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The Lego

Like most boys their ages, Addison and Hayden have had a longstanding love affair with Legos. And like most parents of boys who have longstanding love affairs with Legos, Patrick and I have had a longstanding love/hate relationship with the little buggers (the Legos, not the boys).

Oh yes, everything is awesome when it comes to Legos, right up until that moment your bare foot steps down onto one of those damn bricks in the dark of the night. And then all bets are off. Nothing compares to the excruciating, mind-blowing, body-bending, curse-inducing pain of stepping on a Lego. It never seemed to matter the hours we spent picking up those teeny tiny little pieces before we went to bed. Somehow we always seemed to miss a brick or two. And it always seemed to be the tender arch of my foot that would inevitably find it later in the night.

It took one unfortunately placed Lego several years ago to make me totally lose my mind. Maybe I was overly tired. Maybe I was stressed about having to fly the following morning at o’dark hundred and not getting enough sleep. Maybe my husband had eaten the last of the ice cream the evening before and I was still grumpy about it. But the middle of that night when I set my foot down on that Lego, when it jabbed into the softest part of my sole, when I truly thought I would die, that the pain was actually going to kill me, I snapped. When I was finally able to uncoil myself from the fetal position and pull myself off the floor, I flipped on every light in the house. Sleepy, befuddled little boys and an all-knowing husband looked on as I hobbled from room to room and packed every Lego I could find into boxes, then hauled them out to our shop garage. I was done stepping on Legos in the dark of the night inside our house. Done. D-o-n-e. Done.

Over the next year, after a fresh coat of paint and several trips to Ikea, the shop garage evolved into what we now call The Lego Shop. The space that the boys first boycotted, the space that incited foot stomping, whining, and tears, the space that was too lonely, too cold, had too many spiders and a floor that was too hard, is now one of their favorite places to play. If they aren’t running around outside, getting muddy and creating mountains of laundry for me to do, you can bet that you’ll probably find them in there, building and creating like there’s no end in sight, just as happy as they can be. And considering my feet are no longer perpetually bruised, I’m a pretty happy mama again, too.

So welcome to Addison’s and Hayden’s Lego shop! Oh, and if you happen to come in barefoot, do step gingerly. And don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Mama?

Addison’s already sleeping restlessly beside me. He flips to his stomach, kicks one leg out from the covers, flings an arm across me, and snuggles his head into my shoulder. I slide my arm under and pull him closer, resting my palm on his cheek to feel for fever. He still feels cool to my touch.

Mama? I turn my head to the other side, and see Hayden standing by my bed. Mama, I don’t feel so good. My throat hurts and I feel fire right here, he says, rubbing his chest with a hand that is also tightly clutching his monkey.

I untangle myself from his brother and push the covers down, patting the space beside me. He climbs in, pulling his truck blankie and soft blankie up with him. I whisper sweet nothings to him and rub his back until I feel him relax and his breath becomes slow and steady and I know he is asleep.

I carefully turn, trying futilely to get comfortable, not wanting to wake either, and realize the only place my arms will fit are up above my head. My feet are hot under the duvet but one or the other of the boys are laying on top of it in such a way that I can’t kick my way to the cool. I lay there contorted long enough to eventually hear Patrick peak in at us and then shut the door to Hayden’s room. I hear him push dozens of stuffies to the floor and then settle into Hayden’s bed.

I can’t sleep. I no longer have feeling in my arms. I’ve been trying to pretend the tickle in my throat isn’t really happening for I’m not sure how long now. The glass of water on my nightstand might as well be in another country, as I haven’t been able to find a way to reach it without waking anyone. I think of all the empty beds in the house I could have to myself.

And then I remember. I remember that I am well into all the lasts, and that this night might well be one of them. This night may be the last time I share a bed with both, that I am lucky enough to sleep in the middle of my boys, my loves. This might well be the last night they come to me wanting my comfort and my snuggles. This may be the last night they believe that laying next to me and having me rub their backs is enough to make them well.

I slowly, carefully, slide an arm beneath each and pull them close, breathing in their boyish scent and feeling their warmth. And I hope I’ll not fall asleep.

I’m waiting at the crosswalk for the signal to turn. I shift the strap of my bag to my other shoulder as the weight of a dozen guava yogurts promised to Addison causes it to pinch my skin.

An older woman wearing white socks and plastic flip flops, gym shorts and a several sizes too big gray sweatshirt approaches me. She has silver stringy hair that hasn’t been recently washed or brushed, but is carefully swept to one side and held in place with a battered barrette.

She stops directly in front of me, drops her bright yellow Don Quijote plastic shopping bag near my feet and tells me she’s going to steal all my money. I look at her, thinking maybe I didn’t quite hear her right, this woman who moves as slowly as my boys’ 83 year old Gram Gram, and say, “I’m sorry, what was that?”

“I’m going to steal all your money,” she answers, and begins rummaging through her bag.

She pauses briefly to look up at me, and I notice all of her front teeth are missing as she says, “I have to scare you first. I have to find something to scare you with,” and continues searching through her bag.

The signal has changed, and people beside me who were looking on with interest now cross the street instead. She keeps rummaging through her shopping bag, muttering something I can’t quite make out.

I ask her how much she hopes to steal from me and without looking up she answers, “Ten dollars, so I can buy my man a present.”

I raise my eyebrows in surprise, both at the small amount of money she wants and at the idea of her man.

“Hmmm…” I say, “I don’t have $10 but I do have a $20. Would that work?”

“Oh,” she says, “I could get him something real nice for $20. Maybe even some dinner.”

She’s stopped searching her bag and is now squinting up at me. “Don’t you want me to scare you first?” she asks as I open my wallet.

I feel ashamed at the laughter rising through my chest, straining my lips, and do my best to stifle it. “Well…. I don’t think so. I think we’re probably good. Unless you really want to,” I say as I hold the money toward her.

She grabs it, picks up her yellow shopping bag, and turns to walk away. The signal changes and I laugh to myself as I cross the street to my hotel.

Who knows what present she’ll buy her man, it’s not really my place to say, but this little old toothless gram gram in Honolulu has certainly made my day!

**********Edit to Add********

Thank you, all of you, for getting as much of a kick out of this little old lady as I did. And just so we are all on the same page, I was never in any danger. It was so funny to me that she announced her intention, then started looking for something to scare me with, and all the while moved with the speed of molasses. I could have rounded the block twice (she may not have noticed), had I needed to make a getaway!
Also, as far as the money goes, it wasn’t at all that generous or kind hearted of me. I had, admittedly, passed many people in need without offering help to them as well. I had my bag full of yogurts and a purse full of money that I could have used to help many others, but didn’t. In this case, it took being held up by a toothless gram gram with a shopping bag for me to open my wallet. Perhaps she could be my motivation to do better next time.

It’s Fun, She Says

“I’m in San Jose at the Fairmont. What should I do?” I ask her.

She says, “Walk to San Pedro Square. It’s fun.”

“Is it safe?” I ask.

She says, “Yeah, I’ve never seen anything shady.”

And so I go. An hour or so later as I am walking near San Pedro Square I see a homeless man lurking in a doorway. He steps out in front of me and begins walking about a car length ahead of me. I study him from behind as he struggles to carry a large brown paper sack from its bottom. It seems heavy. He is probably worried it will tear and spill its contents. With his other hand, he holds up the waist of his too big and unbelted pants, and I feel a wave of sympathy for him that somehow his life has taken a turn that has made just walking down the street so difficult. I can tell the bag is getting heavy and he would like to switch it to the other arm, but to do that he would have to let go of his pants just for a moment, just long enough for them to fall.

I am wondering if I should offer to help him when a police car pulls in front of him. An officer gets out, says something to the man that I can’t make out. The homeless man begins walking faster, and I think he is pretending to not hear or see him. The police officer shouts for him to stop, to take his hand out of his pocket. I stop breathing when I see that the officer has pulled out his gun and has it pointed at an angle toward the ground out in front of him. If he just lifts his arm, it will be pointed directly at the man. He yells again for the man to take his hand out of his pocket, and in my mind I’m silently crying out that his hand isn’t in his pocket. It’s holding up his pants.

The man stands still, and I realize that I am still as well. We both stand there for a moment and I am confused, bewildered. I hear sirens and another police car pulls up onto the sidewalk, right in front of me, separating me from the man. The officer jumps out and the other shouts again for the man to take his hand out of his pocket.

I am so confused. Time seems to stop. What is happening? I hear more sirens and am trying to process how this all could happen so quickly, how all these police have seemingly materialized out of nowhere, what this man might have done that led the police to him in the first place. It feels like it has only been seconds, I’m sure it only has, but somehow I count six police cars and officers, guns drawn, surrounding the man.

And all of a sudden time catches up to me, my heart starts beating again, but so quickly it feels like it might burst from my chest. I have to get out of here. Now. I turn around, retrace my steps and quickly turn a corner onto a side street, putting as much distance between myself and what I’ve seen as I can.

And now I’m left to wonder….

Karma. Little random acts of kindness. Paying it forward. Whatever you call it, you, my beautiful friends, with your generosity and desire to support and encourage my little dreamer, set in motion one of the most wonderful parenting moments I have yet experienced. Because of you, Hayden, without even realizing it, showed me the depths of his heart, his empathy, his compassion, his desire to help others.

Last night, shortly before bedtime, I posted on Facebook that Hayden had created a new company named Hayden’s Homemade. From time to time he will offer crafty homemade items for sale, and his first offering was a Pumpkin Spice Sugar Scrub. He hoped to sell enough to buy a $20 Lego set he’s had his eye on. Unbeknownst to him, while he slept, orders began pouring in.

This morning, when he woke, he excitedly pounced on me to find out if anyone had replied to my post and ordered a sugar scrub. When I told him how many of you had placed orders, he was over the moon! He jumped up and down, did a victory dance, threw his arms out in front of him and punched the air, chanting oh yeah, oh yeah!

And then he became still, and quiet, and I knew he was thinking.

But mom, he said, that’s over a hundred dollars. That’s almost two hundred dollars. While I was sleeping! And I didn’t really even have to do anything. I just had to have an idea and then make it, which was really fun, like playing. And then it turned into all this money. While I was sleeping!

He was quiet again.

Mom, you know all these books we’ve been reading? About people who have no money, or who have to leave their houses and their country and don’t have enough money to even buy food? Can I give my money to them? Or maybe to your friend who is going to that country, what’s it called? Ugor?

Uganda?

Yeah. Uganda. You know your friend who’s going there to help people start their own businesses? So they can make money and buy food for their kids? You know that friend?

Li?

Yeah. Yeah her. Can I give my money to her and then she can use it to help the people in Uganda start their own companies? And that way my company can help make more companies?

I think, Hayden, that is a wonderful idea.

Then why are you crying?

Because you are amazing.

*****
Hayden will be donating his profits to help fund my friend and coworker Lianne Philips’ trip to Uganda. She has partnered with Hear the Cry and will be helping the house moms at Bethany Village, an orphanage in Uganda, develop skills that will in turn help them generate an income. It’s an amazing thing she is doing, and I am thrilled to pieces that in overhearing me telling Patrick about it a couple of weeks ago, it left enough of an impression on Hayden that he remembered and wanted to help as well.

So thank you, all you lovely friends of mine, for encouraging and supporting Hayden, which led to his opportunity to encourage and support a friend traveling across the world to encourage and support those who need it most. Beautiful.

Road Trippin’

The boys have made a meticulous list of all their electronic gadgetry. DVDs (they picked ‘The Man from Snowy River’ so I must be doing something right), Kindles, a laptop, iPad, headphones, chargers, and so on. Check, check, and checkity check.

I’ve tossed two books into the center console to read aloud along the drive. We’ll get through one.

Patrick packed a cooler full of food that I know will all be placed back in the pantry and refrigerator again this evening. We’ll stop at Starbucks before we hit the freeway and load up on pricy snacks instead.

The animals are all fed and watered, lights off, doors and windows locked. We’re in the car and I do my cursory check that everyone is wearing shoes. I learned that one early on in my days as a mother of toddlers. Now no child enters my car without me glancing at their feet. Oh the number of times I’ve sent someone, my husband included, back in for footwear.

We back out of the garage, head down the drive, turn onto the road, pass the gate. I sigh with relief and begin to relax. It appears we’ve made it through the most stressful part of any trip — just getting out the door.

We are ten minutes from home when Hayden says he’s forgotten his Fitbit. We talk it through until he decides he’s fine without it and continue on. Patrick keeps stealing glances of himself in the rear view mirror, often enough that I ask him what he’s doing. He forgot to put gel in his hair. A little further down the road I remember that I’ve forgotten my sunglasses, and Addison announces he needs to use a restroom. So we turn around and head for home.

Fifteen minutes later Hayden grabs his Fitbit, and I my sunglasses. Addison dashes for the restroom, and Patrick styles his hair. Lights are turned off, doors locked, and we all pile back into the car. I check again for shoes, and we are on our way….

Mariners or Bust!!!

The early morning sky is streaked with pink, yellow, green and blue light. Mt. Hood towers above the foothills, which are covered in a light fog. I stand on the deck and the air is already warm, or maybe still so from yesterday’s heat. It is going to be another beautiful day, but a heaviness that is too familiar at this time of year surrounds me.

I know the summer is almost over, the mornings of sleeping late and nights of staying up later, the evening campfires and afternoon swims will soon be behind us. I know I should enjoy these last moments, the last chances for summer memories, but the dread of sending the boys back to school always creeps in and colors these last days of summer a bittersweet hue.

I walk through the quiet house while everyone sleeps. Evidence of a summer well lived by two little boys is everywhere. Barn boots covered in mud and dirt and twigs and leaves from tromps and stomps in the creek are kicked off by the garage door. Football and Pokemon cards are lined up in meticulous order beneath the great room windows. A Disney fast pass is discarded on the kitchen counter. The front porch is cluttered with mason jars full of cotton balls, seeds, and sprouts of something long forgotten. A heaping pile of swim shorts and pool towels fill the laundry room sink. Graham cracker crumbs, sticky streaks of marshmallow, and a chocolate wrapper litter the patio around the firepit. A ring of dirt, of horses and trail rides, big swings and sand boxes, slip’n slides and summer camp encircles the tub from last night’s bath. Birthday presents fill the living room, the Lego shop is filled to bursting with new masterpieces painstakingly built.

Every room shows bits of summer and freedom and unscheduled bliss. And I wish it could be this way forever.

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