Waves

beach waves

We took our girls to the beach for the first time this past weekend.  They loved everything about it, but this was not the beach trip that any of us had envisioned several months ago when we began planning it.  

As we passed the pastel cottages lining the water on Sunday, I imagined which one my parents might have rented for the week.  We were traveling to the same Texas coast on the same dates that had been neatly penned into my planner since February, but we were not going for a carefree beach trip.  We were there for my grandmother's funeral.  

Kids don't understand the ramifications of death.  The main thing that my almost-four-year-old was able to wrap her little head around when I told her of Nana's passing was that we would no longer be going to the beach house which we had recently spoken of so much.  Though our time in Texas was limited, my husband and I decided that we would try to arrange a quick trip to Galveston for the girls on the morning before the funeral.

***

Caroline and I were eating lunch on our towels when I noticed the water slowly encroaching on our space.  Looking out to where Piper was riding on her uncle's shoulders, the waves were visibly more threatening there, too.  A storm was rolling in, and we had barely ten minutes to throw our gear in a bag and rush to the car before the rain fell down in torrents.

***

Grief hits you in waves like that: It creeps up quietly, hardly noticeable at first, but then its power unleashes in a burst of unstoppable fury, sometimes at the most unpredictable moments.

As my dad says, Nana was "the glue that held this family together."  She was the strongest woman I've ever known, outliving two husbands and the doctor's grim prognosis of life on earth with cancer ... by three years.  Gosh, she was feisty, and I adored her for it. 

Naturally, I was sad at her funeral, but a good portion of the actual service was consumed by my futile attempts to keep my toddler under control.  I had expected to cry there, and I did, but I did not anticipate remaining largely unfazed until our way home to Oklahoma.

Children can be a welcome distraction to difficult events, but they also momentarily halt the grieving process.  They continue to be needy while you're trying to be sad.  Both girls crashed in the car after the funeral, and in my first moments of quiet since Nana's passing four days prior, I felt everything at once.

I had slept in my grandmother's old room all weekend, but only in the silence, between two little nappers, did the most formidable wave of grief attack.  Tears flowed like the rainwater at the beach as I thought about all of my grandparents finally losing the battle to cancer, about my dad losing his mom, about not sharing the same birthday with my Nana anymore, about how trips to Houston will likely be less frequent and will definitely be different ... about how the hardest days are yet to come.

girls Galveston beach

"Mom," Piper asked, "Why are you crying?"

"Because Nana died, Sweetie." 

"Is she in heaven already?" 

"Yeah, baby." 

"Then you don't need to be sad!" 

I wish it was that simple.  

Sometimes, I wish that grief was more like the hurricanes that hit Galveston with their vast but quick and calculable destruction, and less like the random waves that eternally ebb and flow.  

I wish that heaven wasn't so far away.

A Quiver Full of Arrows: Thoughts on Family Size

I'm not sure we even made it out of our wedding reception without some form of the infamous question, "So, have you thought about kids yet?"

Well, to be honest, I've been married for approximately three hours, so no, all I have been thinking about is taking off this stifling dress and sitting on some beach somewhere with my guy.  

Then, before Piper's adoption was finalized, "(When) do you plan to adopt again?"

Maybe that will be up for discussion when my kid actually has my last name?

Or, in the hospital when Caroline was one day old, "Do you think you'll have more?"  

Right now, I can't even walk correctly, and my baby is making her existence known to everyone on the third floor.  Do I think I'll have more?  I think for now, I'll have more Phenergan and maximum strength Tylenol, please and thank you.

People mostly mean well or are trying to make conversation when they ask these types of questions, and I'm rarely ever offended by them.  

Timing is a funny thing, though.  

For example, it is completely appropriate to ask a lady if she's pregnant when she clearly is 9+ months along but a total disaster to ask her the same question if you're not positive that the extra pounds around her midsection are, in fact, a baby and not a burrito.

Likewise, it may not be the ideal time to ask a couple about children at their wedding, (or even five years into marriage when they don't have any children but, unbeknownst to you, have been trying for months).  In premarital counseling, we discussed having several children, but then we actually got married and had one ... and quickly reconsidered.

I have often felt guilty about not wanting to have a billion kids.  

My friend wants to have 4-5 children, and she would be a rockstar at it.  She recently posted a picture on Instagram with this caption: 

"Stepped in to start laundry.  Stepped out to find the baby feasting on marigolds and the toddler dumping water on his brother's head.  And somehow the underwear came off in the process too. Haha."  

There would be no laughing or posting on Instagram if this happened in my house.  There would probably be tears and time-outs, because I'm the most type-A mom you'll ever meet and my friend is a laid-back gem of a parent.  

I've wanted to be a perfect mom to many children, but I am coming to realize that being a good mother to two is okay.

"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth.  How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them!" (Psalm 127:4-5)

This verse is often used as reasoning for having 12 children, and maybe it implies that, but perhaps it doesn't.  The Bible is unmistakably clear about some things but slightly ambiguous about others.  I may get to heaven one day and realize that I was totally off base on this (in which case He would still let me in!), but I do not believe that "a quiver full" designates a specific number.  Otherwise, the verse would say, "Blessed is the man whose quiver contains ten children," which it does not.  

Perhaps people have "quivers" of varying sizes, in the same way that some humans are tall while others are short, and I have blue eyes while my husband has brown.  One way isn't inherently better than another; it's just the way we were made.  

It also may be true that certain arrows take up a considerable amount of space in a quiver, while others occupy little.  In our house, we have one precious arrow who takes up most of the quiver, so I'm convinced that some parents may have five children who require limited quiver space, while others have one who leaves no room for anyone else.  And that's okay.  Parents don't get extra gold stars on their invisible badges of honor for having more kids.  I'm not better or worse than the next mom because of the amount of people who live in my house.

Here's what I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt: Today is the only guaranteed day that any of us has to love exactly the children that we've been given.  What a waste of time to spend our days in judgment over others' family sizes or in regret over our own!

I've got two sweet little arrows, and my quiver is full.  For now.  Quivers have been known to stretch.

School In This Season: Managing College with a Family and a Life

Cut me a break, please.  It was the 90s.

Cut me a break, please.  It was the 90s.

(Originally published on Blogger in December 2016)

When I was six years old, my dad graduated from college.  

He was 41.

I clearly remember Dad's graduation ceremony, partly because my little brother was complaining of a stomachache the entire time, partly because the ceremony itself was dreadfully long and boring for a first grader, and partly because I thought my dad was just so cool to be walking across the stage in a black hat and "dress".  

For years, I never knew that graduating as a 41-year-old was not exactly "normal".  I always just knew that Daddy worked tirelessly for our family.  He was, and is still, the only one of his four siblings to graduate from college, just as my granddad was one of a select few in his generation to do the same.

I went to college because my granddad started a college fund for both my brother and me when we were infants, and this savings account grew until I was 18 so that my parents paid relatively little to help me attend the University of Oklahoma.

I never took out student loans.  I realize that, in today's world, that is nothing short of a miracle.

I also went to college because of the legacy that my granddad left, even after his passing, and the example that my dad gave me as he completed his degree.  I honestly didn't realize that there were other options after high school, and I'm not sure that I would have considered them anyway.  

College as an 18-year-old certainly required some effort on my part, but much of my time at OU was spent playing ultimate frisbee until 2:00 a.m. and doing lunch dates in the Union.  I graduated with an excellent GPA and did not kill myself trying to do so.  My social life was rich.

Today, I'm back in school, ten years after graduation, and I am only now comprehending the many sacrifices that my dad made for our family when I was little.  He worked full-time, went to school in the evenings, and still found time to be with Tim and me.  I remember him being gone at night, but he was never absent from our lives. 

Several years ago, I started working on my master's degree at OU.  The longer I was in school, the less I felt the calling to become a reading specialist.  My original motive to pursue a higher degree was based out of a love for learning and a desire to recreate my undergrad experience. Selfishly, I wanted to boost my ego and knew that a master's degree would make me look better on paper.  In the end, those were not good enough reasons to continue.

This time around is different than when I was fresh out of high school, and it is also different than when I was working on a higher level degree.  

This time, school is for my family.

I haven't loved coming home from lab at 10:00 p.m. with studying left to do, and there are so many days when it feels impossible to hold a part-time job and make everyone stop screaming and fold the laundry and do all the things.  (I truly have no idea how single parents make that happen.)  

College isn't exactly fun this time around.

It's also expensive, and I frequently find myself questioning if all of this is worth it.  But, I keep coming back to the same answer that it is, or at least it will be.

It will be worth it when I can help my girls pay for their own college and their weddings.  

It will be worth it to have a job which allows my people to get my best instead of getting my leftovers because I gave everyone else's people my best all day.  

It will be worth it when I can say, "Yes, I will read you that book for the 47th time today because I can because it's a Tuesday and I only work three days a week."

Right now, all of those "worth its" seem forever away.  They are at least six more semesters away, to be exact.  They are coming, though, and that thought has pushed me through many a night when I would rather be home with my family than listening to another lecture about electrons and other topics which have virtually no relevance in my everyday life.  

I finished my first semester back in college with As, but my perfectionist self surprisingly would have been okay if I hadn't.  I don't need to be perfect to do well or to get accepted into the dental hygiene program (I hope!).  Sometimes, everyone's best interest is found in closing the textbook and running around in the backyard with the little people, who aren't going to be little for much longer.

 
As somewhat of a related side note, God has continued to show me grace when I've most needed it throughout the school year.  I randomly had the sweetest lab partner who became a good friend as the weeks passed.  She works, is married, has two little girls the same ages as mine, and tries to balance it all, too.  We struggled through tests together, ruined labs together, and laughed a whole lot.  This is Amanda, and she made chemistry not only bearable, but kind of fun sometimes.

As somewhat of a related side note, God has continued to show me grace when I've most needed it throughout the school year.  I randomly had the sweetest lab partner who became a good friend as the weeks passed.  She works, is married, has two little girls the same ages as mine, and tries to balance it all, too.  We struggled through tests together, ruined labs together, and laughed a whole lot.  This is Amanda, and she made chemistry not only bearable, but kind of fun sometimes.