Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Good Day

The scene:
  • Our house. It's tidy--the nightly post kids' bedtime pick-up has been done. Babies and dollies and Matchbox cars have been put to rest in their proper places, only to be disrupted in about twelve hours. The dishwasher is humming quietly, a week's worth of clothes are in the washer (and dryer).  Backpacks are sitting next to the front door, ready to be slung over backs as we hurry out the door in the morning.  Our windows are open and a cool September breeze is making our curtains waver ever so slightly.  Mason's flipping through the channels (currently landed on an old rerun of How I Met Your Mother) but I can't really hear it anyway because the buzz of crickets outside our window is so loud and somewhat distracting.  (And so is Julia's voice, calling for her dogs which have apparently, run away once again.)  We're clean and showered and well-fed and Ylang Ylang is in the diffuser helping us relax and melt into our selves (just like the Young Living brochure says it would do). 
Today has been an especially good day.  I'm not exactly sure why.  Nothing particularly incredible happened. I didn't experience anything really unusual or extraordinary.  I didn't see any long-lost friends or uncover some amazing profound quote to get me through hard times.  I didn't get anything productive accomplished, didn't do a handstand in yoga, didn't travel to an exotic place, didn't write anything worthy of publishing, didn't say anything that will forever be remembered.  Yet, tonight, as I was lying down with Anna while she drifted off to sleep, I literally was overcome with gratitude for this day.  
Tears rolled down my face as I breathed in Anna's sweet after-bath baby scent-- you know exactly what smell I'm talking about.  It's sort of citrusy and light and sweet with maybe the tiniest hint of syrup-- because someone always has syrup with breakfast.  Maybe all this gratitude "gushiness' was result of the glass of wine at dinner or the candles I burned for the first time in months...but I'm pretty sure it was more likely a result of Anna sleepily saying, "Maaaa-maaaa..... Maaaa-maaaa?  I wuv woo. I wuuuuv wooo!" as she settled into sleep.  This from the girl who refuses to say "I love you" (Wuv Woo) during the daytime hours and insists on saying "No wuv woo.  No like it.  No Mama!"

When I tiptoed out of Anna's room, cheeks salty from tears, I looked at Mason and said, "Do you ever just get overwhelmed with gratitude for this whole thing?  I mean, our life....really!"  He smiled and nodded and said he knew exactly what I was talking about. 

Today was a good day.  I know exactly why.  Something incredible happened-- we all four woke up healthy and (relatively) happy.   We woke up to the safety and comfort of our stable home.  How incredible is that?  I experienced something extraordinary.  I taught a guidance lesson to fourth graders about community and when I invited them to share their feelings about the activity, they opened their hearts and shared with such sincere vulnerability that I could have cried.  How extraordinary is that?  I went to work and saw people and friends that brighten my day and make me want to come back for more...even on Mondays. (Usually)  I was productive.  I went to work and talked a fourth grader out of his tears, received a group hug from 20 first graders, and found a little note from a coworker tucked in my mailbox.  I enjoyed a beautiful afternoon walk to pick up Charlie.  And as we walked home, he chattered about his day and his writing assignment and what he ate for lunch...the whole time keeping his hand tucked tightly into mine.  I dedicated 30 minutes to myself--to my body-- to bend and stretch and move in ways that some 38 year old women can only imagine.  And even though I can't touch my forehead to the ground in Dragon pose (...yet!),  (or do a handstand....yet) I stretched and moved and had fun with this one vessel I've been given.  I traveled.  The three of us took a long afternoon stroll on our nature trail-- Anna insisting to wear her new flip flops despite the tiny pieces of gravel and sand that kept deterring her.  Charlie, ran ahead, lost in his imaginary game, legs jumping, arms waving wildly-- like a marionette gone wild.  And today, I said things worth remembering.  I told the kids I work with that they are important to me. I told Mason that he's a great daddy.  I talked with Liz on the phone and told her to have a good day.  And I cuddled Charlie and kissed him until he played his trump card ("I'm gonna wet my pants!") and I threw Anna upside down until she nearly choked on her giggles.  And I said things that will forever be remembered. I told my kids I love them. I told them they're the most incredible kids. I told them I feel lucky to be their mama.   It's probably not publishable stuff...but hopefully it's memorable stuff. 

And then tonight, as Mason drew their bath and I searched for Blankie, a bright pink streak caught my eye outside our window.  I grabbed my phone and took a quick shot of the incredible sunset-- the sprinkles on the cake that was this day.  This totally normal, sacred ordinary day. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Winding Down; Cottage 2016

This morning when I stepped outside..... it felt like fall.  Aside from my summers in Colorado, I've never lived anywhere other than the Midwest, so I have no idea if this smell is one that everyone knows... or one that is unique to us.  It's especially difficult to describe as it just smells like fall.  The air is cooler and gone is the humidity that seems to drape over our shoulders all summer long. There's a crispness that you can feel and almost taste---like nature is just tempting your taste buds to imagine apple crisp and pumpkin pie and those treats that inexplicably taste best during the next two months.  I think this change in weather, this change in atmospheric pressure (whatever that is), these noticeably shorter days and cool, crisp mornings are nature's tangible way of helping me loosen my oh-so-tight grip on summer.  They give me something physical to see and smell and taste, which helps me say goodbye....and lessen the heartache of summer's end just a little bit.

But if I squint my eyes shut and hold my breath I can still feel summer.

There's sand between my toes, even after rinsing them off in the big white enamelware basin outside the door to the cottage.  My hair is windblown and tufts of sun-bleached blonde strays peek out from the braid under my headband.  My shoulders are a little achy from kayaking and my abs are a little sore from paddleboarding.  My skin is browner than it's been in years, a testament to the serious vow we took at the beginning of summer-- We Spahns (three of us, anyway) do solemnly swear, to spend as much time outside as humanly possible...  And when we're at the cottage, this is truer than any other week of the summer.  I haven't been out of a swimming suit for days-- and even then it's usually just to put another one on or slip into a t-shirt for bedtime.  I've noticed that my family's hair seems to have a permanent lake smell-- a sweet combination of sunscreen and sweat and the crystal clear lake water.  As I lie down at night, I feel like I'm floating on the little waves of the lake, gently rocking in the kayak with Charlie or Anna straddled between my legs as they navigate our short little journey.

With my eyes closed, my heart aches for the week we just had in the Northwoods.  A week of sun and laughter and relaxation.  A week of good food and good friends and good conversations-- and of course plenty of good beer and vodka and wine.  (Yes, there was plenty of that.)  Oh, and a week of the Olympics-- let's not forget the Olympics.  We spent as much time as possible lounging around the lake, playing in the sand, swimming in the shallow bay, jumping off the worn dock.  We paddle-boated and kayaked and paddle-boarded.  We used the old fishing motor boat to reach speeds fast enough to create crazy wind-blown hairdo's, send children into fits of laughter, and pull kids in tubes behind the boat.  In the morning, Mason and I putzed around the lake as he pointed out places of interest and old cabins that reminded him of stories from days gone by.

Citronella candle drumming...

We looked over and someone was o-u-t. 

We left the house a few times-- to indulge the kids in go-karts, and ski shows, and hand-dipped ice cream.

Wisconsin toys

Our whole crew.

The kids thought this sign was the-absolute-best.  

Anna was not happy when Daddy stole a scoop of her 'Ice keem'. 

But the vast majority of our time was spent just hanging out, with no agenda and no particular place to go.  Charlie loved playing with his friends outside-- catching frogs, playing football, jumping in the water, "boating" in our bay, building sand sculptures, and  keeping busy inside with matchbox cars and board games and endless ping pong matches.  Excuse me, I mean "table tennis".   In fact, shortly after our guests left, we took a kayak ride and he looked up at me and said, "Mom, this is okay but it's a lot more fun with Jack and Danny here."  My eyes instantly welled up with tears-- not because he wasn't having fun with me, but because he had had such an incredible week with his friends.  At the cottage, things are slower and more intentional.  Charlie plays with a ferver that we don't see often.  He's totally present, engaged, and caught up in the moment.  I watch him and listen to his voice, his giggle, his uncontrollable laughter and feel so fortunate to give him (and his sister) this opportunity.

Seriously, thighs!

Hey frog...

Walkie talkies were a huge hit

Checking on the frogs caught earlier in the day...

This girl has absolutely no fear-- and loves every second of the water. 

And while the cottage is truly magical to us, it doesn't allow us to completely escape reality.  We dealt with emails and life news and daily ups and downs (is it even possible to escape ups and downs when you have little children with you?) but at the end of it all, the day felt like the gentle rock of the lake waves-- easing in and out, rolling along easily in response to whatever creates those waves in the first place.

Oh, and one more thing...

The night of the ski show we trodded into the cottage after a long day on the lake.  We bathed and scrubbed the kids-- getting sand and dirt and lake out of all the squishy places.  We put on clean clothes, hopped in the car and headed over to the Chain Skimmers ski show.  As the adults watched the action on the water, the kids ran around the beach, poured sand in shoes, and then began making sand-angels and literally rolling around in the sand.  At the end of the show, they were covered head to toe in sand.  And we grownups looked at each other and knew they needed to rinse off but well, we had wine to drink and adult conversations to have and baths sounded like a lot of work.....

So we may have suggested skinny-dipping.  The boys rand down to the lake, Dan tossed them a bar of soap and I swear to GOD.  I have not smiled so big in years.  The giggles, the squeals, the shrieks of laughter-- I promise I will never forget it.  And I have to say, swim trunks were optional all the days after that.  So good.  So so good.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

You're Gonna Love it at Adventureland

Written on July 18, 2016...

As I type this post, Mason and I are sitting outside on our patio, drinks in hand, watching the fire dance around our new Target-special fire pit.  (99 bucks right now! Go order it!) We're a little sunburned and our feet are a little achy and we're crazy tired, but these small things were the price we paid for a sweet day at Adventureland.

Today marked our third family excursion at Adventureland, and each year it seems to be better than the year before.  Of course, Charlie's always a little taller-- which seems to help when you're visiting amusement parks.  At this moment in time, the thing he wants most in the world is to be 48 inches tall.  48 inches seems to be the magical height to ride the "big rides" and brave the "big waterslides".  (Unless it's a dreaded 52 or 54 incher-- which seems like an eternity away for Charlie.)  And while he's creeping closer, there's no way he'll get there this summer--- much to his dismay.  Fortunately, three of the four roller coasters at Adventureland are 42" requirements-- meaning, he's been riding them since he was four years old and loves every second of them.

This morning, we surprised Charlie with a little road trip.  We didn't give him any hints and until we were literally entering the Adventureland gates, he thought we might be going to Chuck E. Cheese's.  ("We're going to drive right by Adventureland, Charlie! Look!  There it is on the right!" Finally, Mason clued him in by asking, "Charlie, what does that big sign say?"
Charlie peered around the seat, straining to see the sign and read, "!?!?  We're HERE!?! Wa-hoooo!  Yes!"

We proceeded to parking lot 4, applied heavy coats of sunscreen, grabbed waterbottles and extra diapers and some snacks, shoved everything into a bag and jammed it all onto Anna's stroller.  We clicked her in and took off for the gates.  And before you knew it we were standing in line for the Carousel and then The Galleon and then The Sky Wheel....

(Charlie, ever the danger ranger, did NOT think this was a good idea at all.  We saw them boarding the ride from our position in line at the Galleon and Charlie looked at me and said, "Oh Mom, I don't like this at all. I think this is a bad idea.  Daddy better hold on to her with all his might!")  Mason mentioned that Anna loved this ride and was thrilled not to sit on his lap.  Glad I didn't know that before they went on it.  

Dippin' Dots!!  

Anna's favorite ride-- though she wasn't too excited to realize that she was strapped in....

She kept yelling, "Mama! Up!" but couldn't figure out that the lever would make her go up.  Poor thing.  Her plane never got off the ground. :) 

We didn't know how Anna would handle the whole day, especially one that was predicted to be 90+ degrees with humidity that might possibly melt even me-- the biggest lover of Midwest heat and humidity out there.  So we hatched a plan B that involved Sara's house or a long car ride or maybe a trip to Bass Pro Shop.  But surprisingly (why were we surprised?!),  Little Sister took everything in stride--loving every minute, and then stretching out in her stroller for two hours to refresh and take on the afternoon.

This year, we braved AdventureBay-- the waterpark attached to Adventureland-- for the first time.  We were pleasantly surprised with the amount of things to do--and how age-appropriate everything was.  And after having a little reminder chat of what do if you're lost from us (that probably sounded more like, "Thank the good lord in Heaven you're alive!  Now where the hell were you!?  We were scared to death! We thought you drowned!  You could have DIED!  Jesus!  What were you thinking?!? We are so mad!..... Because we love you so much!!!...."--this is all hypothetical of course.)  we had a fantastic time.

After water-parking it, we saved a little time to do a few more rides, grab a bite to eat, and then hit the road.  By the time we reached Bondurant, both kiddies were asleep and their mama was not far behind.  If you're from central Iowa, that catchy little Adventureland jingle (that seems to play constantly on the radio and tv), is one that sticks with you.  And for us, the memories made while there, will be ones that stick with us--like that little jingle-- played on repeat for years to come.