Wanderlust

I’ve loved to travel as far back as I can remember. Buried in the hazy fog of childhood is the memory of curling up in the backseat of my grandma’s car, my head resting on a 1970’s print pink-daisy pillowcase, driving to Disneyland. I was four. There were road trips all the time, and I spent countless days at northern California campgrounds and wilderness areas while my dad fished trout in frozen lakes and tracked deer in volcanic forests.

My first airplane trip I remember was in seventh grade, on a study tour of England, Scotland and Wales. I was so excited to fly away, not only did I not sleep the night before, but I didn’t sleep the entire plane trip over the pole and down into London. That trip awakened something is me that has never gone dormant- two and a half weeks touring around Britain with only students and a few chaperones awakened not only a desire to see the world, but the awareness that I was not afraid to do so. Not only was I not afraid to hop a plane and go somewhere relatively alone, but I loved it.

As I got older, I never hesitated to jump in the car and take a road trip- either with friends or alone. At sixteen, in my first car, I drove all over the west. While I spent almost all of my life in one house growing up, once I left home, I lived up and down the west coast, from Seattle to Santa Cruz. One summer, I got on the back of a Harley Davidson and rode all the way to South Dakota. In my twenties, I took a job that allowed me to live in California, and commute to Seattle each week. I’d jump a flight to Phoenix to catch a concert with my cousin, and then take off to Palm Springs for the week with friends.

My penultimate job came in my mid-twenties when the company I worked for in Palo Alto set me up to travel to trade shows in Germany. I took a German class at the local college, bought German for Dummies, and grabbed a Lufthansa flight in San Francisco. I would work for a week, then take another two weeks to hop around Germany and Austria. Those are some of the single happiest memories of my life- meeting people as I went, no itinerary, going wherever I felt like any given day.

Of course my life is constructed in a way that no longer allows such unmitigated freedom- and yet, the wanderlust remains. The seeds have been quiet for a long time while I nurtured the babies that came, but now, as they get older, I can feel the seeds stirring inside, and I can see exposing my children to the world in a fearless way might be a gift I can give them.

Even now, a single grad-student mama, I will drop everything for an adventure. I hope this is something I can parlay into a love of life for my children- because it’s simply in my blood. Wanderlust…

Random Crap: Winterish

I’m sick. Of course- I take off for a tiny bit of relaxation and I come home with a cold. Go figure. It matches the grim and cold weather outside- I’m very tired of shoveling snow this year. It’s almost February though, so we’re halfway done with winter, right? Right? Craving some sunshine.

School this quarter is harder than the last few- I’ll be surprised if I can pull another 4.0- so start laying odds now. We shall see.

Tonight I made a killer eggplant parmigiana with Rao’s recipe sauce, smoked mozzarella and prosciutto- the kids wouldn’t touch it, and ended up eating frozen pizza. Every tried Rao’s recipes? Oh yes, I do recommend them if you have the chance…

Yesterday at the gym, I had them to a body analysis, and I’ve come farther than I thought. I still have a long way to go, but I’m much closer than I was, and am almost ready to begin training for the race I’ve committed to run. It’s a long way off, but I’m going to need that time to get up to speed. Maybe I should find a shorter race first, but I’m kind of an all-in person, so here goes nothing: I’m running the Disneyland Half Marathon in September. Go big or go home, isn’t that what the kids are saying?

Also yesterday at the gym? Ran two miles and then did a full TRX class. Today, I cannot move. Serves me right.

My boys spent the day alternating between fighting with each other, and helping each other make ghost-busting packs to wear, complete with hoses, backpacks and shooters- and they’ve never seen Ghostbusters. Abby played in my make-up while I layed around feeling like crap. Stupid cold.

Last Saturday I scraped my chin on the bottom of a swimming pool, and now, finally, a week later, it’s almost healed. Nothing makes a girl feel prettier than a big scab on her face. Excellent timing too, what with flying the coop for the weekend. Do I have the luck or what?

Up in the Air

Every once in a while, to keep from becoming brittle as tempered glass, a mama needs to fly away, up into the sky and towards the sun. She needs to feel the blood flowing in her veins and the breeze on her skin and to remember why she has wings in the first place. Then after she’s stretched and twirled in the warm updrafts of sunlit air and the sheer joy and freedom of being embodied, she can return to earth, and do so with renewed faith in who she is, and her ability to meet the needs of life. That’s all I’m saying.

Thank you to those of you who tended my chicks, fed their hungry mouths and kept them safe and happy so that this mama could feel the sun and remember who she is.

The Vegetarian is Dead: Churrascaria

Last night I was treated to a culinary adventure I have never experienced- and the foodie in me was rolling her eyes and noshing with delight. Brazilian barbecue , folks– also known as churrascaria. Now maybe this is old hat to some of you, but this a whole new world to me– and it was spectacular.

Churrascaria is simply a Brazilian steakhouse or barbecue, but its also a wonderland of new world of tastes and smells and spices and the adventure of having countless waiters drop by your table with enormous skewers of sizzling, spicy meat, that they slice right onto your waiting plate. You have this little tower at your table with a green side and a red side, and when you have the green up, the parade of skewers beings, and when you need a break, you tip it to red. When you’re hungry again? Back to green. I guarantee, you are not leaving a churrascaria hungry. Also- you will have a ball. On top the that, imagine the biggest, best antipasto bar you’ve ever seen, and then go help yourself– cheeses, cold sausages, eggplant, mushrooms, artichokes, a dozen other vegetables, sauces, pickled garlic and spices, beans, fragrant rices- and bacon! Lots of bacon! I couldn’t even begin to make room to taste everything.

The part that was most surprising and delicious what how unctuous the meats were- it must be due to the open mesquite roasting on skewers until its all falling apart and melting in your mouth. Is this normal, people? Is this was all you carnivores have been keeping from me all these years? Seriously, I don’t necessarily want to know what pernil de ovelha or alcataro no alho is, but the tender, thin slices that fell on my plate were some of the finest, best seasoned food I’ve ever enjoyed. Go find one!

Own It

On a recent trip to Mo’s, she taught me something really important. She was giving me a manicure while we sat on her couch, and what I learned I have parlayed into something meta for my life. I don’t chew my nails, but I keep them fairly short because of a) all the typing I do, and b) all the other crap I do with my hands, and c) long nails bug me. Consequently, while my toes are always painted pretty, my fingers seldom were.  But when she was done filing and smoothing my hands, she pulled out this insane ruby red Butter LONDON polish called “Knees Up” (hee!) and proceeded to paint my short, nicely filed nails this deeply scandalous, attention grabbing shade. I rebelled. I was self-conscious. Only women with long, manicured nails should wear a color like that- “I can’t wear that!” I protested. Holding my hand and brushing on the crimson anyway, she looked askance at me. “If you have something you don’t like, and you ignore it, it just looks neglected. If you polish it, it looks like you did it on purpose. Own it.”

Huh…

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of her saying that lately. Embrace the things that might be looked at as neglected, and suddenly they actually stop being flaws and become a beautiful, purposeful part of the whole. But what do I know- it was just about nail polish… But my nails have been polished ever since. (Today, they are a Sephora Opi called “Under My Trenchcoat”. This weekend, I’m planning on “Queen of Everything“.  Gotta love the names.)

Close to the Bone

Today was rough. Mostly I cruise along, so busy keeping us all afloat and functioning that I don’t feel the bumps and swells in the current- but today, I scraped myself ragged on the rocks- all damn day.

Last night I went with friends to see a band downtown, and it was great fun– I honestly had forgotten how much I enjoy going out and hearing music and socializing with grown ups. All three bands played bluegrass-y music and Johnny Cash covers. I got asked to dance once, and some guy spilled a beer on my boots. I had a good time- but it also got me in late, and left me very tired today with little reserve to deal with three kids by myself.

I had the super-fantastic idea to make doughnuts through my haze of tiredness- from scratch. Clearly, right off the bat I should have seen how low my brain was functioning. I actually thought this was a good idea. We got to church late, and for some reason, even the overflow was overflowing. We ended up having to sit in the foyer, and missed taking the Sacrament altogether.

Bean got a new primary teacher, and is not dealing well. At all. As in , throwing a chair across the room and shoving another pile of chairs over. I told the primary president this was going to be rough, and I suggested a specific teacher or two- neither of which are his teacher. It’s going about how I thought it would. Bean was also spotlight child, and Abby was assigned her first talk ever. By the way, who thinks asking a 4 year-old to talk on “Feasting upon the words of Christ” is a good idea? How about “I am thankful for my eyes” or “Jesus loves me!” Those I could see…

I couldn’t focus in Gospel Doc, and it was pointed out “helpfully” by someone that the slit in my skirt gave a flash of white when I walked. Excellent, now I’m immodest too. Super. The single mama has a kid who throws chairs and flashes her g’s- rocking up the points.

It was all I could do not to cry all the way through Relief Society. One of my best friends taught today, and she did a wonderful job teaching about sacrifice– and it was too close to the bone for me. Had I not been sitting in the front row, and had it not been such a close friend, I probably would have bailed. I really, really wanted to…

After church Bean threw an ever-loving fit at least three times and trashed the play room. All I wanted to do was curl up in bed and hide, and every time I turned around someone needed me for something and tears kept leaking down my face unbidden. Sometimes my fall-back emotion is to get mad- I’m more productive that way– today, I just wanted to cry. My mom called and let me vent to her for a bit, and I had a good conversation with a friend who also has a child with autism, and who understands the struggle. It helped.

Now, with the monkeys in bed and the house quiet, I feel reasonably calm and centered again. It’s a travesty that tomorrow is a school holiday (that makes me want to cry again) but I’ll make it. Today is done, and I can do hard things. I can. I can and I will.

Life Lessons

My son told me he hated me tonight. My oldest child– the child who split my soul wide open and cut a chasm into the wilderness of motherhood, the child who introduced me to God and allowed my bright tears to fall on his fiery copper hair while he was still wet and folded and trailing the scent of heaven– told me he hated me.

It doesn’t matter why– it was trivial and meaningless– and it was selfish the way only a child secure in the love of his mother can express. Even as part of me recoiled at his vehemence, I could recognize what was happening. I leaned on the doorjamb as he glowered over his scowled brow at me, using his stocking feet to shove the messy piles of Legos and dog-eared Calvin & Hobbes paperbacks littering the floor around his bed.

Motherhood teaches us lots of inimitable lessons and this one was about the removal of yourself– the you who is unique and hurts and hopes and wants– when your child needs something precious and specific from you. In that moment, watching him kick tiny plastic pieces and throw all his anger at me, it was my job to understand, to actually see him, and help him have what he needed- my own feelings were inconsequential comparatively.

He trusts me. The stresses of his life, though they seem simple and childlike from an adult perspective, are all new to him. In the last year, he has lost the only home he remembered, the freedom and security of having a stay-at-home mom, and most devastatingly, he has lost his father. The shadow of a man who occasionally shows up and looks vaguely like the guy who used to function as his father is fragile, untrustworthy, and must be handled with care. My children cling to what they can eek out from the three hours a week he might show up, watching themselves and exercising protective care over the repository of their ideas of what “father” means. They cannot, at this parting of paths in the road, tell their father they hate him- it would blow apart any fragile dream they have cobbled together.

It is for me they reserve their expressions of pain, anger and sorrow. It is for me they are safe enough to throw themselves on the bed and wail about the breaking of their hearts- and this is what I thought of as I sat down next to my angry son and laid my hand on his back in love. He folded his arms and harrumphed, scowling at me deeper. Taking his face in my hands, I told him how much I love him, and how proud I am of the vastness of his heart, the courage of his convictions and the soul contained within his growing strong body. I reassured him life would not always be this way, and that we can do hard things- we have, we will, and we will continue…

His face softened and he leaned over into me, now flushed and a little embarrassed, trying to hide a chagrinned smile. “I’m still mad at you..” he mumbled into his folded arms, brows still drawn down, but eyes brighter. “Yes, I know. It’s okay. You can be mad at me- I’ll still love you forever. I may not always like you- but will love you forever.” His head popped up- surprised and indignant that I would say some like that. “Well, you do have the power to hurt my feelings. I’m a person, doing the best I can, just like you.” Contemplation rolled across his stormy eyes, and I could see him processing the idea of mom as someone besides just “mom”, filler of bellies, laundry baskets, backpacks, bathtubs.

He’s nine years old. It’s young for the load placed upon his shoulders– oldest child, absent father, grad-school mother, courageous boy with a heart of gold– but I see those shoulders broadening already, and I suspect he will someday be quite the man.