Friday, July 31, 2009

Jiggety Jig

I did not go to market, I did not buy a fat pig.
But I did come home again, and it's about time!

(I also did not buy a plum bun, in case you were wondering. Nor do I care if market is done.)

I am thrilled to sit in my own bed, in front of my own TV, next to my own beloved. As opposed to sharing the bed with a pile of Stuff, as I have been doing for the past month.

New House Smell
The first thing I noticed upon entering my house after five weeks away is that it still smells like a new house! I have no idea why, but I think it was brought on by the Captain leaving the A/C turned off for the last 10 days. New House Smell has a little bit of pine, a whiff of carpet fiber, and a rush of memories of our first days in this house last summer.

To fully unleash the flood of memories, several of our lovely neighbors stopped by to visit while we unpacked the car. I was reminded of the long summer nights a year ago when we first began to get acquainted. We really have great neighbors. While I have some reservations about living the subdivision kind of life, these neighbors give me hope. I so enjoy the sense of camaraderie that we all share. I look forward to continuing to build those friendships, even after the New House Smell fades.

Hangin' at Daddy's Crib
The Captain takes a monthly business trip to the Dallas Metroplex. For a special treat we got to spend the final night of our trip at his hotel. After staying in a clean, family-friendly, budget-level hotel chain for four nights this week (and twice on the outbound trip, and two nights on another trip last year, and the entire four-night trip both ways last summer), this hotel made me feel like a pampered woman.

The pool was nice, the room was totally awesome. Hot cookies and a TV in front of each bed impressed the kids. But the highlight of the evening for this very tired (and also a little sick) driver and mamma was when the Captain asked the check-in clerk if there were any upgrades available. To which the clerk replied, Of course!

Of course. We were special just by virtue of traveling with our daddy, our main guy, our Team Captain. I love when I get to be special! On this trip, special meant a lovely two-room suite including a king size bed. Ahhhhh. Throughout our stay we were treated as friends, our every need tended to instantly. I could get used to the special treatment.

This morning the hard-working Captain used the hotel room as a business office while Lulu napped and I took the big kids down to enjoy the hotel pool. Other than an unfortunate experience in which Boo Bear's pinky finger got pretty badly squished in the bathroom door, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. I can't wait to go back sometime without kids and take advantage of some of the nearby nightlife.

Voyage of the Doll House

I have been pondering what to call this trip. So many elements flavored the trip, from road conditions (400 miles of rain through all of Arkansas), to hotels (see above), to side trips (we stopped along the Mississippi in Memphis to absorb a little history and snap a few photos).

On this visit to Ohio, my dad pulled out the dollhouse he made for me in 1976. I would have been three that year. He painstakingly fashioned shutters, detailed the windows and doors, and painted it the same color as the house we lived in at the time. I played with my dollhouse for many years, through different generations of dolls, but Barbies fit in it best.

The kids fell in love with this dollhouse. And Mom and Dad offered me the dollhouse to bring home to my own house. If I could fit it, of course.

So we put it in the car and packed around it. Couldn't use the rearview mirror for our entire 1350 mile trip, and we didn't have room for much more, but we got it in! While we didn't so much talk about the dollhouse during the entire trip, it was really the elephant in the room if ever there was one. So to me, this trip was the Voyage of the Dollhouse.

I look forward to my dollhouse having a new life in this new generation. I just need to remind the kids that it's still my dollhouse. They only get to use it.

Well I am pooped. I get to sleep now, in my own bed. Tomorrow begins the new era of me never eating in a restaurant again, for as long as I can help it. I am so sick of restaurant food!

Many thanks to the dozens of you who 'fess up to reading my blogs. You honor me by admitting you spend your time here. Really.

For now, this concludes our broadcast day.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

No Cannonball

Sadly, we had no cannonballing in the hotel pool tonight. Tonight's hotel has an outdoor pool, and we arrived in the middle of a downpour. No, thanks.

So we were left with the task of winding down our children, who had sat really very well in the car all day, without a pool. We used a combination of a hotel bed Wrestling Match, and hotel lobby Game Night. While the pool would have been more effective, we had a lot of fun together.

Have you ever tried to have a silent wrestling match? Our children have no volume control whatsoever. Boo can moderate her voice for a moment, but then it's back to shrieking. Rooster, honestly, appears to have only an on/off switch. That boy lives loud!

At one point, Roo went flying off the bed head first. He jumped up a moment later, yelling, Dad! Did you see that? I landed on my forehead!

I love my four year old boy. Before I had children, four was my favorite age. Now that I have kids, I love different things about every age and stage. But four will always remain my sentimental favorite.

Rooster is not just all boy; he reminds me also of a large breed puppy. His chubby feet are not so much long as they are fat, requiring a shoe size or two larger than a flatter foot would take. Since birth, we have noted his oversize dimpled ham hands, dubbed gorilla mitts by the Captain.

Our boy is also slow. I can't explain the why of that. All I know is that he is always at the end of the line, six steps behind. He is last out of the house, last out of the car, last to finish his dinner, everything. I have taken to calling him King Slow-as-Dirt.

Upon which Boo informs me, But Mom, dirt doesn't move.


At the beginning of our road trip yesterday, I bought the kids each a Beanie Baby Happy Meal toy at McDonalds. You know, cheap thrills and all that. Boo got a panda, Rooster got a Beanie of Grimace. What Ever.

But Roo doesn't know anything about Grimace. He looked at that purple toy and started talking about his Blueberry. No, that's not it's name. He thinks it is a Blueberry. He actually named it Marshmallow. I do not feel the need to correct him.

This morning, before embarking on our day's drive, I took him for a final pit stop in the hotel lobby. I put Boo in the girls' side and him in the boys' side of the drinking fountain. For the next fifteen minutes (have I mentioned he is slow?), he could be heard inside singing to himself, loudly of course:

I'm a man!
I'm a man!
I get to go in the
man bathroom
all by myself!

The Captain just filled me in on one more great Rooster moment from today. My Baby Doll was laid out on his car blankie while we stopped at a rest area. As we wrapped up our stop, the Captain started rounding up the kids. Roo promptly picked up a corner of his blanket, and started dragging it, baby and all, toward the car. Caveman style.

Yep, that's my boy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


After our first day on the road back to Texas, I took the kids to the hotel pool as is our traveling custom. I had thought to take Lulu for a swim, but this hotel is positively crawling with kids. So she and I sat on the sidelines and watched big brother and sister enjoy the pool for an hour.

As we observed the action, I was amazed at the amount of energy being expended not just by my kids but by everyone in the pool. Miss Boo resurrected swimming strokes from her Aggie Swim Club sessions, butterfly-ing and back stroking forward and back, forward and back. Rooster spent the best part of the hour cannonballing into the water, climbing out, and doing it all over again. He must have jumped in over 50 times.

The best part about cannonball jumping is the compulsive need to shout Cannonball! as one jumps in. Heedless of hazards, obstacles, or water up the nose.

I don't think I cannonball enough, either in the pool or in any other area of life. I have a tendency to hang back, watch what others are doing, test the risks before committing myself to something new.

Sometimes we need to spend more of life jumping in with our whole selves. Who cares if the pool is crowded, if the water is cold or murky, or if we end up with water up our nose?

I am still not sure I would like to jump in to this hotel pool. Too busy, too murky. But I think I'm going to try to look for opportunities this week to jump in, seize the moment, and enjoy myself without thinking too much about the consequences.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Excuse Me, Mr. President

Before moving forward with new adventure stories, I want to back up to the drama of last Thursday. Thursday marked the end of my solo parenting adventure, as the Captain boarded a flight to join us for the remainder of our vacation.

As if I were the one flying, I spent the day with my stomach in an anxious knot. I took my Nana to Chick-fil-a for lunch to distract myself, hoping the kids could play while we chatted. Except... this is customer appreciation week, so the normally noisy lunch crowd was off the charts. We even had three giant cow mascots dancing through the store to add to the mayhem.

Unfortunately, the combination of flying day nerves and my sense of being out of control of the lunch situation totally took away my appetite. Those who know me know that I never lose my appetite. Yes, sometimes I forget to eat, sometimes I am too busy to eat, sometimes I am simply too lazy. But those are just games to prove that hunger doesn't control me. I can always eat. On this day, I could not eat my chicken sandwich, no matter how much I wanted to. So sad.

To add to the drama of my day, the rain was settled into Northeast Ohio for the third day in a row, with more forecast through the weekend--our family beach weekend. I know I have been extolling the virtues of the rain, but now I remember midwestern rain: it settles in and chills your bones with its dreary ordinariness.

On Thursday, everyone in town seemed to be in a funk, and I don't even blame them. Milli Vanilli may have mocked his girl for blaming it on the rain, but I think the oppresiveness of this blah weather truly has a physical touch.

Well anyhow, after spinning my wheels and anxiously whiling away the long dreary rainy day, I finally got on the road to the airport.

I dropped the kids at the home of my new/old friend Kristen, who had offered me a much appreciated date night! With my separation from the Captain almost to a close, I took off for the airport to meet his 5:09 flight into Cleveland.

At 5:10, I received a text: Good news, I'm on the ground.

And then I received a second text: Bad news... I'm in Columbus.


It turned out that our august national leader had an appointment in Cleveland that afternoon. And he got a little behind schedule. And he was a little late getting back to Air Force One for his outbound flight.

And all traffic into and out of Cleveland came to a standstill until he made his flight.

So the Captain's plane circled Cleveland a time or two, then ducked down to Columbus, 120 miles away, for a spot o' fuel while they waited.

I was a little ticked with our President for disrupting my date night.

But the plane finally came to its final destination, and I finally picked my honey up from the curb. We had our date night in the end, at a nice Japanese steakhouse. And by the time we picked our kids up from Kristen's house, they were fast friends with her kids.

They say that all's well that ends well. All my anxiety dissolved immediately upon reconnecting with the Captain. He even brought me sunbeams. We had nice weather for almost 24 hours after he arrived, including our first afternoon at the beach.

No thanks to President O.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Angels

They're sleeping.

All day long they live and breathe and exclaim and defend. They poke and yell and grump and squirm. They need and love and hug and generally have presence.

By the end of the day I sometimes wonder who will outlast whom. But inevitably, they sleep. And when they do, they are so precious.

Today we traveled with my family up to Lake Erie for a getaway vacation. We, especially the kids, played hard in the sand and surf. Predictably, by the end of the afternoon they had sand in every crevice. And they found the whole experience glorious. In light of the happy memories, I am trying not to begrudge the layer of sand now gritting up my car. And stroller. And everything.

For now they are sleeping. Hard.

Lulu seemed to like the beach, too, although her experience mostly included being lulled to sleep by the stiff breeze gently buffeting her protected stroller bed.

After six months with Lulu, I still feel like I have two real live kids, and a Baby Alive. I still sometimes wonder if I might get a half mile from home only to remember that I left the Baby Alive home sleeping in her quiet corner.

Lulu is a baby doll in more ways than one. She is the third born, so she just comes along for the ride to everything we are doing with the big kids. She is unbelievably agreeable, and constantly smiles. After my serious second child would not meet his own mother's gaze for almost a year, this sweetie radiates charm to everyone who passes by. She looks good in pink. I'm also willing to bet this girl is going to like tea parties--she already sizes up my coffee with a knowing look.

When you first become a parent, you tend to hope your child will show signs of genius. You expose your baby to educational movies, and play games to help her walk and talk, secretly hoping she will re-invent the curve.

By the third time, I have learned that my baby doll will grow up soon enough. So I don't work so much on trying to uncover her genius. Years ago I read a comic in which a harried mom observed, "You spend the first two years teaching them to walk and talk, and the next sixteen telling them to sit down and shut up!"

At six months, Lulu has yet to show any inclination to roll over, sit up, or feed herself a bottle. Despite drooling for months already, she has yet to erupt a tooth.

And that's okay with me. I want to enjoy my Baby Alive as long as possible.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Event Full

This vacation turns out to be like none other I have ever taken. Seems to me I have succeeded in taking advantage of the best that northeast Ohio has to offer. Although I have yet to get back to Cedar Point as an adult, I have two good offers already for next year. I have reconnected with my roots differently than on other visits. Even the kids have made friends here.

Visitation Rights
This past week has been full of the business of visiting. In addition to the few friends I catch up with whenever I am in town, I have had half a dozen appointments to meet people I had not met with in all the times I have come home to visit over the years. My youth pastor's wife; a high school friend; my friend Kristen to whom I already introduced you; and Dodie, my HS mentor's mom, who lives in a nursing home. Each was a blessing to me, each helped re-string some threads between me and my earlier life.

I unexpectedly and especially enjoyed my visit with Dodie and her friends. I took 6 month old Lulu to meet her, and was virtually swept away by the joy she brought to everyone in that place. What a feel-good experience to share this sweet piece of baby with people who don't have babies in their lives!

The women reminisced about their own babies, the men practiced their grandfatherly duties. Tired hands reached out to shyly caress her little baby feet, and smiled in that unguarded way people have when gazing at a brand-new person. And for just a moment, hope flickered in the eyes of every resident of Bethany House. Lulu and I brought joy, but we received so much in return. Babies are a special kind of magic, aren't they?

Pear Tree Seeking Boarder
The weekend was full of family events. We went to the zoo as a family, and I am so glad we did. I very nearly went with just my sister-in-law and all six of our children. As it turned out, we added my brother Mike and my parents. This brought our group tally to 5 adults, 4 mobile children, 3 cameras, 2 strollers, 2 nursing babies, and a picnic lunch. The only thing missing was the partridge.

By the end of the day, we were collectively exhausted from chasing children through a busy public park. We stopped for dinner on the way home, and when we came back out for our final 5 minute drive home, I was shocked to discover the time was only 6:30pm. My children were dismayed to hear of my plan to put them to bed immediately, but they were showered and asleep by 8:15. Awesome.

Like Mike
I accepted my brother Mike's offer of a Sunday bike ride, and thus began more adventure than I had bargained for. Our biking party also included my dad and Boo Bear, with Rooster and cousin Gabe along for the ride in a bike trailer. As we began our ride, I realized I had not ridden a bike since before I learned how to drive. That's a long time. I found out that the reward of biking with Mike is ice cream. How awesome is that!

As we were preparing to gear up for the ride home, Boo reflected on our individual bikes.

You know, Papa's green bike should be called The Grass. And Uncle Mike's blue bike is The Ocean. The boys in the red and purple trailer are The Berries. That makes my black BMX bike here the Black Stallion. And you, Mom, your white and red bike is The Candy!

I love this girl and her imagination.

Five minutes into our return trip, I heard her little voice behind me:

And here comes the Black Stallion from behind, ready to go for the lead!

She came flying up the dirt path past Uncle Mike with the trailer, past me on The Candy, abreast of Papa on The Grass, when suddenly we heard a loud crack! like the report of a pistol, and she suddenly leapt from her steed. Sadly, the Black Stallion, grizzled veteran of Uncle Mike's childhood, had blown a tire! Miss Boo had reached the end of her ride.

We happened to be right by a playground, so Mike and I stayed with the kids while Papa rode on ahead to get the van and bring it back to collect Boo and the Black. This provided Mike and I with a rare opportunity for connection. And a good memory upon which to build a relationship that has been amiable but not as close as it could be.

With the Black stowed, Papa and Boo drove off in search of fresh tires. Adult brother and sister continued the ride with our two sons in tow. And we had a wonderful time. We stopped and took photos several times, and even at the end of the ride we continued talking for another hour.

Mike is an awesome dad. He takes his kids on bike rides. He teaches them about nature as well as the value of being active. He then treats them to ice cream! I want to be more like Mike. For now I am content to have created a fun memory biking with him.

Chasing Rainbows
Sunday evening my dad and I took the kids to the park. As we talked my dad mentioned that the broken clouds would make for a good sunset, and that he knew a good place to go watch it. So we piled back into the car and drove to the spot at the end of the runway at the airport.

As luck would have it, we had sunset to the west, and a rainbow to the east. But before I could photograph the rainbow, we suddenly had a jet bearing down on us from the south! And a minute later, another! By the time I collected my wits from the excitement, the rainbow had faded. But we did end up with some good sunset photos.

I remember my parents taking me to the airport when I was a kid, to watch the planes come in. Things have changed; it's hard to get thrillingly close to the underbelly of a jet plane anymore. I am so glad the kids had a chance to experience that thrill. I had forgotten how fun it is.

It even helped fill my rumble quota.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Rain, Rain

Anywhere you go in the world, the surrounding region has risk for one or another of the forces of nature. Some places are more prone to earthquakes; others to hurricanes. The mountains get blizzards, while the Mississippi River delta gets spring flooding. I think Texas is prone to dirt.

In addition to the perpetual minor threat of tornadoes, Ohio gets rain. As a child I loved summer thunderstorms; the louder the better. I love the rumble of an approaching storm; the hush that falls and the breeze that kicks up as the dark clouds draw closer; the tendrils of humid air that give the storm an aura of personality.

During my visit to Ohio, the region has been experiencing one of its most temperate summers in years. Temperatures have hovered in the 70's while the folks back in central Texas endure scorching triple digit numbers. The grass here in the northern part of the country is soft and green; the leaves of the maple and oak trees whisper secrets to one another in the gentle breezes.

Today the kids got to experience something they haven't seen much since early this spring, and I got to stock up on my inner rumble quota. To celebrate the summer storm that moved through the area, we all piled out to the wicker furniture on the front porch for an unobstructed view.

Boo and Roo flirted with the storm, dashing out into the rain and back again. They grew bolder, seeking puddles in the driveway for splashing. Before I knew it they were joyously running up and down the edge of the street in front of the house, sloshing through the flood runoff.

So funny, how the novelty or mundane nature of a thing depends so much on your exposure to it. I remember so many times being annoyed by rain. In fact, I noticed the other day that the upcoming family picnic at my parents' church has a date, and a rain date. Come to think of it, a dozen years ago the Captain and I had to reschedule our outdoor wedding date due to a conflict, and ended up with a traditional church venue. It turned out for the best, because we had rain on both dates that summer.

But I digress.

My favorite part of parenting comes when I rediscover the world through the eyes of my children. Today I watched and felt this thunderstorm through my children, and I loved it the way I did as a kid. Without reservation, without inhibition, enjoying the simple pleasure of the moment.

I love thunderstorms. Maybe tomorrow we will get another.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Full Circle

I have a confession to make. My deepest, darkest secret. One I carried for 25 years.

As a child, growing up in an insulated Christian family, I could have been accurately described as a good little girl. Who wouldn't, when only presented with good role models, Bible stories, Jesus music, and an entirely Christian social circle?

Yet, in testimony to fallen sinful nature, a thorn of temptation threaded its way into my mind. And festered.

One morning I got the thought in my head that I would very much like to know what it felt like to punch someone in the face. It couldn't be my little brother, I would get in so much trouble. So I cast about in my mind for who, in my limited social world, would be a good victim for my plan. Yes, this naive church girl premeditated a plan to commit a terrible crime in cold blood.

At last my thoughts settled on a certain girl from my neighborhood, Kristen. My limited interactions with the other neighborhood girls had taught me that this girl was not a very nice girl. In fact, in my small world, she was the first to ever fulfill the archetypal role of "bully." I mostly stayed away from her, but sometimes my mom would invite her over to play with me. Yes, she would be the perfect patsy. Who in their right mind would pick a fight with the bully? Only a naive church girl, for sure.

The opportunity arose the next time she came over to play (it may have been that very afternoon). I chose to implement my plan while we were walking together back to her house. We hadn't gone ten steps out of my driveway when I screwed up my courage, balled up my fist, and swung it around to connect with her mouth.

I had really done it. I was shocked.

She looked at me in surprise, grabbed her mouth, and ran home alone without saying another word. I felt deflated, for the moment had not gone at all the way I expected. What was I expecting?

I have no memory of ever speaking to her again. I have carried the shame of this unwarranted deed with me for years, wishing I could go back in time and undo it. Don't we all have moments like that? But alas, the only thing left to me is to confess it to God, and learn a valuable lesson about long-reaching consequences of our actions.

UNTIL... a few months ago.

Do you know about Facebook? I was floored when this very same Kristen looked up my mom on Facebook last November. And utterly blown away when I heard her story.

You see, Kristen had been growing up in a home that knew nothing of Jesus. She knew a lot about fighting from the examples set in her home; and in response to teasing had been encouraged to stand up for herself and "teach those kids a lesson."

My mom knew or cared nothing about who was nice or who was mean, and regularly invited the neighborhood children to our home for Good News Clubs. This program sponsored by a Christian organization called Child Evangelism Fellowship, equips anyone to host a five-day program to tell children the message of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus and his free gift of salvation.

And Kristen came. At least twice. She took home reading materials about how to have Jesus as a forever friend. And apparently she held on to them, and took them to heart. And God began to work in her heart to protect her from the activities that derail many teens.

In the years that followed, Kristen began to change. She no longer picked fights, and began attending Young Life events. In college, she became involved with Campus Crusade, and formally claimed Christ as her Savior and Lord. The man she dated and ended up marrying has been the leader of the youth group at their church for 12 years, giving her influence over hundreds of young people. Her rebellious brother has now become a believer, as have both of her parents.

And she had been looking for my mom for twenty years, to thank her for the Christian influence she placed on Kristen's life, eventually leading her to the place she is today.


And oh boy, now I feel even more ashamed for falling into gossip and slander from such an early age, and for attacking this girl who had really never done anything to me, who had been given such a different example than I for how to live life. You just can't believe everything people say about others. It turns out that my source of knowledge about Kristen and her "bully" reputation was also not a very nice girl, who was constantly knocking heads with Kristen.

When we first hooked up on Facebook, my apology, 25 years in the making, burst out of me. I couldn't believe I had been given this rare opportunity to at least apologize for what I had done. And do you know something funny? She does not even remember it! She thinks that, given her history and home situation, she probably felt she deserved it. She does recall me finding her in her driveway one time and apologizing for something, but she never figured out what it was. But this last winter she forgave me, and in that moment of absolution all my guilt washed away. And I felt actual relief.

Our story came full circle today, for we were able to finally meet in person. Kristen is beautiful, well-spoken, and with a vibrant faith that quietly underlines everything she says. I feel honored to know her as an adult. And I think we will be friends for a long time. My newest, oldest friend.

No More Shopping?

Sometimes your kids reveal something about the voice you unintentionally give to your private thoughts. Such as my personal motivation for someone's success at potty training. Yesterday I bought a new pack of 15 night-time diapers. We will be home in 18 nights. So I made the comment that he would make mommy very happy if he could go even three nights with a dry diaper.

This conversation with Rooster tells me I might need to work on keeping my inner monologue, well, inner:

Me: Are you going to keep your diaper dry for me tonight?
Roo: Yep! Then you won't have to go shopping any more!
Me: That's great! I would love it not to have to go shopping ever again!
Roo: (in a worried voice): But wait a minute, Gramma doesn't have any cookies.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Making Faces

I have been trying to capture the many faces of Boo. She doesn't often sit for a posed picture, and when she does, I don't think she really looks like herself.

This carefree result

is really rare.

So I chase her around and try to catch her engrossed in activity.

This strategy presents a small challenge, due to her tendency to flit between activities with the precocious intensity of a butterfly. I frequently post the one or two pictures that represent what I wanted; here are some that better demonstrate what actually happens.

On occasion Boo Bear will decide to mug for the camera. Better watch out, Boo, you are giving me a really good reel for that wedding video someday!

And once in a while, my firstborn angel will take a moment out of her busy day to try to give me what I ask for. I love when she's a good sport. Maybe someday she will thank me for it.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I have noticed something. Whenever I am doing lots of things and having lots of fun, the time flies by. But whenever I am waiting for something, time takes forever to pass.

This profound observation came from Boo Bear tonight as I was tucking her in to bed. At first I suspected she had read my blog entry from last night, but she probably came up with it on her own. I tried to engage her brain for a bit of application.

So, if you are waiting for something to happen, what should you do?

And she got it. Mostly. If I really want something, it will take forever to happen. Do lots of things while I wait.

Close enough.

Tonight we chased fireflies. It's hard to capture the moment of capturing fireflies. I am pleased with these candid faces.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The 12th Day

In the twelve days since we left home, every one has been full. Travel, farm, backyard play, holiday, birthday, weekend, new friend, library, park, even a side road trip. Every moment not consumed by events has been stimulated by the novelty of Gramma's toys and Papa's pile of sticks.

For a change of pace, today we did nothing.

"Nothing" still includes the park and a bike ride. But the fact that the kids had time and the attention span to watch a movie twice indicates there was a little more time today for boredom to nibble at the corners and sneak its way into their hearts.

As I was tucking the kids into bed, Boo's eyes began to leak. She shrugged it off: It's so weird, sometimes I get water in my eyes, and then it goes away!

I regarded her intently, putting my sluggish intuition together with her earlier comment, I wish I had more friends, I have one friend here and only a couple friends in Texas. And because I have this work ethic that demands I take the hard road in a difficult situation, I blurted out, Do you miss Daddy?


The waterworks began more seriously now, but instead of her usual loud sobbing, she crumpled into her pillow. Of course, on this slow day my kids feel the weight of being separated from their daddy. Of course, I had to talk it through with them and get it out in the open right at bedtime. Of course, she then had trouble falling asleep.

Tonight I am sad for my Boo Bear, Daddy's girl to the core. Being separated from him is the big emotional price tag for this vacation for all of us.

Ten minutes after I said final prayers and left their room, sweet Rooster crept downstairs. He peered around the corner into the room where I sat, then stepped forward and shared, Sister told me she wishes she could talk to Daddy. Can you come help her talk to Daddy?

What a good brother.

Unfortunately, I had just spoken with the Captain a few minutes earlier and knew his talking window was over for awhile. So I went up and sat with my bold child, the one who is forever driving me crazy while laughing hysterically at something; and I stroked her arm for awhile, and pondered.

When this girl flails deeply in the grip of normal childhood behaviors, perhaps she holds so fiercely to the laughter because without it she would cry. Perhaps she already knows that her strength is also her shield against life's disappointments.

This gem in the rough of a child gets all the best of what I have to offer as a person and a parent. She is my firstborn, and the strongest personality of the kids. She reminds me partly of me, and partly who I always wished I could be.

And I resolve once again to know my child better, so I can be whatever necessary to help her grow.

Tomorrow is the 13th day of our vacation. I like the number 13, it's my birth day and a nice prime number. May day 13 bring me an opportunity to draw my boisterous child near to me, and see if just loving on her might help her calm down.

Maybe I'll help her throw another duck.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Mom Moment

After three days of travel, two days of re-establishing equilibrium, three days of holiday, and a family birthday party, I finally feel as though I have arrived on vacation. To celebrate, I started taking the kids on walks to the park in the mornings.

One of the highlights of visiting my parents is the duck pond down at the park. Bet you can guess what the kids like to do with the ducks.

On this fine morning, a friend and I sat on a park bench and watched the kids run around and enjoy themselves. Rooster stopped by the swings for awhile before shadowing an adolescent fisherman who had just landed the catch of his life, in the form of what looked like a 15" fish. Boo Bear, on the other hand, bypassed the playground in favor of her ducks.

Under strict orders not to chase the ducks this time, she started out walking sloooowly around the pond. The crowd of ducks parted in front of her, closing again as she walked past. Other ducks sloooowly cascaded into the pond when she nonchalantly wandered in their direction.

Of course all warnings were forgotten soon enough (I try so hard to remember, Mom, but my brain just makes me do these things!) and the running and shoo-ing began in earnest. Sometimes I fight the fight; today I chose to enjoy precious moments with my friend.

The action reached a crescendo just as our time was about to end. Together, my friend and I gazed across the pond at Boo Bear interacting with a small clump of kids (escorted by their mom and a stroller), apparently showing them the tricks of how to pick up a duck. I am sure that mom is still grateful that her kids now know how simple it really is.

Just as I was thinking to myself, Did I really just see that? Did she really just do that? it got better. Duck firmly grasped in hands, small audience agape with the wonder of it all, she turned toward the pond and threw the duck into the air as confidently and naturally as if she had been doing it her whole life. In that magical, horrifying moment, the duck burst into flight and carried herself to safety.

My friend cheered.

I was mortified--yet impressed. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to be the mom, because it looked so cool! But I am the mom. So tell me, what's a mom to do when her offspring breaks the rules in such admirable fashion?

Trying to play it cool, I made my way to the far side of the pond and questioned Boo. I tried to explain that throwing ducks isn't very nice to the duck, mentally adding, plus every witness will think I'm a terrible person for allowing it!

Of course, her explanation cleared everything up.

But Mom, it wasn't a duck, it was just the baby turkey. And he didn't mind, he didn't even run away!