Tag Archives: motherhood

Teetering, At Thirteen

You greet me with a warm smile and “Hi Mom.” The next day, with a gruff “You don’t need to talk to me every day.” You laugh uncontrollably with friends at a pizza joint, your eyes sparkling with delight. You erupt in anger, breaking pencils and hurling them across the room. You rave about stew. You complain about mac and cheese. You’re of age for PG-13 movies and Instagram. You’re over the recommended age limit for a Slip ‘n’ Slide. You enthusiastically encourage me to bowl with you. You scold me for taking a sip of your Coke because your friends might see. You laugh at Zootopia. You’re curious about Deadpool. When I reach my hand over and rest it above your knee or on your shoulder, in the car, or on the couch, you let it linger for a bit—a couple blocks, a few seconds. Sometimes you fling or shrug it off immediately.

Even the way you say “Mom” is changing. I’m becoming keenly aware of the nuances, your varied tones providing insight into your feelings and outlook. Your inflection reveals everything. Sometimes it’s an urgent “Mom, mom, mom!” for “Do we have more AA batteries for the Xbox controller?” Other times it’s a thoughtful “Mom…” that trails off, ready to open up and share a little something about your day. “Mom?” lets me in when you want to point out the differences between the Rawlings and Wilson gloves. It’s “Mom!!!” when you’re wondering “Is my orange t-shirt clean?” “Mom.” simply confirms my presence in the next room.

I gauge the subtleties and search your face for clues, so I can offer the right response. Asking a question after “Mom!!!” is futile, but after “Mom…” can lead to a meaningful conversation. I’m learning to follow your lead, to not push too hard as you meander through this time of ups and downs, highs and lows, mountains and valleys.

I know that soon the teetering will become a full-fledged plunge and you’ll find yourself immersed in your teenage years—years that will bring changes and challenges. Any day now your voice will deepen. You’ll no longer be at eye level.

My wish for you as you turn thirteen is this: that you will experience more of that sidesplitting laughter, finding joy in people and relationships.

Laugh ‘til it hurts.

With friends.

With the world.

At yourself.

(Just not at your brother.)

My prayer, as it’s been throughout the spring, is that you will be strong, firm and steadfast.

And finally, know this: I will continue to reach my hand over.

In the car.

On the couch.

Maybe in the backyard.

Whether you fling or shrug it off, or let it rest for a minute, may it say to you on some level, no matter what your age:

I’m here.

I’m present.

I love you.

With all my heart,



Losing. Learning. Growing. Finding.

Six years ago — half my oldest son’s life ago, when he was going into Kindergarten— I wrote this story. It holds a special place in my heart and I’ve held it close for a long time. I’ve taken a look at it recently for a number of reasons. First, we returned to Whistler last month for our annual vacation and it continues to be one of my favorite spots on earth, and what’s even better, it’s one of my boys’ favorite spots now, too. They have their own special memories of it that we relive and laugh about each year. In a way, this story feels like a tribute to the place I love.

At 7:30 this morning, my son Rass stepped on the bus for Middle School after some tears, “I don’t wanna go. I’m gonna die,” and “It’s like I’m in Kindergarten again.” Last week, it was my nephew who started Kindergarten. I know my sister is experiencing all those emotions that go along with that milestone. As I’ve looked back at this story, it gives me a renewed sense of gratitude for the moms I encounter, the ones near and far, seen and unseen, who seem to show up during just the right season of life. Maybe they, too, would agree: with losing, there always comes finding. Sometimes it’s just a matter of time. And as I can now replace “Kindergarten” with “Middle School,” I’m reminding myself of that very thing, too.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *         *          *

It was our first night of vacation in the glorious, breathtaking, feel-God’s-presence-town of Whistler, BC. With the Seahawks game on in the bedroom, the Mariners on in the living room and our nine-month-old eating Cheerios off the floor, I escaped to the condo’s one bathroom for a self-pedicure. I added a splash of fragrant body wash to the warm water and settled in on the side of the tub. Not bad. The water covered my feet and the sweet smell began to fill up the bathroom.

Ahhh….This is nice, I convince myself.

Rass walks in and plops down on the toilet.

“I have to poop,” he announces and starts his business, a foot from my makeshift spa chair.


I feel my relaxation dissipating.

“Mom, which sport do you like best?

The quiet solitude evaporates.

“Um, I’m not sure….” I answer, trying to shift gears.

“But which is your favorite, there are only three: basketball, football or baseball. Which one?

“Well” I stall. “I don’t know, I like watching baseball with you and watching you play, but football is really cool, too.

The odor begins to rise and pretty soon it overtakes the sweetness of my coconut lime foot soak.

“Is it diarrhea?” he asks, “I don’t want to look.

 My spa experience screams to a halt.

“Let me see…no…not really…”

I stand up, back to reality, and offer to help him wipe.

The next day as we sat around the living room, the packing, shopping, traveling, 4 ½ hours in the car and six-year-old comebacks of “never, fine,” and “that’s not fair,” finally caught up with me.

My tears come. Not the sobbing, loud kind, but the silent kind, like warm rivulets quietly streaking my face—the kind no one notices. And I don’t know exactly why I’m crying: if it’s because in this moment I don’t really like him or because I feel like I’m losing him.

Or maybe because I feel like I’ve already lost him.

The next morning we hit the Adventure Zone at the base of Blackcomb Mountain—a collection of games and rides, miniature golf, bungee trampoline, walk-through maze and trapeze. Rass wanted to attempt The Rope Zone, sort of an aerial obstacle course—a series of obstacles suspended ten feet in the air—a tightrope, rope-wall climb, a wooden step bridge. He got harnessed in and was reminded to keep his rope tether between his shoulders. He was instructed to yank it along with him from stunt to stunt. I saw the concentration on his face as he attempted to walk, step, focus and keep the harness strap close. Off he went.

He moves to the outer obstacle. It’s like a hanging bridge made up of detached wooden swings. The goal is to step from swing to swing, holding onto each rope, making it to the other side. Meanwhile, he’s teetering, bobbing and trying to keep his balance.

He gets halfway across, and I am standing below watching him. He starts to slip and nearly falls between the swings.

His tears come. Not the sobbing, loud kind but the silent kind that show fear, frustration and embarrassment. He does not want to lose control of his emotions up there. The attendant comes over and stands below him, too. She speaks gently, talking him through it.

I approach to stand beside her.

“You can do it, focus….concentrate…pull yourself up,” I encourage.

He continues to dangle and swing. He looks out of control. I know he can’t fall, but I want to climb up and do something. I want to rescue him.

His tears give way to determination and he somehow pulls himself up. He doesn’t let go, or lose his grip. He works his way through it. After he makes it back up to one of the swings, there is an unmistakable look on his face: pride. He has done it. He has conquered.

I am not up there with him, but in a way I am.

And while his face beams with pride, my heart swells with it.

Ready for more adventures, we waited in line at the ticket booth. A mom stood in front of us with her two boys. They were waiting to redeem their prize for the walk-through maze. Apparently the younger boy—who appeared to be about eleven—was not happy with the time it took him to get through the maze and in turn, the prize options available to him. He blamed his mom for his misfortune.

He stands in front of her, nearly nose-to-nose, looking her straight in the eye.

“Mom, you’re mean….

She maintains her composure and speaks very quietly. She doesn’t lose her cool, yell or storm away. All I can hear is “I’m not mean” and she goes on to explain the reason for their performance and, hence, their finish time.

He disagrees.

Coldly, he repeats it:

“Mom, you’re mean.

She doesn’t flinch.

I’m amazed at her calmness. Does it crush her? Does it hurt? Or is this his favorite thing to say these days, a notch up from my-most-often-heard “I already know that?

They approached the ticket window, got their prizes, and left to join the rest of their family. As they walked away, I felt somewhat reassured, realizing that the volatile yet loving relationship I shared with an independent, headstrong boy wouldn’t end—not even in Kindergarten. In fact, it was really just beginning.

The next night, after we lingered over a breathtaking alpine dining experience 6,030 feet up Whistler Mountain, we made our way back to the gondola for the trip back down the mountain. A twentysomething man was perched atop his mountain bike, decked out in full riding gear, helmet under his arm, talking on his cellphone.

He looks off in the distance, toward the highest peak, where the glaciers roll. Rugged looking, with longish hair, I imagine it must be quite a special conversation to interrupt an afternoon of some of the finest terrain around. He seems to be delighting in the conversation…pleasant, wistful, focused. I wonder if it might be his girlfriend who lives here in the Village? Or someone he’s just met at the mountain bike festival going on this weekend— “the largest one in the world…for sure”—the emcee has told us. As we pass him, I’m taken by the sense of freedom and adventure that this young man must experience. Surrounded by incomparable beauty on this clear summer night, I wonder who is sharing this moment with him?

“Bye mom,” I hear him say as we walk by.

I turn to look again.

Spoken with such warmth, caring and love, and so simply: bye mom.

Hope, in two words.

The last night of our vacation, we headed down to the pool. It was a warm, beautiful night. We were the only ones there.

As Rass cannon balls, swims underwater, practices tall arms and leaps for a plastic cup that his dad tosses, he couldn’t be happier. It’s joyful exuberance—something he has always displayed in the water, since his baby days in the bathtub. He’s energetic and enthusiastic, full of excitement and life.

He is here, in all his glory, the boy I recognize.

Despite his growing up and away, he is here.

I have found him.

And maybe that’s what I need to take with me as he begins Kindergarten. That he is in there, somewhere, underneath all the levels and layers. That as he learns different lingo, picks on his brother, makes new friends, tests and pushes his limits, explores and discovers, he is there.

All I need to do is find him.

Say Mohawk: Creativity In The Coifs

The Sunday after school started, I returned home to find my five-year-old and eleven-year-old boys with Mohawks. Not faux-hawks, as I’m accustomed to, but full-on, shaved on the side Mohawk haircuts. I stared disbelievingly and curiously for awhile, somewhat bemused at the hardened blue-and-green Hawks-inspired gel that made strips of their hair – from the napes of their necks to their foreheads – stand up like porcupine quills. My brand-new Kindergartner, who had just three days of elementary school under his belt, sat on the couch with a hairstyle that seemed so grown-up, so Billy Idol or Brian Bosworth, so punk rocker, that I could hardly take him seriously. And then four words flew into my brain:

School pictures. Two weeks. 

I hit the roof.

Then shot right through it and continued into orbit.

I was angry. Mad. Furious.

“I’m livid,” I fumed.

“What’s that mean?” asked my Fifth Grader Rassy, thus turning it into a vocabulary lesson.

Fearing a call from the Principal about the Monica boys being classroom distractions, I came up with two choices: don’t use styling products during the week or return immediately to the hair place and get the rest of it buzzed off. They opted for the former. I solidified my overreaction by continuing to make my opinion loud and clear: nope, I didn’t like it. Not one bit. Didn’t care for it in the least. And I would take them to get it shaved off again before school pictures or they would do retakes at a later date. Period.

The next morning, I stifled a smile as Rassy woke up with second thoughts. “I don’t want to go to school. Why did I get my hair cut like this?” he asked. We talked about having an eye-catching, severe haircut and how people were bound to have an opinion. He set off that morning with his baseball cap on, ready to tackle whatever was in store. When both boys got off the bus that afternoon, they shared how they’d gotten mixed reactions. Big brother’s teacher loved it. Little brother’s teacher didn’t recognize him (I could relate). But by the next day, Rassy had come to a new conclusion: “Mom, you know what I like about my hair? It’s unique. Not everybody has it.” And with a twinge of guilt, I agreed. He then set off for the bus with no baseball cap on.

And so I’ve spent the past couple of weeks looking at moles and divots on their heads that I didn’t know existed, watching beads of sweat literally form on their noggins, observing the temple muscles moving as they ate dinner, listening to them delight in the fact that they look like Seattle rapper Macklemore (which I’ve come to learn is technically incorrect—his style is a Pompadour) and tenderly reminiscing at the faded stork bites on the back of my five-year-old’s head.

I’ve listened to—and watched— lots of reactions. Nearly all positive. Coaches: “Sweet hair,” “I love your haircut – what’d your mom think?” Moms: “It’s awesome!” “I love it.” “It looks great” and “It takes a certain kind of confidence to wear that kind of style.” And with a touch of pride that my somewhat reserved guy would step out with such a bold look, I agreed.

It seems that creative expression has found a new form in our household—not just in the ways I’m used to like, words, birthday poems or the colors of our walls—but through hairstyles.

So this morning they headed off with their picture day order forms and checks in hand. The Mohawk brothers—with their strips of glistening, California-blond hair spiked up atop growing-out, not-quite-bald heads—will be preserved for all posterity, in the only yearbook they’ll appear in together during their school years. And should there come a day when they look back and wonder why, I’ll say—although it eluded me sixteen days ago—with a big, fond grin “That was all you. I had nothing to do with it.”

I’ll also remember what those Mohawks really stood for: brotherhood, uniqueness, creativity and confidence.

No, they still aren’t my favorite ‘dos.

But they brought with them mom’s first big lesson of the school year:
creative expression comes in many forms.

Sometimes in double doses.



The River & The Great Divide

This one I was going to hide. Ignore. Sweep under the rug. In fact, I was so intent on not sharing (admitting?) it, I didn’t even tell my mom or sister. Unheard of. That should’ve been my first clue.

I’m doing my first online Bible Study of the book Am I Messing Up My Kids? by Lysa TerKeurst. I have my morning quiet time, read a chapter, and study things like working on turning my emotions over to the Lord, praising God and making choices that honor Him. It sets a wonderful tone for my day and fills me with hope and affirmation for the mom I am now, and the one I hope to become.

So this time, I figured I’d just keep the incident to myself. You know, pray about it, journal about it, work through it myself.

Just keep it between me and God.

Monday we returned from our family vacation to Whistler. It’s a place we’ve all come to love, majestic in its beauty, a place where I powerfully—and without a doubt— feel the closeness of God. In the shimmering of the trembling aspens. The heights of the snow-capped mountains. The crisp clearness of the lakes. One of our favorite things to do is stand on the wooden bridge over the Fitzsimmons Creek, admiring the water below us. The strength of the current. The booming of the water. It’s more than a meandering creek, it’s a rushing river. My boys also love to throw rocks from the river beds. We wonder about how strong it is. What would happen if we fell in? Could we walk across? Would we even be able to stand? Would it carry us away to the ocean?

Yesterday started out pleasantly enough. My 11-year-old wanted to use a gift card and some of his birthday money to buy some more storage space for his Xbox 360. He was thinking about forty bucks. We drove to the video game store and, to our dismay, learned that a 250 mb refurbished hard drive was $99. We decided to contemplate our options and left. He started to weigh if it was worth that kind of money. Would he just wait til Christmas? How could he download the game he wanted to play with his friends? What to do? Over and over he pondered the questions, and then decided to delete everything on his hard drive to make room for this one game. He sat in the Xbox room, deleting games, as I googled Xbox storage.

And this is where I got swept up in the current of his crisis.

I am determined to find an answer. Solve. Fix. Figure out. Is there another way besides spending $99?

I call the store to find out about using a flash drive as storage. Yes, it can be done! We simply need to format it. It’s brilliant! We have one! Problem solved! I’ve done it.

It’s like I am being pulled along, unable to stop, flailing. I’ve lost my balance. I am swirling in this fierce river.

I reach down to look for the USB drive on the Xbox. I thought my son was still deleting games. No. He’s playing one. His favorite. I jar the box. The disc starts making a terrible sound. Spinning. Crunching almost.

My son ejects the disc, which is covered with scratch after scratch. Rings of them.

“You ruined my favorite game,” he cries. To make matters worse, his friend is there.

I am under water now. I can’t get my footing. I rush away downstream. Help….

I ask him to come into our bedroom.

I quietly try to explain that I was just trying to help. I am seething with anger.

It’s ruined. It’s ruined.

I grab the disc and, like a child throwing a temper tantrum who seems to say, “You want to see ruined?” I bend it in half and throw it across the room.

He collapses against the wall, crumples really, whimpering with tears.

He is on one side of the bed, I am on the other.

Opposite banks.

I am now on one side of the raging river, and he’s on the other.

The water is too deep. Too strong. Too powerful.

I can’t reach him.

I literally feel sick. What have I done?

He returns to his friend. I soon hear them laughing and having fun.

Not me. I’m still sickened.

I look in the mirror and finally—finally—I do pray.

It was one of my lowest-feeling points as a mom.

Which, I realize, is exactly the reason I can’t hide it, just letting it wash away downstream.

As I’m learning through this study, it is through the sharing and talking about—through community—that the ugly loses its hold.

Because just like that river that can pull you under and whisk you away, that’s not what I remember it for.

I remember it for it’s awe-inspiring beauty as we admire and enjoy it as a family.








No More Cast Blocks

The Italian Stallion.

Eye of the Tiger.

Apollo Creed.

Clubber Lang.

Over the past few weeks, my boys haven’t been able to get enough of Rocky III. They have been inspired by — and enthralled with — the boxing action. White gauze? Wristbands. Underwear? Boxing shorts. The bell sounds “ding, ding”  and they start another round with dad as announcer. And while the standard moves, like an uppercut or jab, are probably part of the match (to be honest, I don’t watch too closely. I sort of sit on the couch observing, not understanding the boy fun whatsoever), they have also invented a few of their own. Big brother has perfected the “cast block,” throwing up the pink cast on his left arm to block any incoming attacks. Or there’s the “stealth move” — a backwards somersault that results in kicking each other.

Last night, as they did a combination of boxing/wrestling, we wondered what it would be like after today, when the cast was removed. They quickly came to the realization: “No more cast blocks.”

The morning brought tears of anxiety as we prepared for the appointment. But soon after the cast was cut off and the x-ray read, the mood turned joyful.

A healed thumb.

A summer of swimming and long, relaxing showers awaits.

During the ride home, after the doctor backed up what mom said—that there would be no wrestling or boxing for a time—the conversation turned to new strategies.

“Maybe I can do an elbow block,” said big brother.

“Maybe I can just punch you in the stomach,” offered little.

One thing is certain: for now, in our household, there will be no more cast blocks.

And we are jumping—and somersaulting—for joy.


Oops, He Did It Again…

The broken arm I got.

The chipped tooth? Almost comical.

Now a broken thumb.

I’m stumped.

In a season that has been fraught with physical challenges—that have also turned into mental ones—I am left scratching my head over my 10-year-old’s latest injury: a broken thumb as he played catcher Wednesday night.

It feels like I’ve used up—and even overused—all words of encouragement, positive feedback and optimistic support. What do I have left to say to a boy who simply wants to play ball?

I sent an email to his coach yesterday—before we knew it was broken— to fill him in on the injury and let him know Rass would miss practice. I also said that prayers would be appreciated. In that moment, as I typed the note on my phone, I was grateful for the simplicity of that.

That I could ask his coach to pray.

And that I knew that he would.

It’s been a different season than we thought it’d be.

But in the midst of my befuddlement and head scratching, there’s one thing I’m certain of: I’m thankful that I could ask his coach to pray.

And that I knew that he would.



Of Mice and Moms

There are things you do as a kid that, at the time, seem perfectly normal. More than that, they can seem creative, brilliant and wise. Events. Experiences. Choices. Or even, as the case may be, as a teenager. But when you look back, through your adult, parent lens, you see that they were absolutely, positively absurd.

We sat at the kitchen table a few weeks ago as a Bon Jovi song came on the Hair Radio station. I said to my 10-year-old, “You know, I lip synced to this song at Chuck E. Cheese’s.”

“What? You did?” he said.

He’s quite familiar with Chuck E. Cheese’s. He’s been to several preschool-aged birthday parties there.



I did?

I sat with those words a moment.

I lip synced at Chuck E. Cheese’s?

“Yes,” I went on to say. “I was a Senior. We drove down to Salinas. It was some kind of contest. We performed in front of people.”


An audience of animatronic mice.

Again, I sat with that.

Seventeen or eighteen. Driving in a car. About 29 miles south. Spending gas money. To lip sync at Chuck E. Cheese’s?

“We even wore costumes, I think. Like tie-dyed tees that we shredded. It was cool.”

Seventeen or eighteen. Driving in a car. About 29 miles south. Spending gas money. To lip sync at Chuck E. Cheese’s in a costume.



Sitting at the dinner table with my mom lens on that night, I contemplated my adult experiences at the mouse headquarters: getting your hand stamped with invisible ink to keep your family unit safe and together; eating brittle, flavorless pizza; pouring endless tokens into neon games and skeeball; belting out Happy Birthday to You simultaneously with forty-five other partygoers; forcing my child to sit upright in a bouncing plastic car next to a freaky plastic mouse for a photo op; collecting hundreds of tickets to buy toys that break by the time you get to the parking lot.

Those mom thoughts made my own teen experience there seem completely and utterly outlandish.

Chuck E. Cheese’s was a kids place.

A place for fun, frivolity and birthday parties.

What in the world was I doing lip syncing there as a teenager?

My 10-year-old didn’t seem overly impressed by the feat.

Funny, as I replayed it out loud, neither was I.

I guess sometimes when we encounter childhood things as moms our perspective can change.

We have a new lens to look through.

For better.

Or for worse.

As we sat at the dinner table that night, I simply—as I always do with a good Bon Jovi tune—enjoyed the song.

And maybe even lip synced a line or two.