I’m sorry but I can’t stay here.

Do you ever have those moments as a parent where you give in, and throw caution to the wind?

Where you say, to heck with the evening routine, the weather is great, so go ahead, kids, play outside with the garden hose until it’s dark. 

And then shortly thereafter, you come to regret that moment?

That was me last week.

I had an epiphany during the hour and fifteen minutes since I had decided to tell three smiling faces that yes, they could put on their bathing suits, and get good and muddy in the backyard. I realized (much too late) that I should have probably just stuck with our normal routine.

Because then I had three wild children stuffed in the same bathtub fifteen minutes past when they are supposed to be in bed on a normal school night. All I could hear were their squeals and the torrents of water slopping over the sides of the tub and on to the bathroom floor with each passing minute.

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I had stupidly sat down for more than six minutes and gotten myself comfortable, and therefore couldn’t bring myself to get up and wipe soap through three heads of hair. 

I immediately regretted my decision. 

Well, I didn’t ENTIRELY regret it, but I had a severe change of heart right around when I started being eaten alive by mosquitos. Which was also about the time my oldest child inadvertently sprayed with me with the hose. For the second time in twenty minutes.

I used to do this on the regular. I’d say to heck with our daily schedule, and just let my kids play until they were so tired they wobbled a bit as they walked. Then I’d throw those babies in the bath tub, and let them float around until all of the suds disappeared, and the water turned a very questionable color.

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But they were preoccupied. They were both happy. And I could sit for a moment and breathe and be a spectator because what else did they need but eight inches of water and a few cheap rubber ducks?

Then two babies turned into three, and tiny squirming bodies grew out to be lanky bean poles. Then one kid wanted to only take showers, and the other didn’t want her bath disturbed by the third (feral but cute) child who also has a high probability of going number two in the tub. Nobody is ever particularly thrilled to bathe with her. She wears her scarlet P well, though.

So my simple bath routine eventually grew into three separate bath routines. Because of course it did. 

Now, here they were. For the last time, these three were in the tub together in our home on a weeknight. Life was humming along as it should. Only it wasn’t really.

We are moving next week. As in seven days from the moment I started hammering out this post while one kid is distracted, the other lazily waking up from her nap, and the third on a car ride with her Grandma. 

We are leaving this house. This house where my husband and I made three babies, and where our hearts grow about ten times in size. Where we put more sweat equity into remodeling these four walls over the last decade than most folks do in their homes over their whole lives. 

For the last time, my babies played while squished together in one tub and soaked every inch of the bathroom. The bathroom that was once orange. Now it’s gray. Their new one will have beige tiles. I’m sure the floors will get puked on and sopping wet just the same as this one, but it won’t actually be the same as this bathroom. 

I have tried and failed miserably to find the words to lovingly close off this chunk of my life before tonight. To get a place where I feel like I won’t be split in two when we leave.

I am eternally grateful to our home, even if it doesn’t have adequate closet space like the new one will have. Even if it doesn’t have a playroom for these kids to destroy like the new one will have. Even if it doesn’t have a mudroom like the new one will have. 

The day we worked out the contract with will-be buyer of this home, my heart caught in my throat because it was just then, after we had signed our names one more time, and solidified that we are in fact doing this, we aren’t staying here, it got so real.

There is so much to leave behind that can’t fit into boxes.

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My red living room. My green kitchen that was once yellow. How I miss that yellow. How I will always miss the first color I ever chose in any house I ever owned. 

The growth chart on the walls that measures the tops of our littles heads.

The hand prints in some places covered over with fresh paint, in others not.

My son’s Optimus Prime sticker on the outside of his bedroom door.

All fifteen of the pine wooden steps on our staircase that I have tripped on far too many times to count.

It’s been ten years, but I feel like we grew a lifetime in these walls.

And really, we did.

We brought three babies home to our two sweet, and now gone, California doggies. We’ve sat many an evening in the backyard until the sun set and the trees were alive with cicadas. We’ve rocked a thousand miles on our front porch, a cold beer in hand, the American Flag fluttering overhead protectively. And even more miles put in to the glider rocker in the corner of what was a nursery, rocking babies until they hushed and gave up. Babies that don’t fit in cribs anymore.

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I’ve worked so hard here, standing in front of a sink, a stove, a washing machine, a crying child. These walls saw me angry, frustrated, anxious, broken. But hopefully these walls saw me, at least in part, turn into the person I’m gonna be when I grow up. They have certainly seen me pry permanent markers out of the hands of toddlers and catch puke in my hands and laugh at babies who danced naked in the kitchen.

And then there is my husband.

This house is a love letter from him to all of us, to me. How sometimes I wish he was better with words because I want sonnets, dammit. But how incredible his wordless magnum opus has been to me. To us.

He painted the walls in our bedroom the color I chose because we both liked it enough, but really it was because he loves me. Or one of the dozens of times he has crawled in the dirt in the cellar underneath of this house to fix frozen pipes in the winter, to rewire a few things that needed fixing (shhh, don’t tell).

When he demoed each room, wall by wall, and rehung plaster on the ceilings above his head while his shoulders ached. Standing with arms outstretched on our old metal ladder well into the hours of the night. Hanging brand new maple cabinets in the kitchen, laying down tile flooring diagonally. Refinishing our hardwood floors, and fixing a hole where someone had put their foot through it an hour before we had it appraised after he had already spent fifteen months worth of evenings and weekends working like his feet were to the fire.

Sweat equity doesn’t even remotely cover what he has given us over the last ten years, the work never ending, always something to mend or fix. 

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So now, here we are. 

With three kids spilling out of the bathtub. They just don’t fit in there anymore. And I said it to myself:

I’m sorry, but we can’t stay here. 

We just don’t fit anymore. 

I’d like to think we grew a thousand lifetimes in these walls. If they really could talk, they’d tell you that the people here were mostly happy, mostly okay. And I’d also like to think we mostly accumulated the things that matter, not just a bunch of stuff to look after and be stuck with. 

I know they say that it’s the people that make a home, and I believe that to be true.

But actually, it’s the scuffs on the walls and sharing of cramped spaces, the painting of rooms together and removing six layers of wall paper while you mutter curse words under your breath that make the people who make a home. It’s working for something when you want it so bad you can taste it, and when you want so badly to give it to other people that the urge to push through aches in your chest. 

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The work we do makes us who we are. The things we make is really the making of us. We grew out of this home, because we grew up here into the people we want to be.

I’ll miss this tiny town. There is nothing like walking to the post office in bare feet. I’ll miss the way that everything is quiet by midnight, and how every person I see waves and smiles. I’ll miss not being able to wander across the street for a cup of coffee with my favorite neighbor.

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I don’t know what it’s going to be like to wake up some place new. The cardinals and squirrels outside of the window won’t be my cardinals and squirrels. The trees will be different. The noise outside will be that of cars driving past, not just cicadas and bluebirds.

Usually, it’s calamity that is the catalyst for change. When we sign our names that last time, on the day we set our keys in someone else’s hands, we know that we are changing not because of tragedy or sorrow.

We are upending all that we know so that we can set our roots down even further.

I know that life will inevitably grow more complicated the older our children get. 

But for a time, we were here. And things were simple. And it was so, so good.

I get now that leaving here doesn’t have to mean it wasn’t good. The only thing I’m sorry about is that we can’t stay. 

 

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But I’m glad we stuck around for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Winter Days – It’s gon’ snow!

Here is how I feel about winter:

Once January is over, without any major event or hub-bub, it’s over. For me, it’s over. Winter has had its chance to make a mark and if it fails to do so that’s just to bad. You’ll just have to wait until next year, winter.

Every. Year. This happens every year.

And every year, I forget. 

I forget about the proverbial heck that is known as February. 

Most of our major storms the last handful of years, perhaps longer than that even, have erupted in February. One year, we had two blizzards within a week’s time. But every year, I forget. I think January is the most difficult month to muddle through.

I stare out my window, and I yell like Lt. Dan from Forrest Gump at the sky, “IS THAT ALL YOU GOT?!? Do your WORST!!” Because, in my mind, if it’s going to be bitterly cold, then it had better be snowing. Or doing something other than just being cold outside and raining.

And winter, being the raging meanie that she is, takes all of those words I shout at her and sits on them. And waits. Until February.

Until I can see spring on the horizon, ground-hog shadows be darned. She’s tricky and calculating. She will even throw in a handful of days that hover around fifty degrees to get us used to the idea of warmer weather. To throw us off. To stir up the germs again. To raise the ants from the dead.

Before the temperatures plunge right back to near zero degrees, and all of a sudden a winter storm is approaching within the next 24 hours. 

By February, I’m over reading weather reports. For one thing, who wants to see bad news, repeated over and over again? Why do I want to remind myself that for the next eight days, it’s forecasted to be 13 degrees outside and cloudy? That’s like asking why I wouldn’t want to punch myself in the neck multiple times in a row.

I dislike listening to the weatherman drone on because the weatherman (lady? person? #pc) droned on and on in January whenever there was ANY chance of snow or icy precipitation. They spent the month making mountains out of proverbial mole hills for ratings. Facebook eats it up. Twitter eats it up. 

Every winter “event” becomes a Snowpocalypse. Or a polar vortex. Or global warming. Or the macarena. Or something. Another form of entertainment for our consumption. Because now even the weather has to entertain us.

Every weather anomaly must be the worst ever, the coldest ever, the most snow ever. Because we need to have meterologists standing out in the middle of a hurricane, telling us that it’s raining sideways for us to know that hurricanes are bad.

By January, I’ve wished that all of the meteorologists in the DelMarVa region would just drop off the face of the Earth for repeatedly getting our hopes and nerves up and then dashing them with a wink and a “just kidding.” 

So I quit checking for snow. I quit listening. 

And then I find out that within 36 hours, snow is coming. Which leaves me unprepared. 

Because I have to bake cookies when it’s going to snow. I must have something simmering in the crock pot. There are parameters and expectations to this entire operation or things will go south very quickly. And I must get myself in a zen like mindset so that I can be prepared to be cooped up with the littles.

They’re great kids, truly. But when the wind was blowing hard yesterday, and temperatures were below zero, and it was a day where it was genuinely not an exaggeration to use the term “chilled to the bone”, they insisted that they still needed to go outside.

Thankfully, they could attach themselves to my husband who was shoveling off the steps. This after he was underneath of the house with a hair dryer, trying to thaw out the pipes that had frozen in our downstairs bathroom. Poor man.

I had to hurry and dress them while warning them that yes, it was going to be very cold. But kids can’t comprehend that. They KNOW it’s cold outside. It’s winter after all. So when mom says “very cold,” they shrug and thinking that it just can’t be as bad as all that. 

WRONG. 

They were back, beating at my door within ten minutes, announcing that they were too cold to play outside.

Because nobody listens to mom. 

The best that I can do is to hope that maybe, MAYBE my husband’s work will close for the day. Because people in these parts, no, we aren’t the best equipped at handling travel in the snow. And people HOPE that it will be a doozy of a storm. In fact, that’s all that they will talk about, as they wring their hands with glee.

Because once a season, we love having the excuse of being snowed in and stuck at home in our reclining chair, the television on in the background, snoozing under a blanket. We love to have a reason to put work aside for the day. It’s the unspoken social contract of the middle Eastern Shore. 

How I miss the chance to have that happen. Instead, my children don’t seem to get that snow days should be an exception, and mommy and daddy are allowed to laze about on the couch, watching Downton Abbey. It’s supposed to be a day for hibernation.

This does not compute. 

Eventually, it will warm up. And there will be humidity. And horse and deer flies. And ants in my kitchen. And hornets flying about my yard. And mosquitos lurking and waiting in the evening. And days where the heat stops the clock and the minutes tick by as the world melts. Literally.

And I will wait for that to pass, too. I will close my eyes and think of autumn. Of leaves changing and hot chocolate and pumpkins and crispness in the air. And those humidity-free, breezy days will burn away into winter again, and I’ll be right back here. Telling you all how cold it is.

At least you can hope, right?

Each Day a Page

My mind has been everywhere this week.

Baby’s coming. The boy started kindergarten. The girl is potty trained. I have to paint my kitchen (I know that seems slightly more trivial than the other stuff, but just hear me out.) 

I can’t decide what to do with my kitchen. It’s yellow now and it needs a fresh coat of paint and love, and I can’t decide if I should update it and simply paint it yellow (albeit, a different yellow) like it’s always been. Or if I should welcome something new and try something else. 

But…the kitchen has always been yellow. But now…we have options. Now things can be different. But do I want it to be? The kids have only ever known yellow in the kitchen. It was the first color I picked for our new house seven years ago. What if I paint it green or blue and it doesn’t feel the same??

And, really, does everything have to change right now?

It’s all looking different. All of a sudden. 

Life. 

It seems like all of a sudden all of the pieces shifted. Into place? Or out of sorts? I’m not sure. 

Do you ever feel like that as a parent? Heck, as a person? Things suddenly change and you can’t tell if it’s wrong or if this is the way that it was always supposed to be. 

I’m trying to grab all of these moments and hold them and not let them go. I’ve been staring at my children lately. Just staring and watching and trying to take this mental picture that I can keep and always have. I have to have it. 

I have to remember how amazing they are. Right now. 

Soon mommy and daddy welcome baby number three. They’re excited. I am, too. I remember this small season of mourning when I was preparing to welcome baby number two. I shed tears. Because it wouldn’t be just the three of us anymore. It wouldn’t be just my son and I every day. We would become a team of three. Those little nondescript moments of just the two of us would become a thing of the past. What if it all didn’t feel the same?

I was excited, but I knew that we were leaving something behind. I knew that things would get just a bit more complicated. A bit trickier. And, if I’m being honest, a bit louder. 

Now I feel the same way, all over again. The boy is at school so it’s been just the girl and I. And we have had some fun. I brush her curls and smell her and just hold her close every chance I get. Because she’s about to become a big sister. Her life is going to change and she’s not even aware of it. She will have new responsibilities as she grows. I want her to remember that she was treasured. That she won’t ever be just a middle child to us. That I saw, I see, HER.

Even worse, soon she’ll go to school eventually. And I’ll be down to one again.

I’m back and forth with all of it. At first, I didn’t know what to expect about having more than one child around the house. Now, I’m used to it and all of the chaos that accompanies it and all of the messes and stains and handprints on windows. Now, it feels like that’s just the way that it has always been. There are supposed to be Cheerio’s all over my kitchen floor and toys in my bathtub. Right?

I feel in some way like we get these chances in life, and we only get them for a season and we have to make the most of them. Only we don’t always know that they are chances, they don’t feel like opportunities. They feel like chores or tasks or just a plain old Monday. We don’t even realize the gifts that we are given.

I had just my son for a time. My chance to savor him and love him. Then I had two to love and kiss on. Now it becomes three. I only get so many chances to get it right. To make it perfect. To make it count. Before it all changes again. 

And while those changes aren’t things we should necessarily mourn, instead we should see them as something we prepare ourselves for and are being prepared for, it’s still a host of question marks looming in the air. 

Is this life really mine? Am I on my way to baby number three? To a new decade of life? Really? 

My life doesn’t always feel like my own. It feels like I’m wearing a pair of shoes that I really like, but they’re just a size too big. Not quite right. Or maybe it’s all alright and I’m just on my way to the person and mother that I’m supposed to be. Maybe our family is on its way to the place that’s for us. Maybe all of that other stuff just led me here, to this spot. 

And, seriously, can you all offer some painting advice for my kitchen? Oak cabinets, neutral counter tops. Go. 

I remind myself that we are training, preparing to let go. That all things are a part of a season, and with each season is give and taken, want and plenty. Every day, whether we realize it or not, we are building something, crafting something. More importantly, the Father is at work in us and is crafting in us a story. He writes it, not us. I just feel like Piglet on Winnie the Pooh sometimes, on a very blustery day. But, I’m not. I am His treasured child. His wanted child. His loved child. I’m not some myopic, shriveling thing to be tossed to and fro. I am His.

And He is writing my story. 

Now if He could give me an inclination about this whole paint color thing…