January 28, 2013

Raising one of the beautiful people

It will, I'm sure, shock you to your core to find out that neither Jrex nor I were ever 'beautiful people'. I was friends with some of the people in the popular crowd, but mostly hung out with the stoners and alternative crowd. Jrex was a music/science geek. We're both attractive enough, but have never had people come up and compliment our looks before they get to know us. We win people over because of our personalities more than our looks.

In the long run, I'm profoundly grateful for that. I don't fear getting old because it's never been about how I look, it's always been about who I am on the inside. I'm hoping to be a vivacious, adventurous 70-something whitewater rafting down the river. As long as they're laugh wrinkles, right?

On Saturday I put Brex in the stroller and walked over to the Bishop Arts District. Stopped in to the kid's store to look for slippers for Brex, bought a milkshake at Hunky's (no joke), stopped in at a consignment store to grab stuff off the sales rack for me and then headed home.

In the kid's store the person working the register saw him and exclaimed, "Isn't that Brex!? I recognize him from our contest a while ago. He is adorable." (Brex won for cutest kid in his age/gender group).

At Hunky's, after we finished eating, while I was cleaning up after the food, I let Brex wander the café a bit. He walked over to a booth where there was a family with two young girls. He stared at them a bit in fascination. Then waddled to the next booth where there were two older women. They smiled at him, he grinned back. I gathered him up and put him in the stroller. One of the women made a point to come over and tell me, "Your boy is so handsome! He has such a wonderful smile and he is just so adorable."

At the clothing store, the woman working the register asked how old Brex is. We chatted and she said, "He is such a good looking baby. He looks so big. What a cutie."

None of these comments were unusual. The scary thing is that part of me is starting to expect them. What really freaked me out was a lunch stop with Brex a few weeks ago; we stopped at Wendy's after running some errands. Brex ate a bit of his food, put his hands in the air (at home, Appa often says, "Yeah!" when Brex does that), then looked around the restaurant. He waited, turning, looking. No one was looking at him or clapping and he seemed a bit disappointed.

I don't want a kid who assumes the world will cater to him because he happened to win a genetic jackpot. It's no credit to him that he's cute; being thoughtful or honest or standing up for someone being bullied--those matter more. My Mom kept a journal the first year or so of my life. In it she said that people kept commenting what a beautiful baby I was and she'd answer, "She's beautiful inside and out." I love the response, but it feels too contrived for me (though it wasn't at all contrived from my ultra-sincere Mother). On the other hand, I grew out of being a beautiful baby, so this whole issue may disappear!

In case it doesn't, do any of you have advice for us for how to help him value inner character over outward appearance?

January 22, 2013

15.8 years and we're still learning

Since moving here we've had trouble figuring out how to do date nights. Sure, the kiddo is a factor, but it's also been rough for Jrex to figure out how to relax in the middle of his job pressure. As much as he's thriving and enjoying his job, it also consists of the worst of being an entrepreneur, a CEO, CFO, CTO and non-profit fundraiser.

We tried doing a Sabbath from Friday night to Saturday night. After two weeks, it devolved into just Friday night. Two weeks of that and Jrex (and I) were too brain dead to talk on a Friday. We ended up watching movies, but it didn't solve the issue of when and how to connect. A friend mentioned that she and her husband take a bath together every night: wine, music, touch, conversation. Jrex thought that sounded too contrived (particularly since he's not a bath guy).

We never figured out a solution. Instead I started saving up topics to discuss during our vacation. Driving. Lounging in a cabin with no TV or computer. Hiking. All wonderful times to talk and connect, right?

In the middle of our vacation as we sat looking at the moon rising in the midst of an embarrassment of stars, I brought up Brex and the issue of discipline. What model are we thinking to follow? Time outs only or any spankings? After a pause, Jrex said, "When I'm looking at the sky, it's like I go into right-brained mode and language is hard for me. The same thing happens when I drive." I already knew that he doesn't talk while hiking so all of a sudden it felt like our marriage was utterly empty and without hope for the future. (Why, yes, I have been accused of being melodramatic, why do you ask?) We've learned the hard way that it's better if I pre-process my emotions and then, usually, write out a response and give it to Jrex so he has time to work through the issues without feeling attacked. So, here we are in a 2-room cabin in the wilderness. The baby is in the bedroom, it's freezing cold outside. Where do I go to cry and wrestle?

Long story short, I cried and journaled in the living room, then went outside to throw rocks in the ravine. The next day I brought the iPod and my earphones for the car ride. You don't want to talk. FINE. We talked about logistics. A bit about the scenery.

We clarified things that night. For him, being in nature, or looking at it, is like being in an art gallery. I'd be annoyed if he started talking about calling the plumber while we were looking at Cezanne paintings. Fair enough. The big issue still remained: if we weren't going to do a Sabbath, or Friday nights, or deep talks while driving, WHEN were we going to connect?

We both thought of Mondays. Since it's expensive and a hassle to go out, we decided to do date night in. He picks up take out on the way home then we take the food and some wine and go upstairs to our sitting room. After lighting the candles in the fireplace, we snuggle on the love seat and just talk about whatever.

Thus far we've had two of these, but it feels 'right' for both of us. We're away from the easy temptation to just watch TV, we're away from any clutter in the kitchen or any visual 'to do' items, and it's non-fussy and comfortable. Somehow we're not as brain dead on Mondays, it even extends the weekend emotionally. It's reminded both of us of our dating days. Hanging out with no agenda except each other.

Phew! Yet another hurdle navigated. We keep hoping we're done with the major hurdles, and then we stumble over one and fumble around kicking each other until we figure out a way over without damaging each other or our marriage.

Hard work, yes. Worth it? Definitely.

January 16, 2013

Hotel Life

I really hate having sheets tucked into the foot of the bed. It makes me feel pinned down, plus I like to use my feet for temperature control (too hot, poke them out). It sounds silly, but that's the main reason I always put up the Do Not Disturb sign on my hotel room door. I never get the room cleaned while I'm staying in the hotel. I don't WANT my toiletries clumped together in a corner, the hairdryer put away, the sheets tucked in or all my sheets and towels washed every day.

Other than that, it's been wonderful to drift to sleep without having one ear open for the kiddo. On the other hand, I can't get to sleep easily without Jrex nearby.

I'm realizing I planned this trip perfectly. Sunday through Tuesday I planned nothing social outside of work. It meant that Monday night I could decide to go to a movie. I wanted to see Silver Linings Playbook or Argo, but the one showing at the time I got there was Zero Dark Thirty.

Wow. Bigelow deserves all her accolades. Yes, I spent the first third of the movie with my fingers in my ears and my eyes squeezed shut as she showed interrogation techniques, but somehow in the midst of all of that, she allowed every single person and people group to feel human. There were no monsters in the movie. Even though we all know the 'ending', she created drama by letting us get to know the Navy Seals a bit and therefore giving the fear that they might get killed.

Jessica Chastain deserves her awards. Without ever having a big emotional scene, she conveyed a professional intelligence operative who had her emotions under control yet had a boiling mass under the surface. At the end of the movie (we all know she 'got' Bin Laden, right?), she walks alone into a military plane. The pilot comes out and says, "You must be really important, you have the plane to yourself. Where do you want to go?" The camera shifts to Chastain's face. There's no more dialogue. Just watching her face you see her realize she doesn't know what to do next, where to go, or even who she is now. You see her realize what she's accomplished. And that's it. The end. I don't know how an ending that quiet feels so powerful, but Bigelow pulls it off.

Starting tonight and for the next two nights, I'm going to friends' homes for dinner. I'm starting to really miss my family, so if I went alone to the hotel, I think I would start to get depressed. A couple days of luxurious alone time and now lots of wonderful friend time. Perfect!

January 14, 2013

And you were there...and you...and you

I'm back in the office. In California. For a week. Alone.

The baby, the mutt, the husband are all trying to survive each other at home. I flew here yesterday afternoon. This morning, I received the following email from Jrex telling me how the evening and morning went:
Hi Hon,

Hope you had a good night's sleep. Unfortunately, Brex didn't. Woke up at 2 and 4:30a. Then completely at 5:30a, gave him some milk - had about 2-3 oz but then was falling asleep while drinking the milk. Went back to sleep at 6a and woke up 7:30a, completely lost his mind. Interesting to change him while he's completely thrashing around. Finally settled down when I gave him some date-pecan bread in the kitchen and our happy boy returned. Yeesh. I think I lost a year of my life this morning. Also, as I left him at daycare, his big ol' eyes started to tear up.

I'm sure he'll be fine in the long run but it's going to be fun. Clearly, he's missing you.
I hate that Brex is sad without me there. It especially stinks that he's suffering without understanding why. Jrex and I chatted after I saw his email and agreed that Skype might make it worse for Brex: seeing me, but not understanding why I can't pick him up.

The strange thing on this end is that being back at the office, it feels like I never left. Which means that my time in Texas feels like a strange dream. And yet in that dream I have a child.

I've been running around the office saying hello to various people. There are so many co-workers that I really enjoy as people, yet have no business reason to call. We've all been happy to see each other and do a little catch up. Then for lunch today, it felt amazing to think about what food I wanted to try: Japanese? Indian? Turkish? Afghani? Thai? Peruvian? All within a 10-minute drive.

I love being back. I (selfishly) love being alone. I totally miss my kiddo and husband (and the mutt). All mixed up in a big pile of disorientation. Which version is the dream? Will I wake up in Oz or Kansas?

I'm enjoying this dream while I'm in it, but I'll be happy to go home again.

January 9, 2013

He's so kind to me

On Sunday, the visiting pastor was talking about hearing God. At the end of his message, he prayed for the church to hear Him talk to each person.

When I talk about hearing God, the way it usually happens for me is that I ask a question and then a tiny phrase will pop into my mind. It might be something to look up in the Bible, like "Psalm 16:8". I look it up and it is the IT thing that I desperately need to hear. Or it might be an actual phrase. Over time I've become better at telling when it's just my distracted mind and when I'm hearing a 'still, small voice'. If I think it's just me, I push it away and ask the question again, if it keeps popping back, it's usually God's voice.

Anyway, what happened on Sunday was this:

Me: "What do you have for me to hear today?"

"Be at peace, my daughter"

I started to dismiss it as wishful thinking, but the thought came back, "Be at peace."

So I asked, "What does that mean!?" (behind the question was the looming pressure of my insane To Do list)

"When you begin to wake up, just surrender your day to me. Let me fill your hands and your time."

Me, still not trusting the simplicity, "Will you wake me up early so I can do that?" (I usually wake up when I hear Brex talking himself awake so I knew that I wouldn't have time for an official 'quiet time' if He didn't wake me up before the baby).

[A quiet sense of laughing] "I'm not on your To Do list."

That's SO Him. He gave me more grace than I expected, yet also wants to be bigger than I was allowing.

So that's what I've been doing the last three days. They haven't been perfect days, but they've been good. My work has become busy and that would usually mean I shut down and just get it done, instead I've been on Facebook, I've answered the phone to chat, and the last two evenings I've picked up Brex and then visited friends with kids on the way home. It's also like Him to lead me back to interacting with people and not shutting down, but it hasn't felt draining.

Such a simple interchange, yet it shifted a big pile of stuff in my head.

Thank You.

January 7, 2013

The Rest of the Story

In answer to my Dad's question about the previous post: Brex was great in the car. It helped that Muttola was with us so he could throw his food at her and giggle hysterically watching her eating it. People ask if he's talking yet. We answer no, but as we were reminded during the car ride, he talks ALL the time, we just have no idea what he's saying.

His consistent list of words thus far:
"[Dog's Name]!"
"Ap-Pa!" (figured it out during the trip. Evolved from Da-da, to Ba-ba, to Appa)
"...llo?" (Hello)

Enough of words, here are the promised photos:

First hike: The Window. Many of the trails in Big Bend were built courtesy of the WPA during FDR's presidency. This one had lovely sets of stone stairs along the wash.

Brex at the bottom of the wash (after lunch). The women at daycare keep commenting how much he loves being outside. This trip just confirmed it.

Why yes, yes. That's attitude. Already. (He saw an 11-year old trying to rock climb and launched himself at every cliff the rest of the trip. That's my boy!)

The end of hike 1. Don't you just want to eat those cheeks?!

After moving to California (and now Texas) and being exposed to desert flora, I discovered that Dr. Seuss was a realist.

Hike 2: Lost Mine Trail. The view from the top.

Do NOT try to tell him he's a baby. If you ask him, whatever we can do, he can do better. No need to bring a bottle on the hikes, he loved drinking our water.
Along the trail.
Our home sweet home. A mere 45-minute drive from the main road.

The crazy coot who built the original cabin blasted dynamite in the valley to create a pond. See the green? In the summer, when it rains, there's water here.

Perhaps not the best toy for a kid, but he loved our trekking poles.

Two of the huge windows on all three sides of the living area.

Desert dog having her day.

Click to enlarge. The land across the river in this photo is Mexico (the Rio Grande, shallow enough here to walk across). See the tracks on the other side? Not wild animals.

Well, the other prints were human, but here on the USA side we found a nice fresh mountain lion print.

Evidence of geekdom. We commented that Peter Jackson wouldn't have needed CGI if he'd filmed Mordor in Big Bend instead of Texas. Look, the Gates of Mordor straight ahead! (Locally known by the profoundly evocative name of Mule Ear Peak)

If I can't get a husband to be a climbing partner, I'll just have to raise one from scratch.
Not so impressive if you think it's a sunset. Is it better if I tell you that's the moon?

Here comes the sun. 

Big Bend? Definitely worth the trip.