Thursday, August 8, 2013

35 years!

Spring break in Florida, 1994
True story. The morning after I gave birth to our son Mark, the phone beside my hospital bed rang. It was Bill. "How would you like to move south, to North Carolina?" Oh sure, why not? It was time for a move, since we had a new baby!

And so we packed and moved. Six weeks later. We mini-vanned our way to Chapel Hill, North Carolina with three little boys, ages 4, 3 and 6 weeks and Bill's mom as our helper. The azaleas and red buds welcomed us in their full bloom! On move-out day in Ohio, it snowed. On move-in day in Chapel Hill, I went digging for shorts.

Making friends was as easy as walking across the street in Chapel Hill and that's exactly what I did. Directly across from our rental house was a neighborhood pool, crawling with young moms and their kids. We also walked David to the elementary school each day where there was no shortage of friendly faces. I think having school-aged children is the golden ticket to feeling at home in a new place. Almost without trying, the boys had friends, play dates, birthday parties, and I forged friendships with some wonderful women.

Bill experienced a bump in his career while in Chapel Hill, and we decided to relocate back to Ohio, this time to Delaware. Frankly, the move wasn't my choice. The boys and I were feeling settled and well, I was getting sick of moving. But I had resolved to support Bill in his career and so we moved. However this time, we both agreed that this move, if at all possible, would be our last for a long time. We wanted for our children what neither of us had: a hometown.

In this season of marriage, we began to shift our focus and efforts onto our children. I don't think it's an especially healthy thing for a marriage to let the scale tip toward the children: physically, mentally, emotionally. We were pretty good about date nights when the kids were young, but as they got older and busier, we tended to stay home with them and time for us took a back seat.

Oh, and I didn't mention. Another move = another baby! Bill went on to Ohio work while I stayed in North Carolina to sell the house. For three months we did this and I absolutely didn't think I would make it. The boys were ages 6, 4 and 19 months. I was pregnant, keeping the house realtor-ready, and so exhausted I wanted to die.

One afternoon a friend called. I burst into tears over the phone from sheer exhaustion. She said, "put the boys' pajamas in  a bag, I'm coming to get them." She fed them dinner, bathed them and brought them home at bedtime. I can't even remember the friend's name, but she was an angel on earth.

Montana: on top of the world for our 20th anniversary ...
on the memorable trip in Big Red with 4 kids.
We moved into a spec house the week before Christmas, 1989, the same house we live in today. I delivered Katie two months later and we launched into a wild and wooly 10 years of school, sports (oh mercy, the interminable sports), scouts, church, orthodontics, millions of laundry loads, a dog at last, and vacations. Anyone who says, "what's two more kids, once you already have two?" is lacking in math skills. Two kids in sports does not equal four kids in sports. Two sets of braces does not equal four. And eight years of college most certainly doesn't equate to sixteen!

I once heard someone say (and I think it offends Bill just a little): "sometimes the hardest part of being a parent is the other parent." This is the raw truth. I was the stricter disciplinarian because I was with them all day. He expected the kids to unquestioningly work hard in school; at times I questioned the benefit of homework. I was a yeller (not proud of that, and worked on it); that embarrassed him so he'd slam the windows shut so the neighbors wouldn't hear the bath-time chaos. He had only one brother and I had three siblings; I don't think he anticipated the decibel level at almost any time of day. I was into scouting and he wasn't. He was into sports and I definitely wasn't. On and on it went. At times, all these created differing expectations and standards in our home. And most days, we had very little time, energy or patience to hash it all out for a united front. Honey, did you ever figure out the difference between PG and PG-13?

There was also joy. And thankfulness. And humor. And music and laughter. And patience learned in late-night homework sessions. And listening, oh how I tried to listen. There was wonder in the growth and maturity of our children. We all learned grace and forgiveness, though it didn't always come easily.

Maybe most of all, I appreciated when Bill walked in the house after work. The kids would yell, "hi, Daddy!" and he'd wrap them in his arms and roll on the floor with them. He didn't care if the house was a wreck or dinner not ready. He valued cared-for children over a clean house.

I was exceedingly blessed in the ways he validated me, even if he couldn't know every detail of my day.

Tomorrow: though no more moves, the next ten years brimmed with changes!


Jenny Haller said...

Love love these stories! Thanks for sharing and recording!

Jenny Haller said...

"and so exhausted I wanted to die."

I feel ya :):)

Your crazy seems immeasurable. All the moving in the midst of kids that young; I'd have drank my self in :)