mountain views bring peace
better than a city day
our summer freedom
camping in nature:
reminder of what matters–
my moose, their antlers, our love
better than the beach
We ride in and out of parking lots, trailer in tow (no longer filled with three girls, but prepped for groceries), in search of a Sunday where errands are as bright as a blue-sky Denver.
I am wearing my Florida Keys alligator jersey, black bike shorts, and green bandana. The questioning and judgmental looks I receive as we enter each store in search of summer sneakers, continuation dresses, and all the food a family can eat for a week, don’t phase me. They never quite have.
What phases me is the longing. The feeling of belonging I am always searching for. Is it found here, in this perfect peony in my backyard? Under my mother’s watchful (and ever-critical) eye? In the few friends who could commit a Saturday to spend with us?
We finish our errands in a few hours. Meanwhile Mythili has invited her new friend over, and they have, in the same amount of time, baked a giant cookie, made two containers of slime, scootered up and down the block, built three houses in Minecraft, and made the neighbor girl a part of it all. (When her mother dropped her off, she said, “I love your neighborhood. It’s so much greener than ours.” Later I mention to Bruce, “Isn’t it funny how I took pictures of her perfect historical Dutch Colonial just a couple weeks ago, wishing it were mine?”)
Isabella and Riona have new hair for a bright summer. I pull a trailer full of a hundred pounds of groceries, shoes, swim suits, and dresses until I feel the strain on my legs and the altitude in my lungs.
It is all so perfect, this day, this life. Yet… beyond the blue sky, there always hovers an insecurity, a doubt.
Why am I not worthy enough of your friendship?
Yet… how have I been able to maintain some lifelong friendships?
My BFF of twenty-some years calls me today to talk about parenting. The endless turmoils and trials of parenting. After the story, my stupid self can’t think of much else to say other than, “It never gets easier. Remember when you were so worried when he wouldn’t poop for two days when you stopped breastfeeding?”
Because no matter how perfect the peony, how blue the Denver sky, how happy the family, there are always clouds, always doubts, always wonderings of what might have been.
We pull them behind us in overburdened trailers, getting stuck on hills with dog walkers on one side and too-fast-for-the-bike-path-peddlers on the other. (“Did you see how Mama almost fell and dragged us all down with her when she couldn’t make it up that hill?”)
We carry them in the four chords of every pop song, in the sadness found in novels we somehow all connect to, in the stories of loss and wonder we share in secretive phone calls and late nights after too much beer.
We see them peppered in clouds that come from the mountains on late afternoons. In the heat that beats through and the rain that peppers our party.
with a broken fridge,
limitations on dry ice,
and carpool circles
to pick up daughter
from uncalled-for punishment,
my Monday sucked ass.
driving home in rain,
she told me the whole story
and other teen truths.
then shared her essay:
(writer at fourteen)
the rain flooded us
and we laughed until we cried
knowing that truth hurts.
one week after snow:
sunny summer theme park day
because spring’s fucked up
My twelve-year-old lawyer (daughter) is set to win her first trial. She’s got the courtroom drama all set, with evidence ready for display and a case no prosecutor could fully retaliate against.
It begins with the chore chart, not individualized enough, nor written on paper, nor put in her room, but rather, displayed on an erasable whiteboard for all the world to see in the kitchen.
It ends with my recent revisions, where I took away piano that I’ve been fighting her to practice for the past seven months, and added instead, “Dinner prep” after a full-blown tantrum she threw three weeks ago when she alone wanted to help me fix dinner and not allow her little sister to also help, demanding (at the time) that I favored the youngest and always allowed her to participate in the kitchen with me.
So I divided up the weekdays with “Dinner prep” as evenly as I could amongst them, hoping to alleviate any semblance of favoritism.
Yet, it backfired. She was too busy playing a game with Riona and didn’t want to fix dinner, tonight or ANY night.
We had a serious blowout.
First piece of evidence, on behalf of the state: “My job as your mother is to teach you how to be a responsible adult, and that includes planning and cooking a meal for your family and cleaning up and organizing the kitchen in the process.”
First piece of evidence, on behalf of the defendant: “We already have to fix all of our breakfasts and lunches. Why should we have to cook dinner as well?”
State: “I hardly call it cooking when all you’re doing is pouring items into boiling water and leaving out the pans and lids and bowls with caked-on leftover food.”
Defense: “When you ask me to help, you just tell me what to do. It’s not fun.”
State: “When I have to drive kids and carpool every night of the week, come home and work on my second job for an hour, then cook dinner before your father gets home, I’m in a hurry. I need help to alleviate the stress.”
Defense: “Why can’t I look up the recipes? Why can’t I do the steps?”
I begin to think about my training today for my new role as a teacher coach/evaluator, where everything is about the students. No matter what the teacher says or does, if the students aren’t engaged, if the students aren’t learning, if the students aren’t mastering the objective, then the teacher is not effective.
How can I be effective in a classroom and not my own home?
She rushes out the door, ready to ride her scooter down the block. I rush after her. “Come inside. You are not going anywhere.”
The trial is over. She sucks in her breath and perks up when she sees I have decided to make crepes instead of soup and sandwiches (I could hardly do my cop-out meal after the boiling water comment).
I have already put all the ingredients into the blender. She runs it and gets out the ladle. The griddle is piping hot, ready for the first crepe.
She looks at me and I look at her. Every part of me knows that she is going to pour that batter all over the griddle and make a misshapen, air-pocketed, falling-apart crepe.
Every part of her knows it too.
Defense: “Can I ladle it?”
State: “Permission granted.”
And so for Thursday night’s meal, we have a courtroom drama served with a side of acquittal, a partial judge and an evidence-weary defendant.
We have partially cooked, sometimes burned, crooked crepes filled with turkey and cheese and tuna and peppers.
We have a moment witnessed by all eyes of the jury, when the defendant makes a turnaround and figures out how to ladle in a perfect circle, all on her own, and even flip a 12-inch-diameter crepe without breaking it, awing everyone in the courtroom.
And by the end of the night, chores tucked away as I kiss her goodnight, we’ve had a fair trial.
Even if the judge is working on impartiality.