summer love

The lump sits in my throat as tears brim in my eyes. Nostalgia sweeps over me and I am left both joyful and grieving. What a summer this has been.

The garb has been plopped in the sand, the smiles slathered like sunscreen across our faces, and sibling skirmishes have been carried away by the cool breeze coming off the waves.

I can feel us all breath. Deep and cleansing, the air collectively fills our lungs. We are together in the best way.

I anticipated the summer to be a disaster. This has been a difficult year filled with a lot of transition. I figured summer would simply be more of the same. A lot more. All day long more.

But life often surprises us and sometimes those surprises turn out to be just the relief we need.

After a school year charting new territory of middle school and having that territory effect so much more than just the one in middle school, this relief came to a weary bunch. But it came.

We have actually enjoyed one another this summer. Even my children. Not all day long every day, but enough. Enough to say that we found one another again in this new landscape.

And the beach seems to symbolize all the goodness we have experienced in our togetherness this summer. So as I watch my boys playing at the shore engaged in some team building fun, gratitude fills my heart. For this time together. For each one of them. For all of them together.

I realize that in a few short days, the start of school will mark the end of this summer. We will never get it back. Time marches on. And I don’t want to stop it because I love the process of life. But I wish I could save just a few of those grains of sand from the hourglass and set them aside for safekeeping.

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going “koo-koo”

“Carrot cuddling cuckoo,” I hear him mutter as he trudges to his room. A smirk emerges on my face. My four year old is quoting a book. And his quote is quite astutely applicable in the current moment.

Berkeley Breathed, Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of comics Bloom County and Opus, has also written a book called Mars Needs Moms. (Seriously, go look at those links. You’ll have no regrets.) The title may sound familiar. Current Hollywood trends have been to take children’s books and turn them into full-length feature films, this being one of them.

However, I do confess I haven’t seen the movie. I am not sure I want to. The book is so perfectly succinct. The rhythm and timing are fabulous. And don’t even get me started about the illustrations. Berkeley makes me wish my gifts were in creating visual images instead of verbal ones.

As the story goes from the point of view of a little boy, Milo’s mom is a tyrant. She makes him do all sorts of terrible things like eat vegetables and take out the trash and work in the garden. Then, of course, she is shown to have no sense of humor what so ever when she cannot see what is funny about Milo dyeing his sister purple.

Milo’s mom looses her cool. She yells. At least that is what I am led to believe by the capital letters. My boys like to point out at this particular point in the story that Milo’s mom and their mom are kindred spirits. I don’t always take kindly to it. Which of course only proves their point.

But when we read the book recently, I realized there is truly no offense to be taken by their paralleling me and Milo’s mom. Because the end of the story is so heart warming and wonderful and saturated with love.

The best, most mysterious part of Milo’s mother – the part that was missed by both the Martians and her own little boy – is poignantly revealed on the planet Mars.

I believe the right word for this turn in the story is redemption.

All too often I associate redemption with larger than life, out of this world moments in books like this one. I struggle against a belief I don’t want to hold but can’t seem to shake that people only change when they are characters in books.

Then I discover small moments like this when I find myself smiling at my son’s mumbled quote. Characteristically, I should be fighting the urge to erupt into a volcanic fury fueled by my need to defend myself as a mother.

But instead I land in a moment of honesty and self-acceptance. A moment when a very human, perfectionist mother lets go to see the humor and brilliance of her son’s grumbled words taken from this beloved book.

Maybe people do change outside of literature. Maybe redemption isn’t always in galactic-sized moments. Maybe it dwells in smallness, too. Maybe even in me.

eyes to see

Sometimes I need help remembering what life is like from his perspective. I have a tendency to be human and forget that not everyone sees from my point of view. Especially my children.

When one of them gets a hold of my camera and starts snapping, there are often at least one or two pictures that shock it into me. Life literally looks different when you are the size of a child.

This time it was the youngest. He looks up at things I look down on. He sees things I ignore. He treasures things I want put away.

And somehow seeing that different perspective captured in an actual image that was taken with one part creative license and another part random chance drives the point home to me clearly.

My perspective is not invalid. And neither is his. But they are entirely different from one another.

My parenting may not change much as a result. Except for my understanding and compassion for my children. Which is everything, really.

So thank you, my son, for asking to take pictures with my camera. And thank you, me, for saying yes and being willing to let someone small handle something big that cost a good chunk of money.

Because out of it comes a priceless reminder that my set of eyes is not the only one in the world. That life is different when you’re four. Or eight. Or almost twelve. Or anyone besides me.

mysterious middle child

I find him the greatest mystery of the three of them. He is both the most like me and the least like me all at once. One of our friends (who relates to him and seems to “get him” in a way that I long to) told me he is probably a mystery to himself right now, too.

He feels things deeply. And a lot. And he doesn’t quite know what to do with it all. And neither have I. Who grows up in a family that deals well with emotion? No one that I know.

But I have been learning about my own emotions and how to handle them and not to fear them, and – of course – that helps me with his emotions too. And we have been working together on our feelings and accepting them and making space for them and communicating them.

It is incredibly difficult work.

For an eight year old and a thirty-eight year old.

But there is this song by Jason Mraz, who was already a favorite at Chez Koo, and it came on right after the board break that took all of who my son was. Of course. The song is called, “I won’t give up”.

And so this has become his song, and it helps me understand him better. Every time I hear it my soul belts out every word. Because it seems like our song, too. He is my son, so I love him more deeply than I ever knew I could. Deeper than I even understand.

At the crescendo of the song, the words hold so much more than what they say. “I had to learn what I’ve got, and what I’m not, and who I am.” I think those are words of life. My life. And my life with my mysteriously beautiful and wonderful son. Without understanding it all the time, we are becoming. Together.

So give the song a listen. After all, I figured out how to put it here for you (which you should be highly impressed by even though it is not centered, considering I am the world’s largest tech-no-it-all 🙂 ). You won’t regret it. Maybe it will become your song, too.

stopping for snuggles

What is she doing?

The scene flashes before my eyes quicker than my brain can process what I see. There is a clearing where I get on the freeway and another ten freeways converge and veer off. I see a woman standing there, safely centered in the middle of a grassy area with her car pulled off the road. The expanse is surrounded by fast-paced, southern Californian roads and freeways. She stands out like a sore thumb.

She is holding her baby.

Her body gently sways back and forth as the look of patience and compassion adorns her. So many thoughts rush through me as I try to put the pieces together.

I have vivid memories of driving with my baby screaming behind me, helpless and frazzled as I navigated to our destinations. The tension would mount in my shoulders, tying my muscles into knotted rocks.

I was always so convinced of the nuisance I was to other drivers, sure they could hear what was happening in my car. They knew what a terrible mother I was a) for not being able to keep my child from crying in the car and b) for getting in everyone’s way as I drove so flustered and frantically.

But this woman let that all go. She stopped. And for this moment, when I saw her, she was living out her priority that her child was more important than her destination or what other people thought of her.

And she has come to my mind so many times in the last week. I have been raw and surging with hormones. I’ve been processing some family stuff. I’ve been wrestling with a desire to write more that clearly doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere. And I have been reading The Hunger Games – with all it’s intensity (dying I love it so much, by the way!) – which has delightfully pulled all of my emotions right to the surface of me.

As a result, I’ve been a little short tempered with my children. This is my Achilles’ heal, my continual battle with myself. Not getting loud and shaming when my patience runs thin. And while it is true that my children are neither perfect nor angelic, my temper is my problem, not theirs.

And in the middle of one of my “You better get your shoes on or you will be late for your preschool fieldtrip!” episodes, my four-year-old looked up at me with his crocodile-tears and big hazel-brown eyes and adorable little face and cried out, “I want some snuggles!”

He does this from time to time when I loose my cool.

And it is as precious as it sounds.

And I immediately think of that mom safely off to the side of the freeway, swaying back and forth with her baby cradled against her body. And I stop, and I snuggle my four year old. Know what? Turns out snuggles is just what I need right now, too.