Loss

I just looked up into his smiling face yesterday morning and this morning I was told that he is gone. Is that possible? How can life be such a force and yet so fragile and temporary, so quickly gone? It has left me inwardly grasping at the faces and words of those people I see here everyday whom I have come to love; what if they don’t walk in tomorrow?

The loss of a friend who was healthy, strong, and had been playing his harmonica only minutes before his heart stopped is jarring. The tears sprang to my eyes and I felt the loss tangibly in my gut. I will never see his smiling face again and the loss of just those few seconds is enough to break the heart just a bit.

~~~

Ayden lost his first tooth this week. He was sitting at a cafe table in the early morning sun playing with legos then in an instant he was in my arms crying and telling me he’d broken his tooth biting a lego. It took a while to reassure him that everything was fine, his tooth didn’t break it was simply coming loose, making space for a better tooth. Within the hour he’d pulled the hanging tooth the rest of the way out and was walking around the cafe proudly showing off his treasure.

The loss of a baby tooth is a milestone in the growing up years. I have that first little tooth now on my shelf in a ziplock baggie to remind me in the decades to come of what a little boy Ayden once was. I feel sure I will never forget that singular quality in Ayden that I will only ever be able to describe with the idea that he’s really just one of the lost boys from Peter Pan and somehow he stumbled out of the fairy tale and into our family. I hope that when I’m 65 and bouncing his babies on my knees I can look across the room and still make out that little lost boy look in his face.

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dear mother of young children

As summer begins here we are coming out of a time of business. Throughout the winter months we were busy with the cafe, baking, coffee roasting, church, beach days, eating out on our own or with friends, and as that season came to an end in April we packed up and caught a plane North. We spent three weeks traveling around my husband’s home state of Missouri and then wrapped up our trip with my sister’s wedding in northern Arkansas. The longest time we were in one place was 7 nights at a condo with my family preparing for the wedding celebrations. The kids did great but now that we are home in Mexico the exhaustion and stress is evident in them.

They spent three weeks playing with friends, uncles, aunts, grandparents; they swam in swimming pools and played at playgrounds; they endured being dragged around thrift stores and antique shops; they camped and sat around bonfires late into the night. They loved it. And yet, all this constant movement and entertainment seems to have left them irritable, unable to settle down and sleep through the night (Willow is up every 2.5 – 3 hours throughout the night right now), and virtually unable to play together. For a mum and dad all this equals exhaustion.

As different as our lives are, dear mother of young children, I believe it is possible that you might be finding yourself in a similar season. So I write you this letter to encourage you, and myself. We will find a new rhythm and a new grace for our families. Creating a safe haven in our homes takes work and planning ahead; it involves inspiration and imagination; it requires sacrifice and energy. So with all you can muster, let’s get started! Here are a few ideas that help me:

With my kids, whining and hunger usually go hand in hand. Whining, of course, is one of the easiest ways to drive me crazy! So to save all of us from having breakdowns I try to have healthy snacks on hand:
yogurt, fruit or veggies cut up in the fridge, cheese, nuts
Sometimes we make an event out of a snack:
an air popcorn popper is an event that everyone can participate in
I let my littles chop up their own banana or avocado

There are tons of recipes and ideas for crafts online! Yesterday we made play dough and I have a recipe for finger paints in the queue. I often have to sit with them during these projects and we have fun doing it together.  Painting with paintbrushes is another favorite.

We have a couple old, beat up mattresses that we pull out for nap time upstairs where it is cooler now. These mattresses double as a running  and jumping course. My kids love jumping along a path of mats and mattresses or from a sturdy stool onto a mattress.

Sometimes a change of scenery is all we need to get over the hump of the day. We go for a walk in the stroller, run to the corner store for groceries, sit at the beach for a while, or drop in and visit a friend. If I’m not up to going out I’ll just set up something for them in a different room in the house – maybe a fort or a snack area.

Tried and true activities for my 3.5 year old include a length of rope to tie things up with (hopefully not his sister!), cooking or baking anything, and “washing dishes”. My 2 year old loves anything to do with water! Sometimes a paintbrush with a little bucket of water and some object to paint is all she needs.

I am also a firm believer in unstructured play times.  I think it helps little ones develop their imagination and learn how to play and problem solve together on their own, strengthening a healthy independence. Occasionally I have to get them started but usually they are pretty inventive. I know this can be hard at the beginning when kids are used to being entertained but it is so worth it as I watch them sing, dance, and play in their own worlds.

Lastly, dear mother of young children, I promise that someday we will sleep again. Someday. We will eventually get back that hour of precious quiet time with tea or coffee in the morning and that relaxing dinner spent in conversation with the hubby. For now, grab those few moments you can find and just whisper a prayer of gratitude for your precious littles and for the immense honor and privilege we have been given in being their mums.

I am inspired by this playlist these days: Hillsong United ZION acoustic session

Love and blessings,
a beach bum mama

Abuela is here..

..and we are enjoying a lovely time at Villa! Actually, all the work on our house in town has been a bit stressful, especially for the hubby. And I am just now beginning to feel myself again after being quite under the weather. But the mornings are beautiful with the sun streaming over the hill behind us and lighting up the hills across the bay and the sunsets have been incredible as they typically are. 046 023

It’s so good to be with my mum again after 8 months apart! Ayden loves her and whenever he loses sight of her will say, “whes a’buela?” He was upset with her this morning for coming downstairs before we could make her her cup of coffee and take it to her in her room.

We are working on the potty training and it seems to be going well. I’m not sure that potty training before this long drive North in May is the best plan but Ayden wanted out of his diapers so we’re giving it a shot!005 009

Willow is standing really well on her own but still hesitant to take any steps. She LOVES the pool and would probably spend all day in it even after her lips turn purple. She is working on another tooth which will make 3. She is clapping and dancing to music or just because. The other day she grabbed Ayden’s little guitar and putting her hands in just the right places she tilted her head to the side and sang. Gosh. Too. Adorable. villa april 043 villa april 068We are having low temperatures, as much of a winter as we’ve had this year, and with the breeze off the water we often spend the day in long sleeves or pants which is a nice change! However, it also means that we are spending no time in the pool and precious little in the sun. I guess my tan will have to wait still….

Listening to this song and keeping my heart, my eyes lifted up to a higher place.villa april 067 050 villa april 053

winding down

Yes, life is slowing down for us a bit. I am ready for the change of pace! It has been a fun and hectic season at the cafe and I can look back on it with a smile. We only have a few more weeks to go and then we’ll be closing up the doors and I’m sure we won’t know what to do with all the time!

Even last week Ben and I were looking at each other, unsure of what to do with our evenings. We went out a few times to the beach for the sunset, to a corner cafe, to a new restaurant for a shared bottle of sangria. Lovely. Ayden and Willow are having more books read to them, more block castles built and knocked down and rebuilt, more cuddles. I am letting Ayden make more messes. He enjoys the grater and he will grate anything and everything he can think of. Which has resulted in some pretty scuffed up toys.

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But now we are sick again. Yes, one of our employees received the flu shot, got sick, came to work, and infected us all! Thankfully a friend had just brought us a couple of his chickens so there has been soup simmering on the stove for days now. Our counter has been littered with all the paraphernalia that goes along with colds and flus: the garlic press full of garlic, the fresh ginger with the grater nearby, homeopathic tablets, GSE, fruits high in vitamin C, sippy cups and bottles of echinacea tea. We’ll beat this thing yet!

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Willow has a new tooth, the first one! She is also standing really well and will even balance for a second or two on her own as long as she is holding something in both hands. She has learned that she can close the door by crawling after it and leaning on it with one hand. When she gets angry she can throw one of the best fits I’ve seen. It is so pitiful but sometimes so funny. Willow loves watermelon.

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Ayden just keeps us laughing or crying. He loves to sing and he puts his whole person into his songs. Today he scribbled on a piece of paper while sitting with Ben who was writing out a to-do list and later, when Ben was getting ready to go out to run errands, Ayden made Ben stop and find the piece of paper he had scribbled on. Once it was found, Ayden unwrinkled it and showed it to Ben while directing with both hands the way he needed to drive in order to get to a certain place. He had drawn Ben a map. We are constantly surprised by this little guy. Ayden’s favorite fruit is blueberries.

The cafe is slowing down, we are letting go and relaxing, the weather has been remarkably cool, and the ocean… she is starting to show her untamed nature, throwing wild waves up on the shore. We are moving into a new season.

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The terrible 2 years, 5 months, and 11 days

Wow.. and what am I supposed to do? I keep reminding myself this is just a stage that he will grown out of. He’s just trying to figure out his boundaries, his capabilities, his world. And it’s not easy…

And he hit his sister on the head with a board. She’s screaming. Someone is at my door asking for food. Telling me how beautiful my son is. I look at his face smeared with snot, it’s solidified on his cheeks and in his ears and hair. I keep wiping his face with a wash cloth but that snot just reappears. A well meaning person walks in and gives me a toothbrush for my son. “We are handing them out to all the poor, underprivileged children.” Wait a minute… what? I wipe his face again.

“No, you can’t watch tractor videos right now.” A toy truck goes flying across the room as he collapses onto the floor in a heap, rolling back and forth crying. I take him to his room, sit him on his bed. I am trying hard to control my voice and my attitude.

He refuses to take a nap. He sits in his bed for an hour but no nap. So I let him get up. He walks into the kitchen and rips a toy away from Willow and she cries. What do I do? How do I “train him up” and “set boundaries” and “discipline in love” . . . So I sweep the kitchen and he’s trying to help with his child sized broom and I just don’t want his help. I am so frustrated and lost and the tears are streaming down my face and he’s singing little two year old melodies to break your heart.

My heart is broken. I am broken. I want to be a peaceful, grace filled mama. I want to be a safe haven, an anchor, arms wide open. But so often I am lost in selfishness and I don’t look for the joy and the blessing so all I see is the dark, cavernous face of my own inadequacies. I am trying to learn but I am a slow learner. Sometimes I wonder that I have been entrusted with these wee ones – how in heaven’s name am I supposed to lead these little hearts to Christ?

I guess that’s just it. I have to lead. I have to be on my way first, ahead of them on the road. Not having arrived, just pushing ahead – sometimes in the sun, sometimes lost in shadow, but still putting foot in front of weary foot. God’s grace is new every morning and don’t I know that I need it fresh like manna every morning! Enough for that day. Tomorrow is a new day and because I live in the tropics the sun will shine brightly, stream through my kitchen door, and I will try again to live a worthy life.

Stop. Breathe. Lift eyes to heaven. Give thanks. Look for the blessing. Smile. Laugh.

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15 facts of life

  1. Willow has a serious cold.
  2. I don’t bake well on very little sleep.
  3. It’s so great to have family in town!
  4. If there was any doubt about the season at the cafe picking up it has now been dispelled.
  5. My mom is always there for me.
  6. My husband sweeps floors and washes dishes and all I say is “Thanks, babe”
  7. The GSE joined us at the table along with the bacon and eggs.
  8. Ayden has started throwing things in frustration.
  9. Ben had been missing his guitar tuner for a few days and found it yesterday when he cleaned out the shop-vac. (Um.. Ayden..?)
  10. Yogurt Coffeecake is super versatile and oh, so good! Try coconut-almond or rosemary-orange. Yum!
  11. Willow is scooting across the floor toward the door as I type.
  12. When I don’t get around to hanging out the laundry until after dark I get to stare at the stars while I hang.
  13. All the poor and powerless are not forgotten by Jehovah.
  14. Being grateful changes everything about life. Changes even me.
  15. One of my favorite moments this week was holding my sick baby girl all wrapped up warm in the blanket her aunt made her.