Sunday, May 10, 2015


Jack's Mother's Day card included a poem thanking me for the things I do: make dinner, drive him around, play basketball with him. These little glimpses into how my kids see me are at times comical and at times humbling. I had no idea he appreciated my basketball playing so much.

I'm thirty eight years old and I've now lived half my life without my mom. My memories grow fuzzier with every year that passes and all of the new memories I'm storing. I remember that she wore a blue bathrobe that always had kleenex in the pockets. She used hand lotion religiously. She and I decided that sandwiches always taste better if someone else makes them, so we always made them for each other. When I was in high school she would come home on her lunch breaks during the summer and we would watch Days of Our Lives and eat cottage cheese. She had beautiful feet.

My brother and I were theatrically afraid of bees. When they got trapped in our house, she would assume an alter ego (De-Bee!) and wield two flyswatters to valiantly slay the offending insects.

She never played basketball with me. I am also fairly certain that she and her friends did not waste their time questioning their ability to mother us. I'm pretty sure that they just woke up in their Pinterest-free worlds and got the hell to work doing whatever felt right. I imagine that defining yourself as a mother back then was a lot simpler than it is today. But I'll never get to hear her thoughts on this.

I have friends who free-range, I have friends who helicopter. I have friends who push and friends who nudge gently. I drive my kids around from activity to activity a lot more than I'd like to. I wish my kids would eat more vegetables. I compare myself to strangers on the internet and catch myself feeling superior or inadequate. I wonder what my kids will remember about me.

 I wear a purple bathrobe with kleenex in the pockets. It's a good thing too, because my eyes well up when my kids present me with my Mother's Day cards. Some of it is simply sappy sentimentality (I get this from my mom), but with each Mother's Day comes a familiar empty pang that gets swallowed into the happy tears.

Today we went hiking.

Yes, earbuds. Earbuds!

And then, of course, I played basketball with Jack.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Day

"I'm taking tomorrow off," I announce to my sixth-graders.

"What are they making you do this time?" they wonder, accustomed to my many professional development endeavors and my subsequent episodes of "Guys, let's try something new that I learned about in a teacher training!"

"It's personal day. I'm taking the day off just for me," I explain, expecting them to wonder what in the world could possibly be more exciting than spending the day talking about the Aztecs or examples of foreshadowing in our current novel.

Instead they surprise me. "Good for you," they say. "You deserve it."

And so I sleep in (relatively speaking), and surprise the kids with waffles for breakfast. (From a box. They still count. Waffles are waffles.) The sun shines and Clementine and I go for a run. We cut through the park because I see clouds in the distance and Clementine has brought her doll who apparently wants to go down the slide. An older man is walking a yellow lab off leash. The dog is as thrilled by us as we are by him and jumps up on passers by with Bad Dog Marley enthusiasm. The man apologizes, but we smile because we are just happy to be off leash, too.

Clementine's doll belonged to my grandma. She used her for making American Girl type clothing and she's one of the many items I inherited when she died. At first I put her up on Clementine's shelf, but then I decided that dolls were meant to be played with and loved. So the doll is with us at the park and she's missing some pretty important parts of her American Girl wardrobe, but no one seems to mind and so we go down the slide.

I pick up trash from teenagers and I wonder who picked up the trash I left behind in the park when I was a teenager.

Photography is mostly unrelated.

Brent and I are so used to the divide and conquer routine that we almost miss the opportunity to pick Sawyer up from school together. We go out for crepes and coffee. We pick up a few beers for later. Sawyer is holding on to some birthday money and so he buys himself a new water bottle and then spends the rest of the day hydrating. Clementine has $5 and buys a tube of chapstick. She reapplies this approximately 200 times in the next few hours.

When Jack gets home we play basketball. Clementine pedals around the block. The boys jump on the trampoline and I laugh so hard at Brent's antics that I get a side ache. I wonder how he bounces with such elasticity and I feel envy. I sneak in a quick yoga session.

Sawyer has his first soccer game and he scores the first goal. Dark clouds roll in and threaten us, but no rain falls.

We get pizza for dinner and watch Back to the Future III.

I write this post and then it takes three weeks to publish it. I don't know if I'm too busy living to write about living or ir maybe I've run out of things to say. All I know is that I did deserve that day off three weeks ago and I'm glad I took it.

Beautiful things are happening around me every day. Maybe tomorrow I will pick up the camera again.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Ski Weekend That Wasn't

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small, medium, and large.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 2, 2015

Running with Clementine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My favorite are the whys.

"Mama, why we running?"

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


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

"Mama, why we running?"

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

"Mama, why we running?"

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


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

"Mama, why we running?"

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

"Mama, why we running?"

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


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

"Mama, why we running?"

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

"Mama, why we running?"

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

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

Sunday, January 18, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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