I Love Chicago, but Oh, How He Loves Us!

Thanks to a dear friend’s initiative and a stellar husband’s acquiescence, I was granted a girls’ weekend to Chicago to celebrate my aging process. Flying into my favorite city, I realized that the longer I live elsewhere, the more that our living there becomes a memory. In the short visit, I was immediately reminded of all the things I loved. When my friends asked me to pick where to eat knowing my love for food, I honestly said it did not matter to me. I just wanted to be with them. Talk about changing as a person! The various spots they chose (Batter & Berries, Wasabi, Avec, & Urban Belly) happily treated my taste buds even if at times there was an hour wait for it. Chicago may have countless delicious eating options including numerous BYOB choices, but it also has a long wait if you cannot make reservations. Is there even a place with an hour wait in Albuquerque? Even if that were so, at least there would be warm sunshine instead of cold drizzle while you stood outside hoping to win the lottery hear your party called.

I did choose one thing: afternoon tea at The Langham Hotel. The Langham was not around when we were Chicagoans but took over the bottom portion of the Mies van der Rohe building that formerly housed IBM. In a way, it was a belated celebration for two friends, one who finished her Ph.D. and and the other becoming an R.N. Knowing this, Joe, with whom I made the reservation, gave us complimentary champagne. When it comes to the best afternoon teas in the city, most people refer to The Drake and The Peninsula. This is a more hidden gem but equally delicious with impeccable service and a luxurious atmosphere.

Unfortunately I was only able to connect with a small handful of friends given the time constraints and lack of car, but those connections were so fulfilling. It is freeing to be with people whose love is unconditional. Some are so similar to you that all your filters can be completely and freely removed; others are so different that you know the power of that faith that binds you.

One night, my homegirls had dinner just like old times. It had been awhile since I had tears in my eyes from bellyaching laughter. In the same evening, the conversation that gave me the best abdominal workout ever also went real enough to have tears for other reasons. I appreciate friends who do not shy away from confrontation because they fear being uncomfortable or their desire to be liked is too strong. Rather, they love one another enough to say those hard words face-to-face. I personally think it is very rare, and I truly treasure those who will tell each other what they NEED to hear, not want they want to hear.

I loved being back at my Chicago church: hugging my former family of faith, seeing their growing children and new babies, and being deafened by my pastor shouting those words I may not want to hear but NEED to hear. (If you want to hear your kids say, “Mama, turn it down!” and be blessed, I suggest you watch his current series on the Ten Commandments here.)

What a difference two and a half years make! I was in the same exact church, singing the same exact song, crying the same exact ugly cry but feeling entirely different. Afterwards, when she could not help but notice my stoicism defeated by snot and tears, my dear friend asked, “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?” She was precisely right. Last time I was in that scenario, I could not sing the words to “How He Loves” because I was weeping over my husband being robbed of the ability to see the beauty of those words. I wrote about it then here. I wasn’t crying just because of flashbacks to the trauma of that time. I was also crying because I could now see the undeniable truth of those words even in the midst of that most difficult time: HOW HE LOVES US. He loves us enough to do not what we (think we) want but what we truly NEED.

We were forced to leave the city we loved with all its yummy food, beautiful architecture, and our deeply rooted community while our family was facing its most difficult time. It was traumatic. I was reminded of all that we had lost. Yet here we are in the peaceful, scenic, perpetually sunny city of Albuquerque where we are deepening in our appreciation of ALL that we have gained.

The boys and I were talking about what they learned at church here while I was gone. Connor dutifully recited the lesson that sometimes God stretches us to make us stronger. We talked about what “stretching” means. Although Ethan knew that it could mean experiencing difficulty, he did not think it made him stronger. He talked about how being sick was so hard. As a result he feels scared and anxious about getting sick. He prays daily that God will keep him from throwing up again EVER. “Ethan,” I told him, “I notice that when we pray every night for our friends who are fighting cancer that you not only ask God to heal them, but lately you have also added that He keep them from throwing up and feeling so sick while they get their medicine. Your prayers have become stronger for them. You understand what it feels like to be so sick and your compassion for them has grown.” He nodded as his definition of strength expanded.

How He loves us enough to stretch us. Though it may be difficult to see in that moment or even after the moment has passed, I know that God is trustworthy and that His enormous love undergirds us in every sweet and difficult time of our lives.

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School Projects = Parent Projects (Let’s Be Real)

Having a sick kid at home gives me the chance to catch up here. It is probably better than feeding parental paranoia that has me on the internet looking up Ebola, enteroviruses, and last night’s newest discovery, Periodic Fever Syndrome.

Connor’s first grade class celebrated the annual New Mexico state fair by holding different fair-related things in school. For example, one day the kids had to bring in something to exhibit (a favorite collection, a baked good, a craft, etc.). Connor at first wanted to bring in his bottle cap collection. However, seeing that all his caps were from Daddy’s cold brews, I gently suggested he choose something more kid-appropriate. He happily brought in one of many Lego creations.

The biggest project was that they had to make a state fair ride. The instructions were given at least a week or two in advance, but of course I found myself two days beforehand remembering that this massive project was due. In my defense, we had my entire side of the family visiting during that time. Connor had wanted to make something out of marshmallows but being an unprepared, slacker mom, I had none in the house. I put on my best MacGyver thinking cap (minus the mullet) and miraculously came up with an idea using materials we already had in the house. What do we have an endless supply of in the Beckett home (besides beer bottle caps)? Wine corks!

My sister-in-law who was one of the family visiting us during this time was a former national officer of the FFA (Future Farmers of America). State fairs are her thing, and my brother mentioned in passing that they made sure to participate in our state fair here the right way (all the things having to do with agriculture) versus the wrong way (rickety rides that can detract people from the true purpose). Oops. I guess the Beckett family had been doing it the wrong way. Somehow thinking of what to do with an abundance of wine corks and trying to focus on the agricultural aspect combined in my mullet-less MacGyver mind as …. a pony ride!

During this family visit, my Mom was here and performed reparative surgery on Connor’s precious stuffed dinosaur, Baby. Baby had 3 gaping holes that threatened to make him flat as a pancake if all the stuffing escaped. I found a neglected sewing kit in the dark recesses of my closet that I had used that one time I replaced a button back in the Victorian Age. The boys wisely suggested I let Grandma handle the sewing. In other words, they did not trust their beloved stuffed animal in Mama’s incapable hands. MacGyver Mama did remember that there were unused pins in that dusty kit whose likelihood to be used in their intended way had worse odds than the Cubs winning the World Series. What better way to save them from such a wasted fate than make them into pony legs!

Behold: a sewing kit in my house!

Behold: a sewing kit in my house!

Grandma performing sewing surgery on Baby.

Grandma performing surgery on Baby.

My Easter dinner fiasco of 2013 did leave me with a lifetime (for someone like me) supply of kitchen twine that would be perfect for connecting the ponies to the center cork stand. A random handful of paper clips and twisty ties helped make the heads and tails. The lid from a take out container was rescued from our recycling pile to be the top cover with the help of some red construction paper from our art scraps. Cardboard from a box from Costco would be the bottom. After piecing together one sample pony, I showed Connor. He was game, and we went for it. He put it together and was satisfied with his very homemade-looking project. It would never make it on Pinterest in a million years, but for this non-crafty mom, I felt like how MacGyver did after saving lives by diffusing a bomb with only a paper clip: miraculous!

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How does it work? “A guy screams go and they go.”

Our upcycled project somehow managed to make it to the exhibit time but then shortly after crumbled to the pile of scraps it was meant to be. Just like that our glorious (precarious) creation was demolished in a split second probably when someone sneezed in its general direction. It just made me glad that we did not spend two weeks poking toothpicks into marshmallows to make a magnificent structure worthy of the front page of Parenting magazine. I am also even more impressed with the kids whose fellow homemade-looking projects were truly their own.  The minds of some 6 and 7 year olds put my MacGyver mind to shame! In that sense, these projects are definitely worth the extreme anxiety attacks they induce in Mamas like me. Now we know why there is an endless supply of corks here: school project assignments!

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In New York

My brother had the superb idea to gift my mom with a trip to the U.S. Open for her 70th birthday. We grew up with tennis fanatics who cheered on the greats through decades of grand slams. My fond memories growing up include our family doubles matches, and my mom continues to play weekly with her tennis ladies. Because my brother and I married the most selfless spouses ever, we were able to join my parents on the trip while Peter’s wife Robin & my husband Mike stayed back with our kids. (We obviously married the most awesome spouses in the universe.)

Mike even let me go early to spend time with one of my dearest friends, Lisa. We spent the first day walking around the city. I loved just being in the big metropolis; it made me realize how much I miss the urban scene. Some may think the concrete jungle is a place where they could never live, but I was soaking in the city life with deep appreciation. I breathed in the constant activity, the wide diversity of people where every walk of life can feel they can fully be themselves in a city large enough to handle it, the extensive public transportation, the countless choices of restaurants and the reminder that your life is but one of millions.

We walked across the iconic Brooklyn bridge, a beautiful structure with picturesque views:
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We passed Lady Liberty in the distance. May we not forget her timeless words:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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Street dancers doing their thing:
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My 3rd cup of caffeine to combat the effects of a red-eye flight was from Blue Bottle Coffee. I loved these windows along the High Line park (former elevated tracks converted into public park space). I especially loved the iced coffee on tap.
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I miss impressive architecture like this Lower Manhattan building by Frank Gehry:
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We walked EVERYWHERE which was possible due to hidden parks like these whose soothing fountains and random violinists provided a welcome respite for our tired feet:
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After a full day of exploring the city, we headed back across the bridge and enjoyed this evening skyline view:
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My family arrived the next day and we met up near Broadway for dinner and a show, Motown the Musical. It was probably the most fun musical I have watched, and the highest review one could give it was that my dad did NOT fall asleep.
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Yes, we were dripping with sweat from the hot sun beating down on us during mid-day matches, but being at the U.S. Open to watch my mom’s favorite sport live and in person was a great experience. We got to see the top players in action: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Jo-Wilifred Tsonga, Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Stan Wawrinka, and Victoria Azarenka. As amazing as it was to watch these athletes dance on the court, my favorite match was on the smaller court 17 with the unseeded American mixed doubles team. We wanted to cheer them on especially 18 y/o Taylor Townsend who hails from Chicago’s south side. It was such an intimate setting that I am pretty sure she heard me shout, “Chicago in the house!” :) The crowd was fully invested in this match, and one lady nearby spontaneously nicknamed our girl Tay-Dawn which caught on with other spectators in our enthusiastic audience. They won a close match, and my brother Peter caught one of their autographed tennis balls Donald Young hit into the crowd. Our fellow Tay-Dawn fans joked with him that he deserved it for cheering well but if he was done with it they would gladly take it from him now.
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Our family stayed near the tournament in the Flushing/Queens area which meant we were in little Asia. Not only were we surrounded by our peeps, but we also had a multitude of glorious food options none of us have in our own towns. We ate delicious Korean food twice. We had Chinese-Korean style food including this cold jellyfish salad with hundred year egg that I photographed for my husband who would have loved the availability of less common foods:
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We had a dim sum feast that started with these staples:
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We also had our fill of Asian style bakeries:
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The last day my parents left after breakfast, but Peter and I headed back to Manhattan. We would have liked to have met up with my friend Eddie who unfortunately was sick, but were glad to have followed his suggestion to eat at the quintessential New York deli, Katz. We had the famous pastrami and the Reuben. IMG_6148

We went to the World Trade Center and visited the new 9/11 Memorial Museum.
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In the midst of the hustle and bustle, I was able to see extended family (my cousin Bomyee) and precious folks I knew from college (Lisa), from St. Louis (Sunny), and from Chicago (Linda & Christine). Life has blessed me with so many treasured friendships over the cities and years, and it is always great to catch up in person. It made me even more thankful that my parents were able to do the same with their friend, Mrs. Jo, whom they have known since before I was born. As my friend Lisa and I were reflecting that we have known each other for 21 years of life’s ups and downs, my mom and Mrs. Jo have been sharing that bond for double the time. It was lovely listening to them reminisce and have Mrs. Jo tell Peter and me that there are very few people about whom she can say she feels completely comfortable with and my parents are among that cherished handful.

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Mom and Mrs. Jo catching up on the streets of Flushing, NY

Overall it was such a wonderful trip filled with the comforts of city life. It sounds strange to describe crowded, hot subways and tough attitudes as comforting but for me that is exactly what it was. My muscles were happily sore from so much walking around the easily accessible city. Every location has its advantages and disadvantages. It is a gift to be able to experience so many different places and adapt to appreciate all each has to offer. I will always LOVE the large city. New York definitely made me feel brand new. ;) Yet as I type this, I am enjoying the peaceful serenity of the Sandia Mountains. In some ways, I find the comforts of home while simultaneously homesick for what is lacking in every setting. Ultimately no matter where I am, I am thankful that home is truly where my 3 guys are and that God gives the grace to grow us all in whatever setting He has chosen for us in each season.

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“Mourn with Those Who Mourn”

A mother buried her son today;
No words can take that pain away.

Choir voices sang so sweet and strong,
Some preached a figurative call to arms.

All the while she rocked slightly to and fro,
To the quiet rhythms of a mother’s woe.

In their fold she didn’t ask to be
With Sybrina, Lucia, Wanda … Mamie.

In the world outside are raging divides,
Politics collide in hateful diatribes.

Helpless and scared to help most others know
Taboo topics discussed can bring healing, make whole.

Promises to Keep I read to my son
History retold and when Joe Louis won,

A moment treasured when I saw his spark
He gets it a little; it’s a good start.

My hope to fulfill the motherly call:
Raise sons who have understanding for all.

A mother buried her son today;
No words can take that pain away.

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Day Trip to Taos

In the 23 months that we have lived in Albuquerque, our family has enjoyed exploring the natural beauty of our surroundings. Here in town, we have hiked the foothills and taken the tram to the Sandia peak many times, viewed the ancient Petroglyphs, and walked along the Rio Grande. Just outside the ABQ, we have visited Acoma Pueblo’s Sky City, Bandelier National Monument on our first Santa Fe getaway, and Tent Rocks National Monument with dear friends from Chicago. Downstate we have sledded down White Sands National Monument and descended into Carlsbad Caverns. Just across the state borders we have walked through the Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon and red rocks of Sedona, Arizona, as well as climbed the Colorado mountains in Durango.

Jumping for joy at White Sands National Monument

Jumping for joy at White Sands National Monument

Living here has produced in us a sense of adventure that begs to be satisfied by the numerous outdoor options at our disposal. When faced with an open weekend, our restless spirits long for new explorations. No doubt this is a result of living in the Southwest. Had we still been in Chicago, we would have been more than satisfied with staying put. Our adventures would have mostly been in the creative culinary world of Chi-town. Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale alone would have filled this past weekend for me! Much to our budget’s delight, we have traded our shopping and eating for breath-taking views and hiking. This time we decided to head north to Taos.

Saturday morning was drizzly and dreary. We knew we were risking a rainy day that could foil all our outdoor plans. We packed a kimbap lunch and determinedly headed out. Driving out of the city, I took it as a good sign that the bison on Sandia Pueblo’s buffalo preserve made an appearance and the Beastie Boys’ “Paul Revere” was playing on the radio. Mike did not seem impressed that I could still correctly rap 90% of those unwholesome lyrics, but I knew it was going to be a great day right then and there.

As if to challenge that positive prediction, we saw many of these signs the closer we got to our destination:
I have seen those signs before even in Ohio where I grew up. However, interspersed among the many warnings were actual rocks IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD. With all the recent rainfall our state has had, there was also evidence of mudslides that we had to veer around to avoid. I found myself talking to God somewhat earnestly. We continued to where all other traffic and signs of life ceased to exist as the pavement turned to dirt gravel and the road was so bumpy that we felt like we were riding on a jack hammer. Not only that, we were climbing up a steep mountainside with NO RAILING. I could not even look out my window at this point and God heard from me A LOT.

Finally we made it to the top and then to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. We enjoyed our lunch overlooking the steel beauty.
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Then we ventured across the bridge.

View of the Rio Grande from the bridge

View of the Rio Grande from the bridge

The sidewalk was only 2-people wide, but Ethan found himself more often walking closer to the road than the railing. He said, “I just discovered that I’m afraid of heights!” It was definitely daunting being up there; I found myself weak in the knees at different times. Connor, on the other hand, was jumping up and down, sticking his feet through the railing and trying to climb up so that Ethan and I were constantly telling him to stop.

Ethan discovers his fear of heights

Ethan discovers his fear of heights

I felt queasy taking this pic of Mike on the middle lookout

I felt queasy taking this pic of Mike on the middle lookout

From there we drove to Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. We stopped at the Wild Rivers Visitor’s Center where a kind grandmotherly volunteer gave us a map of the area. She pointed out the most popular stopping point, the La Junta overlook. When Mike asked if the kids could do the trail there, she said without hesitation that it would be too hard for them. We decided to stop for the view anyways.

Overlook of where the Red River & Rio Grande merge

Overlook of where the Red River & Rio Grande merge

We went to look at the difficult La Junta trail. It was a steep 800 feet zig-zag descent into the gorge. It starts where we were and ends where the rivers meet (see above picture). The only siding was at the very beginning where a tiny rock wall as tall as Connor’s knees would still not prevent a topple down to death.

At the beginning of the trail

At the beginning of the trail

We started to walk down a little ways until all sidings disappeared and the trail’s danger forced Mike to scout ahead. He returned agreeing with the grandmother that this trail was probably not safe or doable for the boys. Connor and Ethan loudly protested. They insisted they really wanted to hike it knowing it would be difficult. How could we stifle their adventurous spirits? Even with the possibility that we would be carrying them back up, we decided to honor their admirable (or crazy) desire to try.

There were times Ethan held my hand and Mike forced Connor to hold his. There were times each of us slipped a little. There were times Ethan sincerely stated variations of this sentiment, “I hope we make it out alive!”

Just inches away from death off a cliff. The trail ends where the rivers meet.

Just inches away from death off a cliff.

We all had long sleeves and pants in anticipation of a cloudy, rainy day. It was sunny and warm. Ethan was determined to go all the way to the river because he wanted to dunk his sweaty head in it. However, when we got to the river’s edge, I would not allow the boys that dunking. Most parents would probably tell their kids to be careful near the strong current of rapids. My dramatic self had to shout, “IF YOU FALL IN, YOU WILL DIE!!” They had to go one at a time just to wet their hands and wash their faces in the cool water while Mike held firmly onto them. We sat respectfully by the Red River and let the loud sound of its rushing waters quiet our souls while we rested.

The rapids are deafening here and heard even from the top.

The rapids are deafeningly loud yet calming here.

Two GoGurts and apple squeezers later, we started the real challenge of going the 1.2 miles back UP. Staring at the top of the gorge from where we were, I seriously wondered how we were going to make it back. To add to my paranoia, there was no cell service in the entire area so we could not call for help if anything happened. We told the boys that we would stop and take a break at every shaded area. Every other shaded area would be our water break. Some may think the boys slowed us down, but they actually allowed us to soak in the beauty more. Connor was amazed at the roots of this tall tree at one shade stop back up the steep climb.

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Majestic trees like these are less seen in our desert neighborhood.

At another point we saw two soaring birds flying near us. They were probably circling us and thinking, ‘There is our dinner once those losers die trying to get back.’ Even if they were hungry predators, they were gracefully beautiful.

They flew close enough to grant us spectacular views of them.

They flew close enough to grant us spectacular views of their soaring bodies.

With about a third of the way left, we noticed dark storm clouds gathering by the trailhead. At first Ethan thought it would feel great to get rained on until Mike said the lightning would not be so great. Ethan then wondered aloud if it would be better to die by burning in a lightning-induced wildfire or plummeting to death off the side of the cliff. With such pleasant thoughts in mind, we tried to make those shade stops a little shorter.

Finally, we finished! I was so impressed by these little guys who braved against the odds and conquered a difficult trail. That incline up was no joke, and they hardly complained as they breathed heavily and commented on their rapid heart rates.

Hiking champs!

So proud of these hiking champs!

While we were driving out of the park, the ominous clouds delivered their promise and water drenched the whole region. We were thanking the Good Lord for the perfect timing. During the drive into downtown Taos, the boys were completely silent having no energy for their usual lively banter. At Doc Martin’s inside the historic Taos Inn, Mike and I rewarded ourselves with a draft pint and glass of red. I inhaled the entire plate of my blue corn crusted chile rellenos platter. It may have been my first time wearing yoga pants and workout clothes out to dinner, but that elastic waistband sure came in handy. Mike devoured his rabbit and rattlesnake sausage dish. The boys’ reward was their after-dinner apple-blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream. We drove back to Albuquerque fully satiated. During the vast open stretch between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, Ethan was psyched to see the Big Dipper brightly within reach outside his car window.

Doc's blue corn-crusted chile rellenos

Doc’s blue corn-crusted chile rellenos

Mike summed up the day by saying we almost died several times. Our bodies were exhausted. We bonded with nature. We surprised ourselves with what we could endure. We saw gorgeous new sites. In other words, it was a great day.

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Intentional Reading

One of our cherished summer rituals is the boys’ and my weekly trip to the public library. They get their reading logs stamped for a new prize. Ethan quickly gathers an armload of books whose heavy weight challenges his walk back to the car. Not wanting to struggle in the same way, Connor only grabs a short stack. I dutifully supplement with a handful of my own choices for him and maybe one for his brother that covers subject matter other than Star Wars and dinosaurs.

This summer I have been much more intentional about what I choose for them. Last year it came to my attention that only 6 percent of children’s books published in 2012 featured diverse characters. For our first trip to the library this summer, I went equipped with a list from NPR’s Mind Shift blog post: “25 Books That Diversify Kids’ Reading Lists This Summer.” Ever since then, I have found myself following the same pattern almost without thought. I really did not need to have a proposed list in hand. The books are there; I just needed to be a little intentional in my search.

Over the past month and a half, the boys and I have enjoyed numerous books that have broadened our horizons in subtle but sure ways. The kids may not recognize it, but I sense the widening of our minds in the stories that are authored by marginalized voices or feature characters that are less represented in mainstream society. It is especially heart-warming to be able to read a story that resonates into our personal experience. When we read Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan, we could think about making mandoo with Grandma Kim and hear Korean words in the landscape of that activity. What may seem strange and awkward to the many peers around them was validated and normalized by virtue of the printed words and illustrations on their laps.

We do not just get books by or about Koreans. First of all, we would have probably been finished by now in terms of how many are out there and readily available. More importantly, I want the boys to read about ALL cultures and perspectives. It’s the world we live in and the one I want them to be able to navigate with comfort, familiarity, and understanding.

When Ethan was born, we lived in a high-rise condo in downtown Chicago. Living there for his first two years of life definitely shaped him. He could sleep peacefully undisturbed in the constant cacophony of sirens and nearby L train tracks. He did not know how to climb stairs when visiting friends in the suburbs because he rode an elevator every day to go up and down. When we visited his grandparents in Michigan while he was finally walking on his own, he froze on their grassy lawn. The boy was freaked out by the texture and unsure of how to navigate on such an unfamiliar surface when he was usually surrounded by concrete. Adjustments came through our move out of downtown and natural exposure to other settings. Had he remained strictly in the confines of the urban jungle 24-7, his life experiences would have been limited. We love that he had that start for many reasons, but we also love that here he can see the stars on a clear, dark night and find countless creatures in the yard to observe. Books are just one means to expand the boys’ minds to life outside of their own somewhat broad but still limited experience. I feel a deep commitment to expose them to the beautiful stars and interesting creatures outside their current realm.

The same goes for their mama. I have also gone searching for my summer reading along the library shelves with intention. Anyone who looks for reading in public libraries or used book stores knows that finding something may not come easily. It can be like combing through the clothing racks at Marshalls. Many days you may leave empty-handed, but once in a while you find a gem. This summer the library has been a treasure trove for me. I started with Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth written when women were expected to play hostess not win Pulitzer Prizes in literature. Then came Susan Choi’s American Woman whose Asian American authorship and main character resulted in a refreshing voice with whom I felt a kinship. Today I just finished Sharon Robinson’s Stealing Home. She shares the story of Jackie Robinson not just as the baseball legend but as her father in the intimacy of family. After personally encouraging the nine Little Rock teens who were being integrated into previously segregated high schools amidst harsh opposition, he explained this to his children.

“I suppose we all fear the unknown–the strange, the different. The natural fears of parents are made worse by ignorance, and unfortunately they pass them down to their children. In the process, the stories get more and more distorted and eventually become fact in the minds of the storyteller. The sad part for everyone is that prejudice prevents people from sharing their talents which could benefit the whole community. The only way racial discrimination can have a hope of being erased is through exposure. The more people understand each other the less they will fear the differences.”

It has been a pleasure exposing my kids to the relatively unknown and making it less different and strange in terms of their own contexts and the contexts of many others. Alone it may not bring complete understanding but joined with varied sources of exposure I hope my children will not only have that precious understanding but be the bridges to understanding for every community of which they are part. Tomorrow is library day. We are so excited to discover the treasures awaiting us.

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Neurotic Thoughts at the Amusement Park

What NOT to think about when spending the day at Cliff’s (Albuquerque’s local amusement park) with your family:

- Do you think they use clean water or recycle used water at the splash park aka Watermania? How many kids have peed going down the slide?

- Do you think they ever clean or sanitize the rides or slides? Wow, look at all the hundreds of hot, sweaty people with a wide variety of personal hygiene habits getting off and on the rides.

- Why can’t they get the ride Mike and the boys rode repeatedly last year open today? For some reason, try as they might for hours, they cannot get it to work the proper way. Just meditate on that for a minute.

- Why does the teenaged ride operator look very puzzled while trying to start the ride in which we are sitting? Should I feel worried that she has come over and unsuccessfully leaned into the main contraption that connects Connor and me to a drop of death? When her final lean of many somehow gets the ride in motion, should I be happy we are finally off or sad that we are now closer to death? Will my fake smile and forced, “WOOO!”‘s be convincing enough to keep my 6 year old from noticing his mother is scared out of her mind?

- Since Ethan got motion sickness on his very first ride and subsequently refused to ride most others out of grave fear of queasiness, does this mean he will live his entire life missing out on fun because he is paralyzed by the fearful negativity of one quick moment? Will he be a teenager still hanging on tightly and teased by a toddler whose hands are raised up because his cautious spirit never finds release? Where does he get this paranoia from, really? ;)

- Are the guaranteed prizes even worth the extra price we paid to play the games? By playing a game without a guaranteed prize, are we like those who spend the night in the casinos deceived by the hopes of winning that one in a zillion jackpot? Are the chances better at the slot machines than this elusive ring toss? Even the game operator looked genuinely surprised when one extremely lucky person actually ringed a bottle and perpetuated the draw of the impossible for all passersby.

- How safe are these rickety rides anyway? Is this considered high-risk behavior? Fortunately this day was BEFORE a roller coaster jumped the track in California. Thanks to CNN’s report on that incident, I now know that from 1990 to 2010 there were 92,000 children injured on amusement park rides. Lovely.

- Did this slow train just go around the entire park in a short 15 minutes? Is that really the entire park? Did we just pay $25 for a park smaller than the super Wal-Mart? No, thankfully, we did not. There are always discount coupons out there, and we used one to get 50% off. But I do think the local Lowe’s is slightly bigger. Maybe the kids can just ride a forklift there for free next time.

Rather than dwell on the 4,000 ride-related injuries a year and risk fulfilling the worries I have about my older son missing out on fun due to living in fear, I will most likely go back with another discounted ticket next year. Maybe Ethan’s queasiness fears will have subsided by then. Maybe the image of blackened water when I washed my hands and feet after we got home will have faded away. Maybe I will recall that the chances of ride-related serious injury are really 1 in 24 million. In other words, I have more chances of winning an oversized unicorn at the ring toss than falling to my death at the hands of a teenager-operated ride. Plus, in the end, we enjoyed quality family time having fun together with all the other hot, sweaty germ-infested people there. I (think I) was glad that I decided to spend the day with my Beckett crew instead of shopping or going to the spa or reading in my cozy (safe) chair. Everyone should engage in something that makes them slightly queasy, shouting “Woooo!” and taking a one in a million chance. Everyone should live a little, especially with the people they love the most. I can guarantee I will again but probably not for another 11 months from now. :)

Their joy is healing and contagious (in a good way).

Their joy is healing and contagious (in a good way).

 

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