Our Texas Summer Part II, (plus a plea)

I had a whole 'nother post typed up for this, and as I got ready to hit save, I started over. Because while this was a wonderful, wonderful, trip with family, the thing that I will forever remember about this weekend is the feeling that I was going to lose my husband and my kids were going to lose their father. 

I know, dramatic. But there are times when I truly believe I have slight PTSD from this incident, because I will wake up in a panic, remembering these specific 2 minutes from our first outing on the boat during our mini family vacation.

And, though we went on our day like normal, and had an enjoyable time as a family, I distinctly remember lying in bed that night, reliving what had happened, with 100% certainty that I was going to speak out, somewhere, on the importance of life jackets, for everyone, always. And I never did. So now I am.

Here's what happened....

Friday morning my husband and brother woke early to kayak to the marina a few miles away. They were going to pick up the boat we had rented, load up the kayak, and drive back on that. All went well, but they came back pretty exhausted. These guys are strong, but it was a long distance. 

Soon after that, we all piled on to the pontoon boat to go tubing. Once we got to deep enough water, my 8 year old daredevil was of course the first one who wanted to go. Benjamin was going to jump in first to hold on to the tube for him.

None of us except the children had on life jackets at the time. I grew up going to the lake, and was always a very confident swimmer. The only time I ever wore a life jacket was on a jet ski, really. And being a fit, healthy, strong dad of two, no one thought a thing of my husband jumping in without one either. But as soon as he hit the water, a look of concern crossed his face, and he quickly asked us to come back and get him, as he was having a hard time staying above water. We were already floating away to give line to the tube, and couldn't easily turn a pontoon boat around--nor had any of us even given thought to having life preservers or extra jackets handy. As each second passed, my strong, able husband began to appear more and more frantic, and even begun to yell, hoarsely, for help. 

Time froze. I remember thinking "my children are going to watch their father drown." It was horrific. I scrambled for a life jacket, and threw one that landed 20 feet away. I contemplated jumping in--and really, what was I going to do?? Finally, he told me after the fact, he gained control of his legs and was able to tread water until we got to him.

What had happened, that no one expected or foresaw, was that his arms just simply gave out from the hours they kayaked that morning. He had not felt super sore, but the resistance from the water was unexpected, and his muscles just did not work. One of the strongest and hardest-working men I know simply could not get anywhere in the water, and it led to confusion, and then to panic. No grown, able, man expects to not be able to move in the water. But that is what had happened.

My unshakable husband was shaken when he got back on the boat. I was, obviously, a basketcase. We all calmed down, put lifejackets on, and continued our day. But I have never, EVER, seen something escalate so quickly, and so frighteningly, and it was all because of our misconceptions of the water.

So this is what I want to say--if it can happen to my 6" 4" 190lb, fit, healthy husband, it can happen to anyone. The unexpected happens. You land in the water wrong (see thelvproject.org), you lose control of your jet ski, your muscles cramp up, etc. I can't remember ever being frightened on a lake. The beach is powerful; there are large waves, and tides, and undercurrents--I have a healthy respect of the ocean. But lakes...lakes are calm, and peaceful, and.....deep.  If someone goes under and can't get back up...it gives me anxiety even thinking about it. I had never contemplated the dangers of swimming in 40ft deep water, until now. And I can confidently say I will never go out on a lake again without a lifejacket. Ever.

Please go read about the ww.thelvproject.org. A heartbroken mama started this project in honor of her (strong, capable) son, after he drowned jumping off a lakehouse deck, something he had done many many times before. But this one time, something went wrong, and he never surfaced. My son did this exact thing, over and over again, the day before the incident described above. It is horrifying to me to think that I let him do this without a life jacket. All because we were "right there." But again, when someone goes under in deep, deep water, there is nothing any of us can do.

Wear the dang lifejacket. 

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Our Texas Summer | Part I

I'll preface by saying this post is photo-heavy, but you wouldn't be here if you didnt expect that from me right?

We started our vacation this year by spending a couple days in the Hill Country to celebrate the 4th of July--and break up the drive. We visited the Texas White House and spent the evening eating and playing at a little celebration in my hometown. The next day we headed to the coast, and it was a relaxed, hot, sandy few days. We ate simple breakfasts and lunches at the condo or beach, played at the pool or fished during naptime, and went out to dinner most nights. We slept in, and sat on the balcony, and enjoyed going without much of a schedule.

There is so much in this group of pictures that speaks to my heart as a mother...in these is a visual record/encouragement that my kids are ok. That even though I feel I fail them sometimes, I can see here that they are having the kind of childhood I envisioned.  A trip to the beach is not a requirement to having a memorable childhood--don't hear me say that. But what I can see in these images are that they are experiencing nature, learning about the history of our state, celebrating our country, living a simple summer filled with BBQ and live music and sno-cones, enjoying the sun, relishing the water, dancing after dark, getting sunburned, getting sticky, scraping knees...

And with that, on a personal level, I let go of a lot of my perfectionist desires to document our memories. Yes, I took a bunch of photos--that's just part of me-- but I promised myself I wasn't going to be dragging around my big camera if it wasn't convenient or kept me from doing something with my family (enter: my investment in a small mirrorless camera and a waterproof housing. Convenient and worry-proof).

So while I would love to use my nice camera on vacations, I think this was a perfect choice for me. There are photos that were taken with my big camera, but most were with my mirrorless, some with ON-CAMERA flash (gasp), some with the waterproof housing, some with grain, and even a handful of images that are blurry, but that I love. None of the conditions were perfect for perfect photography (heat, sand, salt, etc), but I tried to let go of my need to memorialize everything perfectly, and instead capture it so that I, and my kiddos, could perfectly remember it.

This was a really neat future of the little "museum" at the Texas White House. For preservation purposes, some of LBJ's phone calls were recorded, and it was super interesting to hear him, as president, having these normal conversations with people. Ian and Benj are listening to him congratulate Coach Royal on Texas' Cotton Bowl victory.

I can't remember who took this^^ but it was one of my children and I thought they did pretty well!

(Late) Mother's Day Giveaway

***GIVEAWAY***

This was a totally unplanned giveaway, but Mother's Day came and went and I was unexpectedly inspired, humbled and in tears before noon. And I felt led to do something, now. So here's the story:

Sunday (Mother's Day): my husband wakes super early to set up at church. He returns and begins mowing, because A) our HOA doesnt play around, and B) we were living in a jungle because no mowing had been happening because of the ridiculous schedule of a son playing two sports. Never again.

My husband knew he probably wouldn't finish the yard before church, but I wanted to take the kids anyways. I was bummed to go without him, but no biggie. So he's totally out of pocket all morning. It's fine though....moms handle 2+ kids all the time. Just remember, I'm definitely not the one who makes being a mom look easy. Never will be.

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Breakfast was great though...very relaxed, kids both ate (because dad had gotten donuts) and we had plenty of time to get ready. But then I remembered I wanted a picture before church with my two kiddos. Which meant mom needed to get ready. Which meant, I had to tame this mess of hair. Not an easy feat with a baby that always wants to be held, and I definitely hadn't budgeted time for it. Nevertheless, in we all trek to our bathroom so I could curl my hair. I asked Ian to play with Adalyn. That lasted about 1.5 minutes, after which she toddles over wanting to be held. I turn music on for her on my phone, which did little to appease her, nor drown out her pitiful arms-up-in-the-air whimpers. So finally, I resort to opening all the carefully child-proofed cabinets, therefore giving her free reign to her favorite activity of unpacking and destroying all my cabinets and drawers.

But, I got my hair done. So I send Ian to get dressed. He comes back in an outfit two sizes too small. He changes, and comes back in a shirt that last I saw was in his closet beneath the cemetery of pillow pets. Third time he comes back with a clean shirt that fits. Perfect. 2/3 of us are ready.

Oh wait. I need at least a little makeup. I've gotten so used to either going without, or putting it on in the car, that I forget I probably need some on now if I want to take this nice, once-a-year picture with my children. So I sit on the floor next to our bed and put my makeup on, knowing that Adalyn will sit with me. Because dumping out my makeup bag is another one of her favorite pastimes. After getting all that cleaned up, we go to get her dressed. She's finally clothed. We're all clothed. I've only griped once.

10 minutes until we need to leave. I'm feeling harried but still ok at this point. As I walk back to our bedroom to get Ian,  I hear the distinctive noise of something getting knocked over. It was nothing breakable, a plastic glass...but it was a full glass, and now there was water everywhere all over our bedroom floor and all over the wires and outlets behind my night stand. That's fun trying to clean while holding a toddler. A tiny toddler, but nonetheless. I lose it a little bit because I have yet to understand the inability of boys to control their arms and legs and movements for crying out loud.

(Is this normal?? Its like constant bull-in-a-china shop over here.)

Moving on. 5 minutes until we need to leave. I'm starting to wonder if the picture will happen.  As I go to get my tripod and camera I notice that my son still looks like he rolled out of bed. Back to the bathroom to brush his hair. Still holding the baby, and I'm sweating in my nice clothes and makeup that I rarely wear.

Finally, we make it outside around the time we should be leaving. But whatever. I went to all this trouble, we're taking the picture. I set the tripod up, put the camera on self-timer because who has time to set up the remote function, and press the shutter. I run, sit down next to my kids, and the camera snaps three in a row.

All three were fine. Both kids are looking, both kids are smiling. More on this later.

We arrive at church on time, but I didnt think about the fact that I would be taking both kiddos to their Sunday School class by myself. So we haul ourselves up the stairs to Ian's class first. He's only five min. late. Since we walked alllll the way down this hallway I figured I would take a shortcut down a different set of stairs, but I end up in the wing of the building where the older kiddos meet. Not the baby hallway. At this point I've given up on the goal to make it to the service before worship was over. I just want to find Addie' class now, which by the way, she has never been to before. This would be her first Sunday in the toddler class, which brings up a whole new set of anxieties.

Flustered and about to burst into tears, I tell the kind people setting up in the big kids hallway that I am lost. They don't normally let people walk through because of all the equipment, but I think they could probably tell I was about to burst into tears. Finally I get to Addie's class, drop her off relatively uneventfully, and walk back to the sanctuary through empty hallways because church started 20 min ago.

So, I tell you this story because as I sat down in the very back, the pastor started talking about Mother's Day of course, and I was struck by how stinkin' exhausting and trying it was just to make it to church by myself with two kids. I've spent many days alone with my two kiddos while dad was working, etc., don't get me wrong. But during a week where I'm already emotional, the strain of a busy and somewhat chaotic morning about did me in.

How silly. How superficial. How minor.

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But what it did was give me a teeny-tiny glimpse into what every morning must be like as a single parent, as a widow, as a military wife. And when I got home and uploaded the pictures on my computer I was disappointed really, that we finally got a picture of the three of us, and I don't look particularly happy. I look a bit stressed, and my smile looks a bit forced, and I am SO mad at myself. I let the strain of the morning ruin a picture with my precious children.

How fortunate I am to even have photos of us. And I wonder if the moms I mention above get to have that. Do they get to take a single moment of downtime to get photos of themselves in the frame, with their kiddos?

It's hard talking about the feelings of a group of the population in which I don't belong. I don't want to presume to know how it feels to raise kiddos alone, or to have a deceased spouse, or to be in wait for your husband to return from duty. But I imagine there is a special kind of strength involved, and I am more than inspired.

So, the point of all this is: I want to give away a Motherhood Mini to a local mom who is doing the parenting and raising-of-tiny-humans thing with only one set of hands. Would you share this? Would you visit my social media pages and tag people who you think would be interested? Giveaway will run through Friday, and session details will be determined after that. Feel free to email or message me with any questions.

For those of you that are still with me, thanks as always for reading :)

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