The title was very true at the time, after low-key-ly celebrating Trevor's birthday (which has been known to be a self-imposed exhausting holiday here). I got smart and realized that a great gift to him would be: fun with guys, soccer, and getting something done. So, Saturday I took the kids away for a few hours while he crawled onto the roof, tinkered with a closet and who knows what else. When we got back, he was glowing. On the actual birthday, I invited some guys to join him at a restaurant to watch the World Cup final . . . outsourcing worked so well this year. Happy birthday, Trevor - your life is a gift to many but especially to me. You bring grace and truth into our home, you live an inspired life that is true to who God has made you. I love to watch you bring light and life to any room, the way your laughter can fill a whole theater (I really am itching to see Guardians of the Galaxy with you). Your gentleness and genuine heart and love for life are a gift to all. Your loyalty and friendship and conviction are highly esteemed.
Anyway, Trevor's birthday, restful. And then things got wild (more below in the summer happenings), we've enjoyed it all and it still hasn't been (too) exhausting. I'm learning to go with the flow (thank you, God, for children who force us to grow always in ways we need to) and enjoy the journey with a sense of peace and presence and joy. Learning.
On my mind this Summer Birthday Season, now that it is officially over, is learning to embrace who God has made - me, you, us. What beauty there is in variety, but also how much judgement and insecurity can linger there! I've found both these things in a couple situations this summer, and I've been so gently and generously reminded if the flavors there are to enjoy in everyone. My heart's cry is to love with abandon, especially my family, and that means studying them and knowing them - not as I think they should be, but how they are. To do that, wouldn't you know, I have to practice seeing myself that same way, loving how God has made ME, not the way I think I should be (you know, re-visiting that not to do list is part of this practice).
I randomly picked up a book from my childhood - after a weekend of self doubt and inner conflict - and read it to Karis. It was simple and profound, called God Made Me (a Happy Day Book), a story of how God made us a certain shape and we can't/don't/shouldn't try to be a different shape. This book met my heart in a powerful way.
As did this poem from one of Karis's books lately . . .
"God whispers to us in our hearts:
'Do not fear, I am here,
And I love you, my dear.
Close your eyes and sleep tight,
For tomorrow will be bright.
All is well, dear child.
Also a relatable quotable:
"I have never been good at change. Even small, positive changes . . . I thought I could trick my system . . . I couldn't change in the way that I had wanted to . . . I saw my own limits, walked right up to the edge and even over it and saw that I could more than all right. I learned that my life could reshape itself completely, and that, maybe if I stopped trying to fight it or to hurriedly reshape myself before anything else did, I could instead let it slowly guide me, bend me, bring me along."
In true "us" fashion" the celebration started early and stayed late, we enjoyed a succession of little celebrations - a bbq here with the aunts and uncles, a tea party with Lucy & Joan, a little gift giving at the lake with Uncle J & Aunt C, gifts and dinner out with Gpa K & Gma N and Uncle D & Aunt M, dinner at Milton's (her choice) with the Storslees, her friend birthday party here with water play and donut holes and pink zebra plates and napkins, another August birthdays celebration here with Gpa B & Gma L (and the two other August Pope b-days, Uncle Steve and Aunt K).
The day of her birthday was memorable and special. She slept, and even slept in (I was shocked, last year she hardly slept the night before her birthday). I got all excited, she had picked out her "birthday cereal" (fruit loops) and I arranged them on a pink tray with a little flower in a small vase and everything. We walked into her room and sang her happy birthday and presented her breakfast in bed - she looked at me like I had three eyes and said, "Um, no thank you mommy. I don't want to eat breakfast in bed". Of course! That is classic K, many of my "fun" ideas are met with odd looks, so this was fitting. The day progressed with morning swimming lessons with the Galstads, shopping for her birthday party . . . I love to leave birthdays as open as possible to see what little gifts might await with the time. Sure enough, neighbor Michelle texted as we were getting ready for lunch and asked us over for tea and trampoline play. Delightful! During book time in the afternoon we read her baby book and set a timer for when she would REALLY turn five (she'd been asking all day) - we rejoiced when the timer went off and then plopped on the couch to watch some Tinkerbell. Later, neighbor Joan asked us over to see her garden, so we got to do that before meeting Storslees at Milton's (her choice!) for dinner. A truly beautiful day.
The day after I relished watching Karis tell every stranger on the street, "I'm five!". I also loved her friend party and getting to make it about HER. I love her joy in life, and it's a gift to watch her share her heart and brighten some days (most people smile and engage).
Karis - sometimes I envision you reading this . . . maybe soon, maybe when you're my age, I don't know. But I want you to know I pray always: that you would know what a gift your life is. God has made you with a beautiful heart and sweet spirit. You have the gift of joy, and I tell you often now that you are a joy bringer. I tell you that you have a heart of gold (and that makes you smile). I tell you that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, that you are the "one and only ever you". I pray always that you would know the deep love that I have for you, but I pray more so that you would know my love as only a flicker of God's perfect love for you. I pray always that Jesus would be your all and all. I tell you every day that "I love you always and forever, no matter what". I tell you that I am not perfect, that only God's love is perfect. I watch who you are becoming (at just the tender age of five!) and my heart bursts that you are so sensitive to others, how much you delight in God's creation in nature and in people. Your exuberance for life, for any adventure no matter how small - well, to be the one who gets to spend so much time knowing you and learning about you and going the journey with you, I am so grateful. I can't wait to see what the year looks like as you zoom towards 6 (you're already talking about your next birthday).
By the way, as I write this sentence you are sleeping and I want you to know that your daddy peeks in on you sometimes several times a night. You are one beloved daughter, Karis (I think he might miss sleeping on your floor sometimes!).
Other summer happenings
Just for the journal sake, I want to remember someday how much we can pack into a few months - a reminder that I can indeed be stretched in flexibility and spontaneity and fun. We had cousin Courtney here for a week of adventure and connection: Mall of America, library, Glam Dolls, Sculpture Garden, downtown, lots of Disney, nail painting, talking. Loved it all, she is a precious young woman.
Swimming lessons, every evening for two weeks straight. Karis was so brave, a good intro: "Mommy, God is answering your prayers, I'm having so much JOY at swimming lessons!"
Had a cousin (Trev's two in town cousins) outing to a friend's "furnishop" and then to Wise Acres Eatery. Always a success when we can enjoy a nice meal out with three little ones at the table (including little cousin Micah).
We had a lake weekend with friends of Trev's from college, where Karis caught her first fish and learned all about catching bugs (with two of their boys, her age).
Hosted a baby shower here for cousin Caroline, always an honor to bring people together to celebrate - she is a gracious momma already.
We went to the lake to spend the weekend with Uncle J & Aunt C. So good. Fishermen and fisherwomen (C & K) soaked in some sun, looked at pictures of their trip to Haiti, C & I went to Guardians of the Galaxy. Hopefully a tradition. Came home to some time with my parents, refreshing and fun and kicked off K's birthday celebration at Bacio.
We've made a sometimes tradition of meeting good friends at the Farmer's market on Wednesdays. Meandering, bouncing to the live music, getting samples of sour gummy worms.
Trevor ran a 5k race and is training for a half marathon trail run.
Karis has savored time with neighbors' granddaughter Lucy, her "best play dater". They plant seeds, dance, sing, draw. At the time of this writing, they're supposed to go to a kids concert today.
We traveled to Grand Forks for cousin Caitlin's wedding, such a joy. One highlight was watching Judah cut a rug on the dance floor. Wild man! And Karis prances and is so delightful - one of her highlights was when the bride came over to chat with her. Precious. We spent some more time at the lake that weekend, always refreshing.
We had a downtown outing with the Storslee's (baby Hank is quickly becoming a kindred spirit and fave of Karis's). We walked around Gold Medal Park, got quite close to the Guthrie, enjoyed the view of the Stone Arch bridge, walked to see the stadium construction, walked to Day Block for bacon and pizza (!) and then to Izzy's for treats. It was one of my favorite summer days.
We lately enjoyed a family Friday, with appetizers (corn on the cob, adored by the kids), pizza, and Tinkerbell (request by Trevor, no joke). Love those normal memories together. The next day Karis and I had a morning date and I just love her company on errands - like shoe shopping. She's amazing.
We loved getting a visit from Gma Lorie & Gpa Bob, some Good Day Cafe corner table and garden chats, snipping beans from their garden at the counter and celebrating August bdays here with the Pope clan.
We fill the days with connecting with friends, having age appropriate adventures, starting spontaneous dance parties, baking, tea party-ing, being outside as much as we can, and doing what we feel we can to brighten the days of those around us.
Trevor works hard and hard and hard and he plays a little bit, too. We're so grateful for time together.
- "If you want to pick your boogers, just pick your boogers. If you wanna blow your nose, that's another way for getting your boogers out, too"
- "I'm like Thumbelina!" (while curled up in laundry basket)
- "Look mom, I'm clipping my nails by biting them. I have an idea, should I save the nails for a craft project?" (I laughed so, so hard at this one. Dear frugal/resourceful daughter)
- "Pretty foundational. That means pretty easy" (said while writing letters, self directing her education)
- "Boating's not so great, but tubing is THE BEST!"
- "Yeah, like in KidsCAN, God rescues us. And so do life jackets"
- "Momma, people who work in stores have to wear a unicorn" (oh, uniform, right Karis?)
- "Mom, we should leave out some dried raisins and they'd turn into grapes!"
- "Well, we'll just have to see how life goes!"
- "Let me rephrase that into a different plan"
- "There are ants everywhere out here! Good morning ants! My dad killed some of you!"
- "Okay, so let me rephrase that plan"
- She loves to rip up pieces of paper and pretend they are noodles (reminds me of when she was around 2 and loved ripping paper into small pieces and putting stickers on them)
- "Oh yeah mom, you know what you can do for my birthday? You can knit me a sweater!"
- "Momma, don't leave - the plants will die!"
- "It's so good to be free in America!"
- "Being five is a big deal!"
- "Mom, did you know the smoker things make your teeth yellow and your brain black?" (heard from friends)
- "Ohhh, I'll never put myself in a chemical bed" (talking about tanning beds)
- "I think I'll be a really good mommy someday. Except I'm not good at taking slivers out. So, I can just drive my kids to your house and you can take out their slivers"
- "Mom, you're going to lose my brother!" (as he headed out the door at Culvers)
- "Mom, I have a great idea! You could burn a copy of this CD and I can play it in the car for my kids someday"
- "I need an appetizer" (said in a withering voice)
- "Excuse me, momma? I'd like a treehouse" (thank you, Daniel Tiger)
- "Oh no! I don't want to see it! Did we pass the butt picture?!" (said while driving down 169, where we pass by a billboard for a colonoscopy that has a guy basically mooning the highway)
- "It's so nice that we have lots of leftovers!"
- Melts my heart, every time we go to the library she picks out one board book for Judah
- "I know momma! Someday when I have a husband we can stay up late together. And we can go on a date and get a babysitter for our children" (said while rocking her before bed. Oh Karis!)
- We're pretty sure he was words inside his head that come out in the form of "uhhhhh uhhhh uhhhh" grunting. When he really needs to make a point (like, at our church VBS when someone else is holding him) he will cry out "maaaaaa maaaaaa!"
- We read I Love You This Much at sleep times, and he loves the bear in that book - only at bedtime, he will roar like a bear when I ask him what sound it makes. His roar is something like a low pitched "ahhhhhhh". Then we kiss the book goodnight (more as a transition attempt to get him to let go of it)
- He can run, and is so delighted every time he tries
- He happens to love lions, and if a book has a lion page he turns to it and won't look at anything else
- He is super cuddly, he buries his head into your shoulder and puts his arms down by his side
- He often has a "thing" of the day. For example, one day it was a (clean) wash rag, another day it was two fuzz balls that he had to carry around on a plate all day. Sometimes it's a toothbrush, or a certain crayon, or washcloth, or box of tic-tacs, or a tiny blue handled cup. For a while it was the flower girl basket from Uncle J and Aunt C's wedding
- He can say "shoe" (in a very Judah way, something like "shaaaa") and lately it's his favorite word (he loves his shoes and carries them around if he's not wearing them)
- He loves to dance. Loves.to.dance. He went wild at my cousin's wedding. Wild.
- He loves animals of any kind
- He goes up to other children and leans his head in and tries to "talk" to them. Hilarious.
- He is closer to 2 than to 1. I will not pretend to be okay with this.
- He loves to sleep and to lay in his crib. In fact, getting up is a long process, he just wants to stay in there and keeps begging to go back in (doesn't remind me of his dad or anything)
Some of my reads the past several weeks:
Sparkly Green Earrings
We Die Alone
Some of Karis's latest faves:
Anna Hibiscus's Song
One Morning in Maine
Little House picture books
A Walk in London