Cutting it close

At one point in an argument with Rich, I blurted out, "I spend an awful lot of energy making sure I don't ever do anything wrong because I can't handle it if I do." 

This was pre-parenthood, pre-cancer. It was just us arguing in the kitchen about something I don't even remember. It stuck in my skull. It was a truism of who I was at the time. 

I came to realize that it's exhausting trying never to do anything wrong. It's like trying to hold your breath indefinitely. Even champion breath holders have to come up for air eventually. What misery to experience every trip underwater as just a delay to eventual failure. 

As luck/genetics would have it, I became the parent of a sensitive child who also loathes ever doing anything wrong. And yet, he's only 8. 

He re-heated his sub in the microwave without putting a plate under it. An hour later I discovered melted cheese all over the inside of the microwave. I asked him about it. He started this elaborate explanation that I had wrapped his sub in foil and he knew that shouldn't go in the microwave. He just didn't think about what the sandwich would do once it got warm. He started to get spun up. "I'm only 8! I don't know everything!"

"Dude. It's cool. I'm not mad. I'm just telling you to use a plate next time. Good thinking about the foil. That would have spooked us both. You didn't realize about the cheese. Now you know. Crisis averted." 

I'm teaching Ian that the mistake is not as relevant as what he does about it. Does he own it? Does he try to blame others? Does he justify himself? Does he avoid apologizing and hope it will all just blow over? Does he apologize so much that it's a burden on the injured party? 

We had a tough week leading up to school starting. It was the end of summer, and we were just all up in each other's spaces. Then there was that whole "almost losing each other on the river" thing. By Labor Day I was ready to tag out of parenting. 

During that same ultimate week of summer, mere hours after the cheese incident, I screwed up. I had been hounding Ian to let me trim the back and sides of his hair. He finally consented, and we went upstairs to the bathroom. I pulled out the #2 guard, I set the #2 guard on the counter, and then proceeded to trim a 4" strip of his head with NO GUARD ON THE CLIPPERS. 

I was so upset. It was a preventable mistake. It is not fixable. You can't glue hair back on your kid's head. I could feel all of those reactions. Wanting to blame Ian for distracting me. Wanting to justify the super short hair as a planned action. I was sick to my stomach. I wanted something to take away the pain of my mistake. 

I put the clippers down. I leaned on the vanity in the bathroom. I said something along the lines of, "I can't believe I did that. It's all messed up now. Nothing can fix it ever." Ian consoled me. "It's ok, Mommy. Just make the rest of it the right length, and I'll cover up this part until it grows out. Please don't cry." 

 Brings new meaning to the term comb over

Brings new meaning to the term comb over

Forgiveness and understanding are powerful stuff. My punk kid who had been driving me crazy all week instantly made me feel better. I didn't need to lash out at him or the dog or Mercury in retrograde to feel better. I could shrug and keep going. 

Granted, I don't think Ian understands how long it takes hair to grow back in since he asked two days later if his square was still there. But it's already growing in and blending. This too shall pass. Look at us all livin' and shit. 

Adventure Day Two

At Ian’s wedding reception, he will say, “Hey, Mom, remember that time we almost died but didn’t? Thanks for that.”

Today was supposed to be a bit of an adventure and boy howdy, did it deliver. We decided to go canoeing down the James River from the Alpine landing back to Wilderness Canoe Company where we parked and rented a canoe.


Ian was already nervous and excited before we even got in the van to ferry us to Alpine. He told me (and our driver) that he had farted out his nervousness just before getting in the van so he was ok.

We got in the canoe and took off just fine. Ian took his shoes off and I kicked my flip flops behind me. I tied the cooler to the canoe so it wouldn’t slosh around. We were ready.

The first two rapids were easy. But the third one we caught sideways and ended up capsizing the canoe. In the rapids.

My daddy taught us never to panic. I’m not sure how you teach someone not to panic but I need to sign Ian up for those classes. Everything and everyone went everywhere. Paddles. Shoes. The canoe. People. Water bottles. It was awful.

I had to keep the canoe from leaving us but I also had to save my kid and myself. While barefoot on hard rocks.

I grabbed Ian and dragged him into the shallows. We precariously walked to the edge. One of his shoes floated away and I couldn’t get to it. We almost lost one of the paddles too but Ian grabbed it.

Then I had to save the canoe. I untied the cooler and took it to the shore. It had my phone and our car keys and my blood meter. It was important.


By the time I got back to the canoe, it was perpendicular to the rapids and full to the brim with water. I dragged it as far as I could while Ian screamed bloody murder from the edge. “PLEASE MOMMY! JUST LEAVE THE CANOE! I’M SO SCARED!”

I’m forever grateful I upgraded to a waterproof iPhone X after our Jamaican water adventure in December. I walked to the edge and called for help.

I ended up texting with the canoe folks. I cannot say enough great things about them. We were in a very inaccessible part of the river. There were hardly any other boaters out. Our rescuer drove to the closest drop in upstream and canoed to us.

It took both him and me to get the canoe loose. And then he followed behind us the rest of the way in case we had trouble again.

Sure enough, another mile or so later, we got stuck on a rock. I yelled to Ian, “Don’t paddle! Don’t move!” He started to whimper again and desperately wanted me to wait for our rescuer to catch up. Our rescuer got within shouting distance and told me I’d have to get out and move the canoe then get back in. In the rapids. With a weeping 8 year old.

 Back in the saddle, minus one shoe

Back in the saddle, minus one shoe

We did it. Ian stayed still. I rearranged the canoe. I got back in (it took me two tries and when I fell on the first try, Ian was not happy). We made it to the creek where they drop off tubers right as the tubing bus was arriving. They loaded our canoe and the rescue canoe on the trailer. We road back to our car.

 Our hero, Dick Pickle

Our hero, Dick Pickle

Our rescuer’s name is Dick Pickle. Yes, really. I love him. He was totally calm, patient, and capable. He even told jokes to Ian on the ride back. “Hey Ian. You know how I can tell the trains been through not long ago? I can see its tracks!”

The good people at Wilderness Canoe Company, LLC are getting a hell of a thank you card. And five star reviews on every platform I can find.

My legs are covered in bruises and scrapes. Dick Pickle even had bacitracin in his bag for me. My feet are bruised from the rocks. I’m emotionally exhausted. My blood meter is waterlogged and probably won’t dry out til morning.

It was clear to me on the river just how much I’m all Ian has. The boy has very tangible fears of losing me forever. And I think he saw his nightmare coming true as I floated away from him on the James river. We talked about how it’s hard for both of us to only have one parent (and one strong/calm canoe wrestler) in our family.

Ian improved over the day. We went from “I don’t ever want to do this ever again! I want to leave right now!” to “I really really didn’t like that and it scared me and I wish I could stop thinking about the James river.” We even joked we would look for his shoe in our part of the river tomorrow once we got home.

But good grief. #notforwusses

Adventure Day One

Ian and I took the weekend after summer camp to head out to Lexington for some nature and adventures. 

After our amazing lunch at Panera, we headed to Devil’s Marbleyard. It’s a 2.8 mile hike (1.4 up and 1.4 back) but is SUPER steep. We stopped to rest several times.

My blood sugar went low 1.38 miles from the truck, we forgot our water bottles, and Ian fell down badly several times on the way down, but as Jenna would say we were “making fucking memories.” I quoted her about half way up, and the other family on the trail with us started laughing.

We could have continued climbing up those super steep rocks in the Marbleyard but my blood sugar situation said “lie on this rock and don’t do shit for about 10 minutes”. Ian clamored around on them for a bit and declared himself king of the world.

He also said the lizard with the blue throat looked like he was going to lizard prom.

We’re in a cabin at the KOA campground. It has electricity, lights, AC, a front porch swing, and beds. This is so great.

I cooked hot dogs and beans for dinner. We played catch right up until dark. Ian fell in a hole twice during catch too. Poor guy. But he declared today a win.

 These hurt when you fall on them.

These hurt when you fall on them.