Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Bless My Soul, He's Twelve

 And if he's twelve, that must mean I'm A HUNDRED AND TWO. (re: the title of this post) I can't understand the passage of time. I've tried.  It goes by so fast these days and hits me square in the face. I feel like I get mowed down by a runaway train. A runaway train that also cuts grass as it goes.  And I have that feeling repeatedly. Over and over, here comes the renegade time train, and here I am, still somehow caught in its path. Every once in a while I can snag myself on it and, bloody-faced, just enjoy the scenery as it flashes by in a blur, but usually it shakes me off and then chases me in the middle of the night. Renegade hit-man mower-train.

Anyway. The boy has grown. This year was a big year in many, many ways. And one of those ways was Julian grew up and got a head start on ye olde puberty. I wasn't ready for it. Nobody prepared me. It felt like it happened literally over night. I went to bed, he was a boy, I woke up, he was an unfamiliar boy, six inches taller, with a deep voice and all kinds of other joyful changes. I've never felt more blindsided. Curse you, mower-train.

He's still a funny, odd, emotional child-being, tween-person. He's intense, anxiety-ridden, affectionate, tease-y, and I don't even try to keep up with his brain anymore. (talk about a runaway train. I just stand outside and be sure to wave when it passes by.  It always comes around again. And again. And again. And there I am, just waving and shrugging, waving and shrugging.) I'm going to list a few things, post a few pictures, and paste some good quotes to celebrate this child I apparently birthed as he plows into his 13th year. 


1. Cats. He loves our cat. We tried to get a new cat because we foolishly thought our cat needed a friend. FALSE. They hated each other. But when he brought home the new one, he slept in the basement with it to give it some company. And then we found a nice old schoolteacher to take her because THE HATE. it was real. 

2. Minecraft. We got Julian a Switch for Christmas and it's fun because I like it too. We play Just Dance, Mario Kart, Mario Party, but he plays Minecraft, either alone or with a friend. When he plays alone, he hates the sounds on Minecraft so he turns the volume all the way down and then plays jazz music on the echo dot while he plays--el oh el. Weirdo! But it's a perfect avenue for his crazy train brain. All his imaginative powers go into builds. And I get to hear about every second of it. #blessed. 

3. History. This kid has turned into quite the little Anglophile.  He loves British history--the monarchies, the tudors, he knows castle names. He is really into the Horrible History books, if you've got a slightly disturbed history buff like we have, bless his heart.  We have big plans to someday go on a trip to the UK. We're calling it The Great British Take Off, and periodically he adds things to the list--castles and museums he wants to see.  Can't wait. We have him do virtual classes in the summer sometimes to break up the day and he gets to pick the topic. Right now he's doing a Minecraft Writing Camp that's two hours every day for a week. Students choose a landmark that they have to build and then do a google slide report on it so they have to do some research as well. He is super excited about it which blows my little mind. I've spent 11.75 years trying to find something that might interest this kid. When we hit something, it's a huge deal. For his landmark, he chose Big Ben, naturally.  

4. The cul-de-sac. Remember last summer, and how weird it was to finally be able to leave our homes? Being indoors and isolated for months compelled Julian to put himself out there a bit and interact with some neighbor kids. I've spent this entire past year praising the heavens above for this fact. The cul-de-sac exists through a gap in our backyard and he goes to play with kids who are out and, again, prayers of Thanksgiving. They laze around, play made-up games, stay up for night games. Magic. 

5. Space. Specifically rocketry. He joined a club of local boys who have a goal of building and successfully launching a rocket to space by the time the oldest graduates high school. I think they're all middle school-aged boys. I only know one other kid in the group. They only meet virtually on a website one of them made for their purposes. Julian is part of the engineering subgroup. They have a message board.  Julian has zoom meetings and had to interview with the boys in charge and be accepted. So funny and adorable and oh-so nerdy. Love it. So I need to find a book on rockets for him (NOT for kids, he says). Anyone got any suggestions? Like I said, don't even try to keep up anymore. I just try to bring him back to earth every now and then and squeeze in a social skill lesson if I can. 

6. Books. Loves to read. Reads books he's not had much interest in just to fit in with kids and know what they're talking about. (Fablehaven, which he now concedes to love.)  He told me all he wants for his birthday is every book John Christopher has written. So he's got some favorite authors which is the best. I also force him to let me read to him on occasion.

7. Russian hard bass music. Yes, you read that right. There's a song on Just Dance called Vodovorot and for some reason, he just fell in love and it's become an obsession. He loves the band, XS Project. He listens to their stuff ALL the time, for easy listening, which it is NOT. I can't stand it, as you can imagine. It's sooo weird and random and funny, and just weird. For his birthday, Sean made an XS Project poster for him and he was so happy. It makes me laugh so hard on the inside. One day we're going to look at it and laugh even harder. SO WEIRD. 


Let's have some pictures from the year. I have a lot. I'll put them in chronologically so you can see a little bit of what I mean about it being a craaaazy year of growth, and perhaps give me some advice on how to deal. 

First, a picture of Julian from the backseat. Jan 1. Here's a classic Julian speech to go with (as it happened):

"In the 1500's, people got what was called the Dancing Flu, where people literally danced until they dropped. You'd just give them a beat and they couldn't keep from dancing. They'd keep going until they died of exhaustion or thirst or hunger. This is a real thing! I don't know why you don't believe me. I've read it in a lot of places--reliable sources, not 'Ripley's Believe it or Not.  ... I'll let you post that if you buy me a book."  

This one went on the Gram, and he indeed get a new book. We go to Barnes and Noble sometimes, our old home away from home. 

Half-birthday, mid-February. Gotta celebrate literally in any way we can. 

Didn't want to disturb this intimate moment, but still needed to snap a pic. 

April. For Spring Break, he and I went to Goblin Valley, staying in Green River. There's basically one restaurant there. We know it well. We were sitting outside waiting for our name to be called. Julian had a book and I had my phone but we were both engrossed in the goings-on of a family next to us-- a mom and like a hundred boys scrambling and fighting all around and over her. It was MOST entertaining.  We shared many laughs and comments afterward, and both sort of basked in our simple quiet existence.  I wish I could remember all the things said. It was a comedy show. 

Guess what else is over there that we never visited until this trip? Little Wildhorse Canyon, the coolest slot everrrr! Maybe not ever. But I loved the heck out of it. So wind-y and narrow and slotty. Julian was unsure as he had to scale some rocks and walls. Kid prefers his feet firmly on the ground. 

At what age do kids morph into their parents? Asking for a cool best friend.

May. Lest you think this next one is a nice, normal pic, I think that's gum there, stretched from his mouth to his knee. I laugh at the stage when kids' legs shoot out like beanstalks and everything else sort of stays the same. 

Julian has a "how to be a man" book and one of the pages instructs how to cook a chicken. Since we have a professional chef, Sean took the time to show Julian the ropes, a kid who always wants to just do the thing without any help or instruction or previous knowledge/know-how, etc...

End of 5th grade. Julian's teacher took this pic. Cracks me up. Classic.

 Wax Museum thing the 5th grade does. He dressed as one of the Wright Brothers and gave an oral report or something. This kid knows more about history than so many adults. 

Last day of school. Vibes are strong here. 

June. Have you ever gotten an 11-year-old ready for his first roughing it campout with other kids his age? Goodness gracious. What an ordeal. The lists, the packing, the informing of what is in his pack, the rolling, the stuffing of sleeping bag, the joyous complaining generously sprinkled throughout. My word. And guess what? he did it like a champ. Hiked carrying this thing, slept in a tiny tent in 30-degree temps, ate weird foods. In short: roughed it.  

Sometimes Kid brings his stuff in and sleeps in our bedroom. It's a family slumber party, one where we all quietly read books and turn out the lights at 10:30. {party emoji}

July. We're trying to see how long he can wear size 3T shirts. 

"Oo, let's get some Whoopers."   Dang, when will I learn not to laugh my guts out when he says things incorrectly, so he won't know they're wrong, so he'll keep saying them?  Dang. Combine this with his general "always right" attitude and it's solid gold. "What? It's Whoopers."  

We camped with some friends at Hyrum State Park in Northern Utah. Never been? Go. It's lovely. I was surprised. I expect most places to be dried out wastelands but this was kind of a gem. I think this was a marshmallow for me. Julian doesn't eat them. Not roasted, anyway. I know. 

August. We went to Cancun this summer. It was... an experience. I'll save those details for another day but here are some pics. I love beach trips with this little fam. May he always love the ocean. Or the sea, as it were. 

...and taking adorable pics with his Ma. 

...and eating at fancy Thai restaurants at 10pm. 

...and getting room service and playing Mario Party all morning. (who wouldn't always love that)

August. Julian's bday is always marred by the start of school. Sometimes it's right before, or after, or ON. This year it landed on the second day so.. not so bad? He had a little party with friends and then another little but cooler party with his parents. He got a billion books and we finished watching The Hobbit.  Guess what I learned? The extended version of Battle of the Five Armies is rated R. So, that's fun. I was deeply disturbed by what I saw. 

First day of 6th grade. Check out this tall drink of water: 

Yes, his candles spell out "lamprey."  


Now for the quotes. I've got a few saved in my phone and they are gems. Perhaps you can get a feel for this interesting person for yourself. 


"I dreamed I said the word 'ecscape' and it woke me up."  

BRAHAHA.  Remember what a grammar expert he is? 


"For me, sleep is a crazy chaotic journey, the kind that when it's over, you wake up finally in peace." 

Boy, i know that struggle. These days, "good night" has turned into "good luck" for everyone. "Good morning" -- > "how'd you do?" 


Over spring break, he and I went to Green River and did some Goblin Valley and Little Wild Horse Canyon hiking. We had a great time full of lots of jokes. One of the perhaps less fun games of our hiking was him asking me what I thought every single rock or boulder that we passed weighed.

JULIAN: How much do you think this whole mountain weighs?
JEN: Twenty million metric tons. 


"Well, I had a dream I licked a rusty pole and got leukemia."


"There's no difference between too hard and too easy."


"I was thinking late last night about refrigeration and what we would do without it."


Some back-to-school quotes:

"I have some hard feelings about the book fair at school."

"I remembered that piloting a gigantic long swing is no laughing matter." 


And to close, I will let him self-describe as perhaps he can say it best:

           "You know, one way I would describe myself is 'contrary to popular belief.'" 

 Literally could not say it better. Happy 12th, Ghoulian. 

Monday, May 10, 2021


JULIAN: Mom, what's the worst name a person can call you?

JEN: I don't know. "Liar," maybe.

JULIAN: That, I do not have any tolerance for. But for me, the worst thing... well--you know, this isn't even really my opinion. You know what? I share so many opinions but they're all other people's, they're not even mine. I lost the real Julian long ago. 

JEN: Well, I think that's ok. You're still figuring yourself out. It's ok to try out other people's opinions as you're figuring out your own.

JULIAN: But where am I? Every day could be a different Julian. I could be a different person tomorrow.

JEN: That's ok! And I'm totally here for it, whoever you are. 

JULIAN: Are you though?

JEN: Absolutely.

JULIAN: I hope I'm Calvin tomorrow. 

JEN: No doubt. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Extended Spring

February. The long, drawn out death of winter.  It's utterly painful to watch, much less participate in.  But, like every year, it ended. We made it through because time continues to pass. I'm sitting here thinking about it and rather than having "gotten through" winter, it's really more like I just sat still until it passed.  That sounds more accurate.  I don't remember much. Sean's birthday was in there. We usually travel for it but this year we didn't and we felt it acutely. So instead we spent the day celebrating by skipping school, eating breakfast in a heated globe outside a restaurant, wandered through the University art museum, reminding ourselves that art still exists despite the possibility of having forgotten, picked up stunning gourmet birthday treats at a bakery that makes me feel human again, and watched School of Rock in an otherwise empty theater. And the moment the clock struck March 1st, I kissed February's sorry arse goodbye and didn't look back.   

March is like a really long turn of the keys praying the engine will eventually rev up. Turn over, turn over, turn over, March. I think I spent the whole month gripping those keys and now I have a cramp. One bright spot was Sean and I got our first vaccine shots and that feeing took us into April. We are fully vaccinated now and though I still want to be careful, I admit that my resolve is fading and I struggle to care. Basically this is me with my vaccine card whenever I go do something I wouldn’t have otherwise. 

Or how I feel, anyway. 

Spring feels longer this year, for some reason. Perhaps it's because I've eliminated all seasonal expectation so literally anything is a welcome surprise.  I keep turning around expecting us to be quite into summer and then I remember it's mid-April, or mid-to-late April and am totally surprised that we're still on this side of the heat. It's that weird time of year when you forget what season you're entering.  "Oo, it's chilly. Better be thinking about Halloween costumes. Wait. No."  Actually, JK because it's ALWAYS a good time to be thinking about Halloween costumes.  

So in honor of this transitorial (not a word) period, I would like to extend to you a poem I wrote on the eve of Easter. I have a friend who I like a lot but don't talk to often. She texted me out of the blue about something she saw that reminded her of me. It was nice and I love unexpected things like this.  In turn, since I had just finished it, I asked if I could send her a poem. She happily received it, as I thought she would, as that is the kind of person she is. Also, I kind of feel like, if you make it, share it.  Then it's real. 

Easter Poem

I feel there is a warming
In my heart before the air
The melting of a frozen stone
I forgot was even there

The living long forgotten
Life itself a distant train
The promises once made
Seek remembrance, refrain

The great Return is coming
The evidence is there
I hope that I can see it
Before distortion can impair

Shaking off the darkness
Is not an easy task
It clings to me, and I to it
And wear it like a mask (<-- ha. this one's dumb.) [<-- part of the poem]

Stronger is the cycle
The contrasting hope and fear
And I upon the threshold
Felt more fully year-to-year  

But in my contemplation
Of alternative, I find
The smallest thread of wild chance
To choose it in the blind

So against the odds that tether
I break into the sun
My weather-weary spirit
Emergent champion

To leave behind what held me
To echo the amen
To relocate the beating heart 
To be born again, again.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2021


 Once upon a time, a young boy did a report on the lamprey, the most disgustingly vile creature you've ever beheld in your life.  It is foul. And, as he is prone to do with all things wicked, disturbing, and otherwise generally rejected, he fell in love. He uses it as a moniker for video games, he includes it in writing assignments in school. It's his personal mascot. I think it replaced the evil entity he adopted from a scary episode of Scooby Doo. Since we had but two precious years left to participate in valentine's day boxes for school, we asked Julian what he wanted to make with Sean, and of course, he said, "a lamprey!"  So that is what they did.

Also, Julian and I looked it up recently and made the horrifying discovery that we'd been pronouncing it wrong this entire time. Instead of "lamp-ray," like you would think because of rays that live in the sea, though this is neither stingray-like nor generally found in the sea (I think they might hang out there but go to fresh water so spawn. See, I know things)  it's actually pronounced "lamp-ree."  He wishes he never knew, but also he can't say it wrong because that would go against all he is inside.  Like when I made that horrifying discovery about my pronunciation of proboscis

First, a link to the google image page of the lamprey. DIS-GUSTING. 

Here you go, enjoy:

why? Seeing this thing, sitting mouth agape from across the room was an unpleasant experience.


now with a cute frame for the little cutie.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

January Is...

 Before I begin, in the name of transparency, let me just say that it's actually March 2nd today.  I'm backdating this blog post for three reasons: 

1- Because it's less effective to write about a month during a different month, and I'm looking for maximum impact here.

2-  If I post-date, then we can pretend I published this then and that YOU'RE the one catching up, not me. 

3- It could potentially make you feel like a little bit of a time traveler. And when are we not looking for an opportunity for that?

That being said, I am crying on the inside that it's finally March. And to celebrate and perhaps make things even more confusing, here's a Julian quote from the end of February.

I was commenting on his shorty shorts and summer attire and he calmly said this, which I jotted down: 

Which I fully and completely understand. There's a limit to what we can handle until we must do what we must. 

But during this month of January [that we are currently, presently experiencing right now], I've noticed a few things. We all know it's a subdued time of year. We eat a little bit/lot more, we hibernate, we calm our list of expectations waaay down.  This we know. But in addition, I noticed there were a few activities we ourselves engage in this time of year that feel uniquely, distinctly January-esque, if you will. So, like I do with most things in life, I started a list and taped it to the wall, where I could add to it, look at it, collect what might be a collection, and inevitably later blog about. Here are the things I listed that I would say are activities particular to the month of January, that give it its feel, its vibe:

I don't know about you, but along with food being a major highlight of the January day, comes food fatigue. Coming up with new and interesting things to eat. Because I am as lazy as I am hungry. So I started to have breakfast foods delivered to me and Sean. I found a surprisingly decent place that offers healthy egg bowls with chick peas and spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, as well as pretty amazing bananas foster pancakes that thereafter frequented my pancake daydreams. In addition, they offer a BLT with scrambled eggs that totally hits the spot. Basically it tasted like good food you just made yourself but didn't, a beautiful thing. Since we didn't ordinarily order breakfast for delivery, this brightened up our month exponentially.

My geese excitement grows every year. I love them. And I now know I can count on them like clockwork. If I lived in the wild I would keep time by geese. Or at least when I heard them, I'd know it was January. Incidentally, we just finished reading My Side of the Mountain, about the boy who decides to just up and leave NYC for the Catskills and amazingly has all the knowledge and skills required to make it a full YEAR.  But he didn't use the geese, so looks like he doesn't know everything. (it's actually a cute book which was perfect for wintertime) 

TV. Yes, yes.  January should be National TV Month.  Someone write someone about this and make it official.

Since there was nothing to do and nowhere to go except food places, Sean and I started making dessert runs. In the dark, because it was--sorry, is dark at 5:30.  Our favorite was is hot chocolate in Provo. You may think it silly to drive 30 minutes just for hot chocolate but i think YOU are the one.. that is silly. Totally worth it. And like I said, expectations in the negatives here. 

Nerf wars. Self-explanatory. We have a good setup for them and we got the Rivals for christmas that shoot yellow pellet-balls at a billion mph to up the excitement/pain. 

One afternoon I was, as usual, sick of our food, and bored and when that happens? You make egg salad at odd time o'clock.  I always forget about egg salad, but I like it. And i made myself a new sandwich at 2:00 and felt very January doing it. 

Lastly, it's not on the list, but when I went for my post-its I saw I'd written down something that appears to be unfinished but which feels complete in its simple summation of how I've been feeling for the past several months. I don't know what I meant when I wrote it then, but I'll use it now and add it as the final thing on my January Is list. 

 It's not actually writing fatigue, it's just fatigue from other things that makes all the words fall asleep and eventually slip into a coma inside of me.  Also, why yes, I do have a personalized notebook, why do you ask?