Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday Night Special

Well, my teenager acted like a teenager tonight for the first real time. I took all the kids (except for Conor, who stayed home with Dad) to the Spring Concert of the Foothill Women's Chorus at the church tonight. They were performing the Vivaldi Gloria, and there were some other smaller musical performances as well, including a cello orchestra that about knocked my socks off. Most of the cellists were under the age of 14 and have been playing since they were teeny-tiny. It was incredible. One of the perks of living in the Los Angeles area is the abundance of amazing talent we have in our wards and stakes.

Anyway, with promises of refreshments to follow, I had the kids get back into Sunday clothes at 6:30 to go to the Stake Center. Lyndsay called her friend Katie to come with us, so her mom dropped her off and she drove up with us. As we're walking up to the building, Lyns, (who acts more than a shade differently when her teenage friends are around) asks if she and Katie can sit by themselves somewhere else in the chapel.

"You don't want to sit with us? With me?"

"C'mon, Mom."


(now she adds her cutesy little 'I'm so innocent' thing to her voice, and tilts her head just so.) And I repeat, "No. We sit with our families. What, do I embarrass you or something, cause I'm pretty darn cool."

"No, Mom, it's not that."

"The boys, then? Is it the boys? Just sit on the other side of me from the boys."

"M-om. Please?"

I stop walking now, and turn around to face her. "I only have so many years of sitting with you left. You will sit with me, and you will love it." I start to resume walking, and then throw over my shoulder, "Besides, children who don't want to sit with their parents are children who have something naughty up their sleeves. I remember. I was a child once." And I catch her eye for just a second with a little wink in her direction.

After we're seated, with the boys separated on either sides of the bench, Lyns leans over to me. She has no choice but to let the cat out of the bag now that her plan has been foiled. "Um, Mom? Ethan's going to be here in just a few minutes to sit with us, okay? His mom is dropping him off. Katie texted him from the car and told him to come."

Oh, I see. The Truth comes out.

Well, you gotta get up pretty early, my darling daughter. Pretty early, indeed.

When Ethan arrived, I greeted him, and sat his 15 year old self right down next to me, several bodies away from my not-even-14 year-old Lyndsay. I was glad he was there. While we waited for the music to begin I taught him to identify all the flowers in the floral bouquets, all the instruments in the orchestra, that Vivaldi's first name was Antonio, and how to translate some of the Latin titles of the pieces being performed. After all, I knew he must have been interested in classical music to have his mom drive him all the way down to the Stake Center on a moment's notice.

I did, however, let him eat a cookie next to Lyndsay and Katie. Wanna know what's even funnier than watching self-conscious teens eating in front of each other? Watching self-conscious teens with braces eating in front of each other! A good time for all. And some great music with a little culture to boot!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Easter Kids--a week late!

I kept thinking I'd get around to posting these, but you know how that goes! We didn't have Caitlin and Sean with us this year, but we had an earlier celebration with them complete with giant coconut cream eggs (and peanut butter eggs this year too). The only downside to Easter was terrible allergies and then of course there was Aiden's haircut that night. Ahem.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Joy in the Journey

In 2000, my husband and I took our three children to Alaska for a family vacation. At the time the kids were 6, 4 ½, and 6 months. Alaska had been a dream of both of ours; something about the wildness of it, the breathtaking majesty of it. We were dying to go, to make Alaska real for us, instead of just glossy images in travel magazines and coffee table books. Being the homeschooling family that we are, we also look for opportunities for our children to experience the world. Adam and I could have gone alone on this trip, but then we would have been plagued with thoughts of, "Oh, I wish the kids could see this!" Thus, it wasn’t really a matter of question.

Adam planned an event-filled itinerary for us. After all, if we were finally going to Alaska, we wanted to see it all. We rented a minivan and toured around, using Anchorage as our hub. We stayed in Anchorage, took some day trips, traveled as far south as Seward, back to Anchorage, and then as far north as Fairbanks. All in all, during the two weeks we were there, we drove almost 2000 miles. That’s a lot of driving with three young kids-- especially with a nursing baby and a daughter who is notoriously carsick.

Our friends had given us a suggestion: "You know," they said, "they make these TV’s for cars now. They have VCR’s and you can just pop in movies and your kids will be just glued to the thing so you can drive in peace." Hmmm. "But," I said, "how will they be able to watch for animals out the car windows?" After all, we had psyched our kids up for this grand adventure by promising them abundant wildlife. We told them about the moose just walking around like they owned the place, bald eagles everywhere, maybe even a bear!

Our friends said, "They can look when you get there. Isn’t a nice peaceful car ride worth it?" Now, don’t get me wrong. I drive around with kids all the time, and I’m not oblivious to what that can mean. I do like nice, peaceful car rides, but this was our adventure. Because we would be spending so much time in the car on this trip, the car ride was a good deal of that adventure. I didn’t want them to wait till we got there to look around and be amazed. I didn’t want them to miss the Dall Sheep on the side of the mountain, or the waterfalls cascading down the sides of mountains from melting snow, or the ethereal blue of the icebergs floating in the bay thinking they could probably see that "when we stop". I wasn’t going to zone them out for the sake of a ‘nice, peaceful car ride’ and sacrifice the learning and their big, wide-open eyes, and the excitement that we could experience all together as a family. So, we opted for no TV and VCR.

We did stop many, many times along the way. We stopped at all the scenic viewpoints. We stopped for Adam to follow a moose up a grassy embankment. (Not the smartest idea, I know, but Alaska gets to you that way.) We stopped to watch a cocky red fox trot down the side of the road with some fresh road-kill in his mouth. We stopped for Lyndsay to throw up. We stopped to nurse the baby. We stopped to stare at Mount McKinley. We stopped for potty and food breaks. We stopped to watch salmon. We stopped to eat salmon. We stopped for Lyndsay to throw up. We stopped to touch the Alaska Pipeline. We stopped to nurse the baby. We stopped to watch for whales breaching. We stopped to watch a baby mountain goat manage with finesse the sheer rock face of a mountain. We stopped to watch dozens of regal bald eagles sitting on the wet sand of low tide. And you know what? It was fantastic fun. It was as if we had been transplanted to an untouched world of beauty, and we all learned so many things every single day. Who would have wanted to watch movies? We did sing songs. We did listen to books on tape. And we played lots and lots of guessing games. But in all those things, and in all the wonder around us, we grew as a family, all along the way. It was a time none of us will ever forget. Even now, though that marriage ended within two years of our trip, he and I both regard that adventure as one of the finest we ever shared, and we each are grateful for the experience. The memories and the joy were in the journey. What made the difference for us was not waiting to be somewhere, but enjoying getting there.

So it is, hopefully, with my personal journey in motherhood. I need to continually remind myself that the joy is in the process of raising children, not in having them raised successfully. I am prone to staying on the road with the car on cruise control, focused on my goal of educated, articulate, well-mannered, poised, and lovable children. I must remember to look out the windows from time to time and just enjoy the scenery. Much of the journey is simply the monotony of doing that which has been un-done over and over again. Much of the journey is drudgery and boring. Much of it is thankless. But there are scenic points along the way, and I don't want to miss them because I'm focused on the destination!

It isn't all that far off that my nest will be empty. In four years my oldest child will go off to college. Her siblings will soon follow suit. My days of little ones underfoot are short lived. When my oldest was born, I thought I had forever. I see more clearly now. If I don’t pay attention to the scenery along the way, I forfeit one of the greatest thrills of the motherhood ride. I love the days when things go smoothly. But that isn’t every day. It isn't even most days.

I'm learning to be okay with that. I want to play outside with them on a sunny day. I want to talk with them past bedtime. I want to read them another story, even though they're teenagers. I want to play a board game even though there are dishes to do. I want to be in their presence with absolutely nothing to do but be. I want them to enjoy the ride, just as much as I am. And once I get them to where they're going, I want them to always remember the way back home.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Simmering Down

I used to think I knew everything. I thought I was blessed with an innate knowledge of the truth of all things and spot-on opinions. You could disagree with me if you wanted to, but, well, you’d be wrong. I have always known that I had something to say. What took me years to realize, however, was that I should learn to shut up in order to say it.

My poor first husband. Backed into every imaginable corner by my expertise. I really meant well. I loved him with all my soul, at least with all of my available soul. I admired him, respected him, and stood by his side with loyalty, as long as his "side" was my side. What I wish now, looking back, was that I had shut up long enough to listen to him. And actually hear him. He was trying to tell me. He loved me, but he needed me to shut up. He couldn't even whole-heartedly leave me, but still I wouldn’t close my mouth. I was too busy telling him how wrong he was and exactly what he should do.

My Italian grandmother visited with me several days before I was to get married for the second time. She taught me how to make the most incredible marinara sauce. "The most important ingredients for the deep, rich flavor of the sauce," she taught me, "are the ones you can’t see." First, we browned several beef ribs in olive oil, and then added the chopped garlic, onion, paste, tomatoes, and Italian herbs. Throw in a bay leaf. Let them simmer together for hours, even all day long. Take out the ribs and the bay leaf. Their flavors will be there. The best sauce has all of the flavors perfectly seasoned by time and low heat. If you sample the sauce and taste garlic, it’s not done. If the oregano jumps out on your tongue, it needs more time.

Well, wasn’t I undercooked! I was definitely under-seasoned. Not enough time, definitely too much heat. Trying to make the best "sauce" in my life like some sort of train wreck through everyone else’s. Hopefully the passing years and the lessons from heartbreak have taught me well. Thank goodness for second chances.

It was my father who told me, "You know, you don’t always have to say something. Don’t waste your words." I have come to observe that the wisest people realize with deep humility just how un-wise they really are. They know that they will learn more from listening than from talking. That’s what I’m learning now. Thankfully, I have been blessed with people around me who are forgiving and who see that my heart really is in the right place. They are the wise ones, leaving me to simmer a bit longer so that my flavors could mellow out and not be so overpowering. I like to believe that they saw the combination of raw ingredients in me and felt sure that they would turn out palatable with enough experience and enough heat. People don’t want just oregano screaming at them from their spaghetti. And you don’t have to announce that the beef ribs were in there; the rich flavor they left behind is evidence enough to satisfy even the amateur tongue.

I am finding great satisfaction in simmering over low heat in my life. Opening my ears and eyes, and shutting my mouth. The ironic thing is that we say so much more by the way we live our lives than by what comes out of our mouth. The other ironic thing is that the less we say the more others listen, and the greater chance we then have to say that which we were born to say.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Oops, I did it Again...

So, when you factor in the humiliation and the fact that I now owe him $5 for emotional pain and suffering, I probably should have just paid the $7 to have the non-English speaking Armenian lady cut his hair. Poor Aiden.

It was a complete accident! He asked last night if I would cut his hair short and spikey, so I got out the clippers. Did a #3 on the bottom and a #6 on top. It was looking pretty sweet and I thought I just wanted to go over this one area to clip a few escapee hairs, when all of a sudden, the little black combie thing just fell off, and buzzzzzz went the clippers right across the back of his head.

"Oh, no!" I said.

Lyndsay looked at me and we both busted into laughter.

"That's two for two, Mom," Aiden said, referring to a similar landing-strip incident right down the center of Dylan's head a few years earlier. They both were such good sports, and handled it with a great sense of humor. I felt awful, but nobody could tell that from my fits of laughter and the tears streaming down my face.

"I'll fix it," I comforted. "Don't worry." Really, the only thing I could do was buzz the bottom off with a #1, and then pray it grows back really fast. It does look tons better, but we're just grateful that only people behind him can tell. That way he's sure to not see them laughing.

Lyndsay warns me I'm not to even think about touching her hair. No worries there.

Friday, March 21, 2008

So very Cool!

When I was growing up, the oldest of nine children in a quaint town in New Jersey, keeping cool in the humid summers was tricky. We never lived in a house with a pool, but that didn't mean we never went swimming! We swam in anything and everything that would hold water for even a little while, and it didn't matter how dirty or algae-ridden or bug-infested that water was. We just wanted to cool off! My sister recollected this in her blog a week or so ago and we all had some good laughs. (see "Screaming on the Inside" the post dated March 8th, the p.s.---read the comments too for a vivid good time.)

So, it came as no big mystery to me that my genetics had something to do with what I saw out on the back patio this afternoon. Ah, yes. The white-trash jacuzzi. Live it up, boys. Live it up. There's a little Van Sciver in you after all. And you know we have more fun.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Getting Ready to Leap?

I am adjusting to impending change. I feel the change calling, and I've tried and tried to resist it, but I know better, and I'm beginning to yield. At least be open.

I am considering enrolling my three children in public school next year. There. I said it. This is a decision fraught with anguish and emotion, and long-time homeschoolers will understand just what I mean.

I have been shepherding my children's education for eleven years now. I have lived and breathed their academic progress and interest. I have loved schooling them. They love being homeschooled, but I think it's time for a change. For many reasons, most of which I won't address in this forum, but the biggest reason is that I've tried to always discover God's will for my children, and His approval in my efforts to educate them and raise them.

I have been researching schools non-stop for the past week. We do not live in a great school district. There are low-expectations and a lack of hope. The positive side would be that my children could walk to their various schools (they would be in three separate schools, but each within a mile of our home), and they would see kids from church. The negative side would be the lower academic challenge they would have and the bombardment of really down-and-out kids around them. It would not be an inspiring atmosphere. They do offer advanced classes, which my kids would be in, and some AP courses. And, if that is our only choice, then I believe I have done a good job as a mother teaching them personal standards. I believe they would be at the top of their classes, and would pick good friends, and make the most of what opportunities would be available to them.

Lyndsay is my main concern. She will start high school next year, and she has definite plans for college. I want her to be challenged and inspired. She is a self-motivated, bright girl and will rise to the occasion. Another school in the next town is a tempting option. It is a Blue-Ribbon School in CA and has a high API index and many AP classes are offered. It also has a well-respected theater and arts program (which due to lack of funding has been cut from many schools). My husband is a graduate of this particular school and though it is a little drive from home, it isn't too far, and it is still within our Stake boundaries. And Lyns would still get to see her church friends in early morning seminary each day. But then, what to do with the boys? You see, we could potentially have 5 kids in 5 different schools next year. And we only have one car, that seats 5 people, so you can see the dilemma here. Especially if hubby is working a new job...(which we pray he will be).

So, the third option, and the one I'm most heavily leaning towards, is to see if we can get a boundary exception for the same school district that my husband's two children attend (a sibling allowance). Their mother lives in a very wealthy area in a top-notch school district, which also still falls within our Stake boundaries. We got his kids into that district because of her address, even though they are with us half of the time. I've been very impressed with their school and the programs they offer. I've researched the middle school and the high school in that district, and am blown away. The high school has a 99% college enrollment rate, and an impressive list of college prep and AP courses. The school is ranked 95th in the nation. I think the education would be challenging and rigorous for my kids, and I think the atmosphere would be inspiring and hopeful. There are clubs and groups and activities galore.

It is farther away, but three days a week we are driving there anyway with Caitlin and Sean. The middle and high schools are combined on one campus, so then we would only have two schools to worry about, instead of five. FIVE!! They wouldn't be going to school with kids that lived close to them (playdates, etc), but hopefully they'll have so much homework they won't have time for friends during the week anyway. :) A big concern is that these are kids that come from wealthy families, even celebrity families, and I don't want my kids to feel like they are the bottom of the heap economically in the school, or to feel pressure to keep up with their peers materially. I hope I have raised them better than that. There is the reality that public schools are not free, and there would be expenses that would be difficult or burdensome to us. But their academic opportunities outweigh that, right? And I can think positively, that maybe we won't be at the bottom of the heap for too much longer, right? And if we can get them into the district then that should be our first concern, and then other factors will work themselves out, right? (a second car for our whole family to fit in, a good job opportunity for Adam, enough money to allow them some fun opportunities with the school--field trips, etc?)

It's a lot to take in. There are so many unknowns right now. Things could be very different for us in the near future. All I know for sure is what is right now. If we could even get them in. I have so much on my mind! I want to make the best decision for them, to do what's best for them, to put them where they need to be. I have sacrificed much of my time to educate them here at home, when my friends have had time to pursue their own interests. I have laid a solid foundation, I believe, and it may be time for different experiences for them, as well as for me. I'm excited to see what's next.

*updated 3/17/08: Well, I've heard back from both of the "other" schools and they have absolutely no boundary exceptions now. One school is already 500 students over capacity, and the other one...the one that the other two kids attend...does not allow boundary exceptions for siblings. Only for parents who work in the area. Period. No exceptions. Sorry. So, back to the drawing board. There is a well-respected magnet school some people in our ward have recommended, but it's a 30 minute drive each way. We may just have to enroll the kids in our local schools and stay very involved! I know they'll make the best of whatever the situation may be.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Clincher

Embarrassing moment #3:
Do you know how big a 32" television screen is? We'll get back to that.

This time the year is 1995. My husband and I have taken a trip from Arizona, where we live, to New Jersey, where we're both from, along with our new baby girl to meet our families for the first time. My husband's family is in the process of moving to AZ to be closer to us, but only his mother is there so far. She is house-sitting for us, and has given us strict instructions to take lots of pictures and video of her hubby and home, because she's lonely already.

We split the time we're visiting between my family and his. But now, we're staying with his dad, the three of us comfortably set up in the guest bedroom. It's early morning and the baby is still sleeping. I leave to take a shower. My husband decides to do some videotaping of the house and backyard for his mom. I walk back into the bedroom, wrapped in a towel and stop at the foot of the bed. He is standing at the window, taping the view of the backyard. I drop my towel to begin dressing.

This is my fatal flaw, people. Right at this very moment.

At that very second, and with me completely unaware, my husband whips around with the camera and zooms in on one particular part of my anatomy and begins catcalling. ha. ha. ha.

"Give me the camera!" I squeal, as I lunge at him still naked. He laughs. "You can't put that on there! Good grief!"

I switched the camera to 'VCR' mode and rewound the footage. Yo baby. Not cool. "Tape over it, and quickly!"

Okay, safe. Whew. Scold the husband, get a good laugh at my expense, and proceed with the taping...and dressing...separately.

Fast forward to back at home in Arizona: "Hi, Mom! We missed you too! Thanks for watching our house! Yes, lots of footage. Let's watch." We all sit down on the couch together and pop the tape into the VCR, my husband, me, and my mother-in-law. Good times.

Ah, yes, there's dad. Waving. Oh, and there's the garden. Yes, the shed! Look how green the yard is! The deck! Love that deck. Jenna's naked crotch. The livingroom. Oh, the piano! ....

I froze. Dear God, please say she blinked. Amen.

A quick glance to my husband, who is also frozen. Maybe she blinked. And then...

"Wait, did I just see what I thought I saw?"

How come you've answered every other prayer???

Yep, that's right, folks. Apparently, there was a little overlap of the tape when it was switched from 'VCR' mode back to 'record' mode. My mother-in-law saw the fullness of my femininity right there on the TV screen in my livingroom. 32" of it, to be exact. More of it than I've seen, and this was before Brazilians became trendy, lemme tell ya.

The only thing worse was her getting on the phone to share the "funny thing" with the rest of the family. The only thing worse than that was the next family get-together.

Ha. Ha. You're all a bunch of comedians.

Never trust your nakedness within 1 mile of your husband with a videocamera. Never! And now you know it all!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Slide of Humiliation

Well, I'm glad you've all enjoyed installment #1 in my Most Embarrassing Trilogy. I'm keeping my slam-dunk most embarrassing moment for the last in the series, but today's is pretty scarring as well.

Did you know I've never gone down a water slide? Never. But there was this one time I tried...

It was 1985. I was 12 years old, with budding breasts and a hot pink Catalina swimsuit. Long brown hair, parted in the middle, cascaded down my back, and I strutted around like I was somebody at our community private pool, Woodbine Swim Club. I was in this stage of trying on the still-too-big shoes of womanhood and noticing the attention that came my way. It was then that I learned to suck in my stomach...people....guys...were watching.

Anyway, I wasn't much of a natural swimmer. I didn't even learn to swim until the 5th grade when our class had a week of private swim lessons as a field trip. I was very self-conscious, but I learned to fake it pretty well. But truly comfortable in the water I was not. So, prancing around Woodbine with my friends Marnie and Lisa was more about prancing around, and not so much about actually swimming.

One day, Lisa said, "Hey, let's go down the water slide!" I tried to get out of it with things like, "Nah, I don't want to get my hair wet." and "You go, and I'll take your picture." But she was persistent. It looked like the other kids going down were having fun, and they all came up alive, but it just seemed so fast and out-of-control. Two things I am not.

Finally, I gave in and we started walking towards the slide. I hadn't even been confident enough to take the actual swim test to allow entrance to the "big pool". I was wearing one of Lisa's green swim bands around my ankle. I was a fraud, about to be exposed. My nerves turned into chatter.

"Boy, it sure looks high."

"Nah, it isn't."

"Sure looks steep."

"Not that steep."

"Sure seems dangerous."

"It's just a small slide."

"I've never done this before. Ever."

"What? You'll be fine. C'mon, it's fun!"

She went first. No problem, down she went. I wanted to bolt and vomit. But up the ladder I climbed.

And then down the ladder.

And then up the ladder.

And then down the ladder.

A line of children was forming behind me. So, up the ladder I went, and as I looked down at the slide from that vantage point, I could see how slippery it looked. And seriously? It was straight down. I would die. And then I heard through a megaphone across the pool:

"Hey, YOU, on the slide! You're holding everything up. Go down the slide already!"

The evil lifeguard. Laughing. Everyone in the pool was now staring at me. Waiting. Suddenly I could feel my face glowing more brightly than my hot pink Catalina tank suit. I swung my legs over the top and sat down. I looked down, and it looked so far. I tried and tried to will myself to just do it. It would all be over soon. But I froze. I just couldn't do it, even with the kids complaining behind me, "Let's GO! C'mon! Hurry up!"

I panicked. I started to cry. There goes womanhood, right out the window. I looked at the lifeguard with my teary eyes and yelled across the pool, "I can't!" He huffed and puffed as he climbed down from his post and tromped over to the slide. He cleared the line, he climbed up, he helped me back down the ladder, and I booked it double time to the bathroom.

I tried to compose myself. Pull it together. A little 6 year old approached me and said, "Why wouldn't you just go down the slide?" Humiliating. I would need bigger breasts and a cuter swimsuit before I could ever show my face there again. It would have to be a big enough transformation that nobody would ever remember or recognize me. It took a few seasons.

But to this day, I have never gotten over the trauma of the water slide. I've always gracefully avoided it. But two summers ago, I was bobbing my pregnant belly in a friend's pool with the kids, just weeks before I delivered Conor, and I broke free and told my kids that story. My kids who have no fears, thank goodness. Who brag about the three-story water slide they just went down in Phoenix. Who are looking at the little dinky one across the pool and thinking, "Our Mom? The Mom who doesn't let us shy away from anything? Who never lets us give into our fears about anything at all???"

Now they knew where that mother-love comes from. I never want them to be as crippled as I have been. And they said, "Well, do it now!" And they all start chanting, "Mo-om! Mo-om! Mo-om!"

Yeah right. Like the first time I go down a water slide is gonna be when I can barely walk without waddling. Can you imagine that? Huge pregnant woman barrelling out of control on her virgin voyage down a water slide? Nice try, kids. I loves ya.

But gentle readers, this might be the year.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Humbling Hike

This week on American Idol, the contestant interviews were all about their most embarrassing moments. I love embarrassing moments--mine and everyone else's--and it started me thinking of some gems from my past. Since I don't mind if people laugh at my expense, I thought I'd do a small series of "Most Embarrassing's". For your entertainment.

I've been obsessed with fitness and exercise since I was a teen. I got aerobics tapes for Christmas. I went to the weight room after school to lift with the football players; I walked in the evenings with my mom; I spent Saturday's with Jane Fonda and Callan Pinkney. I was super proud of my washboard abs and tight glutes.

It's not as easy to work out obsessively once you start having children.

So, now I go in obsessive spurts. Very dedicated for a month, then Cinnabon. A really whole-hearted week, then Ben and Jerry's. Today's the day, then McDonald's. Overall, I've kept my weight and fitness in check, but I'm certainly not as consistent as I should be, or would like to be.

I like to hike. At least, that's what I tell myself. It involves cute hiking shoes, short shorts, and a ponytail, all things that I can pull off fairly well. So, when I reconnected (while living in UT)with an old friend from my childhood ward (in NJ), and she said, "Wanna go hiking?" I said, "Yeah! I love to hike!"

Now, this friend had no children. I had three. She was almost 5 years younger than I, too. But, growing up I really, really, really wanted to marry her brother, so in case the word got back to him that I was still hot stuff, I had to make a good impression. I couldn't be some washed-up old maid. You understand.

She had some friends come along, and we met early on Saturday morning. I had on my very cute Merrell hiking shoes, some special wicking socks (see, experienced hiker!), my very cute short hiking shorts, a fanny pack equipped with water bottles and some nuts and dried fruit, and a fitted yellow tee. Oh, and the youthful ponytail. Full makeup, of course. (What if she told her brother she'd seen me?) Just for some energy, I ate a banana and some strawberry yogurt.

We gabbed on the drive to the canyon. Little Cottonwood? Big Cottonwood? I don't know. One of those, I think. It was beautiful. And it was so weird to be here with this friend who'd known me since I was a little girl, and here she was all grown up! We had a great time updating the other on our lives since. We'd both been through divorces, now I'd met this amazing guy on the's your brother?

We parked the car at the bottom of the trailhead and I could see right away that this was no hike for pansies. All I could see ahead of me was uphill. No good. Early morning and uphill aren't my favorite combination. But, I'm not saying a word! Yeah! Let's go! Let's sing! Well, okay, we didn't sing. But I was cheery.

Until about after 2 minutes and 16 seconds. And then I was having problems. Waves of nausea were swelling within me. My palms were sweating. Yeah! This is great! I may be in my 30's, but look at me keep up with you guys! Except then, I wasn't keeping up so well, and the distance between us grew.

And I was gonna yak. I knew it. How does one gracefully bow out to vomit?

Well, first I sat down and cracked a joke about needing to rest. But they noticed. "You don't look so good." So much for looking the part of being in shape. Two minutes in and I'm discovered as a fraud.

"You know what?" I said, nonchalantly. "You girls go on ahead. I'll just rest here for a minute and catch my breath and then I'll jog on up the trail and rejoin you."

"Oh, we'll wait for you," they offered.

"No, really," I begged, feeling the sourness rising in my esophagus. "Please go. I'll be there in just a minute."

"You sure?"

"So sure."

As they reluctantly turned to go, I waited till they had rounded the bend, and then I bolted for some greenery to fertilize. Up it all came. My stomach was wrenching, my whole body was shaking and sweating. Puking my guts out into the foliage just off the trail. Like a strawberry-banana smoothie. I'll never forget it. As the muscles in my stomach finally relax, I plop down on a tree stump and rinse off my mouth with one of my trusty water bottles. My hair is a mess now, my face beet red, and I smell like Jamba Juice.

When up the road comes a jogger. She, too has on her cute hiking shoes. And some stylish hiking shorts. Even a ponytail.

And only one leg.

Don't I feel like a clod. I can't make it up the first hill without throwing up, and here this amputee comes sprinting by me with her artificial limb.

"Hey!" she says, smiling. "You okay?"

"Oh, yeah," I feigned. "Just taking my time and enjoying the trail." Okay, so that was just a lie.

Fortunately, I see the humor in it, and now that my stomach is emptied I feel a burst of energy. I hike it double-time up the trail and catch up to my friends. Who can't believe I threw up. And who love that a one-legged woman is kicking my butt up the canyon.

We made it to the top. We had a great time together. As it turns out, her brother is married...with kids.

Please don't tell him anyway. Let's just keep this one to ourselves. How embarrassing.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Whining about Weaning

I can't give it up.

I'm in total denial. I think as long as I'm breastfeeding my baby then he still IS a baby, and I'm still a new mom (and that explains why I haven't lost more weight), and that I'm perpetually young...and needed.

I don't know what it is about this one. I've nursed all of my babies. I love breastfeeding. My services as a milk cow get longer and longer with each child. My goal is always, "at least a year and then we'll see", but here Conor is now 18 months and I get so sad when I think about quitting, even though now it's hardly at all.

I have a hard time with most any transition. I'm so sentimental and nostalgic by nature, and I get so emotionally involved in all things mother-y.

He likes it.

I like it.

My husband likes it, and tells me to just stop when I'm ready. (that doesn't help, although it's sweet of him. He's very supportive and says just go until he's 2, but I don't think I want to go that long...I just can't figure out how to stop!)

What if this is my last baby?

What if this is the very last time I look down and see my baby nestled up against me drinking up life?

What if my breasts are done working? Then they'll be those breasts that used to work.

Great, now I'm crying.

See what I mean?

Part of me feels ready.

I've certainly put in my time.

It would be nice to not have huge breasts anymore. (shut up, I'd rather be smaller and cute.)

It would be nice to move on to the next stage....maybe not. Aaaargh!

Conor eats table food. He drinks cow's milk and juice, and enjoys them both. But once, sometimes twice a day, a drink and a snuggle just feel so nice. They grow up so fast. I'm not in as big a hurry as I used to be with my older kids. I just want to drink it in, if you will.

What do I do? This is the longest I've ever nursed a baby. 15 months before this one. He's not crazy addicted. If he asks and I say 'no' he's fine. But how do I say goodbye to this sweet phase, especially since it might be my last baby? Somebody help me!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

On Gliding and Soaring

Driving down the 210 Freeway yesterday, I noticed five large birds gracefully soaring over a mountain top. I watched them, and marveled. I remembered a science lesson I had taught the boys a few months ago during our in-depth study of birds: gliding and soaring are different. I had never thought about it before, and maybe I had even used the terms interchangeably on occasion, but they are not the same.

The very fact that a bird can fly is an interesting lesson in physics. It begins with the airfoil, which is the shape of a wing, and then involves flight terms such as air pressure, lift, drag, and thrust.

In the 1700's, a scientist named Daniel Bernoulli performed experiments with objects under water which help us to understand how things are able to fly. Water, like air, applies pressure to everything it touches. Daniel Bernoulli discovered that water moved differently over the top of an airfoil (wing shape) than it did underneath it. Water going over the wing moved faster, while the water moving on the bottom of the wing stayed the same. So, the water on the bottom of the wing pushed up more strongly than the water on the top of the wing pushed down. In the air, this difference in pressure causes lift, and the bird is able to get up off the ground.

The bird must flap its wings to speed up the air moving over its wings and this creates a force called thrust. But even though the speed of the air going over the wing allows lift, staying up in the air is a challenge, because another force called drag pushes against the bird as it flies.

If you watch a bird fly, you see that it flaps its wings for a while and then sort of coasts through the sky with outstretched wings. This is called gliding. The longer the wingspan of the bird, the longer time it can glide, but gradually the bird will drift downward because of the drag on its wings. After a time, the bird will have to start flapping again to overcome the drag and gain lift.

Soaring, on the other hand, is more like surfing for birds. Surfers live to "catch the wave". If a surfer catches a wave, he can then ride it all the way back to the beach. In the air, there are heat waves called thermals that rise up from the ground. Soaring birds are designed to know where these thermals are and then to jump on top of them and ride. In a thermal, the rising warm air will lift the bird higher and higher. Some thermals are very tight and the bird must then soar in a tight circle, but other thermals are very large and the bird can go a great distance before having to turn with the heat wave. Thermals form early in the day, as the ground warms up and that warm air rises, and I imagine that besides the advantage of giving birds a chance to look for food without expending the energy of flying, soaring must also be pretty cool bird recreation.

I think I have periods of gliding and soaring in my life too. Gliding is when I can coast for a time on work or effort I've previously expended. Like, if I clean my house really, really well, I can glide for a time without having to worry about housework and the rooms stay fairly tidy. The drag is (and the pun is completely intended) that life continues to happen and dishes pile up, floors get dirty, and nobody has anything clean to wear. The mess returns and I must flap my wings to get back on top of it all.

Gliding might also be when I eat healthily and exercise regularly and I am able to lose a few pounds or maintain an ideal weight, and so I coast for a while on that effort and jump off the bandwagon to enjoy some guilty indulgences like ice cream, or too many cookies, or the most decadent brownies. Before long, the drag has pushed against me and I must get my butt in gear, literally.

I may also go through periods of spiritual gliding, when I drift away from a daily routine of scripture study, and my prayers become more rote than sincere. I can coast along for a short time on my stored up testimony, but quite soon the drag works against me, and I find myself slipping. I must exercise my spiritual thrust quickly, and flap like mad.

But I have times of soaring in my life, as well. To me, soaring is more personal, when I can "catch the wave" or "ride the thermal" that God has designed me to instinctively find and then it feels so right and so good, that it's almost effortless. It's as if He and I are riding together as co-pilots. We're protected from the drag. No one else can see my thermals, just as the thermals that the hawks ride are invisible to our eyes. But just as I can see the hawks soaring and know that they've found one, I believe those around me can sense when I've found my own thermal and I'm soaring.

I've had times in my life when something that I'm doing becomes so effortless, I feel as though I'm soaring. Sometimes I call it being "in the groove". I think using our God-given talents, or when we are in line with our personal missions in life we are swept up into thermals and we can freely soar. At times when I'm writing, or teaching, or mothering, or playing a piece on the piano, suddenly the effort is gone, and I stretch out my wings, and I soar. I'm soaring when I'm in complete harmony and peace in each of my relationships and I am so filled with pure love that I feel like I must be glowing because of it. I'm soaring when I'm lost in the service of other people. It's as though I'm completely in line with what I was put here to do, and I'm filled with a euphoria that witnesses to me that I've found my thermal.

The trick then, is to balance out the gliding and the soaring, and to know that to everything there is a season. For birds, thermals only form in the early hours of the day. They can't just soar in circles all day, avoiding the work that birds must also do. There are nests to be built, and eggs to lay, and mates to find (well, fortunately the birds get the order right more often than we do!), and young to raise. There is food to be found, and migration to prepare for. They know their season. They know there will be another thermal to ride tomorrow, and though there will be lots of flapping, there will also be some gliding to rest tired wing muscles.

And there will be rejoicing because they can fly.