Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The First Day

Yesterday was my last day as a 39-year-old. So, as the order of things goes, today I am 40. That's a big number and it makes everyone take stock. Why we do this is a mystery to me. But sure enough, I sat at the kitchen counter with my hubby last night and pondered the state of things.

I'm not melancholy about having missed out on something. Nor do I think I failed to capture my dreams or follow my passions. I've had an incredible career -- in fact many of them. Through the generosity of my dear husband I've pursued crazy, impulsive pastimes. I've hopped from occupational interest to occupational interest as I saw fit and prudent. So I'm not exactly sure why on that very last day I felt unfinished.

My kiddos are two of the most amazing boys to rule the suburbs. Really. Like all young men they are learning to learn, learning to lead, learning how they want to be loved. They are champions and scholars and I couldn't ask for better behavior. Considering who is raising them -- we are tickled pink at their stature. But they are growing up so fast. As they grow up, I know that soon they will step out. Step right out on their own and perhaps leave me behind.

So on this first day of the next decade I thought I would be a wreck. I'm not. I'm going about my day doing my usual. And I guess that is where the inventory of your life is. The importance. That which I cannot let go.

I walked my children to school in the gorgeous Colorado sun.

I watched from a safe distance as they settled into their own friend groups and giggled with their peers.

I sipped my coffee. Oh I love well-made coffee.

I answered the door to one of my favorite people of all time. A true gem of a friend.

I golfed with old friends and new friends.

I ate no less than 3 cookies before I ate anything else.

I raced to pick up the supplies for another creative project and saw the shining face of someone I really appreciate having in my life. Someone whose whereabouts on April 15, 2013, left me very concerned for her safety and well-being. I'm so grateful she's alive.

I walked my children home from school, encountering some of our favorite neighbors along the way.

I was carpool mom on the way to LAX, where I then sat high on a hill and watched my oldest son play a game I know nothing about.

I ran my car completely out of gas. Which only served to show me how loved I am. My oldest son sat with me and waited for the other half of our family to save us. It was actually really incredible.

I ate an incredible dinner, prepared by my husband and sons. The wine was good, the food was great, and the men at the table were good to me.

I wrote a little and I'll read a lot. My book and my bed are calling to me as I close this day -- this first day of the decade.

You know how you look back at pictures of your kids and you half smile? Your eyes get a little wet, and you stare in awe at the way their hair was so soft and their cheeks were so chubby. You may even point to the picture and say to them, "Gosh remember when you did that?" The zip of the years in front of you is staggering and you wish you could pause. At 40 -- this beautiful marker of a life well-started -- I realize the people who touch my life are looking back at their pictures and memories of our times together and grasping at the same passage of time. I have been fun. I have been fit. I've had long hair, short hair, gray hair (!). There was the pregnant belly, vacation sunburns, eyes glassy with drink, and a mouth wide with laughter. Not uncommon a heart broken with sorrow and a soul lifted up in good times. So yes, happy tears today because I remember when I did all that.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Adventures in Volunteering: That Time a Cherub had a Dirty Mouth

I enjoy my adventures in volunteering at the local elementary school. Recently, as I walked the halls and past a bench known to be the time out zone for wiggly kids I couldn't help but pay attention to a young boy -- maybe 1st grade -- who was wailing, or yodeling, or some such nonsense that he thought was musical and appropriate. It was neither. 

When I got to him and knew he was looking at me I said, "You have a beautiful voice."  

I said it with sweetness and sincerity. Because while I knew it was annoying everyone, myself included, I also knew he just wanted to be noticed. 

His face instantly shaded over and he stared me down with genuine disgust. He folded his arms and crossly grumbled, "I am not a girl!"

So I paused for a beat, I had no idea what his reaction was meant to clarify. 

It was so shockingly rude and tart I no longer felt sure I knew his developmental acuity. In a moment I thought he might be strange enough to think that because I was a woman I was only allowed to speak to girls. But then it struck me. 

I actually gasped and responded in a sorrowful simper, "Oh sweatheart, beauty does not only belong to girls." 

The more I contemplate this random and basically anonymous interaction the more it affects me. There are so many gross layers to his response.

First, what is the environment that developed a small boy who would speak to a well-meaning adult as if I were a feral dog? 

More disturbing still, why was he taught to associate the adjective "beauty" as feminine?

And sickening in every way, what is so offensive about girls anyway?!?!? 
When will the world get over itself? Are we not educated enough? Advanced enough? What good is our progress if we still equip our babies with gender-normative stereotypes that generate sadness? When will we learn that "beauty" does not belong to women. Just as "smart" does not belong to men. 

Compliments are compliments. Please teach your children to accept kindness with kindness. Please teach your children to mind their manners. Please teach your children that men and women are valuable, and beautiful, and smart, and allowed to live alongside each other. 

Beauty does not belong to girls. Beauty is not owned by anyone. Beauty sadly dissipates under the angry eyes of a misguided, fiercely misinformed 6-year-old. Beauty is both fragile and ready to come back with flourish. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Conversation with an Artist

Mom, do you ever do something that makes you feel crowded?

Did you? 

Well at indoor recess in the last 10 minutes I drew something and then everyone was at my desk. I mean everyone. 

How did that make you feel?


Is that a bad feeling or a good feeling?

What do you mean?

Did you like it?

I liked that they liked my pictures...


But I felt really crowded.

That's confusing. But I have a feeling that the more you draw, the better you will be. And the world will want to know you and your talents. It might get crowded. Are you OK with that?

Shrugs shoulders. 

When we have a gift, the world crowds in. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Risks of Opening Your Mouth

Here's a gross thing that happened...

Wait first let me explain what is in the top of Coop's mouth. Like so many pre-Tweens he endures the palate spreading device known in orthodontia as an expander. To parents like me, it's known as an expensive piece of metal with an interminably small keyhole placed precariously close to the soft roof of my precious child's, precious mouth. Each night I search for this infinitely small hole, then I fumble inside Cooper's mouth with a stick fitted with a pin on the end. The pin is actually a collapsible "key" that once in the hole is cranked toward the back of Cooper's mouth -- directly in line with his uvula -- in an effort to widen his mouth. It creates at once both a barrier and a small cavity in the top of his mouth. He now has a remarkable speech impediment, and can make horrible sounds and smells with the trapped air between his tongue, the metal contraption, and the roof of his mouth. 

While enjoying ourselves in the great outdoors, Coop had his beautiful mouth wide open. Perhaps he was shouting, maybe laughing, but some freaky Miller moth thought he was inviting him in. The moth flew in his mouth and then became trapped between the expander and the roof of his mouth. Fluttering and buzzing, and gagging Cooper completely out. 

If this had happened to me, I think I would have died. I base this on my reaction to the 100 Miller moths that attacked me when I freed them from the plastic house number they had hatched in. With one pop of a flathead screwdriver I unleashed a torrent of wings and freaky moth fuzz all over me. I screamed on the order of the utmost terror threat and began blindly waving my screwdriver, and arching back matrix style in an effort to escape danger. So yeah, if an effin' Miller moth flew in my mouth and then became trapped inside it, I would freak out, soil myself and just lay down and die. The heart would just explode. I would die.

Cooper just spit and kept playing. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Travelogue: Remember When I Used To Do That

In celebration of putting the first 1835 miles on a new car, I'm going to recap our journey to Colorado from my in-law's house.

We find starbucks. Thank goodness because the boy who is 10 days short of his 10th birthday is already whining. Supposedly he is starving. Just starving and we just don't care about him. Let me tell you, I cared plenty last night when he wouldn't sit down and eat at his grandmother's 80th birthday. But this morning his drama smacks of accuracy.

Steve establishes that, of course, we have cup holder assignments. His is the one closest to us. Mine is the farthest. That makes perfect sense since I'm shorter and have shorter arms. 

To the delightful sounds of Car Talk Coop falls asleep. With a blanket over his head. 

Another one bites the dust. Mason is out, too. Clearly the late nights with cousins have caught up with them. Which reminds me, I've got to silent their iPads. The middle of the night Words With Friends notifications are changing my world view. And it's not a pleasant one. 

Echo exit signals the start of rainy road conditions. Hoping it doesn't turn to snow. 

As luck would have it, snow!

Coop stretches awake and before his eyes are open asks, "Was that a long time?"

Conditions quickly worsening. 

Blessed sunshine. Mason is still sleeping. And Cooper is morbidly quiet, ensconced in his headphones and staring at his iPad. I can't help but remember the road trips of even 5 years ago. The trips metrenomed by treat timers and quick potty breaks. 

"I just took a big, long nap." Announces the dry, frank voice of my Mas. Not unlike the pronouncements he made as a toddler. 

On the dot we roll through Green River. It's wet and miserable and visibility is low. What is it about being trapped in a tin can that makes my motivation soar?!?!?  I've scheduled -- by text -- nearly a dozen appointments. My to-do list is growing by 10s. Can't wait to tackle it. But alas I'm destined to put this momentum on pause for another 6 hours. 

Oh and I need a facial...
And then I've got to put the tree up...
When am I going to pick up my Custom signs...
Hope that special-order fabric is in...
So many jobs...
So little time....

Just passed into Carbon County. Woohoo! I've started drinking iced coffee, which is to say I just took a swig of this morning's left over coffee and it's nasty. Must stop soon. We're all stir crazy and I'm singing along to I'd Lie For You by Meatloaf. Make. It. Stop. 

Take a de-icing break. 

Switch drivers and that means the updates will be very few and far between. Gratitude no. 378: the new car has XM radio. And then I quickly discover that you can not listen to comedians with kids in the car. 

Wendy's in Laramie. I'm determined for this to be our last unhealthy meal of the year. (I'm proven wrong by the pizza we order later.) 

On our way, because the snow seems to be following us. 

Mason asks did you guys pack my invention kit?

This sweet boy has been making small experiments with his grandpa. The invention kit is a prized possession. I'm so relieved that we packed it up. 

Ack! Get me out of the car. And a funny story about the return of ELF. But that will have to wait. For now, I'm rolling these huge thighs out of this car and ordering greasy pizza. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Wish There Was a Costume For That

I have hesitated to talk about Mason’s birthday. But now it’s been about a month and the sadness of it is either all dried up or just dammed up and about ready to overflow all over the place. He’s 8. Eight is great, unless you are the momma of said giant 8-year-old. Then it’s heartache on heartache as you try to pick him up one last time, fiddle around to find a comfy spot on the couch where you both can take a Sunday nap, or even when you realize though he still reaches for your hand on the way to school you feel like you’re holding a man’s hand.  He’s totally grown up.

His “friend” birthday party was a bit of a disaster. Though in late September, Colorado had record temps and our planned mini golf outing turned into a sun-baked whinefest where one boy scaled a porta-john and another one even barfed. His “family” birthday party got upstaged by a golf tournament. And then there were the costumes.

My children have always had a thing for dressing up. Mason especially loved costumes that uniformed him for his imaginary travels to space. While Coop was content in ninja digs and an occasional Power Ranger, Mason always looked for shiny suits and oxygen packs. If his costumes failed him, he’d just build some box armor from cardboard waiting for the recycle bin. After a short break from dressing up – so short I didn’t even realize we were on a break – the boys asked to dress up.

They were sitting in the back of my dad’s pick-up truck – a classic gas-guzzling vehicle meant to pull boats and snowmobiles, and climb mountains and stuff. My boys were fascinated. Not the type of thing that a lot of people around here own. The truck’s tailgate gave them access to the stars and they started dreaming. Next thing I knew they were trying to squeeze themselves into costumes that fit just a month or so ago.

I can’t overstate the squeezing. The costumes were REALLY small. My boys were REALLY big. And all I could do was stare at them, slack-jawed, and unabashedly shocked. But I was not sad.

Following their night flying through the cosmos on the wings of their creativity, I picked up the costumes, helmets, space packs, even a dinosaur suit and stuffed them in a box. I can’t overstate the stuffing. With not a single melancholy thought I drove them to the post office, slapped an address label on them and sent them on their way to Oregon.

Oh those costumes are so happy now.

But I am thinking about a boy with big blue eyes, feathery soft blonde wisps of hair, pink cheeks, and the sweetest, most inquisitive look ever possessed by a 2-year-old.  The baby who took himself so seriously, right from the start. The boy who consoled his big brother during time outs administered for being mean to little brother. And I’m thinking about how much he loved those costumes.

Last year at this time, I had all but given up on writing. I haven’t explained myself, really. But someone hurt my baby. In a moment of maladaptive behavior another student found a way to destroy my Mason’s spirit, his confidence. When I would try to sit down and write, all I could think about were sad things, sometimes hurtful things, things I wished I could say to bullies – imagined and otherwise. It’s unfortunate because as a result, I don’t have a very good record of sweet Mason’s 7th birthday, nor our family’s recovery during 2013.

Mason wrote us a letter during that time. It started, “I need your help. I have some very big problems.” Then in great detail he recounted the ways in which he’d been tortured by a classmate. What I know now, with it all behind us is this: Mason helped us. He has grown so much this year and shown us the value of courage, kindness, and rising to the challenge. Per our tradition, on the eve of his 8th birthday I tucked him in and said good-bye to 7-year-old Mason. As it turns out, it was the most gut-wrenching good-bye I’ve said as a parent.

The following morning I left before anyone else woke up. But first I stopped in and looked in on my beast of a boy – the 8-year-old who is head and shoulders above all the rest. I have so much comfort in my heart as I think about the changes in him. Well, that and a video of a new space explorer taking the costumes for a spin. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


I guess swim season is over. And I should probably mention how things worked out.

If you spend any time following my Instagram pics you already know the good news: Cooper won the 50 yard Breaststroke at championships. 

Yeah and high fives all around. 

Can we all just think back to Cooper's first year in swim team? Remember when his coaches picked him to be the 3D recipient? That was cool. I was so shocked by the award that I didn't even see him get it. I was in the back chit-chatting with my friends. 

Fast forward to this year. Final banquet and Cooper is up front collecting all kinds of medals and ribbons. Undefeated season in breaststroke, all-star swimmer, the list goes on. He has become such a great athlete. Then the coaches start recognizing high-point winners and I kinda checked out. You got it, I was chit-chatting in the back again. 

Then they announce the 3D -- a trophy that has gotten harder to win because now they only give it to 1 girl and 1 boy, not each 1 in each age group -- and they start to describe a very determined young man. One who went to every practice, and one who they know trains when he's on vacation, too. They talked about his willingness to swim up with the 11-12s and help out the older boys. They shared how he sets goals. And then they said Cooper's name! This time I got a picture (after I gasped with utter surprise). 

It's fun for Coop to earn a medal for swimming fast. But as the parent, hearing your child recognized for their work ethic is amazing. 

Swim team has changed our lives. I look forward to spending my summer with swim team friends who feel like family. Being in this program has been like being adopted into a family. It's not just my kid I like to cheer for. I feel so happy for so many of those athletes, and so grateful for the older athletes who have set such an extraordinary example for my Cooop. Now, we look to competitive tryouts and year-round schedules. But we will return to the Wahoos every summer.