In the Undercurrents

My mom called earlier in the week to let me know they were bringing him home to make him comfortable. It was just a matter of time. He had been sick for a while, and his body just couldn’t fight this latest infection. His passing wasn’t out of the blue, but it still hurt when I actually heard the news.

He was the last of my grandparents to go. The last of that generation that was a stalwart reminder of my roots. I feel untethered now. Drifting. It’s taken me so long to adjust to mainland life – the holding of the door even though the next person is at least 15′ behind you. The cursory “Hi, how are you?” uttered in passing though you don’t actually wait for an answer. The aggressive driving. This damn cold weather. I’ve been here  for 15 years and I still feel out of place.

We were always close to my grandparents, on both sides. But I actually lived on his island – the island of his childhood and of my childhood are one and the same. We spent so. much. time at his house as kids – holidays, miscellaneous family gatherings, just popping in to raid the refrigerator. Sleepovers because my parents were too tired to haul all of us home. Spam and eggs in the morning with cousins who also got deposited there by tired parents who wanted a little peace themselves. Memories of my grandmother–my Kupuna–yelling at us to Be quiet! Stay outta that room! Stop running in the house! or just You kids! while my Papa hung out in the background, doing his own thing amongst the chaos of his legacy.

Chaotic. That is how I remember my childhood. Rambunctious. VERY NOISY. I come from a family of six, and grew up with almost twenty cousins, so life was always loud and messy. Such a difference from my son’s childhood, which is so much more quiet (ok, but possibly still just as messy). Sometimes its too quiet and the stillness makes me uneasy. I put on music, but its not the same. Where’s the laughter? Where’s the fighting? Where’s the chatter? We’re soon to have it, yes, with the arrival of this little one, but two is so much less than a gaggle. Am I cheating my children by raising them so far from their ‘ohana?

This question plagues me every. single. day. And with the passing of my Papa, the question weighs even heavier now. Sometimes the guilt is unbearable. My son. My little haole boy. So disconnected from his roots that he doesn’t say piko, but instead uses the haole word belly button. I can’t help but think that my grandparents–all of them–would be so disappointed in me.

“Don’t forget your roots, girl,” they told me when I left. And I’ve tried so hard to hold on. But there’s been a give and take (there had to be) as I try to cope in this new, foreign culture I am living in. Like I said, 15 years here and I still feel like I don’t belong. But I’ve been gone from home for so long now that I also feel a foreigner there. So I’m living in this sort of purgatory between where I came from and where I am now. And I don’t know how to get out.

A Habit of Thankfulness

Saturday  morning we found ourselves in a surprising predicament: we had nothing to do. No events scribbled on the calendar. No urgent errands to run. And with a newly painted dining room in need of some alone time (read: time to dry without the threat of little hands ruining the paint job), we couldn’t even stay at home. We needed to get out.

“It’s a beautiful day for a walk, Mommy,” Nugget observed. The sky was overcast, and the ground was still damp from the night’s rain. There was just a hint of mist in the air. The thermometer was hovering in the high 50s. In other words, a perfect Fall day. “You’re right, love,” I responded, “It is a beautiful day for a walk.”

We decided to visit a neighborhood lake, one nestled on the side of town we don’t visit too much. A light fog hung over the water, along with an incredible gaggle of geese who did not get the memo that it was time to head south. Nugget was thrilled with the prospect of sharing his morning with so many water fowl.

Despite being a very competent walker, my 3-year-old is not particularly fond of the activity. We still frequently hear the demand, “UP!” So we were a little concerned about the possibility of extensive negotiations regarding the number of feet that kept contact with the ground.

But Nugget was a champ, and requested levitation assistance only when he couldn’t see the geese due to the surrounding water reeds. Otherwise, he remained decidedly on his own two legs – excitedly running up and down the small hills (requiring us to follow his lead: “Everybody, time to run up the hill!”), spending a good deal of time looking for the perfect stick, asking us over and over, “Is that poop? Is that poop?”, and just generally enjoying the morning from his short vantage point of approximately 3′ from the ground.

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It was a magical morning for me, and I felt utterly blessed to be spending such time with my boys. We’ve been doing our own version of “30 Days of Thankfulness” for the month of November. I bought fall-colored foam leaves from the craft store, using them as a backdrop for our daily list of what we are thankful for. My meager attempt at being Marthat Stewart.

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Initially I had hoped that the exercise would be sincere–that we’d be thoughtful and intentional in our consideration of thankfulness–but really it’s turned into something comical. Some of my favorites:

“What are you thankful for today?”

Daddy: Running
Mommy: Running races
Nugget: Staying home

Daddy: My family
Mommy: My family
Nugget: My teachers

Daddy: Healthy food
Mommy: 60-degree Fall weather
Nugget: People who get me forks

Daddy: Slow work days
Mommy: The Internet
Nugget: Goat Cheese

Daddy: Kittens
Mommy: Pretty colors
Nugget: The numbers 1,2,3,4

Nugget does enjoy asking us “What are you thankful for today?” He begins the discussion, and you cannot answer until he has asked you the question directly. Once you answer, there is no pondering your response or asking you to further elaborate. He just moves on to the next person (though you may get the question twice). He is down to business my little one. And though the potential gravitae of this exercise is utterly and completely lost on him, I feel like we’re building something. Thankfulness is a habit, one that the DJ and I need to improve on as well. We only have enough foam leaves for 30 days, but hopefully we’ll continue this question over dinner for many nights to come.

That morning will always be tucked away in my mind as a special time together. And those special times I will always be thankful for.

Happy November, all. Happy Thanksgiving (I’m early for once!). Happy Holiday season. Just happy.

Lifted

Sometimes the weight of it all is overwhelming: the schedule juggling, the commute, the hearing of demands, the negotiating of terms, the nagging, the constant watching of the clock, the feeling that you’re always in a race against time. Sometimes that pressure is just too much to handle. Sometimes you just need a break.

Yesterday was one of those days. And so, after dinner, when the DJ and Nugget were doing their own thing, I stole upstairs, slipped into the shower and had a good cry.

It was an exercise in release, a pouring out of everything negative—the thoughts that I’m not good enough, that I’m doing a bad job, that I’m a bad mom, a bad wife, a bad person, that I’m not doing anything right, that I can’t do anything right even if I tried, that I’m not worth anything.

I cried hard, and let the emotions wash out of me. And as I did, I could feel myself emptying. I could feel myself becoming hollow. I could feel room being made for something new.

So I began thinking affirmations, filling that space with positives: I am good enough, I’m doing a great job, I’m not perfect but I’m trying my best and that’s all that anyone (even myself) can ask for. I see room for improvement, and that’s exciting, because improvement is growth, and growing as a person is what we should be doing, always. This challenge is my challenge, and I’m ready for it.

I stepped out of the shower and got dressed, feeling cleansed both inside and out. When I opened the door, there was Nugget curled up on the floor pillows nestled in the corner of our room. “Hi Mommy,” he said. “I brought up some work,” and he showed me the sticker book he is currently obsessed with.

Perhaps it is just projection, but it felt like he was there because he wanted to be near me. He wasn’t requiring anything of me. He was just sitting in the corner playing with his sticker book. He could have done that downstairs.

In fact, when I left him downstairs, Nugget was very occupied with his songbook and music, an activity that can keep him occupied for quite some time. I figured he wouldn’t notice my absence, which is why I decided to quickly take some time to myself after dinner. But just when I was feeling my lowest, my little boy quietly appears and decidedly affirms the little pep-talk I just gave myself.

He has no idea how much my spirits lifted when I saw him in our room. In his own little way, he is caring for his mommy. And that is the greatest affirmation: yes, I am doing a good job.

Perhaps this Halloween. Perhaps not.

Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, now is a good time to post about Halloween, right?

Punctuality is just not my thing.

One day I will post relevant, timely posts. But today is not that day.

Halloween has never been high on our Favorite Holidays list, but since we had Nugget, Halloween has been pure fun. For someone who is late for everything (such as *ahem* this post), I was proud that I managed to do some Halloween decorating this year. Nothing spectacular, but enough to make it feel festive around our little home.

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I’ve also had fun making our costumes the past two years. Last year we were dinosaurs:

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This year we were chefs:

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I took a picture of Nugget and the DJ. The DJ took a picture of Nugget and me. Nugget took a picture of the both of us.

The DJ is a great sport. He does not like dressing up and he does not like trick-or-treating, but he will doll himself up in whatever I tell him to and join us on our quest for candy around the block.

Turns out, Nugget is not a huge fan of trick-or-treating either. Granted, a 3-year-old does not yet have much stamina for the sport (and it is a sport…right?), but half-way down the block he wanted to turn around and go home. “I want to pass out candy,” he said, which is actually the DJ’s preference too.

We completed the loop around the block, but only stopped at two more houses. We got home early enough to welcome a good number of trick-or-treaters to our door. Nugget dutifully waited for each arrival, keeping the bowl of candy next to him, ready to spring into action whenever we saw someone walking up our pathway. And when we were running low on candy, he refilled the bowl with treasures from his own bounty. (We’ve already contacted Per Se management to have a position open for him in 20 years).

It was a great Halloween, and I am already looking forward to next year. Perhaps then you will get a timely post about our Halloween. Or as Nugget says, “Perhaps. Perhaps not.”

Oui, Chef!

The DJ and I met when we were both working at Per Se Restaurant, Thomas Keller’s 3-star Michelin restaurant in New York City. We still look back fondly on those days, which were some of our most difficult, most intense, most exhilarating of our adult lives. We are still in touch with many of our Per Se friends.

We left The City in 2008, and a two years later announced the birth of our son, Nugget. As congratulations, Per Se sent us a simple, crisp, white onesie that read Per Se Baby. We joked that as soon as Nugget could walk, we’d have him serving canapes at our dinner parties.

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A few weeks ago we had friends over on a Friday night for a pasta dinner playdate. Their son is a few months older than Nugget, so the boys played trains, duplo, guitar, and created general chaos as 3-year olds are wont to do. But as soon as we began to set the dining room for dinner, Nugget lost all interest in his friend and toys, and decided it was absolutely IMPERATIVE that he be the one to set the kid table.

He lay down paper towels as place mats, and decorated each with Thomas Train stickers. He set the table with forks, cups, and dishware. He cut the strawberries, put them in a bowl, and placed the bowl in the middle of the table. He poured milk for both of them (from a manageable container, which I gave to him after I realized he truly was going to try to pour from the gallon jug by himself). And he insisted he be the one to serve them their butter pasta dinner. All of this completely unprompted by us.

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It appears our son may truly be a Per Se baby.

Deer with Briefcase

Nugget noticed this sign the other day:

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This image is missing a briefcase.

“Mommy, what does that sign mean?” he asked.

“It means that drivers need to be cautious of deer crossing the street,” I responded, not knowing that my answer would completely perplex him.

*short silence*

“Why do deer need to cross the street? To catch the bus? The deer bus?”

Isn’t their world wonderful? Because in their world it is completely plausible that there might actually be such a thing as a deer bus. And in their world it is completely plausible that deer would need to cross the street to catch it.

What my son imagined that road-crossing, bus-catching deer to look like, I have no idea. But the thought of a young buck clutching a briefcase while hurriedly crossing the street to catch the bus sure made me giggle.

Day Two: DNF

We first saw him just before mile 25. And it was clear he was in a dark place. His head was down, his shoulders slumped. At first he didn’t want to look at me because my face held too much encouragement, too much expectation. He didn’t want to face what he feared. Instead he turned to Nugget. His eyes misted when he saw the little man and there was a tremble in his voice, “Hey kiddo.”

He stayed for a while, taking in calories and resting his legs just a bit. Yesterday’s 50k had taken a huge toll on his body, and the first half of the 50-miler was just as brutal, he said. The descent itself into the aid station was even painful to look at on paper:

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Yup, we were waiting at the bottom of that valley.

Neither of us said it, but it was palpable. He wanted to quit. He wanted to throw in the towel and just climb in the car with us. Stop all this madness of running through the mud and over slippery rocks on a difficult mountain course made all the more treacherous by a week of rain. It was a challenge just to stay upright, much less move forward. And the hills. God, the hills.

But as they say, “Just make it to the next aid station.” When you want to quit, run to the next aid station and see how you feel. So that’s what he did, determined to keep going. He kissed us good-bye, we bid him good luck, and off he set.

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Refueling.

Then he got lost.

The climb out of the mile 25 aid station was one of the most difficult climbs of the weekend. In other words, one of the worst sections to get lost on. He ran for two miles before realizing he was off-course. He retraced his steps, but by the time he was back on the right track, he hit another setback: he was out of water.

Despite refilling when he first arrived at aid station mile 25, he drank his water while resting a bit with us, and forgot to top off before he left. It was those few miles off trail and those few hours without water that broke him. Before he even made it to the next aid station at mile 33, he knew.

And as he emerged from the woods at the next aid station, I knew too. His face was dark, clouded with emotion. He didn’t look at me when he said, “I got nothing left.” It was difficult for him to admit, and difficult for me to accept. We both shed a few tears, I more than him. To think of all those hours of training — the early morning runs before Nugget and I awoke, the late night runs after we had gone to sleep, the weekends when he would be gone for 5-6 hours at a time, not to mention the planning and researching and strategizing, the prospect of achievement — all culminating in a DNF at mile 33.

But it was the right decision. His legs were so tired he couldn’t stop running on the downhills. At one point he almost ran straight off a cliff. The race conditions were brutal this year, and his safety was at stake. It was the right choice to choose to stay with us.

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Despite the difficult course, these mountains were gorgeous.

He wasn’t the only one. A few other runners also DNF’d at mile 33 and we gave one guy a ride back to the campsite. Once there, we saw that there were many who had decided that today was not their day.

Nugget, of course, was thrilled. This meant more time with daddy.

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Daddy is done running! Happy dance!

Since I wasn’t about to camp in the October cold with a 3-year old while pregnant, we all head to our motel about 45 minutes away. A DNF is not without its perks. I was thankful that we were all safe together. And the DJ was relieved to finally be in dry clothes again. Nugget was pleased with the pizza from the neighboring restaurant, but he was even more pleased that the waitress let him feed the resident cat (ham no less. Should cats eat ham?) Hospitality is not lacking in this part of the country, let me tell you.

Though the goal was 94 miles by weekend’s end, the DJ came away with 64 — essentially two back-to-back 50Ks on a very difficult course. Nothing to be ashamed of. He done good, my man did. He done good. And we are mighty proud of him.