Monday, July 29, 2013

Day One [A Feat of Feet]

"This is all going?" he asks.

"All of it!"

"Well, there's no way it's going to fit."

"It has to.  We need it!  We need everything!"

He sighs (huffs) and pulls something out to try and make a better fit.  "A puzzle," he mumbles.

There is a reason someone once said, 'Where there's a will, there's a way.'

And we crammed like sardines and Noa had to criss-cross-apple-sauce in her booster chair and Liam roared over the bedding that was stuffed down where his crock-clad feet should have gone and Zander held the cutlery bucket precariously balanced on a lap more determined to make space for important DS playing than helping a mother out.

Sigh.

Who's idea was this?

They've been excited.  Counting sleeps.  I've been exhausted and over-burdened and unsteady/unsure/a teensy bit terrified.  Because it's no small feat to take three children camping without the help of another grown up.  No.  Small.  Feat.  (No small feet either - shoes take up valuable space!)

[This is worth it.  This is worth it.  This is worth it.]

[I am a strong, confident, brave woman and I'm going to own this feat while standing on my own two feet clad in nothing but Dollar Store flip-flops because it was certain I would forget something and only fitting that it be my own foot protection in the eye of this feat-storm! In fact, I'm gonna knock this nay-saying self-deprecating she-devil inner voice straight back to hell - which would be the stinky shelves of a roller rink lined with a thousand pairs of skates worn by a thousand different feet all suffering from the same 'odor issue' as my dear husband who is not coming with us because he has to take his feet to work - stink and all.]

[This is worth it.  This is worth it.  This is worth it.]

"How much longer?" they ask from their unfair quarters.

"My butt's asleep." "My leg's asleep."  "My foot's asleep."  "My finger's asleep." 

"Hey!  I just farted and it woke my butt up!"  "Bahahahahaha...[snort!]"

When we finally turned in that dusty driveway they poured out of the car like half-drunk clowns fumbling for a punchline.  "Finally!  We're here!  That totally took, like, FOREEEEEVER!!!"

It smells like earth here.  Like childhood.  Like Christmas and dirt.  Pine needles nestle themselves between my toes and they are welcome friends - these tree memories - and how we used to brush them back to make smooth paths to our cabin doors a hundred years ago.

Settling in feels good.  I am organized to the point of insanity and I like it just fine.  The kids run.  They play.  They laugh.  They balance along the old railroad track.  They turn their hands black in soil that reeks of rain and sun and worms.  I sweep.  I sort.  I lay out.  I tuck.  I look at my creation and I whisper to the trees, "It is good!"  This little home away from home - this cabin in the woods stands scarred and perfect for this brood.  And it smells like rain and sun and worms.

I cook without a kitchen and we eat without a roof.  And it is good.

And there it is.  Right there.  There in the dirty faces they were too tired to wash.  There in the stillness in which they lay, tucked neat in their sleeping bags, trying to keep their eyes open through Chapter One of Percy Jackson.  There in the silence that falls - nothing but the pine needles falling to their bed, rusty strokes of God's creation, beautiful somehow even in their death.  There it is.  I don't know why I thought I wouldn't find it...

[This is worth it.  This is worth it.  This is worth it.] 

{click here to read more about our camping experience}

 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Seven Years Old

How do you blink and suddenly he stands before you - blazing blue eyes electric with mischief and a kind of raw love that bubbles over his seams in giggling hugs and rushing sarcasms and sleepy love-you-too's before I shut off his light?  And this came from me?  This little human so wild and curious and brilliant - short on grace but so deep and wide with heart.

And he owns mine.

And it doesn't matter how frustrated I might be - how at the end of myself and my patience - how tired - how fragile - he is still my world and I would swim in the ocean of his eyes for a taste of his sweetness.

Seven years.  I feel paralyzed with it.  How much have I already forgotten?  Can I remember the smell of his newness - that skin first kissed by light and life - how dark it was and how small he was and how I was and am and always will be his first love?  What about the dampness of his hair when we'd fall asleep beneath a mooned window?  How it would stick against my cheek and blend into my own and make us one - this snap shot beauty of mother and son framed in stillness.  Can I have each moment?  Could I have caught them?  Bottled them?  Saved them to get drunk on when he's suddenly a man and finds a new love?

Slow down, baby boy.  We only have right now.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Do Cats Hate 'Mouses'?

"Mommy, why do cats hate mouses?"

I'm in the garden, kneeling in a penitent prayer-posture for my selfishness.  [Bless me tomatoes for I have sinned...it's been more than a week since I knelt and weeded...]  The heat is heavy and weighs hard against my back - the way it sweat-sticks my tank top - the soil is like dust.  I wipe the back of my arm across my face to push away all those hairs that sneak from my ponytail and I leave a smear of bug spray on my lips.

And, of course, I lick my lips.

"Ugh, sorry...what, Noa?"

We're separated by tomatoes and the retaining wall and she's crouched down, curious.  "Why do cats hate mouses?" she asks again.

"Cats love mice!" I tell her, realizing that she's bent over the cat who is bent over the lifeless body of a poor little field mouse.

"But why did Pippin kill a mouse then?"

"He thinks it's food," I say.  "He thinks it's delicious."

"Hmmm."

She stays there while I stand to stretch and I dump my pail of undesirables into the wheelbarrow.  "Look, Mommy, he thinks it's a toy."

And I stop to watch him take the little grey body in his mouth and whip his head wild - it flies up double his height and he pounces on it again.  Reenacting his crime.

And then he dines.

I return to my weeds but the pop and crunch of little bones reaches me and Noa is still and pondering.  "He doesn't hate mouses?"

"Nope," I assure her.  "He's doing exactly what God made him to do."

"Oh."

The porch door slams and Liam comes trundling out.

"Liam," Noa says, finally rising out of her crouch.  "You won't believe it!"

"What?"  Like he can't believe she could have discovered anything worth his attention.

"Pippin caughted a mouse," she announces.  "And then he ated it!"

Liam comes running.  "Where?  Where's the mouse?" and he's searching the ground.

"It was right here," Noa tells him, pointing.  "He must have eated the whole thing!" She looks around a little more.  "Look, Liam - right there!  Blood!"

"Whoa!  AAAWWWEEESOME!!!  Mommy, look!  It's all shiny!"

"Cats reeeeeallly love mouses," Noa tells him.

"As if I didn't alweady know that, Noa!"

Pippin sits on the edge of the retaining wall, blood mustache, licking his gluttonous paws.

Noa wanders down into the garden and sits on the little bench I made out of bricks and slab wood.  "Mommy?"

"Yes, Noa?"

"Do you believe in rainbows?"

"Of course," I say.  "Don't you?"

"Well, I never atch-a-lly sawed one," she tells me, "buuuuuut I still believe in them." 

And Pippin settles his head on his paws and purrs.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Better Than Minecraft

He's awkward, hair pieced against his forehead looking nothing like peace.  His eyes shift between us and he sits straight against the chair - his spine his own ladder-back.  "Are you going to blog this conversation?"

There's an accusation hanging there somewhere in the background.  Some insecurity.  Is he nothing but fodder for my pen?

"That wasn't my intention," I tell him.  And it really wasn't.  We merely wanted to speak to him about time management - that age-old discussion: there is more to life than video games [for goodness sake]!  But then he dropped that line and it was like sealing his own fate.

"Don't you worry that you're wasting your life?" I ask.  Because I think maybe he is.  Without monitoring he would sit at the computer sunup to sundown.  'It's creative,' he'll argue.  And it is.  The virtual worlds he's creating are incredible.  But so is sunlight.  And digging holes.  And getting dirty.

"What about when you go back to school and they ask what you did all summer and you say, 'Um...I played Minecraft'?" Scott asks.

"Lame," I say.

He shrugs.


"Do you think that we're unreasonable?  Do you think there shouldn't be any limitations?"

Shrug.

"Would it be better if we let you do whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted to or to give you expectations and rules?"

"The second one?" he offers tentatively - with no conviction.

"The rule stands, Zander, one hour!"

"But what am I supposed to do?"

"Figure it out."

I harbor an unapologetic (possibly unfair) dislike for computer games, creative or not - they're brain melters. Was it so hard to be a kid when I was his age?  How often did my parents have to push me to play?  Sure, I got bored - but then I'd go climb a tree.

"We want the best for you," I tell him.

"I know.  Can I use the hammer?"

"YES!" Oh yes, yes, yes!!!  "There's a pail of old nails in the barn and you can use any of the wood on the left side.  Go.  Build!"

Later I follow the sound of hammering into the basement of the barn.  He's hidden around the back where sunlight and little brothers don't get in.  "What are you building?" I ask.

"A house.  Well, a box.  But it's a house."  And it's got walls that are a foot high.  He has built a table for it and found a chair to place in the middle and he sits on it.  A white flower pot hangs from a pole. 

"That's so fun!" I tell him.

"Yeah.  I want to build the walls right up.  I gotta keep Liam out.  Is it okay if I stay out longer to work on it?"

"Sure!" I say and I'm celebrating the dirt all over his shirt and the dust in his hair.  "You know what's better than Minecraft?" I ask him.  "Real life!"

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Secrets From His Life

"Liam hurt Noa!" the call floats over the yard, over the newly cut grass and the roses that have just opened.  Floats like some winged devil creature, spry and aching for trouble - just waiting to relish in the punishment that surely must be coming to the accused offender.

Why must a tattle always be presented like a victory? 

Glee practically oozes when they have some fresh dirt to spill, plopping at the feet of whichever parent acknowledges them first - a euphoric pile of sibling-destroying bliss - tattletale-pie, fresh and wet and reeking retribution.   (Not unlike Liam's socks and their ever-taunting tango with the laundry detergent.)

Noa's stumbling across the lawn, summertime dirty and hair bleached bright white beneath the sun that has us melting into our Walmart deck chars.  Tears streak through the sandbox dust on her cheek.

"He grabbed her arm and twisted.  Like this."  And Tattler mimes an indian sunburn.

Noa gets her whimpering self up on the deck and tucks herself up beside me.

"Why would you do that, Liam?" I ask.

"Because!"  But he sees my face and he see his sisters tears and he knows that's not enough. "Because... she was telling secrets from my life!"

There are moments of discipline that make it near impossible to keep a straight face.

"Secrets from your life?  What secrets?"

"Just stuff I didn't want her to tell!"

"Did you tell his secret, Noa?"

She nods.

"She telled the neighbours."  And he says neighbours like it's a curse word.

"Does that mean it's okay to hurt her?"

"Well, she just did it and she knew I didn't want her to!"

Brilliant argument.

His hair is sticking to the side of his face, sweat beads along his temple and I can't tell if the red on his cheeks is from anger or because it's so hot.

Noa's tears are gone but her face is one big dirt-smear-mess.  She leans in to me, eyes sparkling with crying leftovers and the fire of now being the one who had a tale to tattle.  "I dest told them that Liam peed on their tree."

Liam's bottom jaw juts out.  "NNNOOOOAAAAAA!!!!"

But by that point we are all laughing and he doesn't have a leg to stand on (or a tree to pee on).


Friday, July 5, 2013

Migraines and Fairy Lights

My migraines don't come with pain - they come with peripheral blindness.  It descends over me in this strange haze that's immediately unsettling and entirely disorienting and leaves me feeling suddenly tired.  My eyes ache - straining against this gated century at the borderline of my vision.  I can't read.  I see only one letter at a time.  I don't see my fingers wiggle when I hold them beside my face.

And every time it frightens me.


Because what if this is the time it doesn't stop?  What if this is the time it pushes further, pressing a cloud across my iris', rendering death upon my pupils?  What if I never see another sunset?  What if this morning was the last time I gazed into the blue of Liam's eyes or dressed myself in the warmth of Noa's smile or caught the humor of Zander's grin or the tenderness of Scott's stare?

I lay still as ice when they pushed me back into the MRI, arms pinned to my side and that giant TICK, TICK, TICK as the circles spun and photographed my brain and everything was grey and I was sure I wasn't dying because I felt so wholly myself...but weren't these machines just for that?  For the dying?  For the catching of the demon who was somehow eating my cerebrum and robbing my baby blues of their view of the world?

And it showed nothing but health.

And I did everything the neurologist asked of me.  I touched my nose and walked the line and described in slow detail every moment and feeling and fear and sensation.

And I was an anomaly.

Because everything I described could define a migraine.

Except I had no pain.

So I suppose I should count myself blessed.

It doesn't linger.  This blindness.  It teases and swells and frightens and dissipates with magic.  Even as I type this I can feel it leaving.  I can already see words as their whole.  I can see where I've misspelled and stumbled - invisible to me in the midst of it and now becoming plain enough to edit before I publish.

Lights start to dance.  That's how I know it's ending.  "Fairy lights," I told the neurologist.  "It's like sparks going off.  Not something I can see...it's more like I can feel the lights...sparkling...?  They twinkle and they're kind of warm and white and yellow.  My eyes feel hot.  They get real bright and then it's over.  You know?"

Of course he didn't know.

But with a clear brain scan and proving myself healthy and relatively sane (minus the talk of fairies)  he can only calm my fears with the label: migraine.

Normal.

So I'll leave my desk for a moment.  Make a cup of tea.  Close my eyes because they are hot and tired and thank God that when I open them in a few minutes I'll be able to see that pretty red cabinet in the corner, the storm clouds gathering out the window, my wedding photo on the book shelf, the steam curling out of my mug...

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