Saturday, August 2, 2014

Gathering Seashells

We took the boys to the beach for the first time this summer, just a day after Hurricane Arthur made landfall in North Carolina. They'd been swimming in lakes and pools before, so it's not like they'd never seen lots of water in one place. But the ocean is just so very immense, and so very loud. Nick spent the first few minutes with his fingers in his ears, and was highly suspicious of the waves in general throughout the trip. So on the first day, we went for a walk and looked for shells.

Here we are, pre-shell-hunt. It was very windy!
He really wanted to find a snail shell. We found a bunch of other shells. Small shells, mostly. Every one was fascinating to him.

There were many piles of shells like this one. We spent quite a while poring over them, looking at the different textures and colors. 

We came away with a nice pile of shells. To our eyes, they were magnificent treasures. 

And we did find that snail shell.

Summer Thoughts

Ah, summer. For the first time in 3.5 years, I am almost beginning to remember what summer should feel like. Until now, summer has meant more work than the school year, in some ways—more logistics, more exhaustion, more efforts to be patient. Moving last summer surely didn't help. But now here we are, in a place with real summer. Thunderstorms. Cicadas during the day. Crickets and treefrogs at night. Fireflies. Katydids. And mosquitos.

Three-and-a-half is not an easy age: nobody *wants* to take a nap anymore, no matter how tired he is. An increased ability to explain one's emotions in words means tantrums have been mostly supplanted by whining, a far more difficult thing to endure. But is easier so far than two-and-a-half.

Besides, we've discovered the swimming pool.

We swim almost every day. Here's what's so great about the pool: I love swimming and always have. So when I'm in the water with my boys, I am totally happy. They are also totally happy. Never mind the chaos of getting from pool to home. The hour or so we are at the pool in the water is total bliss.

This summer, as they (mostly) play together happily, and as I'm (mostly) able to let go of the idea that naps will happen daily, we (mostly) have fun.

Sometimes, we actually go places and do things.

But not often. It's too hot for the park, and too crowded at most of the indoor places we like to go—even the library is packed. One nice side effect of still feeling new to a place is the luxury of just staying home.

Sometimes fun means lining up crayons in the couch cushions (only permissible on the junky old couch).

Sometimes we check out what the back porch brings us.

Sometimes fun means painting. Sometimes the paint doesn't stay on the paper.

Sometimes we venture far afield. That's gotten much easier, too.

This summer has been so lovely. But part of its loveliness is where summer falls in the rhythm of the year—it is so lovely because it is so fleeting. I wish it were longer. I am loving this time with my boys. And I'm looking forward to seeing what this fall brings.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

In This Moment

Some days are hard. Sometimes, it's hard to be at peace in the moment. Some days, there's one meltdown after another. Some days, I'm exhausted and just want everyone to be quiet. 

Eno River
So often, in the grind of work and tending little ones and tending to a home and adults who need feeding, too, it's easy to get caught up in what isn't going right—no nap, not enough time for yourself, not enough time to do everything, no way to do anything with two cranky three-year-olds. And then there are other days, days when even though one kid doesn't nap and it's hot and I'm tired we somehow manage to putter along happily all afternoon. Those days, I'm living as much in the moment as my kids are. I'm able to feel contented with this moment, with this life, with this place. 

What happens when he's having a hard time sleeping.
Usually, that feeling of ease emerges when we're able to spend the afternoon oscillating between backyard and kitchen, when I'm able to accomplish something I need to do, but not under pressure to do it all. When I'm able to pay attention to what the boys need, able to be unruffled. The backyard is a naturally peaceful place, full of birds chirping, soothing breezes and an unending variety of creepy-crawly life. 

Checking out some worms.
I have a master plan to plant a bunch of stuff in the yard, which is at this moment a total blank slate. But a knee injury has had me sidelined since February, and while I'm almost all healed, I'm still not up for digging a bunch of grass up for hours every week. 

Yep. The whole yard looks just like this.
Still, dirt is good. Soil on your hands is grounding (ahem). I want to say something profound about how slowing down and working with the earth and watching plants grow makes me a better mom and a better person. But I've kind of said that already, before kids. So, I found a few pots at garage sales, and spray-painted an old file cabinet that our neighbor was giving away. The afternoons that we've spent loading dirt into pots, planting, and watering have been absolute bliss.

Not shown: sleeping brother.
We dug together, planted together, and now I look outside and can enjoy the sight of things growing.

Gardening with my kids is much less stressful than cooking with them. No matter how patient I try to be, I can only cook with the boys about once a week before I get frustrated with the legos in the batter and the hands in the raw meat. Outside, there isn't much harm they can do aside from too-vigorously separating root balls or overwatering. Outside, where nothing can break or spoil, not really, is heaven. 

Maybe it's their wonder at the green and growing world.
I am happy to make the shift from grass to garden one day at a time, to stretch out the hours my boys and I spend digging and patting and tending and exploring. I miss our old garden, but this new space gives us the infinite promise of tomorrow's work. We have plenty to do.