nothing sensational

It’s another windy, sunny September day in Alberta. If I used the popular lingo of 2017, I’d say that autumn gives me “all the feels”. School starts and I am the sentimental mom, taking pictures of my babies off to their first day. I (almost) wish I was teaching again and I get super  nostalgic about that chapter of my life. It was one of my happiest. Wheat smell in the air and golden leaves and petunias still blooming leave me weak-kneed with delight and longing.

There are days, busy days, when I think fleetingly that it would be nice to have a reason to lie down. Like maybe a little flu or a sprained ankle. Then I could catch up on the things I want to study and the blogs  I want to read and the books that never get opened. On Sunday I had a weird stomachache that had me prostrate on the couch for most of the day. I realized about two hours into the romantic reality of my dream come true that I’m actually an ambitious person and lying down isn’t much fun. Facebook was dull, I couldn’t get into the book I was reading, and I didn’t feel like writing the email for writing group or the card for a friend.

While a lot of the West burns–and some of Texas and places like the Virgin Islands are in shambles–and hurricanes rage–we are treated to mostly clean air, crazy autumn wind, and oilfield guys tearing up our farmland to bury pipelines. I feel sick when I think of people who’ve been spending their summer in a smoky haze. I would feel so robbed of summer’s beauty. Not to mention losing homes and parkland to fire. And the horror of devastation like a hurricane causes just boggles my little northern mind. I kind of stay away from the news when things get horrific. But I do care and pray and I hope there are ways we can help. Firefighters have my utmost respect and I hope that someday, somehow we can house or feed people reeling from a storm.  Or help with cleanup. I’d be good at that, I think.  I’m good at picking up trash.

SO MUCH happens and life whirls by and I don’t feel like I’m doing well at taking it all in, let alone savouring it. If I post some of my pictures here, I take care of that a little.  To write and to look at old pictures is to savour for me.

They are 10th grade (and doing 100 push-ups a day), 6th grade (and sewing their own first-day dresses), 5th grade (wearing size 9 men’s shoes) and 3rd grade (still likes to be cuddle on our my lap in the mornings). They are bigger and more full of more personality than I ever dreamed they would be. And they were  patiently squinting for me at lunchtime when I took this picture because we were running late before school and didn’t have time for one then. “Do we have to do this every year, Mom?” Well, yes.

IMG_4272
My cell phone pictures, since you always wanted to see an Alberta pipeline before it went underground.

IMG_4271

I have learned to drink my plexus with frozen raspberries and huckleberries. I am giving it a (fairly consistent) whirl for three months. Soon I shall be a Ruby ambassador. NOT.  I am afraid things do not work well for me because I am a skeptic.
My heart kind of sinks when Liesl asks if we can wear our look-alikes. My dress is old, scratchy-feeling, outdated. But she is the 3rd girl in our family to wear this dress and that’s special. And what do I have to lose? Soon it will fit her no longer. Soon she will not want to match with me.
We celebrated 21 years this August.
This is my sister Linda and I with our daughters modeling our old wedding dresses.
We tried on our bride and maid of honour dresses from my wedding.
This little punkin turned 18 and all of these changes turn me inside out.

I had a cup of Red Rose tea and a pumpkin cookie while making photo captions.  It doesn’t look like anything deep will be addressed on my blog today.  It is almost time to go pick up children at school.

Happy autumn. I pray for rain for your smoky skies, wisdom to raise your teens, and someone to bring you a coffee if you are lonely.

Advertisements

Hello there. And how do you like your plexus?

I’ve been in a bit of a funk mentally and spiritually and emotionally and internally lately and when that happens I just quit writing and reading online until I feel stronger and happier again.  But ugh…  I always miss writing and I miss you lovelies who read here and are patient with the long facebook posts that I write. And then I’m out picking raspberries and my mind soars with deep and clever things to write. But they never materialize because there are always more raspberries to pick and the beans will soon be ready and there is food to make for the neighbor and there are children running about who always need to eat.

The funk has to do with all manner of things.  For starters, I’m actually very tired.  When you’re 43 and you’ve lived in BayTree, Alberta all your life and been a preacher’s daughter and then a preacher’s wife and you’ve gone to fall church cleaning on your mom’s hip and you’ve sung Amazing Grace 492 times at the nursing home and been through 18 members’ meetings to decide the superintendent for VBS and 28 yearly reorganization meetings (give or take a few because I taught school in the states for 4 years before Dan and I got married and then we lived in Belize for a couple of years) and you’ve made 3,681 hot dish meals for potluck dinners at church and the floor needs to be repainted again at school and the hostess schedule needs to be updated and you’re on for monthly cleaning again and the church lawn is overgrown with dandelions and it’s your husband’s week to speak, you sometimes just get tired.  And it’s not even that you’re the one who has to mow the lawn or paint the floor or preach the sermon. And you know the joy of the Lord is your strength, but sometimes you just want to stop being an adult and responsible and a good example. And you want to sit in a corner somewhere and eat cheesies  or look out at the sea from Prince Edward Island and forget that you’re on for hosting the youth this month.

Let me tell you, I love this place and I love BayTree church and I really love the people who live here.  Sometimes when I’m vacuuming that humble building that needs new siding and carpet, my heart burns in me for all who’ve come and gone and all who remain and I cry because I love them and I know God is there, even in all the ways we’ve messed up and failed and been inconsistent and lost our way. But I’m still tired.

And I’ve been thinking and studying about Rest for reasons I will tell you more about later, so this tiredness that’s dogging my life seems especially meaningful and perplexing.

But maybe I just need plexus.  So we have some plexus products floating around here for various reason. But I’m just awful for never sticking with taking things consistently.  And even though I don’t have a lot of faith in the hype, I do scan the testimonials sometimes and when I hear about people with allergies feeling completely whole and depressed and tired ladies having a new lease on life, I think I should maybe try it, though I struggle with my conscience every time I consider truly pursuing it because I know there’s an African lady somewhere in terrible pain who needs a tooth pulled and refugees who just need a drink of water and Haitian moms whose babies are crying for milk.  So why should I spend $150 a month to get my gut/brain health in order when really I’m quite healthy and reasonably trim and very well looked after by my husband.  I could just keep cutting out sugar and eat more spinach and almonds.  And I could take up running and then probably I’d feel better mentally and not have weeks out of each month when I feel so sad and down or mad and despairing. And mostly I could just be so surrendered to Jesus that I’d have abundant joy that would bubble over to everyone around me.

Anyway.  I can’t stand that pink drink.  I take it for a day or two and then I chicken out again.  I have to water it down with about a quart of water for one pack because I don’t like drinks to be very sweet.  But then I have a whole quart of the stuff to drink. And I add ice and lemon. But the aftertaste is just awful and it makes my throat feel raw.  (Though maybe that’s from all the lemon I add to make it palatable.) I know there are great new flavors out there.  But isn’t one of them an artificial watermelon flavor? That makes me feel gaggy just thinking about it.  Some of the people in my life who are my dearest and most respected people just love their plexus and sell it and sport it and believe in it. I am happy for them and definitely can’t speak from experience about how it works or doesn’t work.  I have friends close by that I can buy it through if I decide that’s the route for me.  But that’s my plexus story and I can’t seem to get off of square one with the stuff.  I do have a schedule for how to gradually get on the triplex and other important plexus-related matters, so please don’t start messaging me personally about things.  Thanks. I love you too.  And I am sorry to have added to the hype–OR the dissing of the product. Because I know that most of us are prone to do one or the other on the matter.  I just thought you might like to know where I currently stand.

This post seems to be extremely lacking so far in depth and I’m not pleased with how often I have used the word “I”.

So let me tell you of less weighty matters, like Andre asking Siri if Queen Elizabeth has an iphone.  Like “Blessed Assurance” being played splendidly on the piano for a pretend wedding.  I could show you the pictures I find on my camera, most of them taken by Natalia.  The top two here are from an evening that Indian war-something was happening, the nurse on the left binding up wounds. The rest are Natalia’s photography of the weddings and Canadian girl photo shoots and the little bit of camping that happened here.

 

Here are the boys that my sister Linda and I took down to Idaho Wilderness Boys Camp this month.  They are playing Uno with the mini cards I keep in my purse to entertain little guys. This happened while waiting for dinner in Cranbrook.  Now they are off surviving in the mountains and I can’t wait to hear their stories.

IMG_4204

While in Idaho, our sister Twila took us huckleberry picking and we were all in our happy place.  We had time for hashing over life while we picked and then cleaned them.

IMG_4208

Also, I got to see a few Idaho friends who stopped by Twila’s place to say hello, so that made the good day even better. No pictures.  Sorry, they were lovely friends and very picture-worthy.

Natalia was listening to Adventures in Odyssey the other day and just randomly sketched a character she was looking at on the screen, Ava Parker.  She doesn’t draw a lot, so I was super pleased with her skill.

 

We have someone to carve the roast when Dan is away.

IMG_4220

It is ridiculous to be anything but joyful and grateful with such beauty all around me.

 

Talking about the condition of my heart often helps to relieve the ache there, so I guess I’ll go to bed now and leave this crazy post with its click-bait title and say goodnight  to all of you.  Writing about a portion of my small problems makes them seem very small indeed.

I get to teach the juniors for the 211th time tomorrow morning and we are going to sing our memory verse, Philippians 4:8, for the church because it’s the juniors’ turn to say the verse up front.  And Richard the Swiss butcher is coming to do his annual barbecue for our church because that’s just the kind of generous person he is and the farmers who attend at BayTree are his loyal customers.  I made two raspberry cheesecakes and Dan is preaching.  Join us!

 

They did the best they could with what they knew.

When my dad passed away over a year ago, a friend whose dad has done a lot of things that brought hurt to his family said to me, “You are so blessed to have had the relationship you did with your dad.”

I kind of wanted to rush in and say that we didn’t have a very noteworthy relationship.  Really.

Then again, maybe we did.

My siblings and I spoke and wrote a lot about Dad over the time of his death.  A good-hearted soul he was, a lover of simple things, optimistic, intelligent but not proud, liberal in his political views (I know, right?!), conservative about buying butter, not an eloquent preacher, someone who cared about the underdog.

But he wasn’t a dad who told us we were beautiful. Not ever.  He never said he believed in us.  He didn’t hold us close and look into our eyes and smooth our curls and tell us how much he loved us like my husband does to our daughters.  He was raised in a staunch Amish home and started parenting in the 50’s. One didn’t do those things.  Dad read all the time when he wasn’t working.  He didn’t fly kites with us or take us to the beach.  He didn’t ask us how our hearts were or help us decide our dating standards. He didn’t give us away at our weddings.

He did a lot of things for our good and I could write paragraphs about his generosity and humility and good humour and optimism.  Time mellowed and changed him. I think his grandchildren got the benefit of the teachings of the 90’s about family and closeness and saying we love people instead of just assuming they know.  Some of his sons-in-law had a closer relationships with him as the man they met later in his life with Christ than his own sons did as teenagers.

I could write a long and heartfelt tribute to this good man, but it has already been done and that’s not what I came here to say today.

I could probably also  fill up a page if I started enumerating his faults.

There might be needs in my family because Dad was a distant father in lots of ways.  There might be some holes in my heart and insecurities that his telling me he loved me and that I was beautiful could have mended.  Maybe I wouldn’t struggle with feeling like God cares if my daddy had been a more involved father. We all carry some scars from ways that our homes weren’t ideal.

But the longer time goes on, the more grace I give to my parents.

They did the best they could with what they knew.

Just like Dan and I are doing today.

I want to give that kind of grace to other people in my life too.  Most of them are doing the best they can with what they know.  Even when they seem harsh or narrow minded or tedious or distant.

(This is not to minimize hurt caused by church leaders and fathers and mothers and teachers and employers.  There is evil and sadness around us and there are times to stand up when we see others inflicting pain.  There are fathers who have caused scars so deep that healing takes years. There are dads who know better and do awful things anyway.  I am not here to tell you how to handle that kind of sadness.)

And maybe my life has just been easy when it comes to relationships.  But when I look at people through the they-do-the-best-they-can-with-what-they-know lens, I can often say, “Ah. That explains things a lot.”

My dad was loved and appreciated and worthy of the good words we have said about him,  I hold close the memories of his dear face and hearty laugh.

12

I am blessed to have a dad who did justly, loved mercy, and walked humbly with his God.

IMG_4091

And where he failed, I give him grace.  The same grace I hope my children will give me.

 

 

 

 

calving and other stories

I want to write something beautiful and moving.

Or at least humorous.

Or stimulating.

But lately all good words evade me and the online world seems like a desperate cry of Look at Me, Me, Me.  It feels like pish-posh and I don’t even know why.

I say that without judging all of you who are writing good and beautiful and witty things in the least.  You know as well as I do that I am up there pish-poshing with the best of you when I’m in the mood.

It would appear that this online cynicism happens frequently to some of us and is becoming recurrent in my life.  Because as I was writing about this dilemma, I had serious deja vu.

I do not know the source of it. But I thought that maybe if I break right in with honesty and just write for a bit, I can get over myself.

I will not pretend. It was one of the harder winters and springs of my life. Some of the people that I love the most in all the world were going through terribly hard things and I couldn’t write about them.  I cried more than I laughed, spring was slow and cold and bleak and wet and muddy and snowy and hard.

Spring (if you could call it that) had some wonderful times, too. There was a pastors’ retreat in Montana and a ladies’ retreat down there too.  There was Easter in sunny, green Ontario and new and old friends to make life sweet.

Crazy things happen around here lately.  Like nine-year-olds writing “deodorant” on the grocery list for the first time.  These are my babies and all of a sudden they’re worried about sweating.

Liesl turned 8 in May and she is agonizing over picking out her calf, which is what happens the spring after you turn 8 when you are one of Dan’s offspring.

Here Liesl is at one year old.  I can’t stand how cute she is, then and now.

IMG_4030

She thought she had picked out her calf the other night and she came in and described the little heifer to me, “She’s just so pretty and elegant and delicate and cute all at the same time!” she said breathlessly.  Then she changed her mind because the calf is kind of wild.

Spring has crept in on us and now it’s here with full force, blowing us away with its gorgeousness.  The green washes the windows of my soul and life looks hopeful and good.  I cleaned most of my windows and we had delightful weekend company from Idaho and they probably thought that my windows always look like this.

I get some sun and it hides the dark circles under my eyes.

So what would you like to hear about over here?

On Sunday evening, Dan and I took the three youngest children to the park in town.  It was warm and windy.  We always stand out in our billowy dresses, we Mennonite girls.  The kids took their scooter and roller blades.  Farm kids have a hard time finding smooth concrete for toys like that.  I read Beautiful Boy by David Sheff off and on while the children played.  It’s  the heartbreaking story of a boy addicted to meth, written by his father.  Dan did Sudoku.

For three days in a row,  Dan’s cows produced seven calves each day.  They’re exploding  out there.  There are still a lot to go. It’s good that he takes time to do fun things in all the busyness of cow checking.

On the way home, we drove into the pasture below the house to check on the heifers.  One of them was laboring seriously and Dan asked if we wanted to stay around and watch a calf being born.  Everyone did but Natalia, age 11.

Two little hooves are appearing in the designated spot for calves to make their debut.

The young mom is in obvious discomfort, poor little two-year-old thing that she is.

She writhes a bit, more leg appears.

Things get more serious.  Natalia hides her eyes.

This  is the very reason I want to adopt children,” she says.

“Yeah, that’s one great thing about being a boy,” says Andre (9).

Other curious cows come over to inspect the poor little almost-mother.

Andre: “They’re like, hey, we know just what you’re going through.  We just did it three days ago.”

MOM probably knows what she’s going through, says someone.

Yeah, I kind of do.  I feel it all over again when I watch a cow giving birth.

They ask all kinds of questions.

“Did Mom scream?” they ask Dan.

And other questions, more intrusive things.

The head appears and the heifer spooks, getting up and walking a bit in her pain and awkwardness.  Natalia hides her eyes again.

Before we know it, there’s this healthy girl calf on the ground and the mother is licking it.

“She looks skinnier already!” says Natalia of the new mother.

Lesson over.

My sister and her husband of five months just visited us from Virginia. She was saying how her husband Ben, who is 78, loves lilacs and was enjoying them across the US as they traveled. “He really likes purple,” she said. “He’s kind of colour blind and doesn’t seem to notice the reds and yellows. I’m thinking I need to make myself some purple dresses!”

Ben loves to travel, but likes to do it economically. So they camp when they’re not staying with friends or relatives. He built Carol a plywood platform that they cover with a foam mattress so that she can easily get in and out of bed. This contraption folds up and fits into a minivan!

Their mutual respect and care for each other is wonderful to see.

Our May and June are packed full of guests.  It is busy and fun.  The quackgrass is overtaking the asparagus patch and every corner of the yard and garden needs attention.

It’s been good to talk to you again.  Other stuff is happening in our lives too.  But for now it’s good to write about the surface and the happy.

random awkwardness

I can’t believe that this poor blog hasn’t been touched since Thanksgiving.  I’ve been soothing the writing itch by posting long posts on facebook.   Then it feels redundant to publish them here.

I’m currently working on a post about  comfort zones and sticking with our gifts versus daring greatly, like Brene Brown tells us to. It has a little bit to do with me trying to learn to ski and a lot to do with how much you can learn new things when you’re over 40 and it’s also about growth mindset versus fixed mindset, like I read about on Jenny Smucker’s blog.  But that thing isn’t coming together very fast.

So I just popped in to say hi.

I’ll tell you about last Sunday.  I teach 9 and 10-year-old Mennonite kids and we were reading the verses in Matthew 21 about the man who had told his son to work in his vineyard and the son disrespectfully said he wouldn’t and then later felt terrible and went.  With the second son, the father asked him to work and the son was all agreeable and said he would, but it was all a lie because he never went.

Jesus went on to say that this was a picture of how the publicans and harlots would go into the kingdom of God before the chief priests and Pharisees, the religious leaders who looked so good on the outside.

So I was explaining these verses in my teacher voice and said, “So the publicans were people that no one liked because they collected taxes and sometimes they cheated. And harlots were like….do you guys know what harlots were?”

They didn’t.

I said, “Well….they were ladies who sold their bodies.”

“You mean like, they’d cut off an arm or leg and sell it?” asked one of them in disbelief.

“Well, no,” I said, squirming.

And then I launched into another explanation that hopefully kind of worked and they seemed satisfied.  But I am very glad it was not recorded.

Oh Jesus, your stories and your love for every single person are seldom tidy, church-y,  or easy to explain, are they?

Dan and I have always thought that children should be told the truth in simple language that satisfies them, without giving them more information than they bargained for in the moment.  But then I run into situations where I realize we have gaps. Innocence is good.   But  raising sheltered little people who don’t know about the reality of what so many people face isn’t our goal either.  February 23rd was the 5th annual “shine a light on slavery” day, the End It movement.  Thanks to my friends online who have reminded me that our children need to know and be aware.  And to my little Sunday school class.

Sometimes I feel like a walking paradox.  I ache to take all the hurt and homeless hearts in the world and nurture them.  But then I get grouchy about  nurturing the ones in my own home and church.  And I get So Tired of needs.

Serving in obscurity may be scarier than doing big things for God, as this post says so well.

I’m not sure how I ended up here.  Random awkwardness, I guess.

I must go and fry some burgers for supper.  Nice to chat with you a little.

We shall walk through the valley in peace

It’s Thanksgiving Day in Canada, a white one here in our much-loved North.  A few golden trees are shining through the snow, kind of like hope.  I keep thinking of poetry about October’s bright blue weather and wondering where it is.

Dan took Andre hunting this morning.  Liesl woke up early and snuggled on the couch with me.  She was “stouving”, so she warmed up some leftover baked oatmeal.  When the hunters got back, she raced out to meet them, hoping they’d brought “fresh venison for dinner.”  I think that comes from Little House in the Big Woods, of which she is a current avid fan.

While we ate bacon and eggs, I wondered aloud about what people in hurricane-riddled Haiti are eating today. The ache of need there and in so many other places can make us feel affluence guilt on a daily basis.  Is that healthy, do you think?  How do you deal with it?

As we speak, the Trump/Clinton race for the election rages on.  My facebook page is full of my (many & mostly conservative) friends’ take on the subject, angry or stony faces of both nominees filling the newsfeed.  This morning I keep thinking of that song, “If Jesus Himself will be our leader, we will walk through the valley in peace.”  I wish He was here to walk with us, to touch us and give us that peace.  But maybe we’d miss Him, like so many did 2000 years ago.

The last six weeks have been difficult ones at our house, difficult by first-world standards anyway.  Besides rutted fields from fall rains and getting back into school schedule and a weird, unnamed stomach bug that put almost everyone on the couch with varying degrees of discomfort, we are facing some hard life issues that I can’t even really talk about because they’re too personal and painful and uncertain.  Being quiet in difficulty is not my strong point, but I’m learning.  I’m also learning that it’s easy to think you’re kind of learning to be strong when things are just a little bit hard, but then they get harder and you realize how much you need faith and others and Jesus because your strength is no match for Harder.

You can pray for our family if you think of it, unspoken prayer requests here.  I have always kind of hated those things, but now I know why people give them.

This post about beauty is so good.  It’s just where I find myself.  Sometimes thanks seems impossible, but always there is beauty.  And when you identify the beauty, the thanks usually follows.

I rescued these three pretties before it snowed too hard.

image

And since the Inspirations journal that my friend Luci Miller gave me is full, I get to start this purple ($4) Dollarama beauty.

image

Scarf sisters.

image

And there’s always humour too.  Dan and the boys were guffawing over this meme this morning while Tori and I rolled our eyes.

a-lot-of-women-actually-turn-into-good-drivers-so-4146499

About the last post I wrote?  I wrote it in overstatement.  Our 12 year old boys do smile at us.  My 14 year old hugged me on the way into the grocery store on Tuesday evening.  We talk a lot, discuss the world and people, have many.good.times here.  We love our teens and they love us.  Just to get that straight.  But I’m not minimizing the hard times, the estranged times, the we-did-something-really-wrong-here moments.  That’s what I was writing about.  The mean old comparison thief can make it look like everyone else’s families are  put together Just So and mine is floundering horridly.  I like to tell the kids that we probably look like that on the outside too. But that’s not really what we’re here to do, show you only the best and hide the ugly.  Not that the opposite is beautiful either. Balance in all things, folks.  Balance.  I’ll tell you when I’ve achieved it.

Here’s to peace in the storm,

Jesus as Leader,

and the final Triumph of Love over Evil.

Love you all.

He Smiled First

You might look on at our family and think we have it made. Three handsome sons and three pretty daughters, a decent business and a modest home, a dad who loves to take his family out for dinner and a mom who grows green beans and flowers.

Twenty years ago Dan and I entered holy matrimony, buoyed by love, sights soaring as high as the Rockies.

We both came from strong families; strong but flawed.

Since we loved God and each other and were moderately intelligent, we hoped we’d have a family a cut above the mediocre ones in which we’d grown up. Not that our parents didn’t fit that same criteria.  But nowadays there was good literature out there about how not to be passive dads and controlling moms, about avoiding iron-grip discipline and over-protectiveness, about giving more time to our children and teaching them the reasons instead of just saying no.  We’d both been teachers and we both loved children. Surely if we followed the Ezzo’s Raising Kids God’s Way formula and practiced healthy communication and read good stories and taught them to pray, things would turn out well.

I don’t think we were more naive than most 22-year old-Mennonite couples. We were happy and hopeful and maybe a little unlearned. But it didn’t matter.

Our six brown-eyed bundles of joy came pretty quickly, some of them planned and others surprises.  We cried with intense feeling at their births, worked our hearts out for their first smiles, smacked their bottoms when they threw fits, and read lots of Beatrix Potter and Dr. Seuss.

There were a lot of other moments too, hard ones and happy ones, funny ones and terrible ones.

Then all of a sudden the boys turn about nine and they don’t smile at us anymore.

Andre is our youngest boy and he’s tall and sturdy for his age. He has a wide face and a big smile. He has a slower, easier nature than some of his intense siblings and he gives us big hugs when he tells us goodbye, even in front of his peers.  He’s my baby boy and I’ve probably enjoyed him more than I did the others, knowing that soon he won’t make popsicle stick plane messes and create huge farms on the downstairs carpet, using masking tape to mark fields and roads.

But now he’s nine and after a skirmish with his sisters on the way to church (something to do with who sat where in the suburban and his dad’s reprimand about how he was acting) he got grouchy and sullen. I came into church a few minutes after he did.  He was sitting there with his dad and I smiled at him.  No response.

Oh come on, I groaned inwardly. Not again, not my Andre. I thought maybe we’d bypass this stage with him. He’s always adored me and I’m not ready for this.  I guess we just go wrong somewhere. What do you have to say for yourselves, Mr. Ezzo and Dr. Dobson? 

It actually hurts not to have your smile returned. Especially when it comes from the same little people that you taught how to smile in the first place.

Later on that no-smile Sunday, we had choir practice at church. Alec is our oldest son and at 18 his bass voice is so beautiful that it can make me cry if I let it. We were standing in our choir circle, facing the other parts. Between songs, I looked at Alec, standing tall in his hipster jeans and new, dark-framed glasses.  He smiled at me.

Mom, I think you’re actually pretty nice. I like you and I’m proud to be your son.

Those first months you work your heart out for that baby of yours, pouring, pouring, pouring into them.  You store up their baby smiles and photograph them and frame them.  You go tingly with joy over their first laugh.

If you’re flawed parents like us, you miss things along the way and before you know it, you feel them draw away and it makes your heart ache a little. Or sometimes a lot.

Remember what’s been poured into your life and who poured it in! you want to scream some days.

Then somehow miracles dawn and they reach back out to you. Along the way, they start to say thank you, sometimes more with actions than words.  The smiles you coaxed out of those one-month-olds come back to you.  And they fill you up like you wouldn’t believe.