Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Late Start

My son had a dream last night that "rocket people" landed on the patio furniture in our back yard and started coming after him and his dad.  His sister and I were on a trip somewhere and not in trouble like him. This morning, he crawled into bed with me and whispered this dream.  His face was still contorted from the trauma of it. 

We didn't have to be at the school until two hours later than usual, a monthly 'late start' our district has.  These mornings have become a favorite thing of mine this school year.  We are all night owls in our house so the morning rush to get out the door is my least favorite part of each day.  Even our early-bird daughter has adapted to our ways and is currently still awake reading her Junie B. Jones book and picking a scab on her face.  I just put a band-aid on it.  9:30pm.

There is something exquisite about being able to lay in bed on a Wednesday morning.  My kids played in my bed while I made coffee.  They colored together in a Peter Pan coloring book as the coffee brewed.  I heard one of them say, "Isn't mom a good colorer?  It's like she's an artist."  As the coffee hit my system, I made eggs-on-a-raft for breakfast, along with thin slices of the leftover rhubarb pie.  They got ready for school and watched ten minutes of a Mister Rogers episode before leaving. 

All this on a morning in the middle of the week, to be fully rested and fully caffeinated. 

Monday, April 15, 2013


The forecast said rain so it's been an unexpectedly beautiful day in Oregon.

A new friend has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and wrote me at 1:00 am last night that she was awake very scared.  Today she had to tell her boss, coworkers, daughter.

I sat this morning alone at home before my second orthopedic doctor visit post-broken arm and wrote a post-placement report on one of our children. There is a small chance we could make connection as soon as next week with a first family, and the weight of this is...heavy.

The news out of Boston. A friend was there today in the crowd to cheer on her sister.  When I saw on fb that she was okay, I cried.

A parent at my kids' school told me today about a service she went to this weekend to memorialize a nine-year-old girl who died of lymphoma, having battled it since age four.

A church in the area that is dear to us is going through a confusing shift (at least to us), and the burden weighs.

On Friday night, I fell asleep crying as I thought about the reunion of my favorite Christian writer with my favorite Christian songwriter.  The former passed on out of this life Friday.

A man in my program at work who I've been trying for three years to get into an employment program made a mistake that cost him his spot.  A job had already been lined up for him that was a perfect fit.  On Friday when the case manager called me with the news, I was heart broken and angry.

A single mother sat in the lobby of my work site today holding her 3-month-old girl.  She was there seeking energy assistance.  An African refugee with a shut-off notice and an infant.  I leaned in close to engage the baby who ended up cooing at me for a while.  They smelled like cooking.

My kids read Frog and Toad out loud tonight after working on homework.

It rained at sunset, and everyone was instagramming shots of the rainbows.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Little Princess

Saturday night on the purple couch in the basement watching A Little Princess, the 1995 version, while dad was out talking about life with friends.

You, daughter, sniffled through the whole thing.  For part of it you brushed my hair, but sniffled and cried while doing so.  There was just so much sadness.  I remember this when I saw this movie the first time.  I cried the same way.  I couldn't stop.  In many other ways, we are so different, but in this way, we're the same.

At the end, when the father still didn't recognize his Sarah as the police began to drag her away screaming "Papa! Papa!", son, your veneer of bravado and silliness fell away and your face took on panic and grief.  It's every child's worst nightmare, right there on the screen.  You gasped, briefly wailed and turned your face into my arm, and I realized my mistake in showing you this movie.  It was a terrible moment for me.  My heart was being pulled out of my chest and stomped on as I saw the fear in your face.

Within five minutes (or less), you both were okay.  The trauma had passed.  The father was reunited with his daughter and added another daughter to the family. 

Oh how I love you so.  Your heart is my heart.  Such deep grief exists in this life.  You know this already.  I can never do it perfectly, but I promise to always be here as you experience it.  Let out your wail, whether brief or long, and whether broken or not, my arm will be here for you to hide your face in.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Gentle Neighbor

A few years ago, a couple we know was looking to buy a house and ended up seriously considering a property on a nearby island that consists of mostly farmland.  The house on the island was owned by a couple of artists who were looking to move closer in to the city.  The deal never went through, though the two couples liked each other a lot and found a connection.

The first couple ended up buying a house down the street from us and quickly became a fixture in the social fabric of our very active block.  They loved having the many kids with them to hang out on their front porch as they sipped afternoon wine.  Everyone loved them, and we were sad when their jobs took them to Arizona.  Rather than sell, they decided to keep the house for their retirement years and rent it out in the meantime.

On a whim, they placed an ad on craigslist, and the first people to show up to view the house were the folks from the farmland island, the ones whose house they'd almost bought a few years ago.  It was a crazy connection, and the artist couple ended up renting the house down the street.  Everyone talked about this weird coincidence for a long time.

The renters are probably in their fifties and take frequent walks around the neighborhood.  Several months ago, my kids started a "game" with them where one kid will stand in the middle of the sidewalk with both arms outstretched, demanding a password for the privilege of using the sidewalk.  I was worried about this game being an annoyance, but the couple insisted the kids play it and even seemed to get a kick out of it.  Thus, a friendship was born.

My kids adore this couple.  They run down to their house when they're out, calling their names in loud greeting.  Last year, the couple went on a trip to New York City and mailed a postcard to my kids with amazing artwork on the back, illustrations of their journey on the Staten Island Ferry, a trip we ourselves have taken several times.  This postcard stays taped to my kids' bunkbed.  It was a beautiful, whimsical thing.

We found out a few weeks ago that the Arizona-dwelling homeowners have decided to stay for good in the desert and are selling the house on our block.  The renters have to go.  They found another house just a few blocks south of us, but it won't be the same. 

Tonight, our neighbor pulled his easel out into the edge of the street to continue his small painting of another neighbor's house.  My daughter stood beside him for a long time watching what he was doing and telling him all the details he was missing.  The black and white block-owned cat came scrambling up the tree next to the easel, and we talked about the last block-owned cat, the one everyone hated and who now lives elsewhere. 

I looked for a minute at the new poem they posted in their poetry-stand in front of the house and then told him how much we're going to miss them when they move at the end of this month.  He turned to face me with the sun going down behind his back, and I saw tears in his eyes.  He swallowed hard, nodded slightly, and said how much they're going to miss our block too.

 I was incredibly touched in that moment by this gentle man, the one who quietly brings his easel into the street to paint and talks to my daughter the whole time, the one who holds his wife's hand as they walk down the street for donuts, always stopping to let my extroverted children entertain them before continuing on their way. 

Really we hardly know them but there's a sadness in me anyway as I think about their move.  We were so blessed to have this kind gentleness touch our family for a few months, and I hope my children always remember them and still demand a password when they try to pass on the sidewalk.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Tonight, my son had to go to bed "early" for collapsing in an over-dramatic fit of tears upon being told it was time to come inside at 7pm.

We sat upstairs so he could read to me, his sister reading books downstairs on the living room couch.  We're trying to be more disciplined about our kids reading every day for fun.  Discipline and fun in one sentence?  We are parents.

He had picked a Little Critter Christmas book to read, and I was amazed at how he made his way through it with very little help from me.  This is not what I was expecting.  At school, his teacher has him reading very basic sentences with mostly 'sight words' and short three-letter words.  Tonight, free of distractions, he was reading "Merry Christmas." 

Earlier tonight, I found the video of when he took his first steps (on the set of the tv show My Name is Earl, in an interesting foot note for my son's biography).  I found my stomach clenched in anticipation of those tiny size 6 feet moving forward on their own, keeping his rotund S-shaped form balanced and upright for three steps. 

I don't know what my point is here besides something about the passage of time.  It passes. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

It Happens in the Mundane

I've been reminded lately how life happens in the mundane moments, the ones we're not necessarily paying attention to.

If we stop paying attention, stop being present, we stop living.

Thursday is always my longest work day of the week, and when I got home, I laid myself down on the couch for a moment's break before leaving again for a church meeting.  My husband left to pick up our daughter from a friend's house, and my son started asking me to work a puzzle with him.  I didn't want to.  Laying sedate on that old, gross couch felt blissful.

So I had a choice, and I got up from the couch.  This is not always the choice I make, but on Thursday I got up.  We worked the Boba Fett puzzle, the same one that is currently in "toy jail" to my left for being left out for too many days.

This weekend, I was overtaken by one of those intense streaks of needing to rid our house of clutter.  I focused my energy on my kids' room and started throwing things out.  The dog had pissed on my son's bed twice in one day, and I was disgusted by the whole thing so was tearing through the room throwing things away and bleaching anything that could be bleached.  I was doing all of this with a fractured elbow.

At one point, I heard myself say, "Kids, you better put your stuff away before I get to it because if I get to it first, it's going in the garbage."  Granted, I was throwing out the plethora of random items like neglected bags of birthday party favors and broken bits of plastic, but my daughter took me seriously.  She got upset.

At one point, I asked her to put away a new pair of shoes, and instead of putting them away, she left them in the hallway next to the closet where they belong.  I got upset by this sloppiness and started lecturing.  She reacted by rolling her eyes at me.

She rolled her eyes at me.

I got more upset at this oh-so-American mannerism that she has learned at school and sent her to her bed so I could cool off.  She cried, and cried, and cried.

I came back in her room a few minutes later, and we never quite talked about it. I was too busy.  We sort of got over it, but not really.

So tonight before bed, I asked her how she felt on Saturday when we got so mad at each other.  She shrugged and said, "That you wanted to give me away."

Our daughter is on the surface so secure with our family.  Everyone remarks on this fact of how well-adjusted we all are.  I forget, I forget, I forget.  She hasn't been with us that long.  Under her iron will and muscle, she is fragile.  She worries I will want to give her away.

I tell her it's not true.  I made her look me in the eyes tonight so I could remind her that we will never give her away, not ever, that we love her and are so proud she is our daughter.  She seems unconvinced, so I ask for hugs.  I use my broken elbow as an advantage, telling her that I can't squeeze hard and need her to do most of the hugging.  She squeezes me, and I rest my cheek on top of her head.  I kiss one cheek and ask to kiss the other since it is so "nice and squishy."  She lets me.

She and I need to put together our own Boba Fett puzzles.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Can and Can't

Things You Can Do With a Broken Elbow:

Make two quiches in advance for a group dinner in which you're providing the meal.

Drive a car.

Scoop dry pet food into bowls (but not open a can).

Apply a band-aid to a kid's finger.

Load a dishwasher.

Type, with the customized, removable brace that everyone says is stylish.


Open a jar of spaghetti sauce.


Using teeth, help a kindergartener open a sticky glue stick.

Carry a cup of tea, bagel, and cream cheese with one hand.

Shop for groceries.


Things You Can not Do With a Broken Elbow:

Open a bottle of wine.

Tie Shoes.

Dump a pot of boiling water and pasta through a colander.

Put an uncooked quiche into the fridge.

Stack chairs.



Scrub dishes.

Cut onions.

Peel potatoes.

Put your hair into a ponytail or style it in any way at all.

Zip shut a lunch box.

Hook a bra closed.

Hold a baby.

I also discovered today that I can't stand upright doing stretching exercises in occupational therapy without passing out and having to lay perfectly still with elevated legs for half an hour.

All things considered, it's not so bad.

Monday, April 1, 2013


I was fitted today for a brace that I can remove to do stretching exercises.  That scares me, but so does the word "surgery" that the doctor used today when describing how my particular injury is often treated if things are misaligned just a couple milimeters more.  That sent a cold chill down my spine, and my heart sped up. 

For now, occupational therapy once a week, and the best thing is that I can type with two hands again thanks to the new brace.  Also, nice perk: I can't do dishes, mop, sweep, or any other 'heavy' cleaning.  Good thing I'm so bossy.