Evan and Rees are 12

My twins would be twelve today.

I live just outside eternity. My mother heart knows that my children are just out of my reach, through a veil. There, in the safety of that world, they grow and they play without any of the risks and suffering of this side. In that world, they know my dad and other loved ones I lost a long time ago. In that world, they are fully healthy, whole and loved.

If it had been up to me, they’d be on this side, blue eyes and dark blonde hair, full of jokes and witty thoughts. If I got to choose, they would be wrestling for possession of the Wii remote, eating too much cereal, outgrowing shoes at an absurd rate.

I’d be baking an imperfect cake today, and they would make fun of it a little, but not too much, because they wouldn’t want to hurt my feelings.

If I got to pick, they’d be climbing in my bed at night, smelling like sweat and boy-feet, wrapping long arms around me and telling me about their days. “Go to bed,” I would tell them, sternly, because I would see them again in the morning and this contact would not be all I ever had.

Even knowing they live in perfection, I’d choose this side, where they would sit across from me, disappointed and confused by the darkness in people. I’d explain learning to love broken people, even as they held back tears because they are big now, too big to cry about being rejected. I’d cradle their fuzzy summer haircutted-heads and ache that I couldn’t keep them from sorrow. Still, I’d pick this side.

They will never know a broken bone, a broken heart, a bee sting or a fall from grace. I’m grateful for that. But a mama will always wish her baby was in her arms.

Happy birthday, boys. You will always be loved.

“The Talk”, or what is happening to my life?

I think it might be time to tell a couple of my kids about the birds and the bees. Not literally, they have literally been aware of birds and bees for some time now. In fact, one of my children will only go outdoors to get in the car, because of bees. (solidarity, Toby) But in a metaphorical sense, I think it’s time to talk to my kids about sex. If your internet filters let that through, let’s continue.

We’re approaching puberty here, which fills me with terror. I still have tiny red cowboy boots in the closet, aren’t they still that size? WHAT HAPPENING

Maybe it was time a long time ago, I don’t know. We have talked about babies, and some body and puberty basics, and even pornography, because this generation is super tech savvy and the internet is a cesspool. With all this openness, however, I have kept the actual sexuality parts of the conversation… out of the conversation.

My own education was pretty limited. I remember a “uterus” talk when I was about 4 from my oldest sister (who was grown, with kids). Then I gathered some highly inaccurate information from a couple of “last chance” boys that got sent to our private school.When I was about 13, I think my mom might have taken a good solid shot at teaching me but all I remember is some cave drawings and crushing embarrassment, and then I went to public school and gathered a few more inaccurate details on the bus. The rest of it learned on the field, if you will.

When Toby was about 5, he put a couple of things together. “I think I know where babies come from,” he told me, “and I do NOT want to know.” I took that cue and did not tell him. But I’m thinking these days that I want to be the first voice on all this (or pretty close to the first) because 2016 is VASTLY different than 1988, when I was 10.

I’ve got a couple of quandaries. First: awkward.SO AWKWARD. “Not for me,” you say. “I talk openly with Henna and Barista all the time. They are very comfortable with their 4 year old sexuality.” Bully for you, great work. I am just having some trouble making the words come out of my mouth. I mean, they know their body parts and all, but geez.

Secondly: how do I say “This is good and great and wonderful and normal but DON’T PLAY DOCTOR or explore these topics with your friends and also GET MARRIED first. I am just giving you some info for you to hang on to for 10-15 years.” ? I hate anything that seems like sex and sexuality is illicit or unholy in and of itself, but I also want some great boundaries. There’s a spectrum here and I tend toward the fundamentalist side of it despite myself. I think I have a better grip on how I want to handle “modesty” and shame but this is tricky stuff.

Anybody want a soapbox topic? Why is all the burden for purity on the girl? Why is there something inherently shameful about being female, with feminine features and shape? Is it really right to make our daughters carry the burden of their male peers’ burgeoning sexuality? Isn’t that really on the boys?  < / soapbox> </ for now>

Back to the ol’ B&B. So I asked the internet, and you guys have lots of book suggestions and I am going to read them. The kids in question are endlessly bookish so it will probably be relatively painless for them to work through this via mom-blushingly-reading-a-book and then doing a brief Q&A, which will open the lifelong Q&A.

Also maybe I need to round up some cave drawings.

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Letter to Daddy: Sixteen years

Daddy,

Sixteen years today. Sixteen years since we stood around that hospital bed and waited for the beeping to stop. Sixteen years since Uncle Randy sang a hymn to see his beloved brother out. It’s been sixteen years and part of me still thinks you’re pulling a prank. I still see glimpses of salt and pepper hair, a guy in a denim shirt climbing in a tiny red car. Surely you aren’t really gone. But you are, and in a few years, I will have lived longer without you than I lived with you.

In a few years, a few breaths, just moments from now, I will be as old as you, and then I will be older than you ever were.

I can say this, you made the most of 52 years. You used to tell me about the hippie days, when you’d say “Live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse,” which is just the kind of morbid humor we both found so funny. We still do, Daddy, all of us. Well, maybe not Leah, she is appropriately horrified by such talk. Mama told me when she goes to sprinkle her ashes at Walmart on 242, because she was so happy there. It’s not funny but it’s so funny. In some ways your irreverence toward death makes it easier, the loss. Death is not the boss of us, we keep living and laughing.

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You didn’t live like you were creating a legacy, you just lived. You woke up in the morning and you loved us. You woke up in the morning and you loved Jesus, and you worked and you wrote and you directed, always with the laughter, always safe and surrounding. You had no intention of dying but when death took you, you left with the right words said, because you always said how proud you were and how you loved us.

It’s gotten easier, living here without you. At first I didn’t know how to exist. But since you’ve pulled off this prank for a solid 16 years, all of us have learned how to remember you and celebrate you as part of who we are. You didn’t set out to leave a legacy but you did.

So in these moments, this life I have, I will remember to say I love you. I will do my work and love the people around me and just be, because this is the stuff they write history books about.

When it’s too dark to see

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The more I thought about, the more profound it became. Not in a “obviously my child is an angel genius” way, but more, “wow, there’s something there.”

I know there are days I want to hide under the bed. I’m sure you do too. Maybe today is one of those days for you.

I eschew the “millennials are the specialest snowflakes and no one has ever been specialer” line of thinking and YET I want to tell you the truth, you’re special. God created you with INTENT, and we need you. You, in your God-designed uniqueness, with your flaws and your gifts. We need you. “I remembered how cute I look,” she said, and I am challenging you to remember that you matter.

You were designed for something. No one is a mistake, even if they’ve been told that by broken humans. No one is too far gone, no one is alone on this planet. We need each other, we need all the pieces of the puzzle.

When it’s very dark, it’s hard to remember who you are, what you look like. I have been there, in those underground tunnels of life, waiting for light. I know it’s hard. Consider me a voice from above ground, telling you there is still light up here, and it will not always feel like this. There will be light again.

“People need to SEE me,” she said. We need to see you. Come out of hiding, come out of your cave of fear and doubt. You’re beautiful and you belong.

Tristan goes to school (a tragic opera)

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It is completely quiet in my house. For the first time in over 16 years, there is no child here in my care. I mean, there have been days, hours that they were out for a while, but this is different. Tristan went to school today. Honestly, even as I cry, I think, “you are such a drama queen. FOUR hours. You’re crying about leaving your four year old for FOUR HOURS.” And in part, I’m right. But I’m also right to take a minute.

Years ago, when each baby took that first wobbly step, I celebrated. It’s all captured on camera, with my ecstatic voice cheering them on and ruining the video. “Go!” we cheer, “walk to Daddy! walk to the couch! come back to me!” You don’t realize that first step is the beginning of their OWN journey. And every milestone, you have to wait a little longer for the “come back to me” part.

It’s a continual release against my own nature. “Go!” I say, while my heart is begging them to stay.

I knew today would be hard, because it’s the beginning of a new chapter, which means it’s the end of a chapter. The long mornings of diapers and Sesame Street and Cheerios have been over for a while, but today I am watching that door close behind me, with new doors opening everywhere. And the new world is brave and exciting and so different, for me and for them. But part of me is just dying to go back, to go back to the exhaustion of nursing them at 2 in the morning, the walks down the sidewalk with constant interruptions because they saw a a bug. “wait,” I’m saying, “wait, I didn’t know that part was really over, wait… wait, I need you to need me.”

Tomorrow I will be better, I will be learning to embrace the change and celebrating all the NEW normal and victories. But I am letting myself cry today. Because change is hard, and letting go is not easy. And if I let myself sit here in the silence and feel this, I will be a better person in four hours.

It’s a strategy I have for sadness, I make room for it. Because we feel deeply about things we love, and that’s good

So, okay, new chapter. Imma cry for a minute and then let’s find the fun.