Rainbows

The only picture my mom could find of the car – the station wagon in the background.

The year was 1981, and my seat in the blue-with-wooden-panel station wagon was on brown plastic booster seat that would get sweaty in the sultry summer heat. There was no AC in “The Bluebird”. My parents, sister and I were just back from four years spent in the heart of Africa – Zaire – where they’d helped build a hydroelectric dam and run a regional hospital. I had never lived in the US before, and found Atlanta astonishing through the eyes of a two or three year old. The music playing on the tape deck was a “Maranatha Praise” album. And on the window where I could see it from my back seat, my parents had put a translucent sticker of a rainbow.

I loved that rainbow, and the way the light shined through it. I loved rainbows. I have always loved colors and the shifting iridescence of light. And that rainbow had a story for the tiny girl in the back seat. It was the story of Noah and the Ark. The impression Noah and the Ark has left on our culture is as a nursery decoration theme, with the boat and the animals and the rainbow. The full story is so much darker – it’s hard to believe that a cheerful nursery decoration is possible. The story is of Noah is one of the oldest recorded in human history. It lurks back in oral traditions in the millennia before humans learned to write our stories for each other.

Just a few chapters in Genesis after God created the world in seven days, he regretted it. “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth and his heart was deeply troubled. So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created – and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground – for I regret that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:5-8)

The righteousness of Noah and the mercy of God spared the human species and all life on Earth. God told Noah to build an ark and bring the animals with him. The waters covered the earth for 150 days killing every thing and every one that lived upon it. But Noah’s family and his livestock survived. And when Noah and his flock of people and animals emerged from the Ark, they righteously worshiped God and God made a promise in return. “I have set my rainbow in the clouds and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.” (Genesis 9:13-15)

The story of the rainbow is of God hating the violence of humans and looking to destroy it – but of seeing something in us worth saving. Christians see it as a story of repentence, trust and a new start. And it’s a story of God’s promise to us (although I was always slightly freaked out as a kid at just how only one specific method of wiping out human life was removed – all the others are apparently still on the table). Historians think it might have its roots in a flood that we find in the archaeological record.

A picture of Boston Pride parade
Boston Pride parade

Today I still love rainbows. But on this June Saturday, they carry a second meaning to me. On the first truly glorious weekend of the summer, we worked our way into Boston to celebrate with many rainbow-adorned people. Once again the symbol of hope has risen in colors. I’ve never gone to a Pride parade before, mostly because I’m straight. I have been unsure what is supporting vs. where you are co-opting. But this year I have a reason to be there.

I found the absolute perfect shirt for this Pride celebration. It’s a picture of a momma bear hugging tight a rainbow baby bear. Grey walked through the common with a bracelet his friend made in pink, blue and purple – the bisexual colors.

Sporting Pride gear
Proud mom

We had an awesome time on one of the most glorious days I’ve seen in a long time. Boston Common was beautiful, and full of joyful happy people sporting signs and shirts and flag with words of love, welcome and joy. On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots Boston Common was full of people openly and cheerfully celebrating. The parade was awesome, and included retirement homes, churches, school groups, banks, black & hispanic groups, costumed participants (Cos Players), political officials and aspirants and lots of short men and tall women. There was only cheering and whistling and joyful sounds to be heard. As we walked away from the tumult of the Common, my sons both told me that they were really happy we’d come. Thane asked if we could come again next year!

I’m really glad where we live in a world that remembers how to be joyful. I’m glad that the rainbow is still a sign of hope. It’s a sign that we are repenting from the violence of our past, and the harm we have done to our sisters and brothers. I looked out on that rainbow-clad crowd and had to think that on a beautiful day like this one, God must be glad that he made us, and glad he let us hang around.

My beloved bi son

NOTE: Grey read and approved this post!

Baby’s first tattoo

Steven

I was at work the other day when I got the near-traditional 2:30 pm text or call. Someone wants to go home early, or wants to know what’s for dinner or… who knows. But many afternoons I hear from my kids.

The text:

Ma
Ma
Maaaa
https://inkbox.com/products/0-5-ounce-freehand-shading-ink
Buy this for me please
I mean with my money
Like
I’m spending 13 on it

I clicked through the link, my brain still 98% occupied with the work I was then being paid to do.

.5 oz freehand shading ink

WHAT THE HECK?

Suddenly 100% of my brain is locked on “13 year old asking for tattoo ink”.

When I pressed for details, his schema emerged more sound than I’d feared. The ink could be used – like henna – to create non-permanent drawn on tattoos. He has a friend who’s really an excellent artist who would be doing the work. He’d put it on his calf. Yes, I could see a picture of it first. Yes, he remembers that his principal does not understand geek culture references and it was going to be something that could not be misinterpreted. No, he promised no skin would be pierced during this process.

So Saturday I dropped him and his (gulp) tattoo ink off at his friends house and picked him up a few hours later. “It takes 24 to 48 hours to show”.

The end result isn’t so bad, for a first time tattoo artist and recipient. I think the design is pretty decent. Perhaps some different shading choices could be made. But I’ve seen worse – and some of those permanent.

For a first tattoo, it’s not so bad. May they all be so easily outlived if no longer wanted!


If you’d gotten a real tattoo at 13, what would currently be forever marked on your body? Would you be glad you got it, or are you glad you waited/didn’t make that decision at 13? Steven Universe is a great show, but it’s unclear whether it will last the test of time!

Grey turns 13

It seems like just a few days ago that I was taking pictures like this:

Grey’s 0th birthday

But somehow, I now find myself hosting the 13th birthday party I’ve thrown for my eldest son. That’s right, folks, he was born 14 years ago. My son is officially a teenager. I’m sorry. I know many of you remember reading about how incredibly late his arrival was. Yes, I’ve been blogging before he was born. You read about baby Grey, and listened to me anticipating his firsts (most of which came early – having a kid walk at 7 months SOUNDS great until you have a 7 month old who can walk and then it sounds awful). You remember the cute early mispronunciations.

I realized last night that when I was pregnant with Grey, phones did not have applications. Only teenagers texted. And when we wanted the internet, we booted up computers. Whoa.

On this advent of his teenagerness, I wanted to take a moment and remember the little kid, I used to have. In honor of that, I’ve pulled together an album of pictures from all Grey’s birthdays. I have to admit that our cake game has definitely fallen in recent years.

Daycare birthday

1st birthday
Grey had two – one at daycare with Abuela, and then one we hosted with our friends to celebrate having survived a year of parenting.
Here’s what I wrote at the time. The incredible blue of his Grover cake frosting led to a blue-tinged boy for a while.

Grey’s 2nd birthday

2nd birthday
This year featured Spongebob on the birthday cake. It seems like another world when he loved Spongebob. I remember he had this ‘fridge magnet that played music & he liked to dance to at this age. I was starting to move from short form to longer form writing, and have a pretty comprehensive 2nd birthday writeup.

Grey’s 3rd birthday

3rd birthday
This is the first one I wrote on this blog platform. I was heavily pregnant with his younger brother at the time of this birthday. It’s also the first time we see Lincoln make an appearance. Lincoln will be in pretty much every birthday party from this point forward.

I’m four, mom.

4th birthday
I did not actually write a birthday update, but this anecdote update is a pretty fun overview of what Grey was like as a 4 year old. He already knew the fine art of flattery! We were still in Spongebob, with a Gary the snail cake.

Grey’s 5th birthday

5th birthday
Ha! It’s pretty funny to see me thinking that a five year old was Very Grown Up. Eight years later my son is pretty much my height, and a bass.

Lined up for pinata by age

6th birthday
This was the first year that Grey was in school! My writeup indicates it was also the beginning of role-playing and Pokemon.

CHUCK E CHEESE!

7th birthday
Apparently seven was all about the Legos. You never actually outgrow Legos, but they have definitely diminished in their importance over time. We did this one at Chuck E. Cheese, at his request. I’ve never returned to that place since.

Birthday dinner at Kyotoya

8th birthday
The 8th birthday party was pretty epic. A handful of friends were invited to Canobie Lake Park, then we had sushi for dinner (he’s liked sushi for a long time) and then home for Minecraft cake. I’m apparently full of disbelief every birthday that my little guy could be so very big!

All six Lego kids. These guys are Lego fanatics.

9th birthday
I think this year was a combined birthday party for both boys in the then-newly-opened Lego adventure. Then we came home & did Mentos and Coke in the back yard. I’m writing this year from a room away from a collection of near-teen boys, and every third word out of their mouths is STILL “dude”.

Sunday after soccer

10th birthday
It’s also kind of crazy to watch how my living room has changed through the years, along with my son. Laser tag that year! Also, I bought cans of Reddi-whip and let the kids pour it directly into their mouths. Because that’s what he wanted.

The sleepover-type birthday

11th birthday
Grey’s 11th birthday is a lot like his 13th is currently shaping up as, except that there are two computers and two XBoxes all linked together. Grey still makes cake often.

Nearly identical to this year

12th birthday
I didn’t write a “Grey is 12” post last year. I’m not sure why not – my blogging velocity is way slower now than it used to be. I’m not really writing a “this is Grey” post this year. He reads all my posts, and there are many things he considers to “cringey” to allow to post.

But I’ll tell you this – I deeply proud of my 13 year old. He’s turning into a person I respect, and one that I really enjoy spending time with. Some things I thought I saw when he was little haven’t come to pass, but other things have remained true about my son. His deep empathy, his old-soulness, his articulateness and unexpected kindnesses… all those seem to be things that have remained true.

Teenage Angst at Parties: A How-To Guide run by the Son

We entertain and are entertained pretty often. Grey has had a lot of experience at parties where he is not the primary focus of attention. Following a few parties in which Grey behaved impeccably and carried on some very reputable conversations with adults, he asked to do a guest-blog on my post. The following is his advice to his peers about how to survive social situations “elderly guardians” such as myself inflict upon suffering teens.

Parents/Guardians, call your teens over to read this then vacate the area.

We know what happens. A baby-shower, a office party, a retirement, it’s time for a get together. You go, and you stand around sipping your soda while trying to seem interested in the conversation, after the pause in it you try and add a few words. You get some head nods from condescending adults trying to be nice, and you slowly walk away. You sit down, back-rigid, and pick at your health food while eavesdropping on what’s happening with so-and-so, and who-and-who is having a fight with this-and-this. Some elderly (aka anyone over 30) come over and squeal the typical, “Do you remember me? From that office party like a insert years equal to infinity in teen-time years”, “I remember when you were this tall! *levels hand about waist height*” and the ever so common, “Oh you’ve grown so tall!”.

You. Are. Bored. This is how to fix it, or just barely pacify it.

1. Grab your phone/Ipod/Mp3/etc and listen to music.
This is pretty obvious, but if you grab your music player and make it very obvious that you are listening to music, people will often come over to inquire what you are listening to (Very Important! Make sure it is not rap! Elderly and sometimes even younger couples will not understand or not care!). When you are asked, make sure you gush about it and ask them what music they like. The conversation will probably progress from there.

2. Stick near your guardian.
I know, I know. This sounds terrible, and not very fun, but it has it’s upsides. If you are cynical, sarcastic, or just plain witty, you can usually crack a few jokes and make yourself entertained with whomever your guardian is speaking to. Remember, keep the topic on whatever you are terrible at or amazing at if you are talking about yourself. This will usually open up a few dad jokes, and then progress on. Yes, you will get the elderly woman treatment, but at least you can keep talking about yourself.
Example topics about yourself: Your height, your grades, your skill in ______ sport/s, etc.

3. Bring gags.
Disclosure, not recommended if you are going to a formal party, or if your guardian thinks it’ll be inappropriate.
Bringing gags livens up a party, makes it more casual, and people will usually congratulate you and make it less conformist for you if you do it right. Do not bring any old age gags, inappropriate gags, or gen-z/millennial gags, because these gags will not appeal to a wide audience and could possibly get you in trouble. Remember, everything is key. The performance, the tone, and the audience. For example, I can do a decent Batman voice, so I can bring a Batman mask. This fits in the three categories: Performance: Decent; Tone: Funny and cool; and Audience: Batman has been around since 1939 and has been featured in America, which fits Baby Boomers, Millennial, and Gen-Z Kids. Example of what not to bring: A “Hi, Welcome to Chili’s” vine T-Shirt (They exist, trust me). Performance: Sly (Not great); Tone: Giggly but stupid; Audience: Gen-Z kids, and very late Millennials. This couldn’t appeal to Baby Boomers because they think a vine is something grapes grow on and in an office party, Baby Boomers are most of the people you’ll find. This fits into only one category, tone, and just barely. Not great to bring.

4. Be nice.
It’s annoying and tiring, I get it. I’m going to keep this short and sweet. People will like you better, you’ll leave a good (first, second, third) impression, and you will have more leeway if you do.

So finally, If I’ve missed anything, yell at me on Instagram (@cynicalgrey) or at school next school year. Goodbye, farewell, and amen that I don’t have to go to any parent parties anytime soon.

All around the mulberry bush

A few years ago, I took a walk in my neighborhood and found this strange tree. It was growing what looked like blackberries – only a bit skinnier and thornless. I, of course, did not eat a strange plant randomly growing by the side of the road. But not too much later, I got my copy of my much-thumbed, much-beloved foraging book. Reading through my book, in the cold winter nights, and contemplating how I could possibly make up flash cards to teach myself the identifications, one of the entries flashed past my eyes with recognition. “If I hear someone say they found a blackberry tree, I know it’s a mulberry”.

Huh. A mulberry.

Like so many people, my full experience of mulberries involves a monkey and weasel, engaged in not-too-good-natured athletics. But that had led me to expect a bush. This was a tree, half crowded over with invasive vines and taller trees. But half in and half out of the shade, it drops its bounty onto the sidewalk.

I had a hunch that it was about ripe, this time of year. And so I walked down with Thane to check it out. And lo, there were mulberries. I tasted one. It was delicious. I shared one with Thane. He liked it too. We came back with a sheet and two big paper bags.

The foragers
Mulberries don’t all ripen at the same time
Not all the mulberries were easy to reach
Berry stained hands
The bounty
Next generation of jam makers

Thane and I had a lovely time gathering the berries. There was a bit of climbing involved. I tried the recommended trick of shaking onto a sheet, but it didn’t work. We had very hard rains last night – I wonder if they knocked all the ripest ones down ahead of time.

Once Thane and I got (most) of them home. They’re pretty tasty. There wasn’t really enough for a pie, or a batch of jam. But I decided the opportunity was too critical to let pass, and I decided to make *half* a batch of jam, using a “berry” recipe from one of my books. It worked. Thane now filled with a tremendous sense of accomplishment, and the new but fervent belief that his favorite berries are mulberries.

To the victor, the spoils