Windshields and Mirrors

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These are things we find ourselves leaving behind: Expectation. Predictability. Bits and pieces of our innocence. Shards of glass and glitter, tears. Muddy paw prints and footprints in the sand. Cleverly crafted up-cycled projects, growing soggy in the rain. Eggshells, gingerly tiptoed upon two days ago. Bibles, crappy novels, wallets on bus seats. Our very essence, some days.

And then we do our very best to return our gaze through the front windshield, recognizing that the past is a tiny reflection seen in our rear view mirror, when we bother looking up from our screens. The egg shells don’t matter. Yet thinking, in those forward-facing moments–aren’t I clever, wasn’t that a smart decision, world, look at me. And watching it all swirl away in one shit-storm of tears and realization. Forward and backward, forward and backward. I wish I could perch myself on the fulcrum of life: balanced, in reverent silence, content.

My boy is a being all his own, fitting neither here nor there but always finding an enormous room in my heart, where he folds up inside me seeking safety, comfort, belonging. He does that a lot lately. He has a limitless imaginative soul, tuned in to Mother Earth in a way I can only dream of, energized by her quiet, unrelenting beat. When he was still in my womb, I read a book about Eustace Conway, a man who belonged to the woods, because it was most where he needed to be. We toyed with the idea of naming our son Forest. I often think Malcolm is much like Eustace, as if my own reading of that book lit his spirit on fire nearly nine years ago. I often think too much, if you ask me.

I fast-forward a lot with Malcolm, perhaps out of necessity, perhaps to find respite from the struggle. I try to keep my eyes peering out the windshield, eyes on the horizon. I remind myself to run the wipers, turn on the defrost, see the future down the highway. Forward is the only direction worth heading, and I owe it to him (and myself, frankly) to carry on.

This journey–leaving behind, picking up the pieces, rebuilding, loving, learning, holding space, holding hearts–it’s unrelenting. It is exhausting. It is empowering, mind-numbing, and heart expanding all at once. I’m so tired, and yet, I remind myself to continue onward, upward (and maybe sideways, from time to time, buoyed by a glass of wine, a line of chocolate). Courageous warriors, all of us.

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All That She Left Behind

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She lost herself in the shuffle of motherhood.

A run: leaves drifting slowly from the crisp autumn sky.

Her breath, warm and steady, visible before her (as too, her heart).

Where has she been all these years, months, moments?

She used to have words, and then she lost those, too.

Everything was at once murky and bleak (the resident optimist suggested otherwise).

Sea and sky and surf and rocks, joining hands in a sunless celebration of grey.

She could fill the world with distraction and music,

but inside, the musings were lost, too, in the shuffle.

She missed her old self. (As well, her old friends).

Letting go of the familiar, choosing to emerge from the womb of comfort, safety, warmth.

The door closed, the door of familiarity and all that was once right.

She shut it herself, of her own volition.

She tried to stand in the light of the truth. She trusted her heart.

It should have been no surprise to her when the auspicious new door slowly creaked open.

Light poured out, and it was blinding.

She basked in that light, twirling, smiling out loud: big, laughing, tearful delight.

She looked at herself in the mirror. She stood in awe at her spirit.

She saw the reflection of truth.

She did not find the person she once most expected,

but her center was found.

Full circle.

Leaves falling again, reminding her to be present on this gorgeous sun-filled day.

A child beside her, eight years old, grateful for cursive letters, the color red.

A six year old bursting into laughter over a pair of banana slugs.

A golden puppy, a ray of light the color of California desert sand, loping along.

A husband who so faithfully sees only the light.

Así es la vida. La pura vida.

She is grateful for trusting her heart.

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All That is Wild

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

~Henry David Thoreau

When Malcolm was born on a grey April day, my neighbor, upon first meeting him, remarked on the intensity of his gaze. “He is really wide awake, already; tuned in and alive to this world,” he said. Indeed, Malcolm seemed to drink up the world around him from that very first day: the spring leaves emerging from the birch and maple trees, the perennial flowers just coming into bloom, the slobbery greeting of each and every dog–he delighted in all of it as soon as he could smile.

As much as I would like to take credit, the reality is that he was born into this wildness, our boy. He craves nature, and finds solace and comfort in the great outdoors. In the face of disconcerting news, he storms out the front door and up into a tree. He rarely chooses my lap for comfort, unlike his little brother. He insists on walks in the Ravenna woods every day, often at the unreasonable hour of “past bedtime” and frankly, I sometimes feel as if we’ve done his soul a disservice, making our home here in the heart of Seattle.

This summer, Malcolm is quite possibly in his happiest of places. We are 92% unscheduled, mostly shying away from the camps that most city parents seem to find obligatory. Each day is a blank slate, and I never thought I’d be as happy as I am about that fact. (And yes, I get that this is a privilege of being a full-time mama.) We spend our days exploring beaches and forests, mountaintops and alpine lakes. We are cut from the same cloth, Malcolm and I, and neither one of us could possibly be any happier under the summer clouds (ahem, Seattle) this year.

Last week, after dropping the less-enthusiastic Oliver off at puppet camp (indoors, with plenty of crafting under dim artificial light), Malcolm and I set out for what I thought might be an overly ambitious hike: seven miles with nearly 1800 feet of elevation gain in the Cascade mountains. I’m not sure why I am surprised: that 56 pound boy, all eight years of him, hiked up that mountainside fueled only by a half a peanut butter sandwich and four cherries, without uttering one single complaint. Instead, he pointed out nurse logs, fed berries to our dog (“she needs to fuel up too!”), collected roughly ten pounds of rocks (the majority of which I discreetly unloaded in the parking lot), and delighted out loud, repeatedly, over the fact that he was such a “trooper” when it came to adventures in the woods. When we got to the ridge, where I figured we should turn around, he insisted that we descend to the lake so he could truly experience the beauty. I lie: in reality, he just wanted to see Zoe-dog dip into the icy waters, but still. He is a remarkable soul.

“Mommy, I could just stay here forever. Wouldn’t it be great if this was what school was like?” he suggested as we headed back home. I couldn’t agree more. John Muir once said that wildness is a necessity. I wish more humans understood this, but I’m really happy to be raising children who do.

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Zoe+ alpine lake = retriever heaven.

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*The obligatory selfie, in which Malcolm actually smiled.

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(This fine photo of me was taken by the eight year old, who was instructed to take a photo of me and Zoe by the pond. Obviously, that worked out.)

Malcolm’s Annual Interview, Age 8

Malcolm is eight years old. The very act of writing those five words feels a bit like an impossibility. Just yesterday, I swear this to be true, he took his first steps, and now he’s dawning on his third grade year. This boy, he owns my heart. He is my little soul brother, truly, and I look forward to a long life in the woods, on the track and in our own heads, imagineering both individually and together. What follows is his annual interview.

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What makes you really happy? What makes me really happy is to be in nature and to do stuff that I really like to do, like walk in nature, and you know, all the other stuff that I like. I like to walk with Zoe and find lots of cool stuff when I’m out in the world.

What makes you sad? I really don’t like staying cooped up in the house doing boring things. That’s what makes me sad, is to not be outside doing what I want to be doing.

Are you scared of anything? Not really.

If you could have any pet in the world, what would you choose? I would choose a dog, for sure. There are a lot of dogs that I like, but for right now, I’m thinking a pug, but just for right now. I’m happy with Zoe. She’s a golden retriever. I still might think about getting a pug, though.

What do you like about being a kid? Well, let me see…I like that I get to do many things that grown ups don’t get to do, like, well, like go on rides that grown ups aren’t allowed on at Disneyland and other stuff.

What do you want to be when you grow up? There’s a bunch of things I want to be. I haven’t settled on one yet. I’m thinking about being a dog trainer and a lot of other things like being a scuba diver, and being an explorer. If I was an explorer, I would go out in the world to places that not even some people have gone to and look at the animals and watch what they do.

What comes to mind when I say magic? Oh, magic! I would say Legos would be magical for me, because when you put them together, the character just comes to life. When you put the last piece on it’s just like, bam, the character just comes to life. It’s like you’re actually seeing the real thing, but in mini size.

Now that you’re eight, is there any big kid thing you would like to do? I look forward to doing some cool things that I used to not be able to do. Oh let’s see, I’m hoping I can do a lot more amusement park rides since I’m a certain height now. I’m hoping I’ll measure up.

What’s your favorite color these days? Green. It’s just that I can see green a bunch of places. You can pretty much see green all over the world: sea turtles are green, seaweed, plants, trees, all sorts of things. You can even paint your house green!

Can you tell me what love is? I can’t really explain it that well. I just really don’t know what love is. I love you, mommy, and also daddy, and I like Oliver, too.

When is a person officially grown up? About twenty years old, or something.

What makes a grown up a grown up? I have no idea. Grown ups do lots of stuff that kids don’t really do, like work and, oh mommy, I don’t know.

What’s your favorite subject in school? Reading! I just like to read because the characters are funny and weird and all those types of things. Reading is fun. Reading is easier than math. Books really make the characters come to life, like they’re actually living inside your head and in the book, and it’s like they’re posed like action figures. It’s like they used to be real characters. (*As a side note, this answer slays me. I never, one year ago, imagined my son would ever say anything like this about reading. My heart is full.)

What is the meaning of life? Oh, I don’t really know this one. I don’t even know the meaning of my own life, yet!

What is the best thing in the world? Right now, basically it’s things that are exciting and adventure-y, the kinds of things that kids like.

When do you feel most loved? There are a thousand times when I feel loved. I feel loved night and day.

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Oliver’s Annual Interview, Age 6

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Without further ado, here is Oliver’s annual interview, conducted just days after he turned six.

What makes you really happy? Um, bunnies! Because they sing show tunes. Also, Legos make me really happy because you can build stuff.

What makes you sad? It makes me sad when Malcolm won’t let me use my imagination when we are playing together. I also get sad when people hurt my feelings, like at track practice when that kid was annoying me and hurting my feelings.

Are you scared of anything? I’m scared of boogers, because they’re slimy! I don’t like mosquitos. I’m not afraid of them, but I just freak out when I see them.

If you could have any pet in the world, what would you choose? Hmmm. A mummy, because they’re zombies. (I then suggested he choose a “real” pet, to which he replied, “I would like a pirate dog or maybe a chihuala, which is a type of small dog, mommy. I would also like a pet sea turtle, and it would live right here. I would get a sea tank and put it right in.)

What do you like about being a kid? I like to use my hot glue gun a lot and have fun.

What do you want to be when you grow up? I would like to be a Lego Mixel, and then I would jump around in Legos for my job. Actually, I never will know what I want to be when I grow up. What were you, mommy, when you grew up? (I’m still working on that one, boy.)

What comes to mind when I say magic? I think of bunnies singing show tunes. Also, farts are pretty magical.

Now that you’re six, is there any big kid thing you would like to do? Yes! I would like to have my own car and drive it around. First stop, the zoo. Then I would drive everywhere, all around the world, and even on your boobies. Also, I would like to go on the roof and make myself a club house up there and sit there all day and all night.

What’s your favorite color these days? Oh, I know this one. My favorite color is every color, and I don’t just mean every color of the rainbow, because rainbows don’t have gold or silver or pink or clear. I like those colors, too.

Can you tell me what love is? Why should I know what love is? I don’t know what love is. Maybe it is people kissing. I like you. I like Miles and Gio and Aksel, but I don’t love them. I only love you.

When is a person officially grown up? When they’re 25.

What makes a grown up a grown up? They work, they work, they work. Grown ups work on the computer, like daddy. Even you work, mommy. You work here. Daddy goes around commanding people to fart at work. He also punches himself in the face, which is how he got that cut on his chin. Daddy also plays online golf. (I have no idea where that one came from!)

What is the meaning of life? Life and death, mommy.

What is the best thing in the world? You, mommy! (I love six year olds.)

When do you feel most loved? What does that even mean? Well, I feel most loved when I’m around you, when you’re hugging me, because we are married. I’m only ever going to be married to you.

I love you, baby boy. May you always be silly and bright.

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The Reluctant Reader

You know that second grader who holes up in his room for hours engrossed in a book thicker than an antiquated encyclopedia? The one who, at age four, points from the backseat window of the family wagon reading billboards, bumper stickers, and license plates? The one who sneaks your iPhone from your purse and reads your text messages before you have a chance, stumbling upon the shitload of swear words you exchange on the regular with your closest girlfriend before you’ve even introduced said words to him? Yeah, that is most certainly not my child. But what I wouldn’t do to exchange places with you, mama.

I suppose we should have seen the red flags: late speech development and trouble with articulation, poor phonological awareness skills (rhyming and segmenting and blending sounds in words), his chronically poor attention in class, and an ongoing difficulty with decoding words, not to mention his inability, no matter how many times we repeated it, to learn our phone number.

In the spring of his first grade year, we finally decided to acknowledge these issues. We approached his teachers, who, like many educators, believed in the “wait and see” philosophy. But my gut felt differently, and I can’t begin to express how grateful I am that I listened to those quiet whispers and sought help with Malcolm. “As it turns out, the research suggests that if you catch these delays early, you get better results. With language, you’ve got to hit it early — or kids get left in the dust. For instance, a preschooler and a kindergartener will learn phonemes better than a first and second grader. Once you hit first and second grade, you start going into content reading, and so kids who are still struggling with learning to read have a harder time.” (credit here)

We had our son evaluated that spring, and all of my suspicions were finally validated: our boy, while not dyslexic, was at risk for a language-based learning disability. We were advised to act fast and furiously to catch him up to speed. We knew we had a year before his cohort would be reading to learn vs. learning to read. And here is where I feel lucky: we had the time and resources to support Malcolm, and boy have we ever!

In the space of less than one year, with incredible support from both our family and his tutor Colin, Malcolm has grown from a Kindergarten level reader to a boy reading chapter books at bedtime with me. Chapter books, you guys! His frustration with all things reading has turned to a beaming sense of pride and accomplishment. He bounds down the stairs after his sessions with Colin informing me of his progress. He no longer hits the table with  exasperation. And while I am uncertain when the day, if ever, will arrive in which Malcolm might pick up a book on his own and truly love reading, we have come such a long and glorious way along this path.

Yesterday, of his own accord, he read street signs from the car window while we were traveling along at 40mph. When I later peeked in the rearview mirror of the car, his lips were moving, eyes downcast into the pages of a book, which I intentionally planted in his seat pocket hoping he might not be able to resist the temptation. It was a milestone I never anticipated. And I finally feel that we have arrived. All the clandestine pro-literacy things I do have paid off: planting Lego magazines and nature books in the bathroom, surprising him with Pokemon books, encouraging him to read through instruction manuals on new toys, sitting with him every single morning before class while he reads the morning board aloud to me, modeling reading at every turn and engaging him in literacy on an every day basis. My boy has come so very far.

We never thought this would be our fate as parents–supporting the reluctant reader, navigating the world of learning issues. Honestly, I just assumed that our child would be like me: one for whom school came naturally and easily. This journey has been intense, but looking back on the last year, I am incredibly proud of all of us. It is almost unfair how much effort it takes for a child who struggles with reading in comparison to that child who just “picks it up”, but the journey is such a powerful one. I have so much faith in my son now and trust in his ability to be a successful learner. It was an entirely different story just one year ago. Our entire family has had to learn to read this roadmap so unfamiliar, and here we are, veritable masters of our own literacy highway.

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(This is a terrible photo, but this day is one I will never forget: Malcolm decided to read to Zoe and Oliver at bedtime, without a push or suggestion from me. I’m pretty sure I snapped this photo with tears in my eyes.)

Island Moments

Orcas Island: light reflecting on water at every turn, spring winds tousling small boy hair,  copious clouds and the occasional ray of gorgeous sunshine. Rocky beaches bestowing upon us a world of infinite treasures, if only we stop to notice them. We rise at 7am because the six year old is up, and watch the sun crest over the evergreens, the gorgeous Sound glittering in the morning light from our secret cabin in the woods. We would have missed this if we were still sleeping.

One thousand piece puzzles on a floating ferry boat, and one hundred eleven pages read of a weighty Pulitzer Prize winning novel; a five mile hike in the woods, which seems more ordinary than extraordinary this week. Beaches overflowing with gun sticks and sword sticks and cannon sticks and fishing sticks, all of which absolutely, positively, have to come home with us, mommy. (You should see his arsenal.) A hand-crafted teeter-totter, seventeen deer (including sweet spring fawns, more cautious than their mothers), and scoops of vanilla ice cream with a side of spring lilacs. Piecing together an impromptu eighth birthday celebration for our king of adventure and practicing downward dog with an eleven year old Golden on our last day, before burning off morning pancakes in a wide, open field.

Every day feels like Sunday, with a constant push to tune in to what matters in the here and now. A reminder that so often, the destination isn’t the point. It’s the letting go and the diving deep into a world where time matters not and imagination is king. These, they are the days that will not escape me.

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“What is that you express in your eyes? It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life.” -Walt Whitman

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Mommy Wars. And a hike.

I feel lucky and privileged to have these impromptu moments on a spring break Tuesday morning with my boys. My children are not a weighty burden, anymore than life itself might be considered an encumbrance. I chose them. I chose this path. Good grief, can we just give it up, these mommy wars? Can we stop saying to one another, “I don’t know how you do it…I could never be a stay-at-home mom!” or “How do you juggle work and family?” You just do; you just embrace, for better or worse, the path upon which you find yourself. You find the delights, endure the struggles, punch the time clock, be it at home with kids or in a seventy-two story office building with a gaggle of grown humans arguing over planned obsolescence.

And let’s be honest: some days are just lemons. While one boy flops to the floor in a teary, crumpled heap, the other hides under bedcovers nurturing a clandestine relationship with the iPad. The teenager of a puppy leaps onto our bed at 6am, despite knowing full well that she has her own rather divine tempurpedic on the floor. It’s all a rather rude awakening, working mom or not.

But I choose lemonade today. After a round of pancakes and maple syrup, we head north, not exactly sure where we will land, and find ourselves at a nearby beach park where the aforementioned crumpled heap again dramatically falls to the ground in an impressive car exiting maneuver. That is, until he spots a banana slug in the parking lot. His face lights up as he remembers this place, a place so wonderfully woodsy and downhill (for the first half, you silly boy) that even he can fathom undertaking the adventure. Zoe, well, she’s always all in: pulling ahead at the helm, ready to muddy herself up in any body of water we may encounter, no matter how miniscule.

Malcolm quickly gathered some sword sticks for our adventure, and cheered his brother up with a rather divine walking stick, which Zoe attempted to polish off before making itself into Oliver’s hands. The boys hopped and skipped and danced and sauntered their way down the hill to the beach at the bottom of the hill. We picnicked on the shores of the Salish Sea, the Olympic mountains to our west shrouded by gloomy clouds as far as the eye could see. We battled the strong winds with our sword sticks and with sand pelleting our eyes. We watched as crows devoured our banana, Zoe barked at the whitecaps, all the while taking cover in a driftwood fort serendipitously left for our discovery.

You see guys, lemonade. As we headed back up the hill, we found an ocean of dandelion seed heads, and the boys made the same secret wishes over and over again as they dispersed hundreds of seeds across the small meadow. My wish: though these moments be small and perhaps inconsequential, may my heart always remember them. May I always remember the intense joy of my boys in the woods (on the downhill portion, ahem, Oliver), and never forget to nurture that love.

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“If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it. Perhaps this is what Thoreau had in mind when he said, “The more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings.”
-David Sobel

 

Nature Boys

On a spring day when he was still tiny, perhaps two and a half years old, Malcolm ran through the Ravenna woods as he did every day since discovering his fourth gear. His hair was soft and flaxen, and I vividly remember it bouncing as he hopped over rotting logs and spring’s emergent horsetail buds. Oliver, asleep on my back, and Toulouse, pulling me along in hopes of taking the lead, trailed behind. The enormous Barred owl descended from the pines above, in near perfect silence, and I didn’t notice it until it had a hold of Malcolm’s hair in its talons. Unfazed, my boy skipped along in his own little world, and the owl released its grip.

That moment seared itself into my soul. To this day, it feels sacred and if spirit animals exist, a more perfect forest creature could not be a better choice for my son. Malcolm is my kindred spirit, my fellow introvert, my quiet observer, my gentle-hearted nature boy. He insists on walking to school, sticks in hand, ready to do battle with maple leaves and undeserving boulders. We walk together every night, and like his mama, he is oft so overcome by the beauty of Mother Nature that he just can’t keep it to himself. “Mommy, look at that fern! What is it called when it uncurls like that? It is just so beautiful.” Much of the time, he walks out in the lead with his battle sticks, inspecting new spring flowers and ancient Douglas firs. He has never, not even once, declared boredom when we are immersed in nature.

And so, with two long weeks of spring break stretching out before us, we packed ourselves into our family wagon yesterday and headed west to Bainbridge Island, home to Bloedel Reserve. We spent a couple of hours exploring the forest preserve. We saw, in no particular order, blue skies and sunshine, both mallards and wood ducks, birch trees and evergreens, an abandoned sheep barn and a stately mansion, flowers few and far between, fifty species of moss, and sword ferns unfurling everywhere. Oliver, who recently declared that his spirit animal would be “something high-tech, mommy,” was somehow as equally delighted by the mossy forest and sea of clover as he was by the prospect of blackberry ice cream cones at the end of our adventure.

Finding balance with our boys is never easy. We vacillate between loving our very urban life and craving the heart-song  inspired by nature every day. I suppose if one thing is true, we are most fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest, where we get a little of both almost without trying.

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IMG_4857(Hi mom!)

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IMG_4985“Is it blackberry ice cream time yet, mommy?”

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IMG_5031Acer macrophyllum, leaves and buds. So pretty.

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“Oh, Montana, give this child a home.
Give him a love of a good family and a woman of his own.
Give him a fire in his heart, give him a light in his eyes.
Give him the wild wind for a brother and the wild Montana skies.” –John Denver

 

 

An Extraordinary Summer of Wedded Bliss

The summer of 2015: Ordinary, with very little extraordinary. Endless brilliant sun-filled days, peppered with ordinary walks through the same old woods with the same not-very-old boys and our newest baby, Princess Zoe. Truth be told, summer is both blissful and monotonous for a stay-at-home-mom. The days stretch on eternally into evenings, which seems to never come when you live in the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest. We find ourselves in the woods and at the pool, walking the paths of the dog park and walking the paths of Green Lake. We know all of the baristas by name at our coffee shop, and Zoe has become quite the pudgy puppy from her immeasurable stream of dog treats courtesy of her full-time seven-year old trainer, who takes his job very seriously. We’ve gone through seven jars of peanut butter, four pounds of hamburgers, and twenty-nine pounds of peaches. I stopped applying sunscreen last week, because I decided I was done with summer, even if summer wasn’t done with us.

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In the midst of the monotony of our endless summer, my mom stopped by with some fancy steak knives a week ago. “I bought these for you, since you never seem to have sharp knives around here.” Which is true. “Thanks for the wedding present, mom!” I replied. She looked stunned, as I suppose should be expected, given that Dave and I have lived in unwedded bliss for ten years, two children, three dogs, two houses, and one failed p-patch experiment.

“You’re getting married?!” she exclaimed, bursting with a joy I imagine only a crazed mother can exude after ten years of patiently waiting for her baby girl’s big day. “Yep mom, and we’ve decided on you and Rita as our witnesses,” which we reasoned would be a little more festive than hiring a couple of homeless people in front of the courthouse. (The thought crossed my mind, and weighed in heavily for more than a few moments. You who know me know that I’m anti-wedding and about as chill as a girl-Macklemore, I’ve been told.)

So Dave arranged to take a stay-cation and the big day was planned around my nephew’s knee surgery, when Rita could hitch a ride into town. I came downstairs, hair probably still dripping wet from my shower, in my wedding attire, to which Dave said, “You’re wearing a dress? I guess I should change out of shorts, then.” I was reticent to put on lipstick, but you know, it was my big day and all, so I dug through the glove box and found a muted gloss to really bring the whole look together. Dave wore linen and blue. Wrinkled linen and blue, which is out of character for him, but I let it slide this once. After all, it was his big day, too.

We dropped the boys off at Lucy’s, about which they were delighted, especially Oliver who declared that we were already married a long time ago, because that’s how it works, mommy. We cued up in line to join the glorious traffic that only Seattle and a handful of other honored cities can boast about, and we headed to the Justice of the Peace downtown. We were very nervous and excited. I am 100% lying. I just wanted to get this shit over with, because you guys, weddings are stupid, and that’s how I roll.

We popped out of the elevator on the tenth floor, and the scene that unfolded was stunning, to say the least. There were brides in full regalia, wedding parties, men in suits and professional photographers. Brides were carrying bouquets. Grooms had boutonnieres pinned on suit jackets. Dave had his wrinkled linen, and I had my summer tan lines from endless days spent outdoors in tank tops. I wondered to myself if it would be tacky to borrow a bouquet from one of the brides for our photos.

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(Not sure if we look like we are getting married or getting ready to be fingerprinted for jail-time.)

We slipped into Judge Ed’s office quietly. I duly noted that he didn’t have any certificates on the wall, and wondered aloud if he was a fake judge. He threw on his robe for the occasion and offered to take us to the courtroom for our ceremony, in case we needed to go all Law and Order for our wedding. We declined, and chose the “view room” which doubled as a conference room for stodgy lawyers. He asked for our rings, to which I replied, “Can we just skip that part of the vows. We don’t have rings.” Judge Ed, without missing a beat, offered up cigar wrappers and paperclips, and I decided that I really liked this guy, fake judge status notwithstanding.

My mom was everything one might dread in a mother-of-the-bride. She took far too many photos and digitally recorded our wedding vows, despite my insistence that she refrain from doing so. She forgot that this day was about me and my husband (did you hear me say husband, there?) and drove us batty. I thanked my lucky stars that our wedding lasted all of three minutes. I can’t even imagine the monstrosity that would unfold if my mom had months to prepare for the occasion. (I still love you, mom.)

We celebrated in style while we were downtown, consulting Yelp for recommendation in the neighborhood that would accommodate everyone’s special dietary needs, of which there are plenty. I got a free molten lava cake for my special day, and they provided us with extraordinarily slow service to commemorate the institution of marriage. Meanwhile, the boys were obliviously eating pizza with Lucy while their little family unit, as they knew it, was being transformed in ways not quite imaginable before this moment in time.

It’s been four days since Dave and I got married. Yesterday I realized I had misplaced our marriage certificate, and hoped I wouldn’t have to spend another $80 in cold hard cash to go through the motions a second time. Think of the fabulous dress I could have worn. Imagine the bouquet I could fashion from flowers plucked from neighbors’ yards. Envision Judge Ed’s joy at taking another cash payment for five minutes of his time. Alas, my mom found the certificate tucked between seats in her car. Phew. Because weddings are tough. And as far as I can tell with my four days of experience, marriage is even tougher. I suppose it has been an extraordinary summer, after all.

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