Rain Boot Memories

Dear Alicia,

I thought of you today (again) when Alice got off the bus. She was so excited to show me her “human body” that she couldn’t contain herself. “Let’s go home, Mom!” she begged me instead of wanting to play with her neighbor bus-mate like she usually wants to do each day. In the end, I’m usually the one dragging her away when it’s time to say good bye.

“I want to show you my body!!” she told me again and again at the bus stop interrupting my brief conversation with my fellow bus stop mom. Alice has been learning about the human body at school, complete with having her own body traced on paper and glueing a paper brain, stomach, lungs, ribcage, etc onto the traced body. She’s been telling me about each part they talk about and has been so excited to bring her paper body home.

I said good bye to my neighbor and told Alice we could leave. She ran ahead of me, and I do mean “ran,” very uncharacteristic of her. What a picture she made – her loose hair flying in the wind, unzipped sweatshirt tails flapping, her backpack that is too big for her 33lb real body bouncing wildly from side to side, and of course the icing on the cake were the white tights tucked inside the green rain boots that Daniel and I thought were too cute not to buy even though they weren’t 100% practical. (Alicia, you would like them. I think they might have been something you would have bought for her.) My heart filled with so much love, so much pride, so much hope for her future that I thought I was going to cry right in the middle of the street. I wanted to remember that moment for the rest of my life – so innocent and carefree. When we got to the house, I even asked Alice if I could go inside and get the camera to take a picture of her running, but she didn’t want to – had to show me that paper body pronto.

But in the instant that I thought I was about to explode with love for my daughter, I also had the realization, no… the intense terror, that she could be taken from me. How could I—if I ever had to—go on without this living, breathing part of me that I call my daughter, flesh of my flesh? And in the next instant, I pictured your own mom savoring similar moments from your life. There are quite a few pivotal as well as “mundane” moments I was privileged to share during 12 years of knowing you; however what about the memories Grace has of you running around in your “green rain boots,” the day-to-day moments of pure, innocent sweetness from your childhood that conjure up an enormity of feelings?

another rain boot memory

As April 28th draws closer, I had written 2 pieces recently about you and how this past year has changed so many lives forever, but I haven’t been at peace with them, haven’t wanted to publish them – not now anyway. My words on paper felt like useless drivel, unable to portray the weight of this past year, and many times sounding selfish. As I have been saying since last April to persons who feel like they need to say something to help me get through this, there really are no words. No words to adequately portray a mother’s anguish, a father’s grief, a husband’s sorrow, a sister’s heartache, a brother’s pain.

What I have felt at peace about sharing with you is the song that I have been singing—needed to sing—for the past few weeks. You’ll know it, I’m sure. And while not every line fits, I feel like it says more than I could ever say at this point in time. My prayer has been that the family you left behind could all find some comfort  In The Arms Of an Angel, whoever that may be for each of us, as I hope you have too.

Missing and missing you so,

Natalie

Signs of Spring

So Easter has come and gone, and yes I am thoroughly enjoying chocolate once again. Several people asked me if I was eating chocolate at 12:01am Easter morning, to which I have to answer “no” only because one year I overdid my end of Lent celebration and ended up with a killer migraine the next day – enough to make me think twice about any radical chocolate indulgence on Easter day or even during the first week or two afterwards.

I did figure out 2 things since the beginning of Lent that may be changing – or even ending – my chocolate detox… forever. First off, instead of ingesting high amounts of chocolate, I learned that I simply find non-chocolate, sugar-loaded substitutes. This year’s substitute was Reese’s pieces, which are ridiculously expensive and super easy to eat a lot of… believe me, I know. Another great substitute was rice krispie treats. I learned that I can eat 1/5 of a 9X13 pan of rice krispie treats in less than 5 minutes without flinching, not an accomplishment I’m overly proud of; but it did strengthen my long standing, although untested, theory that I could easily eat an entire 9X13in pan of these gooey bits of heaven in a day.

The second bit of information that may change my chocolate detox forever came when Daniel found this life-changing, guilt eliminating NPR article about the health benefits of chocolate. (Yes, I know dark chocolate is supposed to have excellent health benefits – wish I liked it more.) The basic premise of the article Daniel found was that people who regularly eat chocolate (doesn’t matter which kind – dark, milk or white!!) 5 times a week appear to have higher metabolisms than people who do not. Daniel sent me the link to this article with about 3 weeks left of Lent, and I was ready to throw in the towel and start eating chocolate that very night. I certainly didn’t want to sabotage my metabolism, which I’ve always thought to be relatively high. Alas, Daniel was relentless that I was not allowed to end my detox… not even when I begged him to let me eat a brownie at 7pm the night before Easter, so I did go the full time without consuming chocolate.

Some of the first flowers I found this spring.

But as I alluded to in an earlier post, my chocolate detox is really more about my health and not about a religious experience. However I did decide to do something for Lent that was motivated by hoping to experience a slower pace of life – siding toward the spiritual side of life. I decided to use our bike trailer which converts to a double jogging stroller to take Alice to school in order to observe the first signs of spring which I most likely would have missed speeding by in our station wagon. My intentions were good, however there were definitely issues I was not anticipating, and I only ran Alice to school a total of 16 times out of the 28 opportunities that I had to do so. My list of excuses included weather (mostly wind), morning activities running later than I anticipated, exhaustion, lack of motivation, and busy roads/feeling unsafe – especially on Fridays, seemed to be higher traffic days.

 

Ready to go!

 

In fact, since the roads we travel to school are particularly busy that time of day, I felt like I spent more time watching traffic than I did watching wildlife – pretty much defeating the purpose of my commitment. One particularly scary day was the Monday after St. Patrick’s Day. I’m pretty sure there were several people on the road still feeling the effects from the weekend celebration as there were a high percentage of cars crossing over the white line, coming onto the shoulder that day. When I’m running solo, I feel somewhat agile – like I could jump over a guardrail instead of getting crushed between an oncoming tractor trailer crossing over the white line and said guardrail if I had to. However, when you’ve got a 100lb, 3foot wide stroller, there’s not much you can do to remove it from a situation such as the one mentioned above. Thus I spent more and more of my run/walk in the grass and on peoples’ lawns and driveways waiting for big trucks to pass us than on the road as the days went by. I also realized I was losing some of my endurance that I had built up since this run was only 2.2miles round trip and of course we stopped halfway through that to drop Alice at the school doors and many times wandered over to the construction site near the school to watch the earth movers do their thing – much to Ian’s delight. But all this stopping and gawking significantly dropped my heart rate for almost 20 minutes making me feel like I still needed to put in a full workout when I got home – ugh.

All that said, I actually do feel like I spent a decent amount of time watching spring emerge this year, just not when I thought I would have. I noticed it more around our house than I have in years past. Maybe it was because spring came earlier this year than most years or maybe because this was the first year I actually planted peas and lettuce, which meant more time outside getting my garden ready. Whatever it was – it has been a gorgeous… and of course it continues. While I most likely will not be running the kids to school on a regular basis anymore due to the heavy traffic and the less than stellar workout,  I’ll continue to watch intently as the season unfolds its beauty all around us. Hope you enjoy it too!

 

 

 

Emerging peas
A few weeks later

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long awaited

 

 

Another spring favorite - photograph by Daniel

Wanderlust

If I have to scrub one more pot, fold one more piece of laundry, or pull one more weed, I think I’m going to lose it. I may pack up the kids, drop them with my parents, and drive – for a long time. If you want to join me, you’re welcome.

It’s been a strange couple of days (or weeks?) here at the Miller house, mostly because I have always loved being a SAHM; and these feelings of wanting something different are completely baffling. It’s not that I want a permanent change. I don’t want to “do” something other than the monotonous, thankless job that I have. (Ok, a few more “thank yous” would be nice – I’m hoping they’ll come when the kids move out and realize how good they had it. Pretty much like I did when I was left standing on the porch of Daniel and my first apartment at LeTourneau Univ. in TX, watching the tail lights of our parents’ vehicles… realizing how much my mom did for me… but I digress.) I honestly wouldn’t trade my current job for a million dollars, especially if it meant an office job or customer care – not my cup of tea. (Quick aside – I’m NOT bashing those of you who enjoy an office job. Just as your job isn’t my dream job; my job probably isn’t your dream job either. Nor am I trying to start debate between SAHMs and working moms. I support each mom out there doing this thing we call life and realize that means different dreams for each woman.)

Before I got married, I remember my mom telling me that she got bored doing the same old housework routine again… and again… and again. On rough days, she would ask me or my siblings what we wanted for supper because nothing piqued her appetite. She had made it all so many times. (After making spaghetti at least 300 times like she would have done by the time I was 18yrs old, there wasn’t much thrill in making it one more time.) I’ve thought about mom’s dilemma a lot over the years mainly because I hadn’t experienced her feelings during my 9 years of marriage, and I wondered if I – like probably every other SAHM – was destined to reach the point of boredom as well. However, I was hopeful I wouldn’t because I am a person who thrives on routine and monotony. From the time I was age 5 until I walked down the aisle at the age of 22, I liked to pack eggs – a seriously repetitive job for those of you who never had the delightful experience. Daniel would tell you it’s one of the “boring-est” jobs ever. Over the years, I enjoyed the monotony of stacking and moving millions upon millions of eggs. Another example – I cross stitched a winter scene that was made up of 52,000 little Xs, and someday I’m excited to complete the spring, summer and fall scenes which are just as involved… just a tiny bit monotonous.

 

52,000 little Xs

 

So when I found myself in desperation serving supper from a box while asking Daniel what he wanted for dinner the next evening all while fervently hoping that pot-scrubbing-fairies were, in fact, real – in addition to daydreaming about “exotic” places like Sequoia National Park, I started wondering who I had become. Where did the monotony-loving-girl that I know go?

Then I realized – she’s still in there. I still want to hang up every piece of wash and pull every weed (at least until July when I pretend they don’t exist because one can only weed for so long without visiting Crazytown). But there is something else I’m longing for – adventure. For me, adventure is something physically or mentally challenging and usually nonpermanent (sorry – moving to Africa is just plain scary). Adventure is conquering Knife’s Edge on Mount Katahdin, a backpacking trip, or running a half marathon. Pretty much anyway I can use up the ridiculous amounts of energy that build up from doing the same ol’ same ol’, day in and day out.

Where's Waldo... or Natalie ? In 2007 I went on my first backpacking trip with 5 men including Daniel to California and Utah. Quite an adventure! This is Emerald Lake in Sequoia National Park.

This past Thursday we got an email from “Sheraton Salt Lake City Hotel” with the subject of the email confirming a reservation in UT. I just about fell off my seat when I saw it in the inbox. I thought maybe Daniel had lost his marbles and booked a get-away after listening to me whine about my current state of mind. (I say “lost his marbles” because we’re saving up for a house project right now, and big trips aren’t on the agenda.) Alas, I was saddened (although not surprised) when I realized this was an error – either Mr. Mettman gave the wrong email address or we were spammed.

And then on Friday, I did something I’ve done regularly since Alice’s birth (although not during this school year due to half day kindergarten schedule) that shifted my entire outlook. I visited my parents (and no, I didn’t drop the kids and drive away). I forgot about the mulching that wasn’t finished, the community meal I’m supposed to be planning, and the carpets that desperately need!! vacuumed; and I just was. I reveled in my children’s excitement of being with their grandparents. I read books to the kids. I drank Swiss iced tea – a staple from my egg packing days, ingesting its serious amounts of sugar and caffeine with abandonment. I spent several hours talking with my mom and sometimes my dad about nothing, and everything – the past, present and future all rolled into one unending conversation. The day slipped by so quickly.

When we arrived home, much to my flabbergastation (yes, I made it up), Daniel had completed a huge part of the mulching project that was overwhelming me. I felt so refreshed that I decided to start the endeavor of dyeing Easter eggs with the kids even though it was nearing bedtime. While watching Ian’s excitement and wonder grow during his first time dyeing eggs, I was reminded of how grateful I am to experience so many of my kids’ firsts each day alongside them.

 

While the day did not include the euphoria of climbing a mountain or finishing a half marathon, it reached deep within and soothed my spirit, reminding me to slow down and enjoy this job that I wouldn’t trade for anything. And because I’m not going to let my dream of adventure fade, it will come at the right time. I can count on that – like the rising and setting of the sun and the never ending piles of laundry that are my favorite household chore.

 

Thanks to Daniel for suggesting the title of this post. "Wanderlust", which I didn't know was a word, is defined by wikipedia as "a strong desire for or impulse to hike, wander or travel and explore the world."