School starts soon….

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11 days to be precise.

It’s a big year here.

Sunny begins middle school.
Broder begins high school.
Kjell begins his Senior year.

It’s tempting to focus on how fast it has gone, since that first day of kindergarten for Kjell, walking him to school with Broder toddling alongside me, and Sunny kicking from inside my womb, determined to make sure she was a part of things, even then.

I could wax about the days when they were sweet and little and they really had no choice but to adore me, as I was their whole world. (Those were good days, days that validated my choice to be home with them and stroked my ego).

But I would be missing so much of these days.

I see Sunny, strong and confident, entering into 6th grade after a rude awakening to the world of mean girls during her final year of elementary school. She could have let the cruelty of unhappy, petty people crush her. Instead, she faced them. Told them they were wrong, and not nice and removed herself from their talons. There were wounds, that is for sure. And she will carry those scars forever. But, just as the physical scars she sports on her face (car accident at 2.5), she is not ashamed, she is proud to have survived.

Broder has been waiting for high school since he was born, I am convinced. He worked hard in middle school, he learned to study. He found out what it was like to be afraid and learned that his dreams may take more work to come true than he could have ever expected. It would have been easy to give up. To be a victim. Instead, he is marching into this next phase with fierce determination. And he will make his mark.

Kjell, after so many years my sweet one, he is now(though still sweet) firmly on the path to manhood. He makes good decisions, not always the ones I would make, but the right ones for who he is and who he wants to become. His growing independence both thrills and terrifies me. My heart breaks knowing this is the last year he is my baby at home. My heart soars seeing him walk into his future.

Over the last week, I have said a couple times, to a couple different people, the following:

I love this time of my life, my kids lives. I am look at them and I get excited about the adventures that lie before them. The unbelievable potential each child holds, and how that will blossom as they move away from the tethers of my mother-love, my sometimes smothering mother-fear. I know I can’t protect them forever, I know too, that I can’t dream big enough for them.

That is theirs.

And I can’t wait to see where those dreams take them.

2 years today…

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Dave landed in Tulsa to begin our Oklahoma adventure. 2 weeks later the kids and I joined him.

The move was so so so hard. So hard. The first months were spent mired in self pity, it was too hot, I had no friends, my kids had no friends, Dave was never ever home. Even church, which had always been home no matter where we lived, was hard. And it was so hot.

I spent many many days while the kids were at school walking around Tulsa, big sunglasses to hide my always on the verge of tears eyes. And when I couldn’t walk anymore, I would head back to the house and sit on the couch, cry and then nap.

Slowly things began to change. The kids started to make friends and that gave me hope. The weather started to change, and my neighbors came out of their houses, sitting in the evening on their wonderful porches and inviting us to join them.

Dave fell into a rhythm within his job and was home more.

And I found things to fill my time, volunteering in the classroom, volunteering in the community, a mom’s group, lunches with Anne (who graciously let me cling desperately to that thread of early friendship).

By the time 1 year had passed, I had moved through the stages of grief that seem to follow me in all our moves. I still missed our friends and family in, our life, in Alaska, I no longer burst into sobs when I saw a picture of a mountain. I was learning to truly appreciate what I had been telling my family for months to learn to love.

I forced my family into road trip after road trip, and they loved it.

Anne now shares the burden of my friendship with a few wonderful and fun women.

I have a job that I enjoy, with hard working and caring coworkers and that keeps me from sleeping the days away in a dark funk.

Church is still hard, we have made some dear friends there, but overall, it’s a very square peg/round hole kind of thing. This is painful and often feels like rejection, not just for me, but of many of our choices as a family. We are using this to evaluate what we can both offer to, and need from, a church home.

It’s still really really hot, at least this time of year, but even that is not so scary now, I am learning to look forward to the sweat, because goodness knows, all the sweating and my skin has never looked this good!

So 2 years in, Oklahoma is truly home. Whether we stay here forever, or if we move again, right now there is nowhere I would rather be.

I hate cancer.

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Today, I got news that a friend in another state lost her battle with cancer.

As cancers go, her Fight was both long and way too short. She was diagnosed with a type of sarcoma about 18 months ago. There were surgeries and radiation and chemo and wheelchairs and walkers and canes. Weeks away from home, in the hospital as she fought for her life. As she fought for more life with her husband and her children.

The prognosis was bad, then better and just a few short weeks ago, good.

Just 6 weeks ago, she had a check up.

NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE.

Just earlier this week she was throwing out ideas for the tattoo she would get to cover her scars, and how she could add to it each year, in an evolving celebration of Life.

just 3 days ago she posted that she was battling wicked migraines.

And today she is gone.

My heart breaks.

For her husband, her kids, family and friends.

And in raw primal fear, my gut wrenches.

Goodbye to a Great Year!!!

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2013 ended in the most dramatic fashion.

Cancer is a big, ugly, invasive, terrifying, shattering word.

It would be easy to let Cancer define the year.

And it would be a damn shame.

2013 was a year to remember.

Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Alaska.

After so many years of talking about the many wonders, finally….

There is no picture that can convey the feeling of standing on at the edge of the Grand Canyon. (And no postcard can capture the fear in a mother’s heart as her children get a little too close to the drop off)

And no travel writer can adequately express the joy of retirement planning over endless pots of camp coffee with a dearest friend.

And no one on earth could ever have predicted North Dakota would thrill us with a speedboat and kneeboard.

After too many years too far away, the time spent with my family seemed less like reality and more like a really wonderful dream. Visits from, and visits to, were too short, too few, and completely fantastic.

In 2013, football captured my heart. As Kjell stood on the sidelines, strong and ready, (next year he will play),those Edison Eagles became my team.

Kjell changed in 2013, gone is my little boy and in his place is this incredible young man. One who makes good choices. A young man who has made a group of friends, the kind of friends one has for a lifetime.

2013 will be remembered as a year of success for Broder. Awards and accolades were showered upon him for academic prowess and his brief (prior to surgery) wrestling days proved he has what it takes to be among the best.

2013 was the year that my sweet Sunny became a warrior princess. Conquering her academic world was not enough, she worked to earn her green belt in Taekwondo, moving forward with quiet determination.

2013 was the tipping point for our marriage. This is the year in which we passed the 1/2 way mark. More than 1/2 our lives have been spent together.

2013 will always be the year that Broder was diagnosed with cancer.

2013 will always be a year in which we lived our lives with abundant enthusiasm.

2013 will be remembered as a great year.

Because it was.

Broder.

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About 6 weeks ago, Broder had surgery to remove a weird lump.

About 4 weeks ago, the first pathology reports came back, saying the mass seemed to be benign, more tests would be done to confirm.

About 2 weeks ago, those test results came back.

I remember getting the phone call. I remember saying “I understand. Yes, of course. Please. Thank you.”

And I hung up. And I thought:

“How do I tell my son he has cancer?”

I called Dave. He didn’t answer. I called Myrna. She answered. I think I was mostly intelligible in our conversation. Maybe not.

I sat on the porch, with a cup of coffee, not drinking it.

Waiting for Dave to get home. And I thought:

“How do I tell him our son has cancer?”

Because I had been outside, by myself for more than 4 mins, Sunny came to check on me.

I don’t remember what we talked about. But I remember thinking:

“How do I tell Kjell and Sunny their brother has cancer?”

I tried.

I tried to find an elegant and gentle way to soften the razor sharp edges.

And in my head the words were spoken calmly and without fear. I was under control and comforting, as a good mother should be in the face of crisis.

In reality, the words tumbled out, jumbled and disjointed, a mush of terms and statistics, and forced cheer.

So, here it is, 2 weeks after that wrenching phone call.

2 days before Broder and I head to MD Anderson in Houston (our second trip in a week), where he will have another surgery on the original tumor site, to remove any tissue possibly still containing cancer cells.

In all this, there is so much to be thankful for:

Access to(and the resources to access) the finest cancer care in the world.

Insurance.

Teachers who recognized the work done throughout the semester and froze Broder’s grades, relieving him of the stress of finals.

Understanding bosses.

The support of friends and family. Here in Oklahoma, and literally around the world, who have called and emailed to offer meals or rides or a place to stay or a listening ear.

The prayers of thousands.

THOUSANDS.

And (as Broder reminds me daily) our Sovereign Lord, who has it under control.

Public schools are out to destroy our children.

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I hear that a lot.

Public schools: godless moral wastelands.

Public schools: filled with pagan teachers just waiting to undermine “good” values. Or at the very least, teachers so burned out they no longer care.

Public schools: run by liberals who rewrite history, hate America, refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance and send kids to detention for praying.

Over the last 12 years, my kids have attended a total of 7 public schools in 4 states.

We started the journey in Moderate Minnesota, where polite and cautious are the rule.
The next stop was the Liberal Utopia that is Madison, Wisconsin.
Then Alaska, equal parts Tea Party and Green Party, and all the fun that combination can bring.
Now we are living right in the big shiny rhinestone buckle of the Bible Belt, in the blood Red state of Oklahoma.

And in each and every one of these very different places, I have found the following:

Committed teachers.

Nearly all of them believing that if they can help just one kid learn to love learning, those long days of prep, wiping the snotty noses of first graders, listening to teenage freak outs over a broken heart will be worth it.

If they can be the person to help that kid whose mom is in jail and whose dad is gone break the cycle and go onto college, it will be worth it.

And I have seen administrators who greet every kid by name, administrators who, in between budget meetings and staff disputes, take the time to stop and talk to parents of a struggling kid, offering help and encouragement.

in every school, I have heard respect for our military, love for our country, freedom of religious expression (yes, folks, prayer).

And in every school, every school, every school, my kids have stood and recited the Pledge.

The Second Son…

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Historically (and still today) the firstborn child, especially if a son, has gotten all the glory. Lands and titles bestowed upon this nearer- to-God little being. And, as a mother of a first born son, I understand how this happens,

But today’s post is not about the first born.

Today is all about the Second Son.

From the moment I found out I was expecting #2 I was filled with excitement, and trepidation. I went through the same emotions that, I believe, every mother of 1 experiences. How on earth was I going to love this next child as much as the first? My heart was already bursting.

For months I worried. Would it be possible to even look at this coming baby and see anything cute? Hadn’t every adorable-ness gene in the world been used up on #1? And what about smart? After all, #1 was exceptionally gifted(duh), no subsequent child could ever come close.

And then came Broder.

His name literally means Second son/little brother.

Even before his birth it was evident he was a whole new parenting adventure. Where the first babe showed up on his due date after a textbook labor run of 7 hours, Broder kept me guessing. 5 days of uncomfortable weak contractions that served no purpose but to make me scream at my midwives, my husband, the cashier at Carrs, just when I had given up ever actually birthing this kid, Broder backed off my cervix, took a deep gulp of amniotic fluid and made a break for it. 11 minutes of crazy intensity later, I was a mother of a Second Son.

Within minutes, he surprised us. He was so small, just bones and loose skin, curled up into a little ball of tension. The midwife guessed his weight at just over 6lbs. Maybe he has really dense bones, or more likely, his brain is 2x the normal size, whatever the case, his weight was well over 8 lbs. he was weighed several times, just to be sure.

And he was just so darling! (I will admit this was a relief, I really wanted a cute baby, shallow and vain person that I am)

For 6 weeks, he ate, he slept, and I was certain that this whole more than one kid thing was a piece of cake. I was the perfect mother. In retrospect i can see that was God giving me a little time to rest up for the crazy ride to come.

He’s hard to describe, my Second Son. There is no one category. He is just MORE. In every single way. I have said it before, and on this, the eve of his birthday, I say it again.

Everything he does is bigger.

He gets mad faster, he forgives sooner, he plays harder, he loves more freely. He masters anything that interests him. And creatively avoids anything that doesn’t. His sense of justice is intensely defined. His compassion for those with less is sometimes overwhelming. His ability to charm is unnerving.

With the exception of those first 6 weeks, every day of the last 14 years has been a challenge as I continue to learn how best to guide him to being the incredible man he is on his way to becoming.

And every day, I am thankful, and humbled, to be his mother.

HAPPY 14th BIRTHDAY, BRODER!!!

I love you.