Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Petit jean state park, day 3...

Critters and grandparents.

At one point in our hike, the ground was crawling with miniature frogs.

Jacob found a copperhead.

Cooling off in the creek

My parents and grandmother joined us.

Gran rocked out her hike

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Petit Jean State Park, Day Two...

When I started taking the boys to the woods for a week every summer, David was five, Jacob was three, Bryan was a year and a half, and Rand was a possibility.  On our hikes, once we got further than 100 yards, at any given moment, at least one child was crying, but a long as someone was having a good time, I considered the outing a success.  Now we can cover a lot more distance and my challenge is finding that parenting sweet spot where the boys can climb and explore and be the fierce, wild things The Lord made them, and yet not plunge to an early and grisly death.  With four boys, each with his own plan, it's nontrivial, but my theory is that if I let them get their adrenaline fix climbing rocks, they won't turn to base jumping or crack cocaine.

Everyone survived today's hikes.  We saw some spectacular stuff.

On the way home tonight, David told a scary story.  Then it was Rand's turn...

Rand:  My turn! My turn!  (serious voice). Once 'pon time, there was a boy.  He lost he mommy and daddy.  (dramatic pause). Then he not find he brothers.  (dramatic pause, then with great pride). I make that up my selse.

Cabin week 2013, day one...

I didn't know if we'd manage it this year, but we pulled it off.  The boys and I have spent a week at a cabin every year since 2008.  This year we're at Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas.

One of our cabin traditions is shameless sugar cereal.  For the week, I keep them supplied with candy masquerading as breakfast.

Today we did some rock scrambling,

Rubber band gun shooting,

Played Carcasonne and went for a night hike (which turned out to be awesome and not boooooorrrrrrring as some people feared).

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Happy birthday to me...

Museum of Fine Arts

Backstreet Cafe

Happy birthday to me!


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Passive-aggressive driving

My stint as Chris' full-time driver has come to an end. While chemo will continue to lay him out every two to three weeks for the next nine months, his leg has improved a lot, and I'm just an intermittent chauffeur now. On one of my last full-time days...

Chris: Episode #11 - Changing lanes erratically.

Me: (eye roll)

Chris: Episode #17 - Indecisiveness causing us to miss the light.

Me: (eye roll)

Chris: Episode #29 - Exceeding the speed limit.

Me: (serious voice) Oh my goodness! You're right! I am speeding. Well I can fix that.

Do you have any idea how annoying it is to drive the actual speed limit on the freeway? Chris does.

(58mph on the freeway in very light traffic, cars flying past us)

Me: Oh! I almost passed someone. I need to slow down.

Chris: (laughing). Summer, come on. I have cancer.

Me: All you have to do is apologize for your rude comments and say, "Summer is a better driver than me."

Chris: I'm calling your mom. (Ring, ring). Judy, Summer's being mean.

Me: I'm just trying to be safe, and all he has to do is apologize.

Mom: Summer, you be nice to Chris.

Me: (still driving painfully slow, cars zooming past) Okay, Mom. I sure will. (Click). Wow. This is such a powerful weapon. I can't believe it's taken me 16 years to discover driving the speed limit as offense.

It took 15 minutes for him to capitulate. I'm still kind of dizzy from the power rush.


Monday, July 22, 2013


I like cemeteries.  I don't know that I had an opinion for or against before we lost Caleb - I probably nothinged them.*  Caleb is buried in a beautiful, perfect spot under a dignified old tree on a hill next to the bayou.  It's one of my favorite places and one where I invariably find rest - deep, soul rest.

There's a swing close by where you can sit and think about stuff.  When I'm done thinking, I walk among the headstones.  The epitaphs catch my attention first.  

Somehow the brevity of these conveys the depth of what was lost...
"My Beloved" 
This was someone's love, someone's son.

I love the character here.  
"Storms never last, baby"
Did a solemn tombstone salesman try to talk him (I don't know why, but I picture a man choosing this.) out of it?  I hope not.  It has style.

And these are just earnest and raw.
"They loved each other, their children and grandchildren with every fiber of their being.  They were awesome." 
"Loved by your mother and everybody"
Epitaphs can cast a kind of personality to a life story, but the names and dates whisper hints about the plot.  I like to puzzle over the details.  So many of them are fascinating.  This is for a three year old, and it's odd.  

The strangeness of it is a story.  The grandmother and aunt felt strongly enough about their relationship to this little guy to etch directions to their own burial spots.  Who were his parents?  Did they die first or abandon him?  Are they buried elsewhere?

The lack of information is its own story here.  

She's buried next to her husband who died a few years after her and has a standard military marker.  But her's has no date of birth and says simply, "Wife."  What?  There are so many possibilities.  Did she turn up on someone's doorstep as a baby, and no one knew her date of birth?  Was he a man of very, very few words?  Was she always such a pain about her birthday that he left it off her tombstone out of spite?  Was she sensitive about her age, so he left it off for love?  I kind of like the orphan story.

I wonder what people make of Caleb's marker?  There's personality and a story there...  

Once we found out Caleb was terminally ill, much of my struggle centered around the value of his life. I was pregnant with a child who would never speak, walk or smile.  Those facts were painful and brutal and waged war on my motherhood.  "Does he really count?"  "Does his life really matter?"  His marker was one of the ways we said, "Yes.  His life matters."  He was born on July 8, 2000 and he died the same day. There are two dates on his marker because that hour he lived was sacred time.  It was important.  "Our little angel" is from a song my brother wrote for him before he was born.  He was important enough for a song.  The setting is also significant.  Chris and I could not face the funeral arrangements when Caleb died, so our parents chose this beautiful, perfect spot with room for others.  I wonder, in 100 years, will anyone notice that the first family member buried in this little piece of ground was a baby who lived for only a day?  There's a story there.

* Remember that scene in Scrubs when J.D. asks Jordan why she hates him and she replies, "I don't hate you.  I nothing you."  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trayvon Martin...

I'm about to admit one of my most cringe-worthy life memories. When I was in my early 20's, I went out to dinner with some other grad students and two professors, one white and from an Eastern European country and the other black and American. The Eastern European professor asked a question about race and prejudice in America. I immediately jumped in and declared in my vast and pertinent 22-year-old white girl experience, that prejudice in the U.S. is now entirely based on socio-economic status rather than race... Oh, yes I did. The black professor very gently but firmly stated that he didn't agree and related his more relevant opinion. He was so kind about it that it took a few years for me to realize what an ass I had been.

I have four sons. If they were black my concerns and fears for them would be different and much, much scarier. There are things I don't have to worry about because my boys are white. When they learn to drive, my rules for them will be almost entirely about their physical safety while moving at high speeds. I won't have to worry about police perceptions. The stupid things my boys will inevitably do are much less likely to end in their incarceration or death because they are white. No matter what you think of the Zimmerman verdict, the fact of the matter is that if Trayvon Martin had been white, he would be alive. That situation escalated because he was black. And that, my friends, is an American tragedy.

Photo by Ralph Lee/ Dexter Rachel.

Art for Trayvon Martin


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Eight years old...

This is the morning before Jacob Aaron came into the world.

A few hours later.

His pleasant personality landed him in NICU for his first day on the outside.  My labor was fast and Jacob didn't cry much, which left his baby lungs with too much fluid and not enough air.  At the time I was anxious to see my new son and unaware that my middle child angst for him - I would be five months pregnant on his first birthday, a circumstance that still makes me smile given our soul-crushing struggles to have children - would center around the fact that he does not grab and demand what he needs.  Unless we're intentional and pay close attention, Jacob doesn't get the emotional oxygen he needs.

He turned 8 years old last week.  The past few months have been big for him.  He's moving from little, little boy to big little boy.  

At church in September...
Me:  (smirky smile and raised eyebrows at Chris who was holding Jacob) 
Chris:  (guilty grin, whispers) He's not going to want to do this much longer. 
Me:  (genuine smile) You're right.
Last week...
Me:  (grab Jacob's hand as we walk into the store and notice his hand is resting very unenthusiastically in mine) Would you rather not hold hands anymore? 
Jacob:  Yeah.  I don't really like that.
It's going to be hard to give this sweet-natured boy the space he needs over the next decade or two.

Jacob has a great laugh.  Movies are funnier with him.  I enjoyed Major Pain at least twice as much when I watched it with him.  He has inherited every shred of rhythm from both side of his family and can booty dance with surprising skill.  He developed this dance as a dodgeball strategy.
Jacob:  If somebody's about to throw a ball at me, I do this (funky, booty-shaking moves), and they NEVER throw the ball at me.
We were at Chick-Fil-A a few weeks later and Jacob jumped up on a bench in the play area and started dancing.
Elderly man:  I didn't know this was THAT kind of place.
I'm so shocked that a child of mine has these kind of moves, that I constantly and rather weirdly try to get him to demonstrate for friends and family.  It'll be on the growing list of things for which he needs therapy. 

A benefit of being an occasionally overlooked middle child, at least at my house, is that I am more careful about Jacob's birthday than anyone else's.  We always go all in on his birthday, and this year, even though I had to change out Chris' IV fluids during the party, was no exception.  

Minecraft cake

Breakfast date

Comic book shop

Grandaddy as back up in case of medical emergency so I could focus on Jacob

Trampoline party

Happy birthday sweet, sweet child.  Eight years is FAST!

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