Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

Aidan Paul Carter certainly heeded Ben Franklin's call - he is early to bed and early to rise. It has made him Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise:

He is HEALTHY! After fighting a fairly rare autoimmune virus, Henoch-Schonlein Purpura, for over a year (typical and expected duration = 6 weeks!) Aidan received a clean bill of health - NO HSP VIRUS - at his well child check up this past week. What wonderful news! I can finally put aside the nagging worry in my mind, the back burner that constantly simmered, "Worry about HSP virus." No longer! I am grateful today more than ever for our three very healthy children.

He is WEALTHY! Um.... okay, not really. But he has a wealth of new knowledge, now that his first grade school year is officially over. I'm so proud of my school boy. He is studious, inquisitive, curious, creative. He could not possibly make his teacher-mama more proud, and I'm grateful to Mrs. Jackson for helping Aidan enjoy such a successful year under her guidance and quiet tutelage. I look at him in quiet amazement sometimes, as he works out a math fraction or presents a different viewpoint I'd never even fathomed. I am grateful to her, too, for providing me the opportunity to work in her classroom every week, rotating among the reading groups and playing "reading specialist" for an hour each week, treating me like a colleague and a professional all the while. Above all, being in that first grade classroom week after week humbled me and challenged me in ways I hadn't experienced in a middle school classroom. Thank you, Mrs. Jackson!

And he is WISE. Seven years wise! Aidan's birthday was a day full of partying. We embarked upon my parents' boat for a breakfast cruise, complete with candle-topped donuts. Aidan used his brand new fishing pole to catch his second-ever fish, which we later used to create awesome fish print t-shirts. (Official name for fish print art = Gyotaku). Later that afternoon, Aidan celebrated with his two closest buddies and his two best brothers. We took the kids to a local fused glass art studio where they each created suncatcher masterpieces. Afterward, we dined on pizza and cake, and finally topped the night off with a sleepover - the first one Aidan had ever hosted.

Flipping through photos of Aidan's birth, it's hard to imagine that the tiny baby in the pictures is the same beaming boy who stands before me today. At the same time, I cannot imagine a time that I don't think of him and remember what it was like to hold him, this boy who first made me a mama, this baby whom I love beyond measure. Robert Munsch's singsong refrain could not be more true: "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ebb and Flow

I think of myself as a person who enjoys the moment. Who notices the puffy clouds against the brilliant blue, variegated sky, who appreciates the woodpecker hard at work making his nest, who takes pleasure in the witty exchange overheard between teens passing through the park. I savor the goodness, I appreciate the abundant beauty that surrounds me. I seek its light as an antidote to the darkness that threatens the horizon.

But then there are days or weeks that come along when the pendulum seems too heavy on one side, where the shift from "bad things" to "good things" takes too long, and good things struggle to regain their weight. The scales are unbalanced; the "bad" requires twice as much "good" to counter its heft. This is nothing new, of course, and a recent entry shows that these musings are forever on my mind. I guess, though, that this time around, I feel a sense of urgency. This time, it feels like I need to appreciate and enjoy the goodness now, because my time is coming. In a sense, it feels like permission. Permission to enjoy the beautiful and warm day, almost as if the world is saying to me, although there are so many who are hurting right now, you'd better enjoy this time, your time, right now. Permission to enjoy goodness even though two of my closest friends are struggling in darkness. Because on a different gorgeous day, it will be my pain and their time to revel in the beauty - and I expect them to find the beauty when I cannot. This time, I'm fighting to enjoy the goodness because it is all I can find to do to occupy my hands and my heart and my hours.

Because right now, it is a mother, a husband, and a child who are suffering through some very dark days. Who struggle to see the beauty when their world is full of uncertainty and worry. My dear friend's mother's cancer has returned. My closest friend's husband - also our close friend - is in the midst of a sudden and serious illness. And the child in our community is still waging her battle against cancer - she is a warrior. And so the circle tightens and I cannot avoid any longer what it feels like to walk in each of their shoes. Mother - Husband - Child. In my own life, as I walk in their shoes, each one is so vital to my own existence. I struggle with the threats placed on each of them.

My friend, the one whose mother is so ill, always amazes me in her eloquence and articulate speech even amidst her pain. In a recent email, she included this quote, the source of which I believe comes from a praise song:

"There is a blessedness that comes through waiting on the Lord. There is an intimacy in our walk with the Lord that comes from walking through that valley. There is a reliance on His Word that we only know when everything else in life fades away."

Perhaps, then, this is my answer. I am not walking through their valley right now, but I can certainly see their valley. The valley offers its own beauties to behold. It is still our job to seek them, to see them, to continue to find them and discover them and share them. Light as the antidote to darkness.

Teeter Totter

(This is an old poem, July 2005. But still relevant today.)

It is a delicate balance, I think,
between all that is
good and
In his one-year-old eyes I see
In his eyes I see
lost, mostly, in adult eyes forever.
On NPR I hear
another bomb
another attack
another war, or simply
another dreary day of rain.
The teeter totter shifts
suddenly, to the fulcrum,
the weight of the world is impossible,
filled with hopelessness, despair, a sense of evil.
And then,
he smiles at me
a broad, radiant, beaming grin,
eyes twinkling and merry
his delight with his
world, with being
Alive -
all of his one year.
We teeter
back again.

Friday, May 20, 2011

An "InTents" Month!

May is proving to be an intense month... as well as an In Tents month, filled with some joyous celebrations and some unforgettable adventures. Here are a few:

Mother's Day - Hm. It was certainly a memorable day.... So as a teacher, a great rule of thumb to follow when giving feedback is a "sandwich" where you offer something positive, then give some critical suggestion, then finish with something positive. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that this Mother's Day was a rather inverted sandwich. It began with much wailing, gnashing of teeth, and lamenting. There were lovely gifts, to be sure (my favorite by far was the homemade book of photos, drawings and lists of "reasons why I love mom" compiled by authors and illustrators Aidan, Leo, and Pax.) But there were some wicked displays of behavior, as well. All I could do is laugh, really, because does Mom actually ever get the day off?

The middle of the day, though, was splendid and lovely and perfect. We picnicked at a local vineyard with my parents and the kids, and a truly wonderful time was had by all. I love being able to celebrate Mother's Day with my mom and as a mom. The food that everyone prepared was delicious, and we enjoyed two different Virginia wines, a rose and a chardonnay-viognier blend. We tossed the frisbee, kicked the soccer ball, visited the polo horses in the barn, and spent the afternoon lazed across blankets. A boat ride topped off the late afternoon. And then - the evening. All I can say is that the day ended as it had begun, but I'll always enjoy the memory of our picnic.

Church Camping Trip - The forecast was ominous - showers and thunderstorms likely Friday, Saturday, and Sunday - and yet the organizer of the trip was clear: we'd camp, rain or shine. I'd spent the week going back and forth - should we stay or should we go? But the positive peer pressure from the group was enough motivation to overlook the gloomy forecast. And so on Friday afternoon, after packing the car to the brim, (we had to load the kids in their seats before stuffing the rest of our gear in the aisles) we hit the road, meeting up at the campground with 6 other families from our church.

I have wonderful and vivid memories from my childhood of "Family Camp" and weeks of the summer spent at a Lutheran camp, worshipping and singing around the campfire, joined together in a unique kind of fellowship. I remember the love and acceptance offered, the laughter, and the deep-down warmth gained from those experiences. In the way that food eaten outdoors becomes more delicious, music shared around a fire becomes more beautiful. Laughter is richer. Friendships deepen and expand more quickly. In our circle of 25 campers, we sang the praise songs of my childhood. My children sat in the laps of other parents, giggled as the teenagers used them as puppets for the hand motions of the songs, and snuggled up next to their friends against the crisp chill of the evening. The discovery of watching your children enjoy something you loved so dearly yourself as a child never gets old, and my heart swelled while tears ran over my cheeks as I drank in the love and nourishment of our faith family.

We returned from the trip, tired yet renewed all at once. The spiritual buoy that the weekend provided has kept me floating high this whole week. Ever the one for a tidy house, I've been reluctant to put away the last few items of our trip - they've served as reminders the whole week through of the Feast of Love - nourishing and sustaining us still. In our culminating worship service in a small amphitheater in the woods, I was overcome again by gratitude and thanksgiving for our church family, for our village. Like other experiences in my life, so much goodness can come from so much pain. Finding this church, our home - so much goodness borne from so much pain.

And finally....Preschool Celebration! Leo is officially done with his first year of preschool, and boy, did he soar! I'm so proud of Leo, so happy that he makes friends with anyone he meets, so proud of what a good and kind friend he is. I'm proud of all the progress he's made this year, learning letters and sounds, counting, sorting, building, creating. I love hearing him talk about being a "School Boy" and insisting that I create homework for him to do in the afternoons when Aidan is doing his. I admire Leo, the ease with which he navigates through the never-ending pattern of being Younger and Older, too young for a sleepover, like Aidan; too old for a nap, like Pax, yet desperately wanting both. I'm so proud of Leo, so capable and confident, so cheerful and independent, so spritely and spirited.
Leo with his teachers - Miss Rachel; Miss Heather; Miss Sarah

More celebrating is on the horizon - most notably, the end of the school year, and the Birthday of Aidan - so stay tuned!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Feeding the Fruit Bug

(Out of the Mouths of Babes)

Aidan, at dinner, swirling his pasta in spaghetti sauce:
Daddy: Can you even taste the sauce, Aidan?
Aidan (still swirling): No. I just like how it looks.

Leo, in the car with a grouchy Aidan:
"I just want this to be a nice day. But this is not my Aidan. This is a mean Aidan."

First words out of Leo's mouth, 3 seconds after opening his eyes:
"Mom, my hands are hungry!"

Leo, out of the blue:
When pirates are acting nice and politely when they want to say hello, they say 'Ahoy Matey!'"

Pax, at bedtime, looks at me and signs:
"Love you."

Leo, while drinking iced coffee:
"I like iced coffee. But if you put too much sugar in it, it doesn't taste good. It tastes all floppy and mixy."

Leo, at dinner, intentionally drops a pear on the floor. Jeff grabs it--
"No!! I am feeding the fruit bug!"

...and finally, a really oldie but goodie that I've yet to post here:

(after getting in trouble and losing screen time privileges...)
Leo, coaching/talking to himself:

"Whatever I do, I must choose something to do other than screen time. And I am NOT ANGRY about losing my screen time!!"