Tag Archives: raising kids

Everybody’s Workin’ for the Weekend . . .

Yeah, I know, Loverboy as a headline, but it’s appropriate, I promise.

My weeks are crazy, they really are. I’m not looking for sympathy, just trying to give you some context. I work a job that allows me a 40 or 50-hour work week, something that was unheard of even a year ago for me. So to be able to get on the road home at a seemingly consistent time each day is really a great thing for me.

But even then, my evening is spent getting the preparations for the next day all situated. I have to cook dinner, get the kitchen cleaned up, and then get the kids ready for their showers and bedtime routine. Once we get through that we do our “midnight snacks” of cereal with banana and then head upstairs to read a chapter from their book of the moment. Once that’s complete I head downstairs to make their lunches for the next day, maybe make a sweet snack to add to that lunch. I might have some time to play a few songs on my guitar but usually it’s a case of getting some stuff completed, head upstairs, do a load or two of laundry, write here, then try to get some sleep. I get up in the morning, make breakfast for the kids, make sure the lunches are in their hands, get Abbi’s lunch out for her, then head out the door and start the whole thing over again.

It’s just reality. What I hadn’t realized until recently is that I’ve been forced to face these things, the routines I always fought and pushed against. I don’t have a choice, and it’s so interesting to me that I don’t fight them anymore. I guess you always, as a couple, vie for who does what they’re best at, trying to put the other, less desirable things off and hope they get done. I don’t do that at all, I simply get things done. It’s a mentality my wife had when she was here and now I realize how much of her rubbed off on me and I never realized it.

The weekend is our chance to be together. It’s not a mandate, no forced togetherness whether the kids want it or not, it’s just the only time we have. Even then, it’s the time I have to vacuum, dust, do some laundry I didn’t get during the week, but at least get together and do something as the family we are now. Abbi gets to do things with her friends, sometimes the boys and I will go to the park without the girls, but the weekend is our time.

It is hard for some people to understand, but we’re not anti-social. We don’t spend any time just the five of us for fun during the week. Not right now. So the weekends are the time we want to spend with each other. We’ll go to events, visit someone’s house, you name it, but it’s not our priority. My hope is even that, once I get vacations and other things planned, we’ll visit places we’d never dreamed of doing before. We’ll get on a ferry to Alcatraz. Maybe we’ll go to the battlefield at Gettysburg. Hell, maybe we’ll go next Fall to Maine and see the leaves change.

Why? I have to. I can’t keep trudging through the life we were trying to make as a family before Andrea left. I wish we could, I wish we could see the future and she’s there with us, but that reality left with her. What I want now more than anything is for the kids to have their own memories, to have thoughts of life and vacations and fun that don’t have to think about the fact that their Mom isn’t there. Maybe it’s going to Disney or Leggoland, or maybe it’s just taking a picture of each of us standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona, but I want them to be the things we do together.

What’s hardest for people to understand is why I think this way, why I keep us together. Yes, it’s been 8 months, but no, we’re not totally healed. I made a comment months ago: “we’re stronger together than we are when we’re apart.” It’s totally true and absolutely crucial. When I thought we weren’t going to make it here in California, there was not thought about moving while leaving any of the kids here to finish school. We’re together or we stay. Pure and simple.

Life is about the memories you remember on the way to growing up. I may do more and more things without questioning them, but I still play my guitar and there’s a tiny person inside me, the 18-year-old Dave, that still hopes I’ll be a professional musician, though I know it probably won’t happen. But if I stop that younger version from coming out, our journey is over, and that’s the best part. I don’t want this to be over. I can’t let it be. The kids need to walk this road, making their own signposts and taking their own snapshots in their mind’s eye.

So every week I am working for the weekend. I had those opportunities, the times I could play my guitar, join my brother for a gig or just have fun. For that very reason I look forward to taking the time with my kids. I may do nothing more than make a pile of leaves in the back yard and watch them jump in them, but at least we did it together.

Take It Easy by The Eagles. See if you can get the connection tot he post above.

My younger weekend days - with my bandmates

Wax on . . . wax off . . .

This morning I was taking three of the kids to school and had to break the tension.  They’d been at each others’ throats all morning, fighting, hitting, yelling, just making everyone crazy.  I looked at Hannah, the middle daughter, and told her something was wrong with her nose.

“What do you mean?”

In my best Mr. Miyagi face, I reached over, slowly hovering my hand in front of her nose and squeezed it, saying: “honk”.

“See, you really need to get that fixed.”

“What the heck?!”

“You need to get that fixed, it could really lead to problems.”

I squeezed it again, giving her an ahooga noise like an old car and told her it’s getting worse.

Hannah busted out laughing, as did the boys in the back.  Hannah shouting “what is wrong with you?!”

I asked her if it was so strange why was she laughing?  “I don’t know!!!”

This was the only thing I could think of to do to calm them down.  I’ve been here before.  I’ve been in this very situation, threatening them, yelling at them, only to get the note or phone call later in the day that states I have to keep my kid’s behavior in check.  Usually it’s Noah.  Sometimes it’s Hannah.  Sam . . . well, he just needs to toughen up a little.  His is usually an injury report because he got hit with a dodgeball or basketball and cried.  The kid’s built like a 1930’s professional wrestler but has the constitution of a marshmallow!

These are the things I have to do.  I need to see the kids laughing again.  I need them to feel comfortable and not go to school with worried feelings and feeling tense, on-edge.  They may have argued before, but their mom always forced them to come over, give her a hug, patted their bottoms and the problems melted away.  They stopped fighting (well, sometimes).  I don’t have that.  I don’t have the aforementioned twinkle in my eyes that hypnotizes you (particularly boys) and gets them to do whatever you want.

I have to go Miyagi on their asses.

I know that they feel this way, they told me so.  Every night we have the same routine: after dinner they get to play, usually not with the TV on, and around 8pm they start the showers.  After that, we have a “midnight snack”, a habit my mother began with them of getting a small bowl of cereal, usually rice crispies with bananas.  They brush their teeth, head to bed and I head up there, if things go on-schedule (not usually the case) and read a chapter out of whichever book we’re reading this week.

This week Noah’s been telling me he’s having problems with a couple kids at school.  In my paranoia I always think they’re getting in fights or arguments, but the way he tells it, they blame him for things, he gets called up to the teacher, it’s found not true but another kid vouches for what the accuser says and it all just sits at a stalemate.  All I can do at this point is tell Noah that his behavior to this point has made others wary of him and teachers ready to believe he’s doing something wrong even if he didn’t.  I told him a couple days ago that, unfortunately, he has to be better than his best.  If anything goes wrong, he’ll get the blame, that’s just the nature of things so far.

Then he just knocked the breath out of me.

“I prayed to Mommy this morning.”
“What, little man?”
“I prayed to Mommy.  I asked her to help me be good.  I wanted her to help me so I could ignore the other kids and just do my school work.”

I don’t think he noticed my eyes getting a little glassy.

“What did you say, Monkey?”
“I just asked her to help me so that I can be good.  For her. ”
“Did it work?”
“I don’t know.  They still were mean to me.”

But he didn’t get into trouble.  He kept it together.  I didn’t get any behavior reports, he didn’t get in any fights, it just played out and he let things be.

But I could tell he was hoping for more.  He wanted what he was missing.  He wanted that presence, the warmth that we all felt when she would put her arms around you and say the absolutely perfect thing.  He asked for it, but he didn’t get it, at least he doesn’t think he did.  I don’t think she came down and visited some sort of patience on him, though I ache knowing that it would mean so much to him if she did.  I do think that the shards of her that are left, the little pieces left behind when she was ripped from all of our souls, the fragments that drift around in the wound are there and I hope that’s what he is thinking about.  I hope that he’s remembering what she said and felt.

Andrea had a way of coming up with the perfect solutions.  When we first moved to town, Abbi wanted to do something for the school talent show, but the group she’d joined with to perform couldn’t agree on what they wanted to do and she had her name in and nothing to perform.

“Do something with your Dad,” was Andrea’s answer.
“What?!  Nobody does stuff with their parents at these!”
“Doesn’t mean you can’t.”

I looked at her, and we both figured, why not?  My big thing was I wanted this to be Abbi’s moment, but for years she’d sung along with my music on the radio.  Sang to the point that Andrea, her dad, everyone told her she was too noisy and to knock it off.  But one of her favorites was a fun old Buddy Guy tune, performed by Stevie Ray Vaughan – “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.  It didn’t even take much rehearsal.  I took my Dobro, an acoustic guitar that has an aluminum cone – like a speaker cone – instead of a sound hole, and headed to the show.

Abbi was nervous, very much so, and I took a chair back behind her so she was able to be out front.  We followed a lot of really talented people and she was just a little freaked out by the fact that her friends had played classical pieces on the piano and complicated magic or juggling and she felt like she was singing a nursery rhyme.  But her Mom told her it would be OK and that she had a bluesy voice and they wouldn’t know what hit them.  When I finished the intro, she belted it out, growling out the song, sassing a little when she called: “tisket . . . tasket, baby.  A green and yellow basket.”  The crowd went crazy, and she had a huge grin painted on her face – again, that twinkle in her eyes.  We did it again the following year, allowing her little sister to sing, too.  That year, Andrea pushing us both – wanting Hannah to sing “Bein’ Green” the Kermit the Frog song.  It may seem a simply, jaunty little tune, but it’s actually filled with more chords than I’ve played before, contorting my fingers to play Kenny Burrell style jazz while she talked about being the color of the leaves.

But we did it, pushed ourselves, strove to be better with the help of their Mom.  With the support and smile of that amazing person.

Noah had the most disappointed look on his face when he finished his sentence that night.  He was crestfallen knowing that he’d reached out to his Mom and had it reinforced that she’s just not there any more.  Not in the physical sense, and I’ve been there where he is.  He wanted to have his Mom reach out from up there somewhere, to feel her presence and get that calm.

The best he gets for now is Mr. Miyagi.

Wax on, wax off.

On through the days uncounted . . .

The Blind Leading The Blind

There’s a song my brother wrote, which I have attached here, that I know has a different meaning for him but I listened to the track the other day and realized that whatever inspiration it gave him, I’m living the thought behind the song.

Tell me why, I want a reason
Just what am I supposed to find?
All through the days uncounted
Like the Blind Leading the Blind

I remember the day he came to our house with the demo – he had put it on a cassette (you know, a cartridge with two tiny reels inside that hold magnetic mylar tape that . . . oh, nevermind. If you don’t know by now you never will) and I was blown away. I mean, he wasn’t even old enough to go into a bar but had written this amazing song that even then I saw as insightful.

But now I truly do feel like I’ve gotten pulled into the inspiration of his song. Successful holiday or two aside, most days I’m making this up as I go. I wait for the day that I shrink some important piece of clothing of my daughter’s. My middle child is failing numerous classes and I can’t seem to get anything to sink into that head of hers.

I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s pretty clear to me I am making this up as I go, and I wander through the forest of inevitable problems that we’re lost in and realize that I’m leading the kids along like a blind man in the dark. It scares me that they are looking to me to be the solid foundation for them and I’m feeling the ground moving underneath me, destabilizing the foundation I’ve tried to pour.

Now Christmas season is coming. Andrea always had specific ideas for how things should go. In the last few years, she’d relented, letting the kids decorate the tree the way they wanted or sitting back and allowing the holiday to come to pass. I have major issues with what’s on the horizon. I LOVE Christmas, always have. Not the presents, not getting things, I was never that way. Sure, as a kid, I loved to get presents and look under the tree on Christmas morning but I just liked the whole season. I loved the snow, the trees, the smell of pine in the house, the lights and tinsel and presents and all of it. When my Dad decorated the house and put up lights the running gag was that planes would land on our lawn instead of the airport because he had so many. I inherited that from him and loved every minute of it.

Andrea hated that. She loved Christmas, but she was a control freak when it came to decorating. What I hated more was that she was always right and it looked so great. She never liked all the lights or the clashing colors. She was a decorator at heart and she wanted simplicity in action, mixed with a touch of color and light. She kept me in check and prevented me from making the landing strip on our lawn. Where she didn’t pull back was with presents. She always paid too much, put us in debt and bought too much stuff, out-doing it for major gifts every year. She wanted to give her kids what she had or more. I’ve said it before, but I just couldn’t tell Andrea “no” and we always ended up paying for Christmas for months later until we had to find a way to pay for it all over again.

Now, my kids are looking at Christmas as a way to get all the stuff they wanted. Sure, they know the reason behind the season, they understand that they should be just as excited – or more so – to give as to receive. But last night we were at the dinner table and I made the mistake of asking what they wanted for Christmas. My oldest, always the conservative kid and not wanting to ask, said little. The other three:

“I want a Nintendo 3DS”
“Me too”
“I want a guitar, and a bike, and a Spyro video game with a different character and a Mario brothers game and a new controller and a laptop and an ipod and . . . ”

I told them all how much it would cost to buy all that stuff.

“But I’ll just ask Santa for it.”

That was the problem. They have these memories of asking for their one big gift and Santa brought it.

“You realize, guys, that Santa brings you what he thinks you need and deserve, not always everything you want.”

They get that, but they don’t “get” that. Last year we didn’t have a lot of money at all, (not that I do now) and they had to come to terms with a lot fewer gifts under the tree and a lot more stress from Dad and Mom. But they thought it was the greatest Christmas ever and for the most part didn’t get everything they wanted.

This year is the same way.

It’s not that I’m complaining, I’m not. I don’t want more money, the kids don’t need more gifts. What I need is self confidence and peace of mind. I stare at the houses in the neighborhood, the lights popping up, the trees erecting in the windows and I realize I’m so far behind. I get to work around 8:30 each day, leaving at 5:30, if I can. Some days it’s later. I get home and dinner has to get on the table. We clean off the kitchen table, put away the leftovers, only to see it’s time to get the kids into the shower and the bedtime routine started. I help them find their PJ’s, their new underwear, and go downstairs while the hour or more process goes and get their “midnight snacks” together – usually Rice Crispies with banana and a little sugar. Once they’re finished, we go upstairs and read a chapter of the latest book we’re reading – this one is “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. We say prayers, get out the clothes for the next day and put them on the foot of their bed, then I head out, put a load (or two) of laundry in the washer and go downstairs. I make lunches for the next day, make sure I have something ready and on-hand for breakfast, and usually end up having to make something for a sweet snack for the lunches – cookies, brownies, something like that. Switch out the laundry, separate the clothes . . .

You get the picture of my day. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything more than get the kids from today to tomorrow and then the next. I’m not saying my only reason for mourning Andrea is that she helped with the daily grind of chores, but she did. She also helped me figure out how to decorate for the holidays and knew what they kids wanted for Christmas, what to ask Santa for so they got their one big gift but didn’t get an overload of stuff so that I can’t follow up next year. I’m so lost in the trees I can’t see the forest any more.

My children are amazing. I have to admit that. They laugh, they smile, they tell stories, all of it without Andrea here to help them. People look at me and say that I must be doing something right or they wouldn’t be doing this well. I look at them and realize that they’re not doing well in school or are getting into fights or are obsessed with video games or just get quiet and spend most of the night in their room.

At the end of the day I feel like I have to stick to the routine – sticking to the same time, the same things every night will make them happy and feel stable. But walking through the day in that routine when their guide, the Dad who’s taking them through the woods, has no map and isn’t sure where he’s going feels so wrong. I feel some days like I’m lying to them, acting like I know what I’m doing but really I’m just as lost as they are. My son, Sam, looked at me last night after prayers as I was tucking him into his bed and – with the twinkle I remember in Andrea’s eyes, he says: “I love you daaaaady!”

I love you too, buddy.

“You’re the best Daddy ever, you know.”
“Well, there are a lot of Daddies in the world, kiddo.”
“I know that. You’re still the best.”
“I appreciate that, Samwise. I love you, little man.”
“I don’t care how many other dads there are. You read to us, take care of us, even chase us around and tickle us and laugh with us. You’re the best.”

You see, like my brother’s song, “it’s a waste of time to keep on looking back but it’s a pain I can’t resist.” I keep thinking and wondering how they’re able to cope so well when I’m still glancing over my shoulder.

But I keep blindly stumbling along hoping I’m getting it right but never really knowing. Why?

I couldn’t bear it if I looked at my kids . . . at Sam . . . and saw that he didn’t feel that way any more.

My son, in his normal state, smiling and happy

What Have I Got in My Pocket?

No, it’s not an “Hobbit” reference.  (Though I applaud those of you who might have gotten it)  This morning (Sunday) there was a slight bite in the air, a Fall sort of feel the likes of which I don’t remember in Sacramento when we first moved but quite reminiscent of the days we spent together in the Midwest and South.

On my way out the door to get some final things for our Thanksgiving dinner I grabbed a shabby, worn black leather coat that I’ve had forever.  I hadn’t had occasion to wear it in a very long time but it just seems so comfortable and familiar that I really wanted to wear it to keep warm on the way to the store.  I had it on for quite awhile, throwing my keys in the pocket, looking at the hole wearing in the right shoulder, and just went about my day.

It was on the way back to the car with the groceries I noticed it.  I reached into the pocket to get same said keys out in order to unlock our ancient and worn Suburban (the vehicular version of my leather coat) and something else fell out with the keys.  When I picked it up, I realized that it was a red, oval-shaped flash drive from years ago, one I’d thought had disappeared like so many other pieces of tech that I’d misplaced or destroyed in the intense world of television news.  This was old enough that it was only 512k, had no fancy cover or pre-loaded software, it was simply a way to transport files or pictures without emailing or compressing.  It had gotten caught in a small hole in the bottom of my pocket, something that sat there, waiting for another item to catch on its lid and bring it up from the abyss in the lining of the coat.

I didn’t have time until late tonight, when I check my email and clean up details of the day and decompress by writing in this blog.  I had to make an effort to head down to the coat rack in order to get it this evening, figuring it had some old scripts or other short video clips.  I hadn’t remembered using this for anything more than that.

But I was wrong.

I must have either loaned this to Andrea or she just used it because it was handy.  There, at the top of the file list, was a folder full of pictures, most of them out-takes, from a session we’d done in 2006 to shoot our Christmas Card Picture.  It was another of those insanely complicated, delightfully chaotic and beautiful times where Andrea had an idea and threw it my lap telling me to figure out how to make it happen.  I was the photographer, after all.  I had the eye, the equipment, the know-how.  She used to joke when we were first dating that she’d wasted a good opportunity for me when she’d taken a photography class at Creighton University.  She had taken it as an easy elective, never realizing that she’d ended up with Pulitzer Prize winning priest, Dr. Don Doll as her professor.  She cared so little for the photographic side of journalism she felt like she was wasting the good father’s time and he was determined to make her realize she had talent.  This day was a perfect example, though she wasn’t one to capture moments in a frame of time, she was brilliant at creating them.

I remembered the picture, the one we chose, and it was just fun.  We’d turned it Black and White, which must be why it was on the flash drive, but it’s the picture I’m attaching that really tells the whole story.  Andrea had this idea to put a tan/textured background, all of us in jeans and barefoot wearing shirts: the kids’ saying “blessed” and ours “grateful”.   The regular picture, the full-0n family photo was fine, a decent picture of all of us, Andrea in her trademark glasses because the Bell’s Palsey made it impossible to wear her contacts anymore.  She, of course, couldn’t wear Costco specials, though, hers were Tiffany frames.  The advantage being she’d found some insane, complicated way to get them for half the price.  Andrea had a knack for going into stores, or later going online, and finding ways to piece together good deals or find one full outfit from the pieces of three different designers.  Always cheaper, always on-sale, never full-priced.  It was brilliant when you had no money.  It was maddening if you were in a hurry.

The picture below is what makes me smile and brings a tear at the same time.  You see, Andrea in later years hated pictures.  Even here she’d been through some hard times and gained some weight due to her liver.  (a condition that was remedied, but you all know – it’s easy to gain weight, insanely difficult to lose it)

She was sad, even depressed when she saw herself.  Andrea was always proud of her smile and it was “damaged” (her words, not mine) by the palsey.  Her father always, even when she was a mere 160 pounds, told her she was fat and needed to watch her figure.  She was 5 foot 10, by the way, not a frame that carried 160 pounds like it was heavy.  She saw the now-crooked smile, the extra weight, and just started to fade.  She told me how her way of looking at the world – the synesthesia that caused her to see people and sounds in versions of colors – was fading, everything turning dull.

So when these pictures popped up, I realized we’d caught her in a moment of her old self.  You can see the sparkle in the eyes, not worrying about how many teeth you see or if the left side of her mouth didn’t turn up.  She was playful, goofy, and smiling.  She didn’t realize at the time that I’d snapped this picture.  It was just so amazing to see the woman who had forced me to see the world as the wondrous place it was.

Andrea in a rare moment late in life...laughing

My kids have had that same dull, tenuous feeling.  It was something that worried me, but how could they really be back to themselves when they are still figuring it out like I am.

This weekend we saw a little of our old selves pop in.  Years ago we lived in this little house, a 2-bedroom Craftsman, in Omaha.  There were trees everywhere, which is amazing when it’s fall, surrounded by colors.  Fire and earth, tones of life slowing down were everywhere, and when the wind blew the leaves covered the lawn.  Saturday and Sunday were the same way, for the first time since we moved here, in our yard.  It was cold, crisp and perfect.  I went out back to rake the red and brown leaves into piles, readying them for the yard waste when the kids came out.  They said they wanted to help, but I could see it – I could see the twinkle, the mischievous little spark that they’d all inherited from their mother.  They had no intention of putting those leaves in the canister.

Within fifteen minutes, they were all back on the lawn like a scene out of a Charlie Brown cartoon.  All they needed was the wet sucker and they’d be stuck to their faces.  The fun of jumping in a pile turned into throwing them at each other, and for the first time in a long time I heard laughter.  Pure, happy, unadulterated laughter.  They rolled around, got dirty, got wet, cold and just plain goofy.

It was like looking in the face of the woman who’d invited a colleague just to get me to the bar a couple decades ago.

It could have been a dangerous thing, finding that little red drive in my pocket, it really could have.  Instead, it gave me a glimpse into what the kids were missing.  Abbi had been there all through those Omaha years to jump in piles, stamp into the canister and roll around in the Fall colors.  For the first time, the other three did it, too.

I’m finally seeing life return.  It’s not perfect, and by no means is it easier.  Not a minute goes by I don’t think about the amazing woman in the photograph.  But finally, in the crisp bite of a Fall day, I can see that all of us, even Hannah, the perfunctorily academic student who was so closely tied to her mother, are seeing the color of the world again.  It makes me happy and sad at the same time.

We’re getting on with our lives, but there’s just a small part of me that wishes we weren’t.  It’s so hard to watch her go, to see the bits and pieces of her dwindle with each passing momentous occasion.

The thing people don’t realize, I don’t think, is that you don’t lose the person you love the minute they pass away.  When you lose them is with every passing moment you’re able to accomplish without them.  You have to get on with your life, keep moving forward on the road.  What hurts is that you’re going on without them, and every little moment you accomplish without them leaves another piece of them behind and you can see them fade, bit by bit.  Moment by moment.  It hurts, but if you don’t do it, you’re stuck, the world moving around you while you stand still hoping to hold onto a memory.

Then you miss the little things.  You miss the colors in the world all around you, and you forget to laugh.  It’s hard, but you have to do it.

When Do We Stop Touching the Street?

Abbi at 6, realizing she may be small but is a giant inside!

I took this photo probably ten years ago, maybe more.
I had just bought a medium format camera, a Yashica, from a colleague for a decent price and I was experimenting with the camera.

As I was staring down the top of the little box, watching the reflex prism and getting used to the strange counter intuitive movement I heard “Daddy! Look at me! I can touch the street!”

As I turned around Abbi was standing next to the concrete steps that led up to our little home on 50th street in Omaha. Her arms were up, and she was giddy that she could look at her shadow projected in perfect position so it looked like she was touching the street. With the hand rail, steps and her shadow, the lines were just perfect to snap a photo.

The thing is, she was a tiny little girl, the kind of kid Andrea and I both needed for our first.  When Andrea got pregnant with Abbi, she wasn’t happy.  She wasn’t indifferent.  She wasn’t even pensive, much like I was for both Hannah and the boys.

She freaked out!  I mean, catatonic, hair on fire, a hare’s breath from falling off the ledge freaking out.  You know what, I got it, even then.  We were only 22/23 at the time.  We were young, stupid, and married only a year.  We had amazing plans, travel we wanted to do, and a whole life that wasn’t planned out, but we weren’t ready to be parents.  Still, she was freaking out, and even though I wanted to freak out too, one of us had to be calm.

But something happened after Abbi was born.  She was this adorable little thing, hungry, helpless, and the strangely perfect combination of the two of us.  Sure, she had problems.  As a baby her GI tract was so messed up she had vomiting episodes that make the exorcist look like and episode of Sesame Street.  She needed handmade formula because she was allergic to EVERYTHING!

But she was also the best kid, which was what we needed.  Sure, we had our battle of wills.  We had our crazy arguments.  But she always was this smiling, bright little star that made both of us beam.  While Andrea swore that Abbi was distant from her because she was so anxiety ridden through the whole pregnancy, she would be heartbroken to see how much her daughter misses her.  Abbi doesn’t have breakdowns, doesn’t burst into tears.  But I can see the missing pieces when I talk to her.  When she has a problem with her math homework, when she’s having boy problems, when she can’t get a date for Homecoming.  Still, there are times when she does something silly, not the adult Abbi she sees herself becoming, but the goofy, funny little kid – the same silly things that her Mom would do that made all of us love her so much more than we already did.

And I’ve noticed something, being the only adult in a house full of children.  They have this amazing ability to look at the world with amazement.  They can see their shadow and say “hey, I can touch the street”.  When I walk with the boys they see a rock in front of them and they kick it.  They don’t run, in fact they keep the pace, moving slowly right or left to meet up with the path of the rock . . . and kick it again.  I get that it’s a rock, but it’s still a great indication of how they keep imagining the way things should go.

It’s made me think of something.  The best times in our lives, the ones that we remember, laughing, falling over giggling, and loving every minute of it are the ones where we suspend our reality to look at the world through their eyes.  It’s why we love going to theme parks.  Take the analogy further – it’s why we ended up on the freaking moon!

Now Abbi is 16.  I see some of that imagination wane.  The small twinkling of that brightness comes back sometimes, and I see it: when she’s singing in the choir; when she’s dancing with the iPod in her room (and thinks I didn’t see her); when she gets an invitation to a party some popular kid is throwing and other people didn’t.  I realize that those horrible ’80s movies we all watched as teens aren’t popular because they were amazing films.  I mean, look at Ferris Bueller. Like he could jump on a parade float, get the crowd singing and get away without one bit of police brutality?  But what made them golden – what makes us keep loving them – is that suspension of disbelief.  We never thought Molly Ringwald would end up with Andrew McCarthy, but then, Ducky never lives happily ever after either.  But we have just enough of that little kid left in us to still think those are the greatest moments ever.

I’ve realized it’s OK to think that, too.  Why kill the one thing that keeps us from falling off the cliff ourselves?

I wish I knew when we stopped trying to touch the street.  I’d stop it, and challenge us all to reach for the moon instead!