Wednesday, March 30, 2016

knee slapper

When my siblings and I were kids, we would go to the zoo on Easter. It was a tradition we shared with family friends: on the 4th of July we would go splash in their pool, on Easter we would head to the zoo. I remember one Easter in particular (I must have been around 13 because I remember I was wearing a loom seed bead necklace from Claire's). We were in the car, on the way to the zoo. Janice called Joel her "boy toy" which we sheltered home schoolers found hilarious. Joel said, "that's a knee slapper" and literally slapped his knee. But somehow, the gum he had been chewing ended up on his hand which splattered all over his knee. Then he had to gingerly pick gum remnants out of his leg hair. And I remember my Claire's necklace broke that day.

Twenty years later, I still think of that Easter and laugh. I laugh because Joel still says, "knee slapper" and still makes people laugh with his endearing charisma. He has been a "boy toy" to other women since. But mostly, it makes me smile because it was an ordinary moment that means nothing to anyone other than our family. But to our family, it is a moment cemented in our memories as something we enjoyed and shared. I texted my siblings the memory: we are all in our thirties now save Joel, but our childhood bond is still there, as if we just drove away from the kitchen table for a spell, but one day will resume our homeschooling together at that table, making snide comments and drawing pictures again like we used to under the guise of education.

I drove my own kids to the zoo yesterday, a few days after Easter. I wondered what moments will become memories for them. I always wonder how they will remember me as the mom of their childhood. Will they remember the me that yelled at them and nagged them? Will they remember the me that took them on all sorts of field trips and caved when they begged for candy or toys at the store? Will they remember me as always being at the computer or on my phone or on the treadmill? I hope they remember me for cuddling them to sleep each night, for dancing with them to Meghan Trainor and Coldplay. I hope they remember me the love, not the stress.

And I hope in twenty years, they are texting each other childhood memories that still make them laugh, despite decades of pain and hard lessons learned in the meantime. I hope they remember the love, not the stress.

Thursday, March 24, 2016


It's hard to believe it's here: two years have passed since this little one was born. He has been a catalyst for so much in our lives. I started writing again after he was born. Steve returned to school. I stopped working, but started focusing on our family. I started working out, training for a marathon.  Holden came in, this fresh new life that breathed new energy into us, too. He is this bundle of energy and force, and I suppose some of it has rubbed off on us, teaching Steve and I we can do more than we do, we can become more, become better.

Holden has tried my patience, tested my wills. He has made me realize I am stronger than I thought I was. He has also brought me so much joy and laughter. Watching him dance unabashedly has made my day countless times. Steve and I have marveled over the words he learns, the sentences he strings together, how quickly he is able to catch on to physical activities usually reserved for much older kids.

Holden is a daredevil on the slide, he has a scream that belongs in an 80's hair band. He squirms out of haircuts, he always requests bubble baths. He loves sweets as much as I do and started saying "ka-ka" to mean "chocolate" before he learned his brother's name. He would point at the Target sign and say, "cookie!" when they still gave out samples. Instead of nodding or grabbing, he says, "please" in response to your question if he wants something. He loves being read to each night and says, "again, again!" once you finish a book he likes.

On more than one occasion, I have apologized to strangers because Holden just walked up and smacked them. You would think he is fearless, but he is not. He is afraid of bees (and calls all insects "bees"). If he sees one, he runs to me and says, "mama, scared!" then I cuddle him into my chest and he pops his thumb into his mouth. He will play by himself for hours. He doesn't need anyone until he gets thirsty, then he will grab my hand and pull me to the fridge and ask for "juice please." He tries to help wash the dishes, but will act like he doesn't understand chore commands beyond that.

He always has a mischievous glint in his eye and I know his mind is churning a mile a minute. I can already imagine so many paths he might take in life, where they might lead him. But knowing him, he will surprise me and take a completely different one, one I hadn't even considered and become even more than I ever imagined. He is already a force to be reckoned with, with only two years under his belt. I can't imagine what he will accomplish with a few more. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Tonight, in yoga, we heard about prana:

Walking along a beach, I watched hundreds of little crabs digging tunnels into the sand. Each crab tunnel was the equivalent of my digging a tunnel twenty feet deep with my bare hands in thirty or forty seconds. This commonplace miracle was possible because it was necessary. If crabs are going to get by in this world, they are going to have to possess that much strength, that much life force - and so they have it. Life force is like that - ubiquitous and inexhaustible. Nothing is impossible for those who have it. 

I liked hearing that we possess the amount of strength we need. Some of us have heavier loads than others. Sometimes I feel my emotional burden is too heavy for me to carry; I feel very intensely. Emotions don't quickly come and go for me - they are anchors, grounding me in one place for a long time until I build up the strength to heave up the anchor. But I am strong enough to carry it. I have the life force I need for this life of mine. It is possible because it is necessary. Just like the crabs, if I am going to get by in this world, I will need to possess that much strength, that much life force - and so I have it.

And speaking of strength, I can do side crow now. Hooyah.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

bent arrow

In case you missed it, which is entirely possible with me being one of the few people without a Facebook account to naggingly remind you about it, yesterday was my birthday. Yesterday I turned 33. That is 1/3 of the way to 99. That is halfway to retirement. 30 didn't feel that old to me, but 33 does. I am now a good chunk through my thirties and I obviously think in fractions and the fractions this year don't lie. I am no spring chicken. In fact, I'm closer to that tired old hen that has quit laying eggs.

Getting older is no big deal, of course. It's inevitable and means growth and maturity, if you're doing it right. But I am not your average 33-year-old. For one thing, I work a minimum wage job. I am still chasing a dream that most people would have given up on a long time ago. I am still emotional and irrational and moody and impulsive. I have not outgrown many of youth's traits, but instead, I drag them into adulthood with me, which of course slows my speed toward maturity-my gait weakened to a crawl.

My favorite gift I received is this necklace Steve bought me - it is an arrow that is a little bent and it signifies me perfectly. Bent arrows are slower, they are wobbly, and they don't head straight for the target like straight arrows do. Bent arrows are hard to direct and frustrating as all hell - but they can still be used; they just require a bit more patience and guidance.
A tendency to fly too straight at a goal, instead of circling around it, often carries one too far. 
~Lin Yutang

Monday, March 7, 2016


Green buds are peeking through the filth that winter has left behind and spring is giving me a new hope, as I suppose it exists for. Winters here in Nebraska are long and dreary and we go weeks, sometimes months, without seeing the sun or feeling any warmth at all. It's not just a lack of sun - it's holiday hangover and no Vitamin D. The wildlife safari is closed and the boys don't get to play outside and I don't get to go on outdoor runs and everything just accumulates into boredom and depression.

But this morning, I was up before the sun and I journaled and I went for a run and I ran by this cornfield that we visited last year when the stalks were tall and due for harvest. I saw little buds peeking through the dingy brown and they were probably just weeds, but even so, it signified newness and a fresh start. I thought of how life gives us all sorts of new cycles to start over. Each day we get a new sunrise. Each year we get a new birthday. We have endless opportunities to redefine ourselves, to turn new pages, to start new chapters and close out old ones.

I am invigorated today. There is a little of the dead of winter left, but soon, it will all be gone and spring will be here and everything will be coming up roses.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

golden birthday

I thought about forgoing the boys' birthday party. After all, it was just Christmas and do I really have to go through this every year? Also, their cousins didn't live here anymore so we wouldn't have that many guests any way. But then their cousins moved back. And I realized it is Brandon's golden birthday. What's a golden birthday, you ask? It's the birthday when you turn the same amount of years as the day of the month your birthday is (ie: Brandon's birthday is April 4 an he is turning 4 this year).

This is innocuous to most people and comes and goes unnoticed. But for some reason, it is noticed with my family.

(See? Proof). 

I think this dates back to my maternal grandmother. I think it mattered to her, which she passed down to us. I remember Amber got a birthday party at Burger King when she was three, which was a big deal because none of us got birthday parties until we were ten, especially not near Portland where all of our cousins could be there. But I think my grandmother made a fuss because it was Amber's golden birthday. It only comes once in a lifetime, after all. 

So once the cousins were back and the golden birthday was realized, I decided not only should we have a birthday party, but maybe we should go real big. Like, bouncy castle big. I can outdo some flimsy cardboard crowns, not that it's a contest or anything. So I created a Pinterest board and enlisted the help of my sister, the party planner aficionado (not to mention the only recipient of one of Grandma Dietel's golden birthday parties).

Brandon wanted to help, too, and has forced his opinion into every unwarranted category. He had an opinion about which invitations I would order on Etsy (luckily, he has good taste) and has been relentlessly campaigning for cake rather than cupcakes (I think he will lose that battle though).   

If he's going to give his opinion anyway, I might as well ask, I acquiesced while writing the guest list. "Brandon, who should we invite to your birthday party?" I asked, not mentioning it's also Holden's birthday party, because I know Brandon doesn't want to believe that. He looked up at me, his eyes bright, and replied, "Asher, Malachi, Ezekiel, and Gracie."

So of course I hugged him into my chest, my eyes glistening with tears. I kissed his golden head and let the tears fall silently. Brandon has only met Gracie once: he has spent maybe an hour of his life with her. But somehow, he sensed that she is someone very special and important to me. Brandon has a sixth sense for how other people feel. He is observant and respectful and sensitive. This kid definitely deserves this birthday party. Bouncy castle and all.