Saturday, January 10, 2009

Out of the mouthes of babes, part III

Aidan: How old is Leo, Mommy?
M: He will be two very soon.
A: So he is one now?
M: Yes, he's one.
A: Oh. So Leo does not have a forehead (four head) he has a onehead. Isn't that kind of silly?

[Christmas Eve church service; approximately 1/2 hour past bedtime and counting. An exhausted Aidan is dressed for a (very minor) part in the gospel reading.]
Aidan: Mommy, I am tired of being an angel.

[Jeff is attempting to stitch up holes in his wool sweater while Aidan looks on.]
A: Daddy, why are there holes in your sweater?
D: Well, a moth got into our closet and decided to eat my sweater. You see, moths like to eat sweaters.
A: Oh. Well, do you know what I think? I think we should talk to Grandma or to Mommy, and ask them if they would make---
[At this point, Jeff is thinking, how nice! He's going to ask them to make me a sweater!]
--a sweater for the moths and the mosquitoes, and we can put it outside for them!!

[Aidan is an excellent counter, except he always skips fifteen. Always. Jeff was working on the number sequence with him...
D: Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen....
A: Oh! There's fifteen and there's saltine!! [as in the cracker]

Recently, Aidan had a sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa's house. He was beside himself with excitement. The morning of the sleepover, he bounded out of bed and began packing all the things he wanted to take with them. Completely unassisted, he hauled it all downstairs and piled it by the front door. He was relentless in talking to me about the sleepover, reminding me of it, asking me questions, telling me what they would do, telling Leo he would be gone... it was nearly driving me crazy. Later that afternoon, I had him on my lap and said to him, "Aidan, I am going to miss you tonight!" He looked me steadily in the eye, and without missing a beat he said, "Give me your hand." He kissed the middle of my palm and folded my fingers down and said, "Now you have a kissing hand. If you need me, just hold your hand to your cheek." This comes directly from the children's book The Kissing Hand, and in that moment, I don't know which was making me melt more - the fact that he was quoting literature and connecting to characters from books he reads, or the fact that he was giving me the sweetest kissing hand of my own!

Some of Aidan's favorite phrases:
"You want to see something really tricky?"
"Here's the plan."
"You never know..."
"forout" = without

And finally, Leo. While he hasn't quite mastered conversations yet, he is clear and explicit in his communication:
*High frequency words include: Me! Mine! Stop! Sure! Oh!
*He sings two songs, both warm ups that he hears us sing in choir. One is the "Leo" song, the other, the "Bumblebee song."
*He pretends to count, and still pronounces Aidan's name as "Sha Sha."
*He has about 60 spoken words, 15 signed words, and three sentences, my favorite of which is "Bumblebee Soup!" Roughly translated, this means "I want Honey Nut Cheerios with milk!"

Although he is a man of few words right now, sometimes Leo knows just the right word for the occasion. Recently at lunchtime, Aidan made a demand for more goldfish crackers. Jeff pretended he did not hear Aidan, and instead gave him a long look and turned away. Aidan began to protest when he was interrupted by Leo who loudly implored, "Pleeeease?!"

Monday, January 5, 2009

Leo Gabriel Carter

Photos: Leo as a newborn babe; Leo's namesake, Leo Vanoni; and Leo at age 2, stark naked and playing in the cradle made by his Grandpa Seehaver...(he was supposed to be getting ready for the bath, and this is where I found him!)

January 5, 2007 - it has been two years since the beautiful birth of a beautiful boy. Leo arrived (nearly) on time; I delivered Leo unmedicated and with the support of my incredible midwife and husband; and it was the most glorious birth experience a mother could hope to have. I savor the memories of that day.

When I found out we were having "another" boy, part of me worried that everyone would assume that the brothers were the same, just another Carter boy, not really different from each other. I worried that they would look so much alike that everyone would simply assume that Leo was a clone of Aidan, in personality as well as in looks. I worried that Aidan would overshadow Leo, simply by virtue of being the older brother.

Leo and Aidan have both proven me wrong, in nearly every way. Both boys are sweet, good-natured, smart, and funny. Both boys are utterly adorable (yet each in his own way). Of course, they both enjoy many of the same activities and interests. But as they have each gotten older, I am continually amazed at how unique and different they are from one another. It's as if they are saying, "I love being a lot like you, but here are all the ways I'm different, too."

Leo is named in honor of his great-grandfather, Leo Vanoni, or "Uncle Leo" as almost everyone on the West Coast affectionately calls him. Leo Vanoni is a small man with an enormous personality, an enormous heart, a man who has made an enormous impact on the lives of many people. I fell in love with Leo Vanoni the first time I met him, and was nearly as honored to have a son with the same name as he seems to feel about having a namesake.

I can think of a thousand adjectives to describe Leo, and yet all of them together do not add up adequately enough to describe the amazing person that he is, and is becoming. Leo is fiercely independent. Recently we've figured out a trick - when Leo insists "Me! Me!", meaning "I will do it myself!!!" when it comes to an impossibly challenging task for a two year old to accomplish independently, gently we say "Yes, Leo, you are putting on your shoes and tying them all by yourself. What a good job you are doing!" Usually, this is enough for him to maintain his air of independence. Leo is a tiny thing, comparatively speaking - average height for his age, and on the lower percentage for his weight (his pediatrician once described him as having "the physique of a surfer.") Yet this kid is likely a future linebacker or bar bouncer; he tackles everyone with a huge grin on his face and the determination of a beaver wanting to take down a Redwood tree. He is so "physical;" he can already jump off the ground with two feet or up onto a curb; he loves to play ball of any kind; and he always prefers sitting in a lap over sitting anywhere else. Leo is loud! Leo is wild! Leo is so, so happy! Unless, of course, his independence has been hindered, at which point he throws himself to the floor in a dramatic flourish, curling into a ball and sobbing...

When Leo was first born, and people would ask what it was like to have two kids now instead of just one, I answered, "It's twice as good." In those two years, "twice as good" seems to have grown exponentially for me in a way that is now unquantifiable. I cannot imagine our lives without Aidan Paul; I cannot imagine our lives without Leo Gabriel; and most of all, I cannot imagine our lives without the richness, the fullness, the love that they inspire as brothers and sons and members of this family.

Happy Birthday, Leo Gabriel Carter!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I resolve...

...not to make any New Year's resolutions. Except perhaps one, which I will have to think of... last year, my (only) resolution was to perform the self-cleaning oven function on our oven. Ever since I've owned a kitchen (7 years, 9 if you include ones in college) the self-cleaning thing has terrified me: It gets so hot! So smelly! How does it really clean, doesn't it just burn? I can't leave the house, yet I don't want to be there... the weather has to be nice, because the windows have to be open... but it can't be too hot, because the oven will make things even hotter. We can't have guests over soon afterwards because of the smell... and I better have something "stovetop" planned for dinner.... so the pressures of last year's resolution were almost too great. It took me until early September to make good on my resolution...

2009 looks to be a big year for us. I am filled with excitement for the changes yet I also feel somewhat anxious and unsettled. In May, Jeff graduates and will have his RN. He accepted a scholarship that binds him to begin working as a nurse within 90 days of graduation, and he expects to start in June. The job change is huge, as his normal, somewhat flexible hours of 9 to 5 will be drastically different as he works a series of 12- or occasional 8- hour shifts, days, nights, and weekends. This will be a big adjustment, for sure, but we will actually have more flexibility and time together than before, which is, of course, a wonderful thing. In August, Aidan starts kindergarten. I know that he will positively love school, that he will be very successful, that he will be reading and publishing stories and making lots of friends. But I also know the transition will be tough. The days are long - 5 full school days each week - and I think he will be absolutely exhausted for awhile. As it was at the beginning of this preschool year, I still feel the constant battle in my heart between wanting him safe under my wing and wanting to push him to fly higher and higher. And it is our great hope that 2009 will bring at least one other big change to our lives, but I don't like to count my chickens before they hatch, literally and figuratively, so that's all I'll say on that.

Back to my one resolution - I'm open to suggestions here. I used to have this list of things I wanted to accomplish, but I think I made it too easy - 1. learn to make a killer cheesecake; 2. learn a lot about Canadian geese; 3. jet ski; 4. ride on a deer through the woods....

Hmm... maybe I should stick to no resolution at all, seeing as how the deer thing might not pan out all that well. On that note - I found this quote in 2005, well before Jeff had begun his nursing degree and I had started grad school:

"We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential." -Ellen Goodman (Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist)

And then recently, I read this passage in Maya Angelou's Letter to My Daughter [given to me by my mom, appropriately] and it resonated deeply with me:
"The ship of my life may or may not be sailing on calm and amiable seas. The challenging days of my existence may or may not be bright and promising. Stormy or sunny days, glorious or lonely nights, I maintain an attitude of gratitude. If I insist on being pessimistic, there is always tomorrow.
Today I am blessed."

2009 has the potential to be a really terrific year. And I shall maintain an attitude of gratitude. I am, indeed, blessed.

Happy 2009!!