Fourteen means the ripe ole age to attend church dances. I remember waiting every day of my thirteenth year to hit that milestone. It was big doin's.
Celia was excited. The dance venue was kind of a-ways-away from our house so her dad and I decided to drop her and have dinner nearby until 10:30 pickup. We pep talked her all the way. I could feel her eyes roll in the back seat darkness.
"Never turn down any boy who asks you to dance. He probably had to work up his last ounce of courage to ask you."
"Ask interesting questions about him ... like .. where do you go to school,what's your favorite color, and what kind of toothpaste do you use?"
"Remember the electric slide steps we taught you."
"It doesn't hurt to be the asker, you know, boys appreciate being asked to dance, too."
"Be sure to guard your toes at all times and don't break out into the coffee grinder ... it's so 1991."
"Your dad and I met at a church dance so, in the long run, you never know what can happen. But not yet because your 14, and we were 20, but still .. just sayin'." we teased.
Would she feel lost?
Would she hold up the wall all night?
Would she sit each slow dance watching other girls have fun and let her self esteem fail?
I walked her in because worrying got the best of me. It was packed. And loud. I offered to walk around until we found friends she knew. Bounding out of the crowded gym center, they found her first. An energetic mass of boys and girls, whisking her off, and I became obsolete in the laser, disco-ball lit darkness.
And I left her to be her own girl.
Stepping in to pick up later, I found her in the final slow dance of the evening with an awkward boy of the same age. Scintillating on the trip home, she couldn't remember his name. He was one of many who'd braved asking, she said, and how nice it had been to be surrounded by young men of similar values, just wanting to have good clean fun with no worries of attachment, pairing off, or expectations.
I remembered years passed, coming home from my own dances with girlfriend chatter in the backseat darkness over boys who I'm certain, had no idea the effect their unabashed invitations had. The romantic in me would play over and over the carefully chosen words between dance partners who's names I could not remember and I would do my own scintillating while breathlessly awaiting the next dance opportunity.
And it hit me hard that she is growing up and one day all too soon, she will not just be mine anymore.
I feel really guilty. I'm only just writing about Newel's March 26th birthday. A birthday that got a little bit passed over.
We turned our Friday night date into a sort of celebration but the actual day, Saturday, kind of got blown. Some Saturdays take us in all different directions caring for church (and other) biz, and this last one ... his birthday one ... he held down the fort for me. Not one complaint or reminder that it was his day.
I love him because the things that I would cry over, are no big deal and he helps me see that.
I love him because he's my number one supporter in everything.
I love him because he over looks my crazy inadequacies.
I love him because he makes me better than I am.
And I watch the clock every day for the time of day that he'll walk through the door and our night routine ensues ending in just the company of my very best friend.
And I love kids who can make a cake and banner, take a picture and sing to make their dad feel special even without a mom.
Happy Birthday, Newel. Even when I'm not there, you do come first in my heart.
Ordinary spring break day. Sleep in, eggs for breakfast, kids left in pj's as I made a quick church related visit for primary, return to kids still in pj's, dishes on the counter, a deadline approaching to meet up with friends at a local museum, quick post as kids scramble to get ready, fast chore requirements (not nearly enough to right a house) lunch thrown together, out the door battle ... dishes still stacked on the counter. Some spring break days are like that.
Leaving the museum in the afternoon, the fire station next door flew open and all firetrucks pealed out. We waited then followed at a distance. My son pointed out smoke on the horizon. "Must be some house fire." we remarked. Police and fire traffic thickened nearing our neck of the woods and my knuckles whitened on the steering wheel as I tried to focus on driving while watching the red orange glow in the direction of our home.
I grabbed the cell phone and found numerous messages from neighbors and friends, namely a frantic husband texting "Forest fire, Get the kids out". I called. He had rushed home from work when he couldn't find us and was loading files and other needs. The fire was growing and the winds kept changing but evacuation hadn't reached us yet and there was still time.
"Should we pray?" asked the kids. "Yes pray." I said as police waved us through when I pointed indicating the direction of our home.
Minute to minute updates played from our computer stream as I walked around the house with what felt like changed visual sensory perception. Room by room, everything was expendable. What goes in a pinch? What sum up a life?
Easy. A box of pictures before digital camera. Home videos captured but seldom watched. Framed cross stitches sewn in a great grandmother's hand. A handful of homemade mother's day cards. A baptismal dress from 1981 and another, more recent, worn by three little girls. Locks from first haircuts. Newborn hospital bracelets and ultrasounds. Letters from a mother to a homesick college freshman daughter. Journals upon journals. A father and son's scouting accomplishments. A few pressed flowers from a wedding bouquet...
And we waited with baited breath. Land line clear for a reverse 911 telling us to evacuate. Cell phone going, accounting for other church members in the area. Making lists of neighbors out of town for spring break, whose livestock would need help in the event.
Kids were sent out into the eerie orange sun glow and campfire smell to load poultry in cages and place in the garage should we need to leave in a pinch. I looked around my kitchen and paused to load the morning's pile of abandoned dishes, eclectic mixture of thoughts running through my head.
You really can't take it with you. Any of it. In my husband's manlike disconnected expression over memories I was cataloging to save, he stopped me with assurances that every memory was safely tucked inside each of us. He was right. It really is.
My mother's wisdom was sage. You should always wear clean undies in the instance today might involve in unexpected hospital visit. Likewise ... do the dishes. No one wants to envision returning to a charbroiled house where fire forensics note the dishes weren't done.
Be prepared. Of children sent to rooms to grab what they considered irreplaceable, my oldest daughter came down from her room with only her scriptures, journal and young women's personal progress. She later remarked that she felt guilty that her tithing from some previous babysitting was stuck in the cover of the journal unpaid. She'd not make the mistake of a time lapse again, she said, and she really made me think.
The wind changed blowing the fire back on itself making containment more possible. Unexpected snow flurries fell to finish off a day that had otherwise been clear. The wet air aided the water from helicopter drops. We heard 30% contained ..... 50% contained .... and finally released chickens and closed our eyes with shoes by the door at 70% contained. Kissing children goodnight, I heard "We prayed for this, Mom."
Today, I think I'll put the memories in the corner of my closet, closer by should I ever need to grab and go. Today, I think I'll dejunk a little more of what is unimportant. Today, I think I'll be grateful for firefighters in three counties. And today, I think I'll put a camping chair in the yard and enjoy more driveway chalk drawings. Because today is measured by memories not the out of breath-ness of living.
March is well on it's way and I've been thinking about what I could add to the last two month's goals. They are a work in progress needing progressively more work. This month being half gone already, I want to add reinforcement to these.
Last night as I waited for my husband to complete a bit of work so that we could spend some kid-less time together, I read about this woman's struggles here. It made me crawl into bed and soak in the warmth of the man laying next to me, listening carefully to his even breathing as he easily drifted off to sleep.
This morning I read this on my iPhone, perched on the end of the tub, warming my feet in the water as my baby splashed in the bubbles. Putting my unimportant phone away, I promised myself to never again hand her over to an older sibling to take up to bed for convenience sake while I finish some task that could wait.
My husband and I filled last weekend with many a parenting discussion in our free time together. In one such discussion, I lamented that I had a vision in my head of evenings filled with tidy home, dinner done, family gathered safely in, children pj-ed and settling for bed, a story all cuddled under a blanket, a scripture followed by a prayer and sleepy children drifting upstairs with mother following poised with kisses and a listening ear over tales of the day.
We laughed. Not our kids. Heaven forbid, we should call a close to the day when there's still fun to be had. "Time for bed" might as well be translated "time for a party".
Yesterday afternoon was hectic torture born gracefully by all. I piggybacked ortho and doctor appointments in the hopes of one trip the distance we must drive for all the children's needs. It took me an hour to hit three schools and pull five children for our exodus. Two orthodontist visits, a swing in for two haircuts, two doctor visits and an unexpected trip to a lab for two blood draws found us shaken-if-not-stirred just a little too close to dinner time and a long way from home. "Okay, everybody breathe," I said to the backseat, "it we can all take a deep breath, I think we can survive the all-you-can-eat salad bar at Jason's deli. What do you think?" And our brink of despair turned to cause for celebration. We cheerfully piled plates of favorites and cleared our full monies worth, talking and laughing while wishing our dad weren't working late and could join us.
Celia loves shirts with sayings. This is one of her favorites. It makes me think every time I see her wear it. Life's not full of perfection. I'd like for it to be. Truth is, it's not. But, it can be full of reasons to celebrate. Kids who love being together so much that even though it's bedtime, they see a party ready to burst. Moments that are frustrating can be turned with even the simplest of celebrations. A stop in at a park, a walk down the road, a sucker at the bank, a private moment with mom.
The women linked above have experienced the unimaginable. They've branded me with a reminder that life is fleeting. Celebrate it. Make every moment cause for celebration. Because today ... those moments are free. Keep them.
Even before the birds are out, the buds appear, or the grass sends shoots ... spring appears in signs of bikes littering the driveway, leaned precariously against the car on all sides, and the musical ring of voices playing "highway".
Some don't follow the rules of the road. And it's time to dust off the helmet laws, I think.
I know home school moms. I'm related to home school moms. I'm told if I were a home school mom, my days could be filled with fun outings spent with my children and peppered with learning experiences.
Last Friday broke into the seventies, something we've not seen for what seems like awhile. All but one child had a teacher work day and so, I pulled that one to join the others and we played hooky. It was as close to perfect as a day can get. A day that would almost convince me were I not a realist with a sure knowledge deep down where I live that days like these are preciously rare ... into being a home school mom.
But I ain't that brave and playin' hooky is probably funner than home schoolin' anyhows.
We tried a zoo we'd never been too in Colorado Springs. We spent the first twenty minutes just soaking in everything there was to see at the entrance.
And got seriously hung up at the first exhibit. These guys were amazing and incredibly intelligent.
I just love the concern on this one's face. Absolutely no idea why Eliza is less than enthralled but totally compassionate about her feelings. Can't you tell?
Then we spend another forty five at the second exhibit. Meerkat taunting is our specialty apparently.
See? We're seriously easily entertained. The kids called this one "Family prayer and back massages" as these two in front just continued to kneel there motionlessly and the two in the back were playing our family's favorite game -- massage parlor. Usually one coincides with the other at our house and really jams up the bedtime routine. To see it in action in a monkey cage made us laugh and laugh.
I do think this guy was trying to attract Janie in that blue sweater. Boy, his colors changed continually as he turned in the sunlight. Stunning.
Petting zoo with the typical chicken barnyard. I don't think you were really supposed to touch the animals as they were all pretty skittish. Wouldn't you be if you were living in a petting zoo? Still, my kids insisted on teaching these chickens some manners and letting them know that there's love to be had.
We never made it around the entire zoo. Too many animals to taunt see. Not to mention, our own entertainment factor can sometimes overshadow the zoo's.
These two yelled "Here Kitty kitty" at this guy until I was certain he would have done anything to get through those bars and snack on the bones of small children.
And just some favorites because days like these shouldn't be forgotten.