Thursday, November 27, 2014

It's Good Being "Mom"

So there are these 3 boys.
They've managed to steal my heart.
They call me "Mom".

I love this time of year...
the days and weeks that surround Thanksgiving.
While I wish for us all to open our eyes and arms a little wider 
in THANKS and GIVING year round, 
it's a beautiful thing to see during this season.

For me, thoughts of thankfulness turn to our 3 boys.
There is more love, more laughter, more kindness, more joy
in our home because of them.

But then, there is also this...

My plane landed in Seattle last Wednesday night at 7:30pm.
Exactly 24 hours later, I found myself hovering over the bathroom toilet, 
scrubbing away at a week's worth of germs
while simultaneously dodging blow darts being shot at my backside.

Silently, I decided to take it as a "welcome home" gesture.

For those of us who are "Mom", the title means many things.

We shuttle little girls to piano and ballet,
and endure grocery store trips with screaming babies.
We add the word "step" and share our job with another.
We smile (and cry) when our birds leave the nest,
and wish the difficult issues were as simple as when they were young.
We ride in the truck passenger seat with the boy who... 
just before we blinked...
was crawling on the floor in a diaper pushing toy trucks.
If the chair had a rock-o-meter, it would register in the millions,
and we learn that the ability to be up all night and still function the next day 
is a God-given gift, although one we're not often thankful for.

We comfort, encourage, scold, teach, lose our patience...
ask forgiveness, defend, love, lose our patience again... 
and pray for them more than they'll ever know.

At times over the years, I've taken it for granted...being a mom.
Three pregnancies and three healthy baby boys; 
forgetting about so many mamas who wished for just one.
Whining about the endless lineup of work,
rather than being thankful that I'm designed to handle it.
How cool is that?
(not the whining, folks...the other part)
Recently, a friend received news that her daughter's 
cancer battle is nearing the end.  
After a year of praying for healing, 
for a miracle,
she is now asking for prayers of comfort.
I know, and they know, that God loves them,
and that heaven is the best destination ever.
But to consider such loss...
that tells me I cannot possibly take this job for granted. 
Not for a moment.

Most of us didn't have an accurate vision of our mom life.
I sure didn't.

Soon we'll build gingerbread houses, 
and I know already they will become target practice later this winter.
Boys are weird.
What happened to just eating the stale candy and throwing the rest away?
And come spring, there will be begging to let baby chicks hatch
inside the house again (no in advance, boys).
Every season of the year, along with every season of life,
brings the unexpected
and brings some new things to be thankful for.

There are times we get praised for doing the job of parenting, 
and times where we don't feel valued at all.
Society pushes us pretty hard to devote ourselves to ambitious busyness 
outside of our families.
But God gives us both a precious gift and responsibility through motherhood.

For all you mamas out there, on this day of Thanksgiving and on every day of the year,
please know you've been given an awesome job;
something to be so very thankful for.
And it's okay if it doesn't come wrapped in pretty packaging everyday.
I have the "welcome home" marks from a blow dart to prove it.

Yes, it's good being "Mom".

Sunday, November 9, 2014

This is Still What They Love...

Now and then, 
that thought we're determined to hold onto, 
to never forget, 
fades a bit in the hurry of everyday life.

Late tonight I picked up Cole from a day of fishing...
his first ever for silver salmon...
in a coveted place many will never see. 

Up early with his gear packed and smiling, I was reminded this morning of a blog post from 2 years ago...This Is What They Love (to check it out, click here).  I had written it about the boys' love of duck hunting.  
And again...the words were in my head...
This is what he loves.

A 12 year old doesn't just go to bed after dinner to wake up at 2:30am 
for something they don't love.  
Or voluntarily take an overnight trip with near strangers 
for something they don't love.  
Nor do they talk with a twinkle in their eye the entire car ride home 
about something they don't love.

And yet just weeks ago, I was persistently working to convince this boy that he must play basketball this year.  
Days of effort went into the plea...
"but you are so good at it"
"it will be a great experience"
"you will learn so much"
"you'll be better prepared for the future"

...and on and on, before one final afternoon,

"Mom, I just don't love it." 

And with those words, I realized what I had known before, and still knew deep down. 
My "best" intentions might be based on what everyone else is doing, 
and not on what's best for my kids. 
Society is like a vacuum when we're not paying attention to what's important.

This boy is gifted at what he loves.  
His hunting and fishing experiences, in 12 short years, tell a wonderful story.  
He has learned much, and is already a teacher to many.

We are all created with different talents and abilities.
God works in different ways through each of us, 
and we are to use our gifts to honor Him and bless others.

To think of my original post about these boys who loved to hunt (and fish) 2 years ago,
to know they are more in love with it today...
THAT is a blessing.
To get to talk early on in life about using the things you love to do for God's glory...
that is also a blessing.

And for the little nudge I got today, 
the one that reminded me it's okay not to do what everyone else is doing,
that is something I am truly thankful for.
This is still what they love.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Dash Through New England - Part 2

Day three of our New England trip began in the dark hours of night at the lodge near Mt. Mansfield, in the Green Mountains of Vermont.  While Keith slept, I sat awake listening to one of the most magnificent rain storms of my life.  Between the wind and rain, it sounded as if someone were spraying a fire hose against the windows.  And once the fire hose would stop, it seemed that a bucket brigade began...right in its place.  

I love storms, and thought it was so cool to be spending the night witnessing one in the state that I had instantly fallen in love with.

When morning came, steady rain continued.  The mountains were socked in, so we packed up and headed out.  The Stowe Mountain Lodge was easily my favorite overnight stop of our trip.  Kind and helpful staff, beautiful rooms, and even a restaurant whose food made you forget you were in a hotel. This place was well worth the splurge.

The forecast for the entire state was rain, so we took advantage of that time to cover some ground quickly on the interstate.  One thing about road trips - you won't see an area for what it is if you stay on the interstate.  Take the back roads as much as you can, wherever you are.

Ice cream for breakfast?  Okay. :)  Ben & Jerry's Factory tours draw thousands of folks each year in Waterbury, just south of Stowe.  Ben & Jerry's is just plain awesome...not only are they passionate about producing the best possible ice cream, they hold tight to their values.

"Business has a responsibility to give back to the community."
That's their motto.
I think I should buy more of their ice cream in the future just because of this. :)

We did a bit of backtracking next as we headed southeast across Vermont toward New Hampshire.  One more stop for actual breakfast in the capital city of Montpelier at a little place with rave reviews...

If you end up here, order the Breakfast Monster...egg, Cabot cheese, baby spinach, 
roasted red pepper, caramelized onion, basil sunflower pesto, served alongside a salad made of local greens.  

This may have bordered a little too closely to the hippie side for Keith - a lover of breakfasts greasy, gigantic, and full of every meat known to man - but I was in hog heaven.  
Salad with breakfast?  I thought that only happened in my dreams...
(And no...the salad part isn't required.  They have countless crepe varieties, including those filled with Nutella, strawberries, and fresh whipped cream.  No salad included.)

This is the state building in Montpelier.  One of only a handful of capital buildings with a gold dome.  We really liked this little town...the smallest US capital with a population of less than 9,000.  There were lots of cool downtown shops (or so it appeared from the car don't shop when you're on vacation with the Ranch Boss unless you find a farm store), and the city streets were full of awesome, old homes.  I may say this again later, but in case I don't - being from the West Coast, we were in awe the entire trip of the huge, historic houses in nearly every town!  This trip truly could have been limited to just looking at them.  If you love old houses, too, this is the place to go.

As we cruised on out of Vermont, we read up a bit more about the state.  There are some things that really make Vermont unique.  I appreciate that you don't see fast food chains on every corner.  Or on almost any corner, for that matter.  We saw one McDonalds in the entire state; in fact, Montpelier is the only US capital without a McDonalds.  Vermont was also the last state to have a Walmart.  And because it has stronger planning and development control at a statewide level than many states, you won't find advertisement billboards anywhere.  Before we were even out of Vermont, I was ready to go back.

About the time we got to New Hampshire, the weather cleared and we returned to the back roads.  In the small town of Andover, we came across a covered bridge, above.  The American flag hanging on this bridge made it my hands down fave.  Isn't it just beautiful? 

And a short drive further, we found the Keniston bridge, built in 1882.  Check out that fall foliage in the background.

As we traveled farther south and towards the coast, we hit a few areas that were still at their fall foliage peak.  The New England states do an awesome job of providing online updates by region and county, so if you're taking a fall trip, rely on them for help.  This year, we learned that some of the best color in the north happened as early as August, so it really varies each year.  If I was going strictly to see the leaves, I think I'd pick early October.

Way down a dirt road...the kind that most people would have turned back on a mile or two before, we came across tiny Bradley Lake, above.

The lake was surrounded by trees, and as the leaves fell, they floated to the shore.  
What a beautiful sight.

Bradley Lake spilled into this rushing creek.  I just can't get enough of these colors.

Canterbury Shaker Village sits off the beaten path in New Hampshire.  We didn't have time to stop for a tour, but it looked equally as cool as the Hancock Village in MA.  If I was in this area again, I'd make the time to stop for a tour, without a doubt.  This (above) is one of the Shaker buildings.

Next stop was Concord, New Hampshire.  State Street revealed lots of cool architecture, including another capital with a gold dome.  We stretched our legs just long enough to do a little sprint around the state building before heading on toward the coastal towns.

I will say at this point...a trip like this (seeing as much as you can in a relatively short time) definitely means some sacrifice when it comes to staying in one place for very long.    It isn't a trip for everyone, that's for sure.  Even Keith - who likes to move quickly - was ready to stop the car and refuse to go one more mile at some point during this day.  I'd like to think it was my sweet persuasion that caused him to press on.  He likely has a different answer.

At long last (even though the day was but halfway over), we arrived at the coast.  Here we are at North Hampton, where Keith got his first ever view of the Atlantic Ocean.  We've mastered the art of looking happy in between travel spats. :) 

Definitely a beautiful beach to welcome a person to this ocean for the first time.

And the North Hampton summer cottages.  Wow.  They were built by the wealthy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a place to spend the summer.  Here's the cottage I want, complete with pumpkins on the porch steps.
Hey, a girl can always dream...

Up next: the state of Maine.  I had mostly omitted the minor detail of traveling to this state from prior conversations, since I was afraid my plan might get vetoed.  In hindsight, I'd say it was best to blindside Keith with the idea. :)  
I begged (or whined)...we was all good.
We ended up in The Kennebunks.  The town of Kennebunk itself had the most well-kept historic homes of any place we visited.

This house...probably in large part because of the sun setting behind it...was one of my faves.
Can I move in?  Please?

Kennebunkport had the cutest little coastal downtown area ever, and all the small boats coming back into port during sunset looked just like a movie scene (below).  The summer cottages of Kennebunkport were just as beautiful as they were in North Hampton, and seeing the Bush Compound here was a  highlight for Keith.

Alisson's in Kennebunkport is known as the place to see and be seen in town.  They're famous for their lobster rolls and clam chowder, and were featured earlier this year in Food Network Magazine.  I was so stoked to get Maine lobster that I didn't pay attention to whether or not we were actually surrounded by famous folks.  All I can really tell you is this place was busy, fun, and the food was delicious.  I'm ready for another lobster roll already!

After dinner we hit the road for one more stretch, and a couple of hours later, ended our day in Hyannis, a small town on Cape Cod.

The day's travels had taken us from northern Vermont, through New Hampshire, north into Maine, and then south back through New Hampshire and Massachusetts, ending up at its southeast corner.

By the time we got to Cape Cod, it was dark.  As in, completely dark.  We knew we were on island time the moment we crossed the Sagamore Bridge.  Slow roads, no street lights;  I wondered if there was an island-wide 9pm bedtime.  But I think the dark was a good thing...our eyes and minds had taken in so much for one day.  It would be best to see the cape with fresh eyes after a good night of sleep. 

And there ends Day 3.  Stay tuned...we've still got 2 more days to go!