Monday, March 2, 2015

The Ski Weekend That Wasn't

Jack turned eight over President's Day weekend. I feel obligated to mourn his fleeting childhood and feel twinges of grief as he outgrows his favorite shirt before my very eyes. I could pontificate about how quickly it all goes by. I could pull myself back into those hazy, milky newborn days and gasp as I'm jolted back into reality by all of those candles on that cake.

We move forward. Life barrels at us full speed and there's not much time to look back. My family is changing, we're evolving from a family with little kids to a family with big and little kids. I'm the mom of an eight-year-old. Woah.

I've held babies and rocked babies and changed babies and burped babies for a long time. My hips find that comfortable and familiar sideways sway whenever I hold a friend's baby. I absentmindedly ruffle toddler hair and cup my hand over sharp coffee table edges as friends' babies navigate treacherous living room arrangements. These eight years have forever changed me and how I move through the world.

Jack is a real person now. He makes jokes and is trying out sarcasm. He shows me how to use our DVD player and reads this blog over my shoulder. He begs to stay up late and challenges us to Phase-10. He makes a mistake and my mom-eyes see tears of frustration well up, but in a moment he swallows them down and holds his own. He recently discovered Calvin and Hobbes. He has an opinion about everything. He is perfecting his layup in our driveway. He is very much his eight-year-old self.

Sometimes I see a slight pucker in his mouth and I remember nursing him. In a way this seems awkward now, but if I close my eyes I feel myself sitting in the rocking chair, damp blond curls sticking to the inside of my arm, sweet grunts and soft humming fill my ears. Eight years isn't really that long, when you think about it.

Our weekend of skiing turned out to be a weekend of sunshine. A few quick trips into Bend for beers and coffee. No snow. No skis.

And then we all got in in our heads to climb Black Butte.

It's not the most kid-friendly hike you will ever take. There was some serious cajoling to get Sawyer up and down the mountain on this three hour voyage. Jack blazed the trail without complaint, while Clementine alternated between slowing picking her way through every rock and pine cone and hitching a ride on Brent's back.

Small, medium, and large.

(There is just something about being with my brother that lends itself to ridiculous photo opportunities. I hope my kids will appreciate each other this much when they are grown.)

(I actually paid them a dollar each to pose for this photo. Money well spent, I believe.)

We gave him a sticker/activity book for his birthday, then surprised him later that night with one more present. "But you guys already got me that sticker book!" he exclaimed. "You didn't have to get me anything else."

(Oh yes we did. Tickets to see the Portland Trailblazers- his favorite basketball team!)

We threw a simple birthday party for Jack at a park on a sunny day. He hugged each of his friends as he opened their gifts.

I want to remember those moments as well as I remember the hours spent in that rocking chair. This is Jack as an eight-year-old and this is just as awesome.

Eight candles. Eight years. Eight million more things to look forward to.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Running with Clementine

My alarm rings at 5:40 each morning. I either spring from my bed ready to carpe the heck out of this diem or languish in self-pity and denial as my eyelids pull me back down into that blissful, post-alarm clock sleep. By the time I extract myself from the gravitational forces of my bed, it's time to get this party started... this is my time!

I brew coffee and tiptoe around the house. I do sun salutations or read the paper or catch up on my grading. But my favorite thing to do during my time is to run.

I strap on a headlamp and my ruby red running shoes. My iPod is set to NPR. I pass through the hallway like a ninja, I dress in the dark, and I open the front door ever so slowly so as not to wake the lightest little sleeper in the house. Nine times out of ten, I don't make it through this silent dance without hearing a soft voice say,"Mama?" Long pause. Maybe she went back to sleep? Then again, loudly this time: "Mama? I ready get up! I go running with you?"

And so I ditch the iPod and bundle Clementine in a hat and jacket over footie pajamas and she climbs bleary-eyed into the stroller. "I go running with Mama!" she exclaims proudly as I wheel her into the darkness. So much for my time, I can't help thinking.

But before I can resent this full-volume intrusion into my morning zen, I remember that third babies don't get their fair share of anything unless they demand it. This is Clementine staking her claim on her mama time. 

So we run, she and I, into the darkness, through fog and light drizzle, around puddles, over bumpy sidewalks, avoiding the paths of morning commuters. The route is as familiar as our conversations:

"I see moon? Where's that moon? Der it is!"

"Who's dat? Dat's a dog? Dat's a squirrel? Where dat squirrel go?"

"We running?" Yes, we're running. "We running!"

My favorite are the whys.

"Mama, why we running?"

"We're running because Mama wants to be healthy and strong."


I want to be healthy and strong because I turned 38 this year and have now lived half of my life without my mom. I want to be healthy and strong so that I can see you turn 38, so that I can know you as an adult and hold my grandchildren. I want to be healthy and strong because exercise is something I can control and getting cancer is something I cannot.

"Mama, why we running?"

"We're running because it's Grandma's birthday and I want to pig out on cheesecake later tonight."

"Mama, why we running?"

"We're running because it was Grandma's birthday and we all pigged out on cheesecake last night."


We all pigged out on cheesecake because I wanted to make a special dinner for the woman who has taught me as much about mothering as my own mom did. We pigged out on cheesecake because sometimes that's just how you celebrate the birth of someone you love.

"Mama, why we running?"

"Because you and Sawyer commandeered my yoga mat and this is the only reliable way for me to get any exercise around here."

"Mama, why we running?"

"We're running because I'm about to spend the next eight hours in a poorly ventilated room with a bunch of sixth-graders and I think my mental health could use the fresh air."


I'm going to spend my day with other people's children because long ago Dad and I decided that he would be the one to stay home with you guys. That we really didn't need two incomes if we were willing to make sacrifices. That Dad could work seasonally and find opportunities to take you with him.

"Mama, why we running?"

"We're running so I can school your brother at basketball. The younger one, at least."

"Mama, why we running?"

"We're running because I had to taste test the fondue recipe before serving it at a baby shower. And I may have eaten the refrigerated leftovers with a spoon the next day."

Someday soon, Clementine will outgrow that stroller. NPR will still be waiting for me and I'll have plenty of my time. Maybe I won't tiptoe so quietly by her bedroom door tomorrow morning.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


In our family I am famous for dragging us all out on ill-fated excursions in the name of family fun. But when it's your birthday and you're turning 38 and you really already have everything you want, I think it's okay to make some demands. Like a day trip to Clear Lake. And some family fun.

As I have mentioned before, Brent is not overly fond of taking the kids fishing. This is not without reason, but again with the it's-MY-birthdays and here we were:

Clear Lake is, ahem, very clear. It's also very quiet. Or at least it was, until we arrived and crammed five people into a small boat and... wait, why the hell were the boys armed with slingshots? Anyway, there was this heron sunning himself nearby as we attempted to fish. This heron was like an avian Buddha, peacefully meditating on a log as the boys screeched with excitement and haphazardly threw lines into the water. No fish were foolish enough to be anywhere near us at this point, but no matter. It's all about the experience, right?

After a bit of time, I became aware that this heron absolutely did not give one single shit about us, which was awesome. I loved that bird.

Jack and Sawyer were determined to hike around the lake on a quest for lava rocks. This meant that the boys formed their own search party while the girls meandered along behind. But I always knew just where they were because man those kids' voices sure carry through a silent forest.

And then Clementine turned two. People kept asking her what she wanted for her birthday. "Cake!" she chirped again and again.

Suddenly it was Halloween and I realized that no one wanted a homemade costume. "I'm going to be a soccer zombie," Jack informed me.

"I'll be a.. um.. I guess I'll be a regular zombie," Sawyer added uncertainly.

I dug the puppy suit out of the dress up box, Brent applied zombie make up and wound tattoos, everyone found their pumpkin buckets, and that was that. 

There was a part of me that missed laboring over some elaborate get up that would be worn once, smeared with chocolate, and then thrown carelessly into the dress up box void.  

And then there was the heron in me who did not give a shit.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Taste of Summer

Last week I discovered a forgotten jar of raspberry jam in the freezer. I brought it out and let it thaw in front of the wood stove. Then I cracked it open and we ate it by the spoonful and for a second it was summer once again.

It's been cold. My legs are pasty white and I'm tired of eating grocery store lettuce. The days are too short. And while there are millions of reasons to become a teacher, January ain't one of them.

Here are some forgotten camping photos. For a second, let's let it be summer once again.

Wickiup Reservoir with my friend Emily and her family. This is where Sawyer had his first taste of the Sea Biscuit as I watched white knuckled from the relative safety of the speeding boat. "Faster! Faster!" he shrieked. I swallowed bile and forced myself to look away as his small body flew perilously into the air with every bump through the boat's wake. I steadied my breath and tried to smile at his joy, well aware that this moment forebodes much of what is to come with this wild child.

Sunsets rendered us breathless and speechless. Campers were hypnotically drawn to the water's edge, iPhones in hand, hoping to capture this iconic summer camping moment.

And in August, our friends Steve and Lisa generously offered us the use of their tent trailer for our annual trek to Manzanita. This sort of felt like cheating for a second, and then it rained and my compromised camping morals were quickly put aside.

We were sandwiched in between RVs and it was a long, cold walk to the bathrooms. But there were hot showers and a playground and our kids disappeared into the herd and played until we came to collect them at dusk.

And, of course, there was the beach. If there is one place in this world that truly grounds me and revitalizes my spirit, it is the Oregon coast.

Alas, here we are in January. And yet, there are those glorious moments when the sun shines and the wind calms and we seek the comforting embrace of blue skies and warm rays from above. Children are released from the confines of LEGOs and books and they run like wild horses into whatever wide open spaces we can find.


These days are the bites of raspberry freezer jam that remind us how close to the sun we always are. January, you're not so bad after all.