Confessions of Imperfection

“Mom!” I heard fear in my daughter’s voice as I unbuckled my middle kid. Suddenly my giggling baby was flying “wheee” toward me on a stolen tricycle across the OUAC parking lot and that’s not all, a car had to brake for him. Later I knew I should have apologized and lavishly thanked the driver for taking care. In the moment I felt too embarrassed and incompetent to even make eye contact. I snatched up the baby (unhappy to relinquish the tricycle) and held him tight.

My daughter was supposed to be holding the baby’s hand. But at six, she isn’t responsible for a one-year-old in front of a toy store. The baby brother is strong, fast and capricious. From now on, he will always be the last one removed from the car.

Why is it that I take comfort in the fact that I’m not the only mama who suffers significant lapses in parenting finesse? Wouldn’t it be better for children everywhere if I really was the only recurrently maladroit mother out there? Yet as I read “get born” facebook confessions of moms who forgot to buckle safety seats, forgot to feed a toddler, spaced the daycare pickup, or can’t remember children’s birthdays at the doctor, I know we share a bond of imperfection. My neighbor’s daughter drank cough syrup. A friend’s son choked down coins and she had to recover them from subsequent diapers.

I once arrived at a MOPS meeting and discovered in the parking lot that I had only two kids with me and my week-old newborn was still at home, sleeping in his carrier just inside the door. Can anybody I know outdo that? I HOPE NOT, but I wouldn’t doubt it. I’m tempted to scrutinize other moms when they’re having a good day, convince myself they are always full of beauty, wisdom and eternal patience, and measure myself inadequate. I begin to fantasize that they never fall from grace and there must be something seriously wrong with me, living in such blatant humanity.

Those reminders that I’m not alone help curb the tendency to indulge in a classic guilt-ridden pity party probably involving excessive chocolate or corn chips. Well that and looking in my children’s endlessly loving and forbearing faces. I really don’t expect my middle son to harbor ill feelings about the preventable tantrum scar on his eyebrow, or the fact that his bike helmet is tough to fit on his misshapen skull forever flat on one side and pointy on top because I neglected to rotate his sleeping head in his first four months of life. No, he will forgive and love me just as my daughter has after being accidentally locked in the garage for ten terrified minutes – and just as the baby brother will if he ever finds out his mama let him loose in front of traffic.

The Sunrise Yurt

IMG 5047 300x225 The Sunrise Yurt“What’s a yurt?” I hear that at least half the time I mention the word. It’s a hut-shaped canvas tent on a wooden frame and deck, equipped with bunk beds, a table and chairs, and a skylight. We camped in one for the first time a week ago at Bear Creek Lake Park west of Denver. The campsite came with the usual fire pit, grill, picnic table, and mosquitos.

IMG 5061 150x150 The Sunrise YurtAlthough I grew up tent camping every summer at secluded lakes surrounded by lush lodgepole pine forests in the Oregon Cascades, my Singapore-raised husband is a greenhorn. Our only previous kid camping experience was in 2007 with a 3-yr-old and a 4-mo baby. The 3-yr got bored, scraped her knee on a rock, and woke at 4am jabbering on and on about the stars and how stinky the tent was. Good thing we only planned an overnight trip. The baby was totally easy, hanging out on a blanket during the day and waking once to nurse at night. Well he did have a very inconvenient diaper blowout but hey, it’s not like outhouses are all that convenient either!

IMG 5034 300x225 The Sunrise YurtWith a 6-yr, 3-yr, and 16-mo baby this summer, we thought we’d have another go. Not owning a large tent, the yurt was perfect. And the campground, though not the private and pristine wonderland of my childhood memories, was a big hit when all the kids saw not one but two playgrounds, a horse barn, and a swim beach selling ice cream bars by Big Soda Lake. We spent hours at the playgrounds and splashing in the water, when the kids weren’t collecting rocks in plastic cups or tossing the frisbee or playing house in the 2-man backpacking tent we set up just for fun. I gave them an inflatable chair inside the tent and they kept pretending it was a potty.

IMG 5080 150x150 The Sunrise YurtBut what’s a camping trip without some little mishaps? I bought plastic spatulas at the thrift store for my camp frypan and didn’t think about a flipper for hamburgers on the charcoal grill. Ok, drag out the grilling cage we registered for when we got married and have never ever used. The burgers hung out of the edges but still cooked up great under my husband’s grilling expertise. Next challenge: pancakes for breakfast. Sounds easy, but I forgot to bring *any* butter, syrup, jam, honey, anything remotely resembling pancake toppings, and the pancake batter itself was an unsweetened biscuit-style mix. In fact the only significantly sweet item in the food chest besides whole fruit was marshmallows for the s’mores we’d enjoyed by the fire the night before. Out came the roasting sticks, and marshmallow-filled pancake tacos soon graced the picnic table.

IMG 5059 225x300 The Sunrise YurtComforting a crying 3-yr-old at 1am who didn’t want to walk a quarter mile to the toilet and kept insisting we go home right away was distinctly the low point of the trip. He woke the baby in the portacrib, who Daddy cuddled back to sleep and shared his bunk with until morning. And tropical-blooded Daddy needs to remember a heavy blanket next time! Again, good thing it was just one night. We concluded that our family is still quite young for full fledged camping and maybe we should stick to day trips for a while.

At least that’s what we thought on the way home… but with all the fun we shared as a family, here we are a few days later thinking about how to plan the next camping adventure. It’s surprising how easy it was to minimize the bad and crave a repeat of the good. All we need is a family tent and some kind of cargo solution for the gear…

IMG 5024 300x225 The Sunrise Yurt…and another destination with a playground and flushing toilets wouldn’t be a bad idea! I can survive this kind of “camping” – views of RVs through thin trees, Home Depot perched on the hill, suburban lights flanking the night skyline – for a few more years. My first camping memories were around age 7 or 8 and continued until I left home, so perhaps I’m not really ripping off my kids by not exposing them to truly rugged and hard-core camping at the preschool stage. Although I feel their childhood flying by so fast, I have to remember that they really are still little and there is still time for dozens of quiet and remote family camping memories to be made. And dozens more s’mores to be eaten.

The Good Kind of Sore

Last month I took my first “Spin and Tone” class twice a week at Aztlan. After three pregnancies (my final baby now 15 months old) I have no abs, unless you count belly fat hidden by loose fitting t-shirts. Technically I’ve reached my pre-pregnancy weight… so why are my favorite blue shorts still tight? As it turns out, pre-pregnancy SHAPE is an entirely different endeavor! While I’m not optimistic about certain body parts (like the ones that nursed three infants), I am determined to get in shape this summer and shed the final five pounds to my long-elusive goal. My simple motive: to energetically enjoy Colorado’s beautiful hiking, biking, and camping with my family, and maybe even learn to snow board this year.

So I took a class. We rode spin bikes for 45 minutes in a guided workout of sprints and hills, standing runs and hovering climbs. Then we grabbed free weights, floor mats and fit balls for another 15 minutes of toning. Though a step up from biking my daughter to school every day, I could handle the spin section alright. The combination of Pilates, plyometrics and weight training, however, truly wore me out. I tried to take it easy the first night, but the next day I was unmistakeably sore – the good kind of sore.

I spent most of May feeling the good kind of sore. Though weight loss has been negligible, in just one month my energy and endurance are rising and the belly is beginning to shrink. I graduated from knee pushups to regular ones on my toes and I no longer roll off a bosu ball backwards. I even wore those blue shorts last week.

IMG 4932 300x225 The Good Kind of SoreThe best thing, though, has been to enjoy family bike rides more and more. On Mother’s Day we rode the greenbelt trails north of our neighborhood, me pulling the two boys in a trailer and my recent kindergarten graduate chasing Daddy on her own bike. The next week Mama took the kids out alone. On Memorial Day we all rode the Poudre River Trail (photo) through the hot afternoon and to my amazement, I was hardly tired at the end.

I love these family excursions. My husband and I like to dream about the hiking and biking adventures we will have when the kids are all old enough to keep up. Yesterday I put training wheels on the three-year-old’s black and yellow 12-inch garage sale bike. Soon there will be one less for me to pull behind!

This month my self-selected torture is 7 a.m. “Shreadmill” with a treadmill workout followed by circuit training. My first class was yesterday and I’m feeling sore yet again. The good kind of sore.

Bubbles

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----------------------bubb----------------------
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-----------------the children's-----------------
-----------------faces as hands-----------------
-----------------reach for floa-----------------
-------------------ting shiny-------------------
----------les---------circ----------------------
--------bobbing---------------------------------
--------in warm---------------------------------
----------sun------------------ny---------------
---------------------------schoolyard-----------
--------------------------skies filled----------
---------------------------with kinde-----------
-------------arte--------------rg---------------
-----------n laught-----------------------------
-----------er while-----------------------------
-----------goodbyes-----------------------------
-------------wait-------------------------------
-------------------------for--------------------
-----------------------the bel------------------
----------------------l to ring-----------------
----------------------on the ve-----------------
-----------------------ry last------------------
-------------------------day--------------------
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Skydiving Souvenir

Becoming a mother is like being dropped from a small aircraft into the ocean from 12000 feet. You prepare for it by putting on a parachute and a life jacket, but when you hold up your ticket with two pink lines, board the plane and take off, you’re struck with horrible air sickness. What were you thinking? Then the plane hits some altitude and you cruise for a while enjoying the ride. But fear strikes again as you near the point of departure. That first leap – the squeezing tightness in your belly – there’s no turning back. You get a surge of adrenaline and fear and joy and craziness. When the parachute opens you begin to enjoy the ride down. But not for long. You begin to spin, to flail, to realize how quickly the ocean is approaching, and with great pain you and the ocean collide. You take a gasp of air and hold your breath. This is it, the moment of becoming. Push through! Under the water you are rolled and swayed dizzy. Your arms find a soft object and hug it close. Finally you struggle to the surface where you realize, for the first time, that the life jacket you carefully packed along does not fit you at all but it’s just the perfect size for the seven-pound person you found there under the ocean and dragged with you up to the wave-tossed top.

And there you are, treading water in the middle of a vast sea. It’s very disorienting, the constant buffeting of the waves, endless straining, incessant protection of that precious gift you hold. But in time, as days and weeks pass, you find you are able to swim with increasing skill, guard with greater confidence, and navigate with clearer direction. Eventually your feet find solid ground and you emerge bedraggled on the shore. Gazing down again at the perfect souvenir of your skydiving adventure cradled carefully in your arms, you know it was worth it, and you will never be the same.

Happy Mother’s Day to women everywhere who have taken that leap, that drenching plunge into motherhood!

Cheap Pasty Buttercream

IMG 4740 s 150x150 Cheap Pasty ButtercreamMy biggest little boy turned three last Friday! Thursday night we went to Walmart to get cake. Actually it was to get $100 worth of groceries, but to the birthday boy, it was really all about the cake. Chocolate cupcakes, to be exact, with “Cars” theme rings pressed into mounds of cheap pasty buttercream. He insisted on carrying the plastic box himself and began to query incessantly “Is it cake time?” the minute we got home.

The next morning, Jaron was knocking on our bedroom door before 7am announcing, “It’s my birthday!” We sang “Happy Birthday” in harmony as we shuffled out of bed. He asked about the cake again. IMG 4744 150x150 Cheap Pasty ButtercreamSo we lit up the candles and sang another round of Happy Birthday right after breakfast! (Then we had another round of lighting the candles and blowing them out so I could get better pictures. Surely I’m not the only Mama to do this?) And then, on to the main event as far as the birthday boy was concerned. Cheap pasty buttercream. He took his time licking all the rainbow-sprinkled frosting off the top of the chocolate dome, took about one bite of crumbly cake, and said he was done.

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The Birthday Boy at breakfast

 

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The best part of the cake

 

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Cheap Pasty Buttercream!

 

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The smile says it all

Time for the presents. Hearing his shrieks of glee at a toy squeezy frog and “Cars” kneepads, I regretted not having the video rolling. But I did capture his unbridled joy at unwrapping a sandbox toy, and his ear to ear grin when he realized his new underwear matched the “Cars” shirt he was wearing. I will miss these moments when he grows up!

Well we had pretty much a normal day after that, while he played incessantly with his new (used, don’t tell him) Tonka talking dump truck I got at our MOPS toy exchange. “It farted!!” he exclaimed when it made a snoring sound going into sleep mode. The next time, “It burped!” That’s a boy for ya.

IMG 4757 e1272576557863 150x150 Cheap Pasty ButtercreamThat evening in lieu of a party we went to Linton Elementary’s school carnival – even better than a birthday party because it only cost $6 for game/snack tickets for him and his sister. They had a blast wandering from station to station throwing rings at pop bottles and hula hoops at stuffed animals, sword fishing over a curtain, tossing toilet paper rolls into a fake toilet, scoring soccer goals with a giant beach ball – all along bagging a prize collection of tootsie rolls, suckers, bracelets, and plastic spiders and frogs. They hopped onto numbers in the cake walk, hugged Melody’s kindergarten teacher, and munched on popcorn with tongue, teeth and lips stained blue from cotton candy.

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Sword Fishing

 

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I caught a spider!

IMG 4767 e1272575702283 150x150 Cheap Pasty ButtercreamBut the festivities didn’t end there! That night, Jaron begged for Melody to have a sleepover in his room. They’ve never done that at home, although last fall they shared a big futon on vacation in Singapore. So I dragged Melody’s mattress off her bed and plopped it on the floor next to his. The next day Melody, roused far earlier than her norm, reported that the brother kept talking and waking her up when she was trying to fall asleep. It must have been true because they were both out of bed to use the bathroom an hour after the lights went out.

IMG 4768 e1272575913717 150x150 Cheap Pasty ButtercreamRegardless, they must have gotten enough sleep to store up some reserve energy because they showed no lack of it after lunch at KidzFit, a play area with inflatable jumping castles and slides, wii consoles, arcade games, a rock climbing wall, and a variety of other kid-friendly mischief. We had free passes earned in the Poudre Library summer reading program last year.

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Daddy, Jaron, Melody – yes Mama took turns too!

 

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I\’m Three!

IMG 4784 150x150 Cheap Pasty ButtercreamA couple of hours later we snagged Jaron en route racing (for about the hundredth time) from the exit back to the entrance of a huge inflatable obstacle course with a giant slide at the end. The grown-ups were tired! Back home, the rest of the cheap pasty buttercream smothered cupcakes disappeared and the birthday festivities officially drew to a close. Off to play with the talking dump truck again!

INTO THE SHADOW

YOU WALK INTO THE SHADOW
FACE COMES OUT OF THE STEEL
COME OUT COME OUT
WHEN THE SHADOW CATCHES YOU
THEN IT’S TIME TO RIOT
IN THE STREET RIOT
IN THE SQUARE SHOUTS THE CROWD
RIOT LOUD RIOT LOUD
FLASHBACK COMES THE CIRCUS
CROWD SHOUT LOUD
FLASHBACK COMES OF JESUS
SHOUTS THE RIOT CROUD
I CAN’T HEAR
BEYOND THE SHADOW
IS IT DOUBT OR DOES THIS TOM BELIEVE
FAITH TURNS ROUND THE WHEEL
FACE COMES OUT OF THE STEEL
SWORD REFLECTION
WORD RESURRECTION
FACE COMES OUT OF THE STEEL
FAITH TURNS ROUND THE WHEEL
YOU WALK INTO THE SHADOW
COME OUT COME OUT
SUN FIRE COME OUT
FIRE COMES OUT OF THE SHADOW
FAITH COMES OUT OF THE SHOUT
I CAN’T SEE
BEYOND THE SHADOW
IS IT FAITH OF DOES THIS SUN DECEIVE
AND THE WHEEL IS A CIRCLE
AND THE CIRCLE IS INFINITY
SWORD IN THE FLAME
TESTED BY LOVE IS A FIRE
SWORD REFLECTION
FACE COMES OUT OF THE STEEL
WORD RESURRECTION
FAITH TURNS ROUND THE WHEEL
AND THE WHEEL IS AN EYE
AND A FIRE IN THE SKY
AND THE FIRE WILL NOT DIE

(~1994)

 


Maybe I should have posted this on Good Friday, the day that rioting crowd crucified Christ. This poem was written under a driving compulsion, yet all these years later I still do not understand it. What face is reflected in the steel of the sword? My head spins with references to Ezekiel, Corinthians, the crucifixion, the resurrection, doubting Thomas, the Word becoming flesh – a reckless outward spiral – or perhaps inward to the heart.

And then there is Joseph Shadow Clark, who I only knew as “Shadow.” I ate lunch with him in our college cafeteria in 1993. He had few friends, although I met him through a mutual friend, and his roommate was a Japanese exchange student that I tutored. A month later he was arrested for a chilling double murder he had committed in the summer before coming to school.


I Do

A wedding to remember – beautiful, joyful, playful – hundreds of guests – big yellow flowers – worship songs – my friend the bride reciting her vows at an excitedly frenetic pace…

Then the reception – candles everywhere – friends I hadn’t seen for months or years – a new baby – potluck hors d’oevres – a slow dance with my husband…

For eight years I couldn’t get through a wedding or even news of an engagement without feeling an aching wistful disappointment at best and often sorrow or anger beginning to rise in my heart. But today, no tears. It was precious and inspiring. To be able to enjoy a wedding, wow. We have put so much “for worse” behind us that I never want to take for granted the blessing it is to live “for better” these days. I found myself trying to remember those wedding vows I spoke nine years past.

Do you, Kristina, take this man, whose hand you hold, to be your husband, to live together after God’s holy covenant of marriage? Do you promise to love him, serve him, comfort him, honor and obey him, and being a faithful and true wife, forsake all others, cleaving to him alone, as long as you both shall live?

I do.

I ask those present to witness that I, Kristina, do take you, Richard, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, in every circumstance; in good times and in bad, in wealth or in poverty, in sickness and in health. I promise to honor and respect you as God’s gift to me. I will, by God’s grade and enablement, be a faithful wife and loving support to you. I will esteem you as the head of our home even as Christ is the head of the church. I will encourage the development of God’s gifts in you. I will love and cherish you until we are parted in death, according to God’s holy covenant. Today, I pledge my life to you.

Richard, I love you as a genuine and faithful friend I’ve been able to count on and trust in from the beginning, and I look forward to our friendship growing more precious through the years. With this ring, I pledge myself to you, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, that’s what I said, and I meant it.

I do. At least I want to. I want to be all those things and more. Richard said during the ceremony that it’s good for us to attend a wedding once in a while. Perhaps he was also pondering our roles in each other’s lives. Well I for one feel motivated to take another look at my covenant to my husband before God and resolve once again to stay true to my first love.

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Just Married, January 20, 2001

Well Gulch Nature Trail

IMG 4601 150x150 Well Gulch Nature TrailAfter a terribly long and icy Colorado winter, what a nice surprise to enjoy beautiful weather during Spring Break last week. Daddy took a day off work and we enjoyed a family hike at Lory State Park, Mama carrying baby Trevor in a Snugli pack, Daddy carrying Jaron in a frame pack when he got too tired to walk, and Melo carrying a pack with snacks and water.

Of the park’s many paths, I picked Well Gulch Nature Trail. We found the trailhead and started along. Sunshine, fresh air, and panoramic views of Horsetooth Reservoir do good for a winter-weary soul. We arrived at a small waterfall in about five minutes.

IMG 4608 300x225 Well Gulch Nature TrailThat’s where the joy began to wilt. The trail had been soft in spots but more dry than muddy. Yet just past the waterfall, the trail turned quite rocky and disappeared under a patch of snow. With the baby on my back and just getting into the swing of my first hike in two years, I didn’t feel safe trying to cross it. We turned around, as had a couple ahead of us.

We drove to the next trailhead, which happened to be the other end of the Well Gulch trail. The conditions were better, being a more open and sunny section of terrain. Eventually we did come to a patch of snow, but it was flat and covered with footprints, inspiring confidence to give it a try. Good decision. The snowy section was short and the trail beyond was dry and beautiful. Oh I’ve missed hiking!

IMG 4620 225x300 Well Gulch Nature TrailThe trail crossed a few more snow patches but once I got in my groove that just wasn’t an issue. Guess that’s all a part of early spring hiking around here. Although we took Jaron once as a baby, this was his first hike to remember. He was taking it all in, examining the details of the grass at his feet, announcing “that’s a six, and that’s a one” at marker 16, and scaling rocks with agile persistence. The kids did slip a few times but nobody got hurt. We decided to try to continue all the way to the waterfall at the other end where we started. From that end, Daddy would jog up the road to our car and drive back with lunch. It sounded like a doable plan.

That is, until we realized we were on the wrong trail. And I’d left the trail map in the car. We tracked backwards and discovered not one but two wrong turns. When we figured it all out, we stood at a signpost that said the trailhead at the waterfall end was .5 miles away and the trailhead where we parked our car was .7 miles back. Having hiked more than an extra mile already, and being well past noon and depleted of granola bars, hunger drove us to turn around and take the same trail out. At least that way we could have our picnic right away without having to wait for Daddy to go get it.

IMG 4636 225x300 Well Gulch Nature TrailAfter lunch, on the way out of the park, we stopped for one last little hike on the Waterfall Trail. It’s behind a group picnic structure at the first lot near the park entrance. I’m not sure why the stroller ended up on the trail with us, because Daddy ended up carrying it with the baby over half of the trail. It was quite short, though, and quite rewarding. There were a few tiers of waterfall to explore, and wood plank bridges crossing it twice. The trickling, bubbling water whispered a sweet springtime song.

Now that we’ve broken in the baby on his first hike, I’m all for doing this again! Maybe even go camping this summer. I have a lot of fun childhood memories involving the outdoors and you can be sure my own children will one day as well.

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Daddy and Melo negotiating the rocks

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Baby and Me on the trail

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Horsetooth Reservoir and rock formations

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Horsetooth Reservoir, trees, fresh spring air

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Me and Melo at the final waterfall

A Friend Faith Keeps Dear

“Faith,” said a Friend, “is always near.”
A Friend trusting Faith finds depth.
“Faith speaks sincerely,” a Friend smiles, “in genuine hope.”
To a Friend trusting Faith, love is supreme.

Faith said, “A friend is always near.”
A Friend-trusting Faith finds depth.
Faith speaks sincerely: “A Friend smiles in genuine hope.”
To a Friend-trusting Faith, love is supreme.

 


Written in the summer of 2000. Ahh, the courtship days. We were engaged two months later. Though we’ve been through the fire and not always liked each other, in 2010 our friendship, and our love, are once again strong, genuine and deep.