hourglasses

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There’s a scene in the second Night at the Museum movie, Battle of the Smithsonian, where Owen Wilson’s character Jed is trapped in an hourglass, and the sand is raining down, slowly smothering him.  The added torture to his impending long, drawn-out demise is that Jed can see it coming; the higher the level of sand in his half of the hourglass, the closer he is to suffocating.

There have been times this past week where I felt just like Jed, staring up into the waterfall of sand that just won’t stop pelting down.

I’ve never, ever been one of those people who marks off a calendar, heaving a sigh of relief at the close of another day.  Never.  Even way on back in 1987, as much as I longed to be 16, I also had realized that we are only given so many days.  To X off the days gone by with a big, permanent black mark seemed so ungrateful.  Rather than a countdown to something new and exciting–like the coming of a brand new year on New Year’s Eve–to me, it feels like a countdown to the end.  The Big End.

Which is not to say that there are some days (or weeks, even) that I wish would go by faster.  Take this week.  It’s a fine example.

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Let the Wild Rumpus Begin! Jack, Summer 2007

I attacked this summer using various coping methods–the Unexpecteds, red wine, short bursts of intense exercise, lots of beach time–but the main thing that kept me plugging along and not yanking my hair out strand by strand was the finish line:  August 22.  The first day all three boys would finally be back in school.

August 22.  It had a great ring to it.

I could not decide exactly what I was going to do that day, come back home and crawl into bed and sleep until I needed to leave to get Theo or bike up to a hardcore, hour-long exercise class I’d missed all summer.  Both choices were equally delicious.

But then Theo and I attended his orientation and I got the news.  His start date was not actually the 22nd.  It was the 7th.  Of September.

I honestly almost started crying, which might sound like the most terrible reaction a mother could have, particularly when it concerns her last baby going off to school.  But honestly, it was like I was a mere 2/10 of a mile from the marathon finish line and the race coordinators went “Ah, well, no.  You see, we’ve decided to add another 3 miles.”  Pure deflation.  Magnified frustration.  I was fresh out of ideas and fun things to do and, quite frankly, out of patience.  Fresh out, I tell you.

So we’ve been flipping hourglasses all week.  We have good hours; we have bad hours; we have long hours, we have (many, many) train hours and, for some reason this week, we have sleepless hours (that also happen to fall in the middle of the night).  I won’t lie; it’s been a long, long week.

School did start back for the big boys this week; we went to the Meet and Greet Day wherein Tuck made a superior (and, no doubt, lasting) first impression on his new Kindergarten teacher when he met her while wearing Dr. Buck’s Fake Teeth (I believe he was sporting the gap-toothed variety).  No, folks, that “T” on his shirt isn’t for Tucker…it’s for Troublemaker.  I would have taken a photo of the offending pseudo-dentures except they are long, long gone in the Trinity trash by this point.

We’re talking big HUGE personality on this guy and it just keeps growing:

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And just where did he stash the fake teeth?  A fist? A pocket?  His pocket?  It was definitely a pre-meditated move and these two definitely look like they are up to something…

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Our little comedian had such a blast at his Meet and Greet that he left the building and could not tell us the names of his own teachers.  He had no idea where his classroom was (this is actually understandable as the school is pretty large).  Panic set in the next morning.  Tuck didn’t want to wear his name tag, stating it was “too embarrassing” (because being lost in a new school without having a clue of the names of your teachers isn’t embarrassing enough, right?).

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In comes Big Brother to the rescue.  Jack walked Tucker all the way down the stairs, past the bunny Oreo (who, by the way, is not even remotely on the direct route to Tuck’s classroom) and to his room.  I think this philanthropic deed went on all last week.  Such good brothers.

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Jack takes his job as big brother quite seriously, always leading the way.

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Not all of the past week has been tedious, however.

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Before the big boys started school, we had two days to unwind and recover from a lovely week at the beach.  The boys begged to go to Fernbank and going to Fernbank always piggy-backs with going to F.R.O.G.S., a semi-dive-y fresh mex place near Virginia Highlands.  We love the Aussie who owns it, and he is quite tolerant of us and our double cheese dip ordering sons.  We still don’t know what F.R.O.G.S. stands for, but we’ve made our guesses–none of which are worthy of being typed out here.

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Don’t mess with him.
He’ll bite you with his fake teeth.

For what it’s worth, the deck at F.R.O.G.S. is splendid and, in addition to housing a full-sized surfboard in a tree, also presents oodles of most excellent and eclectic people watching.  Oh, and good light to try to take normal pictures of your children, too.

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I did say to try to take normal pictures.

Fernbank never, ever fails us.  Money was well spent on that membership, for sure.

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Moose-Ears for Theo

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Busted…

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microscopes…

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and weird reflective things…

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and mermaids?  no…

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and bubbles…(oh, my)

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Don’t worry! That’s not Hurricane Irene (or Jim Cantore)…
it’s Jack with a Bird-Nest-Head rivalling the cold front for screen space
*****

Just when you think you’ve passed the sand-in-your-eyes feeling resulting from strings of sleepless nights with a crying baby, BAM.  You’re right back into it, knee-deep.  This little dumpling has been waking up several times a night and traveling into our room, all because of “a tiny bit of bad dreams.”

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His dreams are apparently vivid and quite scary; there have been several times when he’s run into our room screaming and shaking (and wide awake…so, no, these aren’t night terrors.  We’ve had our fun with those with Tucker.).  He has pale blue camping lights strung on his bed’s headboard, so it’s not too dark.  He has Tucker’s Native American Dream Catcher, given to Tuck by his devoted teacher Ms. Chandra during his own nightmare-having stage, hanging over his bed as well.  So far, he’s gotten no relief.  We’re on day 5 of being up with him at least twice a night–which means we’ve gotten no relief, either.

By mid-week, all three boys were cranky, the excitement of the return of school taking its toll on them (well, on two of them, at least).  By Wednesday, the smothered feeling was starting to strangle me.  One of them took a mere 6 minutes to destroy the playroom I’d spent all day organizing.  I had built train tracks and played trains with the littlest one all morning long.  I had not exercised in three days.  I had one sleepwalker traipse downstairs before 9 p.m.  I was not looking forward to another night of the revolving bedroom door.  I’d put in a 14.5 hour day so far.  Then I stumbled across the blog of an old acquaintance from college.

The tale of her family’s days since losing their youngest son to the flu a few years ago rattled me.  He was not quite three.  I could not get them off my mind, despite how exhausted to the core I was.  I flipped and flopped all night long, my stomach knotting up each time I tried to imagine the grief, the desperation, the all-encompassing frustration they had to feel.  I guess that’s why I wound up breaking one of our family’s Great Commandments around 5 a.m. and pulled Theo into bed with me.

He finally fell asleep, his little hand wrapped around my thumb.  I lay there and stared at him, all tiny and adorable, wrapped up in his dot-dots, on his side facing me.  Every time I tried to pull my hand away, he’d flinch, so I took the last half-hour nap of the night holding my three-year-old’s hand in mine.  He was just as exhausted as I was.  Night terrors, regardless of their form or content, are no fun for anyone.

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Despite my steadfast devotion against wishing time to fly by, I recognize that it does, and I’m also recognizing that it happens much more quickly the older you get.  The first few grains in an hourglass hardly seem to move, but if you sit there until the end, the grains appear to start falling faster and faster, being sucked through and down and away on their own–way quicker than those first little grains leisurely went through that rabbithole.

Time flies, whether you’re having fun or not.

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And sometimes when it’s hard–nearly impossible–to find the fun in all these days and hours and minutes whipping you in the face, you have to dig a little deeper.  You have to push the envelope–maybe wear funny looking teeth (or trespass on a construction site)–to find a way to make someone, even yourself, smile.

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Too often we let the big picture take over.  The big picture is that hourglass with its constant measurement of time gone by, of things we’ve done and left undone, of the finite time we have left.

In the spirit of our Unexpecteds, I’m trying to move past this view and re-center.  I don’t want to look up and think chaos is raining down all the time.  I don’t want to keep looking backwards, trying to recreate days we’ve already lived.

Doing all that makes you miss the good stuff flying at you head-on.

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So face-forward and chock full of eager anticipation–that’s going to be us.  Throwing a curve ball our way?  Bring it.

We’re ready.

I was able to get Theo’s start date moved up to September 1st.  Jack has started fall baseball again and his team, the Grasshoppers (yes, really) took the field last night for their first practice.  Tucker is bubbling with excitement about his piano lessons which start in less than 2 weeks.  The mornings are starting to have a slightly crisp taste to them, if you stretch your imagination a bit.

We’ve put our hourglass back on the shelf in the library where it belongs.

It’s on its side.  And now, it’s on our side, too.

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