Summer 2017

The boys and I enjoy looking at Facebook’s “On This Day” feature to see posts from the past. When there’s a video of them as preschoolers dancing in my parents’ kitchen or saying their bedtime prayers as toddlers, it helps me to remember how quickly time flies, to savor each day, and try not to waste as much energy yelling or allowing the insignificant too much space. Ethan also reads past blog posts that pop up on that feature and enjoys strolling down memory lane, so much so that he asked me to write an entry about our summer.

This blog does not get as much activity anymore. Maybe it’s a sign of the times that I have less inspiration and desire to take the time to sit, think, write, and read; I extend that lack of desire to others. If it’s not a quick picture on Instagram or a short tweet, it may never be consumed. Yet after Ethan’s request came again, I realized that these posts are not for consumption. They are for our own remembering: recording the present so that one day in the future we can look back on the past and relive the many blessings (ups and downs) of our fleeting life and give thanks for all of them…even the minutia. So 20 year-old Ethan, this is my little gift for you. Be sure to return the favor and call your dear old mama after you reminisce about your 11 year-old self’s summer.

Act 1: Camp

For the first time, both boys went to a week long sleep-away church camp. Even knowing they would be with friends, I was nervous about signing them up and couldn’t sleep the night I registered them. There were many fervent prayers surrounding the decision. Then, by the time camp actually rolled around, this (3 weeks into summer break) mama was READY. Mike and I had an enjoyable date WEEK, and the boys (who had some anxiety beforehand) had a blast…without any electronics…who knew that could happen?! They came home tired from fun and wanting to go again next summer. This is the beginning of a beautiful tradition.

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Happy campers driving back home after a week away. Connor had BBQ sauce on his face from dinner the night before. He may have brushed his teeth a couple times that week, who knows.

Act 2: Midwest Tour

For those like us who do not live near any family, it is a precious thing to be able to spend face-to-face time together though living thousands of miles apart. We try to make it home at least once a year. We typically fly in and out of Chicago where we lived the first 8 years of our marriage, and then drive all across the Midwest to visit family. This year we started in Michigan where my mother-in-law lives.

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Blueberry picking in Michigan is a favorite summer tradition.


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We love the free Kalamazoo Valley Museum. We love our mom/grandma. Boys still love dinosaurs which was the special exhibit this time. Win x 3!

Then we hit Chicago where Mike grew up and the boys were born. Sigh. Just driving through the city streets made me emotional with all the wonderful memories flooding my mind. There is never enough time to see all the people we love and miss, but this time we did have a little longer visit for being what we have finally come to realize we literally are now…tourists.

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Connor’s first MLB game (also Ethan’s first back in the day) was at Wrigley which has changed since we left making it an even greater place to watch some baseball, especially when the Cubbies win! It was nice walking there from our friend Sora’s lakeside condo.


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Connor learned about architect Frank Lloyd Wright last school year and requested a tour of the Robie House in Hyde Park. I love that our interests are overlapping! We all learned a lot.


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We used to spend many days of free fun at Millennium Park, and it was nice to return. Cloud Gate never gets old.


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They still love splashing around Crown Fountain.


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Lincoln Park Zoo was another free favorite. This time we got to see it with friends: the dear Kaisers visiting from Zambia and our beloved Hongs. A leopard is lying in the background, not quite as exciting as walking and petting a cheetah in Zambia. ūüôā


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These kids aren’t related by blood, but they will be in lifelong relationship because their moms are sisters from another mister. We’re thankful that they let their casa be our Chicago casa.

Last year the boys and I discovered the Hamilton soundtrack, like much of crazed America and the world. On the morning of our anniversary in March, I opened my card from Mike to see a surprise – he had bought Hamilton tickets for the 4 of us for that summer. Turns out he had purchased them back in the beginning of January. We have been anxiously awaiting July 12th for many long months.

I will never forget my very first musical experience. It was when I was in middle school, attending a CTD camp at Northwestern, and got the chance to go with my floor mates and our counselors to downtown Chicago to see the new broadway sensation, Les Miserables. My small town self had never heard of it, but I can still remember all my senses being completely overwhelmed from our balcony seats. I fell in love almost 30 years ago and have never fallen out of it. I was so excited to be able to share my boys’ very first broadway musical experience with them, also in Chicago, also in balcony seats, and also with a soundtrack that they have already committed to memory. They were sleep-deprived from 5 nights in a row of late night sleepovers with different friends, but they were still leaning forward in their seats. There is a reason for all the buzz, and I’m so grateful we got to experience it ourselves.

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HAMILTON! HAMILTON! HAMILTON! And how fun that we ran into the Dodson family afterwards to which the boys heard Mike say, “Great minds think alike.”

Next stop was Indianapolis where my brother and his family live. The boys would have been happy just hanging out with their two cousins but also got treated to super fun things like the JCC swimming park, an outdoor symphony concert John Williams Strikes Back, and a minor league baseball game whose theme was Star Wars and Legos. It’s like Indy knew we were coming! I was glad to be able to attend the monthly diversity discussion meeting at their church. It was a treat for me to meet many of the people who have greatly impacted my brother and sister-in-law just by being in genuine relationship with them. At the meeting, I was happy to share my own testimony of how God brought about a heart for racial unity within His body. It is exciting to see what He will continue to do with this group.

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Pre-concert fun with many Star Wars characters and light saber lessons.

We all then drove to Cincinnati to meet up with my parents. Not living in the area I grew up in means that moments like these stand out, where I get to witness my own kids doing the very things I did as a child. Going to the Kings Island amusement park is one of those fond childhood memories that I get to relive with them. My brother and I used to ride the  Racer repeatedly, and this year my boys and their cousin Thomas did the same thing. Of course, now after so many decades, we realized that those old wooden roller coasters are rickety enough to give one a major headache. For memory’s sake, I not only rode it, but taunted my children whose blue racer car lost to my red racer car. It had to be done.

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Great day with the whole family minus Mike who sadly had to return to Tucson after Chicago.


My dad enjoyed riding rides with us when we were kids. Decades later he still enjoys this time with his grandkids. We 3 were the only ones who knew the proper way to ride the Woodstock Express, yo.

After a couple nights in Cincinnati, the boys and I followed my parents back to West Virginia to stay at their home for a few days. It was short but always sweet to be with my folks, enjoying mom’s homemade kimchi and mandoo (Korean dumplings), talking with them at the kitchen table until time escapes us all, and letting the boys get spoiled rotten by their too willing grandparents.

Act 3: Home Hot Home

We had an awesome three weeks away, but we also enjoyed our time at home. One of the highlights was The Loft Cinema which is a nonprofit local cinema and Tucson gem. What else to do when it’s 110 degrees outside but watch a movie! But not just any movie. The boys’ first exposure to the Loft was attending the family night of the Social Justice Summer series. (Social Justice Summer series! Every movie had a guest or panel for discussions afterwards. This theater was where Mike and I got to hear and meet Clint Smith speak on his Counting Descent tour. I highly recommend that book of poetry; it is short but deep.) It was a collection of Middle Eastern short films telling the stories of children. I will never forget the last film documenting the experience of a Syrian refugee boy. When he was reunited with his parents after an agonizing year apart, I looked over and saw Connor wiping tears from his eyes. Our hearts were breaking together; I hope that expanse of humanity lasts a lifetime.

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“Cinema is an empathy machine…”

We also took advantage of their annual kids film festival. Every day there were free film screenings with free popcorn, pre-show activities, and giveaways. We saw Disney’s Oceans documentary with some friends. I also made my boys go see Akeelah and the Bee because I wanted to see it. We only did 2 movies, but it is nice to have this option not only during their summer festival but different family films throughout the year.

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Kids Film Festival is a great community tradition.

We also just did everyday normal things like go to the library (after which they would read for hours, and I had to peel them off the couch which is both annoying and glorious), swim in the pool, and have yelling competitions (well, not intentionally but that’s sometimes how it goes with brothers and their mom spending 24/7 together).

We also are trying to make the most of our last days with friends who will sadly be leaving the area soon. The Shins arrived for their temporary year placement around the same time we were new to Tucson. Mike and Jae went to college together and hadn’t seen each other since those days until they randomly connected in the parking lot at work. We have been blessed by their friendship and all agree with Ethan who told me recently, “I wish they would just move to Tucson permanently.”

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First time doing laser tag and will most likely not be the last. It was over $7 per kid for about 10 minutes of play. Do the math. I should open up a laser tag place. They wanted to do it again, but their moms had done the math.

Ethan, are you still reading? You, my son, have had a great summer. Now you will be starting MIDDLE SCHOOL in a few short days. EEK! Your reward for reading all these words to the end is me telling you how proud I am of you, your impeccable memory and appreciation of memories, your love for reading and appreciation of the magic of books, and that you are so serious about your school work that you did not want me to plan any play times with your friends because you need to be sure you get all your home work done. (I am still going to make you play with your friends.) You will no doubt do great in middle school so don’t be nervous. Just be yourself. (Well, not the self that likes to push your brother’s buttons, is particular about your stuff in your room, and does not like to leave the house even for fun things sometimes.) Be all the (other) traits you so perfectly hold that make us smile (and grimace but mostly smile) and beam with pride. You are incredibly precious, just like these summer memories.

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Summer Day 3

My kids are officially out of school, and we have almost survived our first week of summer break. Almost.

E-dogg finished his elementary school career (sniff, sniff) last week. Then for Memorial Day weekend, we rented a cabin with dear friends and had a blast enjoying the beauty of God’s creation, a little less time on our electronics, and great fellowship.

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S’mores & fire roasted Korean sweet potatoes


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Sedona


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Grand Canyon

This week the boys settled into their usual summer routine: a couple pages of workbooks, practicing piano, writing in a summer journal, rewarded iPad time, and a few hours of camp. My favorite by far is not camp (even though those hours of their activities and my peace are priceless) but the daily journal entries. I remember as a little girl writing in my Hello Kitty diary regularly; that habit stayed with me throughout adulthood. Despite the torture of my brother sneaking to read and then tease me about which boys I thought were cute, I still value the practice of documenting, processing, and reflecting. I also love the fact that I have a bin of journals somewhere that I can flip through and read about what was going on in my life during different stages and the introspection that accompanied those times. Honestly I don’t ever do that, but if I did I imagine it would take me to precious preserved memories and hopefully the evidence of growth and God’s faithfulness over the years.

I hope the same will be true for the boys. Maybe they will find an outlet for life’s ups and downs, treasured memories stored in their own writing, and some self-awareness. Or maybe they will just get some free entertainment, like their mama does now.

Day 2 in Connor’s 2017 summer journal started out so promising:

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I smiled as I read his, “I love summer.” I love summer, too! I no longer dread it like I did when they were younger, harder to manage, and wearing me out.

What a difference a day can make. It is only Day 3. It felt like they woke up on each others’ nerves which means they then promptly jumped on mine.

Ethan’s Day 3 with follow up close ups to fully appreciate the emotion:

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This so perfectly sums of Ethan’s existence. He enjoys science, he loves iPad, and he nags his brother to do his work so much that I rarely have to because big bro is constantly getting on little bro to “C, do your work!”

Connor’s Day 3 (pretty sure a big brother edited out “annoying” to replace with “cool” just to remind everyone that it does matter WHO gets to tell the stories that become our collective history):

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Let’s zoom in on big brother’s face, shall we?img_2989

These entries did not include the yelling, fighting, and tattling that also occurred on Day 3. Next week I gave them an off week with no camps at all. But I started searching for some last minute ones after this morning’s “fun.” They begged me to keep it open. After checking the wine fridge and making sure it was well-stocked, I agreed to their pleas. For now.

Some day years from now, the boys may look at these journals and remember the good times of summer, sibling squabbles, and poor penmanship. It is all a part of their childhood that even with the screams and fake crying are truly precious enough to preserve and cherish. Day 3, people. Only 72 more to go…

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Blooming in the DesertÔĽŅ

Last month, my morning walks with Harper became noticeably different. We live in the Sonoran desert, and it is as rugged and rough as one might imagine a desert to be. There are ominous prickly needles, not pleasant soft petals. It is no wonder so many analogies have the desert as a place of trial and hardship. Lush green landscapes or tropical rainforests represent the desirous places of rest and arrival, quite the opposite of our current landscape and setting. We definitely live in a dry and barren land.

But starting sometime in April, I would be hit in the face with the strong fragrance of Spring. It was unavoidable. It was delicious. It filled the wide open spaces of air with intensely pleasing aromas. To top it off, the cactus were visibly flowering. Perhaps you have never lived in the Southwest and did not realize that cactus flower. Yet walking around my neighborhood you would quickly realize that they do indeed bloom, and the blooms are magnificent. It’s as if the brown, rugged backdrop makes their beauty shine even brighter.

Normally these particular cactus look like the scary trees in a horror movie. They have outstretching skinny limbs that remind me of Medusa with her hair of writhing snakes. In Spring, they have multiple golden and orangish flowers that turn them into a glorious burning bush. Medusa got her hair done, darling, and it looks fabulous!

We have these short, round barrel-shaped cactus in our backyard. They are now blooming with bicolored flowers that are so gorgeous they actually make you forget the scent of Harper’s poop nearby…for a second.

These are some prickly pears by our mailbox. Those needles look so menacing and have resulted in a deflated basketball on multiple occasions. But now we at least get to look at pretty yellow flowers while we pump the ball back up.
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These low-lying cactus I see on my walking loop with Harper. They were seriously just showing off. Big time. Pictures cannot do justice to the bright red beauties.
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Our morning walks are the highlight of Harper’s day. I think they might be mine, too. I appreciate starting the morning with these quiet meditations in nature where I am reminded that even in the roughest conditions, living things can survive. Thrive. Make things beautiful. Bloom. And all of these flowers become fruit. They bear fruit. They feed the wildlife. They take their dry, barren situation and learn to adapt. They are often overlooked as ugly, as unwanted, as rough and prickly. But they are so much more than what they appear. I know I would never have understood that unless I had spent time in the desert myself. There is something about experiential knowledge that deepens the messages given on a walk or in conversation or in prayer.

Hey, you cactus, out there, I see you. I know you feel angry enough to spit out prickly pear needles, or feel life has you lying low, or terribly misunderstood. But your Spring time will come. It always does. And you will shine and make others marvel at your beauty. You will bloom and bear fruit. You will realize the desert is given a bad rap and is often a place of tremendous growth and desirable rest.

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#HarpGoneWild

Like many dog owners, I think my fur baby is one of the sweetest, not to mention cutest. Harper Jameek really is such a good girl. She will follow Mike around the yard off leash, and even if the biggest, juiciest steak were to walk by the house she would stay close to his side. However, even good girls just wanna have fun sometimes. So when the alpha male aka my husband left for a work trip, it was party time for our Harp-doggy-dog. She let loose and did all the things she normally would not in the presence of her dad.

Like this dinnertime scene to the tune of “Stuck on You” because¬†she had a feeling deep down in her soul that this¬†was the area with the highest probability of food droppings; usually she’s obediently lying on her dog bed while we eat:

And this “Movin’ on Up” to the couch side; she finally got a piece of her pie by taking over my spot:

This was honestly not 30 minutes after he left the house for the airport. She wasted no time and went straight for the big guns singing “Rebel Yell” for more, more, more morning snuggles on the bed with mama:

Lastly, I have no tunes for this one. I mean…do you?
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Harper lived on the edge this week. But in all honesty,¬†she is a true Beckett whose definition of wild and crazy is what most do when on¬†their best behavior, maybe taken down a minuscule notch. Like if all the teen girls got¬†their belly button pierced, but you got a washable temporary tattoo that says, “I love my mom.” After the first morning, she never jumped on the bed again. She only got¬†on the couch after the boys and I patted the surface vigorously and encouraged her with, “Come on, Harper!” The dinner scene was repeated and independently exercised because every Beckett prioritizes food. And the last scene was obviously us needing a new hobby besides torturing the dog for our own entertainment.

Truth is she is disappointingly good. We would love her regardless. Yet it is nice to know that when she finds the back gate accidentally ajar,¬†she does not race off to paint the town red and leave us worried for days. Rather, her wild escape has her go to the front door and sit her brown butt down until we randomly look out the window and realize that we don’t have an unexpected¬†UPS package but a ridiculously homebody dog waiting for us to let her back inside. Live it up, Harper. Get that washable temporary tattoo because mommy loves you, too!

 

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OMB!

You may be familiar with OMG (aka Oh My Goodness, for my parents who may not be as well-versed in the ridiculous ways our technical age has impacted our vocabulary), but I have a better acronym to blurt out when my loving soulmate inspires it. OMB! Oh, Michael Beckett! He is such a one-of-a-kind guy and provides so many moments that can carry no other responsive reaction other than…OMB.

Today is our anniversary. It’s our lucky 13th. To celebrate, I thought I’d make a fun, quick quiz to throw out to the world that seems to love knowing how they’ll do on quizzes assessing in 10 questions or less how they will die, what they will look like in 60 years, who their real bestie is, or how excellent their grammar skills are. How well do you know what makes my spouse the unique God-only-made-one-mold guy that he is? How skilled are you in accurately identifying these beloved OMB moments? Find out in 10 quick and easy questions!

1.) Nothing brings out financial generosity from Mike like:
A. Compassion when he sees the needs of others
B. The Holy Spirit prompting him to give dutifully
C. Tax credits and deductions
D. A gun to his head by a would-be robber

2.) When I tell the boys it’s supposed to be warm outside (70’s) and to dress appropriately, he responds:
A. “Wear shorts! This is HOT compared to when I was a kid in Chicago!”
B. “Warm? That’s not warm. 90 degrees is warm. Wear a hoodie!”
C. “Be free! Go naked!”
D. “Stop babying them! They should check the weather themselves!”

3.) When buying a blazer for work, Mike will:
A. Special order online from Italy.
B. Buy from Brooks Brothers because it’s his favorite work clothes store.
C. Buy from Brooks Brothers because he loves to splurge.
D. Buy from Brooks Brothers because he went back home, dug through the recycling bin on the curb, found a ripped up 40% off coupon, scotch-taped it back together, and took it back to the store to save himself some serious dough.

4.) Now with his attorney income, his last pair of work shoes he bought himself were:
A. Cole Haans from Nordstrom
B. Cole Haans from Nordstrom RACK
C. Kirklands from Costco
D. Whatever brand they sell at Payless Shoes

5.) If given the choice of what to order at a restaurant, he will choose:
A. Salad…with duck testicles
B. Something Italian
C. The biggest, fattest steak on the menu
D. One of everything

6.) When I complain about all the dog hair Harper sheds, he counters with:
A. “But she’s so cute.”
B. “I’ll clean it up this time.”
C. “Let’s take her back!”
D. “Does this mean you won’t let me get another dog?”

7.) He shows his romantic side to me regularly by:
A. Feeding the boys breakfast every morning and doing the dishes every night
B. Opening the car door for me
C. Writing sonnets declaring his unwavering devotion
D. Singing Frank Sinatra to me

8.) He is my go-to guru of knowledge when it comes to:
A. The latest political news
B. How to save for retirement
C. Pop culture nuggets like the love lives of The Voice coaches
D. All of the above

9.) He wrote happy 14 years (WRONG) in his anniversary card to me because:
A. He thought I was his ex-wife, and they were married 14 years.
B. He thought I wouldn’t notice because he got me a gift this year.
C. He thought he would keep me on my toes and see if I was paying attention to what he writes anymore.
D. He really thought it was 14 years.

10.) My reaction to the facts of question number 9:
A. OMB! That’s it. It’s over. That’s why 13 really is unlucky.
B. OMB! He is so superstitious and like the high rises in Chicago that don’t label their 13th floors, he skipped to 14 to keep bad luck away. (But our 1st condo was on the 13th floor and boldly labeled it as such.)
C. OMB! I knew he was never good at math despite being Asian.
D. OMB! I was so overwhelmed by a surprise present inserted in the card that I wasn’t expecting because he already generously treated me to a spa day at Miraval that was supposed to be my Valentines/Anniversary/Birthday/Christmas gifts all in one and he never surprises me nor gives me gifts that aren’t super practical like saying our new HVAC is my anniversary present that I saw the 14 years and did not give a flipping care at all because he is the best husband/dad ever. (Dad because he not only got me and him Hamilton tickets, but he also got two for the boys who are even bigger fans than I.)

Answers (in case they are not already quite obvious): 1) C, 2) B, 3) D, 4) D, 5) A, 6) C, 7) A, 8) D, 9) D, 10) D

Did you get all 10 correct? Congrats! You are an OMB Expert! You get to wear t-shirts with holes and the same hoodie every day! You better get that hoodie on ASAP because it’s ONLY a sunny 70 today.

Did you get 6-9 correct? Not bad! You can claim to be OMB Familiar and will not get de-friended from him during his annual purge on Facebook.

Did you get less than 5 correct? OMB Fail! Don’t feel too badly. His unique mold is hard to fathom in most minds, but to know him is to love him. ūüôā

Happy anniversary, Michael Beckett! Here’s to the next 13 (THIRTEEN, Babe, THIRTEEN) years of fun!


 

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Small Eyes…Again

Five years ago, Ethan was being asked about his eyes from kids at school. I wrote about it here: Why Are Your Eyes Small? A couple weeks ago, the topic came up again this time from his younger brother. Connor is in 3rd grade. During a family dinner, he mentioned that he gets asked about his eyes at school probably much in the same way his older brother did. I wish I could remember exactly what he told me his response was to the question, but all I remember is that I gave him a high 5 over the salad bowl. In other words, he had a response, and I must have liked it. He had a response maybe because we have had these conversations before. He told me that another time he remembered something I had said about his eyes don’t NEED to be as big but can still see the same things. Again, I don’t remember exactly what I had said in past conversations, but I do know that my desire was for my boys to feel that the differences they have from the majority here are NOT deficits. And maybe in fact, some of those differences (counter to how they are made to feel) could actually be assets. To maybe make them feel less like freak shows and more like champions.

To that extent, I am less worried about my younger son needing to feel like a champion. This kid is abundantly blessed (blinded?) with an extremely high self-esteem. I seriously have no idea where he gets it because his father and I are not ones to coddle or inflate. In fact, we probably should praise our kids more. We are more likely to need to focus on positivity in our home because our default can be the opposite. Somehow, in the midst of this UN-lovey-dovey environment, Connor will tell us very matter-of-factly how great he is. “Mommy, I’m really good at (basketball, an iPad game, punting footballs, etc.).” He says it with a straight face, and no doubt believes it 100%. It cracks me up every time a new declaration is made. In last night’s dinner conversation, he calmly stated, “I’m really good at rock climbing.”

But still, our overly secure son brought up the small eyes comments again last night. This time he actually said that he gets “made fun of.” That slight change in description brought a barrage of questions from my husband and me. Is he SURE they are making fun of him? Are they just curious and simply asking honest questions? Does it sound like mean teasing, or they just aren’t used to having friends that look like you? I realized that in the questioning, I was hoping to be able to extend the benefit of the doubt. I was hoping like crazy that they were innocent questions of childhood. When cynicism overrode hope for a split second so that protective mama bear pictured her cub getting made fun, one question slid its way into the barrage at the end: do you want me to go beat them up for you? (Thankfully, he did not even humor that question with his attention because as he has matter-of-factly stated before, “I’m really mature for my age.”)

He instead says that when he described the school conversations to Ethan that his older brother told him that they were racist. Oh, dang. I hope my kids do not use that word lightly. They have seen movies like Selma (after which Connor especially asked me repeatedly why people were so racist). They know in that movie that racism involved blatant discrimination and horrific violence. I know they are not experiencing those latter things at school, but perhaps they recognize the roots of racism. It then suddenly feels like a lot of pressure to know how to tailor these dinner table conversations so that their responses can be catalysts to allow those roots to fizzle out and die rather than grow into  full-blown nightmares. I know in my head that the responsibility should not be theirs or ours. And in fact that most likely the root results rest in the hands of the families of the questioners. But still…my kids and some of their friends are the ones that will be more effected by those results than the questioners, so I still feel the pressure a little. More than pressure though, I want the guidebook on effectively handling these conversations and situations as a mother who loves her children and wants the very best for them.

I hope and pray it is simple childhood curiosity and innocent questioning. Many Asians who are used to being tokens or one of many know that feeling and can often differentiate when it is ignorance versus malicious racism. Ironically, their current school is almost 10% Asian which is higher than I expected. I had thought with this higher percentage they would be around others like them and the student body would also be more familiar with those that looked like them. But Connor gets asked these questions a lot here regardless. And growing up in a city like Tucson, they will definitely be tokens who stand out.

Standing out doesn’t just mean that people mistake you for the other Asians in town. It also means you don’t get the benefit of blending in as much. So when you talk back to a speeding car in your neighborhood who felt the need to stop and chastise you for not wearing reflective clothing at dusk, you are aware that now you will be easily spotted as the mouthy Asian girl from that particular driver. I couldn’t tell you who that driver was if I ran into him face-to-face again (Jeff Gordon maybe judging by his speed around the corner), but he could possibly remember me as one of only a small handful of Asian ladies in the neighborhood. When I make a funny (smart aleck) comment on the subdivision’s Facebook page, I realize now everyone could have opinions about that Asian girl who will be easier to spot than most other random commenters on the page. Sorry to all other Asians who may now bear the burden of my talking back, smart aleck mouth as representative of ALL Asians.

One day after millions of family dinner conversations maybe Connor will add to his repertoire, “I’m really good at handling conflict, representing my ethnicity, educating ignorance, and combating racism.” My motherly hope is that he will not just be “really good” at it, but that he will be a true champion.

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In the Spirit of Christmas

A couple days ago, my boys earned a lump of coal for Christmas. While they sprinted to start their iPad time, their quick mama noticed that the requisite piano practicing seemed shorter than it was supposed to be. Turns out, it was. Deliberately. They set timers for their piano playing, and my little deceiver set his timer short on purpose. I was not happy. Nor am I as quick as I thought because apparently they had done this repeatedly in the past. I really do not like being lied to, especially by my children. Their precious, beloved, almost sacred iPad time got significantly shortened. Two can play the shortened timer game! Plus they had to think about what they did with a writing exercise.


I think they are pretty good kids even with these sneaky¬†transgressions. It would take a lot more than cheating on their piano time for them to actually get coal and no gifts. A LOT. Supposedly, Santa brings presents¬†for the nice and coal for the naughty. Well, that’s not necessarily the case for our Santa. Our Santa always seems to bring them presents even when they pull stunts like this.

I love the magic of Christmas but am also aware of the unfairness of Santa on a larger¬†scale. Kids with big hearts¬†but little¬†resources can get worse than coal, while kids with rotten attitudes may still get the¬†best gifts money can buy¬†(before they end up¬†tripping¬†basketball players for Duke). But parents tell this seasonal bribe¬†for the hopes of better behavior (and who doesn’t need a little help with this!?), but also because there is something about the sentiment that rings true for us. Good behavior deserves rewards. Bad behavior deserves the opposite. We can extend behaviors to the entirety of a person. Good people deserve rewards. Bad people deserve the opposite. It sounds right, and in essence, it is. It just doesn’t always get played out rightly like it should in this imperfect world.

Last week, the boys and I spent an evening writing holiday cards to people incarcerated in our state. Connor didn’t seem to understand why we needed to do this. He said, “But they’re prisoners so….” and his tone suggested an ending such as they did something wrong, they deserve to be in there, and so why should we write to them. He and his brother are too young to read The New Jim Crow or Just Mercy. I doubt I could get them to watch 13th on Netflix instead of¬†Star Wars Rebels.¬†I want them to know why we do what we do, so I attempted an explanation.

Me: “Have you ever done anything wrong before or made any mistakes?”
Ethan: “DUH! Of course.”
Me: “Imagine that I sent you to your room. Then I made you stay there forever¬†so that¬†you had to miss Christmas, opening presents under the tree, and being with your family. How would you feel?
Boys: “Sad.”
Me: “Sometimes the system that is set up to be right doesn’t always get played¬†out rightly by people who also can make mistakes. This can be true especially for people who are poor or face prejudice. Remember how you’d feel if I sent you to your room forever so that you missed Christmas, and try to write things that would cheer them up if you were them.”

I cannot say for sure, but I think that Connor’s subsequent silence held the formation of¬†a new way of thinking. If his thinking was challenged and he began to see the humanity in¬†someone he previously thought as less than himself, then it¬†was well worth the time spreading Christmas cheer to someone behind bars. Maybe he will grow up to see this in all people. To see himself in someone no matter how different (or undeserving) they may seem on the surface. Or even better, to put that empathic connection into action.

I hope this season we all can try to see this common humanity in others, even those that we have a hard time putting in any other category than “UGH!!!!” (For me, that can be bigly hard.) When we promote the spirit of Christmas, it isn’t simply to correct wrongly played out truths, like helping Santa be what we say he is without real-world constraints. It is far better than the spirit of Santa. The spirit of¬†Christmas¬†is¬†the world in its entirety truly deserving coal but being given the best gift that unconditional Love can buy. It showers upon us this abundance and the only proper way to respond is with thanksgiving and active imitation. To shower others with mercy and grace wrapped in Love whether we feel they deserve it or not. For all of us who has ever earned a¬†lump of coal, God bless us, EVERY one. Merry Christmas!

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