Life’s What You Make It

Joe at the beach
Joe at the beach

Our oldest has had something of a rough re-entry into landlocked life since we returned from our Hawaiian vacation almost a month ago. I’m afraid that on our trip Joe realized that he, in fact, is not a mountain kid but is an ocean kid living in a city over a thousand miles away from an ocean. Since returning home, he’s immersed himself in ocean research, continually forcing us to watch episodes of The Blue Planet all about the seas. He’s been on Google Earth checking out locations for snorkeling vacations. (He’s currently leaning toward the Maldives. We’ll head there right after we win the lottery.) He’s also been driving me crazy by insisting that the incredibly crappy, gravel beach at the small reservoir a mile from our house has to be a regular destination for us this summer. I’ve tried explaining to him that I don’t see myself spending my summer on a bed of gravel next to a big pond that is occasionally closed to swimming because E coli bacteria is proliferating there. He seems not to hear my negatives, simply reminding me that this is the closest he can ever be to a beach and that he’s an ocean kid and not a mountain kid. Don’t we realize we’re torturing him by making him live in Colorado so far away from the ocean? Yes. He’s a bit of a drama queen. And he keeps asking us to move.

Today was the first nice day we’ve had thus far this year. The temps soared into the low 70s and everyone was out in shorts. After nothing but snowfall this spring, today felt like our deliverance. The hope of summer was so close we could almost smell the campfires and see the columbine. We imagined finally putting away our snow gear and justifiably pulling out our flip flops. Although we’re not quite out of the woods yet (looks like we might see snow again next week), we allowed ourselves today the opportunity to imagine the sound of nails being driven into the coffin of a long, cold winter. Joe was beside himself with glee, dreaming perhaps of our warmer days in Hawaii.

Late this afternoon, he asked us if we could go to the beach across the street. All I could think was that it’s starting already…the battle I will face this summer. We told him no. We’d just gotten back from a 30 mile bike ride and we wanted to hang out at home. But Joe persisted. Finally I decided to check the web site for the state park where I discovered that the swim beach was closed until Memorial Day. When I told him the bad news, the poor kid cried. He actually cried. Unable to bear his frustration, we told him we would drive over to check out the situation.

When we pulled into the lot at the beach, we found several families picnicking and having cookouts. The boys were thrilled. There was no going back. We got out of the car and headed onto the beach. Steve and I threw the beach blanket down and settled in for the half an hour of beach time we’d promised. Although they seemed to be a bit shocked by the 45 degree water temperature (not surprising to us given that the lake had ice on it until a month ag0), the boys got their feet wet and walked along the shore. They threw sticks into the water and were giddy every time a noisy speedboat kicked up diminutive, rippling waves. Steve and I watched with wonder as our sons seemed to have nearly as much fun on this beach as they’d had in Hanalei where the strong ocean tides had prohibited them from swimming from that beach. They didn’t care that the lake is so small you can see across it in every single direction. They didn’t care that the water was achingly cold and the beach was not comprised of fine, powdery sand. They enjoyed their moment anyway. After all, they were at the beach.

I am reminded sometimes that my older, wiser, more cynical view of life gets in the way of my appreciating the smaller things. I didn’t want to go to the reservoir. I could not see the point of sitting on a rough, gravel beach with no true waves and freezing cold water. I could not see it until I was there with my boys and I witnessed the incalculable joy this weak substitution offered them. Only then was I reminded that just because a situation isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it can’t be perfectly grand in its own way. Chatfield Reservoir isn’t exactly Poipu Beach on Kauai, but it’s something. Life’s what you make it.

Every Age With My Boys Is A Good Age

Our little boys

One of my husband’s college roommates came to breakfast at our house today. Because Scott lives clear across the country near Philadelphia, this was only the second time he’s had the immense privilege of hanging out with our boys. The last time he saw them, they were roughly 4 and 6, and a bit more difficult to manage than they are now. Today, while we enjoyed steak and eggs and a few hours of conversation with Scott, our boys played quietly either upstairs or in the basement. They interrupted us only once to ask us to look at the whale that had appeared on Wii Sports Resort while Joe was jetskiing.

A couple times during his visit, Scott commented that our boys were so well-behaved. I had to laugh. While I know our boys are pretty good kids, I never truly think of them as being well-behaved. I suppose that’s because most of the time I’m with them they’re driving me insane with non-stop chatter, fart noises, and references to “gunships,” “hot lava,” and “Sector 4.” But, today, they were quite accommodating while we were with our friend. They didn’t stay in the room eavesdropping or run in and out being noisy or even bother us for snacks or drinks. They were inconspicuous and borderline polite. It was pleasant.

Lately I’ve been doing a bit of walking down memory lane, reviewing old videotapes I recently found of our boys when they were roughly 4 and 2. The videos tug at my heart. The boys were so cute with their speech impediments, their mischievous grins, and their funny dancing. I watch those videos and feel a bit sad that I didn’t enjoy that time in their lives more. When they were at that age, though, I was exhausted. I was simply too tired to be zen about the whole thing and live in the moment. And, every time a woman stopped me and told me to appreciate this time with my little boys, I wanted to scream, “I’m too tired to appreciate them. I’ll appreciate them later when they’re bigger and I have the energy.”

So, now that they are bigger, I am trying very hard to live with them in the present and pay attention to this time in their lives. After Scott left today, my well-behaved boys and I spent a perfect rainy day afternoon watching Iron Man and Iron Man 2 together, curled up on the couch discussing how much Luke wanted to be Tony Stark. Having the time and energy now to appreciate them has helped me understand that it’s okay that I wasn’t better about relishing the present with them when they were smaller and such a handful. I was doing the best I could at that time. And, I did enjoy them. If I hadn’t found them darling and interesting, if I hadn’t treasured the place they were at, if I hadn’t understood how ephemeral it all was, I wouldn’t have recorded hours upon hours of video of them dancing, celebrating birthdays, taking baths, and playing with Thomas the Tank Engine.

I’ve cherished every phase with my boys. I’m sure in the end I will think they all went by far too quickly. But, for now, I’m not focusing on that. I’m busy being here with my guys. They’re amazing. And me? Well, I’m doing the best I can, and that’s good too.