Monthly Archives: November 2013

My Son is So Very Charitable (Or Will Be Someday? Maybe?)

Lying in Lyle’s bed tonight as he bounced on his knees and flip-flopped like a fish on dry land (the after-effects of a lot of Thanksgiving soda and two slices of pie), I tried to shift the subject of conversation from how much allowance I owed him to what charity he would like to give his money to this Christmas. You see, each week I set aside a dollar for each of the kids and at some point in the year they can give it to the charity of their choice. It rapidly became clear, however, that Lyle didn’t exactly have a grasp on the definition of charity organizations, as these were the ideas he offered:

1) “The Army”. RationaleSo they can buy more guns! [Oh, swell.]

2) “Some Louisiana Fundraiser”. Rationale: Because it’s the state that starts with “L” like my name so it’s my favorite state! [Here his bouncing was accompanied by some old kindergarten song about how your left index finder and thumb make the letter “L” but I didn’t hear it clearly as I was beginning to bury my head under the pillow, wondering where I had gone wrong with this kid.]

3) “The Lyle Health Organization”. RationaleThey could give me some sort of chip that would let me get out of dangerous situations every time. 

4) “Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk”. RationaleIf someone really fat sits on the roller coaster and breaks it, they could fix it before I get there again.

5) “Activision”. RationaleThey make Skylanders. Maybe if I give them my money they’ll be able to create another figure.

Once he stopped listing his amazing ideas [believe me, this went on for a while, I just can’t remember them all] and I caught my breath from laughter and came out from under the pillow, he asked suddenly, “Well, then what IS a charity?”

I believe he landed on a local animal shelter, although I wouldn’t rule out his $52 ending up in Louisiana somehow.



It was a tricky morning at our house. Typically on Fridays I try to keep my schedule light and open. After a very busy week, it’s the one morning I generally don’t leave early with the kids or start work early. I get to play June Cleaver on Fridays, wearing my bathrobe as I’m making the boys breakfast and packing their lunches before they get picked up for school; most of the time the boys are responsible for these things. But today I have a packed schedule and so I volunteered to drive all the kids to school since I was heading out early anyway. Which meant we were all rushing once again, and the kids were none too pleased.

Further, we don’t usually have to pack up for the boys to go to their dad’s until after school on the Fridays they are heading there, but the day had become complicated enough that we needed to take care of that this morning as well. Do you have your stuffed animals? Remember your clarinet – but I don’t have band! – but you will next week!! When it was time to be picking up the other kids and my boys still didn’t have their coats, socks, or shoes on, the fish hadn’t been fed, and we were generally in a very unready state, we all got a bit tense.

As we sat in the car waiting for the other kids to come out, we watched the rain slide down the windows and listened to Baxter’s 70s and 80s Pandora station. I looked at the kids and said, “Oh, man, I don’t think you guys ever brushed your teeth this morning, did you?” Both of them shook their heads a bit guiltily and I sighed a little.

And then Lyle, with a mischievous grin, threw my own words back at me, declaring, “Well, like you always say, we should be grateful for what we do have!” I laughed with him about it, but then we did just that. Listing all that we had managed to accomplish between 6:15 and 7:30am, our moods shifted. We’re all showered and dressed…we ate…we all have lunches…the pets got fed…we packed your bags for Daddy’s…homework is packed…we remembered that pillow left at the sleepover party for you to return at the 8th grade potluck tonight…two field trip forms are completed…and we aren’t even that late. The list was long and impressive.

How easy it is in this busy life to focus on the small mistakes, the things we’ve left undone, day in and day out. As we head into Thanksgiving week, this was a lovely reminder to be sure that what we say aloud isn’t always that one thing we got wrong, the small mistake, but instead to stop and be grateful for all that we have and all that we manage to do each day.



Dear Baxter,

Once upon a time, on a beautiful, sunny November day in San Francisco, a gorgeous baby boy was born. He was big and strong and dove into the world, hands first, like Superman. Over the years he grew rapidly and brought so much joy to everyone around him, no matter where he went. He was curious and bright and chatty: a real “questiony guy”, as he described himself when he was three. He was also kindhearted and easy-going, with an open, non-judgmental perspective. He was a hard worker without being especially driven. He was also good company and had a killer sense of humor.

Today, on your thirteenth birthday, you are still all of those things; they are your core, the foundation of who you are and who you will always be.

But let me tell you a little bit more about who you are this year. Now, sweet boy, you are within an inch of my height. You have a dark mustache that you are very proud of and refuse to shave. Your voice is so deep that I continue to think Lyle is talking to a man in another room and I cannot figure out who it could be, until I realize once again with a start that it’s you. When your voice cracks, which it’s now doing less and less, you call attention to it in a light-hearted way, mimicking it, and laugh it off. Speaking of laughing, you are hilarious. Your sense of humor is quite sophisticated and your love of puns keeps us all smiling. You make fun of me, but gently, and in a way that allows me to laugh along with you at how ridiculous I am. We watch The Daily Show together and laugh ourselves silly. You continue to be most fascinated by science and math, and recently announced that you would be a particle physicist when you grow up. You had hoped to have your birthday party at Fermilabs, which we couldn’t quite pull off so Oma and Pops took you there for the day instead. Every time you talk about your trip there your face lights up. You have requested that our dear friend Michele make you “standard model of particle physics” cupcakes this year for your party (good luck with that, Michele…). I’d be lying if I said I knew what you were talking about much of the time – you’re light years ahead of me, kiddo.

Baxter, you are easy-going and positive. You don’t complain about school work or homework or other people.  If you ever make a face or say something mildly negative about someone I pay great attention, because it is that rare. You are weathering the storm of the high school search with good humor and without drama; you seem to know as well as I do that you’ll be just fine, wherever you go.

I know there’s a part of you that longs to stay 12, to be a kid for just a little bit longer before entering these teenage years. It’s true that the years ahead won’t always be easy, but no one ever promised that to any of us, not at any age, Sweetheart.  And I guess what it all comes down to, my wonderful boy, is that you really will be just fine wherever you go. I believe in you: your smarts, your smile, your even temper, your humor, your openness.

A couple years ago you declared to me that you believe in “peace, love, awesomeness, and impossibilities” and I still think of this often because I don’t think there’s a better way to move through the world than that.

As you enter your teenage years I wish you exactly that: peace, love, awesomeness, and impossibilities. I love you very much and always will.

Happy 13th, Baxter.