Friday, 13 February 2009

My Uncle Tom...

...just turned 60. For his birthday we were all invited to Tahoe to hang out and celebrate. I sure wish I could have gone. Hanging out with that side of the family is nothing but laughs and hugs and hilarity. Every single time I do it I think, “Man, I gotta do that more!” Course hanging out with that side of the family also makes me say things like ‘gotta’ and ‘course.’

My sister says we’re half redneck. Half because one of our parents is a redneck. I suppose in some circles that’s a derogative term, but to me it just means hard workin’, fun lovin’, down-to-earth, genuine folks. My favorite song on the radio as a little girl was ‘Gimme a, gimme a, gimme a redneck girl.’ I remember riding in my dad’s Jeep listening to that song. I must have been 6 years old or so. Fun times.

We were invited to write something for Tom in lieu of our presence. I meant to and meant to get around to it. I thought about it for weeks. The problem is simple. One of the best things in the world is making Uncle Tom laugh. Any image my mind conjures up of Tom always include a beer in one hand and a huge smile on his face--probably because he was laughing at something someone said. He’s a ‘hoot’ and he gets a kick out of everybody. So back to the problem. I couldn’t think of anything funny to say. I wanted to come up with some hilarious rendition of this story or that. Really roast the guy on his 60th. I couldn’t think of one funny or mean thing to say.

Uncle Tom calls everyone ‘baby.’ It’s his favorite term of endearment--which is just such a great phrase for it. Cause when Tom says it you really do feel dear. It makes you feel like a million bucks.

Uncle Tom loves his wife. Delights in his children. Is good to his family both immediate and extended. Shows up. Works stuff out. Works hard. Treats people with genuine kindness. Loves a good beer and a good joke. He is just plain old wonderful. I’m so lucky to have him for an uncle.

I was thinking at Gran’s funeral how sad it is that we wait until folks are dead to say all the good things about them and reminisce about how much they mean to us. I was thinking how it’s just silly and ridiculous. Not more than a few hours after this thought Uncle Tom said to me in a rare quiet moment in the living room, “Cori, you are one of the best kids I’ve ever known. You’re a good kid. You’re a good niece. You’re a good daughter. A good mama. Seeing the way you are with those boys I imagine you’re also a good wife. I’m proud of ya.” Leave it to Tom.

Uncle Tom, you are one of the best men I’ve ever known. You’re a good man. You’re a good uncle. I don’t know about son, but I do know you’re the most amazing son-in-law I’ve ever seen). You’re a good daddy. Seeing the way you are with Bard I’ve always known you were a good husband. I’m proud to know ya. And I’m ever so lucky to be one of your ‘babies.’

Happy Birthday, Uncle Tom. Many happy returns of the day!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Global Biking

I am a creative woman. Different. Unique. Not meant to fit a mold made for anyone but me. No one will think like I do. Love like I do. Mother or birth or cook or dream or even scream out at the world like I do. Others may be similar, and I may enjoy or detest their company as a result. But no one will ever be quite the same as me.

So then why in the world am I so concerned about how everyone else is doing it? The illustrious ‘thing’ that they are all doing? The more important question however, and the one that plagues my heart and disturbs my dreams: Why am I so concerned about how everyone else thinks I’m doing?

Motherhood, man. The constant balance of embracing your unique self and trying desperately to ignore the evil voices that seem to constantly whisper, “Are you sure that’s how you want to do that? Are you sure you’re doing enough? Oooooo...lost a few votes for Mom of the Year on that one!” Or my personal favorite, “Wow, don’t you wish you could be more like ___________?” Feel free to fill in the blank with names from my best mama friends to some lady in front of me at the super market who didn’t freak out at her kid. Never mind that her kid was not the one who just knocked down an entire display of boxed cereal, but still.

Just before the holidays, I came to the sudden and shameful realization that a lot of little boys around here that were younger than Bridger already knew how to ride a bike. I was overcome with guilt. “WE NEED TO GET ON THAT!!” I ever so graciously yelled at Scott. I wasn’t so subtle at communicating where I thought the primary responsibility for that bit of teaching lay. We spent several minutes talking about it, and being the persuasive rhetorician that I am I quickly had him wallowing in guilt with me. Some parents we were! Some legacy we were leaving. What were we spending time as parents doing if not teaching them essential skills like riding bikes!?! We’d spent so much time fixing up houses and focusing on moving that we’d somehow missed the forest for the trees. We were failing our children--big time!

Did I mention we decided over the Christmas break to homeschool the boys? A decision driven by several factors including: our naive underestimation of the incredible cultural adjustment moving to England would be, our desire to open up the opportunity to travel with Scott to his various assignments world-wide, and our concern over some behavioral and health issues we saw flare up in the boys that seemed to die down significantly after only a couple of weeks off of school. Never say you’ll ‘never’ do something. Karma is a bitch.

Overall I’m really enjoying it. It’s leant a cool focus and sense of purpose to my ‘mom-ing.’ It feels good to teach my boys to read, and count and add. I love cooking class and taking walks every day with them. I know there are some folks who think I’m weird, but those voices don’t haunt me. The voices I fear are the ones that whisper about how much better a homeschooling mom I’d be if I were ‘craftier’ or ‘earthier’ or if I had one bone of time-management skills in my body. I am not crafty. I only aspire to be earthy. And good Lord I don’t know how in the world it gets to be 7:30 every night without me having crossed even two things off my list.

I know, I know...I don’t need to be crafty to be a good mom or a good teacher. But...I subscribed to two homeschooling lists and well...these women are either dying natural wool yarns with blueberries to weave their own peace flags or teaching their children an instrument or even building chicken coops from scratch. I just feel, well...urban, first of all, and hopelessly inadequate. On another less earthy list it seems everyone has an ‘educational philosophy’ dialed-in and does 19 lessons a day all tied together by a central theme and all perfectly poising their children to attain nirvana, a full-ride to Oxford, and a firm standing in the global marketplace. I, on the other hand, spent 2 hours and about 2 dozen pieces of paper trying to figure out how to weave a construction paper heart ‘basket’ as a little craft today. I consulted FOUR different websites, swore a lot, and started balling before I did finally figure it out. Bridger was over it, and Caid just wanted to have the one I made rather than bother with his own. Big shocker.

Days like today are a roller coaster of questioning and feelings of inadequacy. Elation in the morning at Bridger reading (did you hear me say, READING!) me books in bed and our half-hour tickle war before breakfast. His exact quote after that was, “I hope we homeschool till I’m twelve.” Then the agony of craft time and that same child’s mumbled hints about the fun crafts they did at school and why don’t I call up his teacher and ask her or better yet send him back to school where they get to do really cool crafts EVERY day. Sigh...he wouldn’t perhaps be mirroring would he?

The night after the guilt-fest about the biking we were talking with our boys about the upcoming year. We posed the question “What are a few things we’d really like to do before 2009 is over?” I started with suggestions like sledding or skiing. Caid said he wanted to go to Spain and to Africa. Bridger said he wanted to learn at least one more language. “Maybe French,” he said, “or China.” I looked across the table at Scott and started to grin and cry at the same time. Maybe the boys didn’t know how to ride bikes, but maybe we weren’t failing so miserably at the legacy thing either.

p.s. I am happy to report that the boys are both riding bikes beautifully after just a few short lessons. Granted Caid stops by plowing into the closest fence or bailing off his bike and Bridger is the proud owner of a biking accident scar on his left cheek, but hey! we’re gettin’ there!