Tuesday, June 30, 2015

McGee Golden Anniversary Celebration

We just got back from a weeklong reunion with Mark's family at a huge house up near Park City. Thirty parents, brothers, sisters, in-laws, cousins all together for a whole week. We took hikes, played in a reservoir, went to the pool, played games, and had dance parties. I thought a lot about how lucky me and my children are to be part of a family with so much love, loyalty, commitment, and fun. And so many great examples of building strong families.

Last night for Family Home Evening, I asked everyone to share some positive examples they saw at the reunion. Here are a few:

- When Aunt Vanessa came out to the car dressed up for church, Uncle Ken leaned out the van window and shouted, "Time out! Way too hot!" Which earned him a big smile from Vanessa. Levi commented, "Relationship goals."

- Even though he lives in a different state from his two daughters, Uncle Bruce stays totally committed to keeping their relationship strong. He calls every day, drives several hours to visit every other weekend, and blesses us all by bringing them to reunions. What an example of dedication.

- Skip and Brenda have ridden out the challenges of years and family life in their 50 years of marriage. To me, they appear to be stronger and closer than ever.

- We had something like 19 kids and only a handful of minor quarrels in 7 days. With very few exceptions, the kids were obedient, pleasant, cooperative problem solvers. What a testament to the good work of their parents!

- Jesse and his little buddy cousins Alex and Nico wanted to have  sleepover in the bunkroom attached to Grandma and Grandpa's room. We told them they could give it a try but that they had to be quiet and go to sleep. They did! Every night of the reunion!

- Haley observed that whenever her mom told her no, cousin Ariana obeyed without argument.

- Aunt Laura and Uncle Troy worked together in the kitchen to make dinner with lots of fun and cooperation.

- When Logan performed a (somewhat horrifying) screamo rendition of Let It Go, Uncle Ken and Uncle Bruce joined in to keep it fun.

- When Zach was about to fall off a boulder, Uncle Troy leapt over a fence in a single bound to rescue him.

- Uncle Markus helped plan activities and venues so everyone could have fun.

- Cousins Betsy and Allie played together and didn't fight.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

From the Other Side

I don't think it makes me an unsalvageable pessimist to say that life at all times is pretty much made up of vast expanses of tedium and challenge interspersed with bright moments of triumph and joy. The ratio is all that really varies. (And the degree to which we let the moments of joy be the ones that define our worldview.)

These days I feel like I'm standing on more verdant ground, where I can see a particularly vast and rocky expanse in my rear-view mirror.

To explain why I've been a terrible blogger and to remind myself how far we've come, here are the Top 3 Lame Thing about Last Year That Have Now Abated:


Mark's $$#!*% foot. It wasn't just that he was out of commission, literally lying in bed for most hours of every day. It wasn't even the natural grumpiness exuded by anyone who is in near-constant pain.

It was also that Mark is not a multi-tasker. His mind does one thing at a time (and does that one thing comprehensively and well). For months and months, the main thing he could do was fret about his foot. How was it feeling today? Was it getting better? Becoming again worse? And why better or worse? A few days I had to ask him to please not talk to me about his foot. I just couldn't take the endless, pointless speculation.

We feel so incredibly blessed that the surgery Mark had on New Year's Eve was an emphatic success. Now, five months later, he walks around normally for day-to-day activities. No long walks or hikes, but an operational, functional, happy man is a huge, huge blessing.

Logan. Let me say this, being a teenager is not easy. I have a lot of compassion for the tricky process of becoming one's own self separate from parents. And especially for doing so when said parents are as emphatic in their values and religious beliefs as Mark and I are.

And let me also say this, I love Logan, part and parcel, with all my heart. He is and has always been a bright light. I am and will always be his biggest fan.

But there's also this: He's about the most stubborn person EVER. He can turn ANYTHING into a knock-down, drag-out argument. My favorite example: He once showed me a picture that he managed to get backstage after a concert with him and one of his favorite musicians. I commented that one of the two people in the picture looked like a rock star and one of them, in comparison, looked like a trying-too-hard poser--and that Logan was the one who looked like the real rock star. This, I thought, was a pretty stellar compliment, but it elicited from him a huge tirade on how I dis his bands and don't support his musical dreams. *sigh*

Keeping composure, staying on point, and engaging on a non-defensive, loving, authentic, good-faith footing with him takes vast reserves of emotional energy.

These days I am officially the mother of  "wayward' son. And it has been hard. Heartbreaking. But mostly, I am grateful for who Logan is and cherish even the small ways I can help him along his path.

At the same time Mark and Logan's dramas were at their peaks, Jesse was also imploding. An adjustment to the dosage of his ADHD medication led to a meltdown that at one point earned him a diagnosis that was described to me as justified because "we don't like to diagnose children with bipolar."

He spent about two hours every afternoon in frothy-mouthed, screaming rages. I once grabbed my camera to document the intensity of his fits. What is most chilling about the resulting video is all the other children, calmly going about their business, eating popcorn, doing homework, practicing piano, while this little red-headed demon thrashes and screams. He would say things like, "I can't take this anymore. I would rather die than live like this." Yeah.

Long story short, he's much better now. We put the dosage back to its original level and added a new medication. Shepherding Jesse through life--even things like putting on a clean shirt in the morning and locating his shoes--remains an incredibly intensive process. But the fits? Never happen anymore. Progress has been made. And I adore progress.

Perfect? Who needs it. Who wants it? Progress is all I need.