Learning To Fly

The first time I got on an airplane, I was an unaccompanied minor. Except that back then, there really wasn't anything called 'unaccompanied minors' and I was accompanied by my older brother and my two very little siblings. Eddie sat way up somewhere else on the plane and I sat with J & J, making sure they ate their Kudos bars and didn't spill their many airplane-sized cups of soda.

Eventually, they just gave us the cans. You can get anything on an airplane if you whine enough.

I never did fly with an adult in all the times I've flown back and forth, Philly to Denver, parent-hopping my way through my childhood. And that never seemed like an issue at all; I mean, it's getting on a plane, sitting down for three hours and getting off the plane - not rocket science. I was 13 whole years old, I knew everything, and I found flying to be intoxicating.

Now, actually flying the plane is a little bit like rocket science, and since I always loved flying so much, when I had the opportunity, I learned how to fly them myself. I have yet to find anything as exhilarating and freeing and close to godly as piloting an airplane. Maybe I haven't done much with my life, maybe I've never seen the world, maybe I've never even seen Detroit, but at least I've flown airplanes.

But the problem, for me at least, with knowing how to fly the airplane is that now I know every single thing that can go south, literally, when trying to keep a few tons of metal aloft. Knowing how to do it took the magic out of it for me, and made me the world's worst airplane passenger. Learning how to drive made me the world's worst auto passenger, too. Really, ask my husband. My complete inability to sit in the passenger seat and not completely freak the fuck out has almost driven that poor man to the divorce lawyer.

I think that if I'd just not learned how to fly an airplane, I wouldn't be sitting here right now shivering inside while my husband sits at a gate with our sons, waiting to load them up on a plane and send them to Denver for two weeks. I wouldn't be going through all the worst case scenarios in my head, if only I didn't know what they are. I wouldn't be worrying about whether or not they can get oxygen masks over their faces, or whether or not they will whine their way into cans of Sprite.

Or maybe I would. Maybe I would because those are my babies, and they're going 1500 miles away from me, where I won't be there if someone falls off a bike and scrapes their knees, where I can't come get them if it turns out that they don't still get along with the best friends they left behind four years ago when we left Denver. That powerless feeling I get every time I buckle my seat belt and put my tray table up for take-off isn't much different from the powerless feeling I'm getting sending my sons into the world on their own for two weeks.

But I guess the best things in life are the ones that leave you feeling helpless - like motherhood, like launching yourself through clouds and over mountains, like letting go.  I never knew how to see the world until I saw it from a few thousand feet up, and maybe I don't know how to see my kids for the little men that they are until I see them from a few thousand miles away. I guess it's time to let them go. I supposed I have to let them go, and trust that I taught them how to put mud on a bee sting and ask politely for sodas and behave even when I'm not watching.

It took me a while, but I learned how to fly. It's taking me a while, but I'm trying to learn how to give my kids wings, too.


Shrouded in the bleak grayness of winter's final desperate push, under sterile florescent lights flickering in time with my breaths, you entered this world. Like a Hollywood movie showcasing the juxtaposition of the fight for humanity against the backdrop of war, you emerged chaotically, bloodied and bruised, weakened yet victorious. We welcomed you onto the battleground of your life; the floors soaked in my blood, the air thickened with dreadful anticipation, while the perfection of your face, your body, your heart and soul sucked the air out of the room and enveloped us all in a vacuum of pure wonder.

For the years' worth of seconds that passed from the moment you exited my body and entered my heart, the world stopped spinning to welcome you. Deafening silence washed over all the whole of creation; the only sound left to be heard was the raging beat of your fierce heart. We spoke not a word to each other, and your cries were notably absent as we lost ourselves in the watery seas of your gaze, as you studied studied our features, as we all came to know each other on the most beautiful gray day in the history of mankind.

Two minutes later, you opened your mouth...and you haven't closed it since. Bygones.

A decade has passed since the first day of our acquaintance, ten long years we have written the story of our lives together. I watch over you carefully as you become, I wash what it scratched and I mend what is broken the best ways I know how, and I hope that it is enough. I watch as you struggle for definition in an undefinable existence, and I try to remind you that the best way to find your way through darkness is by taking the hand of someone who's already walked it. I see the same battle waging inside of you as did me a million years ago, grasping for a hold on a role you cannot comprehend, but recognize the need for.

What I will tell you today, now that you have entered the decade of your life that will see you become more than my son, more than my anything, is this: Your role is the most cherished one to me, your charge the most pressing in my life. You are the gravity that keeps my feet to the earth, the cement that keeps my walls standing around me, the air that begs me to breath in. You are the song that we all sing, the poem of our life. Even when you don't make any sense at all.


You are the anthem of this family, the lost chords and the unsung verses forgotten in the dance from this responsibility to that appointment. You are the skip of our collective heart-beat, the pause that reminds us to live. You are the distraction from our distractions, the key to the doors of pure joy that we keep misplacing. You remind me that everything dreadful can be written down, folded up into a paper frog and jumped across the table. You teach me that there is nothing so solemn that a really good fart can't make better. You point out to me that math is great and language is an art but there is power, pure, unadulterated magic, in a #2 doodle.

You remind me to put my hands on the walls of the boxes I've built to shelter myself and shove. You remind me that there is so much more that I don't see because I forget it is there, between the lines, in that tiny gray area I try so hard not to touch. You remind me that even in the cold, dark, dreary days of life, there is unimaginable beauty, just waiting to be found, I just have to be willing to try. And I do try. I try to be better every day for you, I try to help you be unafraid of the person that you are, the mirror image of me. All the while, you keep showing me that I, that we...we are not something to be afraid of. We are divine grace, beautiful works of art, and that greatness lies before our very eyes so long as we are willing acknowledge that which we are, that which we can do.

Funny, it turns out that all I had to do was push.

Now, I Just Have To Get Him To Stop Picking His Nose, And We'll Be All Set

My nine year old is a Pisces. That means that he's emotional, and that he's conflicted, and that everything in his life is driven by his feelings. My eleven year old is an Aries, which means nothing goes further than his thick head. He finds reason for everything, he thinks everything through, and emotions run about a 2 on the Importance Scale in his life.

I was born 15 minutes off the cusp of Pisces and Aries, so I'm about as close to both as you can get without having an evil twin growing out of your throat. This just means that I get both of my kids pretty well. This also means that we all have birthdays in the next 44 days; just sayin'.


The differences in my children make my life totally complete, absolutely fascinating, and consistently inconsistent. They need two totally different styles of discipline, affection, encouragement and socialization. My oldest son can (and does) get lost in design and programming and science. My youngest son needs people. He needs physical interaction just to maintain his sanity. He needs friendships and he needs love.

Conveniently enough, he found both this weekend.

He's been fairly epically in love twice before, which is saying something since the kid hasn't been alive for an entire decade just yet. His first One True Love was Sam. They were five and she taught him how to french kiss on the playground at school one day. She was a troubled little girl from a troubled little home and he was, well, him, and those waters run deep. They were soulmates, best friends, two halves of a whole and he still refers to her as the great love of his life, four whole years later.

The second girl was Natalie. Natalie looked almost exactly like Sam, but didn't have the troubled-childhood thing under her belt. She was older than him, popular, athletic and smart. She was the girl that every little boy wanted to have the attention of, but my son was determined to win her over. We talked a lot about how to treat a girl, how to win her heart, and he agreed that it would be best if he was just nice to her. He went out of his way to include her in their playground games, but didn't treat her like "a girl"....he just played with her, like she was every other kid. He didn't nag her, but he didn't ignore her, either, and he didn't tease her like most of his friends did. And then one day, once the groundwork was laid and she knew who he was, he wrote her a private letter. He told her that looking at her was like looking at angels, and that when she was near him, it was as if he was in heaven.

The boy's good, yo.

Aside: I only know about this letter because he left it at his friend's house and that friend's mom found it. It was so adorable, she actually hand-delivered it to Ms Natalie. After she called me to read it to me.

But then we moved, again, and 2of3 has been reluctant to make new friends here. You move a kid far enough away from everything he loves enough times, and he starts sheltering his heart.

He's got a few buddies here; not anyone close enough to get into really good trouble with, but just enough to have a kid or two to eat lunch with. 2of3 is the kind of kid who needs one person, just one, that is all his own. He needs that soul-crushing, all-consuming connection with someone, and without it, he's just not the same kid. Which sucks, because he's manically awesome when he's whole.

When we had some friends over for dinner on Saturday, we assumed their daughters would be friends with our daughter. She's 4, they are 6 and 7. We figured our 11 year old would lock his door and hide in his room the whole night, and we figured that 2of3 would spend the night showing the grown-ups how far he can shove his fingers up his nose while the girls all played together.


By the end of the night, their 7 year old and my 9 year old were in a tent out back with a flashlight, a board game and some popcorn, just hanging out. They played video games together and played tag with each other and had juice boxes together.  They met, they wooed, they made exchange of video game cheat codes.

He absolutely adored her. Admittedly, she IS pretty flipping adorable, but after they headed home for the night, I went up to the boys rooms to send them to bed. I found 2of3 on his brother's floor, slowly and deliberately pushing a little skateboard up and down a little Tech Deck ramp, and I asked him if he had fun. He sighed. I asked him if we should invite the girls to his birthday party, and he didn't even look up at me when he said, "Mom, I think I have a crush on her." I said I thought he did, too, and he said, "But she's only seven. I'm going to have to be really nice to her, huh?"

Yes, kid, yes you are. I have a feeling it won't be all that hard for you to pull really nice off, though.

Dreams Do Come True; It Can Happen To You, If Your Mother Refuses To Let Go Of Childhood Angst. Or You're Young At Heart, Either Way.

I was born with the ability to play the piano. This is no surprise; my parents are, and I'm not kidding, two of the most gifted musicians you'll ever meet. My father taught Jim Croce's brother to play guitar, not kidding. All of us are musically inclined, whether or not we choose to use those skills. And hell, have you ever seen my fingers? They're like pipe cleaners sticking out of dough, I tell you what. They're made for three things....guitar, piano and masturbation. Thankfully or unfortunately, I can't decide which, I was so indoctrinated with cultish visions of damnation and hellfire that one of those three was forever ruined for me.

As for the other two, I taught myself how to play guitar with a book full of Janis Ian sheet music and my 4th grade music teacher realized one day that I could just play piano. He taught me basic notes and chords and sent me home, and my mother handed me the sheet music to The Incredible Hulk and a dry erase marker for the piano keys and told me to have at it. A year later, I could really play the piano. It's the ugliest thing in the world, watching me hammer away on the keys, but it sounds right and hell, I'm sure that Beethoven looked like an asshole when he played, too, but no one's smacking him down for form today, now are they?

I am no Beethoven. I am no Elmo on a piano, but if I wanted to be, I probably could rock that shit.

For a while, I wanted to be. We had two player pianos in our house, side by side in our tiny living room, donated to us by our church in what I can only guess was a misguided attempt at keeping our little fingers busy with anything that didn't involve our naughty places. I used to BEG my mother for lessons, but she refused on the grounds that we couldn't afford it, which was probably true seeings how we only ate a few times a week, and no amount of the Rainbow Connection and church hymns filling the air would also fill our tummies, but it didn't make me want them any less. I was very understanding of the whole situation, though. I'd sit while my bat-shit crazy grandmother who thought she could channel George Washington and make the dog levitate tried to teach me how to play the score from Oklahoma with her squeaky little voice that wasn't completely unlike that shrimp from Poltergeist's demon voice. I'd hammer out Suicide is Painless, which maybe wasn't exactly the smartest sheet music to hand a suicidal pre-teen in hindsight, but bygones, until I got it right, and I still fall asleep with Ted Cassidy's voice in my head, telling me about science gone awry and Dr David Banner's struggles with elastic waist bands, muscle shirts and finding a nice shade of lipstick to compliment his earthy skin tone. Or something like that.

And then one day, after spending the better part of a year teaching my little brother to play the Pink Panther theme, my mother announced that she was getting him piano lessons because he was clearly gifted and deserved the extra help.

Cue head explosion.

I swore, SWORE, that no matter what my kids wanted to be in life, I'd make it happen. If they dreamed of being a world-class marathon runner, I'd put down the cigarettes and strap on the Nike's and train with them. If they wanted to be carpenters, I'd hand them a hammer. And a bandaid. If they wanted to be starving musicians, I'd buy them their first Les Paul.

IMG_3277Can We Build It?Ain't Noise Pollution

Of COURSE I ended up with the kid who's only goal in life is to beat every level of Guitar Hero and then become, not just a professional, but a sponsored skateboarder. I have a really hard time asking my husband for $8 when I need milk and bread, but I'm supposed to figure out how to get Element to pay my kid to skate? Christ on a goddamn cracker, yo.

The boy is dead serious. He will skate for someone, and well, and he's not going to stop until this happens for him. Or he breaks his legs. Or he starves to death under a half pipe. Or he falls over backwards at the skatepark and hits his head so hard he cracked his Bell helmet all the way up the back. Oh, wait, that already happened, and it really didn't stop him. It did stop any number of parts on me, however, but I think I've started breathing again and I seem to have a pulse, so I think I'll recover. He thinks it's pretty cool. Bastard. Bastard who now wears his helmet everywhere he goes, though, so I win.

Of course, I have these dreams of my boys winning Pulitzers and accepting Nobel prizes and graduating from Ivy League colleges but maybe that's not in their cards. Do I want my kid to put everything he has behind skateboarding? Honestly, a little. Skateboarding is awesome. But there's that grown-up in me that wants to tell him to have a "fall back" career, some "real" skill, something "substantial" to base his life's dreams on. Because I didn't even go to college and it's taken me 34 years to even find a job that doesn't require an apron. And if I want anything in this world, it's for my children to know more than I did, to live better than I ever could have.

But my baby wants to skateboard, and I can't deny that. I mean, look at that shit. It's poetry.


God shield I should disturb devotion. So tomorrow, I'm packing these boys up and, under the guise of testing out the new Tony Hawk video game Ride, I'm lugging them down to San Diego to spend a weekend with His Holiness himself, Mr Tony Fucking Hawk. Because maybe I'd also like him to have a law degree, but I'd really much rather watch him have his dreams come true. And of all the things that matter to me, the fact that my kid knows I support him, in whatever, is the most important thing to me in this whole world.

Besides getting to meet Tony Hawk, of course. I'm kind of flipping out about that one.

Or Maybe I Just Suck

Today, my husband and I fought in front of our children for the first time ever.


Like, in 11 and a half years ever.

I don't mean to say that we don't ever fight because god knows we do. If you've ever dared to dip your toes in the murky waters that are my archives, you'll know what I mean. And Christ, I met him when I was twenty. I've gone through no less than 10 variations of myself between then and now, and so has he. Our shit, it is hard sometimes. But coming from two spilt families, me with my history of domestic assault and him with his abandonment baggage, we've worked really hard to keep our crap between us.  Sure, we fight, but we don't do it often and when we do, it's over as soon as it starts.

Usually, I will start being an insane asshole and he'll tell me to go take a five minute walk and sort it out. Or he'll open a big, fat can of jerkface and I'll tell him to check it before I am forced to wreck it and that ends it. We're actually really good at mitigating each others mood-swings, and because of that, our kids have never once born witness to anything more than a long scowl or a stern, "Other room, NOW."

It would seem that my Mercury was firmly lodged in his Uranus today or something, because while I was trying to get 2of3 to clean the damn bathroom, he decided that at that very second, 2of3 needed to take the vacuum to his brother. And I was so sick and tired of trying to get that kid upstairs to the bathroom, I told him no. And The Donor told him yes. So I told The Donor no, and he told me to fuck off and I told him to shove it up his ass and the threw the vacuum and I told him to get the fuck out.

Because we're five, that's why.

Meanwhile, my nine year old was just standing there watching this whole parade of lunacy unfold before him and as soon as dad walked out of the room, he started to cry.

Because we're fantastic parents, that's why.

And he told me he was scared, and I held him and told him that he fights worse than that with his brother every day and reminded him that I am a pain in the ass and his dad is an overbearing know-it-all and we've lived together for 14 long, long years and told him that of course we fight sometimes.

And now I don't know if I'm sad that my kid had to see us acting like three year olds or if I'm secretly a little glad that he witnesses an argument that resolved itself within ten minutes with a big hug and two unprompted and very sincere apologies that I made sure happened right in front of that kid and then ice cream, because ice cream cures all evils. Am I wrong to think that I should be teaching him that it's okay to have conflicts and that the world doesn't end when you have them? Because I lived thirty years thinking one raised voice meant the End Of Civilization as we know it, and I never learned how to fight and get over it until I had to learn the hard way.

There's really no point to this at all. I just worry sometimes that they think their parent's marriage is the perfect, happy go lucky thing and because of that, when their time comes, they will have no clue how to deal with the reality of marriage and the reality of marriage is that bitches, on occasion, be crazy, and you love them through it anyway.