Lost and Found


I have not written in a while.  I have lost several people close to me, and I felt like I couldn’t speak about it without first getting beyond the ache.  But I have come to realize that the ache doesn’t leave.  I have wrapped myself around it, tried to ignore it, gotten angry with it, and yet it remains.  I now see that it is just becoming a part of me.  Like the lines on my face, grief and grace have become a part of me, and in the process have colored my soul.  I still have so many questions about why things happen the way they do, but I am learning to follow my heart path rather than the cynical one that my head tries to lead me down.  I am at a loss for so many of the answers here, but I know that anger and bitterness will not help me feel closer to those people who are gone.

My boys have had to experience these losses, too.  It is hard for me to watch them hurting and to see them as they come to terms with the end of a life.  They are like mirrors for me, but ones which gives me a clear perspective, ballast, and hope that each loss carries with it some gift.  I watch them sieze every moment of their days with such unbridled energy, and curiosity, and awe.  They reflect for me, the certainty that a life filled with gratitude is the only way to weather the storms.  I have been blessed by the joy, humor, and light from so many people who are no longer here.  I think my biggest regrets are the moments where the thick cloud of my own anxieties and fears kept me from telling someone, “Thank you. You are a gift.  The world is better because you are in it.”  I so often get caught up in the process of getting from A to B, and from a.m. to p.m.  I let myself become distracted by the noise and stark threat of deadlines and schedules.  I lose sight of the fact that each moment is such a gift. To look at my world with anything other than boundless gratitude would be unthinkable.  Of course, things get rough. We lose people we love, we struggle with fears and worries. Am I enough? Am I doing right by these boys? Do I have the strength to be content with never knowing some answers?  But beneath it all, beneath all of those “Whys” and “What ifs”, I feel calm. I feel each breath, in and out, is the now I am meant to embrace.  In every moment, whether it is painful, like the letting go I have had to do, or joyous, like watching my boys laughing and playing and growing up together…I am reminded that these moments are all so precious.  I am trying to be here, now, rather than listening to the muffled sounds of chatter, pain, laughter, and tears while I sit in some empty room with walls made of my own worry and anxiety.  God has given me this moment. I simply can’t waste it by wrapping myself in the uncertainty and trepidation of the paths that lie before me.  I have to take each breath and each step for what it is.  I need to be strong enough to feel the oxygen fill my lungs, and sense the solid ground beneath my feet without doubt.  Where the steps lead, and what would have happened along paths I did not take is not something I can know.  But I have to believe that there is a map, and while I may not be able to see it clearly, I feel certain that each step follows the path that I am meant to walk.   I choose to believe that the people I have lost, really aren’t lost at all.  In fact, they have been found and welcomed with love and grace, and my path will reach them all eventually.  In the meantime. I will choose gratitude and hope.  I will choose to be right here in it… in the wild, joyful, chaotic percussion of my life. I will choose breath and steps, revealing the blessings of each moment, one at a time…until I too, am lost and found.

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Ski Week


They call it “Ski Week” up here in the great white north. And by great white north, I am of course referring to Northern California. I know that my Uncle Mike who lived in Alaska for years is chuckling at this point, but I digress. So, instead of having just one day off on Monday for the celebration of several esteemed and historic dead presidents, evidently the kids are given an entire week to ponder the importance of the aforementioned presidents while they wait in lift lines and clutch hot cocoa. Chris did in fact take yesterday off even though he rarely takes holidays, especially the ludicrous ones like “ski-week”. But, he was home yesterday because it was the end of his week long “time out” prescribed by his doctor.

Last Tuesday he failed a stress test, and was given a stent to open up a major artery in his heart that was 99% blocked. Someone asked me if it has changed his personality. I have to say that while I think it has given him a new and powerful sense of purpose and a goal (we have all become a slightly unkempt, but focused cheering squad promoting low-fat, whole-grain, high-fiber, and low-sodium), I believe his personality remains strong and intact. He seems to be the same sweet, saber-toothed, surly, quiet, man with a wickedly wry sense of humor that I have known, loved, and tolerated lo these many years. He does continue to have an intolerance for stupidity, which I think is completely justifiable, but going forward we may need to find less stressful ways for him to express his disdain when faced with those situations and people. Still, I pity those poor souls who wander into his path.

By the time I got the call from him about the failed stress test, I had already dropped the kids at school. In a quiet hushed tone (because he was using the emergency room phone) he told me that he had failed the stress test. Chris never fails tests. He aces tests. He is brilliant. But this isn’t about that. The reason he had gone in to see his doc at all was some chest pain that he had had while walking and on the treadmill over the last several weeks. Now he is telling me that those pains happened again while on the stress test treadmill, and the cardiologist has deemed it a “significant cardiac event”.   It sounded like something that would require an R.S.V.P., or perhaps could be found in the Calendar section of the Gilroy Dispatch. It did not seem like the kind of phrase I would be using to describe the adventures of my forty-three year old husband.

He asked me to pack an overnight bag with clothes, a book, ditty bag, and a phone charger. They would be taking him by ambulance from the San Jose Hospital to the Santa Clara Hospital for an angiogram. It would take several hours, so I shouldn’t say anything to the kids yet. Just go on with our regular routine until he was admitted into an actual room, and then he would call again. I must tell you here that I am a mutt, ethnically speaking, but have quite a good bit of Irish in the mix. My skin is very fair and tends to be a reflection of my emotions. What I am saying is, I am a really lousy poker player, and a horrible liar (this usually includes lies of omission). Luckily, this was the last week of school before a weeklong break, so the kids were incredibly busy and very distracted. I had Chris’ bag packed and tucked up in the floorboard of the passenger seat of the van (named POD for Pile-o’-Debt). As I picked up the first bunch (Alex and Sam) from the elementary school, and then Zach from middle school, the car began to fill with the usual and beautiful cacophony of the afternoon. Recess and class adventures were shared and compared. The exploits of friends and enemies were described in great detail to each other. Occasionally, I would interject and comment or ask a question, but usually I simple drove and eavesdropped enjoying the fact that they let me come to the party at all. We went by the library to return books, and then home to the business of homework. Sam and Alex had valentines that they were cranking out for their classes, and Sam was in the middle stages of constructing a Tardis as his Valentine’s box. Long gone are the days of a simple shoebox with hearts and glitter. All of these things were welcome distractions for me, because I had not heard from Chris since the pre-angiogram phone call. I helped Alex with his spelling packet, and reviewed ancient Mayan and Toltec history with Zach for a Social Studies quiz. At 5pm I told Sam to grab his piano books and we headed off to lessons, which start at 5:15 taught by Miss Mary at the Music Academy of Gilroy (located in the back building of the First Methodist Church.) Piano goes until 5:45 and after that we headed home and I made very quick peanut butter sandwiches for them to eat. Still no word from Chris, and since that night would normally be Zach’s junior high group (JAM) at Gilroy Presbyterian, that was to be our next stop. I was still just humming along on our little track of routines, but all the while, my stomach was twisted into these insane knots and my breath kept shortening into little puffs like I was at a high altitude. When I would notice it, I would stop and just take one long deep breath and then wonder how many minutes I had been puffing away like some little smokeless dragon. So weird what our bodies do to compensate or react to stress and anxiety, especially when you aren’t really venting it out anywhere. Finally, with “camping” dinner in their bellies, and just as we headed out to take Zach to JAM, I got the call. It was Chris, very low-voiced and speaking carefully as though trying to walk a straight line with his words. I believe this was the Valium talking here, but I could be wrong. Even with Valium, this man keeps it together.   It was then that he told me that they had done the angiogram and it had shown a 99% blockage of a pretty major artery, so they put in a stent. We should come now, he said. He was in room 7. That’s it. I told the kids that dad had had a doctors visit and some tests earlier in the day and that the doctors had not liked the way his heart was acting so they wanted to fix it. So he is getting a procedure done and going to spend the night at the hospital. It took 45 minutes and a lot of crazy commuter traffic for this country mouse and her three kids to make it to the Santa Clara Hospital in the dark, but we did it.

I think it was hard at first for the boys to see their dad laying flat in the hospital bed. The tube from the angiogram and stent placement was still in place in his femoral artery, so they had to keep him flat and monitor him carefully for blood clots and adverse reactions. Sam pointed at the flimsy hospital sheet and whispered to me, “Is he naked under that?” and I told him that he had one of those stylish hospital gowns like they make you where, but that yes, his legs are uncovered so the nurses can check the tube and the incision and make sure everything looks good. I let Chris decide how much or how little detail to give them, and he told them exactly what happened and what the doctors did. I am happy about that. I always think it is far scarier to leave kids out of conversations and let their imaginations swirl with the “what-ifs”. I know that when I was a child, my “what ifs” were always so much worse than the reality. If you are truthful, and let them be a part of the dialogue, even if that dialogue includes the words, “I don’t have the answers right now.”, I believe it allows them to voice their worries rather than bottle them up. We hung out for several hours until they removed the tube. The waiting room was hot and stuffy, and I kept walking out and down the hallway to make calls to Chris’ folks or mine. The boys were patient, playing on their phones and then “I spy” when batteries ran low. But poor Alex has very predictable needs. His body knew when it was 8:45 that he should have been home in pj’s and brushing his teeth. He also seems to have become my most impressionable of the three. By that I mean, Sam and Zach seem to have created these defense mechanism that have enabled them to cope with certain traumas and dramas that are happening around them. It’s as though they are shooting through space in a meteor storm, but things just deflect off of them a lot of the time. But so often, we will be in some circumstance where there is harm to someone else or there is a traumatic or difficult event, and I look at Alex and it is as though not only has the meteor actually connected, it has left its indelible imprint on him. Finally, the boys and I were allowed back in the room, and they let Chris rise up a whole four inches from the completely prone position he had been in previously. I helped him get his contacts out and eat a fantastic dinner of dry turkey sandwich and low-sodium chicken soup. It had been 17 hours since Chris had eaten anything, which I think is the longest that he has gone without food, well….ever. The boys and I joke about the fact that dad needs to get enough sleep and needs to eat regularly lest he turn into the Red Hulk. So, he was incredibly grateful to have that awful little boxed meal despite the lateness of the hour, the dryness of the turkey, or the frustration at having his wife be the one who held the straw on his juice box. We finally said goodnight to Chris about ten, and I think he saw something of the wild panic in Alex’ eyes, and said in a calm voice, “Alex, it’s going to be alright.” As we walked out, Zach and Sam were ahead several paces and Alex looked up at me (just barely because he is almost as tall as I am now) and tears were just brimming in his eyes). He said, “Mom, I think I am afraid that Dad just said that the way some adults say, ‘It’s gonna be alright’, when it really isn’t going to be alright at all.”

I put my arm around him, and quietly called the other two back. “No Alex, this is not like that. This is not one of those times, where the adults say it’s going to be ok, when it isn’t. You know what this moment is? This is a Hallelujah moment. For me, this is a God is Good moment. We could call it a half-full glass moment, or a Bluebird moment; dad might call it simply fortuitous. You can call it whatever you want to, but dad felt a pain in his chest and instead of ignoring it, he called his doctor and made an appointment. Maybe that was just him being one smart cookie, or maybe some gut instinct motivated him, but I am just so very grateful right now that he made that call.”

Earlier in the evening while watching bad t.v. on the tiny set in the waiting room, Alex had asked what would have happened if dad hadn’t gone in to the doctor for the test, and Sam had thrown wide his hands and said, “Heart attack waitin’ to happen.”

Don’t sugarcoat it Sam. Give it to us straight.


Happy Ski Week!

Love to you all,


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I met a mom yesterday who has had to experience the unimaginable. It is that thing that every one of us moms has flashed to in an instant, and then, if we are lucky, we shiver and brush the thought away like shaking off a nightmare upon first waking. But, there are some, like this mom…for whom it is not just an instant of worry, or a remnant of a dream to be soothed away with sun and morning noises. She found out last year that her daughter had a rare type of brain tumor, and she was suddenly faced with the unimaginable. Her story and information about her campaign to raise funds for pediatric cancer research can be found at www.unravelpediatriccancer.org. She tells her story far better than I could, and with such bravery and honesty, that I hope you all will visit the site.

It just got me thinking how often we live in our own little bubbles. Floating along, sometimes consumed by our own problems or our own pain, and it is so easy to forget to really look at the people that we pass by on the street, and in our neighborhood. Everyone is dealing with something. Some of those things are so heavy that it takes a village to lift them from a person’s shoulders and hearts. The rummage sale where I met this mom (after staying up most of the night reading her blog and crying) seemed to be financially successful, but more than that, you could tell she had a village of people helping her. I was happy to see all those helpers, and I bought a shirt, a magnet, a bracelet, and CD’s that I knew I shouldn’t be buying when we are trying to downsize, but, when I met her I fumbled over my words. It is so hard to form the right words when your heart is so full of pure raw emotion. I was just so touched by her story. Everything I said came out wrong. I just wanted her to know that I thought she had an amazing family, and that her honesty and bravery were inspiring.  And that I was sorry, so sorry that she was that mom…when it could have been any of us.  It could have been me.

After we left, Sam and Zach (Alex was home with Chris) were trying to wrap themselves around the fact that I was so emotional over some lady’s little girl dying.  It’s not that they were callous, in fact, Sam was really quiet and asked a lot of questions, but I was still crying a bit in the car, and I just couldn’t explain it exactly. I tried by telling them that of course it is sad for me if anyone dies, but there is something especially heartbreaking about a child dying. My guys have not really experienced a peer dying. All but one great-grandparent has died, but we believe in heaven and even though they were sad, they understood that they had lived long, full lives. But there is no long, full, life with the death of a child. There is no completed bucket list, because surely prom, wedding, and road trips could not happen at age 6. So I told them I supposed it was just the unfairness of it. I tried to explain in terms that would make sense. Since the guys are nearly two years apart, each of them is constantly looking at the lead dog in front of him not only for guidance, but also for all the cool activities and toys that will be within his grasp within a few short years…so it is within this context that I spoke.

Sam is 7 and the youngest, so I started with him. “So, Sam, you know how you always look to Alex or Zach to see what cool things you will be getting to do next?” I see Sam’s head nod in the rearview, but his voice is high pitched as he says, “Yes.” because it is actually the small stuffed beaver puppet that we got at the rummage sale that is replying to me.  I don’t bat an eye, but continue on trying to make my point. “Well, we do that to give you guys something to look forward to, and also as incentive to behave in all the right ways to earn the same privileges that your brothers have at their ages.

It was the lady that I was talking with at the rummage sale whose daughter died.  Her little girl’s name was Jennifer, and she was only 6 years old when she died, just a year younger than you. She will never be able to do 7-year old things or look forward to doing 8-year old things. Do you understand how unfair it is that she doesn’t get to grow up and fill up all those years with life and love the way that Nonie and Grama Aleene did? Does that make sense? So that’s why I think I feel really sad for that mom, in particular, and any time a child dies. I know how amazing heaven will be, and the joy and light that any child will bring there is tremendous, but the unfairness of what they miss and what their families miss is heartbreaking.

We have all lost someone. Many of us have lost someone so close that it has left a space deep enough and wide enough that no amount of time will heal. I, for one, have learned that it is not really a wound to be healed anymore, but simply a part of my landscape. It is just as much a part of my topography as my elbow or the veins on the back of my hands. Now with some time, I see I have been filling that space with all their time, their stories, their voices, their love, filling that infinite deep space that I use to call pain with something more. It hurts to remember them still, but I close my eyes and let it wash over me until it doesn’t…and then I am left with so much gratitude for having them at all.

Much love to all…

And wishing peace in your hearts and blessings in your world to those of you who have had to say goodbye to someone far too soon.

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An A Inside an O


What a feisty, amazing lady you are, Gram.

I can see you, climbing into Pappy’s little

red and white ski boat after getting breakfast

at Black Meadows. You have on your

Bermuda shorts with a matching sleeveless

blouse tied in a knot just above your tanned

flat belly. You laugh as Pappy swats at your

rump to get you in the boat.  So many lake

days with summer heat, cattails, and

spitting watermelon seeds straight

into the shallows, eco footprint be damned.

Your hair is puffy and slate-colored, like the

metallic parts I imagined you working on in

the machine shop when you were younger.

And then there were Christmas mornings

since forever with those biscuits of yours

that you tended carefully after Pappy was

gone. You could make them with your

eyes closed, softly kneading the dough

then baking them in recycled Marie Callender

pie tins.  That was back when they actually

were heavy and made of thick tin. 

I have one still, you know. I was trying to

recreate those biscuits just this last weekend,

and realized that the pan I was using had the

big stamped MC in the center. I flipped it

over and sure enough there was your mark, an

A inside of an O, painted on with one of those

rich rum nail polishes you used to wear.

It startled me at first to see you there, on the

bottom of my biscuit pan, but there you were.

We have watched you struggle

to stay, feisty as ever, these past few months.

Aching for you as we watched your heart

break a little more each day.  All of us so

helpless not knowing how to mend it. I was so

sure that you would finally feel safe enough

to let go, so long as you could remember

that Pappy is right there waiting to help you into

the boat, to swat you on the behind, and

make you laugh, and be yours again.

So I will keep making your biscuits…

but I am still working on them.

I think, more butter is the answer.

More butter for the biscuits,

and more sugar for the jam.

And of course, the right pan.


Safe trip, Gram.

I love you.


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Life Lessons in the Shape of a Poodle

Life Lessons

The house is so quiet.  I can almost feel the sensation of an empty nest.  What is the opposite of a sense memory?  Maybe a sense prediction?  The boys’ grandparents (Nana and Opa) just left this morning after a cruise to Alaska, during which they let us temporarily adopt their two dogs for twelve days.  The boys were in heaven.  Chris considered it to be good practice for when we again become a dog-centric family.  I viewed it as a challenge, as there would now be six males in the house with me.  Let me preface by saying that we adore these dogs.  Chris and I have known Archie, a little, squat, chestnut-colored Chihuahua, from way back.  Back when we were just an “Us” and not an “All Of Us”; back when dinosaurs roamed the earth; and back when Republicans still tripped up the stairs of Air Force One.  Arch is sweet and spry, and selectively deaf and proud of it, as any 98-year-old has the right to be.  He takes a variety of vitamins and medicines depending on which body part might be acting up at the time (again, much like any other 98-year-old).  His brother (no shared DNA, picture Devito and Schwarzenegger in Twins) is Beaux (pronounced “Bo”, not “Buicks” as Alex at first thought when he read the name).  He is a leggy white, miniature poodle with tons of energy and very little brain.  The two together are like the canine version of the odd couple…they seem to complement each other perfectly except when they’re not.  (Hmmmm, kind of like every married couple I know.)  So it was with great anticipation and trepidation sixteen days ago that I received training on the care and maintenance of these pups.  Nana handed me three pages that included their itinerary (the humans’, not the dogs’), a detailed list of instruction on the dogs’ routines and meds, and an informal DNR for Archie (Yikes!).  Luckily, we did not have to make any end of life decisions.  Everything went quite smoothly except that first day.  Beaux had some serious separation anxiety.  He whimpered and shook for a good twenty minutes.  I believe his heart is significantly larger than his brain, poor guy.

Anyway, change is tough…no matter how you dice it.  It requires us to alter the grooves in our vinyl.  For those of you that aren’t familiar with vinyl, or rotary phones, or Republicans in the white house for that matter, vinyl is the stuff they made records out of in “olden” times.  The records had grooves in concentric circles, and the needle on a record player would follow those grooves around and around to play an old and familiar tune.  To alter those grooves would be to change the tune entirely.  So, it was, that we made every effort to comfort Beaux and give him as many of the routines that he was accustomed to in order to keep his grooves the same and to let him know that this change would not destroy him.  Sure enough, we all made it through.  Nana and Opa had a great trip; Archie didn’t die (whew!); the boys got practice in the art and maintenance of canines again; and Chris and I didn’t kill each other.  (Don’t be alarmed regarding that last bit, it is just that I have learned to set reasonable goals when it comes to our relationship.)  Mission accomplished!

This morning, the dogs and Nana and Opa packed up and headed home.  After they pulled away Zach and Sam went bouncing into the house to finish getting ready for school, but I stayed outside with Alex.  He had turned away, but his shoulders were shaking ever so slightly and I knew his eyes were filled with tears.  I wrapped my arms around him, so he could bury his face against me.  He said, “I feel the way Beaux did when they went to the airport….like his heart was breaking and he couldn’t stop the whimpers.”  Saying goodbye is so hard.  It’s one of the biggest changes we endure.  To have something in your grasp, then to have to let it go…is so difficult to bear.  But Alex saw how his heart ached just like Beaux’s, and he knew he had to simply feel that and move forward.  I was teaching them the meaning of the word empathy the other night.  Zach said it is kind of like sympathy, but not exactly.  I said that was right.  Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone, but empathy is feeling sorry and truly understanding the pain they feel.  Those sneaky life lessons are everywhere, as long as we keep our hearts open to them.  Who knew my little tornado middle child, the one we once called Benito for his Mussolini ways, would wind up being such a sensitive pup.  I dare say more change is coming for us…middle school is here, and the rocky terrain of adolescence is just around the bend.  I only hope I can embrace it with as much heart and hope as my nine-year old.

Much Love to All,



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The Drop Zone


It happened so fast.  He turned his wheel (like he had done a thousand times before), but this time his bike bucked him off to the left.  The sidewalk (when did cement get so hard?…it wasn’t that hard when I was a kid) came swiftly up to meet his face.  I was straddling my own bike.  I had been ready to take a post dinner ride to the park, so Chris got to him first.  He scooped him up and tucked his little head into that quiet cave that is Dad’s chest.  It is not found on a map, but lies somewhere between collar-bone and sternum.  By the time I got off my bike Chris had removed Sam’s helmet, inspected the damage, and was looking up at me with a deep and almost angry, mournful look in his eyes.  When I reached them, Sam was very pale and quiet.  As soon as I saw his chin, I knew we would be visiting our first E.R. since moving north.  We have no family nearby, so we all piled into the van and headed to the hospital in San Jose.  Twenty minutes later, Sam was gently triaged and seen by no less than three nurses, two doctors, and a nurse practitioner.  Three hours later, Sam was the proud owner of eight, tiny, blue sutures.  He was also in the back of the van, gently sucking on a late-night vanilla shake from In and Out.   We were home by midnight, but I lay awake with my mind and heart racing and skipping like a scratched LP on a turntable set to the wrong speed.  It was as though all the calm that had cloaked me for the last four hours just slipped away, and I was both wound up and exhausted, sad and relieved.  I had been such a smooth operator from the moment I saw what that sidewalk had done to my least-un’s chin, but now I felt jagged and wired.

My boys range in age from six to eleven, and this is our first time getting stitches.  I should be grateful that we made it this long.  By the time I was Sam’s age, I think I had already been stitched up at least three or four times.  I led with my face in almost everything.  I am sure the combination of intense curiosity and ambling klutziness did not help to limit those ER trips.  How did my folks do it?  How do any of us do it?  We spend the first few years trying to shelter and protect these little bald, featherless birdies that huddle in the nest with us.  We wrap our wings around them to quell their shivers, and feed them most of our meals to banish their hunger.  At some point we give them a swift, firm hip-check to get them to the edge of the nest.  Then, we watch with horror and pride as they wriggle to that edge, dangle their scrawny little bird legs over the drop zone, and then slip briefly from our view.  Finally, we wait with held breath, as they flop, flap, tumble, and bounce down along that free-fall path to the quasi-independence of childhood.  This is the challenge, then.  It won’t be whether we can dig deep, and find the funds for the third kid’s orthodontia, or be able to afford more than mopeds for them when they begin driving.  The biggest challenge we face as parents is having the courage to let them out from under that wing at all.  Then we must keep steadily breathing as they shimmy to the edge.  Finally, we have to have faith that when they are flying solo, their memory of home will be so strong and good that they can and will follow the path back to us now and then.

love to all,


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The Ultimate E-Ticket


I wasn’t quite ready for Alex when he was born.  I don’t think he was quite ready for any of us either.  The doctors said there was “insufficient amniotic fluid” on August 30th, which is code for “his swimming pool isn’t full enough”, so we induced.  I spent an interminable night laboring with Pitocin (a drug which I am sure the anti-Christ must have stock in).  Chris bought me magazines (which I didn’t read), and kept the television in the labor room on Law and Order for most of the night.  There was a marathon of it running on TNT.  It seems like just the kind of soothing backdrop you might want when you are in an induced labor with no narcotics to smooth the edges, doesn’t it?   But, finally mid-day, Alex arrived.  He was red and angry….a little political protestor in the making.  “Who was the brain-child that thought chemical induction was the best way to achieve a smooth entry into the world!”, his little red, wrinkled, pissed off face seemed to be yelling.

But then he calmed down.  He locked eyes with mine, and his sweet little turtle smile and piercing brown eyes seemed to say, “Ah well, we can take what they throw at us, huh, mom?”

That was eight years ago.  2920 days and nights of sharing my life with this amazing little boy.  He astounds me with his sensitivity and his chutzpah.  It is the perfect recipe for this kid.

Last night Chris asked him innocently, “So, how old are you gonna be tommorow?”.  And Alex, beaming, said, “I will be eight, at 12:17 p.m.”.

Chris responded, “I don’t think I approve.  This whole getting older thing; I don’t think I care for it.”

I agree, but I don’t think we have a choice.  So I am going to enjoy this e-ticket ride until it comes to a full and complete stop.

much love to all,


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First Day Jitters and BullySharks

 I drive away from the school.  Glancing back in the rearview at the sweet, simple buildings that make up the boys new elementary school.  I gave Sam a last hug and watched him follow his line like a duckling.  His new Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Wanslow, is in the lead.  He looks so small.  This morning I put on waterproof mascara for this very reason.  I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes.  This is my baby duck.  The last one to enter Kindergarten.  I am awash with how deep this feels.

I have been telling everyone who will listen that this is the first and last year that all three of my boys will attend the same school.  This first day was a bit crazy.  I haven’t even met Zach and Alex’s teachers because the morning bell is 8:10 for everyone.  I wish I could triplicate myself, so that I can stand by each of them.  Since I needed to see Sam off on his great voyage, I had to trust that the “big” boys (who are anything but that, in my mind) could fend for themselves.  The classes line up on the blacktop behind their classroom numbers.  The teachers come out at the bell to escort them to their respective classes.  So I had to leave Zach at his line with a hug and a whispered “l love you”.  Then I had to do the same with Alex.

It feels as though Zach has grown so confident over the summer and so sure of himself.  I was not nearly as worried about him as I was about Alex.  He looked so shy and uncertain standing between the kids in his line.   I suddenly felt as though I had just flung them into the cold foamy waves of the Pacific, and as I looked around at all the other kids milling about, shouting, laughing, talking with each other….they all looked like sharks circling my babies.  The rare, North American Bully Sharks that the media has focused upon in such great detail of late.  Those sharks with their high tops and bling; their swagger and show.  They made me want to rush back over before that bell rang and pluck my boys from the lineup and race with them back out to the car.  Maybe I will homeschool…I will organize their social interactions, I could do that…I will save them from the inevitable sharkbites which loom in the near future in this torrential sea of public education.

But then the bell rings, and I give Sam his last hug.  I watch him turn and wave as he follows his teacher into class.  I walk quietly to the MP room where the principal and various parent clubbers are giving a meet and greet for Kinder parents.  It is informative and distracting.  I don’t need the waterproof mascara afterall, I think proudly.  I find out all the dirt on drop-offs, pick-ups, uniforms, bell schedules.  Finally, it ends and I walk out with an armload of paperwork to fill out.  The van is horribly, achingly quiet.  That telltale lump begins to form in my throat.   But I am excited that I will be able to work in each of the kids classrooms this year.  I haven’t really been able to do that since Zach was in preschool.  I have signed up with the LAPC.   No, not the Los Angeles Peace Corps, but rather the Luigi Aprea Parent Club.  So I think I will be busier than ever.  But still, as I drive away, and the Flagpole grows smaller and smaller in the rearview; and the van is still so painfully quiet; and I have driven a full block without having to say, “That’s enough!”…..the tears begin to well again.  I think I chose wisely with the waterproof mascara.

Much love to all,


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So, it was the very last Friday before school let out for summer.  We were less than a week from officially being free of the elementary school protocol: the endless tedium of homework, the daily fight to swat away bullies and bad teachers from my boys.  You spend every moment you can building them up so that when someone (a peer or a teacher) tries to tear them down, they will be strong enough to stand their ground or when that fails, to lick their wounds and mend their own hearts.

So, that last Friday felt like the home stretch.  I reviewed the paperwork in Alex’s Friday folder with a sense of relief that it would be the last collection of papers begging for donations, advertising overpriced daycare disguised as “educational after school camps”, and reminding me to foster reading rather than video gaming (ya think?).  Amongst the other papers was a standard notice warning that my child had been exposed to a particularly nasty strain of viral menace that had been happily commuting around the school grounds via the seven year old snot express.  I read over the symptoms….fever, sore throat, malaise, red bumps on the hands and feet….and subsequently put it out of my head.  Until the following Tuesday, when wee Alex came home from school with a fever, sore throat, and the dreaded “malaise”.

I responded the way any sentient parent would:  I googled the illness to find out what the worst case scenario is, and what I discovered horrified me just a bit.  According to various experts, (who prefer to be referred to by one name on that oh-so-dynamic highway of internetness, as in, “Dr. Pete” or “Miranda M.D.), most children with this disease will experience some level of discomfort due mainly to the sore throat and fever.   However, the red bumps that follow often become oozing blisters that, while unsightly, are not too bothersome.  So most medical websites seem to categorize this as one of the more innocuous and tolerable childhood maladies.  I think that the medical professionals have determined that in the absence of vomiting and diarrhea, this is a fairly manageable illness.  To be fair to these experts, lowing in their fields, I agree that if I have to choose between painless, oozing sores or vomiting and explosive diarrhea….the sores would probably win out, but not by a huge margin.

Luckily, I think we managed to become infected with an incredibly lazy version of the virus.  If our virus had been a student, it would have been the one who sat in the back row of English Lit. 101, never cracked the shrink-wrap on the text book, and skated by with a C- with a little help from library Cliff’s Notes and relatively good penmanship.

The good news is that Alex had four and a half days of sore throat, one day with five or six flat red spots on one hand, and then it was over.  No oozing, no blisters, no problem…..except that despite my constant laundry to wash anything not nailed down, and my meticulous attempt to take a Clorox anti-bacterial wipe to every surface in my house, Zach and Sam both spiked fevers last night.   I am praying that we are still dealing with the lazy third cousin of this illness, but as always I will hope for the best and plan for the worst.

Facebook stock is obviously overrated.  When I win the lottery…I shall be purchasing a nice portfolio filled with Clorox and Purell.  Happy Healthy Summer to all.

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Super Grover was spotted in Morgan Hill today!!

I feel like I spend my life rushing through the various elements of my day.  Pushing through breakfast, teethbrushing, laundry, dressing three boys + myself, snacks, lunches, laundry, school drop-off, doctor visits, paperwork, bills, laundry, school pick-up, homework, laundry, snacks, more homework, more laundry, dinner, dishes, baths, teethbrushing, laundry, bedtime, lay down, close eyes, sleep for what seems like ten minutes…..then begin it all again at 6:30 the following day.

Today, it dawned on me that while all those mundane things are the repetitive footprints that form my day….there are far more moments that I wish I could slow way down, or even hold still by capturing them in a little snow globe.  I have noticed over the past year or so that Sam has all but outgrown his open-armed appreciation of a good costume in lieu of ordinary Clark Kent streetwear.  Even last year, when we would drop the big boys at school, Sam would think nothing of throwing on a spidey costume, or donning a cape and mask.  Then slowly, he seemed to become self-conscious.  Not embarrassed so much, as acutely aware of other people’s awareness of him.  Alas, I don’t mind him owning some personal responsibility, but I had hoped that he would hold tight to that spark of originality that allowed him to feel confident in his penguin hat or Flash suit.

So, this morning my heart skipped a beat when we couldn’t find his regular jacket and all I could find was a Super Grover sweatshirt that we made two Halloweens ago.  I asked him if that would do, and he said, “Sure!”  He grabbed the hat, too, and  out the door we raced.  I know he won’t be doing this much longer.  I wanted to stop time for a moment.  It felt good just holding on to that scene in the snowglobe for a moment.


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