Jan 192010

Today is Chase’s seventh birthday. In an hour, Craig, the girls and I will sneak into his bedroom and serve his traditional birthday breakfast-in-bed. Before the celebration begins, I’d like to write to you about three significant moments during Chase’s short lived career as a six year old. Since my camera is perpetually lost, writing is my attempt to grab his childhood and hold it down while it sprints past.

Last summer, in my neighbor’s backyard, I watched Chase play a game of pick-up football with a group of his best friends. I laughed and realized that my Chase might never grow into the professional athlete that his daddy once was. Chase never came close to the end zone, or even to the ball, because he kept stopping in his tracks, again and again, to pick up every friend who’d fallen.

One evening this fall, Chase asked to be excused from the dinner table to get something from his back pack. When he returned to the table, he handed Tish a small chocolate chip cookie wrapped in a paper napkin. Tish’s eyes lit up and I asked Chase where he got the cookie. He said “It was Eric’s birthday and he passed out cookies at lunch.” I asked Chase if he decided to bring his extra cookie home because he was too full to eat it. Chase said “No, I wasn’t full. But I had two cookies and Tish didn’t have any.”

At a Christmas party, Chase and I sat down at a table with several friends to eat and talk. I saw Chase notice that my pregnant friend, Manal, was standing and eating a few feet behind us. Chase looked up and said “Manal, please, take my seat.”

These are the three moments, during Chase’s sixth year, that I was most proud to call him mine. And the fact that these are the three memories that stand out among so many makes me wonder.

I wonder.

I wonder if we’ll get to heaven one day, and we’ll stand in front of our Father, and we’ll look at his face and we’ll say,

I’m sorry I never got it exactly right. I never became who I wanted to be. I never became fearless or selfless or patient. I never became that perfect mother or wife. I never lost that weight and I let my kids watch too much TV and I never finished those projects I was always dreaming up. I never lived up to my potential in so many ways, God.

I wonder if He’ll say,

Yes. I was watching. I know those things were very hard for you.

And then He’ll cup our chins in the palm of His hands and turn our faces up towards His. And He’ll wipe away our tears for the last time. And He’ll say,

Remember the day you offered the elderly lady your grocery cart? Remember the night you were so very tired but you held your baby’s hand and rubbed her back while she cried? Remember when you brought food to your grieving friend? Remember when you woke up every single morning to try again? Remember how you never gave up? On yourself, on your friends, on your babies, on me?

I was never worried about those things you didn’t do. I was too busy watching what you did. And those little acts of kindness were the moments I was most proud to call you mine.

Happy seventh birthday to my kind-hearted boy. Thank you, Chase, for bringing me closer to God.

Jan 202010

Chase’s birthday was a huge success. Unless you ask Tish, who is still whimpering in the fetal position due to the injustice of an entire day spent hailing her brother. But everybody else around here is pretty happy.

First we served our little man breakfast in bed:

Then Sister and I went to Chase’s school to eat lunch with him.

This is us serving Chase’s “birthday treat” to his classmates.

Last week he asked if he could PLEASE bring birthday cupcakes to school like all the other kids? I started sweating profusely and said, “Honey. You don’t want to be like everyone else, do you? Let’s be different, let’s be unique! I know…how about Chips Ahoy? I’ll even spring for the sprinkled ones for an extra dash of uniqueness! It’ll knock their socks off, honey!” Chase said, “Sure mom. I know stuff like cupcakes are really, really hard for you.” It’s important for men, even little ones, to understand and respect the limitations of the women in their lives. I was proud.

This is us getting reprimanded by the Lunch Lady to USE OUR INSIDE VOICES DAMNIT! She didn’t actually say the damnit part but I could tell she really, really wanted to. I didn’t blame her a bit.

This is Sister and Little Man.

When Chase and I offered a cookie to Little Man, his face got sad and he said “I can’t have cookies. I’m allergic to wheat.” Please understand that the SECOND Little Man said this I got very, very scared. Because I knew Sister heard him. And Sister is a lawyer. A lawyer who literally scours the world trying to weed out injustice for the oppressed. And I knew she was going to decide that unsuspecting Little Man was her newest client. I nervously looked up at Sister’s face and saw her eyes widen. She said: “SISTER. I am fighting for justice for Little Man.” I said, “Of course you are, Sister, we know. Just please don’t embarrass Chase. He’s already the smelly kid (due to my laundry disability) who has to serve store bought cookies.” Sister spent the next ten minutes convincing the poor Lunch Ladies to break from what they were doing (feverishly running from raised hand to raised hand opening ketchup packets) long enough to hear her case. By the way…WHY don’t they make kid-friendly ketchups? Are the Lunch Ladies of America being punished for something?

Eventually, the Lunch Ladies slowed down long enough to listen to Sister. During their negotiations, there were some tense moments in which Chase and I tried to hide under the cafeteria table, but in the end, Little Man got himself a chocolate, wheat- free donut. I think I heard him say THANK GOD ALMIGHTY I AM FREE AT LAST. And the oppressed and the rescuer had themselves a little hug. I asked Sister if maybe she could stay home from the third world and fight for the oppressed right in the cafeterias of America. She said no. She said she was brave, but not that brave. We left Chase’s school completely exhausted.

Chase’s dinner went well. We had tacos and tator tots. Just don’t ask.

Then it was cake time. Monkees- I tried to make Chase’s cake. I tried harder than you kitchen-literate people can possibly understand. And by God, I witnessed a birthday MIRACLE because the directions on the back of the box WORKED and when the cake came out of the oven, the cake really did look like a cake. I was giddy. But then I tried to frost it, and the top of the cake kept coming off into the frosting. So I had to keep putting layer upon layer of frosting on top until there was like FOUR INCHES of frosting. And it still looked rough. So I put seven million sprinkles on top to try to camouflage the holes in the cake. And then I got REALLY cocky and tried to write HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHASE on top. That part did not go well either. If you look really hard, you can see a faint yellow “happy,” but that’s all, because when I got to the “birthday” part, my little blue icing writing magic tool EXPLODED all over the cake. You’ll be proud to know that I did not start crying. But I came close when I realized that I didn’t have any candles. There are far too many details to remember when you are a parent. I mean, seriously, it’s just ridiculous. Ludicrous, really. Infuriating, on a bad day. After scouring my cabinets (Hey, guess what, I have a crock pot! Who would’ve known?!) I found one lonely, bent, yellow candle. Victory. I put it on the cake and proudly presented my creation to Chase.

Is this the facial expression your ungrateful son makes as he catches his first glimpse of his birthday cake? Punk.

Chase’s first words to me were: Mommy? What does it SAY?

I said: It says: Happy Birthday Chase!

Chase said: No it doesn’t! It says “Happy…big blue splotch!” And also, mommy I’m SEVEN. Not ONE.

And I said: You know what? I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Let’s sing.

And we did. And then we ate the cake. And everyone agreed that it was less gross than last year’s cake. Low expectations are very important to a happy life.

Also heavy drinking.

Chase was thrilled with his present, two frogs he’d been eyeing at the Pet Store. And by “eyeing” I mean spending the last several weeks begging incessantly for. The frogs looked PERFECT, I am happy to report, because the recipe for them was “Add Water.” “Add water” is my specialty. I did a great job with that.

I woke up this morning thanking God that birthdays only come once a year. I think we’ll watch movies all day.

Have a great one, sweet friends.

Love, G

Feb 022010

As promised, today I’d like to introduce you to the first best friends Sister and I ever had, our cousins.

Meet Lindsay, who always looks like she just stepped out of a magazine. Her beauty is so dramatic that it almost feels like an act of aggression. She lives in Arizona and I’m pretty sure she runs the place. She and her b-fri Jonathan have hearts as big as their bar tabs. Just like her parents do, Lindsay takes special care of the littlest ones in our family. She makes them gifts and plays with them when no one else is watching. I always notice and appreciate her for that. My kids do, too. Children are good judges of character, and they’ll tell you that Lindsay is their favorite. This could be because Lindsay makes them practice saying “Lindsay is my favorite” over and over, but for whatever reason, they love her. I do, too.

Here is Allison. Allison stepped into a few big dreams this year. Her life love, Troy, who is definitely a Monkee at heart, asked her to marry him several months ago. They are planning their wedding, with the help of their little girl, Audrey. Allison and Audrey are living proof that biology is not necessary to motherhood. Allison has stepped into her role as a mother to Audrey with as much excitement and ease as I put on my yoga pants each day. It’s a miracle, really, their little family. They are going to take good care of each other, and I’m grateful. Thank you, Troy. We really like you. Although apparently not enough to take a picture of you. Sorry, buddy.

Meet Bill William Football. This is what he used to make us call him when he was little. Now he’s big, and kind and hilarious and a super star in our family. Bill is the younger brother of Lindsay and Allison. When he was smaller, Bill used to have an imaginary friend named Jake, whom Bill made us acknowledge and feed and play with. Now he has a realer, much more attractive friend named Erin. If you meet Erin, you will be tempted to put her in your pocket so you can pull her out when you get sad. Bill and Erin are both studying to be elementary school teachers. I feel happy for the world about that.

This is Lauren, our resident genius, with her boyfriend, Justin. Lauren takes after our grandfather and is studying to be a surgeon. She’s in podiatry school right now and while examining a cadaver, she identified a previously undiscovered condition, and she won awards for an article she published about it. Every once in awhile Lauren sends Sister and me doctory essays to “edit,” and we spend ten minutes trying to read all the six syllable words and then we give up and send it back with a smiley face and a GREAT JOB! So we feel partly responsible for Lauren’s medical success.

Sister and I used to call Kathleen, the best we’ve got. No offense to the rest of the cousins, but you know it’s true. Kathleen is smart and kind and has always been wise and mature far beyond her years. Which is why none of us really understood much of what she was talking about for a long while. But now we do, and she makes us so proud. If we had to send a representative of ourselves somewhere, we’d send Kat. Kathleen is interning with a non-profit this summer and I would vote her most likely to change the world.

Here is Sister and Colleen. Colleen is our baby, although she’ll probably be annoyed that I described her that way. Colleen is SASSY. She likes dancing and fashion and cheerleading … and just when you think you’ve got her pegged in a nice little high school category, you catch a glimpse of her report card on the fridge and notice that she has a 4.3 GPA and is taking classes like AP genetics. So I don’t know. That girl is something. Lauren, Kathleen, and Colleen are sisters, and best friends. Their mama raised them right.

Here is Christine, the only cousin I might describe as quiet. Which really just means that she is not constantly screaming, like the rest of us. She is elegant, that Christine. Actually she’s the only one of us whom I’d even consider describing as elegant. Christine is studying to be a pharmacist and I imagine she looks really hot in that white coat. I also imagine that being raised in our family encouraged her belief that prescription drugs can be very, very important. She is a good listener, which is hard to be in our family because of the unbelievable din. Christine is a gentle, bright soul.

Natalia is a singer and really, besides Lindsay, the only one of us who can really dance. Her mother and father are both career dancers, and they passed on their genius and gracefulness to Natalia. Natalia is a little fancier than the rest of us. Even her name is a little fancier. And she has the best laugh, for sure. I love trying to make Natalia laugh. She and her sweet and very tall husband, Chris, are expecting their first child in a few months. So our party next year will be plus one. We just found out that our plus one will be a little boy. Joy.

This is Frankie with his classy, beautiful girlfriend. I don’t know where to start with him. Frankie’s the biggest cousin, with the biggest heart. When Frankie sees me and his face lights up and he picks me up a little off the floor and keeps hugging me longer than he has to, it always makes me tear up. Frankie makes everyone feel special, like each of us is his favorite. Just like his daddy used to do. Frankie is just like his daddy, who is another post all together. I’ll get to Uncle Frank when I can figure out how to do justice to someone whose personality was larger than words

Here is Ali –the spiciest one we’ve got. If you’d like to know where Ali got her spice, please see this post about her mom, Judy. Ali is a hair stylist, so she always looks this cool. That’s her b-fri Josh. If you ever come visit us in Ohio, you’re gonna want to find a seat next to Ali so you can be sure to hear everything she says. You won’t be disappointed. Ali never disappoints.

And finally, here is my Caren. This picture was taken after Sister asked us to show her our “best sides” for a picture. I grew up a little bit in awe of Caren. A lot in awe, I guess. She was my brave pioneer, always experiencing life a few steps ahead of me. When we were little we spent hours in my grandma’s attic making up dances, and then held the whole family hostage watching us perform. I remember once performing “Like a Virgin” for all the aunts and uncles and my grandma and grandpa. That had to be a little awkward, but I don’t remember anybody letting on. As we got older, Caren taught me how to do my hair and make-up and even took me to high school with her once to teach me how to walk the halls and talk to boys. I never learned to do either one without terror, but she tried. Now we both have babies and husbands and we’re learning how to navigate those waters together, too. I wish everyone had a Caren of their very own. If you don’t, you can share mine, because she comments here almost everyday which fills my heart to bursting.

This is how every Kishman New Year’s Eve party ends. I know, weird, right? I’ll explain tomorrow.

Thank you for meeting my family. Wow, it means a whole lot to me.

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