A Pondering Insomniac…

I have been struggling with insomnia the last week or so… ridiculously struggling considering a few weeks ago I was in bed by 10 p.m. most nights and sleeping a solid 8-10 hours. I close my eyes and will myself to sleep, eventually drifting off only to jolt awake with my heart racing and absolute alertness a short half hour later. Then I toss and turn for hours, while Kevin snores beside me and I want to silence those snores with his pillow (pure jealousy) or invest in some really good earplugs. I give up on sleeping and start to read until blessedly, I nod off mid-chapter – bringing me some sweet relief until morning comes when I fight the lingering headache that remains of my troubled eve.

Tonight, I haven’t even attempted to close my eyes, though I have been clenching my teeth. My mind is racing, pondering life and all its dichotomies, thoughts zinging and pinging, bouncing around like the ball in a pinball machine. I know sleep is a phantom I have no hope of catching until my mind quiets itself. I hope putting pen to paper, so to speak, will help do the trick.

Tonight, I learned we lost another uncle – another loved one. There’s yet another hole in our family tapestry, another individual who will be absent at family picnics. I honestly want to stomp my feet, throw a fit, and say, “No more!” I am heartbroken for my aunt who has lost her partner, lover, friend; for my cousins who won’t feel his arms around them in hello or his whiskers on their cheeks as he gives a farewell kiss; for my mom, the baby of the family who lost her older brother and holds just memories of moments together, but didn’t get a chance to actually say goodbye.

I feel angry because those who loved him will not be able to comfort one another in person or gather to celebrate his life. I’m upset that what will already be a difficult time of adjustment will be complicated by the restraints of this current climate. I know we can share words of compassion and sympathy, but who will be there to hold the Kleenex or a hand when reality hits hard?

I feel guilty, because while I know Uncle Joe will be missed, while his family mourns tonight, I tend to my family as though life continues just the same. Because life does continue and I have a “baby” who is turning thirteen in two short days who wants his mama to make his day extra special because he can’t celebrate as planned. I feel guilty because we’re embracing life with excitement and I feel like we *should* be subdued. I feel like it’s not fair to be celebrating while another family mourns.

However, as much as “babies” want special surprises on their birthdays, Mama’s tend to want to make things extra special when things don’t go as planned. So my mind is filled with thoughts about life, and love, and loss, and I have teary eyed moments interspersed with to-do lists and visions of chocolate layer cakes “with a surprise” and DIY birthday escape room puzzles because as of this afternoon I heard, “So if I can’t go to an escape room for my birthday, can you surprise me with things I have to solve to find my present?”

As I sit here wide-eyed and restless, I’ll use this moment of insomnia to continue to ponder, to think, to plan. I’ll remember that life is a balance and it’s the little things you celebrate and the special but ordinary moments you look back on when all is said and done. If 40 years from now we find snapshots of a 13th birthday under quarantine and my then 53 year old can smile at the memories he made with his mother and know he was loved beyond measure, then I’ll know that we successfully drove home the life lesson that our best laid plans don’t matter… but love and people do. ♥️

All the I Love Yous

Today I said I love you by letting you sleep in. We have things to do around the house, but I know you’ve been exhausted this week. It may be a slightly selfish I love you because this means I could sleep in as well.

Yesterday I said I love you by picking up your favourite fast food burger on my way home from work. You were home by yourself all day and I was sure you kept opening the fridge and the cupboards, but still managed to find nothing to eat. (There is fruit on the table… always!!!) When I show my love this way, I can only hope that you’ll still eat dinner (and you did.)

The other day I said I love you by sending a text reminding you how awesome you are before you headed into your first ever exam. I probably even used the words “I love you” in this one, but I never got a reply. I can only hope that you really, truly know your value and that beyond a shadow of doubt know you are loved, despite your grades (which I’m sure you rocked!)

Last week I said I love you when I folded your laundry. The three baskets of it that you let pile up just waiting for someone to fold. It’s one of those things you’re supposed to be responsible for now, but I didn’t mind taking the time to do this for you while you were at school.

Every day I say I love you. In the meals I cook – yes, even the ones you complain about. In the reminders to try your best. In the lectures about contributing to the society of our home. In the responsibilities given. In the trust exercised. In the chauffeuring. In the questions about your life that drive you crazy. In the call to wake you up each morning and the call again 10 minutes later because you haven’t made a sound yet. In the words “I Love You” when you’re frustrated with me or just passing you in the hall.

You don’t always hear “I love you”, but child, my I love yous are being shouted loud and clear or soft and quiet every single day and I’ll be sharing them until I’m no longer here to tell you. Never, ever doubt you are loved and know that I hear your I love yous too, even when they’re not spoken.

With Heavy Heart…

My grandfather passed away unexpectedly and peacefully this morning at the age of 86. A mason by trade, yesterday he was still laying blocks with the assistance of a grandson. To say that none of us saw this coming would be an incredible understatement. When my mom called with the news, I responded with “No.” Short, simple. No. He cannot be gone. It was inconceivable.

My family gathered at my grandparents’ home to mourn, to laugh, to honour a man of great morals and faith, to support my grandmother, and find solace in each others’ company.

I’m not a hugger. I have a huge personal bubble. When you get the family together, boundaries seem to disappear. I believe there are 80 of us once all the great-grandchildren are counted. I’m the oldest grandchild. The first grandaughter. I have first cousins younger than my children. Hugs were important today. Tears mattered, too.

It’s not been an easy summer for our family. There’s been loss and bad news and now another loss. There’s also been hope and growth and new additions. Life is like that. There’s good. There’s bad. Through it all you stand. Sometimes you crawl. Sometimes you come to a complete stop and can do nothing but kneel. Often you’re carried by the support of others who care.

We sang a hymn in church on Sunday. It made me think of Pake (grandfather.) I was going to send him a message on Facebook to let him know. He used to digitally “stalk” the family at large and knew everything going on in each of our lives through what we shared. I wish I had sent that message. I wish I had told him that the thought of him made me smile in the middle of a church service.

Instead, I think our last interaction involved him calling me trouble and charging Kevin to make sure I stayed out of it. It was all said in humour and love. He was cheeky and sarcastic and loud and stubborn and wonderful. He had a twinkle in his eye and a smirk that makes me think that if I’m trouble, I came by it honestly. His smile could light up a room.

Once when I was a teenager, I did groceries with my mom. We bumped into Pake shopping in his klompen. His booming voice could be heard across the store. Imagine my dismay as he took me by the arm to the back of the store where he introduced me to a store clerk that he knew and said I didn’t have a boyfriend. There is a mountain of memories of his larger-than-life antics.

I wish I could feel his hands on my upper arms, squeezing as we say our goodbyes, as he has one last word of “wisdom” to share before we drive home. I wish my boys could sit with him having a gentle conversation about life. I wish I had more conversations about his life in Friesland. I wish.

Time has run out and wishes are useless. I mentioned as we drove home that every part of me feels heavy – my eyes, my head, my body, my heart. So while it may be cliche, make the phone call, send the message, ask the questions. Cherish the small things – one day they’ll be the warm memories that fill your heart.

Pake, you will absolutely be missed. Squeezing into the basement for family gatherings will not be the same. You’ve made an incredible impact on many lives. I’ll always think of you when we sing “How Great Thou Art.” Your voice will echo in my head as I hear you bellowing with a sweet and confident devotion, Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee, how great Thou art, how great Thou art…”

Our Ride Together

Today, I am grateful for the love of an incredible man. Fifteen years ago we were joined in holy matrimony (but the wedding did not go to plan. Yes, I’m still bothered.) Putting that aside, it was an amazing day – beautiful blue sky, surrounded by friends and family, overwhelmed with our love for each other.

Through the years, it’s not been all sunshine and cotton candy. (Why didn’t we have a cotton candy machine at our wedding?) We’ve had our ups and downs… but we’ve held onto each other the entire way.

We’ve had our share of arguments. We rode a roller coaster of emotions through two high risk pregnancies. We were blessed with two amazing boys. We’ve lived on a tight budget. We’ve had to stretch dollars. We face each day when it comes to my own health. We’ve lost family members. We’ve held new ones. We’ve travelled. We’ve stayed home on many a Friday night content with our own company, falling asleep on the couch while a movie plays across the room.

I’ve been tempted to wear ear plugs to bed (he snores so bad.) I’m sure he’s been tempted to put a heating pad under my sheets. (My feet are always cold.) We’ve held it together through hospital visits. We’ve lost it in the comfort of each other’s arms. We’re both a little squishier than the day we met.

Roller coasters – emotionally, physically, and even at the amusement park – he’s the man I want riding beside me every mile of the journey.

Happy anniversary, Kev!

It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been us… it’s always been love. I’m still crazy about you!

Rambling on a Busy Week

I haven’t read as much as I’d have liked to this week. It’s been crazy busy – so busy I may have forgotten an important appointment, whoops! I’ve had some turnover in our office that has required some flexibility, we volunteered our time for a massive fundraising yard sale, and of course, we celebrated one special kid’s birthday. All important things on top of the normal things and by the time I’ve managed to sit down or crawl into bed, my body has been saying “Close your eyes, woman!”

I allowed the birthday boy (because he’s the birthday boy all week) skip school today. Last night, he was working alongside adults and pulling his weight (and more than) helping to move boxes and furniture for the yard sale, in the damp, in the dark, no complaining. Today, they moved everything again (out into the field) so he asked if he could help hands-on so I made the call that community service was an important learning opportunity for him as well. I’m remarkably proud of his generous and kind heart.

When we got home this afternoon, a little chilly and damp, he turned on the Food Network while I puttered around tidying the house (before my BRAND NEW WASHING MACHINE is delivered tomorrow! Pinnacle of adulthood!) He left it on when he moved to his room and I’ve been sucked into the web of Carnival Food, Firemasters, and Chopped. In all reality, I should really be vacumming the couch, but I just don’t want to move. Honestly, I could take a nap. The dog is cozy looking on his bed, snoring out loud, and I’m a little jealous.

I know this is all a ramble and I really don’t have a point… but sometimes I just need to spew in a sort of decompression. We have a busy weekend ahead – Mother’s Day lunch with my in-laws, Sunday School prep (I keep forgetting that I’m the teacher this week!), church (and Sunday school), and dinner with Kevin’s in-laws (aka my family.)

So here are my final thoughts… how do you decompress or carve out a time to recharge when you’ve had a busy, productive week and know that the weekend isn’t going to be any better? And how will you be honouring Mom this weekend? I always jokingly comment that we’re so busy celebrating all the other moms that this mom doesn’t get any time for herself. Any others mamas feel that way? Mothers Day weekend is as hectic as Christmas.

Chubby Cheeks & Endless Love

By all outward appearances, today was the same as any other day. My boys bickered over breakfast. I had to remind them to feed the dog three times. I’m pretty sure they both forgot to put deodorant on this morning and I’m not entirely sure they brushed their teeth. Some punches were thrown in the backseat of the car. We tripped over things lying around in the house. There are dishes in the sink.

But today was a special day as well. Our youngest is twelve years old. For those who are familiar with our J, he is one of a kind special. He’s quite adept at pushing buttons and to be honest, he can be a little bit annoying. He’s also remarkably curious. He’s creative. His imagination will keep him entertained for hours. He loves to talk (he gets that from his dad, of course.) He struggles with school at times (but I think it’s boredom and how easily he’s distracted) but he gets pretty good grades. He doesn’t have many close friends, but he’s friendly with everyone. He doesn’t walk – anywhere – he dances, he skips, he wiggles. He can be impulsive, he can be mischievous, he can be sweet as sugar. He’s a cuddler and a thinker and just a wee bit weird.

As he ages, I want him to be all of those things. I want him to have a plan for life, but be comfortable marching to the beat of his own drum. I want him to be respectful of others, but never compromise who he is at heart. I want him to indulge his curiosity and share his learning with absolutely everyone and everyone. Taking inspiration from the words of Thor’s mom in the latest Avenger’s movie, “Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be… a measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.” – along these lines, I want him to have the confidence to be the very best version of himself without ever bearing the weight of other’s expectations. I pray he is successful and follows his path and that he remains true to himself and God’s plan along the way.

2007 | Cuddles in the NICU

I look back over the last 12 years and remember the chubby cheeked babe who spent a week in the NICU. I remember the baby in the backyard who couldn’t stand the grass. The toddler who loved the mud and always had a grin on his face. The toothless wonder cheeky in school pictures. The young student who got in trouble for having a collection of erasers in his desk – and using them to enact battles during class time. The boy who loves art shows and takes so. much. time. selecting. art. cards for his room. The one who participates in craft shows and volunteers to set up our church kids’ camp every summer. The boy who wanted to buy a book about birds and spent hours lying on the trampoline bird watching. The one who gets emotional in books but claims to hate reading. I miss the chubby cheeks and endless rolls – the innocence of the whys and hows of the toddler years – but I also love and cherish every moment that is shaping his future as a man. I hope he nevers forgets how amazing we think he is and that in another twelve years he can look back on his time in our home and know that he is loved beyond measure.

Kindness: A Balm to the Soul

It’s remarkable how complacent we become in our day-to-day routines until something upsets the rhythm and we are left scrambling to find our footing. In the constant juggle of everyday life, we often fail to appreciate the little things. When our world goes awry, we’re caught off guard – unbalanced – and crave a state of equilibrium. How petty we seem until we look at all the little details in the big picture.

This week, I’m once again, grateful for friends – the ones who reach down when we are at our stubborn worst and find us the help we need, the ones who step in and provide the help we need when we are adamant that we. are. fine. These are the friends to hang on to. The friends to cling to tightly.

One of my strongest “love languages” in action is acts of service – as in this is how I communicate I care… but I’ve also learned when I’m drowning, I will stubbornly tread water instead of reaching for the life lines that are thrown my way. Why do “helpers” always find it so hard to accept help? I appreciate the ones who will jump into the water with me and hold my head above water. They are priceless.

This week, I’m once again, grateful for health that I often take for granted. I’m thankful for a warm, soft bed; a house over my head – mess and all. I’m appreciative of my kids and their little quirks (even when my thirteen year old texts me while I’m in an ER hooked up to an IV and awaiting chest x-rays asking if I will be getting a new phone so he can have my old phone after I leave the hospital – even then I am grateful.) I am recognizant of my blessings as small as they may seem (clean socks this morning even though I haven’t tackled the laundry all week…) or when they seem overwhelmingly all-encompassing (a freezer full of meals that were prepared by hands that weren’t my own!)

The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.

William Wordsworth

I’m reminded once again that it’s okay to ask for help, to grasp that help when it’s freely offered. I’ve been humbled enough to see that it’s okay to let go of something for a short time to tightly hold onto the things that matter. I’m learning that in our weakness, we find strength; at our frailest, we find our foundations; in our humility, we see what’s truly meaningful.

The journey of life can be hard. One day it can be a perfect path for ambling along without a care beyond getting a sunburn and then you round a bend and hit a roadblock, in the rain, and you don’t have a coat. It’s full of smooth, straight paths in one moment and abounding with steep cliffs and rubble the next. Cling to hope. Know where your anchor lies. Bring companions on the trail. If you shed some tears along the way – so be it; laughter can be a lifeline; but kindness? Kindness, of course, is a balm to the soul.