The Explosion.

OK so last night I posted this picture on Instagram of me, with my car full of babies in the background, and laid out the woeful story about how my week (HOW IS IT ONLY TUESDAY) has been, and the overwhelming response was,

“Yeah, but your hair looks great.”

And while this affirmation couldn’t have come at a better time, seeing as I spent the better part of an hour on Sunday evening plucking out gray hairs (how long does plucking precede hair dye? When should that bridge be crossed?) and bemoaning my extreme post-natal hair loss (seriously, it does not stop. I’m sure an entire underworld, complete with a mayor and a bustling city square, has taken up residence in the nest in my shower drain). So, my hair situation has been depressing, at best.

Especially because I haven’t had any hair products or hair tools since July 25.
July 25, 2014.
The Day I Blew Up My Bathroom.

This is the story of the Explosion of 2014. Would you like to know how to take the worst family pictures of all time and eternity? Gather in, I’ll tell you. Listen closely so you know what steps to take.

1. Have your baby get really sick the night before your photo shoot. 
I’m talking waking up screaming at 1:00 am covered in vomit so thick that he can’t open his eyelids, crying for hours on end and downright miserable sick. This way, he will be pale and limp in the pictures the next day, and you will also be pale and shriveled due to only sleeping for two hours the night before. If you’re looking for pallid, squinting into the blessed light of day pictures, this is a perfect beginning.

2. Plan a 15 hour road trip following your photo shoot. 
We planned ours for a family reunion in Colorado. This created plenty of frenzied packing, stressing, and a general sense of urgency around the day that translated really well into the photos.

3. Have out of town family stay at your house the night before the shoot. 
This way not only will your sick baby leave you tired, cranky, and in a hurry to make that 9 a.m. golden hour of light, but you will also feel an unnecessary pull to make coffee and breakfast for your brother and sister in law and their sweet baby. They won’t be expecting it, they’re much better people than that, but you might as well kill yourself to make it happen. It will make sense later, I promise.
Just kidding, it will never make sense and your pictures will blow.

4. Hire a photographer site unseen because you’ve been pregnant and/or nursing for almost three years and after one glass of champagne you’re cross-eyed drunk and ready to BID THE CRAP out of that silent charity auction. 
It’s three months before I will actually make a date to take these pictures, but sure, $100 for a photo shoot and an 11×14 print? Here’s my bid number, gents. Just let me know where to pick up my prize. Also, is there a private room where I could use the hand-held breast pump in my purse? Thankssomuch.

5. Try to get yourself, your husband, a 6 month old and 2 year old out the door dressed in their best and beaming with smiling faces. By 8:20 a.m.
Go ahead.

6. Get up first and get ready fast.
Don’t worry, you can do a few touch ups before you leave.

7. Leave your make-up on the counter and your flat iron plugged in.
Again, ready for touch ups right before you head out to the photo shoot that you barely remember paying for.

8. Is everyone almost ready? Go drink some coffee. 
You deserve it. You need it. Put your tired feet up for a quick minute and talk to your sister-in-law about how fun the family reunion is going to be.

9. Startle at the sound of a bomb going off. Wonder what that alarming noise just was. 
A shelf that ripped from a wall? A gun shot? A broken water pipe? Everyone needs to slowly lower their coffee mugs and go find the source of the cracking thunder that came from somewhere inside your house. 

10. Search the house. Then open your bathroom door. Blink at the carnage. 
At first the shrapnel on the floor won’t make sense. Neither will the mist hanging in the hair, choking all of you. It’s ok. You’ll start putting the (literal) pieces together.

Yes…
That’s part of the flat iron.
And there’s the blow-dryer, cracked in half.
And here’s another piece of the flat iron.
And what’s this?
A slick and lethal piece of metal, blown across the bathroom, etched in gold with the words “Root Booster”.

A tall and thin aerosol can, $50 worth of root boosting magic from my overpriced and snobby salon, BLOWN TO BITS BY THE HEAT FROM MY STRAIGHTENER.

My straightener is strewn in 29 different corners, springs and titanium and cord spread all around my bathroom.
My toiletries bag, packed for our trip to Colorado, packed with at least 5 pounds of shampoo and conditioner and make-up and hygiene products-
has blown over the top of my shower.
Over. The. Top. Of a 6 foot shower door.

Such was the force of this explosion. Weeks later, I would find a tampon on the window sill above my shower. Find scraps of metal plastered to the wall in a film of hair product. Find tiny pieces of make-up brushes and hair spray bottles on the shelf above the towel rack.

So not only was the baby sick and his parents exhausted, not only did our photographer spend two hours calling our son “Sawyer” because we didn’t catch it the first few times and eventually were too embarrassed to correct her, not only did she tell us to let Clara “be Clara” which basically just meant disobey our every command because she knew another grown up was letting her get away with murder, not only did this result in Clara skipping away from us and quite deservedly falling into an ankle deep off-shoot of the Boise river and ruining her dress, NOT ONLY was all of this happening on a Saturday morning right before we drove in a rented Yukon for 15 hours to Montrose, Colorado;

but I was also dealing with a minor case of PTSD.
“That could have killed one our kids,” I sobbed to Sam as we attempted to clean up the mess before we left the house that morning.
“It could have blinded me, or killed one of us, or sliced our necks open!” I could not stop crying, could not stop imagining all the ways my idiotic mistake could have ruined my life. Sam tried to console me (after starting to chastise me and quickly realizing I was doing a fine job of it on my own) and told me to wipe my eyes and get in the car, because we had pictures to take.
Pictures I was forcing him to take, he reminded me.

I haven’t allowed myself to buy any expensive hair product, or replace any of my hair tools since that day, in deep and sincere penance for my stupidity. I have been using a 4″ hotel-sized hair dryer I used to keep in my guest bathroom. I have stopped by my friends or sisters’ houses before I went somewhere if I really needed any heat styling, sneaking into their bathrooms to use their straighteners or curlers and hair spray.

I have been having a bad hair day since July 25.

Until yesterday. When I finally gave in and bought another flat iron.
Thus, the amazement via internet at what I had the possibility of looking like. Thus, the approval of the world at large.

And in case you’re wondering, I don’t have any of those pictures to show you. I can’t blame all of it on the photographer, because most of the blame lies with Sammy being sick and Clara being naughty and Sam being annoyed and me being strung out on fear,
but the pictures were not worth purchasing.
Not even the free one.

So thanks, internet and instagram friends, for the kind words about my hair. Thank you for reminding an irresponsible, graying old lady that with a little bit of heat and product and trapping two kids in a pack n’ play in order to shower and style this head of falling out hair,

I still got it.

with my niece at the pumpkin patch.
before I bought another straightener.
aaaannnddd 3 weeks later.
Oh bangs. I just can’t quit you.

Sam’s new job.

There are moments, like this one that I’m sitting in right now, moments so rounded out and perfectly in my grasp that I wonder if I’ve ever felt so completely settled. Don’t get me wrong; I still fight with myself every day, an on-going neurosis within my own head that plays back worries and failures and what-ifs like the grooves on a vinyl record. But still, in this moment, babies both asleep and pumpkins on my porch and a house all to myself as the afternoon quietly drifts forward; this moment is warm and still and good.

When these times arrive, maybe just for one afternoon or maybe for an entire month or maybe even a whole year of round and peaceful moments, I tattoo them on my brain. I sew them into the stitching of my story because I find it useful for later, when things are not so good, when things are perhaps downright shitty, to run my fingers along those happy threads and believe in quiet afternoons coming again.

Seven years ago when Sam and I were engaged and planning a wedding for early January, I started praying that he would get a different job. He was a lineman at Idaho Power, a great job that put me through school and takes care of our family very comfortably; but he also traveled all the time.

Since the day we met, his schedule has been:

Home for 6 days and then gone for 8.
Home for 6. Leave again for 8.
Home for 6. Gone for 8. Home again and then leave again and again and again, an endless parade of hard goodbyes on Tuesday mornings as he drove away before dawn. We made it work and before we had kids we could survive- after all, it’s not like he was in the military and gone for a year at a time. I always told myself to just deal with the weird schedule and be thankful for the income. Still, it hurt. A friend once pointed out that Sam was gone for over half of every year. That’s a lot of gone. So, I joined soccer teams, I joined reading clubs, I was in school full time, I worked full time, and I led two lives.
6 days of married life.
8 days of single life.
And yes, ok, the 6 days at home after a long absence? There were benefits. There were more than excited hugs being exchanged. 8 days apart is a good amount of time for some feverish use up every chance we get kind of sexy time attitudes and I really can’t complain about the peppering of DO IT NOW romance sprinkled throughout our life together. It wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t awful either…

But still, every day, I prayed that Sam would be transferred to a team that worked in our city instead of all over the state. That he would stop leaving. That he would be home.

After Clara was born, the pain of Sam’s absence magnified. A new awareness of how much we needed to be together came with her birth, and as much as we enjoyed 6 full days together when he was off work, the 8 days apart seemed longer and longer. I could barely contend with leaving Clara for half the day while I was in class, and could not imagine leaving her for 8 full days at a time. I felt bad for Sam. And truth be told, there were days that I felt bad for me. I was not a single parent –  I had a loving and supportive spouse – but I was raising my daughter alone for over half the year. The nights I stayed up while she teethed, the nights I did not sleep because she had a cough or the flu, they seemed infinite when I knew that it would be me alone again in the morning, me alone again the next night, me alone again until Sam got home. He missed birthdays, he missed anniversaries, he missed milestones, later he missed ultrasounds for baby Samuel, and I KNOW I KNOW so very well that there are struggles a million times harder than this, but for me?

For seven years?

It was hard. It was lonely. And it got old.
I’m a little tearful as I write this, actually. I don’t think I realized how hard some of those days were, or maybe I didn’t feel the freedom to be sad or lonely because who can complain about a good job? But I will give myself permission here, in this moment, to say that it was really hard. And I was really tired of it. And no, he wasn’t in Iraq, but he also wasn’t in our home. He wasn’t here for more than half of our life together and that was really hard.

Sam’s name has been on a transfer list to work on a ‘home team’ for seven years. These lists rarely move along because Idaho Power is an amazing company to work for and people either die or retire before a position opens up. We knew that, but to wait the better half of a decade to be together more than 6 months of the year seemed ludicrous. Why wasn’t God making this change for us? Why wasn’t he listening to my fervent, tired prayers?

I don’t know! I don’t know why we waited so long. Maybe it’s because “waiting” should have left my vocabulary a long time ago. The idea of waiting for a change in order for life to get better or for life to move on is a denial that life IS moving on. Life is happening. This is happening, I say to myself sometimes, three words meant as a reminder that I can’t change the now. This is happening. Move with it. Live in it. Rise above it. Dig in. Whatever. Just be here and live here and remember that better days will come but if they don’t? These are still your days. The only ones you get. 

Earlier this fall, Sam was offered a permanent position with Idaho Power as a lineman in our town. He accepted. It was a bizarre and sudden change in our lives, to accept this job that we had been waiting and praying for, so many many years of wondering when it would actually happen.

It’s here.

This is happening.

Every afternoon around 5:00, I hear the garage door groaning open. A minute later, I hear the muffled movements of Sam taking off his boots outside the laundry room. And then, lo and behold, day after day after day, Sam comes home. He picks up his baby, he chases his daughter for a kiss, he cleans the kitchen after dinner, he turns up Guns N’ Roses while he bathes the kids, and he falls asleep next to his thankful wife. After seven years of living life far apart and in a constant state of flux, we are home together. 

Sammy is pulling up and cruising along the furniture, and no one has to watch it via FaceTime.
Clara says things like, “I need an ice pack for the blue marker on my fingers” and both of her parents can roll their eyes together.
I play soccer every Sunday and miraculously do not have to find a baby sitter.

We love and we fight and we are tired and we are raising kids and we are having sex and we are doing laundry and we are growing as a family, growing through the good and the bad and that sweet, sweet taste of the everyday, re-learning our place in each other’s lives on a Sunday-Saturday repetition that has never felt so steady and right.

We are home! We are together.
And it’s good.

^^ The first time I ever met his family or watched him climb a pole. 
Look at his little baby face! ^^
^^ The second time we started dating… ^^
^^ His birthday a few days before we were married. He was 28, I was 21 and good LORD we barely even knew each other!  ^^
^^ Engagement pic that I still love. Also the last time Sam was ever seen in a sweater. ^^
^^ No kids. Less wrinkles. So blissfully unaware of real life 🙂 ^^

Priorities, or "have bunny chair will travel"

Sam travels a lot for his job. This has been a fact of our entire relationship, and we work with it. He has times away and times at home, but for the most part he is gone about half the year altogether. We’ve built our life around that routine, riding the highs and lows of exits and entrances for the last six years.

But now we have a baby. (this one, in the cowgirl boots.) And things feel different.

It’s no longer easy to live separate lives every other week when he’s gone. Because his life exists at home with us. And our life exists wherever he is. It’s pretty killer, actually. So when he called and asked us to come stay with him for a few nights, it was hard to say no.

But I definitely wanted to say no.
It’s not like the guy works in Tahiti, you know what I’m saying? He works for Idaho Power, in the worst parts of Idaho.
Like eastern Idaho.
And this week’s particular destination? Burley, Idaho. I mean, there’s really no reason to go to Burley, Idaho.

(Unless, for instance, you’re in high school, on a roadtrip with your friend Cassidy to see some friends from summer camp, friends who happen to be an attractive pair of brothers who live in Burley, brothers who you and Cassidy plan on divvying up and getting to know on a more ahem personable basis in their backyard all weekend…maybe getting your first kiss…otherwise there is truly NO reason to go to Burley.)

It’s a 2 1/2 hour drive through the desert into nowhere. And have I mentioned that my kid hates her carseat? She screams so hard her round face turns pink and I swear I’ve seen CPS workers tailing me during errands while she wails in the backseat.
It’s a nightmare.
I had a million reasons to tell Sam no. The car trip alone with the baby. Our house that needs cleaned. Groceries that need bought. Nieces who need a babysitter on Friday night. But there’s been a shift somewhere in the universe, and all of those other reasons for “no” are now trumped by one tiny reason for “yes.” (See tiny boots above).
It’s silly to drive to Burley for one night with Sam. And I wanted to say no. But suddenly, lately, we became a family. It’s not just us anymore, making things ‘work.’ It’s us and her, making things wonderful.

Which means I packed up the car. I loaded the bunny bouncy seat. I drove for 2 hours, stopped to nurse in a Subway parking lot, drove for 30 more minutes, and got to see the look on my husband’s face as we all walked towards each other on the hotel lawn.
It might be silly, but it’s worth it. Because in the end, all we’re really guaranteed is today, right? The “no” starts to shrink when you see the “yes” for what it’s worth.

So put on your cowgirl boots. Get on the freeway. And drive to Burley.

Hey God- thank you for my little family. Help me to be intentional about our time and energy. 
I love you- Amen.