Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

In Memory

13 Aug

Yesterday we attended Xander’s memorial.  It was a nice service, with a hopeful message and a lot of sweet memories shared between friends and family.  When they asked people who knew Xander to come forward and share, I really wanted to.  But each time I tried to stand up, my stomach lurched in such a way that I was pretty sure my attempt at speech would end with me running toward the nearest exit.  See, I have this unfortunate fate of possessing a digestive tract that is ever so closely linked with my emotional state, and sometimes when things aren’t easy, my body starts rejecting anything I eat.  It’s really annoying (though my trainer commented on Saturday that I look like I’ve lost weight… I guess that could be considered a benefit).  Anyway, had I been able, I would have said something like this…

Xander was my son’s best friend.  In fact, in the full version of the picture [on display at the memorial], his arm is around my son.  His arm was always around Koren.

Koren’s not a huge kid, so we were amused when he immediately picked the biggest kid in class to be his best buddy  – we figured if they grew up together we’d never have to worry about anybody picking on him.

When Koren started going to preschool with Xander, we had just moved back from Alaska.  He didn’t know anybody and was used to being in the same class as his older sister – so drop-offs in this new environment were hard.  Even on days he didn’t cling to my leg as I dropped him off, he would still walk slowly and timidly into the noisy cafeteria.  Until he saw Xander.  If Xander was there in the mornings, he and I both knew it was going to be alright.  He’d climb into a seat next to his newfound friend and start chatting.  His teachers picked up on this pretty quickly.  Pretty soon, we’d open the door to hear, “Xander, Koren’s here!” or “Koren, Xander’s over here!”

They were quite a pair, and brought out the silliness in each other.  Sometimes they would get in trouble together.  Jens or I would walk in to pick Koren up in the afternoon, to be told immediately that Koren had been reprimanded.

“I had to separate him and Xander,” his teacher would say.  “They were hugging too much.”
“They were… what?”
“They were hugging too much when they were supposed to be paying attention.”
“Oh.   … Ok.”

I’ll be honest, it’s kind of hard to make your kid apologize for being a distraction when you really just want to laugh at the fact that his crime was being affectionate.

I was always in a hurry to pick up Koren and get out of there (you know, us and our busy lives), but I frequently got roadblocked by a certain four-year-old with outstretched arms:

“Kowen’s Mom, gimme a hug!”

How can you say no to that?  Sometimes he wouldn’t even ask, he’d just plow into me when I wasn’t looking 🙂

When Xander got moved to a different preschool class, we saw that it affected Koren.  Not anything super dramatic, but I noticed that he was a little more subdued when I picked him up.  He told me several times how much he missed being in class with Xander.  He soon found a new little friend to hang out with in class, but always referred to her as “my best friend in Ms. Teresa’s class.”  Best Friend (without qualifications) was a title still reserved for Xander.

Tonight Koren wanted to look at pictures of his birthday party.  For every picture he flipped through that had Xander in it, he would say, “That’s my friend Xander who’s in Heaven,” or “There’s Xander.  He’s a hero.”

I want Koren to remember the special bond he shared with this remarkable boy.  I wish they had been able to grow up together, but I think that somehow Xander will continue to be with Koren in the years to come.  And every time we look at his pictures, read his story, or release ladybugs in his honor, I hope he feels the warmth of that friendship and remembers the loving boy he was so privileged to know.


80’s Day at Summer Camp

03 Aug

I get really entertained by dressing my daughter in the high fashions of my elementary school days.

Side ponytail?  Check.

Scrunchy?  Check.

Neon colors?  Check.

Leggings?  Check.

Double-layered scrunched socks?  Check.

Large baggy shirt tied with an additional scrunchy?  Check.

If only I had some big hoop earrings and a headband.  Oh well…

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Posted in Kaelin, Memories, School


The Sun Sets Again

09 Mar

Thank you to P&G’s Have You Tried This Yet? program and Kroger for sponsoring my writing about trying new things and breaking out of my everyday routine. Click here to find great savings on high-performing P&G products at a Kroger store near you. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

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A little over a year ago, my husband and I went on a Sushi date.  It was during this dinner that the conversation veered suddenly to Jens announcing that he missed Alaska and and wanted to move back (well, back for him – I have never lived in Alaska).

The first thing I told him was that I didn’t want to move.

We had a stable, happy life in our little corner of North Dallas.  I had just spent a ridiculous amount of time carefully choosing where the kids would attend school the next year, and had just turned in applications and deposits.  We had a nice house, a nice job situation, a nice group of friends, and everything was NICE.

And then I began to mull it over and the idea slowly grew on me.  I mean, WHY NOT.  We had lived in the same area of North Dallas for 7 years.  And as NICE as a place like Dallas is, it doesn’t have much going for it in the way of excitement or adventure.

And then in this weird way, everything started falling into place to make this impossible transition… possible.  A nice, fully-furnished place to rent in a quaint little Alaskan town, renters for our current house in Dallas, storage solutions, everything just seemed to fall into our laps to the point where we would have felt silly NOT to take this opportunity to move.

As you have probably read, this last year has been an adventure for us.  There have been many ups and downs, and we are officially moving back to our nice little life in North Dallas at the beginning of May.  But even through the challenges, I have never regretted making this move.  Our life here is nothing like our life in the burbs, and I appreciate the experience of knowing the difference.

As our time here draws to a close and we prepare to move back, there are a lot of things I’m looking forward to reintroducing into my life.  And there are also a lot of things about this little Alaskan hippie town that I will miss, and I thought I’d share them here.  Actually, there are several of these that I already miss because they are only available in the summer and I’m a bit sad I won’t get to enjoy them again this year.

But without further ado, here is a list of things I would never have experienced if I had stayed in my little comfort zone:

  • The view of the mountains and ocean from our house
  • Eagles
  • The moose that loves to nap for hours in our yard
  • Beach access within 15 minutes
  • The summer farmer’s market
  • Handmade soaps (I’m going to have to find a way to bring back a big box of this stuff)
  • Homemade jellies & jams from the lady at the farmer’s market
  • Fat Olive’s pizza
  • Fresh king crab
  • Cinnamon rolls and fresh bread from Two Sister’s Bakery, with which there is no comparison on earth
  • As much FREE! Halibut! as I can eat
  • Watching the kids play in the tide pools and scavenge the shores of Seldovia
  • Ferry rides when the waves are huge and the boat soars up and down like a roller coaster ride
  • Jogging the trail that runs down the spit on a breezy, sunny, 60° day, surrounded on 3 sides by the mountains and ocean
  • Fires made with real wood
  • Jens getting off work at 2:30pm every day
  • No wait at movies or restaurants during the winter



27 Feb

Look, I’ll be honest.  30 was a tough year.

At 30, I packed up my family and everything I owned and moved from a house and life I loved to a place thousands of miles away, where I had never spent more than 24 hours.  I have seen some amazing things, but also wrestled with culture shock, isolation, loneliness, frustration and boredom.

At 30, I broke my toe, threw out my back, slammed my shin into the wooden steps, slipped on the ice numerous times and nearly broke my hand.  I developed a (perhaps justified) phobia of losing my footing.  For the first time, I experienced tangible effects of my body getting older.  My hair is noticeably thinner (to me, anyway).  I can’t sit in the same position for long without getting stiff, and when I move around my joints creak noisily.

At 30, I suffered illness at an unprecedented frequency and nursed my family through sicknesses and physical challenges more serious and more often than ever before, and without the support of extra hands around.  As a family, we have collectively been to the ER entirely too many times in the last year.

At 30, I was fat, out of shape, too broke to go to a gym, and trapped inside by the weather.  I quit bothering with things like makeup, haircuts, and washing my hair every day.  Much to my mother’s dismay, I refused to replace my hole-riddled jeans with a nicer pair because, what was the point?  I consoled myself with peanut butter sandwiches and glasses of milk (comfort foods from childhood) while wishing that when I stepped into the occasional sunlight that it would warm my skin, just a little.

At 30, I had the rug pulled out from under my feet on two separate occasions.  I wrestled with anger, betrayal, shock, and being unable to talk about any of it.

At 30, I dealt with failure and guilt.  Inadequacy and self-doubt plagued me and made me feel foolish and small.  I made some realizations about myself that were painful.

At 30, my ideologies were challenged, broken down, and reconstructed.  I learned that sometimes the answers are difficult and not ideal.  Sometimes they’re just not there, no matter how much I would like for them to be. I learned that I don’t need to be afraid to question, or to say “I don’t know.”  It’s better than pretending.

At 30, I solo-parented for the first time without the support of family nearby.  I know, big deal.  But it’s a big deal for me.  The isolation of this house in the woods led to irrational night terrors that I haven’t experienced since after Kaelin’s birth when my hormones were all wonky and I was convinced I would be responsible for her death.  It seems I am uncomfortable with the idea of having someone depend on me.  However, it was this unavoidable reality that forced me to take control of this pessimistic imagination that seems determined to torment me.  The night terrors subsided.  Nothing tragic happened.  We even had some fun.  Though I’m really thankful to have Jens back again.

At 30, I had no idea what to do with my kids for an entire day.  Parenting does not come naturally to me.  We would go to the beach sometimes and get out and do stuff, but it was EXHAUSTING.  Frankly, I dreaded the days they were not in school (which was every day when we first moved here).  Now they are in school 4 mornings per week and on Wednesdays I have them all day.  We have weekly dates to the library and McDonald’s, then we come home to take naps and read books together.  Wednesday is my favorite day of the week.

At 30, I watched my kids grow into friends.  They play with each other and invent games with crazy rules.  A few days ago, they were spontaneously acting out a game in which a mother and son went shopping.  It was an opera.  Kaelin sang to Koren that he could not have the stuffed seal he wanted to buy because it was too expensive.  Their cognitive development over the last year has amazed me and gives me hope that I haven’t royally screwed them up too much.

At 30, after battling a period of boredom, lethargy and feeling a lack of purpose, I rediscovered my love of crafting.  I embarked on a card-making project that led to hand-making the kids’ valentines. I found out later that other parents thought I was some kind of a professional baker or something.  HA!  Also, I have passed my love of crafting on to my daughter, who now enjoys making all sorts of projects with paper, glue and scissors.

At 30, I discovered one day – much to my surprise – that I was broke.  I hated it.  It was depressing.  Infuriating.  Embarrassing.  For the first time in my life, I truly wished we could just avoid the entire Christmas Season. As I wrapped presents for my kids that other people had sent, it was a painful reminder of my empty bank account and inability to provide.  I wished to sleep through the whole month of December.  I sat down and spent hours – DAYS – mapping out a plan, making the numbers work, cutting this and that.  Accounting for every single expenditure, every single day.

There is no extra, but we are not broke anymore.  Somehow, we even scraped enough together to buy last-minute Christmas presents.  And, barring the unexpected catastrophe, we will never be broke again.

At 30, I pursued my joy of photography.  I documented our summer experiences in this Last Frontier and I am proud of these photos.  I overcame my fear of ineptitude and entered a local photo contest.  I won and my photos are now in print.

At 30, I decided enough was enough and ordered a workout DVD that I could do in my living room.  Twice daily, I pushed through it and it was hard.  REALLY HARD.  Physical activity has never been easy for me.  I wheezed, I groaned, I panted and gasped.  But I refused to allow myself to settle for the “beginner” moves.  Three weeks later, I have definition in my arms that I have never seen there before. I can do harder activities for longer periods of time.  My body is getting stronger.

I’ve started a diet plan to improve my nutrition.  I’ve never been good at diets – ever.  Abstaining from stuff that tastes good has always been a challenge that was out of my league.  It’s only been a few days, but I’ve been faithful.  Between the exercise and diet plan, I have lost 6 pounds.  I have a long way to go, but it’s definitely a start.

I’m not sad to say goodbye to 30.  It brought a lot of challenges, a lot of battles that I don’t wish to revisit.  But it never brought defeat.  I have a friend whose motto is “Be hard to kill.”  This sounds a bit dramatic, but I kind of feel like I can relate to that over the past year.  And now, I’m putting that year behind me because what’s done is done and I’M STILL HERE.

…Ok, 31.  I’m ready.  BRING IT.


Through a Child’s Eyes

15 Feb

I’ve been doing the 30 Day Shred DVD for about a week now.  Occasionally, the kids join in and try to do it with me.  (A 2-year-old’s version of jumping jacks is very entertaining.)

At one point, Jillian explains that her pal Natalie will be doing advanced versions of the exercises for those who aren’t already struggling to keep their battered, aching bodies from collapsing onto the floor in a puddle of tears.

Obviously, she isn’t talking to ME.

Anyway, she gestures to Natalie’s well-toned and obviously muscular physic and says something to the effect of, “If you want to look like this, then you have to work like that.”

Kaelin, being five, took that to mean that if I continued doing these exercises, I was going to turn into Natalie.  She was not thrilled about the idea that her mother could suddenly morph into a 6′ tall black woman.

It reminded me of the time I saw my own mom taking some pills and asked what they were for.  My mom has taken estrogen supplements since her hysterectomy 30+ years ago.  She explained to me that she needed the hormone, and furthered the explanation with something to the effect of “estrogen is what makes a woman a woman.”

I was about five at the time, and after that I lived for a while with the fear that my mother was at risk of suddenly turning into a man if she forgot to take her pills.

I’m glad Kaelin is better than I was at asking for clarification.



31 May

Jens’ grandfather, presumably in one of his rare displays of humor, had built a 2-seater outhouse.  Just in case you wanted company.

In hindsight, I thought, I probably should have made some more noise on my way to the outhouse, just in case an unsuspecting bear was wandering around.  Instead, I had made a beeline toward the only threat on my mind, determined to spend as little time on this unpleasant task as possible.

The seat on the right had a detached cover that might require extra maneuvering.  Extra maneuvering meant touching it longer than absolutely necessary.  I chose the seat to the left.  I lifted the cover and peered inside.

I always peer inside.  I don’t know why.  It’s a terrible idea.  Perhaps I’m just checking to be sure there aren’t any dead bodies floating on the surface (thanks, Bones).

Instead, I’m always greeting with the same unsettling sight: a juicy pit full of human excrement.

In Texas, they’re called “latrines.”  A more gentile word, but once you lift the lid you’re still greeted by a steaming pile of poo floating in fly-infested piss.

I was first introduced to the latrine as a Girl Scout.  In addition to hawking as many boxes of overpriced cookies as we could, we were periodically forced to attend these Girl Scout Camps for several days at a time – periods of my life of which I have no fond memories. 

I’m pretty sure Girl Scouts defines “camp” in roughly the same way that Hitler did.  It was more or less a torture facility for the socially awkward.

The retreats, as they were sometimes termed, were supposed to be educational.  We made crafts and played games that we could have done just as easily at home.  We were forced to spend days and nights with people we didn’t like and got in trouble for fighting.  We hardly slept for being overrun by spiders and ambushed by mosquitoes.  The bathing facilities were questionable if they existed at all.  We got to go horseback riding in the freezing rain, then had to wear our soaking wet clothing on the several-hour drive home. 

And we got to use latrines.  Then we got to clean them.

I always peered inside.  I don’t know why.  After baking for months in the hot Texas heat, the stench was enough to suffocate you, so you had to get in and out in the amount of time you could hold your breath.  Harder to do when you were tasked with sanitizing the facility.  Try as I might, I wasn’t able to get out of latrine duty EVERY time.

And God forbid you had to pee in the middle of the night.  Everything comes out at night.  As you forged your way through the brush with a flashlight, you could feel the spider webs cling to your legs and arms. You prayed their occupants were not currently crawling up your neck to seek revenge.  Your inadequate flashlight could not illuminate enough of the latrine’s interior to show you the things flying around inside, and you prayed that it was just moths that kept running into your head.  As you rushed back to the camp cabin, you tried to take stock of how many mosquitoes were still attached to your body, and laid in bed awake for hours fighting the sensation that you were being bitten by invisible insects.

I finished my business in the outhouse as quickly as possible and marched back to the Seldovia cabin to vigorously wash my hands. 

And to tell Kaelin that she was never joining the Girl Scouts.


Dad’s 65th Birthday

06 Feb

Toward the end of January, we celebrated my dad’s 65th Birthday.  As a tribute, I (with the help of my mom) put together a slideshow of his 65 years to run in the background at the party.  Here is that slideshow. 

Warning: It’s about a 20 minute slideshow, so grab a cup of coffee.

Happy birthday, Dad!  I hope I look that good at 65!  May this be your best year yet!


Bethany & Josiah

06 Feb

In 2001, I had a joint bridal shower with one Bethany McNichols in Seattle.  We were both to be married that summer to our respective fiances, whom we met in the Theatre department of Seattle Pacific University.

We laughed, exchanged gifts, socialized, ate, and somehow ended up dressed in gowns made of wrapping paper and bows.

It was the beginning of the next stage of our lives.  But I have a feeling that at that time, if you had told us that less than 9 years from then, we would both live in Texas and be hanging out with our combined 4 kids, we probably would have laughed in disbelief.

Funny how the times change…


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Posted in Friends, Kaelin, Koren, Memories, Photos