All the Small Losses

One of the New York Times newsletters that comes to my inbox led me to an article called “Disenfranchised Grief in a Year of Loss.” Disenfranchised grief, I learned, is any grief that goes unacknowledged by society. It’s the type of grief people experience privately because they feel like their grief isn’t valid. It’s the kind of grief that makes people say, “I don’t want to complain, I know others have it so much worse than me.” But it is real.

The article goes on to say that many people right now are suffering from disenfranchised grief as a result of experiences and opportunities lost during the pandemic. In many cases, it isn’t about one large thing that was lost, but the accumulation of many small losses. This made me think about what I have lost over the past year. I am fortunate to be in the category of those who haven’t lost a loved one to Covid, but there are many things I’ve missed out on a result of this pandemic:

  • visiting Grandma Michi on her 102nd birthday
  • going to the musical “The Sister Act” with my best friend for my birthday
  • celebrating my maternal grandparents’ 60th anniversary
  • trading our preschool payment for a housecleaning payment
  • family trips to the peninsula
  • celebrating my paternal grandparents’ 60th anniversary
  • introducing my children to their native heritage at the Chickasaw Cultural Center
  • taking my kids horseback riding for the first time
  • dropping my twins off on their first day of kindergarten
  • having one day/week at home alone
  • Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with anyone outside of my household
  • attending church in-person
  • date nights with my husband
  • seeing friends

Looking at my list, I know that I am blessed. As I said to a mom-friend recently, the problems and hardships many of us are facing are first-world problems. But they are losses, nevertheless. Acknowledging them allows us to move forward.

One-Duppa-Duppa

“Duppa duppa, Mom,” my son told me this morning, toothbrush in hand.

I thought that by 9 years old my son would be self-sufficient in the toothbrushing department. But I was wrong. He still doesn’t remember to brush them on his own, so we have to remind him every morning and night. Once he is actually brushing, he still doesn’t brush them long enough. Maybe it’s his ADHD, I tell myself, trying to understand.

A few nights ago, he came up with a new “game” to play. It’s one of those games that makes a mom inwardly roll her eyes and sigh as she pretends to happily play along in the name of getting her child to do something he doesn’t want to do.

“Count one-franken-moshen-mocken, two-franken-moshen-mocken,” he said the night he invented it.

“What?” I asked, having no idea what he was talking about.

“So I know how long to brush. Count one-franken-moshen-mocken,” he explained.

I looked at him with a “you can’t be serious” look. He was serious. I sighed. “Okay…one-franken-moshen-mocken, two-franken-moshen-mocken, three…”

He brushed and I counted, while silently grumbling to myself.

“…fifty nine-franken-moshen-mocken, sixty-franken-moshen-mocken.” Finally, done!

Spit, rinse, floss and he had a clean mouth ready for bed! Plus, he was in a good mood after listening to me repeat his jibberish sixty times straight.

That wasn’t that bad, actually, I thought as I tucked him in. We’ll see how long it lasts.

Pandemic Pampering

Years ago my mom gave me the book “Babushka’s Beauty Secrets: Old World Tips for a Glamorous New You.” It’s been in the donation pile on more than one occasion, but something always made me take it out before the bag made it to the Good Will. At the time, I wasn’t sure why I couldn’t bring myself to part with it. I am not the spa-going type and have never spent much time on beauty treatments at home, either. And yet, I just couldn’t let the book go. I’m going to want this someday, I would always think to myself as I placed it back on the shelf. Well, someday finally arrived with the pandemic.

Over the past year, I’ve found that I’ve needed to show myself a little more TLC than I usually do. About once a month, when my husband and son are gone mountain biking, my twins and I have a spa day. We’ve tried several of Babushka’s recipes, but our favorites are the simple ones.

“Who wants to have a spa day?” I asked this morning. Both of my 6-year-old daughters eagerly agreed. The girls turned on the ukelele music while I got out our ingredients. We spread mashed banana over our faces (leaves your skin so soft!) and applied honey to our lips (eliminates all that flaky skin!). Then we laid down in the living room with cold cucumber slices on our eyes and for 15 peaceful minutes all was quiet and calm.

Other than when Waffles, our 1-year-old puppy, ate one of the girl’s cucumber slices. I’ve learned to slice a few extras for when that happens.

Mid vs. Late

I’ve come to a realization: this month marks the end of my mid 30’s. At 37, I was pushing the limits but still felt comfortable saying that I was in my mid 30’s. But this month I turn 38, and saying I’m in my mid 30’s would definitely be classified as misleading. 38 is the second to last number in the 30’s. It’s only two away from the next decade. It’s definitely…big breath…late 30’s.

There. I said it. I’m in my late 30’s…and I’m happy to have made it this far!

Birthday Hike

“I want to go hiking for my birthday!” I told my husband a couple of weeks ago. There’s no school on Friday, not quite my birthday but close enough, so I thought we could go then. But when I checked the forecast over the weekend, rain clouds dominated the screen starting on Thursday. So this morning, we all played hookie and climbed a mountain instead of logging onto Zoom.

We left early but still got stuck in the traffic that has slowly rebuilt since roads went silent last March. Still, just an hour later, we were one of three cars in the parking lot at the county park. My husband and son, on mountain bikes instead of foot, had soon disappeared from sight. That left the twins, the dog, and me. The morning air was crisp, but the bright sun promised to keep us warm as we stuffed snacks in the backpack and set off across the high bridge spanning the river. It was slatted and you could see down to the water below. Waffles was terrified, his legs splayed and his butt trembling as he haltingly tried to walk across, but the rest of us enjoyed it.

We followed the wooded trail up and up. The sunlight filtered down through cedar and hemlocks, casting a dappled light across the forest floor carpeted with ferns. Eventually we made it to a clearing and met up with my husband and son. We soaked in the view while the kids explored before heading back down. At the bottom, the kids played on the sandy river banks until hunger drove us back to the car. Waffles was halfway across the bridge this time when fear rendered him unable to move. I had to pick up the 50 pound dog and carry him the rest of the way across! Back in the car, Waffles slept while the rest of us ate our sandwiches on the ride home.

Let the rain come! I had my birthday hike.

Breakfast for Dinner

Hashbrowns and sausages sizzle in the oven.

Pancakes flip on the griddle.

Scrambled eggs fluff in the pan.

“Dinner!” I call, and everyone comes running.

There aren’t many meals that everyone in my house enjoys. My son likes meat. My girls like carbs. My husband eats most things as long as there aren’t too many vegetables mixed in. But when it’s breakfast for dinner, everyone is happy, which means Mom is happy, too!

What to Write About Today…

“It’s what time?” I asked the kids when we got home from walking Waffles. “It’s already 8:20?”

I hadn’t taken my phone with me and the battery on my watch recently died, so I had no idea that we’d been out for over an hour. It had still been light when we left, so I didn’t feel like it was that late. Thanks for the deception, Daylight Savings!

The kids made suggestions of what I could write about today:

  • Waffles stepped on a pile of blackberry branches and got a thorn stuck in his paw.
  • I took over teaching my daughters’ kindergarten class when their teacher got kicked off of Microsoft Teams and couldn’t get back into the meeting.
  • USPS says that my package was delivered Saturday night to my mailbox, but it wasn’t in my mailbox, so I checked with all my neighbors. No luck.
  • We’ve started playing games or reading books during dinner. Tonight we read four Berenstein Bears books from my childhood collection.

I couldn’t decide what to write about, so I wrote about them all.

103

When Grandma Michi turned 100, we rented out a local Japanese restaurant and celebrated with family and friends, some of whom drove or flew in for the event from out of state. There was a delicious buffet, beautiful flowers, and a large cake. We took lots of pictures to commemorate the day.

When Grandma Michi turned 101, I made a strawberry cake and our family of 5 took it to her room at the Japanese assisted living home in Chinatown. We sang “Happy birthday to you,” ate cake, and took pictures to remember.

When Grandma Michi turned 102, no one was allowed to visit her. We wished her happy birthday from our home and prayed that we would get to see her again when the coronavirus was gone.

When Grandma Michi turned 103, we celebrated through a large glass window: she was warm and dry on the inside, we were standing in the rain on the outside. We passed flowers, cards, and gifts to the attendant, who delivered them to Grandma. The attendant called and put Grandma on the phone; we turned our cell phone on speaker so that everyone could hear her and wish her a happy birthday. She looked happy and healthy, smiling and laughing. I snapped a few photos through the glass before we waved goodbye, celebrating with ice cream bars eaten in the car.

Happy Birthday, Grandma Michi! I’m hopeful we will see you again soon without the glass.

In One End and Out the Other

“Dear Jesus, please let bunny come out today,” I overheard one of my 6-year-old twins praying earnestly through the bathroom door.

Before we had a dog, all three of my children frequently left their toys laying around the house. But now that we have a dog, the floors are clear of toys…because if a toy is within reach, Waffles will eat it. I encourage them to play in their rooms or in the basement, but the girls prefer to play at the table. Even that, however, isn’t always safe.

CLINK! The tiny sound of a Lego hitting the hardwood floor immediately puts everyone in motion. Waffles sprints over, the girls drop out of their chairs, and I come running-a spur of the moment race to see who can get to the brick first. Last night, it was Lego Bunny who took the great fall. And the winner was…Waffles!

“Get a treat!” the girls screamed. “Mom! Bunny! Get a treat!”

I grabbed a dog biscuit from the bowl and thrust it directly in front of Waffles’ nose. “Drop!” Usually, when faced with the choice between a treat and a plastic toy, Waffles opens his mouth and drops the toy. “Drop!” I repeated.

Waffles looked at me with big puppy eyes and I knew-he had already swallowed it.

The girls took the news well. “It will come out the other end,” they assured me. And sure enough, with a little prayer and patience, it did!

Snickerdoodles

My 9-year-old son has been begging for snickerdoodles for the past few months. Every time I get out the KitchenAid mixer, he asks if I’m going to make them. So tonight, while the kids were playing Legos together in the basement, I decided to make snickerdoodles.

Looking at my snickerdoodle recipe always brings back memories. I don’t remember exactly when I wrote it down, but I think it was sometime during college, sometime around 2003 or 2004. I know it was when I still lived in Colorado because the recipe is scrawled on a paper with wood and building companies, something brought home by my dad from his job at the local lumber store or from from the earlier days when he built homes in our mountain town.

It was when my grandparents were still living in Peru. They had retired early to become volunteer missionaries and ended up spending over ten years in Lima. Mema had asked me to make a batch of my uncle’s favorite cookies and mail them to him in Southern California for his birthday. I had never made snickerdoodles before, but found a recipe online and put the final product in the mail. Mema emailed me a week later to say that my uncle said my snickerdoodles were better than hers. So I wrote the recipe down and have been making them ever since.

I pulled the snickerdoodles out of the oven, breathing in the aroma of cinnamon and sweet memories.