Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Heat

I try REALLY hard not to complain about the heat--like, ever--because I keep myself busy complaining about the SNOW and the COLD from November until May. It's exhausting. I feel like I can't, in good conscience, monopolize all the complaining so I do my very best to keep my mouth closed when it's hot. Even, REALLY hot. It helps that I think my body was actually made for life on Venus because I happily operate at a good ten degrees higher than the rest of all the population. Like, if the world is miserable at 88, I won't be miserable until 98.

I'd rather take clothes off than put them on. And by that I mean that I'd prefer to lounge around in a swim suit as opposed to a snow suit.

I'd choose Arizona over Minnesota. But, in fairness, that probably has more to do with mosquitoes than temperature.

It was uncharacteristically hot when we were in Tahoe this summer. I didn't complain.

We had some pretty warm days here in July. No complaints from me.

But yesterday, something came over me and I darn near lost my mind.

I went on a field trip with Garrett and, since it's mid-September in Salt Lake City, I assumed that wearing black leggings and a shirt that went to my elbows with a camisole underneath was a good choice. And it was quite fine when we rode the bus as 9:00 am (even though every other mother was lamenting the HEAT and the LACK OF AIR FLOW and the HORRORS OF THIS UNENDURABLE HEAT). The outfit was perfect for the air conditioned planetarium. Where it broke down was getting back on the bus at noon (the bus that had been sitting in the sun and must have been 90 degrees inside) and riding it to the park where we would stay until 1:30 before getting back on it and riding home. By the time we got back to the school at 2:20, I was relatively close to yanking off my leggings and sitting there with no pants on at all.

I would have been horribly humiliated by my pit marks and my back sweat but, my ten degree (live on Venus) buffer made me less sweaty than every other mother. It turns out that, when everyone has pit marks, there's a sense of pride in having the smallest ones. My hair was sticking to my face and my neck. All I could think about was getting home, peeling off layers of clothing, and lying in a tub of ice.

But I had to go to Walmart and I figured that leaving my clothing on was really the better choice. Because I can just see the headline now and it reads "LOCAL PASTOR'S WIFE ARRESTED AT WALMART FOR INDECENT EXPOSURE." When I got home from the store, I shed clothing. I drank cold water, I did my best to perk up but I was exhausted. The heat had drained all of my energy. And it was in the 90s, yes, but that's hardly super hot. It's just that LONG, BLACK LEGGINGS were not the best choice and, in fact, created a sort of oven, encapsulating my legs. Essentially, I slow roasted myself.

So, yesterday, I broke down and, for the first time this year, COMPLAINED about the heat. I'm not proud of it. In fact, I'm pretty ashamed. But, you guys, it's because I was totally a smelly, sweaty goat wearing leggings. And that's really the end of my story.

My apologies to anyone in the greater San Diego area who is reading this and thinking that I should take my 90 degree weather and my black leggings and shove them because you're enduring nearly 110 degree temperatures. My condolences. But you still live in America's Finest City and you still have your ocean so, really, you still come out ahead.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Instagram Pictures and How Long They Took

Welcome to this first installment of Instagram pictures and how long they took.

Take, for example, this photo. If you think this is the first shot I snapped, you'd be wrong. I had no earthly idea--as in, IT NEVER CROSSED MY MIND BEFORE IN MY LIFE UNTIL I HAD A BLACK SON--that lighting doesn't just automatically work for taking pictures of dark skin. In half of all the pictures we take, Matthew's face is a dark circle with no features whatsoever. In the other half of all the picture we take, Troy's eyes are closed. It's super.

The shadow created by this here helmet made my boy's eyes disappear in the first couple pictures I took. This one was probably the third shot. So what I'm saying is that this, "Hey let me snap my life and put it on Instagram" phenomenon is not what it seems. It's really a, "Hey let me take a dozen pictures until I get one that might work and then I'll edit the heck out of it."


Garrett asked me if this shirt was a picture of a bear riding a crocodile. I had to give him a lesson in state flags. Or, at least, in the California state flag. It's just now crossing my mind that I might not know what the Utah flag looks like. I maybe haven't paid any attention. Seriously. This is ridiculous. Is it blue? Is there a bee hive on it? A temple? I just looked it up. Two out of three. Anyway. 

I was so amused by his idea of the crocodile surfing bear that I wanted to post a picture of it. But then I realized that I was basically going to be taking a selfie of my chest. So there was some strategy involved. How to get the focus ON the bear and OFF the person wearing the bear? After a handful of snaps, I went with this one.


We live in a weird world where there is always a camera in our pocket or our purse. Even though it looks like I took this picture from somewhere in Nebraska during the 19th century (er, in a time warp where they have asphalt in the 1800s), I actually took it from the parking lot of the boys' school. A school where, from any other angle, you'd see suburban homes, a temple or two (not pictured on the Utah flag as I've recently learned), telephone lines, an elementary school, and/or the entire Salt Lake Valley. These are pronghorn antelope which I had no idea actually lived less than a mile from my house. This is actually the only shot I got because I was trying to get closer and they decided to take off running.


This was like, maybe, the 20th picture we took to try to get a decent one. We attended a quinceanera and got dressed up fancy. Since we were so dapper, we needed to commemorate it with a picture. But someone had his eyes closed or someone else looked like a goon or the shadows were all wrong. Until, finally, HOORAY! We did it! (Thanks, Chris, for capturing it!)


********************************************************

This isn't an Instagram picture, or even a picture I took on a cell phone, but it's five years old now and that's just crazy talk. I love these guys. I love how much they have adored each other since the very beginning. 



Thursday, September 11, 2014

Waffle Cone

My little man is LOVING kindergarten. I was really, incredibly, completely terrified that it wouldn't go well. So, I implemented a reward system. If he earned his hand stamp 10 times, he'd get an ice cream. I substitute for his teacher quite often and I know that the kids can lose their hand stamps for a lot of reasons. Talking. Repeatedly touching other kids. Not listening. Using the restroom without asking. Being disruptive. You get the idea. I had a feeling that draping oneself against the wall and flat out refusing to participate--which was sometimes Matthew's choice behavior in preschool--would not be welcomed.  I had no idea how long it would take for my son to get 10 hand stamps.

Exactly ten days, it turns out.

Today was his tenth day of school and we went, after school, to get him an ice cream cone from Sonic. I went big and let him get a waffle cone complete with whipped cream, candy bits, caramel, and a cherry on top because I wanted him to know that I was WAFFLE CONE proud of him and not just VANILLA DISH proud.

He comes out after school and tells me all about the people who lost their stamps, and exactly what behavior earned such horrors. He also tells us how the other kids treat him which is usually positively. Except for once last week when Michael spit on him and this week when Benjamin called him dumb.

"Mommy," he said. "Benjamin called me dumb."

"Well, that's ridiculous. You're not dumb. You're very smart. Next time he calls you dumb, tell him that you know how to read so you can't be dumb."

"HE DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO READ!" Matthew exclaimed.

"Well then..."

"Then next time," Garrett interjected, "Say, 'I know how to read, DO YOU?'"

(And so, yes, we need to work on humility with our kids.)

But, back on track. Reward systems work SO well with my children. Call it bribery. Call it bad parenting. Call it what you want. IT WORKS. I know people who say that if we start rewarding our children for expected behavior, they will feel entitled to a reward for said behavior FOREVERMORE. But a reward system totally taught Garrett to poop on the potty. I do not (repeat: DO NOT) still have to give him a toy from Dollar Tree every time he poops.

The trick is that you stretch the rewards out longer and longer. In this case, ten hand stamps equaled an ice cream. We decided together that now he needs to earn 15 hand stamps and then I'll take him out to lunch. He puts a sticker on a piece of paper every time he gets a stamp. When he walks out from class every SINGLE day, he has an expressionless face. He slowly walks toward me and then, just before reaching me, he throws his stamped fist out and I "bump" it with my own.

He's learning and loving it and BEHAVING EXACTLY AS HE SHOULD BE. And I couldn't be more WAFFLE CONE proud of him.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Road Trip Rebuttal

If you're not regularly reading Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan, you should be. She is relevant. She is wise. She is compassionate. And, often, she is hilarious. Also, I want to go with her to ALL THE PLAYS and I want our children to be best friends. There's my plug for her before I go ahead and disagree with one of her posts. But it's not her. It's me. I'm a road trip bigot.

Bigot: A person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices.

Yes. I am a bigot. I am a bigot when it comes to Christmas trees. Go real or why bother? I'm a bigot about smoking. Just do not do it around me or anywhere in my vicinity please because I do not want that stuff secondhandedly infiltrating my lungs. And I am a bigot about road trips.

Kristen's post, sponsored by Chevrolet, and titled, "Turning vehicles into wi-fi hotspots? Yes, please." falls into one of my biggest pet peeve categories. I don't fundamentally disagree with turning vehicles into wi-fi hotspots. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea. Since getting a phone with Internet capabilities this past spring (because, yes, it took us that long to cross over into the land of the living), it's been nice to be able to find the cheapest gas in an area, locate a restaurant to eat at on the way from San Diego to Salt Lake City, or check for available hotels when we're stuck in the WORST VEGAS TRAFFIC THAT EVER THERE WAS. EVER. Kristen points out that, with vehicular wi-fi, her children could work on homework in the car, pull up Google maps and learn about the geography of a particular region they're driving through, or use the Internet to find historical landmarks. All great ideas.

What I disagree with are her thoughts (and, really, it's just the echo of the thoughts of so many people I know) regarding the boredom of road trips, the fact that thirty years ago travelers had two options: stare out the window or sleep, and the general idea that our children need to be plugged into something in the car or heaven forbid they might just shrivel up and die from the lack of entertainment. (Um. Those are totally my words, not hers. And I'm not trying to call her out here, I'm calling out our society.)

When I was a kid we regularly drove LONG distances to visit National Parks, Lake Tahoe, and other destinations. You know what? I did not die. I looked out the window at our gorgeous (and, sometimes, not so gorgeous HELLO! BARSTOW! THIS ONE'S FOR YOU!) country. I read books and books and more books! When I tired of reading books I flipped through a new magazine my mom had bought me before the trip. I did not sleep because I was born without the gene that allows for napping--even on road trips--unless it is dark outside. But my brother slept. For hours on end and his road trips were shorter for it. We took a bucket of toys. We had notepads for drawing or writing stories. We talked! We had walkmans and, eventually, discmans. When we were very little, my mom would buy a few small toys and hand us one every few hours. We anticipated rest stops because, perhaps, an ice cream or a candy bar would be our reward for good behavior. We didn't ask, "Are we there yet?" because we knew that if the car was still running, the answer to that question was an obvious, NO. (We weren't stupid children.) We fought, sure. But we did that at home so a road trip was really no different. We laughed, hysterically, at each other. We played car bingo, slug bug, and the license plate game. We created our own entertainment.

And it has turned us into adults that have the ability to go on long road trips. Those vacations have sculpted us into people that can now be behind the wheel on those long trips without wanting to claw our own insides out from our own attention deficit. (Um...road trips involving HORRIBLE VEGAS TRAFFIC NOT WITHSTANDING.) Those trips helped us become adult passengers that don't need to be playing on and/or watching their phone/laptop/DVD player incessantly. These days, my husband and I take turns driving on long road trips. When I'm the passenger, I rarely do anything except listen to music and have extensive conversations with my spouse. Sometimes I read. And that's it. Those long road trips from my childhood built character that I wouldn't trade for the ability to watch endless movies.

When our boys were tiny little people we began taking road trips with them. We do have a portable DVD player but our general (loose) rule has been ONE movie for every 12 hours of travel time. That means they need to find a way to entertain themselves for the other 10 and a half hours. They look out the window. Then they ask questions about things they are seeing and it opens up dialogue between us and them and someone always ends up learning something. They crack each other up. They listen to music. They read books. And, before we leave, they pack a bin of toys. It is their single greatest joy--when we're getting ready to go somewhere--to choose the small toys they will take and they often ask me many days in advance if they can do it.

Have there been growing pains? Of course there have. Have there been times when they've asked how much longer or how much farther or if we're there yet? Of course there have. But my boys are eight and five and they are the best travelers I know.

Kristen said, "Because, as much as we like limiting the kids' time with electronics, we're also realists. Making everyone power off in the car works for about 10 minutes, followed by screeches of 'She touched me!' or 'I'm bored' or (God forbid) 'Are we there yet?'"

(Read more: http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2014/09/turning-vehicles-into-wi-fi-hotspots.html#ixzz3CYhTpA6J)


And, while my degree is in Theatre, I took a boatload of English course work and I know hyperbole when I see it so I realize the exaggeration for comedic effect. But it's not unrealistic to expect your children to put down the electronics. So what I want to say to all the parents out there, the parents of teenagers and the parents of tiny little kids, is that you're missing an incredible opportunity. Your children, when stuck in the car, are a captive audience. You have no where else to be, nothing else to do. Point out landmarks. Ask them what they want to be when they grow up and why. Introduce them to the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, and the Wicked soundtrack. Read them a book. Let them entertain themselves for awhile.

Unplug them and they will learn how to travel unplugged. Then, instead of your road trip being all about the destination, it can also be about the journey getting there. But what do I know? I'm just a road trip bigot.

Note: This totally breaks down on an International flight from Salt Lake to Israel that takes 18 hours. When the lights in the plane are off and everyone is trying to sleep and your kids think it's three o'clock in the afternoon and they didn't bring toys because you didn't want to haul them around the Holy Land and the iPod is dead and they don't have a window seat and they're confused because the flight crew is trying to feed them breakfast but it involves salad and the baby two rows up has been screaming for a solid two hours, then you totally just let them watch as many movies as they want to and you thank God that you chose a flight where they have their own screen built right into the seatback in front of them. But, because they usually have to entertain themselves on trips and this time they get endless movies, they will be the world's best travelers and handfuls of other Israel bound tourists and the flight attendants will tell you how wonderful your children are. So what I'm saying is that building up road trip character in your kids will, inevitably, gain you parenting praise on an International flight. AND WHO DOESN'T LIKE THAT?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ice Bucket: Go Big or Go Home (UPDATED)

This is a guest blog by the author's husband . . .

You might have noticed the viral phenomenon of people pouring buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness (and funds) for ALS research. 

Within 24 hours of being challenged, participants have to record a video of themselves in continuous footage. First, they are to announce their acceptance of the challenge followed by pouring ice into a bucket of water. Then, the bucket is to be lifted and poured over the participant's head. Then the participant can call out a challenge to other people.

Whether people choose to donate, perform the challenge, or do both varies. In one version of the challenge, the participant is expected to donate $10 if they have poured the ice water over their head or donate $100 if they have not. In another version, dumping the ice water over the participant's head is done in lieu of any donation . . .


This is not the first incarnation of the ice bucket challenge. In fact it has been done previously in similar forms to benefit cancer research, the Special Olympics, and other charities.

This go around, however, has been largely associated with ALS and seems to be everywhere: professional athletes, former Presidents, news anchors and all sorts of normal people like you and me have been nominated to participate in the challenge. As the challenge spread, like a disease, I saw friends, family and church members taking up the challenge and passing it on to others.

I knew it was only a matter of time.
This week the inevitable happened—I was finally nominated by a member of our church. While I am recommending him to the board for discipline (there has to be something in the Bible about wishing cold water on your pastor), I still felt I had to show that I wasn't going to wimp out and I could handle a little cold water.
So I'm posting the evidence here on my wife's blog.

A couple more things:

*I normally don’t post much on facebook or similar media sites.  So I’ve asked permission to post here. 

*I also don’t normally solicit funds for causes, especially on media sites.  That being said ALS research is a worthy cause. I recommend research entities such as the ALS Therapy Development Institute.  There is more than one organization doing valuable research and that is one whose method of research and fundraising I feel comfortable recommending.

*There are also many other causes worth contributing to: Cancer Research, Samaritan’s Purse, etc.  I don’t care where people choose to give their funds.  It’s not like ALS has sole proprietorship over money raise from buckets filled with ice . . .  However, if all nominated gave an extra $10 to some worthwhile charity that would, collectively make a significant amount.  I’ll pick my own, you pick yours (whether its ALS research or something else).

*FINALLY, as a former youth pastor the ice bucket challenge seemed very tiny and far too easy.  I figured if I was going to participate it was GO BIG OR GO HOME.  I decided my bucket challenge needed to be done on a larger scale. 

And, yes, it was cold and full of plenty of ice (25 lbs. to be exact).  I would have put in even more ice but there was only so much in the freezer and I didn’t want to break the bank by buying any more. 

So here it is.  Proof. (by the way my wife and associate pastor were witnesses of the icy temperature of the water).

It was cold but as a former youth pastor from the Northwest I’ve swam at the Oregon coast (and in mountain streams).  I’ve done polar bear challenges and faced the “ten buckets of doom.” No big deal, really.

But it does give me a chance to nominate my oldest son.  Have fun Garrett.


UPDATE:
Because my son had been challenged the freezer was emptied of ice to fill this bucket:

Garrett completed his challenge you can see the proof here:

And Matthew promptly fulfilled his challenge and issued one of his own:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pillows

My birthday is in nine days and I like these.


I haven't had new pillows for my couch in probably, oh, a decade. My walls are painted almost the exact color of the insides of those flowers. So there I was, walking through Target, and I saw these pillows and I loved these pillows and I decided that if I didn't already have a husband that I love, I might marry these pillows.

And if I don't get them for my birthday that's totally fine because to purchase four of them would be to spend almost as much as my birthday budget allows. But...maybe I could get by with two? Or I could just print the picture and set it on the couch next to the decade old pillows.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Ferguson

When I, somewhat inadvertently, came across Priscilla's Shirer's Ferguson related post, I knew I had to put it here. To link to it. To highlight it. Something. The truth is, I won't discuss my own feelings about Ferguson because I don't know what they are. I can't sort it all out. I wasn't there. I don't know what happened. I'm the daughter of the hardest working man I know. You cannot find a person with more integrity than my father. He also happened to make his living in law enforcement. I am the mother of a black boy. Regardless of how I feel or what really happened, my job is to raise my son. To teach him. To love him into adulthood. Priscilla's (and her husband's) words are, quite possibly, the best piece of transracial parenting advice I've ever received. Even though it was advice given to their own biological children, it transcends blood and serves as a tool for this white mother to use as she navigates the raising of both her children. Regardless of where you stand regarding Ferguson, her words to parents of little people everywhere are spot on.

I’ve been waiting – waiting and thinking about when and if to write about it here. Wondering if this virtual living room was an appropriate forum for a post on such things.

And it is. It has to be.

If ministry – all ministries – are not connected to and involved with the issues of culture and society then what is its real power. So sometimes we write about silly things – superficial things – like hair or recipes. Sometimes we inspire you spiritually or ask for your comments about a personally enriching topic. But sometimes. . .sometimes. . .

. . .we write about Ferguson.

I’ve watched it all play out in the media just like you have. So many details still unknown and unclear. So many questions and hurt feelings that are pulsing in the soul of our already heart-bruised nation. Who should bear the weight of guilt will prayerfully be decided as justice unfolds but choosing a culprit is not my intention today.

I’m not a judge.

But I am a mother of black boys.

Several Sundays ago, my family and I visited Concord Church where Pastor Bryan L. Carterspoke powerfully about the turmoil and discord surrounding this issue. He focused our attention on Jesus as the only One who has and can ever bring complete peace in situations like this one that have roots too deep for human solutions to reach. It was beautiful and challenging.

My three sons sat in between their father and me and for the first time they heard the details of Ferguson. They looked at the pictures that the pastor had coordinated to accentuate his message as they flashed across the screen behind the pulpit. I glanced over and watched their faces pulse with concern. Their brows furrow in confusion.

Over brunch, the questions came. Why? How? Where? What next? We gave them as many details as we could but then I sat quietly as their father – a stately, dignified black man – looked his growing black sons in their curious eyes and told them what every young man of color needs to hear.

“Boys, there are labels and stereotypes hanging over your heads. Your choices will determine whether or not they stick.”

He was honest with them about his own experiences – the times he’s been followed and closely monitored by an attendant in a high-priced department store or disregarded while sitting around a conference room table with his peers. He told them about the women (black and white) who have clutched their purses when he got on the elevator next to them and the police officer that stopped him because he “fit the profile” of the culprit they were looking for. He explained to our sons that, sadly, the burden of proof fell on them to prove that the stereotypes don’t fit them and never will.

Unfortunately,” he continued, ”many people will not give you the benefit of the doubt. They’ll judge you the moment they see you walk into the store or the meeting or the elevator or pull up next to them at the stop light. They’ll make estimations about your status and your background and draw unfair conclusions about your potential. They’ll see your hooded sweater – the same one that other kid is wearing on the other side of town – and make decisions about your intentions that are untrue and that they’d never apply to the other guy. It will be up to you to let them know that their pigeonholes are too small and narrow – that they are for the birds not black boys. So, young men, the way you dress does matter. The way you talk does matter. The way you wear your hair matters. The education you receive matters. For now, that’s just the way it is.”

And, listen to me friend, my husband is right. It does matter.

I need to tell you that it was only a decade ago that I walked off of a stage after having spoken at a prayer breakfast in one of our nation’s major cities. An older man with kind and tender eyes, walked up to me, shook my hand and in the most sincere way he knew gave me a “compliment” – That was a great message. You are a credit to your race.

A credit? To my race?

He was utterly sincere.

The fact remains that there is an underlying divide in our nation that still exists. The expectations for minorities are so low that when one excels it’s a surprise. The individual is viewed by some as a “credit” to an otherwise bleak people group. And, every now and then, this dismal perspective erupts - more often than the media has time to cover - revealing its ugly head and taunting those who have gone before and paid such a high price for equality.

What does Ferguson teach us? So many things that I don’t feel qualified to cover. But one thing this, and other cases like it, has reminded me – a mom of young minority children – is that it would be foolish for me to turn a blind eye and act as if everything is ok just because blatant acts of racism have not been my regular experience. I don’t do my boys any favors by keeping them uninformed to the stark reality of the situation. If I don’t tell my boys about the shadow following them, they’ll make choices ignorantly and leave themselves open for brutal criticism, marginalization or . . .much, much worse.

So, Ferguson taught me to be honest. My 11 year old, 10 year old and even the innocent-eyed 5 year old, need to know and it’s the job of their father and I to tell them.

Will you?

Red. Yellow. Black. White. Will you tell your little humans that we are ALL precious in His sight? That none of us deserves a label that we haven’t personally earned. Will you teach your kiddos to respect others and to choose their friends based on character and not color? Will you commit to telling them the truth about race relations in our nation? Will you refuse to act like the struggles aren’t real even if they aren’t largely your personal experience and even if it’s just easier to turn off the news and send the kids to bed? Will you tell them the flaws of our history and the appropriate way to overcome them? Will you admit and recognize your own prejudices (we all have them) and put them away for good?

Will you tell them – not naively but truthfully – that the only color that ever really matters anyway is red.

His blood bridges every gap and every divide. Let’s act like it. -Priscilla Shirer



"Boys, there are labels and stereotypes hanging over your heads. Your choices will determine whether or not they stick." -Jerry Shirer

I'm going to print that quote and hang it up in my boys' bedroom because that, right there, is truth. And that truth does not only apply to my black son. My children will be stereotyped as those Christian kids. Those pastor's kids. That black kid. That transracial family. And two dozen other things. Their actions will determine whether or not those stereotypes--good or bad--stick to them and follow them around.

I want my children to earn their labels for themselves. And I want them to remember that the blood shed by our Savior is the only color that makes any real difference.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kindergarten

He's only been begging me, for six solid months, to let him go to kindergarten. On the day he turned five, exactly half a year ago, he asked if he could go to kindergarten the very next day. I explained that he had to wait until the next school year started and you'd have thought I'd told him to go pick up dog poop AND drink poison because, depending on the day, his reaction to either of those commands might be the same. He was unhappy, is what I'm saying.

When he finished preschool he thought kindergarten would start the next day. He was not pleased when it did not.

Finally, I (stupidly) told him that he would start kindergarten AFTER vacation. Well. When we arrived home from vacation on the second day of August and he did not start school on the third day of August, I was once again in the mother of all dog houses.

And then, to rub salt in the wounds of his perceived injustice, the most horrible thing happened. Garrett started school a week ago and Matthew did not. I had to show him on a calendar exactly how many days he had left and cross them off, one at a time, until last night.

Because kindergarten started today. Because the teachers spend the first week testing the incoming students to assess where they're at. Matthew had a half hour appointment with his teacher on Monday and then he had to wait EVEN MORE DAYS. And, listen, I have been WORRIED about him starting kindergarten because, while he's as ready as ready could ever be in terms of academics, he can be...a handful when he chooses to be.

Take his testing day, for example. I know his teacher. Garrett had her. I substitute for her more than I sub for anyone else. Matthew went in weekly last year and read to her in the hopes that we would avoid his handfulness where she was concerned. Still, he decided it would be fun to shuffle step everywhere, make squeaking sounds instead of speaking English, and inform her that he was a girl when she asked him to show her which bathroom pass he would use. Mind you, he did all of this while I was giving him my very best stink eye. Apparently he did calm down for his one on one testing but when I asked him why he chose to behave like that he informed me that he was, "just being silly."

Last night, at Back to School night, we chatted some about him. She said she really wasn't worried, she appreciated parents who know their children aren't perfect (AND DO I EVER KNOW THAT!), and that she thought he'd rise to the occasion.

And rise he did. (Not that he won't also fall from the occasion and talk back and maybe even burst into tears from time to time because Matthew is...passionate, we'll call it.) But for today anyway, he rose.


He woke up and he was JUST SO EXCITED. There was smiling and pleasantness and general merriment. I asked him what he wanted for breakfast. I'd have given him the world--if he'd asked for it--on this, his first day of the rest of his life until he is 28 and graduates from med school. He opened the pantry and pulled out some cereal. "That's what you want?" I asked him, prepared to whip up an omelet or a smoothie or waffles or what have you.

"Yep!" he smiled


Pretty soon, we were off to kindergarten. I'm not gonna lie. It was so much easier for me to leave Matthew there today than it was two years ago when I left Garrett. I am not the type to blubber or even cry just one quiet tear but watching Garrett disappear behind that door took some getting used to. This time around, I know his teacher. I substitute at the school. I walk the halls. I felt like my child would be safe and secure and have fun and learn AND DEAR LORD, PLEASE JUST LET HIM BEHAVE HIMSELF.

We pulled up and that kid put his backpack on and walked himself right over to his classroom. He lined up where he was supposed to. He was all, Goodbye, parents. I've got this. See you when I graduate from med school. When the first bell rang, I walked over to him, bent down and said, "Can I give you one more kiss?" Let me just tell you, if looks could kill, there would be a chalk outline of my body right there on the kindergarten playground. He frowned and bent his chin down so that there was no real way I could meet my lips and his. HIS EIGHT-YEAR-OLD BROTHER STILL KISSES ME SO I WAS UNPREPARED FOR THAT PARTICULAR SHENANIGAN. "Fine," I said. "I'll just kiss your head." And that's exactly what I did. Because I'm his mother and it's my God-given right. Or something.


And then I climbed up on the playground equipment because it was a much better way to fit all of them in the photo and (mostly) avoid all the weepy women. This shot was nearly impossible to get because as soon as all the moms were standing away from their kid, one of them would decide that she JUST HAD TO RUN BACK IN FOR ONE MORE KISS OR HUG OR PICTURE OR "OH MY BABY HOWEVER DID YOU GROW UP SO FAST?" And, sure, I feel the same way because, for real, HE WAS JUST BORN. But heck if I'm going to stand there in front of all the other parents and require a crowbar to separate me from my child.


His teacher came out and they disappeared behind the door.

And then, several hours later, I went to pick him up. 

He was the first one in line and his face looked stoic. I was momentarily petrified that my worst nightmares had come true. He'd wall slammed a kid. Or he'd cut someone's ponytail off with the scissors. Or he'd squeaked all day long. When he got to me, I asked him how his day was and, after a moment's pause, he thrust his fist up to my eye level and I saw the coveted Good Behavior Hand Stamp. We fist bumped and I heaped positive affirmation upon him.

He told me he made tons of friends and had a great day. He handed me all of his papers, one at a time, which took 132 minutes but was adorable nonetheless. He shared where he sat and what they'd done and that he LOVES KINDERGARTEN. As he walked up the stairs to put away his backpack he said, half to me and half to himself, "Kindergarten is SO fun. There is not a minute that is boring. Not one minute. It is all fun, fun!"

Fly, little bird. Fly. 

All the way to med school. Or wherever it is you might be headed...

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Time Marches On...

I know I've explained this before but, once upon a time, when I was in high school, I saw an episode of Oprah where a woman had photographed her kids wearing the same article of clothing every year of their lives. Her daughter wore one of her sundresses and her son wore his dad's dress shirt. Of course, as little people they were dwarfed by the large garment. But, as they grew, the pieces of clothing began to fit. She had the pictures framed in her hallway. I decided right then and there that I was going to do that very same thing when I had kids.

When Garrett was born, we chose his daddy's football jersey for a couple of reasons. The first was that it has our last name on the back and we thought that would be cool. While I'd probably never choose to frame a shot of the back of our son on his birthday, we've got some cute ones over the years. The second reason was that the thing was huge so, even if our son grows up to tower over his father (please, please, please!), he isn't likely to outgrow the jersey. The third reason is that my husband doesn't wear it very often so, hopefully, it won't be destroyed until after our kid is good and grown.

Now that we've got nine pictures accumulated, I've thought about getting a collage frame and finally, for the first time, displaying the shots. Tonight I put them all in one place so that I can get them printed. (I'll probably wait a year or two longer with Matthew but who knows, maybe I'll love the frame so much that I'll want to get going on putting Matthew's up as well...)

But with Garrett, we took the first picture when he was just a couple of days old. It is the only picture we have that wasn't taken on his actual birthday because of all the laboring and all the pushing and all the sweating. And, really, all the not taking the jersey to the hospital.
(Ramona, CA)

And then, before we knew it, that kid was celebrating his first birthday and it was almost impossible to keep him on the jersey for more than a second or two at a time.

(Ramona, CA)

He turned two and we tried putting him in the enormous garment but, if he stood up, he nearly went right through the neck hole. So he had to stay sitting.

(Riverton, UT)

He turned three and looked slightly less like a chubby Easter ham.

(West Jordan, UT)

Then, at four, he apparently became an angel and glowed with a magical shiny halo. Seriously. They all have halos. (The pictures, not four-year-olds).

(Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe, NV)



Five happened...

(West Jordan, UT)

Then six...

(West Jordan, UT)

And then this inexplicable thing happened where he started to change in huge ways over the course of a mere 365 days. He went from being a little boy to being, well, a seven-year-old boy that really wasn't so little.

(West Jordan, UT)

And he lost his baby teeth which made him go from a boy to a college student. Or, something a little less dramatic but not, actually, a lot less dramatic.

 
(Whittier, CA)

So there it is. Eight years represented in nine pictures. Same jersey. Same kid. Different size. Kid, that is.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bedtime

I've always said that my boys' bedtime is 7:30. This isn't entirely accurate because, during the school year, on Sundays and Wednesdays, we're at the church late. And, on the other five days of the week, we don't actually put them in bed at 7:30. We start the shower/teeth brushing/bathroom using/jammie putting on-ing/flossing/Bible reading/chapter book reading routine at 7:30. If Troy and I tag team and work very efficiently, the boys are in bed at 8:00. Although, honestly, I'm not usually finished reading them a chapter of whatever book we happen to be devouring together until a little after 8:00. And then they both want me to snuggle them for a few minutes--a habit I am almost always happy to continue because I know it's only a short matter of time before the idea of their mother scratching their backs while they fall asleep becomes appalling. It's usually about 8:15 before they actually fall asleep. They get up at 7:00.

Last night, the neighbor knocked on the door at 7:45 with basketball in hand. "Wanna play?" he asked my oldest.

"I can't," Garrett replied.

"Why not?" came the follow up question.

Garrett was shirtless, in a pair of pajama bottoms, so I thought the answer was fairly obvious. Garrett told him that he was going to bed.

"ALREADY?" the boy (who, by the way, is one year older than my son) shrieked. "WHAT TIME IS IT?" My son answered that it was almost 8:00.

"I DON'T GO TO BED UNTIL 9:30! WHY DO YOU HAVE TO GO BED SO EARLY?" he wailed.

Time out. Do you know how much sleep is recommended for an elementary school aged child? Ten to twelve hours. Ten to twelve hours of blissful sleep. By the time my kids actually fall asleep--on a good night where bedtimes are being observed--they get a little under eleven hours.

Assuming this child falls asleep exactly at 9:30 (which is a ridiculous assumption because very few people--my husband NOT included--actually fall asleep the second their head hits the pillow) and gets up around the same time my kids do (likely because he starts school at the same time), he only gets 9.5 hours of sleep. Less than the low end of what is recommended for a child his age.

So Garrett responded that he had to go to bed because his parents told him to. The friend left, irritated, and my kids hopped into bed to hear their Bible story and a chapter of Laura Ingalls Wilder's On the Shores of Silver Lake. They seemed neither traumatized nor overly scarred for life when, at 8:07, I walked out of their room for the night.

One of the countless roles I've taken on as a mother is the task of teaching my children about healthy sleep habits. I'm thankful that, even after this encounter last night, my son didn't try to push his bedtime back. I'm sure it was just the first of many times that he'll have to tell friends he has a bedtime, but I'm hopeful that he'll understand that a good night's sleep allows him the ability to function at higher levels throughout his day.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wicked

You guys, I have never, ever, in all my life, in all of the entirety of my existence, in all the almost 33 years, had more fun watching someone watch a play then I did when I took my son to see Wicked. He was ALL OF THE EXCITED and so, okay, he's going to kill me for saying this but we got home from church and I laid out his niceish theatre clothing and he wanted to put it on SO badly but he's an eight-year-old boy and so, NO, we are not going to give you 10,000 opportunities to soil your clothing before we leave. A few minutes later he ran past me and he was wearing ONLY his UNDERWEAR and when I asked him why, he said he was waiting to put on his nice clothes. You know, several hours later.

Finally we got ready and WHAT IS IT WITH YOUNG ELEMENTARY SCHOOL BOYS AND THEIR TOTAL INABILITY TO GENUINELY SMILE WHENEVER A CAMERA IS PUT IN THEIR FACE?


I asked him what he wanted for dinner. This is a completely stupid question to ask my son because the answer will always be Red Lobster and the first time he answers with something other than Red Lobster the world is going to spin like a whirling dervish right off of it axis and into the abyss of space. I informed him that we had neither the time nor the resources for a seafood feast. His second answer, Taco Bell.

I offered up a handful of restaurants not as nice as Red Lobster but more upscale than the Taco Bell. Places where, you know, I'd need to leave a tip. Nope. There was no deterring him. "I think I'd really just like Taco Bell," he said.

"Taco Bell it is," I replied. Then he requested, as though I just might say no, two cheesy roll ups and one Doritos taco. To the tune of less than five dollars. Pricey date, that kid. He was such an expensive date, in fact, that I threw in a milkshake on the way home. For good measure.


When we got to the theatre, and were walking across the crosswalk, he shouted, "WHOA! THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE HERE!" Then, once inside, as we made our way up, up, way up, to our completely overpriced nose bleed balcony seats (because UTAH IS AN OUTRAGEOUS PLACE TO SEE THEATRE AND I CAN'T AFFORD IT HERE AND IT IS A GIGANTIC AND DEVASTATING TRAGEDY) we kept passing the doorways to the better, much more ridiculously priced, seats. He could see the stage through those doors and he asked, "Do those doors lead to other shows?" He'd just never been inside of a theatre where multiple doors led to the same play. Once I clarified that all doors led to the same show, he said, in awe, "This place is huge." 


We passed all the various tables selling candies and shirts and socks. He very much wanted to buy a $35 dollar 11 inch dragon puppet. But, like, no. Our money doesn't buy $35 dollar dragon puppets. I tried to explain that the less we spend on dragon puppets and chocolate covered peanuts and the REALLY COOL WATER BOTTLE THAT I WANTED THAT SAID...
...the more we have to spend on things like ACTUALLY GOING TO THE THEATRE.

We finally found our up, up, way up seats and he asked, "When it starts, will I be able to see it better?" Hmmm...the joy of balcony seats is that you're at least in the theatre and you can see the people and experience the thrill of live art for less money. But then, there is the little fact that you can't see their faces. Like, at all. I whipped out my handy binoculars and gave them to him.

And as it turns out, I totally could have saved all the money I spent on the tickets and just told him that I owned tiny binoculars because they were a MAJOR hit. "Where did you get these?" and "How long have you had them?" and "How did I not know about these all my life?"

We decided to head to the bathroom and, on our way, I walked him down closer and showed him the pit. I explained that there would be an orchestra in there playing the music that he heard. At that point he sighed. It was a happy, contented sigh. "Thank you, Mom." I was actually a little bit confused because we were staring down into an empty pit and I wasn't entirely sure what the gratitude was about.

"For what?" I asked.

His huge eyes stared up at me. He threw his arms around me and whispered, "For everything." If the night had ended right there, it still would have been worth it. 

We explored a little more...


Then we made our way back to our seats and Garrett saw a few stage crew members performing various tasks. We had a long conversation about the importance of stage crew and how, really, they're the ones making the whole thing actually happen. I mean, without all the behind the scenes people, you'd have a few actors in jeans and t-shirts hanging around on a stage. There would be no costumes, no lights, no sounds, no set pieces, no nothing, really. "I think I'd like to work backstage sometime. That sounds so fun!" And, really, it can be. Depending on the varying levels of prima donnas one might be working with.

Photography is strictly forbidden. Disobeying the ushers is probably a sin for which I should ask forgiveness. But my boy just loved the enormous dragon so very, very much...and it's the only picture I took...and...


See how we go about rationalizing our iniquity?

I've seen Wicked four times now. It could be a problem for which I need an intervention. But that fact allowed me the opportunity to take my eyes off of the spectacle before me and turn them to my right. Because, to my right, sat a little boy, experiencing Broadway for the very first time.

**SPOILER ALERT** (Except not really because everyone knows that the "wicked" witch flies.)

At intermission, I asked him if he was surprised when Elphaba flew. He said he was and I followed with, "Wasn't that magical?"

Then, that logical little beast looked at me like I was the world's largest idiot and said, "No. Mom. Here, listen. I'll explain it to you. It's not magic at all. What they do is that they..." and then he proceeded to almost completely accurately, explain to me how people in shows can fly. So maybe there is stage crew in his future after all.

When all was said and done, he loved it. And I hope it was just the beginning of a long theatre life together.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Like Magic

I think it was Charlotte's Web. I don't remember how old I was. Though not very. I can't recall details about the show but I know that I liked it very much. And then there was Little House on the Prairie. I was in elementary school, maybe second grade, and I kept the program, stuffed in a box under my day bed, for years. I'd pull it out and pour over the biographies of the young actors, remembering the scenery, the lights, the way it smelled, the sound of the children's voices as they delivered their lines.

The magic.

There were many, many more shows throughout elementary school, junior high and high school. But it wasn't until my senior year that I saw a Broadway (tour) show. I was dating a boy called Jesse Tov and I just googled him and it seems that he turned into the big deal we all knew he would. If it hadn't been for the fact that he was a Jewish atheist--or maybe agnostic, I'm not quite sure--I might have made him marry me the day I turned 18.

But let me back up for a second.

I first met this boy in the eighth grade. He was in my history class and he corrected our ancient teacher. At least, he seemed ancient at the time. In reality he was probably 60. It turned out that Jesse was right. Our teacher was wrong. I loved my teacher so, naturally, I held contempt for Jesse. He was ridiculously brilliant. I found that annoying. In the 11th grade he aced his SATs. Perfect score. I never had a great deal of experience with Jesse until my senior year of high school. Before that year he just managed to annoy me from afar with his genius. In 12th grade, I found myself in AP Government with him. And it's because of him that I pulled a solid B up to an A- and saved my 3.98 GPA. Why he helped me, I may never know.

Why he asked me to go on a date with him is even more confusing to me.

It only dawned on me this very evening that we were exactly like The Big Bang Theory's Leonard and Penny. If Leonard was a lot taller and Penny was a lot less pretty that is. But that look on Penny's face whenever Leonard talks about his work, yeah, that's pretty much how it was.



I still remember trying to decide what to wear and wondering if it was some kind of prank. Harvard bound atheist/agnostic boys don't usually go around asking Point Loma Nazarene University bound Christian girls out on dates. I was really kind of positive that it was some kind of dare where he'd ask me intellectual questions I couldn't answer while secretly filming me as I squirmed.

As it turns out, somehow, it wasn't.

We spent a lot of the summer of 1999 together. And the reason I would have maybe married him on the spot if he'd believed in my Jesus is because that guy SERIOUSLY KNEW HOW TO TAKE A GIRL ON A DATE.

He introduced me to quaint theatres in San Diego. He taught me about gelato, a lesson for which I will always be grateful. He taught me about Indian food, a lesson for which I will always be not so grateful. And he took me to my very first Broadway show.

I had never before been in the San Diego Civic Theater and he not only took me inside of it, he didn't even make me walk up any stairs. Instead he marched me right through the Orchestra section and sat me in the seventh row. They were, to date, the very best seats I have ever had at any show ever in my life. Period. The end. I did not know then what I know now. Those seats were ex(stinkin')pensive. In the two or three hours that followed, the world may as well have melted away. Because I saw theatre like I had never seen it before. I saw it as an art form that was so grand, so huge, so remarkable, that the acting bug I'd already been bit by managed to burrow into my very soul and I had the single thought that I could not live without theatre.

I was dramatic.

Because OF COURSE I can live without theatre. But the question--more articulated in these passing of years--is, why would I want to? Creation. Suspension. Direction. Choices. Real. Make believe. Glamour. Guts. Talent. Sweat. Joy. How could I choose never to go back? I couldn't. Because the lights and the curtains and the thumping pulse of it all would pull me.

And, really, it was all there long before Jesse Tov took me to see Sunset Boulevard. I'd performed lead roles on my high school stage by then. He had little to do with my love for the theatre. But he had everything to do with opening my eyes to what the theatre can accomplish and what magic we can find when afforded the chance to see it.

For that, I might have married him. Except that we were both teenagers who would soon find themselves on opposite coasts. And all my attempts to reach him with evangelical Christianity were failed ones. I have a feeling that if I ever were to run into Jesse, he would still treat me as he did then, as though I were some kind of intellectual equal when that could not be further from the truth. I know that a professor at Harvard would never find himself reading the ramblings of a thirtysomething pastor's wife, but if, by some chance, he ever were to happen upon this corner of the Internet, I would like to thank him for treating me well in those summer months before we both left to become who we are. And I would like to say that my life is infinitely richer for what he taught me about theatre.

When my first child was born I can remember looking at him, when he was still quite small, and dreaming of introducing him to theatre. Small, low budget productions. Church plays. Soundtracks, even. And, one day, when he was not so very big, a grand, Broadway show. That day has come. Tonight, I will take my son to his first Broadway show.

He asked me a few days ago if it was at the same theatre that he saw a little children's production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The theatre was rundown with paint peeling off the walls, broken chairs and a stage fifteen feet from wing to wing. It was art. And I love that he still talks about that show and how wonderful it was. Because that's the incredible pulse of performance art. But tonight, my son will hear a full orchestra. He will see things unfolding before him that, until now, he hasn't dreamed possible. He will watch real people fly.

And it will seem like magic...