Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Happy Birthday to you

Pax Augustus turned O-N-E on September 24! We celebrated with a big party with friends and family the weekend before, and the "Apple of our Eye" (the party's theme) enjoyed himself very much. Party activities included "Pictionary HD," Rochambo, bobbing for apples on a string, and a "How Well do you Know the Birthday Boy?" Quiz. My favorite part of the whole event was watching Pax eat his cupcake - at first, he was reluctant to touch it, not even sure it was consumable. But as soon as I showed him that it was, indeed, edible, he dug in with both hands. Within minutes, he was covered in frosting and positively delighted with himself. One of the many teeth he's cut recently has proven to be a big sweet tooth!(crinkle eyed birthday baby)
Jeff's parents arrived on the Actual Birth Day to help us celebrate - this was the first time Jeff's stepdad has seen Pax. We sang "Happy Birthday" to Pax countless times that day because of the reaction it prompted every time - a huge, crinkle-eye grin and lots of hand clapping. As every parent of the very young will attest, Pax was more interested in the boxes and wrapping paper that held the gifts than in the actual gifts themselves.

This year has gone by so quickly and yet, when I stop to reflect on the many months that Pax has been here, it seems like so much longer. Pax has truly lived up to his name. He fills our lives with peace and joy. Everyone who knows him well comments on what a smiley, happy person he is, and indeed, he is.

Our journey over the past year has been filled with many ups and downs, triumphs and struggles. What has remained constant and unchanging is the gratitude I feel every single day for Pax. I know I am not the only one who feels this; Jeff is smitten with Pax in a way that is different than it was with the older boys when they were babies, and Aidan has continued to absolutely adore every ounce of Pax. He gazes at Pax, holds him, kisses him, and loves him so tenderly and gently. Aidan refers to Pax as "my baby." And finally, Leo has come to appreciate the playmate that Pax will be. Coming from the boy who pleaded with me after Pax's birth, "put he back into your belly," this affirmation of a future playmate is enough for me.

Perhaps it is because I know he is likely our last baby; perhaps it is because I've learned from experience how quickly babies become toddlers...preschoolers... 1st graders; perhaps it is because of his always-smiling demeanor - whatever the case, I am so grateful for the blessing of Peace in our lives. Even amidst the chaos and noise of a family of five; even through the bickering, the tears, the fatigue, the worries, the tantrums, and my own exhaustion of still not having a full night's sleep, I feel insanely lucky. More accurately, I am insanely lucky.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Social Activists

"Do Justice, Love Kindness, Walk Humbly with Thy God." Micah 6:8

Tonight a woman on death row will be executed in the state of Virginia. Teresa Lewis was denied every appeal possible, from the Supreme Court to the governor. Her story is compelling and heartbreaking beyond most stories of death row inmates, and she, like all others facing execution, does not deserve this punishment. I have two friends who are intimately acquainted with Teresa Lewis. Today, for them, as well as in an attempt to appease my own social conscience, I stood with two of my children and 20 other men and women in protest against her execution.

I took this photo to bear witness to our protest today. I took this photo because when my children become grassroots organizers, political activists, and leaders of social justice, I want to have this on record. I want my children to look back on this day, and others in the future like this one, and say, my mom stood up. My mom stood up for others who could not. My mom protested and let her opinions be known and had the courage to bear witness to that which she opposes from the core of her being.

I struggle now with the right words to express what lays so heavy in my heart. I realized today how desperately I want my children to care, to have compassion, to love humanity. Perhaps it is my most fervent desire for each of them. And so I will lead them, as best I can, to
Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

First day of Preschool!

Leo is an official "school boy" now! He started preschool just after Labor Day, and is very proud of his new status - one that brings him one step closer to keeping pace with big brother.

I really had no idea how the first day would go with Leo - he is somewhat of a loose cannon - but he marched right into his classroom with his best buddy, Garrett, and said simply, "Goodbye Mom!" He was so proud to be wearing his brand new, pint-sized backpack, and had created a dozen different drawings to display in the backpack's see-through front pocket. In truth, the first day seemed much harder on me than it was on him. The car ride home was unnaturally quiet; I missed his sweet little voice asking me a million questions. But that is my great hope - that milestone days in the future will continue be harder on Mom than on my beloved boy. Jeff, recognizing that this was a hard day for me, surprised me with a gorgeous bouquet of salmon-colored roses when I arrived home from preschool drop off.

As the novelty has begun to wear off, it seems as though Leo is more in love with the idea of school than actually going to school. He brags of going to "library special" (Aidan's gym, library, Spanish, music, and art classes are called "specials") and points out his "school bus" every time we pass a Jaunt bus. He describes the homework he has to do that evening and writes out elaborate sentences (long scribbles) that he reads back to us with great emphasis and detail, pointing carefully to each turn of the marker as he reads. He tells great stories of the friends he has at school, naming kids he's heard Aidan mention - not actually naming kids in his own class. Drop off has become more difficult, and it is hard to watch him resist something I know he will come to love. I find myself silently thanking Aidan for all the lessons he taught me in his earliest preschool days; I know now, in the long run, how good preschool is for children. I know how important it is for them to take this big step toward independence. I know how hard it is for both of us, and yet, because of Aidan, I have great confidence with Leo that I once lacked with Aidan.

Leo is a magical thinker. He has started to discover his own way of navigating through the uncharted waters of the school world. Leo lets his imagination guide him through his reality, looking through the lens of his brother's world, making the unfamiliar more familiar through the shared experiences of being School Boys. He, like me, is faithfully and trustingly following the trail blazed before us by Aidan.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

This and That

It has been far too long since I last posted, and there is so much to catch up on. :( I just need to get back on the horse and keep riding, so away I go. Here are several "quick and dirty" posts of anecdotes that need little elaboration or reflection; in the coming days I will post more entries of the many thoughts and reflections I've been musing over in these silent days away from my blog....

Leo's language, vocabulary, and ability to speak in full essays astounds me. He is a chatterbox!! My two favorite mix ups he uses are

Becept = Except. As in, "I wanted to ride my bike, becept Mommy said no!" (Aidan used to correct him on this every time, but recently gave up because Leo completely ignores him.)

...and one day, Jeff told Leo that he was being very contrary, "Like Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary." We teased him about being Mary Mary Quite Contrary, and now, when he is being ornery, he announces with delight, "I'm being like Mary Mary Concentrary!!"


Aidan's voracious appetite for reading continues to delight me. He's taken to reading books on the long ride home on the school bus, and even reading while walking the whole way home!!! He walked right past our house one afternoon because he was so engrossed in the adventures of Jack and Annie of the beloved Magic Treehouse series.

I try not to be a braggart parent, but what good is a blog if not for a little bragging here and there? Recently Aidan's teacher called me about when I could come in and volunteer in the classroom. I mentioned how much Aidan enjoyed her class, and for the second year in a row, his teacher said to me, "Oh, if only I could have an entire room full of Aidans!"

I felt great validation and satisfaction over a deliberate parenting choice Jeff and I have made. By and large, we do not use extrinsic motivators of any kind with our kids. (Exceptions included M&M's during potty training and recently, a trip to the ice cream store after a particularly painful shot) As a teacher, I am firmly against the use of extrinsic motivators; my philosophy of teaching, much like my philosophy of parenting, is that intrinsic motivation is the driving force behind success. Reading is its own reward; a job well done should result in satisfaction and self-pride, not a prize; high expectations, without extrinsic rewards, leads to healthy, happy, self-confident, productive people. At Aidan's school, they use a positive reinforcement behavior plan which I support wholeheartedly - positive reinforcement is an excellent method. Students are recognized for their good behavior and earn tickets that can be redeemed at the Star Store. Last year, much to my dismay, Aidan came home week after week with absolute junk - crappy toys, cheap blow-up animals, beaten-up stuffed animals. Much to my relief, the novelty eventually wore off and at the end of the year he was left with a hundred or so unredeemed tickets. I raised my concerns at a PTO meeting and suggested that items sold in the school store should support the school concept - markers, crayons, folders, cool pens and pencils; the "top shelf" items could be - gasp - BOOKS!! My suggestions were met with some enthusiasm and some skepticism; I let the matter go, and decided this was not a battle I was willing to fight.

Imagine my surprise and delight when Aidan came home from school after his first trip to the Star Store and announced what he had "bought" that day - the opportunity to have lunch with one of the assistant principals!! My boy chose to have lunch with a principal over all the other stuff that was available to him. I felt proud and happy, both because Aidan had made such a wonderful choice all on his own, and because the school, in one small part, had listened and responded to my suggestion. Although there is still a lot of junk being sold, there are also crayons, markers, folders -- and the opportunity to have lunch with a principal.

Hard at work

Pax deserves a very long, reflective post about how very wonderful and BIG he is, but I must mention just two tidbits about him. Every morning when the school bus arrives to collect Aidan, Pax enthusiastically waves goodbye to Aidan and grins from ear to ear. Every afternoon when the big yellow bus returns, Pax waves eagerly in excitement to greet his biggest brother. All the parents at the bus stop, and I suspect, the passersby waiting in cars, adore the sight of a baby waving to his beloved oldest brother.

One other favorite thing about Pax these days is how hard he is at "work." Pax views the toys in our home as his full time job. Each morning after breakfast, he seems to say, "Okay, put me down. It is time I get to work!" He starts at the kitchen set where he dumps out all the bowls of play food, turns the bowl upside down, and beats on it like a drum. He chews on the slice of orange and carries the potato chip around in his mouth. He makes his way over to the fridge, where he pulls off as many magnets as he can, pulling himself to standing to reach the triceratops I've scooted to just beyond his reach. He hits the music button on the Leapster fridge magnets for good measure before heading into the family room, where he clears every shelf he can reach in Leo's dollhouse. Holding the Daddy doll in one hand and the elephant in another, he claps them together, laughing with the strange noise the wooden doll head makes against the semi-plastic elephant trunk. Finally, he heads to the totes under the table where he methodically dumps each one out - until the Foreman comes along and takes away any totes he hasn't managed to dump yet. Undeterred, he sets about mouthing every new toy that litters the ground, content to "work" until sheer exhaustion forces him to demand his morning nap.... (that's some kind of a cushy job that lets you take a siesta mid-morning!)

"The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world
there has never been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him."
-Pablo Casals