Tag Archives: Family

Transcendence On the Way to Preschool

Claire

In life there are few moments of transcendence, or perhaps better said, there are few moments of transcendence that we recognize and commit to memory, and even fewer that are clear enough to shift our existential bearings and redefine our hopes.

When they do happen, they’re usually fleeting, they’re often mundane (given our inability to see the forest for the trees), and unless our emotions and spirit communicate, they’re usually glanced over so as to leave no trace of meaning.

For me the dark glass is lowered and transcendence is recognized almost always in the presence of my children, in particular aside my oldest daughter Claire (four years old). It happens simply, when undeterred joy emanates from my daughter and I feel partly to blame; when somehow my being her dad and being present in her life plays a role in it all.

It has happened at a pizza parlor as Claire watches her younger sister Maren do the funniest thing ever: refuse to keep her feet off the table. I’ve been wise enough to notice it as Claire is caught in a whirlwind of leaves, a recently raked pile behind her, the remnants of fall clinging to her hair and eyebrows.

Most recently it happened in the car, on the way to preschool. Claire and I have a tradition: We crank the volume up on the radio and act wild. We do this to get our crazies out—something both of us need to do before entering the real world where calmness and put-togetherness are most admired. A hit song from a few years ago comes on and we’re both dancing; we’re both unhinged. I look back and catch a glimpse of her, lost in the moment without concern. To make her laugh, I look forward and scream. I pretend the traffic cones on the side of the road are a brick wall and I’m about to hit them. I’m nowhere near them and I hit nothing but the explosion is real; it’s Claire in the back seat, head back, erupting with laughter; she’s like an infant guffawing for the first time at something that’s only funny in the beginning: a coo, a song, a bark, the tearing of paper, an older sister shaking her head inches away.

To see this innocent, explosive, in-the-moment elation was too much for me; I sobbed. I was happy. I was sad. I was nostalgic. I was worrying about the day she wouldn’t think a fake collision with traffic cones was funny anymore. I was in limbo.

I was no longer in the car. I was no longer on earth. I was outside looking in. I entered a realm that felt like home in a strange land. The meaning was clear and it was mine. And then I watched my Claire put on her backpack and walk toward school, a big girl.

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Crowded, dumpy Pizzeria, 12:30pm: This is Happiness

Claire, Pizza, Happiness  2

So much of the human experience is spent in the pursuit of happiness. People define/redefine happiness and then spend the rest of the time looking for it, as if it was a lost puppy they’re certain to recognize and love once it’s found.

Happiness has become a destination, an X at the end of a long, squiggly line that’s pressed between folded pages and tucked beneath an old pair of blue jeans on the top shelf of a storage closet—the best place to keep the best things that will be the best when they finally get used.

The things people do to be happy, the journeys taken, the experiences had, they are a means to an end. Happiness is the great if/then statement when it should be a fond feeling in the ever-present, ever-fleeting now.

For Me, Today was Different

Today, my wife and two daughters (Claire, four and Maren, five-months old) met me at work. We walked two and half blocks to a nearby pizzeria—my favorite in our little city. The Pie Hole is dumpy: it’s covered in flour, the walls are lined with empty PBR beer cans, the tables and chairs are rickety, the crowd is diverse and constantly coming and going, and the pizza is the best in town.

On Mondays, five dollars gets you two slices and a drink. We spent ten dollars, dusted some crumbs from a vacant table, found a third chair, and sat down to lunch. Maren was in my arms and wouldn’t stop pressing her legs against the edge of the table. I’d pull her back, her legs would drop, and she’d lift them right back up again and press them against the table. Claire, across from me, a mouth full of half-masticated pepperoni pizza, thought this was the funniest thing in the world.

I looked at my oldest daughter. I squeezed my youngest. I glanced at my beautiful wife. This was happiness. It didn’t matter what happened on the walk back to work. The next day, the next year was irrelevant; for in those few minutes, in the thick of a crowded, dumpy pizzeria… I was happy.

Claire and Pizza an Happiness 2

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Christmas Was A Beach

Here’s me being WAY romantic

I know this is late and I know what you’re probably thinking, how can Christmas be a beach? Did you magically change it from a holiday to a pebbly or sandy shore by the ocean? And the answer would be no, no I did not. I did, however, leave the freezing, snow-capped mountains of Utah with my family of three to join an extended family of over 20 in one beach house just 30 feet from the sunny, wonderful beach and the freezing, no-less wonderful ocean. Usually leaving a wintery wonderland during Christmas would feel like an abandonment, a betrayal, but not this year. It could not have been more Christmasy and it was one of the best vacations I have ever had.

Why Was This One Of The Best Vacations Ever?

There are a lot of reasons this was a fantastic trip. I will not bore you with all of them, just most of them. For one, it was great to have all my siblings (except Chris who is in Bahrain…yeah I don’t know where it is either) and their spouses and kids crammed in one house—it was chaotic but for that very reason, fun. I liked the small Christmas tree on a shelf, mountains of presents scattered everywhere, gross leftover sweet and sour soup (that only my dad liked) in the fridge from the first night’s Chinese food, sodas lined up like soldiers on the kitchen counter, noise, new born twin babies crying, toddler cousins all dressed in similar jammies laughing, and me constantly breaking up the fight or fit started by my daughter, who despite being one of the best kids ever can also be quite the bodag.

Present time!

twins

New born twins, Benjamin and Thomas!

It was a very memorable ambience in an unforgettable setting. The beach was literally a five second walk away and even though the locals thought we were crazy, that didn’t stop us from swimming and boogie boarding everyday. To be honest, the water was no colder than it was in August, and after you’d been out ten minutes you were num to it, so you could fight on, catching an occasional awesome wave, no feeling in your toes, all the way to the shore. It was great.

The most attractive stance ever (me on left). Thanks Grandpa Marshall

We had a volleyball/badminton net right next to our beach house. We had many an impromptu game, but the most memorable of all was America VS. Brazil. A group of Brazilians approached us, challenged us, played us, and we walked away victorious. It was a game full of laughs, language barriers (my cousin Chase kept speaking to them in Spanish), and a lot of fun.

There was the Home Alone Marathon where Ryan, my older brother, was again crowned the victor of Home Alone Trivia and my sister-in-law April was crowned the most recent winner of the Home Alone quote contest.

Christmas morning. Grandkids and grandparents.

There were the gifts the kids loved. Claire with the teepee my beautiful wife finished making her a couple nights before. And then there were the Ninja Turtles PJs that I thought Claire would love—after opening them, we asked her if she wanted to wear them, she just said no. Her and all her cousins had PJs with different princesses on them, so I don’t blame her. (She’s wears her Michelangelo PJs now).

Princess PJs with cousins and aunt.

There was Rinda trying out surfing for the first time and loving it, and looking natural as she did it. She was surfing. I saw her. She was also crashing and getting enveloped in massive waves, but she was surfing and she was happy.

The babe and the waves.

There was my family’s gift to my dad: an authentic Indian headdress (my dad’s been known to dress up) and the photo of him wearing it, sitting in front of Claire’s teepee.

Chief Wanna-Hawk-A-Loogie.

Truth be told, there were a lot of things, but the number one reason this vacation was SO incredible was that it was simple. I know, I know. Getting people from all over the country to San Diego, existing in one small space, avoiding contention is not simple, but once we were there, it was. We didn’t try to cram too much into the time we had. There were options presented everyday but almost always we chose to hang around the beach house so we could hit the beach. If we got too tired or too cold, we could just go back and relax with a bunch of people we like being around.

We walked the boardwalk (whatever it’s called in the west), saw sea lions, ate plenty of nearby Mexican food, and so much more. Beach, house, beach, house. No stressful or long days away. It was miraculous. Oh, and Claire, with her cousins to convince her, actually got in the water and loved it, and Abigail, her cousin, who wouldn’t step off the beach towel previous to this trip for fear of the sand decided playing and covering her entire body in sand was a fun, good idea.

Oh, did I forget to mention: it was in the 70s the entire time! Heaven my dear Watson, heaven.

The Moral Of The Story

Needless to say, the moral of the story is this: food, fun, good people, that’s a recipe for a great time. Thanks mom and dad for putting this trip together (and paying for the beach house) and thanks family for being family.

Until next time.

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We’re All Confused Children That Need Help

I’m not old. I’m only 28, soon to be 29. And while my sense of humor may suggest otherwise, I’m not (and I don’t feel like) a child—at least not usually. For me, and for all of us I assume, there are moments in life that the inexplicable happens, moments where our limited experience in this thing we called existence leaves us unprepared or incapable of understanding the pain and confusion that surrounds us.

For My Wife It Was Five Years Ago This Sunday

We had only been dating a couple of months. I will never forget the moment she heard the news. We were driving in her car along a windy road. It was night. It was dark. She received a phone call and, being overcome with emotion, had to pull over. She stepped outside and started pacing in front of the car, back and forth, cutting through the glow of her headlights. I stayed inside. I wanted to give her some space. From the call I knew that someone had died but I didn’t know who. After she hung up the phone she collapsed in the street. I ran to her. I sat on the pavement with her. When she had recomposed a bit we got back into her car. I drove. I kept my eyes on the road as she whimpered in the passenger seat. Her father had died. He was young too.

We spent that night on the couch. Me sitting up, awake, comforting her in any way I could (there was no real way to comfort her), and her laying on my knee. She would sporadically wake up, cry, and then fall asleep again. Her tears wet my jeans.

It was then that I knew I loved her—which surprised me. Despite only knowing her for a matter of months I knew that if she were to ever experience something as heart-wrenching or confusing as this again, I wanted to be the one to comfort her. It may have been the only thing I knew in that moment but I knew, like I know the sun will rise each morning, that if the frustration and pain of the world left her defenseless, like a child, I wanted to be her defense. As weak and pathetic as I am, I wanted to protect her, to care for her.

For My Two-Year-Old Daughter It Was Yesterday

It was around 3:15 in the morning when my wife and I heard the small, confused voice of our small child. “Mommy, mommy, help.” She had thrown up in her crib. We had just gotten over a 24-hour bug and now she had it. If I could make it so, I would have a world where children never get ill. They don’t understand it. Their experience rejects it. Never have I felt more helpless than when my little girl is sick or sad. Never have I loved her more.

Throughout the night she would jump to her knees and cry out “mommy” or “daddy.” We’d hold a small metal bowl in front of her and she would throw up it in again and again. After she’d finished she’d curl up in a ball. She took turns snuggling up so close to my wife and I that we were nearly falling off the bed. We didn’t sleep. She never cried. She handled it like a champ but I could tell she was sad. Her eyes betrayed her sweet nature. She was frightened and no “It’s going to be okay” or “I love you” spoken softly by my wife or I chased the pains in her stomach away.

The first real food she ate was a small piece of a banana. As she was chewing it she said, “oh mommy, it tastes so good.” She threw it up. At dinner she begged and begged for some bread. We finally caved in and gave her a small piece. She ate it like the characters in the movies, who have not had a meal in a long time, eat their food.

This morning she woke up at 6:00. She felt better. She wouldn’t stop talking about food. Like a little hobbit she was listing everything she wanted to eat: milk, bread with jam, scrambled eggs, tomatoes. It broke my heart to hear it. She didn’t understand why she had to go hungry for so long. My saint of a wife made her a feast of all her requested food. She devoured it.

For Me It’s Every Time…

For me I feel lost, confused, and in pain every time I’m called to be the protector, the defender, the care-giver to someone else who is scared and unsure. I feel like a child when my own wife or daughter need me to be a man, an adult. It’s then that my experience fails me. It’s then that my existence comes full circle. And then that I’m grateful to know that I, too, am a lost child. I’m grateful to know I have a Heavenly Father that knows how to comfort me, protect me, care for me.

Who or what has helped you when you’re confused or in pain?

 

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