Thursday, June 20, 2019

In Love With Summer

Well, it finally happened.  Something we thought impossible, nothing but a distant memory of the way things used to be:  It got warm. And not only that, but it's the most beautiful, temperate June of my life.  June is the beauty, the queen of all the months. It is glowing fairy dust and constantly carried music serenading all who stroll through.  But this June has been extra-enchanted.  First, the roses. The roses are bigger, bolder, brighter, smelling of candy. I am shocked at all the roses wherever I go. At a friend's house, where I spent an inordinate amount of time walking up to her door, smelling the roses one by one so that she eventually opened it and was like, "Jen?" --and sort of caught me there.  The roses at the mini-golf course--roses, the one thing that could distract me from meaningless competition. The roses that dot the roads and pathways all around me.  I have a radar for them and it is constantly going berserk.

What else? Julian is a dreamy dream and making it so fun.  First, he's growing and maturing. I wrote this down in his book of remembrance at the end of May. It illustrates pretty well:

Right now, I am watching you eat a snack while you read at the table. It's leftover mac 'n cheese and you heated it up yourself.  I smiled as I watched you eat, with your elbow lifted high so as to avoid the cup of water placed near your bowl to the right.  Always does this happen, and always are we moving the cup over and out of the way so you can eat with your arm down and removing the risk of you knocking over your cup, which is pretty high.  I watched you, thinking how endearing it was, wondering how long it would last.  And I swear to you, just as I thought these things, you paused your eating, moved your cup over and out of the way, and resumed.  You are growing up. :(  

Do you ever just sit and watch someone you care about? Sort of from a distance? Noticing their movements, their mannerisms.  Reflecting on them, being a quiet witness to a moment in their day, their life? Examining who they are or at least seem to be? It's kind of the best. I feel like I captured something magical because I decided to be still and simply observe.

To illustrate further, here's a picture I put up on Instagram near Mother's Day:

He came with me to pick up some banh mi kind of far away, just to keep me company.  I asked him why he was so good and he said he was just returning the favor of me birthing him, that he would always be returning that favor.  While sitting here he opened his bag of pandas and handed me some.  After a minute I reached my hand out for more and, nose in his Reader's Digest, he misunderstood and moved the book over so he could hold my hand while he read.  I felt a little bad that what I really wanted was another panda but he smiled with it all because he is the very best boy i have ever known in my life. 

Here he is on on the last day of 3rd grade and another instagram pic:

Really, this is who he is.  He often says things to me like, "thanks, m'ladeh" or, in a southern drawl,
"where did a babe like you come from?" or, "you are my sultan..." and refers to himself
as Don Juan.  I mean, what do I do? what does one do? 

But he's amazing. He is chill, he is hilarious, he is kind and thoughtful and giving.  He does jobs he knows I hate like emptying the dishwasher and feeding the cats-- just so I don't have to do them. ON HIS OWN. He is responsible, doing things because he knows he should. He makes us laugh, is quick to right his wrongs.  In many ways, he is so changed that I have to be so careful to tread lightly with my reprimands. Keep them gentle and short, if they are even necessary in the first place.  Because he is quick to correct himself, to apologize, to fix it. He is so obedient, but still fun.  It makes me feel a little bit terrible, like I have been this mean monster mom and now he's like, "nice mom...good mom..."  He just wants to make me happy. Sigh.

I guess what it is is he's finally caught up to his emotions a bit and it has never been such smooth sailing as it is these days. I am in awe of him. Several weeks ago I expressed my stress at making sure he had enough friend time, social time, which has been one of my main concerns on my long list of Julian's needs to tend to.  He has a few friends but not many and I often feel a lot of pressure about it. Until this happened.  He put his hand on my shoulder, looked at me, and said, "Mom, it's ok. I'm fine. I'm my own friend. I like playing with people but I love reading and pacing and playing with legos."      I'm my own friend.  {burst into tears face}  I asked him why he was so good (a constant question) and he said, "Because I'm happy!"  Again, ugly cry face.

The other day I was trying to drive us somewhere I wasn't familiar with. First, I nearly missed the turn and had to hit the brakes and turn awkwardly, making us laugh. Then I got on the roundabout and missed the exit road and had to circle back around which is always funny, like I'm doing a roundabout just for fun.  He commented, "comedy of errors!"  And I'm like, who is this kid? WHO?

Last summer I signed him up for a lego class at the community center.  He was interested but when the time came to part ways, he flipped out as he's done many times in the past due to being prone to separation anxiety, and was like, "NOPE. Not doing it" and I, learning form the past, knew to quickly say, "YUP, you're going to love it. It won't last forever. I can't wait to hear about it, bye!" and flee.  When I picked him up he was so happy and loved it the whole week, even though he didn't know anyone else there.

I signed him up again for this summer . He started this week and when I had finished signing him in, he was already on the floor building things with kids. I tried to get his attention to say goodbye but he was in the zone, so i just left. So weird and wonderful. I thought that might be it for summer camps but then at the end of the school year Sean and I saw him perform in a little class play where he had a million lines that he memorized and he delivered them so well and was so funny! We shouldn't have been surprised, but we kind of were. It was so fun to see him in a new setting like that. I asked him if he'd be interested in a drama class or something and he said he would be. Though I had my doubts, I found one at a local theater and asked him again if he'd like to take it. He said he would. I said, "even thought you won't know anyone?"  "Sure."  And he did it! Happily! Every day! Not one speck of hesitation even though he was the only boy, an environment I'm sure would suit him just fine (and it did). He had a good time even though the class wasn't quite what he wanted it to be.  I was dying at all of this. It's just so different, so so different from the way things used to be. I'm so humbled by the change in him.  Can hardly believe it.  He's amazing.

When Julian was about 5.5 years old, we attended a friend's wedding in Nashville, TN.  Kids were not included in the invitation but this was a dear friend who knew and loved Julian well so he was a part of the group. But there weren't many kids there other than family.  At the reception party there was dancing and Julian TORE IT UP.  We had no idea he had it in him. I remember taking him to the bathroom and he was frantic to finish and get back on the dance floor.  Sean and I sat agape watching him spin out to the beat under the flashing lights.    He dances here and there when he's really feeling it and it always kills me.  The other day he and I were at the mall when he made up a dance move. He said, "it's a combination of the floss and the dab. I call it The Flab."   HA!  So proud, for so many reasons.  Here's a video:

Since we were on a roll, I told him there was a hip hop dance camp and asked if he'd want to do that. He said he would and we'll see if it happens but I can't get over how willing he is to put himself out there and try new things. How unafraid he is to be on his own, and his ability to recognize that he has a place no matter where he is or who he's with.

He's also quite civically-minded.  We've been working on getting rid of single-use plastic in our home and now he's considering starting a campaign to do so at his school. The other day we went to Walmart after a huge storm and all the trees had been knocked over. It was quite a sad scene and Julian jumped to their rescue while Sean and I sat on a nearby bench and chatted because he is a better human being than we are.

red shorts in the background

We've been running around like crazy the past two weeks. Parades and festivals. Carnivals and fairs. Camps and piano lessons and museums. Hikes and a mini-trip back up to ID. Summer worksheets because, MATH. Movies in the park. Weekly food trucks. It's all been so fun (esp. the math).  Julian is game for everything.  Our library was inviting community members to be in the parade dressed as aliens to go with the summer reading space them.  Sean whipped up a couple of aliens and Julian and a friend marched in the parade while we cheered him on. The boys loved it. I reflected, thinking if I'd done anything right as a parent, it was instill in my child a love of being in parades.

It was 50 degrees this day. I'll take a cool parade over a sweaty hot one any day, there, I said it!

We got him a phone watch (watch phone?) this summer. He can call and send texts but voice messages work best as the texting is limited to the programmed phrases already in the phone as well as a handful of emojis. But he can receive any kind of text from whatever number is on his contact list. So far it's worked quite well. I love sending him away knowing we can be in touch if necessary.  After the parade he went to the nearby park where the carnival was happening. Sean and I later joined up so i could win a prize in the baking contest, WHICH I DID. WITH MY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES.  It was second place and i was excited about it because they were totally over-baked. So just think what's going to happen next year when they're baked right.   And actually, Sean won the prize, because I had submitted a pie as well and was worried there could only be one item per entrant, so I signed him up. Good job, Sean! It was awesome. Winning things is the best.   While that was happening, Julian was running wild, getting soaked in the soapy suds jumpy thing and running from friend to friend from school, pausing only to grab a bite of chicken here and there.  Ah, summer.

We stay up too late and wake up not late enough.  I am busy driving a lot as I've signed myself up for a golf class in Salt Lake.  I'm hoping it helps me with my tennis game, to be honest, but it is definitely tricky.  I'm not sure how much I love the sport but I enjoy learning new things and getting a good stroke or swing or whatever in, out of dozens of failed attempts, creates quite a euphoric feeling.  I feel like George Costanza-- "that's it, I'm out!" wanting to leave on a high note.  It's frustrating not being good at it. But it's also a little therapeutic to whack at a ball for an hour and a half.

We read a lot. I've read two biographies recently and Julian is finishing up his set of Nancy Drews he got from the little library exchange box off the nearby bike trail.  We both signed up for the summer reading program and it is rigorous! In a very good way.  I read Rob Lowe's biography which was entertaining and kind of silly, but not horrible.  There were some poignant moments. Also read Trevor Noah's which I loved. It's about his growing up in South Africa and it was very eye-opening, thought-provoking, very well-written and entertaining. Highly recommend.

Julian asked me if there was a way he could earn some money. I told him I was feeling bake-y so we could have one big epic bake sale.  In one day, I made:

  • strawberry rhubarb crumble (my 3rd of the season and I finally fixed all my previous errors)
  • salted chocolate crack pie
  • classic tart apple
  • banana cream
  • and of course, the chocolate chip cookies for weirdos who don't like pie

    All of it homemade-- ALL OF IT! It was amazing.  I made the crusts the day before (pro tip) but other than that, all of the rest was completed from 12:00-4pm.  I was kind of proud of myself and found myself in a strange kind of baking flow. You know, where things just go right, all the steps fall into place. All the little things that need to be made first are made first and chilled.  It was glorious. I have zero pictures, sadly, but the pies were ALL good and that's all i ever wanted in my life:  For all the pies I made to be good.  And Julian made bank and lived happily ever after. 
He had been a little sick a few days prior and I asked him, "how's your head?"  He replied, "Good!" then quietly, "...i like it a lot."   which just made me giggle.   Then he told me a joke he said he made up. I'm not sure I believe him but he said he did:

Q: What do you call a train that's in the station?

obviously we need a cat picture. tender.

i love these scenes. also sean's rain jacket can't go unacknowledged. i'm pretty jealous. 

He is so adorable, i can't stand it. those cool blue glasses, those dimples.

He told me the other day, "I didn't know it was Amsterdam and not Hamsterdam."  

on a recent hike. Julian conquered the mountain.

Time is flying by more swiftly every day. I can feel it and see it in the kid before me.  I know the summer will be the same, and as I finish up this blog post I am inclined to reflect back on the title-- I said I was in love with summer, but it may be that I'm really in love with the boy.

"Gimme all your fours." 

Monday, June 10, 2019


I'm in the midst of a stepping away of sorts.  Ever since I moved to Utah I've wrestled with the question and a definitive identifier of whether or not I need to be alone or with people.  Introversion? Extroversion? I think I have both needs, but I also think living in the city, I got used to living a certain way and, regardless of my own personal needs, it was a lifestyle and in this new place it was different.  So was being around people a need? Or just something i'd gotten used to?  I think both but that's always made it difficult for me find the answer i'm looking for. (We moved almost five years ago and in case you're skeptical, yes, I'm still adjusting to living here.)

So, recently I realized I'm really tired.  Tired of making things happen, tired of searching for the meaning in each and every thing or interaction.  Tired of organizing, hosting, planning, proposing. Tired of being afraid that if I'm in my house for a certain length of time, only bad things happen.   I spent the first couple of years here seeking outward. Of course I was very comfortable with all the inward business.  Being alone, knowing who I am or am trying to be.  Introspection. These are familiar places.  But the social aspect was a puzzle, and with a lot of confusing pieces.  Who, how, what exactly.  Another challenge was that I had left my tribe and adopted myself into another, but was there really a place for me here? Could I force anything to happen? Should I?

It's all very complicated but the answer I've come to of late, at least to that last question, is no.  I don't want to force it.  I'm tired and I need a break.  In all kinds of ways.  For example, I'm putting some distance between me and Facebook.  I realized I don't want to really know that much about my neighbors whereas when I first moved here I was desperate for that feeling of community and connectedness.

I really appreciate good friends but I've decided not to put so much pressure on myself to make things happen with them.  People are busy and life is complex, and so are friendships, for that matter.  I'm simplifying by removing any sense of obligation from my hands when I feel it doesn't procure for myself much reward.  I suppose you could call this the plight of the introvert- they love social interactions but it can be very draining, depending on the circumstance.  I've found that my required circumstances are quite particular these days.  I've always been very selfish in that, in general, if it doesn't benefit me, I mostly stay away. I'm not a pleaser, in other words, except for my own self. I try to be a giver, when I can, and I've learned a lot from self-sacrifice. But lately I guess I'm just garnering less and less pleasure from unnecessary things, so I'm rethinking my methods.

The other day at a family gathering, I sneezed and my sister-in-law hollered from across the way, "bless you!"  I told her that a few days before, I'd been outside and heard a neighbor sneeze. I'd been tempted to yell "bless you!" but refrained because that would reveal my presence and we agreed we like to do whatever we can to encourage, or at least not discourage neighbors from doing or saying anything that we might be able to overhear and find entertaining without their knowing.  I'm pretty sure everyone feels this way. You like to pretend no one can hear you and you hope they think we can't hear them.

As part of my self-prescribed isolation, I've been doing a lot of reading.  This winter was a doozy for me in that I think every last ounce of vitamin D in my body completely dried up.  The lack of sun was a problem. Also, the perpetual cold weather well into spring chilled me out to the max, like I found it difficult to just get WARM.  So my favorite thing to do these days is sit out in the mornings and read in the sun.  This morning I had plunged fairly deeply into an old favorite, The Hours by Michael Cunningham, which is so beautifully written, I have to retrain my brain to pause and feast on the words and consume them by piecemeal.   As I was reading about Virginia Woolf sitting down to write, I took in the following words:

At this moment there are infinite possibilities, whole hours ahead.  Her mind hums.  This morning she may penetrate the obfuscation, the clogged pipes, to reach the gold.  She can feel it inside her, an all but indescribable second self, or rather a parallel, purer self.  If she were religious, she would call it the soul. It is more than the sum of her intellect and her emotions, more than the sum of her experiences, though it runs like veins of brilliant metal through all three.  It is an inner faculty that recognizes the animating mysteries of the world because it is made of the same substance, and when she is very fortunate she is able to write directly through that faculty.  Writing in that state is the most profound satisfaction she knows, but her access to it comes and goes without warning.   She may pick up her pen and follow it with her hand as it moves across the paper; she may pick up her pen and find that she's merely herself, a woman in a housecoat holding a pen, afraid and uncertain, only mildly competent, with no idea about where to begin or what to write. 

I thought about me and about my life, what I'm doing and what I want.  I thought about this stepping away, wondering if there will every be a return or if I will continue down a different path entirely, as I continue to shift into this new lifestyle. Wondering if I've mostly only mentally stepped away, as opposed to physically.  I thought about how to reconcile my desire for isolation with my desire for adventure and stories. And I thought about Emily Dickinson with whom I've recently reconciled, as mentioned, and how she lived an isolated life with a few family members, perhaps a brother for a neighbor, and very few visitors. I thought, if she can live like that and still write good things, maybe so can I.

As I read my book and thought these thoughts, I could hear some children playing in a nearby fenced-in yard and their mother giving them instruction.  I pictured myself sitting there, hood pulled over my head to protect my neck from the sun, reading and thinking, invisible to my neighbors, my presence undisclosed to them.  I thought about my other neighbor who had sneezed and how I had enjoyed it, like I'd accidentally overheard some big secret.  I reveled in that delicious feeling of blameless eavesdropping, a super spy hidden to the whole world where no one would ever find me and I could sit in the sun and read my books and exist solely to do those two things.  And then I sneezed.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Hugs

When I was first married, I incorporated a lot of physical affection into my relationship. That sounds weird.  HUGS. I'm talking about hugging.  I got so used to having someone around to hug all the time that when I'd take solo trips to visit my family, I'd find myself having this automatic impulse to reach my arms out and needing a body to wrap them around. Which also sounds weird. But it's true. I felt a strong need to hug.  It was a little awkward being like "uhh.. I need a hug."  But fortunately my mom is a hugger and was happy to oblige.

Fast forward to now when Julian and I hug approximately 800 times a day. Basically whenever we pass each other.  A lot of the time a declaration of "I just can't stop hugging you!" or something like it accompanies.  Is it weird? Who knows.  Do I love it? Yes, I do. Also,  I read somewhere that a child needs four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance, and twelve for growth, whatever that means.  But if it's true, then Julian is not only surviving, he's thriving. He and I are both properly maintained, and growing exponentially.  Also I feel like I even more recently read that, specifically for teenagers, hugs should last at least 8 seconds.  This could get weird for some people.  It seems to far surpass the appropriate "hug break" moment and lingers into awkward territory.  I don't have a teenager so we'll see what happens but for now, the long, lingering hug is nooo problemo.   I love it and it is very good for me.  Plus Julian's entering that sweet spot height where he can just nestle into me and I don't have to bend over very much.  He's going to pass me by so fast, gosh dang.

I've had a few experiences lately where I was standing with a friend, words were exchanged (not "words," just words) and a hug window seemed to open for me and I took it by saying, "let's hug."  It felt right.  I feel the hug announcement is totally acceptable and might even be appreciated for the reluctant hugger.  It could have come in handy for me, i'll tell you. But it's an invitation and keeps me in the practice of hugging even if I'm not naturally inclined to go hugging whomever I interact with throughout my day. I don't hug everyone and the hugging window is brief and subtle, and can easily go unnoticed. But I think it's an important skill to hone and habit to perpetuate.  And I'll just keep practicing at home with a squirt who fortunately, like me, just can't get enough. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Important Things

The other day I was reading aloud to Sean from the Reader's Digest (naturally) and came to an article listing useless facts.  "We'll see," I said to myself.  Sure enough, I came across one that I found VITAL to know.  It is thus:

Apparently, the 3 longest words you can type with your left hand are:


At which Sean loudly scoffed was a waste of time and space and he was worse for knowing it. I, in turn, scoffed even louder and harder that that was because he didn't type using home row and didn't understand! He would never understand!  Also, because he's a lefty, he's probably just jealous and bitter. Finally something just for him and he can't even participate in it.

So let's all go ahead and try it.

tesseradecade--fun! I stumbled a bit.
aftercataracts- whew, that's a workout.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Someone's Day

It wasn't until I had a child that I realized motherhood wasn't really for me. When Julian was born,  all the instincts that came with this new embarkment, though present, felt foreign and not naturally me. I felt imposed upon, like I had been rewired, reprogrammed, all of a sudden. Like I just been informed I wasn't a human after all but a robot, now controlled by a tiny unassuming master. Let's see you come to terms with that new bit of info.  My body felt unfamiliar and began new functions automatically.  Could this be an upgrade? It didn't feel like it. I still wasn't super happy about realizing I wasn't who I thought.  Nothing felt normal, felt right.

The early years were rough and I realize now they were straight up traumatic. That's the funny thing about trauma. You never know it's trauma when you're in the middle of it. I had a baby with a lot of needs and was alone to meet them most of the time.  I remember someone asking me early on how I felt about being a mother. I considered it and said, "it's alright." That was the best I could do.  Because it definitely had its moments.  But I always wondered when I would feel like a mother.  It certainly wasn't when I was pregnant.  This freakish event felt so completely surreal the entire time and though I enjoyed the novelty and miraculous nature of it, I loathed the feeling of being overtaken by some tiny alien, never knowing what new mystery would reveal itself on any given day, the growing discomfort, the looming, inextinguishable fear that accompanies the unknown.  I struggled with it and, given my past experiences, wouldn't even allow myself to believe that anything viable would come of this, something to "mother."  Inconceivable. In no way was this possible, nor was tomorrow guaranteed, a lesson I have applied to my general outlook on life.  (Heck, on the same day I found out I was pregnant, I also convinced myself it was ectopic and all for naught) Preparing for it felt idiotic because I had no idea what to expect, but more than that, it just didn't feel real that this would be, in any way, a permanent fixture in my life.  So "nesting" was definitely not in the forefront (or back) of my mind at any time in my pregnancy. It made no sense to me. Sean read the books on pregnancy and breastfeeding, not me. He shopped for the supplies a baby might need and I came along, very reluctantly. It was all I could do to remain zen and cope and come to terms with it all. All I could do. So when people would refer to me as a "mama" I thought, that's funny, but no. I just have this protuberance in me that seems to be growing.  That bit of knowledge was all I could handle at the time.

It definitely wasn't in the hospital when I saw him for the first time. In fact, it took me a long time to even want to.  Is this normal for a mother? I am not sure.  During labor, I gratefully took meds and when the time came, my body pushed and I helped. He was small and taken away to be cleaned and wrapped and Sean kept asking me if I wanted to see him. "Not yet,"  I said, because grappling with the fact that something living had just come out of me was all I could handle at the time. I'm still not over it.

I didn't recognize him when I saw him. I admired him and marveled at him, but I couldn't connect him to anything other than a baby who they all told me I was to take home now.  In no way did I feel like a mother when I took him to the breastfeeding class but, as I think I've mentioned, when I looked down at him, small and sweet, I do remember thinking what an amazingly lifelike doll they had given me for this class I was apparently to take.  The technology these days, I'll tell ya. Do I remember anything else from that class? Of course not.

The instincts came in that I should be taking care of this thing, while simultaneously suffering some post-birth issues. Having expelled the master, my body then turned on me with a vengeance. To this day I untrustingly do all I can do to appease it, to just make it happy for one more day. I learned that it doesn't, actually, work for me, but the other way around.  I saw a new doctor 3 days postpartum and several times thereafter.  I was on drugs, had a week's help from my mother, bless her, and another week's help from Sean, bless him, and then my survival and that of a tiny one was left entirely in my hands.

The following weeks, months, and years were one great repeated cycle of learning and coping.  Learning how to do a thing and then having to unlearn it or adjust the learning to fit a new need.  As I said, the instincts came in but they weren't from me.    Often I would look at Sean and say, "who is this? How did he get here?"  We would joke about our new roommate taking up more than his share of the room, the rent. My friends would talk about not remembering life before kids but I did. I remembered it very well. Because this new change, though earth-shattering, was temporary. I knew it. I felt it. And I had learned to appreciate my life before when I had had it, so yes, I could remember it very well indeed.

I would hear the way other women would talk about motherhood, their attitudes and experiences. Some I shared and related to but I could never shake the feeling I harbored of being a reluctant mother.  It's how I identified myself.  Yes, I'm in this situation same as you, but it was never really supposed to happen this way, and certainly not one designed with me in mind.  And that has carried on to this very day, and I've never really met anyone who seems to feel as I do. I noticed I was a little bit different from other moms around me. They didn't speak of it the same way I did. I realized it may all have been more traumatic for me, not because of anything new or different on the part of the wee one, but because of who and what I am.  Or maybe I'm just someone who's willing to admit that though we're taught that we're supposed to love it, maybe I just don't, really. Perhaps for me, it was more about the job to do, rather than the role to fill. Having Julian grow was fantastic. Each year was better than the last.  I enjoyed him being small and chubby and adorable because he was very much those things. Watching him learn to talk and [at long last] walk.  Being there for every new thing, every thing at all.  But they were also brutal, those early years, and I said a happy sayonara to each one. 

I remember the first time I thought I felt something like a mother.  He was a couple of months old and in some discomfort.  Like a nature observer who lives and breathes a certain wildlife species, I only noticed the discomfort because I was able to compare those moments to the other 1439 minutes of the day that he and I had been in one another's presence and sense something was different, wrong.  He hadn't pooped in a while, something I'd learned was very normal with newborns, and seemed to be hurting, as anyone would.  Determined to do something about it, I laid him down on a diaper on a towel on my bed in some dim lamplight, gave him some gas meds, and held his knees up so his bum was sort of in the air.  I'm telling you this because the moments I have felt like a mother are so few in my mind, it's worth mentioning. At least the first.   And you know what? It worked. He pooped. I did it.  We did it.  I had accomplished something and was overjoyed that it seemed beneficial that I was to be the one taking care of this tiny one, that it mattered that it was me. 

I taught him a lot of things, but so would any adult put in charge of a small person.  I loved him the more I got to know him but he also punished me for being his mother, because I knew him best, because he was most comfortable with me, because I was his designated caregiver.  I recognized that that was what happened with kids and their moms, that this was a thing, but I really resented it at times.  Through it all, I appreciated his existence, never taking any of it for granted, as ill-suited for it as I was. He is an anomaly, a creature of coincidence, and I still can't believe he's here. 

These days, I reflect on our time together, watching our relationship take shape and deepen.  Our love is strong and he and I dote on each other daily, accompanied by several long and intense hugs.  I embrace him whenever he's near and I smell him and squeeze him, poke his dimples, and note his ever-changing height, every time. Because I still don't understand where he came from, how he got here, and I can't shake the feeling that he isn't truly mine.  I can't stop wondering when this kid's real mom is going to come and pick him up. I often say things like this to him and he exasperatingly replies, "YOU are my real mom. YOU are."  I enjoy it. But me? Mother? No, I don't even know what that means.  Long term babysitter? Yes, absolutely.  Motherhood is a drag and I am no good at it,  but I am an AWESOME babysitter.  An amazing babysitter. I give him fun things, tell him stories, teach him tricks and give him a bed at night, all while I wait and wonder. 

If I don't feel like a mom now that he's 9.75, I'm not sure I ever will.  Designated caregiver, interim babysitter. Steward, guardian, safekeeper? I like all of these things. Friend, sister, instructor, companion, these I understand. Perhaps at times my role is as monitor, a witness. That my purpose in relation to him is to simply watch him grow and see for myself what it's like, the spectacle of life, and that it does, indeed, seem to always find a way. I can get on board with that. Scientist! Every day a new experiment, a new theory postulated. Yes.

But mother? Never. It's a task, a role too great, one designed for failure. It is just too hard. I am utterly beguiled by it. The term is fraught with unattainable, illusory expectation and insurmountable pressure, dictated by presumption and preconception. I subscribe to none of it.   In fact, were I to answer again that question I was asked early on, i might say, "How do I feel about motherhood? Actually, I kind of hate it.  But, I LOVE him."

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Lava Hot Springs

Once upon a time when I was a kid, we went to a family reunion to Lava Hot Springs, ID. I don't remember much, just a few details but it mostly feels like a weird dream. I don't know how we got there, what exactly was there, and how it fit in with the rest of the universe.  So it's stayed still and stranded in my mind, like a tiny misfit creature uncategorized.

I even went a few years ago, just stopped to soak in some hot springs for a few, and the details of that are just as hazy.  Maybe I need to get my memory checked? Well, anyway, Julian and I recently went over our spring break and it was basically the greatest little trip ever.  I know I say that about everything but it would appear these little mini-trips just keep getting better.

I discovered something.  I don't have a bunch of kids or even more than one so it's easy for me to give my full attention to my child. I don't have to schedule my time or attention and the only time Julian is competing for it is when the whole whopping three of us are all in the car together and Julian has to wait a few minutes while Sean and I are in the middle of a conversation.  It's hilarious when Julian mentions being impatient about it.  In fact, today I asked if he wanted to go on a boring errand with me, mostly as a joke because I know he hates it. But he said, "Can we talk on the way there?"  "What? Of course."  "Great, let's go!" Haha! Because the kid loves car conversation and we live in an alternate universe where this is our reality, people. 

Oh, back to what I discovered. So in spite of our perhaps unusual circumstance, going on a trip with just the two of us was markedly different, and awesome. I highly recommend it if you can swing it.  I felt like I got to know and see him in a new light even though I thought I had him figured out pretty well.  The jokes were incessant, he was killing me the entire time, he was fun, thoughtful, game for anything, and it was so fun to go to this chill place with no schedule or plans and see where the day or the one main road in the whole town took us.    We had such a great time. But I think I finally spent some good cognitive time there in Lava, and locked down what makes it unique and a little bit surreal:

1. It's tiny. Population 400 or something. It has one main street with rentals and shops and hot pools and old structures lining the place.

2. It's old. It was a sort of resort town in the early 1900's, particularly when they got the rail built in the 19-teens. In fact, I think our hotel was built in 1918. That feels legit. Also, except for a few updates, they seem to have attempted to maintain its old timey vibe which made it extra trippy. A place out of time, I would describe.  Some might call it "run down" but there are truly old structures there and either they gave up the maintenance long ago or just decided to rebrand it as "historic."  Whatever it is, it's working.

3. It's secluded.  The drive there was bizarre in that you drive off the beaten path for a while and just as you're wondering if you're going to have to park and hike to it, you're there.  This little corner pocket of a town.

4. The hot pools are unusual, at least to me. Most "resorts" are summer places but I'm not so sure that's the peak season at Lava.   On our trip, it was still quite wintry there, just right for a scalding hot pool. Misty weather with temps in the 50's.  Perfect.  Since I freeze even at the mere thought of being cold, this was great for me. All pools should be 102 degrees.   It seemed that there were several shops that weren't up and running but we made our own fun and it was glorious to sit in the pool and watch the sun set behind billowy dark clouds and snowy mountains. 

As usual, I kept a trip log, mostly of Julian quotes. I also took some pictures. So you're getting both. Let us proceed:

Our hotel, as mentioned, was quaint, cozy, and old. There was a huge radiator (not working) in our room which made me super happy. Julian had trouble opening the bathroom door so he needed help exiting.  Later on I was ready to go and a dialogue took place that made me giggle:
JEN: Hey, let's go.

JULIAN: Ok, one sec. I need to use the bathroom.  Be sure you're ready to rescue me when I can't open the door."   

His quick, dry delivery gets me every time.

In the office they had a soda vending machine from the 40's which made me even happier: 

Somehow I had no cash and no coins on me so one of our trip goals was scouring the town for loose change for that machine. Man, I love old timey things.

They had a tiny museum there which was quirky and run by two little old ladies. I have no pics but it was perfect for the place, informative and weird, and it requires a shout-out.

We walked up and down the main street just looking around and chatting and laughing. At one point we stopped for ice cream at the ice cream shop.

JULIAN: I have big questions for ice cream places.

JEN: Like what?

JULIAN: Like, 'what keeps you from losing your mind and pulling off the refrigerator thing and diving into the ice cream?'        

"I have big questions."-- {squint eyes, huge smile}

Along our walk, Julian pointed to a bottle shoved into a pile of dirty snow.

JULIAN: Oh nooo, there's a bottle in there. :( :(   Wait, what is this?

JEN: It's old dirty snow.

JULIAN: What? I thought it was a rock! *begins kicking snow pile* That's for tricking me!

did we even get the bottle out? i'm not sure.
Totem poles:

bottle caps
JULIAN: Hey, is that another totem pole?
JEN: What? No, it's just a dead--wait--
JULIAN: No it isn't, there's stuff carved there!
(I think there was a bear on the other side.)

JEN: How'd you get to be so funny? Who taught you that?"

JULIAN: I'm self-taught. But it's hard coming up with jokes all the time.

JEN: Boy, I get that.

There are rental places all along the main street for pretty cheap. Just saying. If you need a quick weird getaway. It would be a fun place to go with friends and be like, "well, we're here, now."  But Julian and I brought games and spent some quality downtime in our room, too.  Movies, games, candy. It's sort of fun when there aren't a million things to do. Takes the pressure off, you know.
JEN: I keep sending Dad stuff we're doing.

JULIAN: I know. Every time I say something funny I notice you pausing to take it down.

"Take it down"?? xD (-- old school emoticon)

The food was fair. Homestyle food, I suppose. The pizza at the pizza place was abhorrent. But don't listen to me, uber-snob.  However, for breakfast one day after I'd ordered half the menu because I like a variety, I re-discovered marble rye and I AM OBSESSED.  Add that to my ever-increasing list of old person foods I now love.  I ate every slice with jam.

rye toast and oatmeal, hash browns with gross poached eggs.
Why do I keep ordering poached eggs at these places?

JULIAN: I am FULL. I ate like a whale. Well, actually whales eat kind of neatly. I ate like a ravenous lion. 

JEN: Whales eat neatly?

JULIAN: Yeah, they kind of glide through the water, waiting for the krill or whatever to enter their teeth.

JEN: Yeah, you don't really eat that way.

JULIAN: Yeah, I don't walk through the air, waiting for food to hit me in the face.

Hahaha.  The beautiful thing about his humor is he continues the joke to make it the funniest possible. He carries out the ridiculous scenario to provide the funny visual, like I was hoping he would.  The best joke is a complete joke and he gets it, he just gets it.

Over dinner one night we had a debate about whether a particular pepper was a jalapeno or a banana pepper. Julian was certain it was a jalapeno and i said nay. Turns out we were both wrong, it was a pepperoncini, which apparently everyone calls a peppercini, and we learned something about peppers that day. Then we dared each other to eat it with hot sauce, which I accepted and it was fine, just fine.

We were there for two days. On the first day we found the weeeeirdest hot pools. Not a soul was in sight so I wasn't even sure they were in use. They looked like ancient ruins the Greeks might have soaked and philosophized in.  But no, people were in them later and we joined them.  I snapped some pics:

the kiddie pool?

no cavorting. This pool was the coldest out of them and too chilly for me.

hot pool with an even hotter one next to it.
There was a fixture in the pool, maybe a spout for the water, like a fountain burbling, and the water it was pouring into the pool was BOILING.  Julian was laughing and making fun of my self-interrupted observations and crazed, hot-water induced slurred speech:
JULIAN: Oof, that is hot
JEN: Oh, my gosh, that is BURN YOU hot. Oh look, stairs.

Easily distracted. Sitting in these temps makes you feel like a super relaxed frog slowly cooking to death and not caring about it. We were so slothfully subdued. At one point a group of people walked by and one person dropped a sweatshirt. They didn't notice but I did but I was powerless to do anything about it.  I think I may have pointed and gurgled something.  A while later they returned and they were luckily within the range of my sleepy voice and I said,

"Oh hey, one of you dropped something over there."

PERSON: Oh, is that yours, Brad?

JEN: I saw it happen but couldn't get out of the pool... (trailing off. feeling the need to explain myself, with this lame explanation)

THEM: ha ha ok, well thank you.

JEN: Sure thing. I'm glad you came back, ha ha.  ... because I was never going to follow you.
There are newer pools at the other end of the main street and we hit those up the next day. They were HOOTTTTT. Julian was pretty heated through by then but I was good. But we could never handle the hottest pools.

Like I said, we made our own fun. At one point Julian exclaimed, "Hey, let's go to the hardware store!" which made me laugh because the hardware store is the least fun place I can think of, but there really wasn't much to do. But we went in anyway, looking for nothing, which made it fun. We entered and the man in charge greeted us and asked us if we were looking for anything and I said, "Nope, just browsing... as one does in the hardware store..."   I guess it's just the last place in my world I would go just to browse. "Ooo, toilet seats!"

Ooo, knobs and handles!

We passed the copper couplings.
JULIAN: I got my finger stuck in one of these once.  I was crying for like an hour.

JEN: I dare you to put your finger in it.

JULIAN: Wha-NO! I was crying for AN HOUR.

I wanted to hike up to the "L" on the mountain but it was pretty steep and still snowy and muddy. Also I coudn't actually see the L bc of the snow.  We tried to hike but kept sliding all around so we bailed and went for a walk along some kind of bank. It was there that I realized just how much I love moss, which is a lot:

JULIAN: I need to earn some money. I want to go on a cruise... just my cat and I.

Julian had tried to wrap himself in his blankets and declared himself a burrito but I said "oh that's not a burrito, THIS is a burrito:"

Our hotel was near the mountain where the ol' train would come multiple times a day, one of them being early morning (woohoo).  Every time, we would sing, "she'll be comin' around the mountain when she comes" because I'm pretty sure that's the actual train that song was based on.

And that basically sums up our little jaunt. Will I be back to Lava? Oh yes I will. There is also a zipline excursion there that Julian and I need to try as well as floating down the river.

On our way home we stopped at the Hill Aerospace Museum which was frickin AMAZING.  I had never been and I was dying.  So many planes and flying things! I was completely overwhelmed. It was awe-inspiring, truly. Ex-military pilots were there to answer questions. We got to go inside a rescue-mission helicopter and I was just stunned. I asked the gentleman there, a pilot in Vietnam, "so... what..can you tell us?" I wanted to hear all the stories.  I didn't grab a picture but there were early fliers too. Julian had just done a report on the Wright Brothers so yay for that.

Here are a few pictures and I won't go into it but it was seriously the coolest. I am still thinking about it. Also, Julian and I recently watched a documentary on Netflix about the Memphis Belle Flying Fortress, a B-17 bomber. I'm pretty sure we saw one at the museum and it was nuts to see it in action in the documentary. Actual footage of an actual 1941(?) mission to Germany. Say what? It's short and has a Disney-esque vibe of the times. Check it out. 
yay bombs :|

Being so close to these great winged machines (some are just monsters) and reading about
them honestly made me be like, how is it possible that humans can fly? {cry face}
Also I felt quite a surge of patriotism which is, frankly, unusual for me.


Monday, April 29, 2019

Why Color Discernment Matters

When I was a teenager, my sister and I would play a game with the Big Box of crayons- you know, the giant box with multiple tiers holding 96 crayons,  that was almost as fun to look at as to use.  And she would select three crayons of similar colors, color with them, then tell me the names of each one and my job was to assign the correct color to the corresponding crayon.  Buttercup, Mellow Yellow, Goldenrod.   Turns out, I was surprisingly good at this.  This has never really benefited me in any real way other than in mundane moments when I'm able to discern a little bit better, which still isn't saying much because poor Sean struggles with the colors and I'm often staring at him like, really? you can't see that's red? Aww.  It's a bit of a bummer and makes me sad for him.

Since I like knowing the arbitrary names of things and acquiring useless skills, this is one I've always been proud of and value for no real reason... until a recent experience.  Several days ago, Julian's teacher sent an email out to parents saying there was a royal blue hooded jacket in their midst that two boys thought was theirs and she was asking for our help to figure out to whom it belonged.  I remember thinking it'd be nice if I could see a pic, but since she said "royal" I brushed it off, for we do not own any royal blue jackets. 

Fast forward to this morning when Julian told me, "Parker* and I were fighting over my jacket the other day. We both thought it belonged to us and the teacher wouldn't give it to me and I had to go to recess with no jacket.  But his jacket has a plastic zipper and mine's metal."   I remembered the aforementioned email and I said, "that was about YOUR jacket? She emailed us! But I didn't think it was yours."  

Although it was unnecessary, I then did an image search of royal blue vs. navy blue and I'll just let you be the judge-- even though I know I'm right--so actually, I'll just watch you come to the same conclusion I did.   You can't just throw around color names willy nilly when jacket ownership is on the line.   The good news is eventually they got it sorted out and Julian got his jacket back. The bad news is his teacher doesn't know her colors.  :( 

royal                                       navy

Also, as I sit here looking at these colors, navy has never really done it for me and I like royal even less.  But I realized there is an in-between color that ROCKS.  What is it, you ask? Care to venture a guess??

If you said COBALT, you are correct. It's awesome! And I would say, a combo of the two.
Go, cobalt!


*name changed

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Easter Things

The highlights of this year's Easter include:

- a couple of egg hunts. 

- praying really hard for spring. 
- pulling out all our million kits and having an egg dying blitz.
- going to church and not hearing one talk on Easter and also a really bizarre musical number which I will describe further. 
- discussing at length the difference between hope and faith and coming up with many possible conclusions but no one definitive answer.
- having a chocolate tasting with friends who appreciate the finer things.
- having Easter dinner a la Sean with these same friends and a glorious time with them. 

So it was announced that the choir would sing O Savior Thou Who Wearest a Crown and I was like, oh great! pulling out the big guns. < -- sounds sarcastic but is not. What I consider to be the official anthem of Easter, this is not for the faint of heart. Sean and I had our own special experience with this, if you'll recall.   But then what the choir actually sang was the words to the song to the music of If You Could Hie to Kolob, an interesting hymn in the book, yet resulting in a completely different song. I leaned over to Sean and said, "like... i like kolob, it's a nice song, but are we not going to get to hear the other music at all??"  I felt a little cheated.  Sean didn't quite get what I was saying, perhaps because he didn't hear me. Then a few minutes later he independently leaned over to me and said, "Kolob is a good song. A solid 8.8/10. But what you've done is replaced a 10/10 song and that is just wrong."  It made me laugh and we were both kind of like, why? Just... why? :(

So because I felt like it was inaccurately titled, I came up with a list of my own titles which I feel are a better representation of this completely unnecessary abomination mashup: 

- O Savior Thou Who Hies to Kolob
- If You Could Wearest a Crown

- If You Could Wearest a Crown to Kolob
- O Savior Thou Who Wearest a Crown to Kolob
- If You Could Hie to Wearest a Crown

And let us all remember, just because you can doesn't mean you should. Anyway, we came home and put on the real song and played it on repeat at least a dozen times.

Here are a few pictures to represent the Easter season 2019:

First, Julian at the piano. There isn't anything particularly Eastery about this other than he's doing AMAZINGLY these days, working vigorously at his recital songs with nary a complaint, and if that isn't a miracle, then maybe I don't believe in miracles.

"Hey, sounds great"
"Thanks. I'm determined."

Easter cats:

It took me a minute to remember the details of this next picture but I was sure glad when i did.  Sean had been dapperly mashing the potatoes when something went awry and he had a potatotastrophe...potato-splosion... potato bomb explode in his face. You can see bits of potato here and there. Julian and I took great joy in this.
extra large size for the readers

Our kitten is so weird. Also, she will always be a kitten.

"Want to see something super scary?"
"Yes, I d--YAAAGGHHH! No I don't! Put it away!!"


 I organized a little neighborhood egg hunt like that from my youth and some neighbors really pulled out all the stops. I don't remember what this style of decorating is called but I'm a big, big fan:

Here are my best eggs from our dying blitz. Not as impressive as above but I was pleased. Especially with this first one that I initially dotted with a sponge in purple dye and it looked really bad and gross, but I dropped it in a cup of dye and saved it in the end: 

Easter time is a time for chemistry and eggsperiments. I used to make these doodles all the time in Jr. High/High School. I'm glad I could resurrect them:

We had some friends over to dye eggs as well as a neighbor kid who came to play with Julian. It always amuses me when the friend comes over when we're doing something Julian isn't interested in but the friend totally is. It gives me a good kid replacement, doing crafts and whatnot with someone who will.  I try not to accidentally call the kid "Julian." 

I went to an art market and saw these interesting things. One is an artwork by a man who pressed and framed real, dried vegetables. He had peas, mushrooms, carrots, etc.  Here are some carrots. He was super pleased with himself as I would be were I to show my artwork at an art market:

 I love eggs so I was naturally drawn to this but I couldn't get past the fact that whoever cracked these eggs dropped the shells in with their yolks and just left them there. I mean... what:

Annual egg hunt at my parents'.  Here is just a handful of grandkids. Julian was super stressed because my sister always hides a golden egg and the finder gets a prize.  We told him to pretend the golden egg didn't exist and he said if he did find it he'd let someone else have it, two things that did NOT occur:  He found the egg and could not give it up in the end. Here they are: 

ready, set, go!

Getting a clue to find the well-hidden golden egg:

Easter dinner plating. Sean's menu:  lamb chops, ham, twice baked potatoes (one with shredded cheddar, one with goat cheese), carrot ribbons, asparagus, and fruit salad I don't have a picture of but he cut watermelons and pineapples into cubes the size of blueberries, so everything would match.

Oh, don't forget the parlsey pesto, aka gremolata, for the lamb. It was crazy.

Lastly, I snapped some pics of Julian in a completely empty church parking lot. This kid is just too cute.

To close, I found a new poem to add to my collection. I spotted a blip of it on a greeting card I bought and looked up the complete version. It's by Emily Dickinson and I liked it, especially since hope was a major theme of our Easter this year.  To celebrate Easter and mine and Emily's recent reconciliation, here it is:

 Image result for hope is the thing with feathers