Thursday, November 26, 2009
Be sure to check out Aidan and Leo's podcasts below.... Aidan's podcast is a song he learned at school and performed on the auditorium stage with the rest of his class (in the festive attire featured in the photo). Leo's rendition is of his favorite song. My favorite thing about this song was that he used to sing "Winkle, winkle, wittle star..." but his brother's incessant corrections led him to alter his pronunciation. Anyway! Happy listening.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The most recent edition of Real Simple asked a dozen or so well-known writers to identify and describe their favorite moment of the day, and why. I started to think about my own day, wondering what I would say in response to this same question. I am highly routinized, following predictable patterns every single day, so the first two moments that popped into my head were the moment I have my first sip of coffee in the morning, and the first sip of happy hour in the evening. I quickly decided that, although I enjoy those moments, they are definitely not the best of the day.
Next I considered the ritual of getting Aidan on and off the bus - in the mornings, I often breathe a sigh of relief as the bus pulls away, enjoying a moment of contentment - we've made it through another morning; I've managed to get three kids dressed and to the bus stop before the bus pulled away; I've done my part in getting Aidan off to school safely. In the afternoons, I eagerly await the arrival of that same bus, searching the windows until I catch sight of Aidan's "bright shiny penny face" beaming at me - a ritual of his own that he's created, grinning at me for a moment or two before making his way off the bus. I love the bus stop moments, but they are not my favorite.
Every parent loves the moment when all the kids are tucked into bed and are drifting off to sleep. Usually, this happens without too much fussing or tears (on their part or mine) but that moment of peaceful bliss is especially sweet after a night of difficulty in the going-to-bed routine. Before I turn into bed myself, I always go in for one last glimpse of their sleeping bodies, kiss their sweet faces and marvel at how calm, still, quiet, and beautiful each child is in slumber.
But none of these moments compares to the moment before the dinner ritual begins, when I've prepared all the food, fixed all the plates, grabbed all of the last minute requests, and finally, finally settled into my chair at the head of the table. It is this moment that is my favorite, as each family member settles into his chair, folds his hands for prayer, and looks with happy anticipation at the meal that awaits them. Oddly, mealtime is usually when Aidan and Leo have their best behaviors. (Certainly there are glaring exceptions, but by and large, this is the truth.) Admittedly, they squabble over which prayer we'll sing, and we often end up singing two prayers, to appease Leo. But as we settle into the meal, the dinner ritual begins, and this is my favorite moment, the part I look forward to all day, when we come together as a whole family and share our days with each other. Dinner is the time when we nurture our life together as a family as we nurture our bodies with food.
Research supports the benefits of sharing meals together, and it is no wonder that this is my favorite moment of my day. Upon reflecting on my own childhood, the memories that surface the strongest in my mind are those shared around the dinner table. In the house where I spent the formative years of my childhood, we had a very small, square table that felt cozy and close, the four of us eating there each night. Spaghetti nights were my absolute favorite - mom always used the same brown ceramic bowl with a matching lid for the sauce, and simply catching sight of that bowl on the counter when I arrived home from school made me eager for dinner to begin. We talked politics, highs and lows of the day, shared jokes and laughter, and always, my father requested a "fun fact" from each of us.
Thirty years from now, I wonder what my children will look back and remember most vividly about their growing up years. I hope it includes the many hours we spent together as a family, gathered around the table, breaking bread and making memories, for it is certainly one of my best memories with my family - past and present.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
We tend to think of spring as the season of renewal. But this fall, I am feeling more and more like this is the time of renewal, of the return to the old as well as welcoming the new. As the cool days now outnumber the warm ones, and the leaves have shared all but the last few bursts of color, we return to the familiarity of the last few months of the year - and yet we are joined by a new family member, making all things new. Finally, I, too, feel as though I have returned to my former self. I had been struggling quite a bit with postpartum depression, and finally I feel as though I have turned the corner. I am so grateful for the support of my family, particularly my mom, as well as my friends and my beloved midwife. In retrospect, I am shocked at how unhealthy I was; thus I feel renewed in this new season, and so grateful to be back.
Because of the many holidays we celebrate in these closing months, I love the return of the traditions. Last weekend, we enjoyed another Halloween with the kids. Aidan was a "Piwrite", a Pirate who writes. Last-minute, Leo decided that he wanted to be a lion, complete with a ferocious growl! And Pax was a skeleton - the cutest one you'll ever see. We carved clever and unique pumpkins in the morning - Leo insisted on an "upside down" pumpkin, and Aidan designed a mouth on his that was much-admired by the big kids who came trick-or-treating to our door. In the afternoon, we headed to the Martells for a special trick-or-treat, then to the Williams' for pizza and delicious goodies. Finally, it was time for trick-or-treating! This year, we went with our friends and neighbors, the Greens. We had so much fun, despite the on-again, off-again rain, and the scary chainsaw at the neighbors' house. Aidan stayed out with Logan [Green] after Leo and Pax had called it quits, and when he finally got home he announced, "My dogs are barking! My feet are killing me!"
This weekend, we took the kids on the first hiking trip of the season, to Shenandoah National Park. We chose the hike that was closest to the park entrance, the Turk Gap Trail. It's 2.2 miles round trip, with considerable hills and some rocky parts. The kids were amazing hikers! As long as Leo had a stick to drag in his hand, he was a happy boy, and Aidan loved scouting out the next trail marker. I am so impressed by how far Aidan has come in a year. He was clearly exhausted by the end of the long hike, and yet he kept on plugging away, never whining or complaining. Pax showed his enthusiasm for hiking in the way he knows best - contented sleep in the Moby wrap. While the trees were well past their prime, the weather was gorgeous and we all felt rejuvinated and restored from the time we spent together, enjoying nature and all its glory.
Today, we created our annual Tree of Thanks, and it was so rewarding for me to watch Aidan cut out each leaf himself and write his own thanksgivings on each one. He composed ones for the kitties, ("Zoe and Alice are thankful for mice") and gave suggestions to Leo and Pax about what they might write. (Cookies; Flat Cat; milk; Flippo, Pax's flat hippo lovey.) The best part was that Aidan remembered this tradition from last year and initiated his own gratitudes on each leaf.
This year I feel more grateful than ever, for my healthy, beautiful family of five; for the love and support of our family and friends; for the safety, stability, and security we enjoy; for overcoming the struggles of the past six weeks. Thus, this quote resonates particularly strongly for me:
"Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today,
and creates a vision for tomorrow."