Father Time

Daddies build bridges

Daddies build bridges

Father’s Day is right around the corner! It is that time of year where wives and kids show Dad how much he is appreciated, loved and valued in their family. This may be your very first Father’s Day and if so, CONGRATULATIONS!  Having a child is one of the most rewarding experiences you can ever have in your lifetime.  More precious than any job promotion, annual award or any other professional accolades, the opportunity to love and raise a child is truly one of life’s most unique gifts—because it transcends time.  If this is not your first rodeo with Father’s Day….CONGRATULATIONS! You already know how special you truly are as a Dad: the joy in your young child’s voice when you walk through the door; the awestruck look when you fix things or figure something out that is a ‘Dad Job’; the guidance and comfort you offer when something didn’t go well at the game or recital – these are only some of those things we do as Daddy that your family depends on you for.  Either way, share this day with your family, savor these moments, and make memories this Father’s Day!

On this Father’s Day, be sure to let your family know how much you value their appreciation of you.  You’ll feel special letting them know they made you feel special…and it teaches your kids about reciprocating love.  Now….what to do with the rest of your day? After the hugs, kisses, cards and gifts what does your day with your family look like?  Too often, we Dads fall into the stuff we need “To Do” for our family.  It’s a busy time in our lives as Dads, and none of us are perfect; we have family matters, bills, work expectations, broken things to fix and that always-ominous “The Future” to worry about and consume our thoughts. It is our joyful burden and responsibility as the ‘man of the house’.

The trouble is, many of these every-day responsibilities can pull us away from the very things we care about most and are working so hard for: our family. It’s a crummy paradox.  To nurture our families, we often have to do things that somehow separate us.  Kids are intent observers of their world and they know when someone is truly engaged and interested, or just going through the motions.  Where do we fall as Dads?  For myself, I’m always running the risk of busying myself with too much: too much work, too many projects; too many bucket lists; too many “to do’s”.  It is my nature, and I’ve learned to acknowledge it. But there is a way to bring balance to this paradox and it is something I work on every single day:  some days and some parts of the day we just need “To Be” for our families.

On this Father’s Day, I encourage all Dads, new or used, 😉 to just “Be”.  One of the most powerful, most memorable, most precious gifts you can give your child is your TIME.  Fully engaged, full-attention time. Time to play, time to listen, time to talk, time to love and nurture, time to guide, time to teach, time to “Be”. And here is where the surprise Father’s Day gift truly lies, and is one you can get every day of the year:  when you give wholly of yourself to your family, you get back more than you ever gave.  And the bonus? There are no boundaries on time, which means there is no end to the love you give and receive!  It is the principle of being “selflessly selfish”. It feels good to be loved, valued and appreciated, and when you give these gifts without an agenda or expectation, you’ll always get them back!

The Journey?! No Thanks!

Our favorite mode of travel in England!Sunrise over Europe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, Mamas…time to ask this honest question…does anyone else sometimes feel like being a mommy is emotionally like riding on a funhouse psycho rollercoaster? Well, my hand just shot up faster than I can even blink! I’m serious, this job is “the wildest ride in the weeeeiiillllderness!” (Disney fans, shout it out!) I’d bet money right here and now that for so many of you, no explaining is needed about my rollercoaster analogy. This mommyhood thing is unnerving! Before I fall over the next cliff in the journey, I’ll spit out my latest adventure in parenting….

This blog post was supposed to be entitled, “Enjoy the Journey”. When we were on the plane flying over here, Jeff and I had the loveliest view of the sunset, and then quite quickly we saw the sunrise on the opposite side of the planet. We smiled and just intuitively summons the notion that we had to have a blog post about the parenting journey, and the movement of time. Typical, we know, but it just seemed so naturally appropriate. I even took a photo of the beautiful orange sky over the wing of the airplane that was delivering the four of us to the beginning of our, sure to be fabulous, adventure.

You see, we are on vacation with our children…and I have to use the word children lightly these days since our babies are 18 and 15 now. We are traveling with these mini-us type individuals, who are really savvy about travel, thank goodness. And I say that sarcastically! Thank goodness they are so smart about directions and train cars and money conversion and, and, and, and, because they have consistently informed us throughout this trip that we couldn’t find our way without them. And they haven’t told us this in a soft, gentle, loving way. They’ve not minced words. They’ve shown us through their laughter and “in character” how we sound and look when we are grueling over a metro map to find our next location, or craning our necks to see what the next street is named. They claim (and are correct, d’oh!, but don’t tell them we agree) that we consistently think we know exactly where we are supposed to go, but that we are always wrong and that we are totally passive aggressive in our verbiage when so proved. So…on that note…let’s talk about enjoying the journey, shall we?

The journey. Moms everywhere are nodding their heads in unison as I discuss this topic. How many times have we been told this, ladies? “Enjoy the journey, the time is gone in the blink of an eye!” or “Embrace the little moments, they’ll be gone before you know it.” More heads are nodding. I for one, know these statements are indeed correct, as I am spending this last vacation before my biggest little one goes away to college and takes over the world, which OF COURSE means that this is our LAST vacation we will ever take together in our whole lives, right?

Roller coaster trip #1: I better enjoy this journey because she will never want to travel with us again!

Moms! You know these feelings! How in the world are we supposed to enjoy the journey when we feel like our world as we know it is changing that drastically?? GEEZ! Whether we are talking about first steps, first bites of solid food, or first years of college, it doesn’t matter. It always feels like nothing will ever be the same again; just a little shift that takes us closer to the next phase. Talk about unrealistic! And, yes, of course I’m telling myself OVER AND OVER AND OVER that she’s not morphing into a human being that will have nothing to do with us just because she’s going to fulfill her purpose in the world. Of course, our relationship and bonds are strong and integral, to all of us. We all know, however, that in the muck of that muddy part of the foreign journey, we don’t see the path too well! And that look that the two of them keep giving me…what’s the word for it? Oh yeah, PITY! While Jeff is rubbing my back in circles trying to ground me to the earth and all that is real, my kids are just sitting across the train station platform staring at me, wondering why I’ve spontaneously started crying AGAIN and shaking their heads in unison at what they see as my pathetic grasping to their childhoods. They are not understanding how in one second I can be laughing at the most hilarious joke our son slides into the conversation, and the next second, another joke that he thinks I’ll be tickled by makes me cry.

Roller coaster trip #2: I better enjoy this journey because he will be telling charming jokes to someone else and won’t even remember he had a mother!

Boys are so fun to raise. This son of mine is truly sonshine to me. He brightens my days. He is aggressive, passionate, fearless, and actively seeking; actively seeking adventure, actively seeking paths that lead to mysterious situations, and actively seeking people that bring excitement to his life. Ultimately, this active seeking is little by little leading him on an adventure away from his safe and cozy home. As we are in England on this vacation and are huge Lord of the Rings fans, I am consistently looking for Gollum to be lurking in the fields and meadows we are exploring, luring my son away from The Shire. Yeah right, enjoy the journey! How can I enjoy the journey when this journey is taking my adventurous boy to dangerous places that don’t include me buckling a life vest on him? Seriously! This kid says yesterday out of the blue, while we are sitting in a pub talking (again) about cars with him, “It’s weird I’ve worn this exact face for 15 years!” He grabbed his skin and started pulling on it. I grabbed a tissue and ran for the loo. Dips and speed and corkscrew turns aplenty!

And then let’s talk about the obvious when discussing being a mommy; guilt! There is no journey, that I’ve been on at least, that does not include its fair share. What have I been feeling guilty about on this trip? Where shall I begin?

Roller coaster trip #3: I better enjoy this journey because I don’t want to look back and regret everything I’ve missed while focusing on things other than our children!

Obviously, Jeff and I are in the midst of building our dream. Victory Garden Kids is precious to us, and we have dreamed about it since 1992, when we first discovered our idea, but it is a lot of work that we waited to start building because we were building our family. As we are working on completing our first book, we are typing and talking and brainstorming almost constantly. It’s what we have to do to grow VGK into everything we envision. This time away from our home has been great for that. We’ve had freedom from the everyday, consuming brain-draining activities to reiterate to one another our passions about our project. And then, in the time it takes for the roller coaster cart to plummet into the stomach-dropping dip, guilt kicks in! Every moment discussing our future (mine and Jeff’s as a couple) is a moment not enjoying the journey with our kids. How could I sacrifice that time with them? Sidenote: these two kids, I’m completely positive, are sitting up in their beds mourning the fact that we are out in the garden having tea and talking about our VGK baby. They have only slept in until noon everyday to escape the fact that we are occupied with something other than them. They are just hiding their feelings of complete betrayal by burying their noses in their computers. How dare we not be sitting at their bedsides, perusing social media with them. That’s what they really want, right? They want us to hover. This is how they know we love them, right?

And on and on it goes. The journey continues.

Even as our England adventure comes to a close, as the train is pulling into Platform 9 ¾ (how can I not quote Harry Potter when talking about a train station in England…) to take us to the airport that will take us back across the pond and back to all the craziness that we thrive on, crave, and stress about simultaneously, it seems the destination has been reached. But the one thing I have truly learned about being a mom, the journey is constant and the destination is non-existent; there is no getting off the ride and we don’t have to disembark and get back in line; so we can quit stressing about it. One adventure ends, but another has already begun, without our consent and without our meddling! We don’t have to keep telling ourselves to enjoy the journey. We can feel how we want to feel, and we can, and should, feel all the roller coaster emotions that are present. Denying ourselves the full range of emotions while on the ride robs us of the reason we got in the queue for the ride in the first place! So I say to you, to us, to FEEL! Don’t squash any emotion because your kids think you’re crazy! Don’t hide any turmoil because you’ve been told to enjoy and embrace! It all matters and it’s all important. That’s YOUR journey. And our journey is just as important as our kids’ journeys and our husband’s journey and our own parents’ journeys. Don’t deny yourself the full effects of the crazy psycho roller coaster! What a rush it is to feel the power of that wind in our faces and those butterflies in our stomachs. That’s the journey I want!

History is a Present

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My wise Dad dressed up at Halloween as evil Geppetto

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Craig and Zak came to cheer for Ben’s team

We just finished a great hockey tournament weekend in Portland. The tournament was definitely an embracing of the joy and love of the game (this is our method of emotional coping when we lose every game except the last consolation game). We had a great time watching our beloved Capital Thunder team play passionately and work hard while learning the agony of defeat and that sometime the biggest growth comes from learning from losing.

Anyway, we got to have an amazing time visiting with our dear friends that live in Lake Oswego, The Simmons family. We love them so much and every time we get together with them is such a joy for me. You know those people that you just feel good around and that make you feel so wonderful just by being in the same room with them? This family is that for me. I just feel really good in my guts when we are with them. Their kids are real, they all treat each other so kindly, and what’s so special to me is that Craig and Mona let their children know how valuable they are as humans. Their children feel loved and in return, they like to hang out with their parents, which means that by default, we got to hang out with these really cool kids.

On this trip, my dad was able to drive up to Oregon with us for the tournament. It was so special for Ben that his Papa came all this way and took time out of his busy schedule to watch him play, and it was so special for me to listen to my Daddy telling our kids about his growing up time in Oregon. He would point things out along the drive through the state that were special to him, or that he had a memory of, or where his family lived.

The coolest thing about this trip for me though, was something that happened when Mona and Craig started telling us about their recent trip to Thailand, and their time in Vietnam was brought up. Mona found out that my dad had fought in The Vietnam War and began asking him questions. We talked for quite some time about my dad’s experience. This was very special for me because growing up, my dad didn’t talk a lot about his time there. I had alway assumed that there were just too many painful memories for him to talk about, but after this weekend, I think it was also maybe because I never really asked.

Yesterday, we girls were having such an enjoyable rainy Portland afternoon, talking over chai tea that Mia made for all of us (the best chai tea I’ve ever had, Mia Girl!) and Mona mentioned that it was such a shame that The Vietnam War and other important historical events are not taught in depth in American schools when there is so much personal, human information to be absorbed by our children today. She mentioned how lucky my children are to have first hand information in their lives from someone who experienced it. Wow. I had never, not once, thought about how amazing that is for our family. My dad is a strong, bold, affectionate, innovative, smart, kind leader. I have admired many things that he has done in his life, like how he and my mom rode their bicycles across the United States, or how he knew how to build a whiskey-barrel swivel chair and install it in our big, blue van without looking at directions, or how he could get our dumb dog, Noyo’s head unstuck from inside a big pickle jar without cutting him, but never have I realized the very real first hand access to American history that is stored inside my dad’s mind.

This realization that I have been missing a great opportunity to learn about these experiences from my dad, along with the changes that our family is currently experiencing in this season of my aging, has got me thinking about what things I should be embracing that I am not, for both my family and for my personal self. As Hannah is preparing to leave for college, my son is non-stop reminding me that he is a mere seven months from having his driver’s permit, my sister and brother-in-law and my precious nieces and nephews are preparing for a move to far-away San Antonio, Texas, and other changes that are not significant in distance or quantity but are still mighty in their value, I must ask myself what I can do to keep my eyes on the important things that I might otherwise be neglecting. Family, tradition, and collecting history from the loved ones that lived it are what I wish to embrace at this season in my life. I want to celebrate and embrace the changes that are happening, while cherishing the history of my family and loved ones. This is what our life is for; celebrating the people we love, learning from our past, cherishing our present moment, and embracing the future. I want to live that way everyday.

Embrace You!

I got the unusual Sunday morning privilege of bringing my son to hockey this morning. Usually, I go to church to hear Hannah sing on the worship team while Jeff brings Ben to the rink, but today Jeff had some things to do and Hannah is in India, so I got to be the lucky hockey mom (that was not sarcasm. I really like it). While Ben was getting his gear on, I decided to go to the car wash before it got too busy. It’s a familiar car wash, on a familiar road, in a familiar town. During our homeschool years, this was our place. We spent many hours driving between the rink, the rock climbing place, guitar lessons, Lego-robot building class, and our very familiar eating establishments, where we spent many hours studying and learning vocabulary while eating mac and cheese.

I’m not sure why today my mind has decided to take a walk down memory lane, but nevertheless, we know as moms that our minds have a mind of their own, and mine has decided to slam me with memories this morning. Maybe it’s because while Hannah has been in India we have spent some time doing some of Ben’s old faves; rock climbing with a friend after the game last night for example. While driving from the rink to Granite Arch, Ben started pointing out our old hangouts to his friend– “This is where we ate lunch after guitar lessons on Tuesdays”, and ” “Hey, I remember we would go to that Pinkberry a lot” (apparently we spent the homeschool years constantly eating…). While Jeff was belaying them while they climbed, I sat and read a book on that familiar orange faux leather couch at Granite Arch, the floor heater churning at my feet; the heater that the owner brought in one day FOR ME years ago because he noticed me shivering during Ben’s lessons every week. “Hey!” I said to Jeff. “That’s MY heater! I sat here and read The Bee Eater by Michelle Rhee right here with that heater at my feet. He smiled at me. Jeff knows by now that those statements that I make from memories may very well lead to an emotional heap of misty tears on the bathroom floor. He is happy at the memory, but concerned at the effect of it on me these days.

And of course, poor Ben has had to tolerate (he didn’t hate it though, I hope!) my constant voice in his ear while Hannah’s been away. “Want to do Legos?” I ask him while he’s deeply enmeshed in his Xbox single player driving game. “Want to switch games and we can play a double player like we used to?” He gives me the same smile Jeff keeps giving me. “How about in a little while?” he says. “Of course, Benny”, I tell him. I’m happy he’s having a great time.

But, on the way here today, something strange happened. I got to the bottom of my travel coffee cup and tasted strong sugar. You know those smells and tastes and sights that take you back to a place that you didn’t know you had a connection to? Like Suave hairspray makes me think of my large-banged 80’s days wearing Z Cavaricci’s and sharing mushroom swiss burgers with my Jill before football games. Well, that strong sugar and strong coffee in the bottom of my cup did that for me.

We Three Muskateers were in the car a lot for various reasons during the kids’ homeschool years. We drove to LA many times for auditions and jobs; we took field trips to break the monotony of having school in the house; we had season tickets to Discovery Kingdom and went there often; the kids took ski lessons and we drove up to Sierra in the early mornings week after week in the winter. As I took that swig this morning, specific points in the road raced into my mind; the stretch of road before reaching the turn for the 505; the exit for getting gas in Santa Nella, passing the turn up to our old house in Brownsville on the way to Sierra (sitting in that lodge is where I wrote the first VGK blog that would change the view of our future). These places in the road are where I would always get to that last drink of coffee in my travel cup on those journeys. These spots that mark my past on the road that lead to this future. And I’m not feeling, wait for it, it’s a shocker: I’m not feeling like crying! Something very important entered my head for the first time ever. I can’t believe I’m about to say it! All those trips, all those events that I made happen for the kids benefit, all those full days that Jeff and I created so that the kids could look back and feel good about, well, they were about me too! Mommies! Those times were meant for us, too! We must embrace each moment not just to provide for our children, but to instill foundational memories for ourselves. We matter and it matters that we know this!

I didn’t know it then. I didn’t know that the intention of my mommyhood would be to provide care, love, experiences, joy, discipline, and guidance for Hannah and Ben, but also to create spaces in time that were for me! Those times mean something to me not just for what they did for the kids, but also based on my enjoyment of them. Even if the kids didn’t get as much out of them as I had hoped, they are still important, just because I am important! The sooner we understand this, the more rich the moments are. The times we don’t embrace as our own will be lacking a vital piece of the puzzle.

In fact, I chuckled in the car when I took that last drink of my coffee today and Ben asked my what was funny. I smiled and told him it made me remember this car ride, and that trip to here or there. I mentioned the homeschool trips to Discovery Kingdom, and a look of confusion hit the boy’s face. “I don’t remember that”, he says to me. My forehead wrinkles and my eyes squint in immediate frustration. “You don’t remember?” “Nope”, he says. And at that moment, a weird peace came over me and my scrunchy face relaxed. “That’s okay,” I told him. “I do”.
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