Saturday, May 30, 2009

My Shiny Penny

Photos include Aidan on May 28; the Shiny Penny with his mom, waiting for the party to begin; and Superheroes receiving instruction from the Training Camp Coordinator!

May 28, 2009
- Aidan's 5th birthday. It is hard to imagine he is five years old, and yet life without him seems like the distant-and-not-as-glorious past. Aidan is our "shiny penny." Our family friend/music director at our church nicknamed him that, and it fits him to a T. His bright, happy smile attracts you to him; he's someone you want to carry around with you; you'll never miss noticing him because he is unique among his peers.

Aidan is sensitive and loving in ways that continue to surprise me, and when I least expect it. He'll spend the morning antagonizing Leo, but suddenly when Leo falls and bumps his elbow, it's Aidan who runs to the freezer to get the ice pack for him. Aidan can sense sometimes when I am at the end of my rope, especially with Leo, and will spontaneously offer up a hug and a kiss. Aidan articulates his thoughts and the connections he makes in the world with shocking accuracy and insight. Recently when we were reviewing letters, he observed, "Mommy, all the letters in my name are made using at least one line. In fact, most of the letters have a straight line, except for ones like o's." (These are the words that reading specialists dream of hearing, because they indicate that a child is forming connections based on the relationships between letters, rather than simply rote memorization of how to form the characters.) Another day, Aidan observed that children are like trees, because they both start out small but both grow to be much taller.

Aidan is also exasperating and frustrating. Some days, I thought I'd never survive the F-word - FOUR [years old]. But by being exasperating and frustrating, he has taught me to be a much better parent. His behavior demands it! If my discipline style does not mesh with his needs, he refuses to comply until I think of a better way, because it is my job to do so. I am richly rewarded, though, once I am finished yanking out my hair and gnashing my teeth.

A good creative writing teacher would tell my that my words fail to describe and capture Aidan, and she would be right. A good creative writing teacher would say to me, "Show, don't tell." Yet I still find it impossible to choose the right words, the right adjectives that do justice to my Aidan, to show who he is and why we love him exactly as he is....

We celebrated his 5th birthday with a Superhero Training Camp party, and it was a roaring success. It is perhaps the most fun I've had hosting a kids' birthday party.... so far, at least. Guests consulted on the decorations for their capes, made cool masks, and chose Superhero names and super powers. Newly named guests included Earth Wing, Doctor Brain, Rocket Boy, Mighty Mite, and Chameleon Genie. Super powers ranged from time travel, extraordinary luck, and unaided outer space travel to speed reading, ice generation, and super breath. Superheroes were tested in their stances, speed, agility, and aim at hitting terrible villains - all in the name of doing good deeds - through a series of crafts, games, and activities. Nine Superheroes received certificates upon successful completion of the Training Camp, and they were happy campers, indeed!

I have survived!* (*See post "I Will Survive" from Monday, August 25, 2008). And so begins a new era, a new F-word - Five - which initially seems to be Fun and Fabulous, as opposed to the Fierce and Fearful age of Four. Hooray and Happy Birthday, Aidan!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

No Comment.

Leo INSISTED on going to bed exactly as he is pictured here @ 8:50 p.m.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Footnote to the Human Being

Here's quite an interesting article, and the timing is uncanny - thanks, Em! It is, however, a little more provocative and in-your-face than I would like. But - interesting nonetheless.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

It's a.... HUMAN BEING!

We had our "big" ultrasound this past week, and were so thankful and relieved to hear that the baby is developing perfectly and looks as healthy as can be. We also found out that this tiny stranger cohabitating with me is a boy. I would be lying if I said that we were not at all disappointed.

I wanted a girl. In fact, I desperately wanted a girl. I didn't know how desperate this desire was until we found out for certain that there would be no girl babies in this family. But then an argument started brewing inside my head and my heart, and several days later, I am pleased to announce I was utterly defeated in the argument against myself.

As my brain tried to sort out and make light of the disappointment I felt, one sad voice would argue, "But you'll never be able to shop for all those adorable girl clothes!" A quieter voice, but one filled with wisdom, answered "Yes, fine, no cute girl clothes... except for all the cute girl clothes you can buy for yourself!" Huh, I thought. That's a good point. And really, aren't I the one who gets the most pleasure from cute clothes? Franky, like most kids their age, Aidan and Leo are happiest when completely naked.

Then, "But you'll never be able to get pedicures with a daughter!" "No," acknowledged the wise voice. "But you don't even like pedicures. You can't stand the sound of the nail file, or the way they scrub your feet... you have no patience for the time it takes for the paint to dry!" This is true, I thought...

Next (the sad voice, quieter, losing steam): "But no dollhouse! No room painted pink!"
"That's right, probably no dollhouse. But you didn't even like dollhouses when you were a little kid, because they seemed so tedious and too tiny for the likes of you. And you hated pink! If the pink room is that big of a deal, have Jeff paint the powder room pink." Huh. This was getting harder.

As I continued to weigh in on the trivial matters of my mind's argument, several things dawned on me. One, some of the really "girly girl" stuff, I couldn't stand as a child, and can't stand now. I used to hate the color pink, despised wearing anything froufy or frilly, and preferred feminist Free to Be stories like Atalanta over traditional fairy tales. So it's a relief that there will be no arguments over a "no Barbie" rule in the house, and no worries about a Cinderella-obsessed daughter. Two, I realized that for all of my non-gender rhetoric, (in graduate classes in education, at playgroup, and forever filling a certain dear friend's ear with all my rants) I was completely genderizing this amazing person inside me, failing to see him for what he is - a miracle, a human being, a blessing - and instead thinking of him only as a body part.

And finally, the most important realization of all. I cannot think of a single thing that I will truly "miss out on" by not having a daughter, because there are countless scores of women - and men - who have made it so, who have fought hard, and are still fighting, for gender equality. I myself am working to deconstruct the stereotypes. I have boys who love to cook, to watch me sew or knit, and who are learning how to dust the shelves and sort laundry (making sure to put their pink shirts in the "color" hamper). Our sons play with dolls and strollers. They have dress up clothes. They have a kitchen set, a pretend iron, aprons to wear while cooking, and vacuums and dust mops to use while cleaning. They have trucks and tools, a workbench, lawn mowers and leaf blowers, and a bunch of other toys that can be grouped and stereotyped.

I am having a human being. What more could a girl want?

"We've begun to raise daughters more like sons...but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters." Gloria Steinem

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Graduates

Photos: Top, Jeff receiving his Nursing pin; Middle, Miss Elaine and Aidan; Bottom, Miss Terri and Aidan

I am so proud of all the graduates in this family! Last Friday, on May 15, we celebrated Jeff's graduation/pinning ceremony for nursing school. At long last! I could not be more happy for Jeff nor more proud of the career path he has chosen. His patients couldn't be luckier than to be in his care. I am so proud, too, of my brother, who earned his Masters in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis, also on May 15. His passion, strong advocacy and activism, commitment to helping others, and his determination will prove invaluable to the countless people he helps. Finally, Aidan "graduated" from preschool yesterday, and is officially a kindergartener. We celebrated his accomplishment at the preschool picnic yesterday, a bittersweet and tender affair. Aidan's teacher, Terri, has known him since he was 18 months old and in her Tumble Buddies class. We were both in tears as we said goodbye. She, along with co-teacher Elaine, helped him to blossom and soar this year. They taught him valuable skills, nurtured him, fed his curiosity, hugged away his worries, laughed at his witty jokes, and loved him exactly the way he is. I can only hope he will have teachers as exceptional as they are in his future school career.

Aidan's final evaluation reads like this: "We always look forward to a morning with Aidan. He is a very caring and sensitive young man. Aidan has a creative and outgoing personality. He paradoxically likes to play with everyone and no one at the same time. During centers and free play, Aidan circulates around the room jumping in and out of group play. He often creates his own imaginative scenarios in which he invites his classmates to join him. During small and large group activities, Aidan stays focused and shows a natural curiosity for learning. This will serve him well in the years to come. Aidan also has an excellent grasp of his letters, numbers, phonics, and pattern concepts. We feel confident that Aidan will excel in Kindergarten next year!"

And the year has come full circle. We pushed him... and he flew.*
(*See Blog from Thursday, September 4, 2008)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Keputch, Mow Mows and Moise!

Anyone who's ever picked up a parenting magazine of any sort knows one thing for sure when it comes to language acquisition: do not continue to repeat the mispronounced words of a budding linguist. But who can resist, sometimes?

There are a few words that have worked themselves into the daily vocabulary of the Carter family that are wrong, but it seems wrong to correct them because they are so cute. In our house, pacifiers are called "facis," dubbed by Aidan at age 2. The lawn mower is called the "mow mow" by everyone - to the point where I have blanked on the real name and have instead asked Jeff to vacuum the lawn, as it was the closest my mind could come to "lawn mower." When Leo asks for soup, what he is really asking for is cereal with milk. (This invites some puzzled glances our way in the cereal aisle of the grocery store when I'm asking Leo what kind of soup he'd like for lunch). For years, Aidan has talked about a hot diggity, a tool that apparently yields all sorts of magical power. Recently he configured the vacuum attachments in such a way that he declared it his official Hot Diggity. (Funny, though, it's more of a pester-my-brother-and-annoy-my-mother tool than a magical power tool)...

Of course I want my kids to pronounce words perfectly. But it was a sad day to realize that Leo had stopped saying "moise?" and instead enunciated "noise?" to inquire about every odd thing he heard. And I'll admit I reinforced Aidan's pronunciation of the sunny, bright, lellow sun. But there's nothing cuter right now than Leo's pronunciation of ketchup - keputch - except maybe Aidan's attempt at his favorite word, conspicuity. As in the conspicuity lights on the sides of big hauling trucks, designed to make them... conspicuous. And so, like any parent who's been a parent for more than 10 minutes, I've decided to take every bit of expert advice with a large grain of salt, because few college graduates still ask about the strange moise the mow mow is making - or is it the hot diggity? perhaps a faci will quiet it? Or some soup from the lellow box? And would you like some keputch to go with it?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Underpants and Olive Pizza

The Talk of the Town around here is BIG - Leo is on his way to being diaper-free! In general, I tend to avoid such potty talk with anyone except those who absolutely must hear it. But hey, the news is big, and Leo is proud.

I figured I would be an old hand at potty training the second time around, but anyone who's reared more than one child knows that nothing is ever the same - or easy. In the beginning, Leo insisted on standing to pee, since that's the way his older brother does it. This resulted in many bleachings of the side of the bathtub before we could convince Leo of another way. Next, he demanded underpants on all the time, even at night, so we compromised by putting them on over the diaper. Now, in the throes of success, Leo is anything but discreet about making his needs known. And he uses one term only - poop - to describe any function he wishes to perform in the restroom. At church this morning, after demanding copious amounts of water, he yelled "POOP!" no fewer than eight times at various members of the congregation, in the middle of the children's sermon, and after communion. Thankfully, many of the members are either a) old and therefore hard of hearing; b) grandparents who have heard their share of potty talk; or c) old grandparents who don't understand Toddlerspeak no matter how clearly one shouts "POOP!"
* * * * * * *
By nature and by training, Jeff and I are both "Logophiles" - that is, lovers of words. Aidan's growing understanding for the nuances and subtleties of lanugage, as well as his developing sense of humor, have resulted in great amusement and entertainment for us all. Aidan loves to tell jokes, but as anyone who's attempted to write her own joke knows, this is a skill best left for the commedians. (Case in point: at age 8, I developed this highly creative, original, completely underappreciated joke: What do the baby chicks say to the mother hen? Fetus! Fetus! Fetus!... and now I understand why 5 (or 8) year old jokes aren't so funny.) Recently, Aidan pulled off something of a joke either by luck or sheer brilliance. Watching Jeff cook over the grill whose propane tank is prone to fits, Aidan said, "You know why it's called propane? Because sometimes you can cook like a pro, and sometimes it's a pane [pain]!!"

We have two on-going jokes with Aidan which are endlessly amusing to us because he thinks we're teasing, but isn't 100% sure, so the same conversation plays out each time:
Aidan: The next time we order pizza, I want olive pizza!
A or J: You want all of the pizza? Aidan, what will the rest of us eat?
Aidan: No, I mean olive like you eat!
A/J: Yes, we heard you, you are going to eat all of it! And so forth...

Naturally, we could not resist introducting him to the Best Sesame Street Joke of All Time, told by Bert and Ernie:
Ernie: I one the sandbox
B: I two the sandbox
E: I three the sandbox...

...B: I six the sandbox
E: I seven the sandbox
B: I eight the sandbox.
Ernie: You ATE the sandbox?! That must have tasted terrible!!