Monthly Archives: February 2012

Timeline of A First-Ever Sleepover

Saturday, February 25

2:00 p.m. – Eric (aka Mo) drops Rass off at his classmate’s house for a birthday party sleepover – it’s to be his first one (not including Grandparent sleepovers). The kids will head out to the Family Fun Center to play laser tag and drive bumper cars, then return to the house for some pizza and cake. The night’s festivities will include watching Star Wars and playing Wii.

2:40 p.m. – Mo, Bro and I head North for some Outlet shopping.

4:09 p.m. – Grandma leaves a message. She’s not sure she’ll sleep that night, thinking about Rassy.

5:40 p.m. – The three of us are back at our house with Mexican food. I have the urge to call or text the birthday boy’s mom, just to see how things are going, find out what they’re doing, make sure everything’s OK. I ignore the impulse, and scoop another chip with salsa into my mouth.

7:11 p.m. – Our 3-year-old is asleep and I plop on the couch feeling miserable with a cold.

8:54 p.m. – Lights out. No call. No changed mind. No “Mom, please come get me.” I stash the house phone and cell phone on the nightstand, just in case.

12:15 a.m. – Our 3-year-old wakes up and I stumble to his room, amazed that the phones are still silent.

2:11 a.m. – I’m startled awake, thinking “It’s happening, it’s happening…he’s actually spending the night at somebody else’s house.”

6:45 a.m. – The three of us rise and enjoy a quiet morning. I look forward to picking up Rass and hearing about his adventure.

8:40 a.m. – I drive to pick him up on the way to church. I knock on the door, excited to see him after his big night. The mom answers the door and I walk in. The boys stare at me blankly. There are no smiles. There is no welcome. This is not the sweet reunion I’ve hoped for – or even remotely similar to the ones we shared, like say, when he was in preschool. I’m simply the person who’s interrupting the Star Wars video game. I struggle to keep up my pleasant voice and ask the boys about their night. A couple of them answer. Rass does not. He is silent. He looks from me to the TV. He does not want to leave. I gently remind him that we need to go. He takes his duffel bag and disappears into the bathroom. It takes a long time. I knock and enter, and that’s when the tears flow. “I don’t want to go. I want to stay. I want to eat pancakes. I don’t want to go…” I try to explain that other moms will be picking up their kids shortly. He doesn’t hear it. He only knows that he’s the first one to leave. He only knows that I’ve majorly crashed this party. He’s mad. Infuriated. In this moment, he hates everything I stand for. I am crushed inside. The night had been a Big Deal for me, yet it was a Big Deal for him for entirely different reasons.

We manage to say thanks and bid farewell. He continues sobbing in the car, telling me how mean I am.

After church, the day goes rather smoothly, given the lack of sleep. Sunday night as we’re winding down, he calls to me from downstairs, “Hey mom, we can watch that new Cupcake Wars we recorded.”

I breathe a sigh of relief.

I started the day as the enemy, but am ending it as mom.

And I realize that with growing independence, and experiences like birthday party sleepovers, the roles will continue to be one and the same.

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Taking the Cake

It was harder than I thought. The first birthday without Huckster, that is.

And that’s not to say I didn’t feel loved – I was blessed by text messages, emails, cards, phone calls, serenades (including one by Frannie –who seems to be becoming quite comfortable and confident in her solo performances — that woman can sing!), candles, flowers, well wishes and hugs. But thoughts of Greenlee’s birthday cakes kept rising to the surface.

That was dad’s specialty, or his signature birthday tradition: he always showed up with a Greenlee’s birthday cake. I remember fluffy, perfectly designed pastel flowers, flowing artistic sentiments, rich, creamy, fruity filling – the most beautiful cakes around. And it wasn’t just for birthdays. Whatever the occasion was, there seemed to be a Greenlee’s cake there, courtesy of Huckster, as he’d pick one up after work in San Jose. It’s what Mo and I had on our Wedding Day, too.

So on this birthday, I just couldn’t shake this one particular Greenlee’s memory.

I was probably in my early 20’s and dad showed up at my workplace with a cake. I think he was a little miffed at me –there was just a little coolness to his arrival. But he walked in carrying a giant cake and placed it on the table in the lunchroom for me to share with my coworkers. He didn’t stick around for a piece. He didn’t share in the festivities. He dropped it off and hit the road. I was probably preoccupied with whatever my plans were, or eager to hang out with my friends after work. But here’s why I think this particular memory seems to be standing out: my dad did not miss the opportunity to make me feel special on my birthday. He did not skip delivering a Greenlee’s cake just because I was self-absorbed or wrapped up in my own life. The Greenlee’s cake was there for everyone to enjoy — his bold, familiar statement that he loved me — no matter what the age, no matter what the circumstances.

Yes, it was harder than I thought. But I looked out the car window last Thursday afternoon and, with tears, said a prayer of thanks that I knew such a great man, that he was my dad, and that he made me feel special and loved like nobody else on my birthday.

Since Mo was working the late shift, the evening found me hanging out with the boys eating hot fudge sundaes from McDonald’s, doing somersaults, dancing to the music of Bro’s Valentine’s card and practicing handstands in the living room.

The next day, Mo, the boys and I were driving home after doing some running around. We needed to stop at the store to pick up some noodles for soup.

“Can we get mom a birthday cake since we didn’t get to have one yesterday?” Rass inquired from the back.

I lit up inside.

Instantly, the plan was in motion. The boys would head to the bakery section and I would hide in another part of the store. They would pick it out so it would be a surprise. I steered clear of the check-out line, and the refrigerator when we got home, too, so it would remain a mystery. After dinner, I went upstairs and Rass continued executing the details.

I came downstairs to a dark dining room as a multitude of candles glowed atop a rich, round chocolate cake.

They all sang Happy Birthday, and we licked the candles and sat down to devour the cake. I felt special. I felt remembered.

Like granddad, like grandson.

And so this year, as recollections of Greenlee’s goodness gave way to Safeway scrumptiousness, a long-ago experience sparked present-day gratefulness: that with much love, comes much hurt, when you miss somebody.

I love you, dad. Thanks for continuing to teach me.

Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night

On a day that is steeped in tradition and rich with memories, the morning had the sense of having one foot dangling in the past, and one hovering in the present.

Until Frog Fitness Day.

After a significant sleep deprivation meltdown, my 3-year-old and I headed up to the Elementary school for a PTA fundraiser, Frog Fitness Day: recesses filled with running, skipping, hopping, walking backwards, and limboing…all to a live DJ. To add to the fun and festivities, I donned a rainbow wig, giant yellow sunglasses (like a pair I got at Great America in Sixth Grade) and a foam finger. As the tunes blared–everything from “Life is a Highway” to “I’m Elmo and I Know It”– we raced around the covered playground area, singing, dancing, laughing and acting goofy. It was an afternoon filled with joy, as teachers, parents, and the principal took to the outdoors to spend Valentine’s Day with the kids. Around and around I went, belting out words to songs I didn’t even know I knew, like the Bieb’s “Baby” and Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance.” The foam finger went up, out and about, pointing, clapping and high-fiving–creating a spectacle as I skipped along in my colorful wig. At one point, my 8-year-old made it out for his recess. Surprisingly, he didn’t completely ignore me. As the DJ continued to play and they began to line up after their running/skipping/hopping time, Rassy’s basketball teammate/classmate Jeremy started break dancing right next to me. I was inspired. Although I didn’t hit the pavement, I did start bustin’ a move myself, and–having never possessed the gift of dance, like my sister–I just went with it. Arms and legs were flying. Hips were moving. Jeremy was spinning. I heard Rassy in my periphery, “What the heck?” as he watched his good buddy cut a rug with his mom. He wasn’t horrified or embarrassed. In fact, I may have even sensed some delight there.

So today, we have laughed, we have exercised, we have been silly…we have created some wonderful new memories.

And tonight we will eat heart-shaped pizza, with one foot firmly planted in the present and one stretching out into the future, propelled and inspired by Valentine’s Days of years’ past and the words of Lady Gaga:

Just dance… gonna be OK.

Heaven Isn’t Too Far Away

Two Mondays ago…

It’s early afternoon, Monday. I’m sprawled on the living room floor, sun shining through the window, building Lego Transformer Robots that can double as airplanes (not my forte). I’m replaying the day’s activities so far, and reflecting on how nice it’s been: getting back to the routine, going back to swimming lessons, finishing an exhilarating phone call with a screenprinting guy who’s creating a logo for our elementary school’s Running Club. I replay the conversation in my head about the logo design, color, style, print quantities.

“Dad would totally dig hearing about this,” I think.

I can hear his voice in my head…the questions, the comments, the chuckles, the curiosity…the interest.

I feel a tightness in my stomach, like a twinge.

I look at my fingers, they want to reach for the phone.

I miss him. Deeply. It’s almost a physical pain.

In that moment, I am struck by the song that comes on the radio, and it takes me back to the morning dad died (and it’s not Warrant’s 1989 power ballad “Heaven”  which, interestingly enough, happened to be playing on Sirius XM’s Hair Nation when I got in the car that Sunday morning).

I’m standing in church with my husband and 8-year-old son, listening to the band’s worship music. Now, when I’m at church my praise style is pretty conservative. Sure, I’ll raise my candle high as we sing Silent Night on Christmas Eve. But put me at any other service, whether contemporary or traditional, and I’m kind of reserved. I clap. At most, I sway. Give me seats at a Bon Jovi concert and I can rock out with the best of ’em. But when I’m at church, I’m pretty laid-back. I do sing at the top of my lungs (but that’s only because no one can hear me.)  But on this morning, the morning my dad died, we get to the chorus of the song we’re singing. ..

Savior, He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save, he is mighty to save
Forever, Author of Salvation

This word echoes from my prayer the night before, “God, you are the Author, and Huckster is the ultimate storyteller. Finish the story as you will…”

He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

Suddenly, my hands are up. I cannot help myself. I am moved. I am reaching up, up to the Heavens, up to where my dad is, where he went just a few hours ago. Reaching like I never have before. Reaching up to God who now sits face-to-face with my dad, one of His newest arrivals. Reaching up to dad, in an earthly farewell. I am worshiping. I am saying goodbye. The tears flow, uncontrollably, and my hands reach higher, as if I can touch Heaven.

Shine your light and let the whole world see,
We’re singing
For the glory of the risen king, Jesus

Shine your light and let the whole world see
We’re singing 
For the glory of the risen king 

I am back in the living room, missing my dad. And in those moments when I wish I could be sharing a simple screenprinting conversation with him, I am comforted by the words of a song, and I am reminded that dad is there, and God is there: all I need to do is reach.

Run Sister Run

She’s kicking my butt right now.

The thought first comes to me on New Year’s Day, as I hang up the phone pondering my sister’s 7-mile run. It hits me again today, during my 3-mile morning run, as I reflect on the 8-miler she’s going to do this weekend.

She’s kicking my butt right now.

We are signed up to do the 9.3 mile Shamrock Run together in Portland next month. Her training is progressing: I hear about her tackling hills, tracking her mileage and shaving time off her pace. I imagine her gracefully and lithely floating across the finish line, breathing easily and confidently, radiant and glowing with a sense of accomplishment. I imagine me, breathing heavily, hunched over — red-faced — and plodding along behind her.

While I am simply trying to squeeze in a 2 or 3 miler here and there, I am filled with admiration for her dedication and commitment. And it’s not the physical things that strike me so much. It’s what I hear in her voice: Strength. Healing. Determination. Hope. Running is bringing some incredible things into her life, like running partners and new friends. She’s discovering Portland and her surroundings on foot, through training runs and organized events. I am in awe of it.

Yes, she’s kicking my butt right now. But she’s inspiring and motivating me in a way that I’m so grateful for, and in a way that I really need.

Run sister run.

Hopefully I won’t be too far behind.