Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Growing Legacy

A tradition began generations ago. On Easter Sunday, my paternal grandfather, whom I called Papa, bought corsages for the two most important, most wonderful ladies in his life: his wife, and his young daughter Susan. For years and years, each wore a gorgeous corsage pinned to her dress come Easter Sunday morning....

Papa passed away when I was 5 or 6.

When I was 8 years old, the tradition was born anew. My father bought corsages for the two most important, most wonderful ladies in his life: his wife, and his young daughter Anne. "You make that flower look beautiful," he said as he pinned it on my dress.

"Easter" and "corsage" became synonymous in my mind. For nearly a quarter of a century, I have worn a corsage proudly pinned to my dress on Easter morning. One year, when I was in high school, my boyfriend also bought me a corsage to wear. What a dilemma - how would I ever wear two corsages from two very important men in my life? In a moment of inspiration (read: my mother's brilliant suggestion) I wore the one from my boyfriend tucked into the tails of my french braids; the flowers from my father, I wore in their usual location - closest to my heart.

Another year, when Jeff and I were newlyweds spending our first Easter as a married couple, we flew to California to be with Jeff's extended family. Although I was very excited to be with them, it was the first Easter I wouldn't spend with my own parents. I was sad and disappointed to realize that there would be no corsage that Easter - my father was some 3,000 miles away! Imagine, then, my complete surprise when there was a knock at the door where we were staying - with a delivery for me. The florist presented to me a beautiful lily corsage, compliments of my father.

This year, thinking about the upcoming holiday and the joy of the flowers on Easter, I suddenly realized - I was just about Aidan's age when my dad presented me with my first corsage...

I remember how proud, how special, how beautiful I felt as that 8 year old child, entrusted with a gorgeous bloom to wear at my breast. I knew in an instant that the tradition would continue... a boutineer. This year, I made boutineers for Aidan and for Leo. I chose roses, baby's breath, and fresh greens. Such joy I felt in selecting the flowers, reveling in the surprise, anticipating giving the flowers to my sons, making them feel - hopefully - as proud, as special, and as handsome as I had been made to feel.

From Papa to Daughter; from Sweet Dad to Daughter; from Mother to Son.
The legacy grows.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring Break 2011

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. (What I think this really translates to is "I'll spare you the thousand words and post some pictures that explain things quite clearly.")

In lieu of a thousand words - spring break was very memorable, with some great trips and outings and adventures. I've photo-journaled most of the highlights below, but the ones that didn't make the cut include movie night (Karate Kid, the Jackie Chan version); seeing the cherry blossoms (they were beautiful, but past their peak; there was a lot of crabbiness during this time, hence, no photos); swimming in the hotel pool (Jeff scared Pax to death with his cannonball); reading by headlamp in the hotel room (Jeff, to the kids; The Neverending Story); and tons of tree climbing and stick finding all over Virginia and D.C.! The rest is chronicled below:

Beach Day with friends - the temperature was a gorgeous 75 degrees and the sun was bright!

Rock Climbing - All of us except for Pax (who stayed with Grandma and Grandpa) got to climb! It was really fun to belay the kids, and fun for Jeff and I to belay each other. Planting seeds for our future garden - we spent one day at Grandma's house, planting seed annuals like dahlias and veggies and birdhouse gourds as well.

An overnight adventure to Washington, D.C.! We arrived at the height of the tension surrounding the possible government shut-down. It was a surreal moment to be on the Mall, surrounded by Planned Parenthood supporters juxtaposed near the ultra-conservative, fundamentalist religious right who were predicting Doomsday - only 43 days left until the End of the World, according to these passionate demonstrators! I felt pride and love for my country, I really did, to bear witness, quite literally, to our first amendment rights.

Our picnic was delicious, the weather was glorious, and it was an unforgettable day.
Still, kids get cranky and tired no matter how gorgeous the flowers and no matter how free our speech might be. This is the last decent shot before meltdowns abounded:
We all perked up after happy hour (juice for the kids; wine for the wise ones) and a dip in the pool. We headed to a great little Asian-American restaurant where the kids floored me by eating with chopsticks - so perfectly! They were very cleverly designed; I found a link to make them at home. In our kitchen we have a black and white picture of Aidan, taken at about age 14 months, in this exact spot and style. We decided to replicate the photo with all three boys. It will look even better in B&W, I think!
I love the feeling I get when I see this picture. We were all so happy, fully recovered from the day's earlier crabbiness and general fatigue that inevitably accompanies adventure. We were about to feast on Ben & Jerry's ice cream and stroll the town, well past bedtime but happy as could be. We used the self-timer for the shot, which always makes me laugh, too.
Mischief in the morning. Leo is wearing said headlamp from the previous night's reading, and annoying the crap out of Aidan. Aidan is trying to ignore him as he's fully engrossed in a Pokemon Tyflosion!
Back home, there were puppet shows. Aidan's was about a knight, a dragon, and a castle. Leo's was about two monsters, one of whom had a very large ear! Their creativity is endlessly delightful to me.These cutout kids actually came from a church activity, and they were so cute, I had to find a more permanent place for them. I never dread coming down to the basement to get something now that I am greeted by these cheerful cuties!

I saved this photo for the very end, because it is my all-time favorite. I adore the crazy camera angle, and I love how happy everyone looks - is - in the photo. It pretty much sums up our lives: kinda crazy and off-kilter, sometimes with a gray background, but at the center - love.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Rockin' List

Mary Oliver's The Summer Day always leaves me breathless, particularly the last two lines:
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do/with your one wild and precious life?"

When I am 94 years old and sitting in my rocking chair on my wraparound porch, I'll look back and remember, with great fondness, the many adventures I've had in my life - including the following ten items, dubbed my Rockin' List. The rule of the list - each item has to be moderately to significantly outside of my comfort zone.

1. Travel the world. I've never been out of the country. (Canada and a day trip to Mexico doesn't count.) Nuff said, right? Plus, there's always this blog post for additional motivation... (and accountability!)
2. Team up with Jeff for a "Teachers & Nurses Without Borders" service trip - nationally or internationally.
3. Hike and camp along some of the Appalachian Trail as a whole family - the last 75 miles or so, with a respite with friends and family in Maine.
4. Sing karaoke in a bar. (You're surprised by this one, right? This one counts in the "Significantly outside my comfort zone" item).
5. Learn to play a new instrument - either the bagpipes or the guitar. I'm leaning toward the latter - the bagpipes would be a tough sell around our campfire on the Appalachian Trail.
6. Ride on a motorcycle. This includes a trip to a local, shady biker bar for cheap beer out of a dirty glass. Bonus points for quoting from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig while at the bar.
7. Participate in a Sprint Triathlon. I'm thinking fall 2012 on this one. It's a 5 mile run, 20 ish mile bike ride, and about a half mile swim. The swim will definitely be a challenge. Either the sharks will get me, or I'll end up borrowing Pax's swim fins to make it across.
8. Submit something - an article, poem, prose, research paper, policy brief - for publication. Persist until something is published. (Letters to the Editor in the local paper do not count.)
9. Learn to drive stick shift - well. This is imperative, for no self-respecting, future mini-cooper driver would embarrass herself by buying automatic.
10. Make a difference -

"One hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, how big my house was, or what kind of car I drove. But the world may be a little better, because I was important in the life of a child."–Forest E. Witcraft

For me, this is my quiet desperation, my ultimate hope and dream. I want to matter. I want to be someone who matters for my own children – for Aidan, Leo, and Pax. But I want to be that person for my students as well. I want to be the teacher who Danny remembers as the one who finally found a “breakthrough book” for him, resulting in a lifetime of reading for pleasure. The teacher whose high expectations for Keisha were unwavering – who celebrated with her when she finally made the honor roll, her ultimate goal. The teacher who taught Samantha how to write, how to love writing, how to use writing as a tool to express the frustration and sadness deep within her heart. I want to be the teacher whose name is evoked during an acceptance speech, in a valedictorian’s address, over stories swapped at a 25 year reunion. This is arguably the only item on my Rockin’ List that has infinite potential for success – and for failure. Perhaps – hopefully – I will look back and know that in my 100 years of living, my bank account has waxed and waned. I’ve made a home in tents and hostels and comfortable middle class colonials. I’ve driven an automatic minivan and a manual mini-cooper, ridden on the back of a Harley. And I’ll know that I have mattered – to Aidan, Leo, and Pax; to Danny, Keisha, and Samantha; to countless more. This is my quiet desperation.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Eating the Elephant

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.....

I'm the juggler who still has all the balls in the air (did that make anyone else giggle, too?) but just barely. I'm long on "to do" and short on "time to do." But as I chomp through the elephant, also known as my overwhelming coursework load, I'm starting to feel my creative juice return; my blogging brain has become dormant these past few weeks but is starting to stretch and yawn again.

Still - a policy brief, case study, and lit review/critical analysis beckons, so this post and the next few will be brief.

My absolute, single favorite thing about each kid right now:

Aidan is obsessed with all things Pokemon. I admit, with only a little guilt, I have not taken the time to educate myself on the ins and outs of Pokemon. Predictably, I often feel like he is speaking a foreign language when he launches his monologues on Pikachu and the evolution of the Pokemon. Because these monologues can go on at great length, and during a recent road trip to D.C., (a future post on that adventure) Jeff and I made a game out of the monologue. We quietly decided that we'd earn $1 every time Aidan used the word "Tyflosion." [phonetic: ty-flow-shun]. It's a funny word to begin with, but Aidan uses it with such reverence that it might very well serve as our "gateway word" for learning the vocabulary of Pokemon. At the end of 45 minutes we'd earned $15. It has turned into a private joke between us, muttered under our breath and out of Aidan's earshot:
Anne: "Did you see that there was an increase in our cable bill this month?"
Jeff: "Yes. There must have been some kind of..... TYFLOSION!!"
I love that Aidan is cultivating his own interests and obsessions, influenced by his peers and playmates. I'm intrigued and delighted to watch this ongoing development of Id, Ego, Superego; I love to watch the unfolding of his inner, individual, unique and one-of-a-kind self.

Leo is a ray of sunshine. During the week, when Aidan is at school, Leo shines his light on our days, and I watch him and marvel and drink in the warmth. On weekends, his light is absorbed - and reflected - by his shiny penny brother. I can't help but feel like an outsider; the two of them have become thick as thieves. But during the week, he's mine. Leo is a terrific shopper at the grocery store - pushing his own tiny cart, choosing bananas and remembering that we need more straws. He checks off our errands on his fingers, rehearsing the order we'll go in and delighting in the completion of tasks. Our afternoon iced coffee ritual has become one of my absolute favorite parts of the day - recently we've reveled in sharing our iced coffee on the deck, listening to the birds and basking in the warmth. Watching him run down the road, or stop to investigate a worm in the grass, or pause to gaze at a passing airplane, I fall in love with him all over again because of the light within him, shining forth to the world, his ability to live in the moment, shine in the moment, spread his light to those who stop and pay attention.

Pax My very favorite thing about Pax these days is the sound he makes when he wants to be picked up. Think about hoisting something heavy up high over your head. You might say "HUH" or "HUT." You might try to give yourself a little boost by trying to jump off the ground a bit. You might hold your hands up high and frantically open and close your fists.... which, collectively, is exactly what Pax does. I absolutely love it. Jeff and I describe Pax as being "so big and so little, all at once." For that is exactly what he is: So big. And so little. Our baby; our big boy holding his own with his brothers. He is the baby I still nurse at night; he is the big boy who carries his own clothes to the hamper and feeds himself with a fork. He is the baby who mutters just a handful of words; he is the big boy who devises sophisticated, nonverbal communication through grunts, gestures, and dramatic faces. So big. So little.

... kinda like my elephant. So big... yet so little.