been in the water until today. He hurt his leg badly in the airport last Tuesday and has worried that the waves were too much for him. This afternoon he decided to give it a try and we started walking together through the long shallows toward the breaking waves. One of the kids called to me and I walked back out of the water to see what they needed.  A few minutes later I went back into the water walking towards Russ, but the pull of the current toward the east was so strong that I literally couldn't get to where he was.  Before I was able to make my way to him he had decided that the waves were still too strong and his leg was hurting and he went back to his chair.

While I was struggling and straining against the current trying to get to Russ I thought that it was a perfect representation of some parts of my life.  Sometimes I feel like I am straining against the current to get to Russ.  Sometimes I feel like I am working against the current to be productive, or to accomplish a difficult goal.

In the future when I recognize that feeling I need to remember the things I realized today.  That maybe I just need to wait until the current weakens a little.  That perhaps I need to walk out of the water and start again from somewhere else so that I'm not working against the water.  And that no matter how it feels, the difficulty of that moment isn't going to last forever.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

This place, these people, this week

The Place
How could we know (not ever having considered that North Carolina even had a coastline) when we moved here that one of our favorite things about the state would come to be the beaches?  Uncrowded and peaceful, these barrier islands would provide the perfect vacation escape every year as well as many day trips throughout the years.

In 1997 we celebrated our 10th anniversary by renting one side of Big Bertha, a beach house at Emerald Isle owned by our neighbors.  The next year we came with friends for a week in the fall and a tradition began.

This year is perhaps the 14th year that we have vacationed at Big Bertha. We know and love the house as if it were our own.  It's hard to escape the reality that with another marriage we will probably have grown out of Big Bertha. (No, that is not an announcement, and notice the 'probably'--saying even that is difficult.). Last year we didn't know we could come to the beach until later in the year and we couldn't get both sides, so we ended up somewhere else.  That's probably not a bad thing, now we know that we can still have a great week in a different house.  But our hearts will always love Big Bertha.

The People
We first came to Big Bertha with old friends.  They loved it so much that they still came the year we couldn't come because the triplets had just been born.  Then they were unexpectedly unable come come the next year.  I went through the ward directory, determined that I would find someone to come and rent the other side so that we wouldn't have to share the hot tub with strangers.  When I got to the Rs I saw the name of a newer family in the ward that we had enjoyed getting to know and I emailed to ask if they were interested. 

They accepted and a great friendship began.  Throughout the years we have done far more than vacation together: we have shared meals, holidays, celebrations, temple trips, weddings, and always the most interesting conversations.  Our children have grown up together and we have supported each other through some of life's really difficult experiences. 

We lost so much that was precious to us when we moved, but their friendship has remained a constant. In the last 2 years we have also had a Southern Utah vacation and a Christmas reunion, showing that although the beach is our favorite place, anywhere that we are together is wonderful.

Friendships are so tricky.  They ebb and flow with life's changes and challenges.  Sometimes even the best of friends don't vacation well together. I *know* how rare and wonderful this is.  

This week
On Facebook recently I saw a meme: "Live your life so that you don't need a vacation.". That's one of those things that sounds terrific but doesn't square up with the reality of our life, especially when this is our vacation.  We talk about this week All. Year. Long.  

Can you imagine how I feel to think back to that day with the ward list?  What if I'd chosen differently? I could never have imagined this outcome, but as I sit here at the end I of Day 1 of #RRbeach15, I feel so grateful that it all worked out the way it did.

That we are here this week,  in this place, with these people.