Tuesday, November 13, 2012

He Could Be Amelia Bedelia's Cousin

Discussing Thanksgiving details with me, Bill's dad said, "I'm going to fix the turkey..."
And before he could continue the menu Landon pipes up, "What's wrong with it, Grandpa?  Why you need to fix it?"

Watch out, folks.  We've got a tool-lovin', problem-solvin' toddler on the loose--and he might just want to help you fix what you didn't even know was broken.

(I suddenly am seized with the urge to just give him a bunch of broken appliances and electronics from the thrift store with a few more real tools, safety goggles and wire cutters and say, "Have fun, my little fixer man")

and don't plug anything back in when you're done

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Halloween That Almost Wasn't

I've just never been that into Halloween.  Not when I was a kid, not now.
Even so, sometimes I can sense that I'm leaving gaps in my son's childhood that he may feel wistful about later.
Most times, I don't really mind. I figure we'll fill them in with our own traditions and memories that will be just as meaningful and evoke enough nostalgia that will make up for the fact that his parents weren't always culturally mainstream.

But this year I decide to give a nod to one of the biggies and have Landon participate a little in Halloween.   Translation: I really want to justify buying a bag of snack-sized chocolate.  Three, actually.  We should be prepared and do this right.

So I tell Landon that in a few days some kids are going to come over in costumes and ask for candy and would he like to pass it out?  This idea is thrilling to him and I get no end of reminders to buy the candy.

All afternoon he is running around talking about how it's all going to go down.  He preps the foyer with the candy bowl, a chair to set it on, and one for himself so he can camp out and be ready for each kid.

I dig out a doggie costume my sister gave us last year (or was it the year before?) to snap a few pictures of Landon as proof that we didn't totally neglect his childhood.  He seemed happy with it; happier still with the prospect of my putting "cara" on his face for a few whiskers and nose.

At the last minute he decided to wear some new footies my mom had bought him that had a racing motif on them.  "I want to be a race car driver, mom.  Can you draw a number on my face instead?"

Sure thing, buddy.  Two eyeliner-drawn threes coming right up.

We are ready.  I stopped counting how many times Landon climbed to the back of the couch to check the front window to see if any kids were coming.  I lost track of how many times he asked me where the kids were.  I was in awe of how many times he asked if he could have a piece of the candy himself: once.

My in-laws called to say that their neighborhood was beginning to get active (and fearing that mine was going to be a complete dud) we packed up the half-prepared dinner and the candy in a cooler and drove over there in hopes that some kids would come.

We were ready.  They had way better candy and had already had one group stop by; I felt hopeful that the real event was just about to happen.

But darkness got darker, minutes kept ticking and things were not looking good.  Am I the only nonHalloweener wishing I lived in a neighborhood smitten with it?

Finally the doorbell rings.  It's Landon's face I wish I could have photographed at that moment; not any costume.  We ran to the door a little wildly and flung it open in such happy anticipation.

There was my father-in-law, on his knees, hands up by his chin like little paws and wearing black mouse ears squeaking, "Trick or treat.  Trick or treat!"  I started laughing so hard my belly hurt.  Landon was completely befuddled.  Even after he gave him some candy.
When he came in he said, "You are such a goofball, Grandpa," and I had to to agree.  In a good way.  Oh the lengths we'll go for those we love.

Landon settles back in to eating one of the custom-decorated lollipops when the doorbell rang again.  Here we go, I think.  So I ramp it up even more; you would think I thought we were being filmed for a million dollar prize or something.  Grab the candy.  Fling the door!

It is some guy with his jacket pulled up over his head saying in a raspy, creepy voice, "Trick or treat.  Trick or treat." and for a moment both Landon and I are taken back.  Until I realize it is Bill, trying to be the headless horseman (I think).  Landon looks at me like, "What is this, mom?" and asks quite innocently, "Where are the kids?"

Does young at heart count, buddy?

At long last we get a group of bona-fide, costumed children who are properly delighted that we have double doses of candy for each of them.

My favorite line as Landon troops back to the kitchen to finish off that lollipop,

"I knew they would come mom.  I knew the kids would come."

He seems so genuinely happy that all this hoopla has been for all of six kids diminishing our outsize stash by precisely 12 pieces of candy.

I don't know what his take-away from all this is going to be, but I know I won't soon forget the two goofy guys who tried to make sure there was one.

Taking a Millimoment to Ponder the Solar System

My neighbor's backyard is a birthday cake whose trees are the candles that flame up in staggered succession.  It's like all Autumn they have been making good wishes for our house's 40th birthday this year.  At least, that's how I see it.  How I had time to see it because Landon and I were sitting quietly on the deck watching the sun make dappled patterns as it moved across the sky.

"Hey!  Where did the sun go?" he asked.

"It has moved across the sky," I told him.  (Yes, I know this is inaccurate but I'm ok with that for now)  "It's going down." I continued.

"Under our deck?"

"No, to the other side of the earth."

"What's earth?"

"The planet we are on, out floating in space."

"I don't feel us rocking, mom."

I pause. I've lost the thread.  Ahh, yes.  "Floating" would suggest that we're on some kind of boat.

"All pretty amazing, don't you think?"

"Yes.  It is, mom.....Hey!  Can we get out my water guns?!"

Annnnd, he's off!

Work in Progress

Landon was enjoying his first sleepover at our house.  His cousin  agreed to come over and do us the honor.  They had such a great time: making mice cookies and playing games and making each other laugh.  Avery calls Landon "Buddy," so the house was filled with buddy-this and buddy-that as she tried her best to manage her little cousin.  So cute.

But then the middle of the night rolls around and Avery wakes up crying because she is stuffy and misses her mom.

I hear him ask her, "What's wrong with you?" more puzzled than empathetic.

I go out there to do what I can by way of comfort and tissues.  "Avery's just a little homesick, honey."

"Mom," he tells me quite decidedly, "It's not a sickness.  And that whining is getting a little annoying."

Wow.  I see a bright future in medicine with bedside manner like that.  I get everybody settled back down after several earnest pleas that Landon should just be quiet and then I go snuggle back into my own bed.

"What's wrong with him?" I ask Bill.  And I mean how he seemed to not have any inclination to comfort or empathize with his cousin, whom he adores, in a moment when she was sad.

"He's a boy.
And he's three,"

he answers without hesitation or concern.
Then he rolls over and turns on his magic sleep button and is out before I'm done pondering the implications of his answer.

True enough.
But someday he's going to be a man, I think.  Who are we raising?
But then I think about the dear man next to me who would do anything in his power to comfort me when I'm sad, even when he's powerless to change the circumstances.  I notice how even in his sleep his hand has found me to gently rest on my leg.  I think about how he and Landon have brought me breakfast in bed this week just because I'm worn out, run down and pregnant.  No holidays involved.

So I decide to trust Bill's assessment.
Landon may not have warmed my heart with his gentle kindness.
But he is a boy.  Who is three.
And we have some time to work on the project.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


It felt like someone was electrocuting my leg.

Which is a pretty big thing to say, considering I have never had my leg electrocuted.

But I'm pretty sure the pain that woke me up the other night would be a close approximation.

Having Googled this earlier, I tried the suggestions to point my toes and relax.  Can you relax when you're being electrocuted?  Neither could I.  I forgot how to breathe for pain.  As seconds ticked by I could feel a surge of adrenaline kick in with the panic that this was not going away.

And then in one instant, blissful moment, it was gone.  The switch was flipped and my whole calf only felt like it (and it alone) had just finished running a marathon.

Again, a pretty big thing to say seeing as I've never run a marathon, either.

I hobbled around the next day, unevenly sore and sort of baffled that my body could be so weird about this pregnancy deal.

Weirder still, I've had these before.  Until the moment that I woke up with one the other night, I had forgotten it beyond recall. I'm not sure how newborns perform a mindwipe on us, obliterating all memories of every trial and pain endured in pregnancy and labor, but mine sure did.  Maybe it happens while we get no REM sleep for weeks on end...the previous 10 months have no chance to log into long term memory.

However it happens, I proceed with this pregnancy like a person who has never been pregnant before, until BAM! Some difficult aspect of it emerges like a deja vu two shades stronger than average and I'm forced to admit that yes, I have indeed been to this boot camp and no, I cannot remember how I sucked it up and got through it.

Because to be honest, these BAM moments are starting to happen mighty frequently now.

What about you?  Anything surprise you on the repeat trip because it was new or forgotten?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Soaking It In

Our house overflowed with family and I looked around and felt so happy.  19 of us gathered on the deck and ate homemade chicken tortilla soup, salsas and guacamole.  Two decadent birthday cakes and righteous chocolate chip zucchini bread were still ahead.  19 of us.  All squared away on what I have decided must be an enormous deck.

The cousins ran wild all over the yard.  They tossed and tussled and threw balls and jumped rope and made each other laugh.

The women danced a prep in the kitchen, with only small missteps as I often had to think pretty hard to remember where certain items had found their new home.

The men talked, and drank drinks from the cooler, refereed the kids, got wrangled into helping with odds and ends, and roamed in and out doing quality control on the dips.

Until all 19 of us ended up on the deck, with twilight approaching and a sunset starting to paint the sky spectacular.

I wore a huge grin on my face and my heart was full.

We have come home, I thought to myself.  We gather to celebrate my mom's birthday, a big decade one, and we come to laugh and remember and cherish and hug and talk and make the memories that fill this house with love and make it a home.

It's a bittersweet moment, how time marches on and not everyone I want to make these memories with can be here, but it's still a moment worth cherishing.

Our caterpillar of a collection of home repair projects is emerging as a butterfly of a cozy home, and I loved, loved loved having my family around for one of its first big flights.

Our lives are fleeting and beautiful and terrible and extraordinary, and celebrating my mom's journey today was a joy and an honor and causes me to pause and say to myself, "Remember this.  Soak it in and enjoy each moment. You will never come this way, exactly like this again."

It has been a great day Along this Beautiful Path.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Baby Bird

He is standing on his two-step stool at the counter improvising a song about pears.  The lyric: "Pears, pears, pears," and he is contagiously happy.

Why?  Because I let him cut the pears on his own.  With a knife.  A real one.

Am I ridiculous?
I mean, he is only three.

But they are the softest fruit I know of, those canned pears.  And I can't deny it makes me happy to see him filled with joy so uncontainable he must sing about it.

He scoops the pears into the bowl with the other fruit I had already cut.
He brings it to the table where Bill and I are waiting like guests at a restaurant.
He goes back for a serving spoon and chooses the exact one I would have: the slotted one from the silverware drawer.
And then he scoops us each a serving into the glass bowls and passes them our way with two hands.

I can't help it.  I'm kinda proud of this little person who can do more and more all the time.

I see my pathetically small serving of fruit salad and before I can say anything he tells me,

"Just start with that,"

and suddenly our roles have so completely reversed it feels uncanny.

But it's just a moment.  In an hour Bill and I will be back on full duty, endlessly parenting our baby bird with all of our energy and most of our patience.

It was fun to watch him fluff his feathers a bit, though.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Spiky Exposure

Carpet has been torn up in our new house everywhere.  Did I tell you we got our new house?  We did. I look forward to the day I'm calling it our home, but for now, it is the new house and is in the stage where it must look worse before it looks better as they tear out carpet, cracked tiles, chipped tub and warped linoleum.

That house is a little dangerous.  Prickly.  Little nails and staple spikes are scattered across the floor, shards of tile spill from the bathroom, unwanted glass shower doors lean against the wall.

It is unwelcoming, a bit chaotic, and a bit unpredictable.

But when it comes to the carpet, I am so grateful that we have pulled it all up with the pad. Animal stains we suspected have been confirmed and the damage assessed.  We found some mold that also needed to be bleached and "Killzed."

But this post is not about the trials and tribulations of home ownership and repair.  Many of you, I'm sure can relate, but it got me thinking about something else.

The carpets have sustained some serious damage.  And only by really exposing it down to its boards can we assess, repair and prevent.

Without turning our living room into a spiky mess, we would never have been able to enjoy it as a welcoming and inviting space.  The smells would linger.  Some would get worse.

All the Yankee Candle plug-in air fresheners, Fabreeze dousings, and cloying air sprays were only masking the much deeper issues.

Expose and eradicate.
Mask and fester.

Two choices for  our house.
Two choices for my heart.

This month we've sustained some serious damage.  In the aftermath of adversity my whole family has to decide now how to deal with the deck we've been dealt.  One of my instincts is to just cover it up.  Spray on a happy face, "fabreeze" it with a breezy attitude, and tell myself that time heals all wounds.

But is that true?  Doesn't healing heal wounds?
Here's the rub:

If I expose these parts that need to be addressed I become prickly.  Anger and grief mingle in me in chaotic, unpredictable ways.  I am not a welcoming refuge to the people who love me.  In fact, I'm as uninviting as a bare, spiky floorboard with random debris and undetermined damage points.  At one point last week this sensation was so acute, I did not even want Bill to touch me.  I felt like a hedgehog on full alert.

I'm not exactly sure what the spiritual equivalent to "Killz" is when it comes to taking care of emotional damage, but just smothering it with a kick in the pants to "buck up" is not it.

In the meantime, my own raw vulnerability makes me wonder how many angry people I have encountered who are not "what-a-jerks", but really folks who are in a spiritual remodel, letting their pain be exposed in uglier ways to make sure they can really address it before they move on.

Also in the meantime, books, mindless movies, chocolate and chai, eating out and taking it easy on my path of parenting excellence all make some pretty decent throw rugs.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


As my father-in-law has said on more than one occasion as our family story unfolds, "History has a way of repeating itself."

Her name was Janice.  I met her when I was five.  I found her homeland in The Illustrated Encyclopedia Britannica that held a place of honor in our home.  There it was, an illustrated map of Africa, with little icons of of what notables each region produced.  Sometime later, Janice immigrated to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and I would think of her fondly or give my family updates on her when we passed the stone structure I considered her home.

Janice and I kind of lost touch after awhile, but she was always such a faithful, obliging, imaginary friend, I still think of her fondly today.

Enter Lolly.

I started hearing about Lolly a few weeks ago when Landon wanted to cite who had taught him something or to attribute experience he wished he had to someone.  "Lolly knows how to fly a plane, Mom." or "I need to start learning math in a couple weeks.  Lolly knows Math."

Lolly is funny and mischievous with a real fondness for talking about all things poopy. Tonight I heard an elaborate story in which Lolly was caught in an elevator for four hours.  "She had to sleep in the elevator until a doctor came and fixed it and got her out."

"What did she think of that?"
"She thought it was funny."

Yep.  I bet she did. And now I'm pretty sure I know what happened to Janice.  She grew up and had a kid who became Landon's first imaginary friend.

The Dreamer and the Scientist

The tears came fast.  The tears were real.  I looked up with Landon to discover that his helium balloon had escaped the trunk and was well on its way to becoming a blue speck of a memory.

To everyone but him.

Tonight (three days later), as we were driving home Landon said, "That balloon is not going to Heaven, mom."

I suddenly recalled an unconsidered remark I had made about the balloon in my attempt to comfort him: "Bye, bye balloon.  He'll go to heaven."  (Yes, I personify everything like that. A childhood habit that still threads itself into my adult life.)  "We'll get another balloon sometime, buddy.  We're sorry that happened to you."  Even though it was small, nearly meaningless to me, I could tell Landon was sad.  It was his first run-in with the fleeting nature of helium balloons.

"You're right, buddy.  That was pretty far-fetched to say it was going to Heaven. Kinda far for one little balloon to go.  What do you think will happen to it?"

"I know what will happen to it."

I wait. I love to learn the things Landon 'knows.'

"When the gas comes out of that balloon it will come down and land back by the storage unit for us."

Dumbfounded silence.

I have been calling the storage unit, "a big garage thing we are keeping our stuff in" and not giving lessons on helium gas and its interactive properties with the permeable surface of a rubber balloon.

So who is this three-year-old who sorts it out with more realism than his whimsical mama who wants to imagine that blue balloon joining up with the "Balloon Ball in the Sky," by serendipitous invite only.  I want to imagine them all gathered in a swaying bouquet of wishes, each allowed to share who they are meant to honor, what party they graced, what carnival they attended. Our little blue one would chime in,  "I showed up at a guy's work and announced that  his wife is carrying a son.  You should have seen his grin, and the way he swooped his family up in a big family hug when he figured out why I came floating in!"

While I'm writing fairy tales about talking balloons going to Heaven my little investigator is quietly making sense of this world.

So would it be too mean if I tied another blue balloon to our storage unit with a note that says, "Loved the trip; glad to be back"?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Royal Preference

We recently stayed in a hotel for a mini stay-cation.

Of course, sleeping arrangements needed to be discussed and decided long before bed.

I told Bill that I was happy that two Queen beds were the same price as one large King bed.
Call me picky, but I'm kinda partial to the no knees or elbows in my back style of sleep.

Landon pipes up, "I can't sleep in this bed!  I'm a boy!"

I truly didn't have a clue.

Upon further investigation, Landon explained that he was a boy, so he should be in a king bed, not a queen bed for girls.

I explained that it was meant to designate size.

"They should call it an Everybody Bed, then," he decided.

I agree.  And then only you should sleep in it.
Not all of us.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Oh, Never Mind

My family is in a gypsy mode, displaced from our permanent home and still waiting for the next.  This is a good thing, since we sold our home, packed our belongings in storage, and spent time racing around the Front Range looking for a new house like party-goers playing an expensive game of musical chairs.  Just when we would muster the guts to put an offer on one, boom! By morning it was gone; we had waited too long by wanting a mere eight hours to go by before committing to such a significant decision.  Our agent said maybe we should bring the offers to our first look appointments.

As you know from other posts, neither Bill nor I are "fall in love at first sight" kinds of folks.  At least, not with something as big as a house.  Sure, I can be bedazzled by a layered fudge-chocolate-mint-concoction of all things delicious and declare it my instant new favorite, and Bill can see the latest model of something drive by and decide it is worth a serious investigation whether it belongs on our family's dream list for a future car, but this is not the same as being willing to plunk down our entire savings on a twenty-minute whirlwind tour.  Sometimes I was just trying to disassociate myself from the thematic decorating and the unusual pet? smells to really form any opinions at all!

So the process continues. But in the meantime, we have sold our house that was the midpoint between our significant commutes.  We are road warriors, Bill and I, and if it seems melodramatic to you that I would use the word "warrior" to reference my commute, it means you have never been one.  (A road warrior, that is, not a commute)  Bill moved in with his parents, closer to his job in the south, and Landon and I  live with my mom, closer to my job almost two hours north of his.

Until I got the brilliant idea that we should go visit him and all have a slumber party at his guest quarters this last Thursday.  Yes, that's a school night for those of you who don't know that Bill is a teacher. Who thinks these are ever going to be good ideas?!

Well past bedtime we are still trying to get our dearest little boy to settle down and go to sleep. But the house is not his home, and the noises that we can disregard become monumental to my three-year-old.
This transcript seems funny to me now, but at the time I was cringing--would it ever end?!

"I can't sleep!  It's too noisy!  What's that noise?  Daddy, what's that noise?"
"It's a big fan, Landon, go to sleep." (they had an attic fan blowing outside the door of our room)
"A pig fan?  What's a pig fan?  Where are the pigs?  I don't hear pigs."
"It's not a pig fan, Landon, it's a big fan.  It the attic.  Go to sleep."
"What's an attic?"
"Why a fan?  What's it doing?  Why it so noisy?  What's an attic?"
"You know, a fan, with blades spinning around, trying to cool us down.  GoToSleep."
"Knives?!  There are knives?  Why there knives daddy?  Are those for the pigs?  It's too noisy.  I can't go to sleep."

Pigs and knives and noisy attic fans.

We might be gypsies with a little bit too much imagination.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Biggest Decisions

     For analytical types, making a significant decision can be an agonizing struggle with points and counterpoints, small considerations and large speculations, long lists of pros and cons and even a middle column for things worth mentioning that may very well be a neutral.  When Bill and I were moving to a more serious place in our dating relationship, we both paid the price our analytical natures exact.  For Bill, it meant reopening his still-active online dating account and taking one last look at the women he had already communicated with, checking to see if anyone else seemed compelling enough to halt the forward motion he was making with me.  He later told me that it settled his heart to see how no one could even spark a little bit of interest when he compared them to me.  I was flattered, and happy to be with someone who understood the gravity of giving your heart to someone.  The same thing happened to me when a good friend suddenly got interested in exploring if we could be “something more,” and I was left weighing a 3-year relationship against the 3-month one I had formed with Bill.  One seemed a steady known quantity, the other, a wild gamble.  Well, you all know I took the wild gamble, which really wasn’t so wild after all.  I couldn’t have told you then how much I would come to love Bill, but I could tell it was totally worth it to me to find out.  (With my whole heart, to the moon and back, it turns out)

     But in those early days those options are real.  And narrowing the choices felt hard.  Watching your life of seemingly limitless possibilities funnel onto one path with one person, effectively removing countless other exciting and interesting options, was a struggle for this single girl who had been free-wheeling it longer than most .  How could I ever be truly sure that this was the exact right person to marry, about whom I would have no misgivings or regrets?  How could I skip ahead to the end of the story and see if I liked the ending (or even the middle 20 chapters, for that matter) before I decided to buy the book and make it my own life story?  The truth is, I simply couldn’t.  It is a leap of faith to read a few chapters of someone’s life, share of few of your own, and decide to be rebound into one volume of a story merged forever for better or worse.  You pray the “worse” won’t be the worst you could possibly imagine and the” better” feels more like the best, and then you live.  And work.  And pick up the pen every day and try to make the book the one you’d want to read if you were looking for a love story of epic proportions, a life of grand adventures, and simple pleasures smoothing the bumpy parts all along the way.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sleepless, Sheepless

I feel like I am in a scene from a movie, but perhaps one that went straight to video, so the details are not well known to me.

I sit here, past midnight, in a quiet hotel, in a city not far from my own, with too many things in my head to find any mental space to count some sheep and go to sleep.

Even as I write that sentence, I see sheep all starting to bounce around chaotically, mocking me for thinking that they could be of service.  They speak in several languages.  And one wears a green fez.  They are useless, and getting more bizarre the longer I let them take center stage of my imagination.

How anticlimactic is this?!  I suddenly am catching that first little wave of sleepiness.  Past experience has taught me that if I don't follow it out to the sea of sleep, I'll be stranded on this island of insomnia for hours more.

If this WAS a made-for-video movie, this most certainly was one of the deleted scenes, known only here in the Director's Cut.

I'm going to try.
To get some sleep.
Even if I have to bring in a talking pig to herd those bilingual sheep.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Burdens Shared

I have recently grown more convinced that everyone is carrying a burden.  Larger than we can see, heavier than we can imagine.

We move among each other- award-winning actors and actresses, earning more awards than Hollywood has time to create award shows for.

We are not fake, per se, we are surviving.  We are civil.  We are functioning members of a society that does not expect more than a sentence to the question, "How are you?"

Among our closest we may say more.  Or sometimes, even less.  But our burdens are real and our weariness is real, and sometimes, in moments we don't plan or prepare for, we find ourselves getting real with the unlikeliest people in the unlikeliest places.

And that's why my job is studded with encounters that leave me a little breathless at the raw humanity that sits right beneath each of our carefully constructed images.

I work at a very busy public library.
And when I'm on the floor, there are days when I can tell that I am meant to simply be an ear.
That someone just needs somebody to listen.  With an open heart, with no answers or advice, with no judgment, with no fear.  Whatever you say, for these next moments, I'll get in your boat and listen as you describe what it's like to bail like crazy, paddle like mad, face every kind of storm and trouble and feel like you are making absolutely no headway at all.

Felony charges.
Drug and alcohol addiction.
Grave and terrible illness.
False charges.
Death of your loved ones.
Your baby having babies.
It's a crowded, perilous boat.

He came back.  One such paddler.  A young man making his way out of a terrible place.   I admired his courage.  I admired the open, frank way he could talk about his life without self-pity, but some real regret.
"I found a job!  A good job!  I had to come back and tell you.  You showed me how to get on the computer and look, and I put out hundreds of applications and I finally got one and it is awesome!"

Someone saw the spark in him I had so admired.  His dogged persistence.  His teachable attitude.

I cried a little.

I'm so, so proud of you!  And so honored that you let me be part of your journey.
I cannot even begin to comprehend a mile in your shoes,  but thank you for setting your burden down for a moment at my reference perch and sharing your humanity with me.

I shoulder my own load with a little more hope today.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Entitled or Empowered

"I hungry, Mommy.  I hungry.  Mommy, I hungry.  I hungry, Mommy."

Ceaselessly.  Plaintively.  With pathos to tug at my heart strings, a whine to get on my nerves.

And still I kept my eyes tightly shut, hoping that in this little battle of the wills at midnight, mine would prevail.

(and before you wonder whether I am cruel and unusual, dinner had been served, and a before-bed snack given that was so generous, a bowl of dry cereal was leftover on the table for morning)

I don't remember signing up to staff a 24/7 diner for my three-year-old.
 I just wanted to sleep already.

Landon and I were sharing my mom's basement guest room; there was no escaping his mission.  I finally realized that I could not outlast him.

"You can go upstairs and get that bowl of cereal if you are so hungry, then."

"But it is too dark.  I can't reach the light.  I a little scared, Mommy."

These seemed like valid points.  Kind of.  I felt a twinge of guilt that I may be sending my toddler upstairs on an errand of terror just to settle a grumbly tummy.

I dragged myself out of bed, prepared to turn on the light to the stairwell.  It was on.  Illuminating the trail to the answer to all hunger in this house.  A bowl of cereal.  Take it or leave it.

"The light is on, Landon.  If you are so hungry, go upstairs and get it yourself."

And with a little more fussing and fretting, he decided he was not that hungry.

I thought I had won.

Until 3 AM rolled around and I was barely asleep (tough night), to be woken up by an outraged, "Hey!  Who turned off the bedroom light?!  I want that on.  I can't sleep with the light off!"

Will I ever get any sleep?

"If you want it on so badly, turn it on yourself," I say, thinking I'd found the magic formula.

And so he did. Flooding the room with blazing light.  At 3 am.

Alrighty then.

We have officially learned to call each other's bluff.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Cooperative Water

Landon's shirt was soaked because he was watering the grass with a hose.
"This will dry, Mom," he assured me as I buckled him into his carseat.
He explained, "It will just cooperate into the air."
"Yeah, evaporate.  It will evaporate, mom."

How did he learn about evaporation?  I was lost in my own thoughts about it when he piped up from the back seat some time later, "How does it evaporate, Mom?"

I couldn't help myself.  I launched into a lesson on the states of matter: solid, liquid, gas (steam), carefully explaining each one with examples from our kitchen.

Since I was driving, I couldn't tell if he was intently listening or zoning out, but since he was so quiet I decided it was worth the effort.

Landon is my little sponge, and if he wants to soak up knowledge, I'm happy to oblige.  I figure I must be a true-blue nerd if I started dreaming about the science lesson we could create with the ice cube trays and tea kettle to really demonstrate all these states of matter.

Kinda makes me want go check out a book from my local library and read up on it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Landon's World

"Who are those people up there, mom?" (in an overhead walkway to the light rail)
"I think they are passengers from the train."
"What are passengers?"
"People who ride a train.  Or a plane.  Or a bus."
"Oh, so their name is people and their middle name is passenger."

Something like that.

We were doing our Memorial Day Annual Puzzle (though I can't remember if we've only meant to do this every other year), when Landon spilled his drink over half of it.

During the clean-up Bill said, "Landon, I could use a hand here."

And oh, so earnestly, Landon held up his hand in Bill's direction and kept it there.

Got you covered, dad.

Oh!  And now I must go b/c a certain favorite little boy just came in and said, "I can read now!" with a book in hand.

This oughtta be good.  

Friday, May 25, 2012

All in the Same Boat

"How can I judge you, when this is my kid?"

This is what I ended up saying after Landon was a guest at one of my library programs.  My mom had very sweetly agreed to bring him, but he was being anything but sweet when he got there.

When it was time to pass out rainbow scarves, Landon went to the bin and took them all.  (I had not realized this was possible).  He gathered them all up to his chest, and clutched them with a fierce look on his face.  "These are mine!  I'm not sharing these!" he declared.  When another child tried to pull one free, they began the toddler dance of possession, with the accompanying territorial grunts and groans.
"Oh, buddy, we share the scarves.  You need to let this boy take one."
I am talking to a tyrant.  He is not softened by my gentle tone or the affectionate use of "buddy".
Instead I must resort to, "Landon, if you can't share, you'll have to go," which is a trigger for him to begin a loud wail that even picking him up could not comfort.
He had to go.
There was that awkward half moment when the rest of the moms are watching to see what I'll say.

"I could be mortified, but I'm just....not."
And they laugh.

Collectively, we share the knowledge that we try to shape these little people, but we cannot control them.
We can set reasonable boundaries and they stomp over them.
We can model good behavior, we can practice it, we can expect it, we can ask for it:
and not get it.
And at inopportune times they can make it seem like we have no parenting "skills" at all.

So really, dear friends whose children are as mixed a bag as my own sweet boy,
how can I judge you?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

To a Birthday Boy

You were a noisy bundle bent on survival as a newborn
A bright-eyed, happy baby at one
A hundred questions, a thousand discoveries, a climber and a runner at two
Now you are an exuberant,  interesting little person, a talker, a thinker, a mover and a shaker at three.

Every age has had its challenges
And every age has had its joys
You are more than I could have imagined, and better than I dreamed
So happy birthday to you, dear Landon!

Let's enjoy year three together.

Monday, May 21, 2012

One Man's Gas

When do you start teaching a child about money?  I figured when Landon's piggy bank was full would be a good starting point.

This weekend, it finally was.  So technically, he's been learning a bit for months now as we've gathered loose change and let him put it in the slot.

I told Bill that I thought it would be a great plan to put some aside for giving, most for saving, and one dollar (plus tax) for Landon to spend at the dollar store. 

I came home late Saturday night, and the very first thing Landon says to me (skipping, "hi, mom,") was, "I bought something from the dollar store."

I couldn't wait to see the bubbles or car or stickers or puzzle he had picked out.

Instead: Flarp! Noise Putty.

I'm not kidding.

Some weird pink goop in a little container that when you pressed your fingers in, made realistic noises of the most unpleasant kind of flatulence.

"Really?" my eyebrows asked Bill.

Landon demonstrated and was so hilariously amused, I had to crack a smile.  Bill was laughing so hard his eyes were crinkling up.  Watching the two of them reminded me that there is, indeed, a realm in "boy world" that will always be just slightly beyond my understanding or appreciation.

Although I think it might be kind of funny to tell Landon that at his very first opportunity to make his first self-directed purchase he bought a fart.  Or, more precisely, a "flarp!"

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Last Child by an Urban Stream

The park was noisy, large and loud.  A trio of teenagers dropping f-bombs.  A few smokers on an erratically windy day.  Every child in a 3-mile radius climbing over the apparatus like a herd of ants collecting a morsel.  Perhaps the whole structure would begin to move away when a few more kids joined the effort. 

I wanted it to be fun and joyful and peaceful.  I'm not even sure if Landon was enjoying it,  although on principle he wandered around and tried not to get knocked over amid the horde.

"Let's go walk around the 'lake', buddy."  (To be fair, I did not put air quotes around the word lake when talking to my 3-year-old.  I only add them here to suggest that 'lake' may be a bit generous of a word for a man-made scoop in the soil in the middle of suburbia.)

At first, the option held little appeal to him.  But we pulled away from the pack, and onto the sidewalk path that circumvents the water and began our new adventure.

Quieter.  Landon talking to me.  One hand clutching my finger as he balanced on a retaining wall.  We stopped to talk to a gentler trio: a grandson, dad and son sitting patiently by their fishing poles. 

Flowers to smell. Goslings to adore. Goose poop to be endlessly fascinated by:  avoiding it, pointing it out, exclaiming over it, examing it, warning me against it...yeah, we're still in that poopy phase.

And it started to get fun and joyful and peaceful.
I had never really noted that one side of the path runs parallel to an urban stream.  A wild little wonder that just so happened to have steep foot trails to its bank if you wanted to take the path less traveled by.
And Landon did.

In a classic knee-jerk reaction, I said no at first.  I was still wearing my work clothes and shoes.  The eroded path to the water was steep. I could picture harrowing run-ins with drug paraphanalia, broken liquor bottles and used prophylactics.  (yeah, I've taken these paths before, little man; sometimes they are disappointing)
But if you could see the way he put his hands on this thighs to bend over to peer into the unknown, and then look back at me with such eager hope that, "Please we go there?!"  you would know why I decided to stay alert for the biohazards of my worst-case-scenario thinking and follow him down.

I was ten thousand times rewarded for the decision by a little boy turned intrepid-explorer who had no end of delighted comments to make about these wonderful woods.  The water, the cozy tree space, the magical forest, (yeah, he actually used the word magical), prevailing past where I could comfortably get my grown-up body: ("Crawl under, mom!")  We found a circle of trees that had fourteen trees (I counted) sprouting from one small circle, that felt like a place you'd want to sit around and tell stories in.  We found our favorite spots. ("The woods are lovely, dark and deep." ~R.F)
We found the urban waterfall, cement lined and litter-strewn, but Landon's big take-away was, "It sounds like thunder, mom!"

I saw none of the unsavories I had feared, only the joy of seeing a little boy gravitate toward nature the way the moon pulls the tide: irresistable, mysterious forces creating life on the edges of the tumult. 

We may not be a wildnerness-exploring, backcountry camping, cliche of Colorado-ness family, but the whole little outing reminded me:

We need to draw a little closer to creation.
I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before we sleep.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

On the Teeter-Totter of Parenting

One day, I'm regretting not having a camera with me at all times to capture all the adorable, milestoney type moments that seem too precious to let slip by.

The next, I'm grateful nobody can hear my frustrated thoughts, hoping that this is not the scene that becomes an indelible childhood memory.

So here was the "teeter" day:  (Teeter is the high side of the apparatus in my book)

Landon and I see a crew of guys putting down new asphalt in a fast food restaurant parking lot.  I pull in and park and we get ourselves front row seats on a grassy part to watch this motherload of fascination: men building a road.  At first, I'm doing it for Landon.  I'm remembering the trucker we met a while back and enjoying another moment to learn something about the world Landon is drawn to like a magnet.  But then, the scene is pretty interesting.  They steam-melt the old surface, rake it up, pour new asphalt to mix with the newly softened patch, rake some more, and then--grand finale--steamroll it.  The steamroller comes so close, Landon shudders in that mix of fear-turned-happiness to be near.  He's grinning so huge and talking a mile a minute, alternating between asking questions and explaining the whole thing to me as though he were the narrator of a documentary we should be filming.

And I'm happy.  Happy just to sit on the grass with him and watch the world get built.  And those guys are happy.  We give each other that little chin-up nod that is acknowledgement without being too gushy.  And they wave and grin at a little boy so completely enthralled with their every move that his mother would let him sit and watch it as long as he wants.  It's hot, hard work.  I tell one of the guys so and he says, "Yeah, and I yove it," and his accent suggests that he is probably working harder than I can guess.

So before we leave, I follow an impulse and buy them all a drink at the drive through and we drop them off before we head on down the road.  And still I'm happy.  Happy all around.  Those guys, my little guy, me.  

But the teeter-totter stays on the move.  And the moment finds its counterpoint today when I try to take a walk with Landon and Bill to the local grocery store. Is it worth detailing all the ways my patience wore thin, my nerves frayed and I finally snapped?  Near the end, I felt like I could not endure one more moment of fussy, whiny, crying, inconsolable behavior.  I'd already said a number of regrettable things; I didn't want to keep adding to the list.  So I begged the house key from Bill and left him to get the trike and tike home, and hightailed it away from them as fast as I could before I had a meltdown as ugly as my toddler's.

I felt like such a meanie.  I tried to make up for it by making our dinner salads especially nice.  Lots of chopping.  By hand.  Folded napkins.  You know, little touches I'm sure would mean the world to a three-year-old and his harried dad.  I wished I could get off that simply.

Instead, we had to chalk it up as "not one of our better days" and hope the bump of these "totter" days doesn't negate the "wheee!" of the teeter ones.

Maybe I need to find a better parenting metaphor.
Thinking about it, this one really stinks. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Larger than the National Debt

I spent hours doing dusty-basement, primary-source research.  Interviewing ladies well into their 80's.  (one even died shortly after I interviewed her, adding urgency to the task of capturing the memories)  I took notes. I made photocopies.  I compiled and cited sources.  It was a large project, and I chipped away, feeling responsible and mature.  But in the end, the project was larger than I could wrangle, and too much of the final writing got left to the final hour.  For reasons I can't remember, (maybe because this was high school before everyone carried a computer in their back pocket) the only computer on which I could type and print it up was at my dad's office in town.

So I typed.  On and on.  All afternoon.  Past the evening and well into the night.  The office took on the quiet hum of a burbling water cooler and a buzzy florescent. And still I typed.  All thoughts converging to support a thesis, to tell the story.  But I couldn't be in that business space alone, so my mom stayed with me.  All through the night.  Into the wee hours of the morning.  I can still picture her dozing on the hard office floor, a hostage to my lack of time management skills.

The sun rose.  I began editing.  Printing drafts to "see" the mistakes that eluded me on the screen.  (I still must do this.)  My mom awoke bleary and sore to the sound of me still tapping away, working feverishly to get the paper done.  No one collated and stapled a research project together with more tired satisfaction, to be sure.  The night labor was done.  The baby born.

She drove me to school.  (Which had already started a couple hours before) and I went straight to my English class.  I handed in the paper on time, and then handily walked out the door, back into her waiting car, and straight home and into bed.

We slept.  Sound and sweet.  It was done.  She had endured the travail without complaint or criticism (though I deserved both) and that was that.

Weeks later, in front of peers, parents and teachers, when I received money and award for the research paper, I shook my teacher's hand and felt nothing but gratitude to my mom.  In my tunneled-teen-vision, it never occurred to me to hand the entire check over to her--she being the more deserving of the two of us who earned it. I was aware enough to realize that she never held that occasion against me, ever.  She never brought it up as a sacrifice, or a reminder of what can happen to graduating students whose "senioritis" flares up too soon before the end.

She clapped in kind support and never made mention of the long-prisoner-night when she surely must have wondered how so much prior work still required such sleeplessness at the end.  Her sleep.  And comfort. Sacrificed to let me own a success we really shared.

She let me own it.  And has never once mentioned that I owe her a thing.

Since I owe my mom my very life, perhaps she threw out the ledger entirely when she told me years ago, "Pay it forward."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fork, Spoon, Spork

I recently read a blog post that got me thinking about identity--how it changes, sometimes immutably.   We go into marriage half expecting that our individual selves will remain intact.  We expect to blend our life with another with salad metaphors in mind, keeping all the unique parts of our personality fresh and unchanged.

But it is alchemy. Mysterious and transcendant, inexplicable alchemy.  The dross most certainly does rise.  But even in that painful process, something else happens, too.  Your life becomes so completely engaged with someone else's: their pain and joy is your own.  Some freedom goes away, some responsibilities get added, but so do new pleasures, and some burdens are lightened.
Sara Groves says it beautifully with, "Life with you is half as hard and twice as good."

I am eternally changed for having married Bill.  If we were a fork and spoon before, we've each changed into something else--a spork, perhaps, or maybe even a pair of chopsticks.  There's no going back to our old roles and routines.  We have formed something new here, and even if it all fell apart, I would never fit back into the same single-girl-spoon slot I originally comfortably occupied.

We do not blend like salads, easily extracted from each other.  Alchemists sought it in metallurgy, but it happens with us: our base selves are transformed into something improbable and beautiful: one solid team, a golden pair.

I have all the more compassion for anyone who has found themselves not just missing a person in their life, but finds their very soul severed from a loss of such magnitude.  Reinvention is no small task.   

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Grateful Without the Mess

The kitchen: complete disarray from cooking soup--from scratch.  (I can't seem to use the food processor without making a big mess...you'd think the thing had no lid and splattered like a toddler)

Me: working as quickly as I know how to clean it up

My thoughts: fixated on wanting to leave it exactly in its post-processor glory, as a tribute to the rare heights of domesticity I had achieved in this kitchen

Because here's the deal: I'm just immature enough to think that if I make soup from scratch, I want all the eaters in my household to be keenly aware of the labor and love and work and clean-up that the project entails.  I want them (him) to look at it and think (say), "Wow, you really put a lot of love and effort into this.  Thanks."

So I cleaned it up.  I am trusting my eaters to have imagination (recollection) enough to be able to picture the kitchen totally trashed and myself dragging away from the table with regrets that I couldn't do another thing...

Maybe this new scene will leave a better aftertaste in all our mouths and a better memory in our minds:

The food appears plated on our table; the sink is empty as we eat.

(Only here, in the wild blue of my yonder-blog, do you know that I would actually think that a messy kitchen would somehow make a good meal more endearing.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I live with a boy who is always making connections.  He takes new information and tries to connect it to something he already knows.  He tries to find a category, to classify and sort.  Sometimes I can follow his thinking and see the picture he is making.  Other times, his dots connect in ways I can't follow.

Today the hairdresser gave him a Dum-Dum.  Just for being a good boy.  (Thank you, sweet lady, for making this easier for us next time.)  When I handed the unwrapped candy to him he said, "It's Earth," and I admitted to seeing the likeness.  I would have picked Saturn, with its fat ring in the middle, but still, how does a person tottering on the edge of three even know how to make comparisons to something as abstract as our planet?!

We bought a book detailing everything you'd ever want to know about sharks for Bill's fifth graders.  It turned out to be the book Landon desperately wanted dad to read to him as a bedtime story.  It is a fat book, with lots of text, and I could tell Bill was wondering how to wrap it up without it feeling too abrupt to a little boy who would've preferred to read that book all night.  He read something about the shark's prey.

"What's prey?" Landon asks.
"Yes, let's pray.  Good idea, buddy."
The dot just went off his page, but I think Landon will overlook it this time.
He's probably gotten used to these little misunderstandings now and again.

I live with a boy whose curiosity leads me to learn things, too.
"What's that man doing?" he asked me of a trucker who was parked in the same lot as us.
"He's writing on his clipboard,"
"What's that on his truck?"
"What's what?"
"What are those cords on his truck for?"
I don't really know.
And I say that a lot around this guy, because he has a lot of dots he'd like to connect.

So I'm out of the car, calling up to trucker man,
"Sir, hi, sorry to disturb you but I have a little boy over there who is really curious about you and your truck and is wondering what the cords coming out of your cab are for...?"

And this kind man hops down and tells me, one is electrical, and one is air.
"What do you need air for?" (and this time I'm the one whose curiosity has been stirred)
For the brakes.  They're air brakes.
Air brakes...that have a cord pumping air to them? How does this work?  I wish I could hear more, but I don't want to push it.

I report back to Landon, whose interest is rewarded with loud horn blasts that make us both kinda jump, and then laugh.  (Thank you, trucker man, for showing my little man that his curiosity can be satisfied.)

Now Landon asks me every few days, "Where is that trucker man?  What he doing today?"  and I make up stories of his deliveries to Kansas, or coming home to eat dinner with his family or washing the truck.  When he sees trucks with cords connecting the cab to the freight he calls it out, "Three cords!" or "Two cords!" and I sit in wonder that I could go my whole life and never notice that all these huge trucks have those cords connecting their parts.  I've certainly never wondered about them, and what they might do.

Landon drew that dot in for us.
I connected it with him.
And the picture of our world gets a little more detail.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Let's Go Fly (or watch) a Kite

"This is going to be awesome!"

He says it so loudly, and with such conviction, I think everyone on the shuttle bus is inclined to believe him.

For my part, I'm just thrilled to be on another family adventure--a serendipitous one because a day before, a stranger told me about Arvada's 10th Annual Kite Festival. Now we find ourselves shuttling over to the park, eagerly awaiting a sky full of kites.

We were not disappointed (though the picture doesn't show it well)

touring a fire truck and learning what a spanner is and how it is used

sweet Bill to indulge this whim of Landon's

the adventure continues at IKEA

We ended with homemade Boboli pizza (a slice of my own childhood), and a movie from the library.  
A great day, from start to finish, top to bottom.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Unprecedented Vulnerability from the Pulpit

I have never heard a pastor confess to having struggled with porn.
Until today.

Today was one of the most refreshing declarations of truth I have ever heard.
For why seek a God who cannot free you from everything that deadens your spirit and keeps you from enjoying true fulfillment and joy?

And yet, so few pastors I've ever met have pointed to anything in their lives that suggest real struggle, real sin.  Sure, they tell a few self-deprecating stories about being impatient with their wives or worried about this or that.  But it's not like you ever hear about their problem with rage or terror in the night.  You never hear of anything that they would be truly ashamed of.

Maybe most of the time, we like it like this.  We like to pretend that the sainted among us have found heights of holiness that surpass our human frailty: and by putting the clergy on pedestals we stay justified to scuff around in the mud below. 

So when my trustworthy pastor describes, without drama and without self-loathing,  a chapter in his life when he was mired in a dark and ugly trap, it was a beautiful testimony of God's restoration and freedom from shame and guilt.

I cried on the way home. I realized that though I know I'm forgiven for sin in my past, I'm not truly free from it. Every so often I wander down that prison corridor of old memories and end up in another  cell of shame, guilt, regret, and pretense. When I felt myself exhale just to hear someone trustworthy claim a life without a limp from past sin, I realized that there are old hurts in me yet to be fully healed.
I know there is no magic bullet, but hearing a testimony to God's freeing work in someone's life was one of the most hopeful and challenging messages I have heard in a long, long time.

As publicly as my pastor was willing to share is as publicly as I wish to thank him: 
Thank you for allowing your journey to be an inspiration for those of us also on this path toward freedom in Christ. Your beautiful marriage, your humble and matter-of-fact honesty, and God's transforming power in your life is like a huge and brightly lit light shining dimly into the prison I wander. I see it and realize there is more.
Much, much more.
It is for freedom that Christ sets us Free.
I look forward to finding what lies beyond the squeak of these cell doors.

Truly, thank you so much for putting aside any kind of ego or concern what others would think, or fear of being judged to speak truth today.

Thank you for being willing to say, "Come on, friends!  This way toward more light!"


A fellow traveler along this beautiful path

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The World According to Landon

Landon's prayer over dinner:

Dear God,
Thank you for God
And thank you for the movie we're watching after dinner.

"Did you say anything about a movie after dinner?"
"Me neither."

Let the record show that no prior mention of movies was made before this prayer.
He's a funny one, my preemptively grateful optimist.

~ ~ ~

And also pretty easily diverted, too.  As we got ready to follow my after dinner plans for him (a bath), Landon asked me, "Where's the Coke?  Please I make a soda?"

"Do you want to play with the funnels in the bath?" I asked, confused.

"No, you said we could make a soda in the bath."

Ahhh...yes.  I had said we needed to put baking soda in the bath.

Now I get why bath time had seemed a more intriguing option than a movie.


Remember Three Ways to Unravel in which I mentioned the tribulation we also call bedtime?
I caught a glimpse of light at the end of that tunnel.
Tonight, in the middle of a game he was playing, Landon abruptly stopped and said, "Please I go to bed now?" and grabbed his bear and snuggled into bed.

And that was that.

I sure am crazy about that kid.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

It's the Little Things

If I am to stay true to one of the original reasons I started this blog, it's only proper that I write about the little moments in my little family that I'd like to remember.  Not because I think that the world will think them priceless, (although there is something unifying in our shared experiences) but because down the road, I know I will.  Why I capture them here instead of a spiral bound notebook somewhere is a mystery for another time.

Milestone reached (yesterday): Landon's first pee in the toilet.  It was epic.  At least, for Landon.  The look of sheer amazed delight when he looked up at me was the part I want to remember.  And then he was off to the races as he ran his little naked butt all around the upstairs declaring his accomplishment.  He was so excited, I think it took an extra hour to go to bed tonight.  "I'm ready for my pull-ups!" he announced.  I'm not sure how he gained this insight, seeing as we don't have any pull-ups in the house and haven't been talking about them.

All in all, on a day I spent mostly in bed, still recovering from wisdom-teeth extraction and random liver problems, it was really nice to end on such a good note.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My True Colors While on Drugs

I was a little nervous about what I might say when coming out of anesthesia after the wisdom teeth extraction.  Something embarrassing, perhaps?

The surgery went well, but my mom was beginning to wonder why it was taking so long.  Finally a nurse came out and told her, "She is doing well, but everytime we ask her if she is ready to go she asks, 'Can I just have five more minutes?'"

A sleep that deep, is it any wonder my standard line would rise to the surface?  

When Bill heard that, all he could say was, "That's my Jode." 

At least I had no deep dark secret to reveal in my semi-coherent state.

Unless you didn't already know that I am decidedly not a morning person.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How I Became a Pirate

This may not make sense,  but sometimes thinking about what something is like is more illuminating to me than thinking about it directly.

So I'm a huge fan of figurative language.  Metaphors and Similes, you run around with flashlights in my head and help me see things for what they are....by using pictures of what they are not.

I work for a start-up.  Sure, the library as a district has been around for years, but it launched on a remarkable trajectory of change just a few years ago to reinvent itself.  Seismic paradigm shifts...and so the reinvention process feels no different than if we had started from scratch.

Here is a metaphor that sheds light on what it is like to work for a start-up:

We are crew sailing a ship....

that is still being built.
So while some frantically row, others feverishly build, still others frenetically bail.

Sometimes below deck, we can get frustrated with the captain.  She seems so calm, so steady.  We may wonder if she is aware of just how hard we're working to make this all work.
But somebody has to keep an eye on the map, the stars, the horizonSomebody has to  have vision for where we're going and how we're going to get there.
Otherwise we're just spinning our wheels.
Or our oars, in this case.
But there's treasure to be had in this wild blue beyond: the love and loyalty of a community made better for having a library.  A hundred human connections that build, bridge, and nourish our souls.   The opportunity to contribute to the lives of countless people in meaningful and memorable ways. Not to mention the tangible parts of our library collection that bring the treasure of the world into the hands of  anyone who enters.  For free.  No buried booty at a library.  It lines every shelf.

So we sail.  Tweaking and repairing and scrambling all the way.  And when we get to the end of this map, we'll sail off the edge and come back and tell you what we found. 

Who knew I would be up for a journey that pushes and pulls and asks me to grow or grow weary, but so it is. 

I signed up to be a librarian.
And found out I might really be a seafaring maverick instead.

As it turns out, we all work for start-ups. Our very lives are an invention and reinvention of ourselves-sometimes from scratch. We all make paradigm shifts of epic proportions, live without all the answers, make repairs and improvements and sail ever on.

Let's go up on deck for a moment; let the evening crew take over the oars.  I want us to feel the winds of change in our faces and dream of what is just beyond.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


We three were lying in bed with Landon in the middle.  I was reading a joke book that was making me laugh every so often.  Eventually, Landon poked his nose in it to see what was so funny.  Wanting so much to be a part of things, he pretended to read, "Underwear. Underwear. Underwear," and then glanced at me sideways to see if his funniest word would have the desired effect.

I can hear Captain Underpants giggling in the distant future.  He knows he's got another reader coming his way.

But who am I to complain?  Am I not the mom who just let him run around with a diaper on his head a few weeks ago?

Yep, that's my child.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Resonance of Children's Books

Do we all have one?  A children's book from our childhood that holds a special place in our memories.  Something semi-iconic (if only to us alone?)

I'm curious about this. I'm wondering if everyone has such a book.

I have a few.  And snippets of them come back to me at such random times, it is like their memory is woven through several layers in my brain.

Do you like my hat?
I do not.

Puppies Are Like That
Frog and Toad
A book on colors whose title still escapes me
I Can Read
a book about a spider named Helen who lived in a zoo...Be Nice to Spiders (pity, the advice didn't stick)
Are You my Mother?

What are yours?

I'd love to know!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Three Ways to Unravel

Don't you think it is remarkable how fast a perfectly good day can devolve into something you'd sooner forget? (Well, before you learn how not to repeat it, that is)

Maybe only slightly more remarkable is that I'm not talking about catastrophic events that we don't expect and are ill-prepared for.

No, I'm talking about the drip-drip-drip of daily life that occasionally has the power to break through our sandbags of sanity and make us cra-a-a-zy.

Lately, these little drips have been known to push me a little closer to the edge than I like to be:

1) When Landon is in a good mood, his ready reply is, "Why?" Now before you bash me as a woman who does not nurture her child's natural curiosity about the world, imagine hearing that word after everything you ever said, regardless of context.

"It's time for dinner,"  Why?  "Please don't climb on the table," Why?  "Do you know where your shoes are?" Why?  "Would you like me to read a story to you?" Why?  "Are you hungry?" Why?

The word doesn't even make sense half the time.  But this is not what makes me crazy...it is when I hear myself and Bill actually trying to answer each one of these "Whys" (and the subsequent "whys" our answers solicit) with all the seriousness and earnestness of the educators we are trained to be.  I'll catch myself doing it and feel a little tricked, like I'm some kind of talking robot with a lame logic chip: hear-word-why-must-answer. (And I hope you read that in the staccato robot-voice I  just imagined)

Or I just get grumpy with the fact that my little free-wheeling toddler's sense of autonomy far outweighs his desire to please.  It seemed so much easier when it didn't matter what we said, it was a good idea, without question.

2) When Landon is in any mood that is less than good, his ready response is "Stop it!" (Usually said in tones that would make you think he is practicing for a self-defense course.)   After awhile, I start to feel like a naughty puppy in obedience school being trained by an impatient taskmaster.  The trouble is, I'm not making any headway.  I still must change his diapers, dress him, buckle his seat belt, or insist that food not be thrown around.  Again, it is not this behavior that is the crazy-making part.  It is, after all, coming from a toddler.  No, I feel like I am losing it by small degrees if I catch myself answering back impatiently, "Stop telling me to stop it!"  Did I really just say that?!

3) In between being ready to give an answer for not just my faith, but every detail of our daily lives, and being told to stop everything short of breathing, Landon can be a gem.  A bundle of hugs and love and lots of "I like you, Moms," and smiles that melt my heart.  But lately, there's one hour in which we cannot escape a trial, no matter what: bedtime.

If my nerves aren't already frayed from the above two things, bedtime is becoming a guaranteed shredder.  (And I remember feeling proud of all our routines, rituals, consistency, boundaries, etc....Pooh pah!  Dumb luck.  Do we ever really SOLVE these things or do our children just move past them?!)

Maybe in another post I'll describe the saga that is bedtime.  Maybe you can conjure your own images of the ordeal.  Bill and I know we don't want to lose our patience with him.  We don't want to give him a show of a good reaction.  We don't want him to see us get frustrated and upset.  We know all these things, so Landon gets the tight-jawed, quiet version of ourselves as we struggle to wrap up the day.

And then we go in our room and snipe at each other and uncork all the frustration we were trying to conceal from Landon.  It's a real mature moment.  It might be funny if I wasn't so busy trying to figure out how to do a mind-wipe on Bill so he would instantly forget he ever heard me saying the irrational things I tend to say when I'm annoyed.

A lovely day: filled with family, fun, and good food, and at the end of it Bill and I find ourselves holding onto each other in a helpless hug, saying a humble prayer, and hoping we get another chance tomorrow.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Writing or Wandering

Here's what I've noticed about myself and writing.  The more I write, the more I want to write.

When I stop writing, the sand blows in, and it takes a great deal of strength to hope that it could rain in a desert.

When I stop writing, it doesn't take long before I start to believe I'll never have anything meaningful to say.  To anyone. Ever.

If I continue "not writing" it doesn't take much longer to believe that I have never had anything meaningful to say.

Not then, not now, not ever.  Writing well feels like finding an Oasis: a temporary, fragile place blessed by the water of inspiration, just as likely to be reclaimed by the desert of self-doubt and lack of ideas.

It's a noisy, howling desert, whipping words off the page before I even have time to finish forming them in my head.  It's blank, and boring, and seemingly endless.  Nobody wants to wander in that space.

I wish I could learn to saddle my camel with enough inspiration to last me til I get to that next place of creative profusion, where words flow like rivers.

Better yet, I wish I knew how to move to the writing rain forest.

Anybody know how to get a ticket?

Gone in a Moment

It is entirely accurate when they say,  "He was RIGHT here a second ago."

I was not being a bad mom.
I was not leaving my child unattended without regard to his whereabouts.

I was, however, shopping with my mom and Landon in a thrift store that allows for a generous margin of touching everything we see.

Which is why we go there.  

To read the books, play with the toys, touch and talk about all the little household gizmos, ride the plastic vehicles, and generally fill some time with a free adventure out of the house.  More often than not, we go away with nothing but some fun memories.  (and a little deposit in my reserve of sanity)

Until today.  Today Landon was quietly sitting in the aisle reading kids books and I was in the same aisle browsing cookbooks.  My mom came by and asked, "Where is he?"

And then that line, "he was right here a second ago," hit me in a way I really didn't like.
Because clearly, he was completely not there.

My mom went near the front of the store (and exits) and I roamed every aisle.  (in a store about the size of a grocery store).  To the back.  To the toys.  Calling his name with more urgency and volume each time.

My heart rate goes up.  Adrenaline shoots through.  I have a picture of myself sobbing and saying, "It happened so fast," that is flickering on the edges of my thoughts, while another part of my brain is urging me to ignore the drama and FIND my son.

I lock eyes with my mom across the store and can see that she is starting to bubble alarm, too.  I know she'll guard the front doors.  I'm headed to the side "Employees only" exit and banging it open a little too forcefully. And starting to raise my voice, attracting attention, and looks of pity or contempt, I care not.

I've swept this whole store once.  This is going on too long.  I hate myself (Cookbooks?  I lost him over cookbooks?!) and I hate this situation and I hate not knowing where he is and I wonder how long it will go before I totally LOSE it....

when a  little blonde head whips by me, riding a wheeled plastic vehicle.
He's going under all the clothes and having a grand ol' time.

Until he sees my face.

We are leaving. Right. Now. You did not stay near me and I did NOT like that, and we must go.  Now.

No spanks, no yelling, no shaking him, but the steel in my voice must be new because he starts to cry a little as though he had gotten a spanking. 

My kindest mom says nothing but, "Wow, they can really get far fast when they are riding on one of those things."

I was not being a bad mom.
But it scares me that in this gig, there are times when "good enough" just isn't going to cut it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Persuaded by Bear

I went to school to learn how to teach effectively. I haven't taken a single hour of parenting classes.

There are times when the only parenting tools that come to mind are not really parenting tools at all, but old classroom management tricks that work for the eight and younger crowd:

"I like how Kayla is showing me she is ready to start."
"Thank you, Jackson, for following instructions."

 Focus on the behavior you want, and thus get more of it.

So what to do when you have an only child?  Who is two?  Who doesn't have the benefit of being positively swayed by praises to others who are leading the way?

It was way past bedtime.  And my little buggy was so tired, he could no longer find the will to move.  Just cry and grouch and fuss and fret.  Kicking at me if I tried to pick him up to move him to his room.  We were at a standoff.

 I found myself using a low, slow Eeyore voice to make Landon's bear speak to him.

"Come, on, Landon, I'm really tired.  Won't you please take me to bed?"

Oh!  Did you hear that, Landon?!  Bear is really tired.

Bear intones on: "Yeah, I want to snuggle with you, Landon.  Let's just go to bed."

Landon wouldn't you like that?  Bear's ready for bed.  Why don't you go upstairs and put him in bed?

Kay?  Please?  Sweet-light-of-my-life-boy-who's-wearing-me-out-tonight.

I don't realize how much I have hanging on whether he is going to go for this newest ploy.  He is exhausted and tottering on the edge of a long and difficult meltdown. 

I'm exhausted and tottering on the edge of one, too.

"Ok, come on, Bear."  He drags Bear by one arm up the stairs. 

I exhale.

Bear's entreaty worked when all mine just stirred the pot.

Thank you, Bear/Eeyore/God.

With no degree in Parenting, I'm just making this stuff up as we go along.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Where Anything is Possible.

Working at a library is a job of many hats, all of which must be worn with humble awareness of the trust someone has placed in you for that role: advisor, life coach, technical guru, confidant, research assistant, cheerleader, sounding board, co-brainstormer, seeker, and most often, finder.

I am more than myself there.

It is among those books, and at those computers that my path intersects with people in the most intimate ways.

Dreamers looking for books to nourish a fledgling dream:
It's my privilege to hand over a book and say, "Go change the world."

Accused looking for knowledge of law and rights and representation:
It's my privilege to hand over a book and say, "I hope you find what you need."

The Frantic needing to print out a resume for the interview they have in 15 minutes:
It's my privilege to grab it hot off the presses and say, "You've got this.  You're gonna be great!"

Planning weddings, managing elder care, transitioning adolescents, overcoming shyness, looking for love, sorting out their hearts, their minds, their very lives.

They come through the door and it is my privilege to say,
 Anything is quite possible here.

You have found your library.

Monday, January 30, 2012

His First L

Ka-pow!  A new milestone just drops itself into an ordinary Sunday night and I scramble for the camera, Landon starts a happy dance and daddy is properly proud and congratulatory.

I was printing something off the computer.  Bill was reading.  Landon was coloring.

And then he says,

"I made an L for me!"

When I look over, sure enough, he has written an L, clear as anything.

Whoa...wait a second!  Who taught him to write?!

Well, naturally, being parents who never want to give our child a performance complex, we made a big huge deal of this accomplishment and Landon got so wound up.  He started dancing around the room exclaiming "I'm so skited.  I'm so skited," until he kind of forgot what he was excited about and just started saying random stuff about princesses and pencils and who knows what.  Phone calls ensued.  Family was told.  "You are ill?"  No....I made an ELL!

We finally returned to the regularly scheduled evening.  Landon preceded to write the rest of the alphabet (just kidding!!)  He actually couldn't really replicate his first triumph, and instead settled for the practice of writing the straightest lines he could, kinda hoping for a party for each one.  He was like a little cave-baby who found fire by accident...and then couldn't get it relit.

Sensational while it lasted.

My favorite part was as he worked on his new attempts at straight lines he said so earnestly, "I writing, mom."

And so you are, son.

Welcome to this family.

He's Just my Kind of Nutty

Everyone tells me what a sweetie he is.
And this is true.
Sweet enough to thaw right through the grump that crusts over my heart after a particularly long day and stressful commute home.

But he's also ornery.  Workin' a contrary streak that causes me to say, "oh sweet-Jesus-please-give-me-patience-with-this-child," in one long exhale of helpless resignation.

He hears things his own way.  He sees it all through his own filter.  Sometimes I get glimpses through his lens, too, and am entirely charmed by life from the perspective of a two-year-old.  

Tonight, when he comes to lie down in front of me upside down, I say (repeat for the 88th time, more like it) that I can't put a diaper on your head.  The diaper goes on your bottom.  Please turn around, Landon.

"Just put my diaper on my head, mom."

"If you insist"

And then we're both cracking up, and he's off and running to show daddy this hilarious new look that I don't think he ever dreamed I'd actually do.  

When I watch his glee, and what untarnished happiness he gets from this silly moment, and how easily pleased he is, and how he wants to take his pleasure and share it immediately with the one who isn't in the room, I can't help but love him.

He's the best kind of nutty.

How January Shapes Up

Maybe when you're surrounded by children's literature, where flights of fancy never even require a ticket, it's easy to forget that arriving at destinations in life's journey is usually a much harder trek.  "We've arrived!" is such a promising proclamation.  It conjures images of good times about to begin, all the hard work of preparing and packing and traveling behind.

January starts with starry-eyed optimism for a new year, a fresh start.  I get infatuated all over again with the promise of potential.  I do.  Every year.  Mostly a realist, most of the time, January is my Valentine's Day of goal-setting.  I mean, we all know that little gifts can't fix a deeply flawed relationship,  and just the same, I know that setting goals does not transform my deeply flawed self.

But sometimes well-chosen chocolate can help smooth some of the rough parts while we take the time to do the work.

Maybe well-chosen goals can help me stay focused on the desired outcomes long enough to remind me to keep doing the work.

My favorite quote for January has been:

"The humble resolution you actually keep is more helpful than the ambitious one you abandon."
~ Gretchen Rubin

 So I'm keepin' it humble.  In hopes that I can keep them at all.

If I'm not fit and skinny with check marks next to every item on a substantial to-do list in six months, I may not be failing.

Maybe I'll still be remembering to take my vitamins, write in our family journal, live in more moments, and say no to random acts of donuts.

I still believe I can accomplish some great goals in 2012...even if I am warming up to it kinda slowly.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Little Moments



Elati lights: we had to visit twice




finished work

daddy's helper

this is childhood

and motherhood

the joy comes round and round
"We do not remember days, we remember moments."  ~Cesare Pavese

Little moments: some on film, some in my heart, some in my less-than-reliable memory (hope they find their way to the back room labeled "long-term"!) It was a season of many, and I treasure them all.