Monthly Archives: June 2017

Also At the Circus

So I posted about strawberry shortcake on Sunday night, and everything was great and everybody was having fun, and then someone dropped a psychological stinkbomb or something, and Levi and I were both mad, and Elias was scared and my sister was uncomfortable, and Paul was trying to sort out what had actually just happened. Honestly, I don’t know. Still.

I got up and left the table, because when this happens and I stay, things usually get worse. Leaving also escalated the situation. It seems like the only possible way for me to avoid scenes like this would be a complete personality transplant.

Full disclosure here. At the circus: great food. Also at the circus: sobbing nuclear meltdowns, mostly but not exclusively on the part of the children.

Lovely, truly.

I could pack a week’s worth of clothes in those bags under my eyes. HOT.


So, I make killer shortcake. Also, I yell at my children, and my stovetop is probably going to be declared a federal disaster area.

I’m not telling you this so you can feel sorry for me or try to make me feel better. I’m telling you because we are all in this together, but we don’t seem to know it. I’ve talked to so many women who think everyone around them has got it goin’ on. Every one of them thinks she is the only one who cannot pull herself together.

I really think the only way to change this is to be a little vulnerable with one another. Start small. Tell one person. Don’t start with the scariest thing. Start with the laundry, like, “I am so behind on the laundry that my children are running naked from the shower to dig through the clean clothes pile for underpants.” 95% of the time the person you are talking to will look relieved, because THANK GOODNESS someone else is a mess too.

We are all just trying to get through the day. Sometimes the only thing we can offer each other is the assurance that we are not alone.

Be brave. Go first. You can always take with you the knowledge that at any given time, two of the three rings at this circus are a disaster. It’s not just you; at the very least, it’s you and me.

Strawberry Shortcake

Last night, Paul distracted the two-legged mauraders long enough to gather a nice bowlful from the strawberry patch. He requested accompaniment.

We are picky about shortcake in our family, truth be told. The first time I was served angel food cake under the name shortcake, I thought there had surely been a tragic mixup.

My Aunt Luella had this recipe, see, and she gave it to my mom, and it was the only  shortcake I knew growing up. It is rich and buttery and eggy, and once you have had it warm from the oven with cold, cut strawberries and whipped cream and maybe a splash of milk, you are ruined for life.

It was one of the first real desserts I learned to make in my teens, and I’ve made it at least once a year since. Paul tasted it after we got married and became an instant convert, although he eats it with ice cream and cannot be considered a true aficionado.

My general policy is that I will make the shortcake on demand, as long as someone else is willing to provide the prepared strawberries. Paul having fulfilled the basic requirement (he convinced my sister to wash and cut them), I was happy to oblige.

The chunks you see on the left are cold butter cut into a flour and sugar mixture. They are tidbits of ambrosia, and the exclusive province of She Who Bakes. The cook always gets the best snitches.

Elias started with a modest portion.

He did not stop there.

I started with an immodest portion.

I also did not stop there.

That’s real whipped cream, by the way. My sister was starting on it and Levi walked up and said, “Why are you whipping that cream?”

“Because it was bad.”

“How long have you been waiting to use that one,” I asked, “your entire life?”

” … maybe,” she said.

And that’s June at the circus.

Camp Report

Well, we all came through camp with flying colors.

My friend Wendy texted me on Sunday morning. Wendy has known me more than half my life, so she knows that I have never attended any camp except outdoor ed in the sixth grade, and also that I am likely to check off all the required items on a list and pay little attention to the optional ones. I identify this as a basic survival skill, but it does mean that I sometimes miss some fun stuff. Instructions about camper mail were in the optional category on the list from camp.

Because Wendy is a very nice person, she said, “I’m sure you know this, but …” and then informed me that receiving mail at camp is A Very Big Deal. Like, multiple letters. Even for a two-day camp.

Oh dear.

So I engaged the reliable relative network and texted my sister, who promised to show up at the house that afternoon with two letters. I handed Paul and Elias writing implements and paper after they ate their lunch, and a few other people came through, too. Despite my total ignorance about the importance of mail call, Levi had a pretty good haul, really. I’ll start earlier next year, though.

Not pictured are the letters from my sister, which didn’t make it home. He did say he ripped some by accident.

Mary Lou didn’t want Elias to feel entirely left out, so she also showed up with a form letter for Levi to fill out and leave for his brother.

Elias did actually sleep in Levi’s bed during the two nights. But not because he missed his brother because he did not miss his brother. He was very clear on this point.

This was the face that greeted me at pickup. He wants to go back next year, please.

I went into the dorm room to pick up his stuff, and he informed me that his toothbrush and toothpaste were definitely in the bag because he just found them that morning! And he is much older than when he left, because now he knows he can stay up late (TILL TEN!!) if he has to. Both his group leader and the nurse gave a great report. Because there were no tablets or TV to occupy him during his vest time, he was allowed to take a friend to keep him company in the nurse’s office. She said the only time he wasn’t completely cooperative for her was during his inhaled treatment when she told him he was not allowed to talk. I said that was surprising really since he isn’t much of a chatter normally.

Bahaha. Just kidding.

Elias had some jealousy to process and can hardly wait to go to his camp day now. He doesn’t get to stay overnight, but at least it’s something.

I did fine, really. Someone asked me on Monday how Levi was doing and I said, “Well, the nurse hasn’t called me, so I assume everything is awesome.” And it was.

As we were tucking them in Tuesday night (significantly before ten, thankyouverymuch), I asked Levi if he was tired. No. Of course not. He was not tired. He was very clear on this point.

He slept for eleven hours straight.

Oh, That Again

For a person who spends a fair amount of time examining the workings of her own brain and then posting them on the internet, I am sometimes not very self-aware. Over the past week, I have been sleeping fitfully, trying to keep myself from eating everything in sight, and maintaining a tenuous grip on my temper, usually over things that wouldn’t bother me on a normal day. (Whatever that is.) More times than I’d like to admit, I have thought, “What is wrong with me?”

This morning I woke up early to go the gym. I grouched my way through the weights. Everything was heavy. I didn’t feel right. But I finished, and on the way home, I sat in the idling car waiting for a train, and I thought, “I wish I could go to the cemetery before I go home.” Er, what? I’m not a big cemetery visitor. Paul goes a lot more than I do, even to visit the graves on my side of the family. I batted the thought away. Even if I’d been inclined to pay attention, there really wasn’t time. The train passed. I drove on.

And burst into tears, going down a back road past fresh shoots in fields on both sides, and not much else. There was definitely no visible reason for me to be crying as I drove home at 7:30 in the morning.

Seriously, I thought, what is wrong with me?

At that moment, I realized that we are entering the teens of June.


I have discovered this before, the creeping up of grief while I am unaware. I have even written about it before. But I am a slow learner.

I was going to say that what is wrong with me is that I am grieving, but that’s not true. The truth is there’s nothing wrong with me. Grief is not wrong. It’s hard, though. It’s a lot of work, and it continues to be work after you think you’re all done. So here we are again, in June, and I feel cranky and exhausted and, yes, a little bit like a motherless child. But now at least I know what’s going on.

I’ve been thinking about grief a lot lately. I know a lot of people who are grieving. If you are, especially if it’s fresh, I’d like to give you something my mother gave to me. I was sitting at her kitchen table on the worst night of my life, so weighed down I could not lift my head, and I said, “I feel like I’m never going to be happy again. Will I always feel like this?”

This is the answer she gave me: Yes. And no. There will always be times in your life when you remember this and feel this way. Right now it’s all the time. After a while, it’ll only be some of the time. After a long while, it’ll only be occasionally. Yes. This will always hurt this much. But it won’t always hurt this much all the time.

She was right. I have come to think of grief as coming like waves in the ocean. At first it’s like being taken down in rough surf; you can’t even find your feet. You might have a moment or two when you think you never will, that you’ll go under and never come up. After a while, the waves are a more measured. You can stand up. You might get knocked silly by a bad one, but you’re up again before the next one hits. After a long time, they’re mostly lapping around your toes. Maybe a big one gets you right at the knees. Say, when an anniversary approaches and you haven’t been paying attention.

This feels like a knee wave. Unlikely to take me down, now that I’m looking right at it.

So I’ll remember, this week, what my mother taught me about grief, and I’ll miss the way she looked right after she laughed.

And then the anniversary will be over, until next time.


This is me, not freaking out.

We just dropped Levi off for overnight camp. He’ll be gone two nights. He has been apart from us overnight before, but it’s always been one night, or he’s stayed with my sister. This matters because if he’s gone one night, we can manage all his treatments around being gone, and if he’s with my sister, well, she knows how to do his treatments nearly as well as Paul and I do. But he’s going to be gone two nights this time, so he’s going to need to do a lot of this himself.

I don’t think I’d be worried at all if it weren’t for his cystic fibrosis stuff. I am sure I’d have a little twinge. I had a little twinge the other day because I hugged Elias and I think he grew like three inches in a week. But Levi doesn’t have social anxiety, and he’s not worried, so I don’t think this would be a big deal.

Everything is going to be fine. I know this. There is a nurse on staff. I explained everything in case Levi needs help. I left an instruction sheet. The nurse has my phone number. (I highlighted it. In two places.) The camp is close by; I could be there in less than 40 minutes. And he’s going to do fine. He’s been doing a lot of it at home himself anyway. Honestly, if everything went pear-shaped and he didn’t get any of his meds or treatments for two entire days … well, he’d have some digestive problems. He’d be pretty uncomfortable. He wouldn’t die.

I am happy he’s going to do this, truly. I talked to him about it earlier in the spring, and the first thing he said was, “OH! Can I take my sleeping bag!” He could not be more excited. There will be a bunch of kids from his Sunday School class there, and he’s pretty pumped about that too. He needs to be able to do this stuff, and not live in a little plastic bubble in our house protected from all germs.

My logical brain knows all this. My logical brain is fine. 

My lizard brain, the one that just reacts and doesn’t want to hear about your stinkin’ logic, just knows that MY BABY IS LEAVING AND I WON’T KNOW IF HE DID HIS VEST AND GET HIM BACK HERE RIGHT NOW.

This is me freaking out just a little.

But here’s the thing. I don’t actually have any control over this anyway. I don’t have any control over the progression of his disease, or any other dire thing that could befall him. Saying this out loud is terrifying, because if we all exercise hard enough and eat enough kale and take the right supplements, we’re going to live forever, right? I mean, we don’t really think that. But we kind of do. We kind of think we’re the exception and the horrible thing will not happen to us.

We are not the exception. Doesn’t that just bite?

So this will be my two-day experiment in letting go. Not of Levi. Not even of control. Just of the illusion of control. 

Levi’s fine. Here he is with his friend Malachi. 

I made them stop so I could take this picture. Levi turned around and ran away as soon as I was done and never looked back. Mom who?

Elias is going to miss his brother. 

But he’ll be fine too. He’s hanging out with Auntie tonight, making chicken nuggets and salad with cranberries for supper. I heard a rumor there was a special dessert. 

Paul and I are going to get Chinese food. All by ourselves. We’re extra fine. 

I’ll report back after I pick him up on Tuesday. I’m sure there will be lots of stories. I’ve half a mind to start the recorder on my phone in the car on the way home and just let him go. I’m not sure my one brain and two ears will be able to keep up with the torrent of chatter, and I don’t want to miss anything. 


I’ve been doing this legs-up-the-wall thing with some regularity. 

It does wonders for my lower back, and it helps stretch out the back of my legs, which I have recently realized are as tight as bowstrings. 

A friend recommended it awhile ago, and I did some googling. Besides being known as the legs-up-the-wall thing, it seems to be some yoga pose I can’t pronounce, and it is in some quarters heralded as a miracle cure for everything. It is credited with everything from curing lower back pain to helping people see things more clearly and gain new perspective on life. 

And I’ll tell you, I have to agree. As I said before, it does wonders for my lower back. And I have definitely seen things more clearly. Mostly things that needed to be cleaned a long time ago. 

What? Is that not how that’s supposed to work?

We’ll have to chat later. I need to go find the dustmop. 

Evening Chores

Well. I was going to fold and put away laundry and wash the dishes. 

But this face appeared and said, “Mom? Will you tickle me one hundred percent?”

And I figure I’m nearly out of chances on that, so … 

What laundry?