Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sisters


Sisters are different flowers from the same garden...

Last night my sisters and I went out for dinner to celebrate Kjersti's 25th birthday.  It didn't occur to me until I got home and all was quiet, that my middle sister is actually 25.  Seems like just last week she was crawling around in diapers.

I was a teenager when both my sisters came into this world.  In 1989, a note was delivered to my 9th grade geometry class at Olympic Junior High, announcing that my baby sister had arrived.  My friends cheered, and I just couldn't wait to see her and hold her for the first time.  She was named after a pen pal I had from Norway, and after my mom said I could help choose her name, I must have practiced writing it at least a few billion times.  Of course, I didn't know whether she'd be a boy or girl, but I hoped that writing the name enough would sway the odds.

Two years later, I was in the high school locker room when a runner from the office tracked me down to tell me my mom was on her way to the hospital in Seattle.  Chloe was coming into the world before we all expected, and I remember wishing I could stomp on the gas pedal from the back seat of my grandma's car as we cruised down the interstate to get to Swedish Hospital that evening.  Once again, I didn't know whether a sister or brother would be joining our family, but the name writing trick seemed to work the first time, so I did it again with Chloe, whose middle name Nicole came from our Australian exchange student the year before.

For a teenage girl, having baby sisters was one of the coolest things ever.  I learned how to fix dinner while my mom was pregnant, because she couldn't stomach the smell when the pantry door opened.  That part was not so cool, but in hindsight I suppose I may not have learned to cook otherwise. When the girls were just little, our house was full of my friends who adored them and played with them all the time.  babyGap become my favorite store.  As they got a bit older, Kjersti had a fascination with wild animals, and would recite facts about rare Asian critters to everyone who came to our house, while wearing her favorite Princess Jasmine (think Aladdin) pajamas.  Chloe, on the other hand, would crouch in the corner and growl like a lion.  Messy blonde hair, squinted eyes, and teeth bared.  No joke.  Soon, I regretted taking her to see The Lion King as a 2 year old. 

When they were 7 and 5, Kjersti and Chloe were flower girls in our wedding.  I'll never forget the bittersweet feeling of leaving a home filled with the kids I loved (the girls, and also my brother Trevor, who was 15), and starting my life as a new wife in a quiet house with no kids.  That was a hard transition for me.  I remember standing at the kitchen sink in our little old house, washing dishes and wiping away the tears from missing them so Keith wouldn't know.  They spent the night with us often, but for a long time, I felt like I'd deserted them, and hoped it didn't hurt them like it did me.

But here we are...lots of years later...and my sisters have grown to become beautiful women. Kjersti quit wearing the Jasmine pajamas eventually, and Chloe stopped growling somewhere along the way.  

There is so much happiness in knowing that whether we are near or far, whether our interests are the same or different, or whether we talk once a day or once a month, we have the bond of sisterhood that connects us.  A sister truly is a friend forever.
As for my sisters, I've had the privilege of watching them grow from tiny babies to adulthood.  They are aunts, but more like sisters, to my own boys who adore them.  They laugh often.  They are loyal friends.  They are both full of kindness, touching the lives of all they meet.

I think that God has a way of growing our appreciation for the important things in our lives.  When both my sisters were born, I didn't think I could be any happier.  But now that we are all grown, I can say I'm more thankful for them than ever before. :)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Summer Hair



So I didn't get that perfect picture of our 3 boys together, lined up on the first day of school this year.  That's right, the one where they're smiling with brand new clothes, backpacks, lunch boxes, and haircuts.

Truth is, an honest back-to-school photo would reveal Clay with the messy mullet he's been growing out for the past year (flashback to the 80s); Carson carrying a lunch bag and sporting clothes that were both new to his brothers at some point in time; and Cole...well...he didn't officially begin school the same day as the others.  That's how my homeschool program rolls.  It seems the closest thing I have to document them together around the time school started was a picture on a dock at the lake after a day of fishing.  Summer hair and all.

And although I may have missed that picture that is requisite in most households, I can't help but think of the real smiles my boys flash when my camera isn't in their face.  Like when they've driven to town alone for the first time.  Or when they've caught their biggest large mouth bass ever.  Or when they've outrun both their brothers, even though they're the youngest of 3.  Those are the smiles I truly love.  

As my Facebook newsfeed filled up with back-to-school shots of all my friends' kids this year...holding chalkboards and signs and all sorts of creative things to signify the momentous occasion...I realized I hadn't yet shopped for groceries to pack lunches. Whoops.
And I forgot a few (or more) things on the school supply list.  Whoops again.
And I had better wake up those kids and stop looking at all the perfect ones on Facebook, because we were going to have to try and do something with that summer hair.

But if there is such a thing as a successful summer, I will use that as retaliation against my first-day-of-school shortcomings.  Because it was a good summer...

I learned that those boys of mine can make hay without any help from dad.  From checking the fields for moisture, to mowing, raking, and baling, and hiring a crew to put it up in the barn.

I watched endless cannonballs into grandma's pool, and when bloody noses happened, the jumping didn't slow down one bit.  Boys and girls sure are different.

I swept up hay off the kitchen floor.  Lots of it.

I watched one son overcome a fear of driving the tractor in small-town traffic. 

I learned that lavender oil is the best stuff ever when you unknowingly stick your hand into a nest of angry wasps.

I swept up more hay off the kitchen floor.  And bought a new broom because I wore the old one out.

I was reminded of the blessing of this place we call home when we welcomed a busload of church kids who spent the weekend camping in our pastures.

I realized, for the first time, the deep love my boys have for the tradition of an annual family camping trip...full of cousins and swimming and late night ice cream.

I swept with my new broom.  And I thought to myself that the source of all this hay on my floor was worth it.  And I smiled as I swept (most of the time).

I learned that in 14 years of parenting, I understand now more than ever the importance of my job as a mom.  It doesn't matter if they're 7, 11, or 14...kids need their mom, and kids need to know that they come before the many distractions that life throws our way.  Being a mom is a precious gift, and one of the best things we can do is make sure our kids know that.

...And once the first day of school was over, I watched 3 brothers gather in one bedroom and wrestle around as they talked about their day, and my eyes filled with tears as I thought about their friendship.

As I think about it, I'm pretty okay without the staged picture that would've caused undue whining and arguing. I'll take that lake picture over any other.  It represents so many good things.  
     Long days of farming, fishing, sunshine...
     Working, playing, laughing, even fighting...
     Three boys of mine who were 14, 11, and 7, and won't be again.  
Yes, I will happily let that picture mark "a day just before the first day of school".  It's a better fit for us this year...summer hair and all.