Posted in Family

Newton’s Law of… Summer

Wonder Woman 2017 filmMy 13-year-old daughter asked me last week if I’ve seen “Wonder Woman.” When I shook my head, she grasped my arm and leaned toward me earnestly. “It’s beautiful. You have to see it.” Accordingly, we made plans to see it together yesterday. She’s right—the movie is beautifully done, and though I’m more a “Pirates of the Caribbean” kind of girl, I enjoyed the artistic accomplishments of the film, as well as my artistic daughter’s appreciation of it.

The really precious time, though, was after the movie, when we came out from the chilly air-conditioned theater to sit on a padded bench in the sunshine. We both put up our sandaled feet (with matching turquoise toenails–we tend to share an aesthetic) on the table in front of us and leaned back into the cushions—she rested her head on my shoulder and we held hands while we listened to the music piped out over the “entertainment square” and chatted until her ride arrived.

I suppose a “silver lining” of not having custody is that we don’t have the usual parent-teen conflicts going on, and the time we do spend together is usually spent in meaningful conversation. Last week we talked about her art, her friendships, the social dynamics of junior high, her thoughts about eighth grade, her current reading, and some “woman things” that I can hardly believe I’m discussing with my little girl… (Well, she may a young one—but she IS a woman now…)

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my mom & my daughter with kayaks last summer

My mother has promised to take each of the kids on a special Spring Break trip during high school. My son Christian knew exactly what he wanted to do, so they went sea kayaking in Mexico last year. Elena Grace, though, hasn’t come up with a plan for her trip, so yesterday we were brainstorming some of the adventurous things she likes to do. Turns out zip-lining is high on her list, so I texted my mother to see how she feels about that. (She’s not wild about heights, but she’s plenty adventurous—she kayaks and river-rafts and fly-fishes and scuba dives and travels around the world, and she just bought herself an RV for further adventuring!) I got a text back from her with a thumbs-up.

Today the kids are heading north for the first of a couple summer adventures with “Grandy,” as they call my mom. This first one will be taking out a crab boat in the Washington coast’s Deception Pass, and later they’re staying in a Montana cabin and going kayaking. Elena Grace says she’s been looking forward to the trip, but at the same time hasn’t gotten up sufficient interest or energy to pack for it. (“Wait, you’re leaving tomorrow, aren’t you?” … “Well, yes…”)

She thought for a moment and then observed, “I’ve been really lazy this last month since school let out. I’m kind of enjoying it, and kind of feel guilty about it at the same time. I’m just hanging out with my phone or my friends, or going swimming some days. And I know I’ll have fun on the trip, but I’m not in that mode yet.”

imageAnother moment of thought, and she added: “You know that thing about how moving things keep moving, and things that aren’t moving stay still?”

Yup, that’s Newton’s First Law of Physics. “Inertia,” I supplied—and she seized on the word.

Exactly. I’m feeling inertia. I haven’t been in motion, so it’s hard to get in motion.”

It’s an apt observation, and true of more things in life than just summer vacation. (It’s probably why my husband brings me coffee in bed before I even get up—I have a serious inertia-issue before my caffeine kicks in!)

She texted late last night to say she still hadn’t gotten around to packing. “Inertia?” I asked. “Laundry!” she replied, with an emoticon-grimace. Ah well, she’ll get it done—she inherited her mother’s propensity for procrastination (along with the associated ability to get things done in a last-minute flurry). She’s my own little Wonder Woman.

Posted in Family

Mother’s Day, By the Numbers

A recent Gallup poll asked Americans what they think is “the ideal number of children for a family to have” and found Americans, on average, believe that 2.5 children are ideal. ~ Gallup.com

I’m sure this quote intends to say that the averaged number, gathered from responses, is 2.5, not that people actually believe “2.5 children are ideal.” I mean, kids come in whole-number units, so that’s an ideal no one could achieve. Or could they? Sometimes I feel like fractions should be a part of my answer when I’m asked about my kids…

“How many kids do you have?”

As cut-and-dried as that question seems, I actually find it awkward to answer. I reply with a variety of permutations depending on situation and circumstance.

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two I grew (2006)

I’ve given birth to two sons and a daughter. (So I “have” three kids.) One son was adopted by an amazing other mother, and I don’t currently have custody of the other two. (So I don’t “have” any.) My daughter at least sees me (so I “have” relationship with one). And I’m still legally the parent of the two teens, even without custody. (So I still “have” two.) I could answer, with some truth, with any of those numbers, but no numerical answer to the question actually tells my story.

Kapena
a boy I mothered but didn’t grow

(And that’s not even opening the question of step-kids… Do I have five of those, because I married their dad? One, because he was still a minor during that marriage and I mothered him? None, because their dad passed away and dissolved the link? I do still consider them family, and refer to them as my step-kids if relational explanation is called for—but I’m less likely these days to include them in a kid-count than I did when their dad was alive and I was married to him.)

Despite the hypothetical argument above for “having” no kids, that’s never my answer. I’m still a mom, regardless of current custody. My most frequent answer is that “I have two teenagers.” But then, it’s not unusual for me to include the baby (with an adoption-explanation) as well. Continue reading “Mother’s Day, By the Numbers”

Posted in Family, People, writing

Legos—Did You Know?

on a scale of one to stepping on a lego, how much pain are you in?As a parent, Legos were my least favorite toys to step on barefoot. Did you know that a Lego can withstand over 4,000 Newtons of force? That’s why the Lego always wins when you step on it.

But that’s really the only drawback to Legos. (Well, that and the price of Legos these days—it’s nearly as painful to pay for them as to step on them.) The reason why Legos are so awesome is summed up in this description, from Wikipedia: “Anything constructed can then be taken apart again, and the pieces used to make other objects.” Lego is the ultimate imagination-toy.

Lego castle 1980s
This was my favorite set.

Did you know that there are over 915 million ways to combine six basic 2×4 Lego bricks?

Growing up, my favorite set was a castle compilation of all-gray bricks, complete with hinges to make the requisite drawbridges and swinging doors to hidden passages. Legos usually come with a “construction plan”—and I’m sure mine did, though I don’t remember it… because the real fun is inventing your own stuff out of the possibility of all those pieces.

Lego Jack Sparrow Indiana Jones
Jack & Indie—two of my favorite characters in Lego!

In retrospect, my castle set was pretty simplistic, in part because my Lego-play predated the licensing agreements that have brought us Lego Harry Potter, Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Pirates of the Caribbean, Lego Marvel comics…

Just listing them makes me want to sit down on the floor and play. My son’s earliest Lego sets were pirates—any guesses why? Yup, Mommy wanted to play with them. (Did you know that the name “Lego” comes from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means “play well”?) Continue reading “Legos—Did You Know?”

Posted in Family

Mommying, the Way It Is

This one is a painful topic. I lost custody of my kids seventeen months ago.

Having weathered (Sober) the death of a spouse, the infidelity of another, the unplanned arrival (and subsequent adoption) of a late-life baby, and a host of medical problems, I let my guard down when my life finally looked like smooth sailing—and I drank.

Five years previously, I had voluntarily added to my custody agreement that I would relinquish my share of custody if I were to drink again. And then came the day in December of 2015 when I got collared for an excessive DUI. At eight in the morning. After dropping both my kids at their schools. (“Painful” is an entirely inadequate word for those sentences.)

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my son with my niece last summer—a photo my mother sent me

My funny, engaging, wise, sensitive son has not talked to me since. (“Excruciating” is an entirely inadequate word for that sentence.) I still have Faith that there’s healing in our future, though clearly that’s not going to happen (hasn’t happened!) on the timeline I would wish. In God’s time. Meantime, I send him occasional text messages and notes in the mail (and cards for his 15th & 16th birthdays), wanting him to know that haven’t “walked away” from the relationship, or from him.

My daughter stayed silent for a few months, but she and I talk and text regularly now, and I get to see her for an hour or an afternoon here and there.

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my daughter, visiting

Of course, this isn’t at all how I envisioned mothering my teens! I’m at least grateful to have an ongoing relationship with Elena Grace, but it can’t properly be called parenting. It’s visiting.

You know what, though? I’m deeply grateful for the time I spend with her—and if this is what my mommying has to look like, I’ll focus on the Blessings. Continue reading “Mommying, the Way It Is”

Posted in Family

Christmas Redux, Christmas Remix

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my son Christian, Christmas 2013

Three years ago I took my kids (Elena Grace & Christian, then 9 & 12) up to my parents’ house for Christmas. It was the first time in over a decade that I had been “home” for Christmas, and we resurrected every Christmas tradition I had grown up with. We baked my grandma’s famous vanilla-apricot sugar cookies. We decorated the Christmas tree with ornaments our family had accumulated abroad over decades of travel. We held a Christmas-caroling party on Christmas Eve, and my mother and I together sang our favorite descant to “Silent Night” to finish it up. We opened stockings while we drank orange juice out of great-grandma’s gold-rimmed goblets. We read aloud the whole of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” We made snow angels in the back yard and pelted each other with snowballs.

It was Christmas Redux—a revival of everything I associated with childhood Christmases, shared with my own kids. And for that year, it was perfect. Continue reading “Christmas Redux, Christmas Remix”

Posted in Family

I Am the Pumpkin Patch

preemie kangaroo
he grew in his mom’s HEART

My mother used to tease that she had found me in a pumpkin patch, and my sister under a cabbage leaf. Secure in our elementary knowledge of biology (and the baby-book photos of her bulging belly) we didn’t think twice about our origin, despite her joke.

I used to make a similar wisecrack when my teens were small, asking them (usually in moments of amused exasperation), “Who spawned YOU?!” …which always prompted a giggly response of, “YOU did!”

With a shifted perspective, those jokes come to mind now… I am eagerly observing the emerging personhood of a little guy who grew in his mommy’s heart instead of in her tummy. I’m always greedy for news and photos of him, delighted by his smiles and grateful for his medical progress…

He’s not my son now, but I’m the pumpkin patch where he grew.

For most of my pregnancy this boy was my baby. After all, it’s a natural assumption, when you find yourself “in the family way,” that this new person will, in fact, become part of the existing family. The pregnancy was NOT intentional (I’m in my 40’s—and did I mention my kids are teens?)… but it’s not the first time that God’s plans have trumped mine, and I do my best to roll with that.

It didn’t even cross my mind that he wasn’t intended for meContinue reading “I Am the Pumpkin Patch”

Posted in Family, Home & Garden, Idaho, Recovery, travel

Addendum to a Eulogy

Yesterday my dad should have turned seventy. He passed away this year on my birthday, so this weekend we’ve been missing him on his.

canoe and canoeist
daddy-daughter canoe trip, Northern Idaho 1987

Ironically, I could still practice my favorite joke-ritual, which was not to call my dad (whose depth of phone-phobia was rivaled only by my sister’s and my own) on his birthday. I even found him a card one year that offered a “no-call” option as a birthday present. (Actually, I usually did call anyway—and this week I’m glad of that.)

One of the horrible ironies of memorial services is the fact that grieving people are expected (worse: expect themselves) to brilliantly and eruditely sum up LOVE, as it applies to a suddenly-missing person, at a point in time when their hearts are most broken and their brains are most fried. In such a case, the best you can hope for is that God will get some of the right words into your mouth (or out of your pen), and that the other people missing him will be able to fill in the rest through their love and memories.

The single story I most wanted to share about my dad didn’t seem appropriate for either the obituary I wrote nor the eulogy at his service. Somehow, alcoholism (in either the speaker or the deceased) doesn’t seem like a welcome subject in those venues… But this story says SO much about my dad, and here’s a place where I can tell it. Continue reading “Addendum to a Eulogy”