10.30.2009

WWJJD? or WWJJDITWYITS? whichever you prefer.

In our home, If you make the mistake of talking about a celebrity as if you know them personally, we will probably make fun of you until you cry. I am being completely serious. There are very few things that I find more embarrassing or offensive to the human race than when we glom on to people that we don’t know, or have any hope of ever knowing, and then talk about them as if we spent our childhood summers together, trying to coax ol’ Boo Radley out of his basement. So, if you say things like, “Have you seen Brittany lately? She looks just amazing!” or “Well, I would really like to see Brad and Angelina tie the knot.”, I might be inclined to spit on you. It makes me that crazy.

But, because in addition to being hugely judgmental and mean, I am also a raging hypocrite, there is one exception. Kind of. I mean, I feel like this celebrity love is more plausible, more organic (in a home grown sort of way, because ours is local to NorCal), and therefore more legit than yours. So it's okay. For us. But not for you, so knock it off.

See, my husband (lets call him El Chupacabra) and I spent the last 10 years in the charmingly beautiful historic gold rush town of Folsom, California. (If you've been there you'll know why that is absolutely hilarious, but I don't feel like explaining for the rest of you. Sorry.) We lived, worked, played, raised kids, went grocery shopping, attended church and cubscouts and soccer games and did all the stuff that normal boring suburban families do. And all the while my husband was developing a crush on another man. Two men, actually. No, I'm not even kidding.

It started off innocently enough when one night El Chupacabra set his clock-radio to Talk 650 KSTE . At 6 o'clock the next morning, when his alarm went off, he was instantly smitten by the smooth, clean, DJ voices of radio personalities Jack Armstrong and Joe Getty. Their witty banter and straight talk on news, culture, and politics was enough to hook him into listening everyday. But, then it started to develop into something...more...

He was a cop then, so he had to shower and shave everyday, and wear clean clothes, and all that fancy stuff you do when you have a "real" job. He went out and bought a shower-radio - seriously - the kind with suction cups on the back so you can stick it to the wall (you don't even want to know what kinds of things grow behind a shower radio) - so he could listen while he got ready. And I could hear him in there, chuckling, offering little grunts of affirmation, or sighs of indignation, and, I swear, once I heard him say something, like a whole sentence. He was talking, to Armstrong and Getty through his shower radio. But I wasn't worried. This is what guys do, right? I mean, I can remember my Dad, literally, jumping up and down and screaming at the Raiders through the TV when I was a kid.

It got weird for me when we went on a road-trip and El Chupacabra had filled his Mp3 player with podcasts of shows that he had missed for one reason or another, and he made us listen to them until he was all "caught up". And then one day, it happened. We were talking about who knows what, and he said something like, "I was thinking about blah blah blah. Joe said it was great!"
So I'm like, "Joe who?"
Silence.
"Babe, Joe who? Who is Joe?"
He was looking at his feet. "He's..uh...he's...you know....Joe Getty."
"Wait, what?!"
"Joe Getty...from Armstrong and Getty.....you know...my show...in the mornings...?"
"Ooooooohhh, of course. Joe."

And I just walked away because we both knew he was ashamed, and I'm not the best when it comes to not making fun of people, so it was just better that way. But then I really got to thinking about it, to be totally honest, I liked them too. I wasn't crushing on them the way my husband was, but I definitely felt some kind of strange attachment. So, we started to make little jokes here and there, about our "friends" Jack and Joe. We adopted them into our family, so to speak, and in our own little retarded world, we engaged in a very one-sided relationship with these two men who we had never met, and would most likely, never meet...*sigh* So we created our own little acronym to help us navigate life's little obstacles; WWJJD - What would Jack and Joe do?

----> Can I substitute canned peas for frozen in this recipe? I don't know. WWJJD? Should I go to the gym or run on the trail? I'm not sure. WWJJD? Do you think it's immoral to tell your sister that she looks great in those jeans even when they make her butt look scary big so that you can be the pretty one for once? Hmmm...WWJJD? Etcetera...

Fast forward a couple of years, and now, because we live in Central America, we can't get a live feed for our favorite morning talk radio show. This makes my giant hulk of a husband shrivel up and die a little inside. He tries other morning shows, but nothing measures up to his lil' buddies, Jack and Joe. He grabs a podcast every now and again, but he's so busy and life is so hectic that he is afforded little time to listen.

Ok, so aaaaalll of that, so I could tell you this:

My husband is a giant hulk of a man (have I mentioned that?), but not in a fat way. He's a "mans man", or so I'm told. He played bigtime college football, he knows how to fix stuff, and he knows how to build stuff from other stuff. And he knows how to kill stuff and trap stuff and throw stuff and all that other stuff that guys know how to do. And he looks good doing it. I can count on one hand, the number of times during our marriage that I have seen him act like a full on wuss, or a teenage girl, or a big giant...whatever you wanna call it...

When we were in the States, in August, we went to old Sac with El Chupacabras's padres one day, and we were just walking around, and looking through all the cool little shops. So after I spent like $40 bucks at Evangeline's on refrigerator magnets that have pictures of Jesus saying truly hilarious things, we went to this little hat shop. We were all trying on crazy hats and talking in funny accents when El Chupacabra ran - I mean RAN - back to me and did that yell-whisper thingy where you're whispering but you're really excited so all your words are covered in a giant "H". Ya know? So he loudly whispers "YOUARENEVERGONNABELIEVEWHOJUSTWALKEDIN!!!"

I tried to look slyly over his shoulder, fully expecting to see Osama Bin Laden modeling a purple fedora in the mirror, but A) I cannot peek over my husbands shoulder since he is a foot taller than me and a foot wider than me, and B) there were a bunch of stupid hats in the way. So he said I just HAD to see for myself and then he shoved me through the piles of fez (fezes?), berets, and derbys until I stood face to face with....

...some bald guy I had never seen before in my life.

When I turned around to roll my eyes at El Chupacabra, he was wearing a hard hat retrofitted with two beer cans and a straw. He was grinning, holding both hands in a thumbs-up sign right under his chin, and his eyes were twinkling with excitement. He took off the beer can hat and whisked me outside by the arm. "What should I do? Should I say something? Should I say 'hi' or something?" I think he could tell by the look on my face that I had no idea who the guy was. So he goes, "It's HIM. It's Jack! Jamie....that is JACK ARMSTRONG trying on a cowboy hat!!!" Oh, Jaaaack. "What should I do?" he asked again.

So I made him bend down and look me in the eye and I said very calmly, "Do you need me to slap you, or pinch you, or something? Cause you're being an idiot." This seemed to snap him out of it. The color returned to his face, and he seemed to be processing three important facts:
We do not care about famous people. This dude is a radio talk-show host, not even an actual famous person. And most important, we don't wanna be "that guy".

I said, "Babe...WWJJDITWYITS?...yeah...What would Jack and Joe do if they were you in this situation?"
He just nodded his head. "Your right." And he took my hand and we walked away. We just walked away.

Sometimes, people have these weird longings for connections that don't, and shouldn't, actually exist, and other times those longings are totally legitimate. Since we've been back in C.R., I've noticed that El Chupacabra has been listening to the Armstrong and Getty podcast a lot more. But, I don't think it has anything to do with our close encounter of the nearly famous kind. I think it's more to do with feeling connected to his home culture and his home town. It's a simple fulfillment of a longing for what is familiar. And, for El Chupacabra, it is well earned, since he is fully engaged in Costa Rican life for the majority of his day. The distinct voices of Jack Armstrong and Joe Getty echoing from the bathroom in the morning, the brilliant sound bites, and the talk of all things North American are a little respite for him. And for that, I have never felt closer to those guys.

If I ever have the chance to tell Armstrong and Getty thanks for what they do, face to face, maybe I will. Or maybe not. I don't know....WWJJD?

10.28.2009

God is so much better at this than me.

There is a big, exciting change afoot in the Wright household.

Nooo, I'm not pregnant. Why does everybody always go there?? I'm gonna tell you what I tell everyone else; First of all, my man takes care of his business - that means he had a vas-snippity about 45 seconds after our third child was born. He is ster-rile, thankyouverymuch! And second, if, by some cruel and hateful act of Godly vengeance, I became pregnant, I would sell the resulting baby on ebay and use the money to have all the hair lasered off my legs, so I'm not really worried about it, ok? Ok. Now that that's all cleared up...

Dylan has made a very big decision. He's moving out.

I mean, the guy is eleven, almost twelve, so Steve and I have decided to give him our full support and help him on his way. He will be packing his clothes, his books, his boogie board, and the bottom half of the bunk bed, and moving - aaaall the way downstairs - to the itty-bitty baby of room that we call "the office", or sometimes, "the pit of disorder" or "that place we throw all our crap". But, no more! We will have to find a new locale for our important junk. And we'll have to put that drum kit somewhere....hmmm, I hadn't really thought about that one...damn. Well, no matter, we'll figure it out. But the reason this is such a big deal, is that Dylan has shared a room with one of his brothers since he was two. This is like the first time he's ever had his very own room! And he's pretty stoked about it.

He cares not in the least that the room he will be occupying is highly reminiscent of a 4x7 prison cell, that it can hold absolutely nothing more than a bed, or even that he will be the only one sleeping downstairs. (This is a double edged sword, because, along with the awesomeness of being able to tip-toe into the kitchen to swipe your Dad's Fig Newtons at 2am, you have to deal with the sheer terror of knowing that underneath your bed is the only reasonable place in the entire house for a hungry crocodile to be hiding. So if you can't get from the doorway to the bed in one leap, you're pretty much screwed. I know this because I had the only downstairs bedroom growing up. Ooh, there's also the superior sneak-out-ability of the 1st floor, but we have bars on our windows to keep the kids in, so that's a no-go for Dylan. Sorry pal.) Seriously though, he is SO happy about this that he told Jamison he could keep all the toys AND the hamsters! Which, at first, I thought this was a really cool, generous, brotherly thing to do, but then I saw Dylan with a look in his eye like "What a chump. Now he has a room full of lame kids-meal toys and a pet that smells like a subway urinal all to himself." So, as it turns out it was just a plain old, regular brother thing to do. Jamison is pretty quick on his feet, though, so when Dylan announced that if he wanted something out of one of the toy bins he could just come and grab it, Jamison said, with great satisfaction, " Dude. I don't think so. This is MY room now."

Now, I wanna say that I don't usually encourage my kids to not share their stuff. We've never really allowed talk of "my this" or "my that" amongst our three boys. In fact, this whole decision came after Dylan had a freak out session this morning because Jamison sat on his bed, which is just dumb. So then I had a freak out session because Dylan was being a selfish, unreasonable jerk. After we had both gotten it out of our systems is when Dylan's big brown eyes rimmed with tears and he said, "But Mom, he farts on my pillow, like, every day."

And I was like, "Whoa, this changes everything!" Because, I'm sorry, but nobody should have to live like that, with a farted on pillow. Nobody.

I immediately offered him the office. Fortunately, Steve was totally cool with this idea, too, since I didn't bother to run it by him, just blurted it out without thinking. Honestly though, after I really started to think about it, I got so excited because I cannot remember a time that I haven't had to mediate the who-made-which-mess-in-the-bedroom argument, or the he-should-turn-off-the-light-because-he's-closer-even-though-we-are-both-laying-with-our-heads-at-the-same-end-of-a-bunk-bed-which-technically-makes-us-the-exact-same-distance-away fight. So I think this will be a nice break for all of us. A nice change of pace for me, and a breath of fresh air for Dylan. And his pillow.

Mostly, I'm just really happy that Dylan feels like he's been heard and that we value him. Which, when you are constantly trying to juggle the diverse and rapidly changing physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of three very different young men, is a huge challenge, and something that I fail to do well more often than not. So, yay for me for getting it right for once! Ok, I guess the "getting it right" remains to be seen, but it sure feels right, for now at least. We'll see how I feel after Dylan gets dragged under the bed by that crocodile...

Man, parenting is freaking hard. I am so glad I'm not God. I can't even love my three kids right on a regular basis, can you imagine doing it for 6 billion and something needy little whiners, farting all over each other, and not letting anybody else sit on their beds. Sheesh...no thanks. All I can say is, I am so glad somebody around here knows what He's doing!









10.26.2009

So this pretty much bites.

So today pretty much sucks.

I don't even...I'm not really...It's hard to...even...ok, there just...there's no...not..I'm....ugh....

Ok. Deep breath....let me try this one more time. We have been reamed. Again. There, I said it.

I want to start off by saying that this morning started off on a high note. It was going along so well, so unusually, care-freely, we-are-a-functional-family-living-a-normal-life-in-the-Latin-American-suburbs well. It was sunny and warm and the birds were singing. And I was Snow freaking White, whistling a happy tune, while I lovingly packed two perfectly well-balanced and nutritious lunches for Dylan and Jamison, started a load of laundry, and wiped up the breakfast mess. This morning was so dreamy, in fact, that my boys were ready to go, shoes tied, backpacks shut, hair tamed, with ten minutes to spare. Ten whole minutes. This NEVER happens in our house, at least not without a whole lot of screaming, and stomping, and maybe some hair pulling, and a bit more screaming.

Usually, I have to drag my youngest child out of bed with a slip-knot on a stick, the kind your local Animal Control uses on things that are foaming at the mouth. Then, I have to run downstairs and put the kids uniforms in the dryer because I forgot to do it the night before. Then I run back upstairs, stick my toothbrush in my mouth and check on their progress. This is the part where I find them huddled together, asleep on the floor, under the covers that they have managed to rip off of the top bunk. So I stand in the doorway with my head tilted back and toothbrush in my mouth, fluffy bits of white spittle flying, while I yell, "Joo guysh vetta huwy uff! Cun on! Ish tine fu frefresh!" After I spit, I run back downstairs and do last nights dinner dishes while shouting "Let's go guys!" again and again and again until those two stumble downstairs. They each eat a bowl of cereal with zombie eyes, and then shuffle around bumping into things until they hear the school bus chugging up the street. And this is the exact moment every day that they become coherent.

All of a sudden, going to school in boxer briefs doesn't seem like such a great idea. In a panic, we all scramble to get them both into the correct uniforms, with hair combed, and shoes on the right feet. Then this happens, "Oh, Mom, I need you sign this!" and "Oh, Mom? I was supposed to bring 30 plastic spoons today." and "Hey Mom, do we have a bag of colored marshmallows? They were due yesterday.... and with a seven foot piece of nylon rope....and a sheet of bubble wrap....and one hundred and eighty purple toothpicks." Every day, that's how it goes. Everyday. Except for today.

Today, Jamison woke up happy. Which was weird, but nice. And Dylan managed his time without my constant nagging. Today, I brushed my teeth without interruption. And at breakfast they actually..spoke, like, nicely...to each other. And so the whole morning was just very pleasant. I could hear the coffee pot hissing and gurgling, the last throws of perfect percolation, as I kissed my boys on the forehead and pushed them out the door. It was gonna be a good day.

So like twenty seconds later, I hear the guard go by on his bicycle. He has a horn that he honks to let the neighborhood know that he's doing his hourly patrols. Honk-honk-honk. It's like the same horn that I had on a bike when I was eight, honk-honk, honk-honk-honk. This morning the honking continued in front of my house, followed by the call of the guard. Now, I have to admit, I ignored him for a little bit cuz I was hoping he would go away. (It's just that I look really crappy in the morning, and I still had my glasses on, and they're broken so they just barely stay on my face and I have to hold my head a certain, slightly unnatural, way to keep them from falling off. And, I have a huge zit on my forehead. At least I think it's a zit. It could be a fetal twin emerging butt first. Or a tumor. But my point is, it's scary. And also, I always fall asleep in a bizarre arrangement of clothes consisting of whatever shirt I wore that day, plus whatever bottoms that aren't jeans the I can find in the dark, plus whatever long sleeve cotton thingy I can manage to slink into while I'm half asleep. The result is...clownish. And scary.)

So when I finally go out there - barefoot, which is apparently a big no-no here - he shows me that during the night someone has come and broken into our car. The back window is out. The doors are unlocked. The stereo is gone. My whole day is ruined. But, you wanna know what the best part is? It's not our car! It's our friends car. The car we have been blessed and privileged to borrow while our own car is in the shop (where it's been for 3 weeks!). But wait - There's more! They didn't just break the window and steal the stereo - they also stole the fancy, expensive, and hard to find roof rack right off the top of the car!

Do you ever have one of those days where it seems like everything you touch turns to a steaming pile of dookie. Welcome to my whole life.

Instead of slowly enjoying a cup of coffee while preparing to go to bible study this morning, I put on my big rubber boots (they really complemented the way-too-big pink striped pj bottoms with long black tank and aqua and beige tee) then I went out in the back yard and shoveled dog poo while I cried. It just felt right.

Now I'm tired.. and discouraged.. and homesick.. and really really pissed.

The only good thing about this is that, I'm not gonna lie, I look really sexy when I'm angry. I mean it, I can't help it. I just really know how to rock the "you better back up off or I'm gonna stab you in the ankle" look. Poor Steve can't even think straight when I look like this, so he has to keep himself completely away. So there's that.

Otherwise, this pretty much just sucks on top of sucks. And just when everything was going so well...*sigh*

10.23.2009

This subject is totally off limits. and this post contains a graphic photo. Now you HAVE to read it!

Listen, I know we're not supposed to talk about this kinda stuff... but I'm going to anyway.

I am not a New Age-er. I'm not. And, I admittedly don't know much about any of the Eastern Religions, so, again, not really my thing. Ok, I do, sometimes, ask my husband if he did something horrible in a past life and now has to spend a lifetime married to me as punishment ("Sooo, what, were you, like....Hitler? Did you eat a baby? Why would God do this to you?"). Of course I'm only kidding... sort of. But, sometimes, things happen in this world, strange things, wonderful things, things that make us scratch our head, or sigh, or smile. And these things can help us to see that there is something else, something powerful and invisible, exerting its energy all around us.

Some people - spiritual people, people who believe in the flexing might of a mysteriously veiled higher power (including, but not limited too, white people with dread locks, people who drive Volks Wagon vans, nearly everyone who smokes weed as a lifestyle choice, chics who have fairy tattoos, those who enjoy micro-diets or the raw-food movement, and "freegans", and a whole bunch of other people, too, like really average, run-of-the mill types) call it "Karma" when something overtly cool and sorta unbelievable happens. Some form of justice unexpectedly comes to pass, or some act of kindness finds its way to a needy recipient. Or when, for example, one gallon of gas stretches into what seems more like three. When this kinda stuff happens in the real world, they call it "good Karma", to which the appropriate response is, "Oh, totally."

In the Christian world, the use of the word Karma* is generally coupled with finger quotes. You know, the pumping up and down of the first two fingers on each hand, so that everyone will know that what you are actually saying when you say "it was Karma", is "It was a God thing**". *see also "coincidence", "lucky", "by chance" **see also "divine appointment", "act of the Holy Spirit", "part of His Perfect Plan"

This is weird to me. And kind of embarrassing. I don't think I will ever be able to get my head around Christian-isms (<---- speaking of which) that fall into play in the church. I really don't. It bugs me, way more than it should I'm sure, but still... I really do see this as part of the great divide that keeps the Church, as a whole, from being inviting, socially relevant, and relatable*. *see also relational

Ok, done rambling. The reason I'm even talking about this, is this: Last night I was "having a chat" with Dylan, and in an effort to avoid making eye-contact with me (this also works when confronted by a wild animal), his eyes fell upon a peculiar sight. Something, that under normal circumstances, is easily explainable, but when considering my last blog, seems quite the contrary. At first, I was horrified, then satisfied, and in the end, almost giddy with the pleasure that comes with seeing justice done in truly spectacular style.

Friends, behold - the crusty rotten carcass of a chameleon squashed to smithereens* in the frame of the bathroom door: *see also "steam-rolled", "flattened", "meeting its maker"


I have no answers.

Cosmic Karma? Divine Justice?? Stupid Luck???
If it was Karma, was it my good Karma, as in, 'pay back's a bitch?', or will it become my bad Karma, as in, 'you murdered something and smiled about it - better watch out!'?
Or, was this an act of the Holy Spirit? or, maybe the Devil himself? I mean, can I really see God orchestrating a death like this?

Do some things just....happen?

I don't know. What do you think?

10.17.2009

This really happened.

One morning, just like any morning, I was putzing around the house in my pj's, picking up breakfast dishes, sipping on coffee, doing whatever. The boys had all left for school, Steve had gone to work, and the house was quiet and still. Just the way I like it. I took my Mac and my coffee to the couch where I plopped my big butt down to get some work done. (Um, alright, so we all know that "getting some work done" is code for "lurking on Facebook". But that just sounds bad, doesn't it?) Okay, so was I "working" and sipping and enjoying quietness and stillness, and just, generally, really liking my morning. That's when "The Very Awful Thing" occurred.

I really can't believe I'm about to tell you this. It happened about a year ago and I swore at the time that I would take it to my grave. But, I am nothing if not transparent, so I truly hope that you will enjoy this moment at my utter emotional expense.

So anyway, as sometimes happens when you drink eleven cups of coffee before 9am, nature called. And called and called. Until, finally, at the very last possible moment, I set my computer aside, nestled my coffee cup in between two couch cushions, and sprinted into the bathroom to...ahem...take a pee. In just a few quick steps I had swooped into the bathroom, undone what needed undoing, and was already seated.

And that is when it happened.

A quick glance down revealed - right there, on my thigh, not three inches from my lady goodies - the black beady eyes and thin curving tail of a gecko. ON MY THIGH!! Like it had been chilling out all morning INSIDE OF MY PANTS!! This really happened....TO ME!!! I. Had a lizard. In my pants.

Well, I did what any good missionary would do; I screamed, calling on the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (at which point I may have added a colorful middle name - something else to add to the long list of reasons I'm not really qualified for this job) to smite that little bas...eh...critter, and damn him to hell for molesting me on what had been such a lovely morning, while simultaneously smacking at my bare thigh until I was positive that the little hitchhiker had jumped to the floor. And this all happened mid-pee.

If you have never had a mid-pee emergency, you should count your self lucky. It took every ounce of control to remain seated, finish my business in a calm and orderly fashion, and retreat quickly back to the living room where I began to pace, like a stark raving madwoman, back and forth, wheezing "I did not sign up for this. I did NOT sign up for this. I did NOT sign up for THIS!"

God and I had a heart to heart that morning. In my hysteria, I let Him know quite clearly that I had had enough. "I did not sign up", I told Him, "for lizards in my pants! Oh, and you know what else? I didn't sign up for mushrooms growing on my t-shirts. I'm not down with having my butt grabbed by a dude on a bicycle. I am not okay with ants living in my sofa. No, just no. And here's something else, I most definitely did not sign up for having my house robbed, my purse stolen, or my credit card used in Vegas! But this, God, this? This is the last straw! I cannot live like this...with lizards in my pants..."

And then I started to cry, like really sob, with snot and tears and everything.

"God? All I really wanted was to serve you. All I wanted was to honor you by obeying your call. All I wanted was that you would Bless us in all this." I bawled and bawled and bawled. I'm pretty sure I cried out a full year of frustration that morning. Eventually, all of the hysteria had drained out of me, the tears and snot dried up. You can just imagine the vision of beauty I was. When it all over, my house was still and quiet again. Just me and the gecko. And God, he was there, too.

Sometimes I'm jealous of people that read the bible and just get it, or go to church, hear a message, and let it change them. I am not like them. They learn about God in tidy, conventional ways. I learn about God when a creepy crawly with suction cup toes makes it from my ankle almost all the way to the land of milk and honey. So this is how it came to pass that a pervy gecko helped me redefine the way I think of Gods blessing.

I'm not an "audible voice of God" kinda girl. I believe it can happen, but it never happens to me. On that morning, while I was wailing like a lunatic and ticking off my laundry list of hardships, I want to say there was the faintest whisper...like a breath of air. I was with you... I was with you... I was with you... I was with you...

I am with you.

And I was reminded of the real Blessing of God. He is with me. He has always been with me. He was with me before I even knew Him. He's been with me all the way. His presence is His Blessing. I think it even says that somewhere in the bible...

...and they will call him Immanuel, God is with us....

10.15.2009

I can drive him crazy...or to the beach.

So Steve and I have been married for fiiiiifffteeeeeen years.
In relation to the amount of years that I have been breathing, that is a lot of years. A whole lot of years. I like to pretend that we've learned a thing or two about how to get along since we practically raised each other from infancy. But no. We remain idiots to the game of Love, amateurs, like children playing house (except that now I never get to be the baby or the puppy and I always have to be the Mom, which it totally not fair). I reluctantly admit that, occasionally, I don't like Steve because he didn't like me first. And just like kids, sometimes it's like we have no idea what the other person really needs to be happy, healthy, or even remotely sane. I just don't get it. You might think that fifteen years would be enough time to learn what the triggers are for a knock-down-drag-out fight, AND (and this is the important part) then how to NOT do those things. That would be cool.

What can I say - we're a little slow on the uptake. Well, it's more me than him. But he contributes to the messiness of our wedded bliss, too. Seriously. Once, he ate the stuff that I needed for a recipe...yup, just gobbled it right up...didn't even think to himself 'I wonder if Jamie needs these last four crackers for the buttery crumb topping on Pesto Stuffed Chicken breasts with Garlic Mashed Potatoes'. Rude! Oh, and, he calls me in the middle of the day to ask what I'm doing! He tries to act all sweet and casual, like "Sooo, whateryouuptotoday?", but I know that is really his way of saying "You better be doing laundry and picking up dog poop...Woman!" Naturally this peeves me to no end, so instead of just saying what I'm doing, or whatever, I snap back, "WHY?!? What are YOU doing? Hmmm??"

...Um, hey, do you think that it's bad that every time I come home from the grocery store I find my husband and sons bobbing their heads to Bob Marley's No Woman, No Cry?....or that I am listed in the urban dictionary under "wife fail"?

Ooh ooh, BUT, the other day we had a major marriage victory! Really, a big one! Are you ready for this? Okay...

I drove us to the beach. TahDah!!

No, I'm being serious, like, I drove the whole way to the beach. With Steve. In the car. In case your not following me here, putting Steve in the passenger seat with me at the wheel for two hours, is like throwing a cat into the San Fransisco Bay and telling it to swim to Alcatraz. It just shouldn't be done. Ever. It's torture. So we have an unspoken agreement which goes like this: Steve HATES it when Jamie drives and Jamie HATES driving with Steve. So STEVE drives. ALWAYS. Problem solved.

The events that led to me drive were dumb (something about fixing a broken flip-flop and four and half dollars in rubber cement). It was only supposed to be for a few minutes, and I still can't explain why I never pulled over. Maybe because it was just going so well! But I have to give credit where credit is due - Steve was amazing!! He found every possible reason to not look up, at all, for almost the whole trip. First he spent 20 minutes ripping dried up, gummy balls of rubber cement out of his leg hair. Then he dug in the kids backpack until he found a two year old Mad Magazine and read every last word in it, examined every fat headed caricature, and memorized Spy vs Spy. He white knuckled that magazine and never looked up except for once to say, "Hey babe, you might want to leave yourself a little room behind that struck. Can you smell our breaks?" In the only near catastrophe of the day, I snapped, "I can smell EVERYBODY's breaks! We're going down a huge MOUNTAIN!!". I know, charming...
Steve, because he is wiser than I ever hope to be, turned back to his political parody and all was calm. And, for my part, I did my best not to call attention to the fact that I was the one driving by NOT gasping in fear, swearing at other drivers under my breath, or saying to Steve, repeatedly, "Are you freaking out? Do you want me to pull over? I can find a spot. Just tell me if you want me to pull over. Do you want me to? Quit freaking out! I've never even had an accident!....etc".

So the Big Win is that we made it to the beach just fine, and we did it without even ruining the whole day by arguing. I feel so.... grown up. This was a real step forward for us. Tomorrow, we might try putting the sheets on the bed together, and by the end of next week we may be ready for rearranging funiture as a couple. But I don't wanna push our luck.

10.13.2009

uuhh, Thaaaat looks contagious...

This morning the Precario was filled with the usual chaos; screaming, running, a couple of munchkins hitting each other, and few banana peels flying through the air. The kids were a little whacked out after the three day weekend, but it was good to see them, about thirty-five in all. It was a fun day. And for whatever reason, the tiny moths that usually cover the walls and ceiling were fewer in number. So that was nice. But I did notice that some kind of oogy skin rash has found a home on the cheeks and foreheads of some of the kids. A sprinkling of raised red dots resembling flea bites or something. No fevers or itching or anything...just red spots. I'm sure it's nothing....ok, I'm pretty sure it's something, something bad... But after they have hung on my back and dug their sticky fingers into my hair and shmooshed their drippy noses on my shoulder, I have to believe that it's "nothing". Or at least nothing too horrible and contagious *shudder*.
Normally, I am content to let the little ones crawl all over me. Some of them seem so starved for the positive physical attention we bring that there is rarely a moment that any one of us isn't flanked closely by a child on the left and right, with one (or two) more in our laps. Today, I kept a tiny bit of distance - but it wasn't because of the rash. Not that I relish the idea of catching a rash...or head-lice, or ring worm, or any other communicable disease. But, come on, if I was really worried about any of that, the Precario is the last place on Earth that anyone would find me.
No, today I have my own ailment discouraging me from closeness of any kind. A self-imposed moratorium on touching. I still received my fair share of hugs, and always had one of the younger kids in my arms or on my lap, but had to gently pry a few pairs of tight squeezing arms from around my neck and waist. It's because the same false sense of indestructibility that allows me to keep smiling after one of my little gremlins sneezes - with insane accuracy - directly up my nose, also allows me to play on the beach, very near the equator, in a bikini, for 6 hours. Straight.

I have a wicked sunburn.

For those of you who have never had a sunburn (supposing you've been chained in a dungeon your entire life, or maybe grew up in a closet, or for those who've never left Seattle), you may experience the sensation of a really nasty sunburn in the following ways:
A) Have a college football player snap you hard with a wet towel, repeatedly. All over you body.
B) Have a mechanic give you an "Indian-Burn" using a vice grip and a piece of sandpaper. All over your body.
C) Cover yourself in pancake syrup and roll around on an ant hill while the ants bite you. All over your body.
D) Play in the surf and sand of a Costa Rican beach hour after hour while the sun beats down on you. All over your body.

Believe me, I speak from experience. Ok, except for the mechanic one. But I believe that would be, at the very least, a close approximation of a super nasty sunburn. And, the syrup thing is just to ensure good coverage, I've never done it, but I have been bitten by lots of ants all at once.

Oh, and please spare me the sunblock lecture. I used it. Four times. Once before I left the house, once when we arrived, once at lunch, and once in the afternoon. I am a proponent of sunblock, insisting that my kids wear it, and being sure to slather a thick layer on my husbands back as well. Although, I would not be the least bit surprised to find that I have a cancerous mole the size of Pluto in the middle of my back. This is because by the time I've squirted and slapped and smeared my entire family with SPF45, and then hit all of my own reachable parts, all available parties have since launched themselves into the tide, leaving no one to cover the Bermuda Triangle in the middle of my back. Not that it matters, as there is no visible difference between that fried skin and the rest of the fried skin. Sometimes it makes me wonder if maybe I was supposed to be a missionary to Greenland instead - although I have an aversion to cold of any kind really. So no, Costa Rica is the place for me.

Come to think of it, it's really not that bad of a burn. I've had sooooo much worse. But when I was 13 and laying out on the diving board, all shiny from cooking oil, I wasn't much worried about skin cancer or wrinkles or smelling like day old french fries. In fact, I wasn't super worried about that stuff when I was baking at the beach on Sunday, either. I was much more engaged in watching my husband and sons jumping around in the waves, digging in the wet sand, and disappearing together around the bend at the end of the beach to go exploring. I waited willingly, squinting into the light, so that I wouldn't miss seeing them come back to me, black silhouettes against a ball of fire. To have missed out on even one of those moments - snapshots in time that make me fall more in love with my husband and value more the fleeting childhood of my boys - to miss that for fear of a sunburn would have, in my estimation, been a tragedy.
In the same respect, to refuse affection to a child because of a creepy rash would be an intense shame. When we neglect the opportunity to be face to face, and I mean forehead to forehead, nose to nose with a child that needs to be seen, even if that child has a snotty nose, or smells like poo, or is teaming with unmentionable critters, when we turn away from that child for fear of what their hot breath will leave on our skin, we turn away from the very thing that sets us apart from the world. A kind of selfless humanity, a fearless love. I long for this kind of grace, for eyes that see a child before they see a rash and not after...

I will be returning to the Precario on Tuesday as always. Rash or no rash. Well, I guess if I have developed the rash then I would stay home (There is a big difference between fearless and foolish!) but otherwise I will be there, and hopefully, we'll head back to the beach soon, too. I may have to find one of those grandma-beach-nightie-thingies to cover up with, but spending a sunny day enjoying my family in the perfect Pacific was exactly what we all needed. Jamison called it "having Beach Church". Which I kinda like. I hope to enjoy it again soon....but not too soon... my skin is currently threatening to turn to leather. Maybe after the peeling stops....

10.09.2009

Have I mentioned the homeschooling thing?

I probably haven't mentioned it. It's been sort of hard for me to get my head around. So, um...I'm just gonna...ugh....I'm homeschooling Stephen.....There. I said it.

Ok, I am looking at this in a positive light. I really really really am. It's a great opportunity for us to spend time together, to discuss literature, and history and science, and to practice good habits like organization, time management, and independent-motivation. Which Stephen and I, both, need to improve vastly in our daily lives. (Although, I like to blame all of our kids weak areas on Steve by saying things like "Well, YOUR son didn't blah blah blah!" This is really funny, because we both know that they pick up virtually all of their bad habits from me. So it's kinda like a little inside joke.) Anyway, it's a positive time for us to work together to build these good habits. And he is still playing soccer on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and Bible Study and a different soccer group on Wednesday mornings, gringo youth group on Saturday nights and tico youth group on Sundays. So he's still getting in some time to socialize, excersize, and hang out with friends. Sounds like a pretty good deal, huh.

So why does this make me feel like I am just one long denim dress and a pair of Birkenstocks away from effectuating the classic (and utterly terrifying) picture of a missionary mom?

Maybe it's because I've spent a good many years cracking wise about how fully lame it would be to have to homeschool - or - how fully lame a person would be to want to homeschool. Or, maybe it's because I've spent about three hundred hours this year learning how to make bagels, and sugared walnuts, and sourdough bread, and cuz now I think to myself "I bet I could make that from scratch" about once an hour (Yesterday, I was thinking about how to make paprika from scratch. Paprika for God's sake! I actually thought about how I could cut and dry and grind red peppers into powder to save myself approxinately 8 cents per decade!). Maybe it's because I cannot get rid of the lumpy old mattress that is leaning up against the wall in my bedroom because that mattress is also "the guestroom". I dunno. I'm just saying. Maybe it's the fact that I literally bought a pineapple with the top attached thinking "Ooh, two for one!", came home, ate the pineapple, planted the top in a pot, and then got super pissed when my puppies got to it and tore it to shreds because now we won't be enjoying a free pineapple three years from today.

See? It's not just the homeschool thing, it's a lot of other stuff too! I wasn't born to be a June Cleaver, nor a flour-sprinkled Caroline Ingals. If it were just me, I would eat a handfull of dry fruitloops, a string-cheese, and a bag of Doritos for dinner. Every single night. I'm more of a Carol Brady....you will recall she had a maid... But I don't need no stinkin maid! I've learned to enjoy this new and frugal world I live in. I've fully embraced domesticity. I bake bread and I like it. Just try and tell me I don't reek of surly home economics!

And THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is what freaks me out about homeschooling. I mean, just look at our lives! Look at how far outside of the social norms we are already living. I don't wanna wear a denim dress. But mostly, I don't wanna be lumped in with the sterio-type of missionaries that have crossed the globe handing out bible tracts, and dragging around kids in high-water pants and fanny-packs. You know what I mean?

The cool thing is that when I look at my son, in his effing hipster skinny jeans, and fat belt buckle, and Converse, I see a kid who has found a way to do both, to engage in his life as first, a Christian and a missionary, and, at the same time, to stand out as an individual that can contend with the real world, a guy with an opinion and ideas, and, ok, maybe some bad habits to break (which, of course he picked up from his father). And I LOVE him for all of that!

Bring it on, Homeschool! We are sooo gonna dominate you!! and then, God willing, we will re-enroll Stephen at Sojourn in January.... No, but really, I gotta go, cause there are papers to be graded, and bread to be baked, and I'm trying to figure out if I can harvest sea salt from ocean water in bucket in my laundry room...

10.08.2009

Headlights are a necessity, but only if you have a car.

So I was gonna tell you all about how my car is in the shop, and has been for a week because we are still waiting to find out A) Whether or not the head is cracked (imagine I am saying that with my eyebrows raised and an air that implies I know what a "head" is and how highly annoying it is to fix it) and B) How much these repairs are going to suck from our bank account (now imagine a tumbleweed blowing through a baron land).
I was going to write this whole blog of complaint about my car and how much it hates me and how I know this because four hours - not even kidding - FOUR hours after we got it back from the police after two months in a police impound lot the A/C quit on us. Four hours. However, A/C is not a necessity. You will learn this too when you are driving along one night and sweat is pouring out of your pits and dripping off your elbows and you start to think to yourself "I am about to die of a heat stroke. I need A/C." but, then your headlights stop working. At that exact moment, you will change your mind very very fast. You will decide, instead, that what you really need is working headlights.
After the headlights quit on us, the car started into all manner of angry rebellious car behavior until we finally decided that I should go to the store and stock up on groceries so we could take it in to the mechanic in the morning. I was too nervous to drive it, sure that if I did it would make a full Christine/Murderous Camaro-style transformation and things would end horribly. When I voiced my concern, Steve graciously offered to go with me (although I'm pretty sure he was thinking "Grreeaat...this is the part where my lunatic wife goes completely off her rocker and slams our already limping car into a wall because she thinks it's 'out to get her'.") So he drove. And it's a good thing.
When we finished shopping, the sexy beast refused to start. For a minute. Then it did. Then it immediately over-heated. Then it cooled. Then there was a moment of panic when we got stuck behind a bus - which (raised eyebrows, voice of authority) is a very bad thing for a car with a blown gasket. Then we had to find some water. Fast. Which we did. In a 55 gallon drum at a gas station and, no, there are no convenient little hoses for air and water in Costa Rica. So, how do you get the water from the drum into that one spot in your engine compartment thingy? Well, first you marry a genius, then you raise your kids to be gigantic slobs that never pick up after themselves, then your genius husband will look in the back of your car where he will find a McDonalds cup from a million years ago and pour out the last inch of orange Fanta and then use said cup to scoop the drum water into the...steamy...hole..place where it's supposed to go. It's a snap.
Anyway, I was going to tell you all this, but then I was thinking about something that one of the little boys in the Precario said the other day. Man, those little suckers really have a way of putting things into perspective...
So, we start off our play time with a prayer each week by asking for a kid to volunteer to lead it. This always results in about 13 little hands shooting up and then the first 9 or so kids backing out from nerves. But we always get one, eventually, who will stand up and lead our ragamuffin group in prayer. On this particular day, it was Andrés, who is one of the sweetest, most genuinely nice 5 year old boys you can imagine. He has jet black curls covering his head and a gap-toothed smile that will melt your heart. The problem is that his front teeth haven't actually fallen out yet. What you see when he smiles is that his baby teeth have rotted all the way up to the gumline. Imagine, for a moment, how painful that must be. Then imagine that he is wearing a too small pair of shoes that are so torn up that he is continually tripping on the loose flap of sole at the toe as he runs and plays. And don't forget where he lives. Shacks of tin, wood, cardboard, and loose block, teetering an a muddy hillside, with the stink of wet garbage and raw sewage to fill your nose, and starving mangy dogs running about. Now hold that image.

Andrés gets up to pray and this is what he says.

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for this day,
Thank you for this food,
and thank you for my brother,
and thanks for games that we can play.
God, bless the kids that don't have a roof to cover them,
and thank you that we have a roof.
God, bless the kids that don't have shoes,
and thank you that we have shoes.
God, please bless the kids that don't have eyes because they can't see.
And You gave me eyes and a nose and a mouth!
So I can see and smell and eat.
Thank you, God, for that.
Amen

Sometimes, I feel like at this stage in my life, I shouldn't have so much to learn from a 5 year old.
But here I am, learning the fundamentals of gratefulness from one that stands no taller than my bellybutton.

So...God?
What he said.
Amen

10.02.2009

The Dichitomy of Home

A funny thing happens when you live in one place for your whole life and then one day you move. And I don't mean like move across town move, I mean move move, like far away move. I'm thinking like California to Kentucky or something like that, but for the sake of this blog, lets just say you move really, really far away, to say...Costa Rica. So you grow up in one spot where you go to school, work, play, marry and have kids, and then, all of a sudden, you move really, really far away where you set up shop, work, play, stay married, and now your kids go to school, all in this far, far away place.
This is when the funny thing happens. What it is, is this: Using the word "home" gets awkward for everybody.

"Hey Mom, I'm just calling to let you know we've got tickets to come home...er... there on December 18th!"
"Oh Yay, you'll be home...or..in California...for Christmas!"
"Yeah, and we're staying for 2 weeks, and then we leave for home, ya know here, on the 1st."
"That's great! But I'm sure you'll be anxious to get home, I mean, back after 2 weeks in the cold."
"I know. When we leave home...um, Costa Rica, it will be like 80°, so I'm sure we'll be freezing. But I don't care cause we'll be home for Christmas!!! I mean, you know what I mean..."

See? It's always like that.

I think that part of the weirdness comes from my feeling of divided allegiance, a heart literally split in two with opposing desires. One, to be in CA, with my family and friends and smooth roads and reliable electricity. The other, to be in Costa Rica, with a different kind of family, different group of friends, and a more challenging (and occasionally more interesting) life. When I use the word "home" in reference to California, a part of me grimaces. Undoubtedly, it's the balls-out-for-Costa Rica part. But when I call Costa Rica "home", the other part, the California-done-made-me-who-I-am part, groans in opposition. This freakishness, in turn, rubs off on those around me who also begin to avoid the word "home" when at all possible. And so has begun a cycle of word substitution rivaled only by the "freakin", "fricken", "flippin", or "effin" controversy rippling its way back and forth across north America.
So imagine my relief when our recent visit to the states helped me put this baby to bed. Where my "home" actually is, was clearly defined for me while we were there. It was so easy to see, while I played with my little niece, or as I sat with a good friend and a cup of coffee. It was right there, when my kids slept in the backseat of the car after wonderful long nights of eating and getting caught up with families we've known and loved for ages. And it was plain as day, as we jumped in my parents pool, watched our nephews play basketball, worshiped with our church, and dropped the boys off for sleep-overs. All the while, longing to return to Costa Rica, to get back to our lives here, where we are supposed to be.
Some say that Home is Where the Heart is. But not me. The truth is, as much as I loved being in California, my heart wasn't always in it. And as much as I am sure that we belong in Costa Rica, at times I find myself here in abject surrender to a will greater than my own. And that, right there, is where it is. Home. I'm sure it's different for all of us, but for me, Home is where the will of God supersedes my own.
As it turns out, it doesn't really matter whether I call Costa Rica "home"or California. They can both fill the bill for beloved places to exist. I can love and appreciate them both for what they bring to our lives. What makes them (or anyplace) Home to me, is that I am where God wants me to be at that particular moment, whether or not my temperamental, split-personality of a heart agrees.