Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Spring Has Sprung - Again!

I realize every year I have one blog post in the middle of April that acknowledges the coming of another Spring. So here it is.

For me, the main signs of Spring are the stuff my kids produce at school.

Noah's awesome preschool (that I love times a million) made this helpful display to announce the season. Big props to a pre-K for making me literally laugh out loud (LLOL, yes, I'm still trying to make it a 'thing') with the craft of Noah's face as a boy fairy. Kill me now. Just kill me with cuteness.

And, as if that wasn't awesome enough, his preschool has little Spring animals. They had catepillars in a cup (which turned into butterflies) and these sweet little baby chicks.

Y'all, I held a baby chick two weeks ago. My first time ever. Life just never stops getting better. Remember that young people. Life just keeps getting better. Because baby animals.

Judah's school kindly reminds me of Spring every year with his Spring portrait. And also reminds me how cheap I am as I take another picture of picture.

But man, I almost caved this year. Looking at this sweet face of the boy I love so so so much. How could I resist?!?! The marketing print even asked me - "How can you resist this smile?" I can't! I can't!

I was *this* close. I'm pretty sure next year I'm going to cave.

Spring is an amazing time to do our nature walks. This picture was taken when Judah and I explored a brand new trail just minutes from our house on one of our "just us" dates. I'll never forget how bursting at the seams happy Judah was during this walk.

He was literally bounding up and down the trails like a puppy wagging his tail. Talking happy nonsense, bouncing, smiling, filled with sweetness. And all around us, the vibrant green of new life shouting 'joy!' in living color.

I need to make that experience into a candle somehow...

Easter weekend was insanely busy but awesome. One highlight was the kids earning their first stripe on their jiu-jitsu belts. The ceremony consisted of them sitting for 90 minutes, completely still and quiet while each kid was called up for a promotion.

I am still AMAZED that my 4 year old did that. There is some magical obedience voodoo going on here. I must investigate further and figure out how to harness that to my advantage.

On Easter Sunday the kids took an obligatory picture and then quickly lapsed back into their "normal" weird looking selves.

And as if getting a bunch of goodies and candies from Easter wasn't good enough, we topped of the day with a fabulous birthday party by a mom who went all out with the incredibly cute and well-designed decorations. Pinterest needs to hire this mom, seriously.

There is nothing easy about motherhood. Nothing. BUT, it does absolutely keep getting better.

And sweeter.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Our Pilgrimage Back

Last weekend we made the 90 minute trek (by car) back to Muir Woods National Monument.

The last time we were there was in 2010! We kept saying we'd go back, as hiking in the redwoods is pretty much our favorite thing to do on the planet, but never made it until now.

Seven years. Seven years later.

The number of completion. A lifetime.

When I look back on this picture of my first born, 7 years ago, I cringe with pain.

This poor, young(ish) first-time mom had no idea. No. I. Dea. The depth of pain, monotony, mind-numbing boredom, and feelings of isolation she would face in the coming years.

She had no idea what a colossally bad idea it would be for her to be a stay-at-home mom with a newborn and a 2.5 year old (but it was an experience she is immensely grateful for anyway). How it would drive her to the edge of her mental well-being every day by 4 pm and yet, the day stretched on. Far, far beyond her capacity to cope.

What a wilderness has been traversed in these last few years. What a grinding, daily furnace of cursing the moment I opened my eyes to realize I had regained consciousness each morning.

I am not the same person making the pilgrimage back to these ancient woods.

I am so so so profoundly grateful.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Don't Bump the Glump and Other Tales

The days keep rolling by like someone flipping an old-fashioned animation sketchbook - fast and then faster.

And I now have a bunch of photos of the kids and memories that need memorializing. So here goes...

During the insanely frequent rainy days this Winter (seriously California hasn't had this much rain for my entire lifetime of living here!) the kids often made their own indoor fun. One of their favorite pastimes by far was and still is using giant shipping boxes to create nooks.

I love this picture because it reminds me how excited Judah was to draw different scenes for Noah's box nook. One of them was of a zombie graveyard and the other of an underwater world.

Judah is never happier than when he's doing something creative for Noah. His joy is the joy he anticipates Noah will feel. It is pretty much the highlight of motherhood...until, that is, Noah looks at Judah's handiwork and responds with a tepid "meh".

Then Judah's feelings get hurt and crying and gnashing of teeth begins.

This is another creation of Judah's. Noah is "Wolfman" because he loves wolves, because he loves Wolverine (because there is no reason as we have NEVER bought any wolverine toys or watched any wolverine shows, so this kid is a real mystery to me).

Judah drew a head band, chest symbol, and utility belt, and on the back of the cape is another giant wolf symbol. Noah was only mildly appreciative, but still put it on for good sport. Phew.

Since the rain was so frequent, I tried frantically to get outdoors with the kids whenever there was a tiny break in the downpour. March marks the time of year I get panicked about my long lazy winter of eating lots of carbs and LOTS of butter and moving very little.

Thankfully boys are like dogs, you HAVE to take them outside every day or else they will chew up all your furniture and pee all over the floor.

Judah has fully graduated to the "big kid" bike. He never had training wheels as we started him out on a balance bike when he was 3. Noah on the other hand has no idea how to balance and he's already 4.

Like many siblings, the first one gets gold-star treatment and the second (or third or fourth...) gets shafted. Sorry Noah, maybe you'll figure out how to ride a bike by the time you're 10.

The boys have been doing Jiu-Jitsu since January. This is literally an answered prayer for Judah who has been begging me (and God) to give him martial arts lessons for the last two years.

I just never wanted to sit around with my fussy second kid while waiting for the first kid's lesson to end. Now that they're both old enough to participate together, I'm all in.

Judah is LOVING it. This kid loves to compete and is focused like a laser on everything the coach says.

Noah on the other hand, simply endures and is only doing this cuz he hero-worships Judah. Every time class is about to end, Noah skips to the end-line and sings "Yay! This is my favorite part! Class is over!"

Noah continues to be my wonderful weirdo. He is constantly changing outfits throughout the day for no particular reason. Here he's wearing his favorite things - his favorite hat, his favorite cardigan, and shorts - he loves shorts.

Once, last month, he went to church in a full ninja Halloween costume (2 sizes too small from Old Navy). He had normal clothes underneath. It was...a battle I was just too tired to fight. Ninja: 1, me: 0.

Kids are awesome because they make you do constructive things you might have otherwise given up on. Noah wanted desperately to grow some veggies in our garden, but I had given up.

Two years ago, I tried but badly hurt my foot with the shovel. One year ago, I tried again, but broke my arm in early Spring and couldn't shovel.

This year, I just didn't try...even though deep down I wished I would. Enter: Noah and his motivating enthusiasm for growing veggies, thanks to his awesome preschool.

On a whim and a random Saturday, we went to a hardware store and bought a cucumber plant, a tomato plant, a watermelon plant, and some strawberry plants. And thus came into being our humble patch:

Within a week, the watermelon plant was completely devoured by a stray cat.

We'll see if any of this comes into fruition (hahaha, see what I did there?). I have a notorious history of killing plants of all kinds - indoors, outdoors, succulents, flowers, sigh.

Just call me Mrs. Blackthumb.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Two Buck Chuck

Way back in January, we celebrated Noah's birthday with his much desired and anticipated wish - a trip to Chuck E. Cheese.

Chuck E. Cheese is such a weird land of distortion - heavenly crack for kids and sticky hell for adults. There's nothing really objectionable about's just...sad.

It wreaks of all that is pathetic in entertainment - garish lights, empty rewards, acquisitive greed...very bad food.

But my kids would never know their parents' disdain. To them it was a mecca of F-U-N!!!!!!! Their eyes lit up like stars, their faces had giant grins, they devoured the soggy pizza and declared it delicious.

And the games. They played those rigged games and collected those worthless tickets as if it were gold pieces coming out of those slots.

Incidentally, this was the only time during Noah's birthday day that he wasn't melting down and crying every 3 minutes. Previous to this, anytime I asked him to do something he didn't want to (for example, brush his teeth, visit the potty, eat something that wasn't a candy bar, put on clothing, etc.) he would wail "But it's my birthday!!!! You're making me do this on my birthday?!?! You're making me SAD on my birthday!!!!!"

It was a LONG. Day.

But as soon as we entered the land of Cheese, Noah was all smiles from beginning to end.

The next day the kids talked of nothing but returning to that magical world of delight.

And that's just fine with me. I'm all about keeping their expectations low so they don't become jaded too early in life. Better to keep them thinking that Chuck E. Cheese is the pinnacle of entertainment for as long as possible so when we finally go to Disneyland one day, their minds will be blown to smithereens.

Chuck, you're a good stand-in for your uppity mouse cousin, Mickey.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Fooling Around on a Pedal-Boat

Last week I took my kids pedal-boating at a local lake and it was as near perfection as we can get on this side of eternity.

Leaving the dock, all smiles...for now.

The grand beauty of nature - just like a Bob Ross painting! - say my Netflix saturated kids.

This sweet face...belies so much naughtiness.

Until 20 minutes in...and the boys do what boys do - fool around.

The oompa-loompa in the back starts getting restless. Uh-oh.

I can't tell you how much I hate when they "fool around." And because I'm overly analytical, here's some bullet points to explain why such an innocuous sounding thing makes me want to spit out hellfire.

--It violates logic. Fooling around, by its very nature, is extreme silliness. It hurts my very ordered brain. I have to listen to stupid nonsensical phrases repeated ad nauseum ("booba-lay-lay!" "hairy!" "hairy boob!") and field totally stupid questions that only get shouted at me louder if I try to ignore them ("Why I can't I fly right now?!" "What if I poop in the water?!")

--It literally rocks the boat. All their wild fidgeting made my stress-levels sky high as I imagined our boat capsizing and my kids completely soaked (and the loud and prolonged whining and crying that would ensue).

--It causes general harm and mayhem. When the kids fool around at home it is generally punctuated by cries of bodily injury (that would've been worse if I weren't there to grab someone or cushion someone mid-fall) and bits of destruction to the house and furniture. Again, very stressful to witness.

--It causes food mess. What I hate the most is when the kids fool around at the dinner table. Crumbs spew out of mouths. Milk gets snorted and sprayed out within a 3 feet radius. People fall out of chairs and cry. I seriously loose my appetite whilst eating so often and have to excuse myself from the table just 2 minutes into our meals. I. Can't. I. Just. Can't. It's like having dinner with warthogs.

And the number one thing I hate the MOST about fooling around:

There's no reasonable way to limit it.

What can I say to my kids except "Stop fooling around!!!!"

And as every parent knows, discipline only works if it's specific and targeted. Do you know how vague "fooling around" is? What does that even mean in terms of actual behavior?

Stop laughing?
Stop saying silly things?
Stop moving erratically?
Stop flailing your appendages so as to increase the odds of knocking something off the table by more than 50%?

I either end up sounding ridiculously harsh ("stop having such a good time!!!!") or way too strict ("stop moving your hands!" "and feet!" "and body!!!!!")

Oh kids.

Always ruining perfect moments and good times.

But there are some shining seconds where all is right and our world seems shot through with grace. And I think to myself, maybe it wasn't a huge mistake to have kids after all. Maybe, nay, most certainly, they are the best things to ever have happen to me.

We took a normal looking a picture! It's a half-second miracle!

My greatest gifts.

Even if it kills me. Or maybe, more precisely, because it kills me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My Life with Mr. Awesome

"Hi Mom, I'm Mr. Awesome,"
he casually announces as he saunters into the kitchen shirtless with some Paw Patrol stickers and a Batman tattoo on his chest - just like the real Batman, he says.

His older brother added his walk-a-thon medal to enhance the look - a nice touch indeed.

Mr. Awesome, duh

This is the kind of ridiculous charm that knocks me off my socks at random times on any given day and punches through my otherwise gloomy disposition like a jolt of pure joy.

Six years into this whole "motherhood" thing, and I'm finally realizing that most of my constant grumpiness is due to the fact that I am, for the most part, constantly performing menial tasks. One might say I feel like a house servant, but that would not be totally accurate - servants are paid. And they get some days off.

The master of the house drives a Ferrari. I only get to push it from behind.

And so I roll the boulder up the hill, and watch it inch down inevitably with each passing minute as crumbs are sprinkled liberally and dishes and cups are used for eating and "experiments!" and clothing is pulled off and on, just for fun, and LEGOS are sewn on every square inch of carpet as if by a farmer in hopes of a generous harvest.

And it is finally dawning on me how much I hate getting down on my hands and knees and foot-washing, figuratively and literally. But between my groaning and sighs, I sometimes...fleetingly...glimpse the grace in it.

Friday, February 10, 2017

How to make your own ghetto light-saber and other tales

More random thoughts I'd like to remember...

(1) When Judah got a "unearth" your own crystals set this Christmas it came with a little wooden mallet and safety glasses to make it seem really authentic. Judah hammered away at the little block of loose sand and found a few small gem stones and called it a day. Noah watched him intently and when Judah went upstairs to put his gem stones away, Noah, without saying a word to anyone, donned the safety glasses, and started hammering away at the leftover pile of rocky sand, hoping to unearth some overlooked stones.

I don't know why this image sticks in my mind and makes me chuckle with mirth and pity. Something about this little guy being furtive and secretive and also totally accepting of his older brother's sloppy seconds...always being second place and the receiver of used charms me.

Noah, patiently waiting in the wings for his elder brother's scraps.

(2) Judah is such a hoarder. He has an intensely acquisitive nature. He doesn't acquire things for their utility - he just enjoys the accumulation of it. Now that he can earn his own money, he has learned that it's more fun to watch his money pile grow than to actually spend it on toys. Every time we go to Target Judah will peruse the toy aisles and finger items of interest, put them in our shopping cart, only to take them out again when it's time to check out. He would rather have the money.

Four months ago, he claimed that he would spend $10 after he first earned $30. Then he said he wouldn't spend money until he had earned $50. With a big boost from Chinese New Year, Judah now has a whopping $70 in his possession. And he now claims he won't spend any of his money until he's amassed at least $100. Oh the making of a miser.

So strong is Judah's hoarding instinct, that when I gave the boys cheap electronic light saber toys yesterday (a green one for Noah, a blue one for Judah), Judah immediately put his away in his room. In its place he jerry-rigged his own light saber by taping a flashlight to a back-scratcher, with which he used to fight Noah.

Ree. Dik. You. LESSSSS.

(3) Judah, of his own accord, without anyone every making any suggestions to him in the least, has taken it upon himself to make "worksheets" for Noah. They are the stuff of regular kiddie activity books - tracing the dotted line to form alphabet letters, simple math problems, color by number pictures, connect-the-dot pictures.

Judah does this because he wants Noah to have something fun to do when Noah is bored. And he believes Noah wants to progress in math and reading - which is true. But I don't know how helpful it is for Noah to do Judah's worksheets since Judah inverts a lot of letters and numbers - he still writes almost 30% of his symbols backwards (which makes me wonder if he's dyslexic).

Nevertheless, this inclination toward instructing his younger brother and wanting to make Noah happy is unbelievably rewarding for a mother to observe. What more do I want from my kids than to have such an abundance of good will toward their siblings? And quite an abundance there is - Judah has made over 50 worksheets and keeps it all in a giant zip-lock bag.

But maybe there's so many because Judah just likes to hoard...

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Love, Faking

Random thoughts I think I'd like to remember someday...

1. Judah's love is cheap. Judah tells me all day every day that he loves me. It started when he could speak that full sentence when he was a toddler and now that he's six, he still says it quite often. He especially says it when he senses that I'm getting grumpy, as he thinks that will bring me back to a happy state.

I've always known Judah loves easily, but I was reminded again last week when he started talking to our Amazon Alexa device. He asked for some jokes. He asked for Dark Horse by Katy Perry and Shake it Off by Taylor Swift. And then he said, I love you Alexa.

And Alexa replied, Thanks, it's good to be appreciated.

2. When Noah is happy he talks a lot. Usually that's in the car when I'm driving home after picking him up from preschool. My hearing is not so good, his voice is rather soft and babyish, and there are lots of ambient noises from the road, so I only end up hearing about 60% of what he says.

Noah gets upset if I don't engage by responding as an active listener so I've perfected the art of feigning understanding what someone says while not at all understanding what they've said. It sounds like this:

Uh-huh...oh yeah?
Oh, that's what you did...
Oh, I see!
And then he did that...
Oh, like that!
Right, oh, yeah, I like that too...

A giant metaphor of motherhood for me - fake it til you make it...home.

3. And lastly, Noah spelled this out on his letter board as part of my 4 year parent-child review. So far my performance has been...medium. And now I'm thinking, if I ever care enough about my blog to update its look, I would definitely rename it - Medium Mom. Thanks Noah!

The hardest boss/client I have ever had to work for.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The thoughts that Noah elicit...

It's 6:30 am and I should not be sitting here writing.

I should be getting ready for the day and packing lunches and wrapping birthday gifts for Noah. The kids will be up soon and then it's a mad-dash to make it to school on time and then the entire day will unfold like a 10K race for time.

But my totally unorganized and rambling thoughts about Noah compel me to write.

He is a mystery to me. A lovely mystery...and often a monstrous mystery.

A boy on his long-awaited birthday - a real big kid now.

Judah is my inner child. Everything he does and says and the tears behind his eyes reflect everything I have always felt in my own heart. There is no mystery there - only deep, deep understanding.

But Noah is unlike me, utterly.

Lately he has been responding to my unwanted requests and commands with - Why does it always have to be YOUR way?! It shouldn't always be YOUR way! You always get YOUR way!!!

Already he is thoroughly proficient at challenging my authority.

And every single time I cross his will (which is like 103 times a day) he responds vindictively with - When I grow up, there will be no grandmas allowed in my house! (Because he assumes I will be a grandmother).

And yet, his childish faith cuts me to my cynical core. Shames me for my hypocrisy. Exposes too much of my unbelief.

Today is his 4th birthday and he said he's glad to turn one year older - so I'm closer to being a grandpa. And then I'll die. And then I'll be in God's new world!

Noah often says - Let's talk about God's new world! - and answers almost every future looking question with - I want to go to God's new world.

And he asks me about his body v. his soul. And about the robbers that died on each side of Christ. And he marvels that almighty God could be incarnate as the least of these. And he makes me say things that sound ridiculous to my modern, culturally-assimilated ears.

Things I'm embarrassed to say in polite liberal company.

And then make me embarrassed by my embarrassment.

Which keeps me in the only good and safe posture I know - repentance.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Momiversity: Why Diets Make Us Fat

If you are like most Americans, December 31st becomes the day you re-commit to a diet.


Instead, commit to reading this book by neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt that just came out in 2016.

She writes in an easy, accessible style about the science behind why dieting is actually counter-productive. She explores cultural values of body image and also delves into her own personal backstory of constant extreme dieting and how she finally freed herself from that, ironically as part of a New Year's resolution NOT to diet in 2010. (Just to clarify, she does promote eating healthy and exercise. She uses the term "diet" to mean drastic reduction in calories for the sole purpose of losing weight).

Her pitch is this, in a nutshell - your body has a metabolic set-point within a 10-15 pound range. If you starve yourself to lose a lot of weight, your body will just lower your metabolism to quickly pack on the pounds again. Conversely, if you over-eat and put on a lot of weight, your body will raise your metabolism to get you back to your original weight.

BUT...if you are over-weight for a very long time, your metabolic set-point resets itself to that higher weight, sadly. Thus, you should try your best not to over-eat.

And if you plunge into an extreme diet and lose a ton of weight (a la Biggest Losers on the reality show), you will be fighting your metabolism and brain chemistry tooth and nail to try to maintain your loss, and ultimately, you will lose. Maybe you will "keep it off" for 6 months, or if you're ultra-disciplined, 6 years, but eventually, you will lose. And you'll find yourself on that horrible roller coaster well-known to all dieters, yo-yo-ing back and forth and perpetually trying to lose that last 20 pounds. Starving, binging, starving, binging, starving, binging...all the while shooting your metabolism to hell.

My favorite part of the book is when she writes about how girls on the island of Fiji got brainwashed into thinking that being thin is good. Traditionally, Fijian culture valued being thick and saying "you've lost weight" is a major insult. But as soon as they started watching Western TV shows in the early 90's (like Baywatch and Beverly Hills 90210) that all changed.

Now there are very high instances of eating disorders among Fiji girls, the first ever to occur in their society. The NYT wrote about it here: Study Finds TV Alters Fiji Girls View of Body

So what about us, on the great island of the Americas? Maybe it's time to get "un-brainwashed" and question our cultural aesthetic norms. Maybe some of us were made to be thicker and some were not. In the animal kingdom, variety of adiposity abounds (think: giraffes v. hippos). Why not for people groups?

There is a new movement that is trying to shatter the assumption that Fat = Unhealthy. Indeed studies have shown that "over-weight" people who eat well and exercise regularly can be much healthier than thin people who don't.

So let's just try to take good care of ourselves, without regard to our clothing size. Be good to your body and let the chips fall where they may, when it comes to the number on the scale.

It may be too late for some of us, steeped in the lore of Baywatch and 90210...but parents and aunts and uncles, let's at least try to save the children.

Our girls are watching us.