Sunday, March 22, 2015

To Cade at Fifteen

Dear Cade,

I had the opportunity to meet with a bereaved family, the other day, and they passed around a letter that had been written by the mother of the one whom they'd just lost. The words were simple but had held deep meaning, obviously, for their dearly departed, who had kept them close for more than twenty-five years. They held meaning, still, for those left behind; I could see that clearly.

I couldn't help but think of you and this birthday letter, almost two months overdue.

I want to tell you how proud of you I am. I could start listing your achievements one by one, and we'd have us a right long letter, but (while I appreciate those) it's not about your achievements and has never been. You mean so much more to me than anything--or all the things--you've ever achieved.

I love you for you. You make it so easy, loving me for me, the way you do. I worried about these teenage years; thank you for being gentle with me. You would never think of raising your voice to me; thank you, and thank you for the ways we work and talk it out.

Thank you for every time you've seen me. I didn't expect your eyes, at this stage in our lives, to be the ones seeking my eyes across the room, but so it is. One of your sisters will say something funny, and we'll look at one another and laugh without a word. Or something not-so-funny will happen, and your eyes will say: Are you okay? and then, sometimes: I'm sorry you're not.

And here you come with your cracked iPhone: "Watch this, Mom," and that talk-show duo you like met Merle Haggard, whom I love. I pass you a book; you read it right away. You come in the door waving something: "Look what I found, cleaning out my room at Dad's: a Regal gift card! Do you wanna go to the movies with me?" I'm so touched that you've chosen me over any one of your excellent friends.

You let me choose the movie: Still Alice. I'm crying at the end, and (our having just watched both What Dreams May Come and Dead Poet's Society) you wonder aloud what's up with me and the depressing movies. "You know that's my greatest fear; right?" I ask: "Alzheimer's?" and you nod. You know. Thank you for knowing. Thank you for being the one to ask if I've been writing. Thank you for snatching up my blog books as soon as they arrive and reading them straight through.

Thank you for, without complaint, going to church and singing in choir with me. I know you're doing those things for me, right now; I'm grateful. Thank you for never acting embarrassed of me in front of your friends. Thank you for ruffling my hair on your way to bed. And you know when Jim was sick with the kidney stone and we ran, that night, to Food Lion? I felt uncomfortable, suddenly, about wearing fleece pajama pants and said: "I really should've changed clothes before we left."

"Nah, Mamsie, you so swag," you said, and you took my arm. Thank you so much for that.

You're a good son. You bless my life. I know it may not always be as sweet and uncomplicated between us as it is right now, but I want you to know: I'm just crazy about you at fifteen.

Love, Mom

Cade with Phillip, Andrew, and Sam

Monday, March 9, 2015

Charleigh's Birthday Weekend

Charleigh turned four over six months ago. I wrote her birthday post but didn't share photos of her birthday weekend, which we celebrated at Jellystone in Natural Bridge. I like to use my blog as a kind of scrapbook and print and bind every so often, but I'm way behind; I'm going to try and catch up.

Charleigh's is our only summer birthday, so we make the most of it. This was our third birthday celebration at Jellystone in Natural Bridge. (We didn't go in 2012, when I was pregnant with Chip.) The first time had been a little rough because Charleigh didn't particularly care for Yogi Bear and his friends (also because 2.5-year-old Clementine had released the parking brake on a golf cart, sending it crashing into a fire pit, but we don't have to talk about that). The second time had been close to perfect, so we tried in many respects to replicate the experience.

This is Cade's our friend Sam, who always takes the seventh seat in our minivan without complaint and makes sure everyone's buckled up for safety, back there. We love him so much.

If I'm being honest, the thirteen-year age span between our oldest and youngest children can make it challenging to entertain them simultaneously. We've found that one easy solution is to include one of Cade's friends as often as possible; they're all such great kids. And certain places--Jellystone, Chuck E. Cheese's, Busch Gardens--are fun for everyone.

My parents have driven from East Tennessee up to Natural Bridge every time we've camped at Jellystone. I'm so thankful for all the memories we've made with them, there.

What with arts n crafts and events in the rec center; the pool, splash park, lake, and river; miniature golf, the arcade, and the jumping pillow, there's plenty to do without ever leaving Jellystone. We're talking about me, though, so in 2011 we visited Natural Bridge, also a toy museum and butterfly exhibit (included, at the time, for the price of admission), and in 2013 we visited Natural Bridge Zoo. In 2014, we decided to visit Virginia Safari Park, where...

...Charleigh lost it. I've been her mother for 4.5 years, now, and I've never seen her so completely and utterly freaked out. Those big animals started sticking their heads into our minivan for food, and she melted down. All the way down. We're talking hyperventilation. ("I was a little freaked out myself," Sam said, "by the emu." Jim--concerned about the paint on the minivan--would've preferred a bit more distance from the elk.) Charleigh survived the drive-thru experience by climbing into Cade's lap in the back seat and smashing her face into his armpit until it was over.

She's still talking about how we tortured her on her birthday. Oh, and I forgot candles for the ice cream cake that Yogi delivered. She's still talking about that, too.

The great news is that Virginia Safari Park includes a walk-thru village, which was much more Charleigh's speed (even if she would take no part in petting the giant snake or feeding a budgie).

Overall, Charleigh's birthday weekend was a fun time. Sam's mama came and picked up the big kids early (Sam had to play soccer; Cade had to march his bass clarinet; and both had to start high school.), but Jim, the little kids, and I were able to watch Mark Cline perform a magic show before heading home. (I didn't take photos.) Oh, and I paid twenty-five cents, that same day, for an old book of children's Bible stories that I love far beyond any other homeschooling resource we have.

I wonder what Charleigh will remember, years from now. Love, I hope.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

I Still Don't Know What to Say

It pretty much never appeals to me to be fake. Lately, it hasn't appealed to me to be real, either, but I'm going to try to ease back into this blogging thing. I have birthday posts to write for two of my children, but I expect that, aside from those, I'll be sharing more images than words. I just...something is broken. Thanks for being here with me while I figure it out.