my manta ray loving circus.

Image     Image I’m not one to use big words, or rather, I’m not one to use big words well.  I have always been a big believer in if you say something confidently (for the most part) you can make almost anything fly.  At least that’s how it’s worked for me.  Enter the word mantra.  I remember exactly where I was when I first heard this word.  Spoken among colleagues, I immediately thought Huh?  What did she just say?  Is she talking about a manta ray?  Why is no one else looking around in puzzlement?  Oh, it’s just me.  Okay, go with it.  Remember to ask Joe later.

It took me no time at all.  I was not only using it (and may I say using it well) I was coming up with daily mantras!  I tend to like grace giving mantras, ones like: The messier the life, the better the ending, and my personal favorite You can be a great mommy tomorrow.  Which brings me to my mantra for last month:  Don’t force itI knew it was going to be a wild month.  I needed to keep my hands open to the uncontrollable ahead.  I will admit, the wild beast screamed for control more than a few times, but God Bless the mantra of the month, don’t force it.  This mantra whispers grace to me.  The kind of grace that keeps my shoulders out of my ears, gives my eyebrows permission to rest (Lord knows that wrinkle is forever a piece of me), and allows me to take a deep breath and enjoy our long awaited, highly anticipated, vacation.

Wouldn’t you know it, I’d be chanting my mantra only 45 minutes into our vacation.  We arrived to the airport with plenty of time (for normal people).  Having kids and traveling on a plane is anything but normal.  When they say arrive two hours in advance, they are only talking to us.  You’d think we were a traveling circus, we had so much gear.  No, just us and two little kids.  The line, enormous.  Security, a joke.  I ended up running to our gate.   With a kid in each arm, two carry-on bags over my head, my shoes in one hand and our boarding passes in another, I almost tackled the Southwest agent, “We’re on that plane!”  He doesn’t even bother looking at me, “It’s already pushed off, you’ll need to talk to the folks at the desk.”  Mama bear starts fuming and leans in, shortening the distance between my hand and his face.  I demand his eyes.  “What are you telling me?!!!”  “Plane’s gone lady.”  I’m pretty sure I grew horns, and stomp off to the desk, still shoeless, mind you.  I see a long line, I ignore it.  When you’re a walking circus, you’re given some inalienable rights, cutting lines is one of them.   And granted I have a degree in Communication and my top strength is Woo, I have no idea how to formulate a wooing sentence.  I simply explode, “I am so angry right now!!!”  The lady at the desk must have been a mommy, or an angel really, because she stopped right away, saw my shoeless circus bag-balancing children-draping situation, and said “I’ll do everything I can to get you on the next flight!”  She pounds away on the keyboard, and the dam behind my eyes bursts.  Joe runs up, takes in the information as quickly as one can while juggling two obnoxiously large carseats.  Tears fall bigger than fat hippos, “We missed the flight.”  He charges the matter with power, poise and perfect communication like only my Mechanical Engineer-major-of-a-man can.  I love this about him.  In minutes it’s settled.  Good news:  “We’re booked on the next flight, and miraculously, we got the last three seats.”  Bad news: “The next flight isn’t for 3 hours.”  It’s a monsoon now, my eyes won’t stop.  “You’re kidding me?  Three hours?  Is there nothing else we can do?”  That’s when I heard it, the tug of the mantra.  Tug, tug, and another big tug, I finally resolve.  Don’t force it.  Breathe, let it go.  And to my surprise, three hours at the airport with a one and two year old, during their nap times nonetheless, turned out just fine.  The girls were great.  And the fact that we missed the chance to check our carseats, even better.  We buckled those sweeties into their carseats and were hands free, chase free for the better half of those three hours.

Thank you grace giving, life giving, holy spirit tugs, oh, I mean mantras (wink wink).  I can promise you that the next time we travel we will be at the airport two and a half hours early, manhandling one precious traveling circus, and receiving another grace giving manta ray.

Image ImageImage    ImageImage Image Aria (15 months):  Hello love!  My little one, you are so full of life!  *First off, you’re obsessed with shoes.  You’re always into Naomi’s shoe basket, and it’s more common than not to catch you walking around the house in one shoe.  *You love climbing.  Climbing the toy bench, the even higher hallway bench, the playset staircase, and trying to climb out of your crib!   *You’re understanding so much!  Daddy asked you to go inside, and your actions said it all, you nodded, turned around and walked right into the front door!  At-ta girl!  *You’re learning more words too!  You say “Hi,” (kinda), “Eyes” (oh so close), “Papa,” “Ama,” “GamBeeau” (GrampBill!), and I promise I heard you say “No gang ku” today (in context)!  It’s such a joy to get to know your voice!  Your word of all words is still “ish.”  You say it for everything, but mostly water, I think.  One time you pointed to Papa’s fish and said “ish!”— so brilliant!  *You’re super ticklish!  Thighs, neck, belly, it doesn’t matter, you’re a curled up rollie pollie overflowing with giggles!!  *You love identifying parts of people’s faces!  *You are a huge fan of belly buttons.  You love poking yours, giggling, and then going up to each person in the room, lifting their shirt, and poking their belly buttons too!  *It’s been a rough month for you!  Your molars and canines are coming in!  Hands in your mouth almost constantly.  And you got hit with, yet another, ear infection.  Big sad face here.  It’s really hard to catch signs of your infection— you have almost no fever, eat great, sleep great, and still have your fun demeanor.  *For over a year now, the neighbor girl still calls you Erica.  *You recognize music!  When we listen to Adele’s Rolling In The Deep song, you go berzerk and start dancing away in your carseat!!  *Also, don’t tell your sister, but you and I took a weekend getaway to Maui with Auntie Anjuli and your cousin Noelle!!  You were fabulous!  We had so much fun together!  We drove to Hana (and you took a nap!), we drove to Kanapali (and you took a nap!), we grabbed some Huli Huli chicken from some Hawaiian ladies (and you gobbled it down!), and you adored side of the road pineapple (so much so, that your tongue got an owie!  Mommy felt terrible).  We found a beautiful beach all to ourselves, and we dug a sand fort (you love this!) and in the shallow waters, we discovered two giant sea turtles!!!  I don’t really know if you saw them, but it looked like you might have caught on to mommy’s excitement!  You know what you especially loved?  Your cousin Noelle!  You both giggled the trip away!  You love getting down on her level and poking her belly button and her eyes (lovely!).  My favorite part of our Maui excursion was playing at Hookipa beach with you!  We rolled and rolled all over that gorgeous sandy beach!   I’d chase you and chase you… and just as I’d almost get you, you’d fall to the ground and explode in giggles!!  You’re our joyful Aria!

ImageImage     ImageNaomi (2 and three quarters!):  Naomi, you love singing!  Silent Night is a favorite right now, and “the drum song” (Forever Reign), not to be mistaken with “the other drum song” Adele’s Rolling In The Deep!   *You love telling stories—they all begin the same with a little twist at the end— “Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess, who lived in a great big castle…”   *You learned the word “mystery” and you love solving mysteries all day long “Where are my shoes Mommy?”  (with big excited eyes you say)  “It’s a mystery!!!”   During bedtime you love talking about our family.  “Sammy is my family?”  “Yes, he’s your cousin,” I said.  “And Sammy is a boy.  And Manoah is a boy too.  And Ama she’s a gweerl.  And Papa, he’s a boy.  And Aria she’s a boy.”  Oh!!  You were so close!  You went through every single name, and then in the end you smiled really big and got super close and said “And we’re all family!”  You’re very relational Naomi, and you love talking, and praying for your family.  Each night, you list off everyone’s name in your prayer… and even today you prayed “and help Aria get a good sleep.”  You realize that we can pray to God to ask for his help.  I love that you’re understanding prayer more.  *One day the garbage truck passed our home “Mommy let’s pray for the firetruck!”  And you continued “Thank you God for this great day, thank you for the firetruck, Amen.”  *You know your favorite word these days?  You say it all the time.  “Sweetie!”  Yesterday, we all played in the driveway after Daddy got home from work and a ton of birds flew past our home, you shouted to the birds, “Hello birds!  Be careful Sweeties!  Go to your mommy!  Buckle up and be safe!”  You call Aria a Sweetie all the time, “Hey Sweetie, how’s your day?  Sweetie are you okay?”  You’re so caring.  Your second favorite word is “Sure!”  You say it all day long.  *I told you “Naomi, I appreciate your flexibility!”  And you responded, “And I appreciate you mom!”  *One of my favorite stories of you this month was when you were in Vacaville with GrampBill and his sisters.  It was at bedtime and he was trying to sing you to sleep.  You popped right up and said “GrampBill!  That’s too loud!  I’m trying to go to sleep!”   *When I ask you who’s your best friend, you almost always say, “Samuel.”  Just for fun, I thought you might like to hear exactly what you and Sammy talk to each other about at age 2.  “Hey Sammy, I got an owie!  See, right here!”  “Oh yea, what happened?  You fawl (fall) down and get wet?”  “Yea, I fawl down.”  “You okay?”  “Yea, I okay.”  “You want to come to my room and play superman?  You can be my friend, okay?”  “Okay!  What’s this?  A necklace?  You want to wear it Sammy?”  “No, I weaving (leaving), I weaving, I weaving, I weaving, I weaving, I weaving, I weaving, I weaving, I weaving, I weaving.”  “Sammy!  You blow this up!”Image   Image     Image     Image

Maertz family memories:  First off, I must say I am so. sick. of ants.  It’s been a warm few weeks and there’s been no relief.  Each night, Joe and I are on the ground making sure we’ve got every last crumb off the ground (a ridiculous task with two kids!)  Okay, I can move on now.  *Shared a great afternoon with the Sprosses in Eastlake!  However the drive home convinced us that driving all the way to Vacaville is not an option!  Good lesson learned.  *Let the summer vacations begin.  Off to Vacaville to drop the girls off with GrampBill and his sisters (Aunt Peggy, who flew from Wisconsin!  And Aunt Ellen, who came out from Kentucky!), and then Joe whisks me off to Idaho to see my Redding family and meet little Easton Allen (only days old!)!  While I chat the afternoon away with Leah and Auntie Carol, Joe escorts Grandma Redding around, tackling her “honey do” list— making her one happy lady!  Enjoyed a very upbeat dinner with Grandma, Uncle LeRoy and Auntie Carol, and then we are off to a weekend getaway with great friends!  Kindly hosted by the Heinrichs, a huge clan of us gather together sans children!  Lehmans, Torres, Whites and Woodalls all transform into seventeen year olds and instead of having a relaxing and restful getaway, we do Camp McCall.  Boating, boating and more boating.  So much boating that we grow tired of all the boat toys, and just start dragging ourselves behind the boat!  Two bodies holding on to the rope for dear life, thrown around in the white wash—it gets ridiculous!  After an early morning of white water rafting, we hit the lake again, and finally end the day with a little dress up.  At sunset, we all board the boat, and let the calm orange glowing waters escort us to our very memorable lakeside dinner!  End the night with a house dance party, of course, cause we’re seventeen.  Final day is spent mountain biking and on an off-roading adventure on the Heinrichs RZR, can you say amazing?  And just like that, after 60 hours of serious play, we head back down the hill and realize battle wounds.  After a very competitive round of innertubing, against Tatum and driver Brad, I beat Tatum (that’s right) but lose to Brad.  I suffer broken ribs.  Small cost compared to a great child-less getaway with incredible friends amidst a gorgeous backdrop!  Back in Vacaville, we say adieu to two of the world’s most wonderful Aunties, and Joe cooks up the best steaks of his life.  We fly home only long enough to repack our bags, as Aria and I take off with Anjuli and Noelle to Maui!  Beaches, sunshine, rainbows, and every single nap tackled in a long drive around the island, we enjoy treasured one on one time with our babies!  A beautiful night, on the sloping hillsides of upper Makawao, we join newly engaged Leonie and Dan (!!!!) as all four sisters share a twinkly glowy Maui evening to love on Malina and Mary.  While Aria and I are away, Joe and Naomi go to Legoland (!!!) and do a s’mores camp out at Ama and Papa’s, Sunday morning at church, and an evening with the Woodalls on Coronado Island!  We host an engagement party for the happy couple… Leonie and Dan!  A great day leading worship at Flood.  That Thursday, Joe packs again, this time, he laces up his hiking boots and heads for Mount Whitney!  He and Tim, Aric, Eric, Mike and Brad tackle the big bucket list adventure!  Miraculously, all six of them conquer the summit and the downhill battle is more brutal than imagined.  My sweet love starts at 3am and ends the grueling hike 18 hours later!  At the summit, there’s a book you sign to mark your accomplishment!  Joe scribbles “Joe Maertz—–Escondido, Ca—–Ouch!”  While the men hike, the men’s better halves team up to do life together, and somehow we survive Escondido’s high of the year, 109!  We barely survive, but I don’t know I can say the same for all of our newly planted landscaping!  It’s been a brutal heat wave!  With a wedding only a few days away, we are doing lots of last minute touches!  Like today, Joe and I planted a grove of orange trees in our backyard.  Yes, a grove.  Tomorrow starts the last trip of the season, I’m off to San Francisco for a weekend getaway with Shelly!  Can’t wait.  Only a few days until we celebrate the happy couple, Nick and Kaira!   Excited to open our home and host their very special day!  And equally excited for the day we don’t need to care about the nightly visits from skunks, racoons and gophers that insist on tearing up the ceremony site!Image     ImageImage     Image Image  ImageImage     Image  ImageImage     ImageImage