Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Semi-Squished Girls

I saw Aidan's teacher this past weekend, and she told me what Aidan's reaction to Tuesday's earthquake was: "It feels like our trailer is being pulled by a semi!!" [a semi-automatic truck, that is, one that's designed to haul such items as trailers, a.k.a. "learning cottages."]


Leo was looking at the belly cast (made when I was pregnant with him) that we have hanging on the wall of the nursery. He asked me why it was there, and I said, "Isn't it so fun to look at and remember that you were in my belly one time?"

He responded, "It wasn't fun for ME because I got squished!"


After preschool, I was grilling Leo for details. He seems to have particular troubles with a boy in another class; they have squabbled before on the playground. Apparently, he wears striped shirts a lot. Leo said,

"There's a striped boy who's BAD, so you know what I said to Connor? I said, 'There are GIRLS to save.'"
Pax is as reluctant as ever to speak, yet his receptive language continues to grow exponentially. Sometimes I feel like a fool, talking to a near-mute at such great lengths, but then he demonstrates his clear understanding of everything I've said. I've had to devise clever ways of saying "I'm leaving" because he clearly understands I'm out the door, I'm heading out, I'll be back soon, I'm going now, I'm on my way... now I say I'm vacating the premises, I'm exiting the abode, I'm traveling elsewhere, choosing different and more creative expressions of the bottom line: Mommy's outta here!

He is patient and persistent in his efforts to communicate to us non-verbally, which makes his silence much more tolerable; there are no tantrums over misunderstanding the desire for coffee, not apple juice; for banana bread, not bananas; for the car keys, not the sunglasses. And I'm encouraged by his creativity. After an earthquake aftershock woke him up, I was telling Jeff what happened. Jeff asked him, "Did the shaky thing wake you up?" His eyes got big as he nodded, then made his body rigid while he shook his hands forcefully, illustrating the "shaky things." Similarly, he's grown fearful of big thunderstorms, and has devised a sign for "Boom Boom Thunder." He strikes his fist to his open palm several times, quickly, showing "Boom Boom!"

We like to joke that our kids are on a need to know basis when it comes to plans that are iffy, or when uncertainty is likely to upset the carefully-constructed balance in our lives. We think the joke's on us, though. We think Pax has decided that WE are the ones on a need-to-know basis, and he'll speak to us only when he decides we need to know whatever it is he has to say.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Greatest Teachers

One of a child's greatest gifts is his ability to teach us.

This afternoon provided some entirely unwelcome excitement - we experienced a big earthquake, 6.0 magnitude. When the earthquake started, I was in the basement. I raced to the main level to find Leo, happily sitting on the couch, wondering what that rumbling sound was. Calm and quiet as could be, he was unphased by the significant shaking and loud rumbling; Pax remained sound asleep, and Aidan was kept safe and calm at school by his wonderful teacher. Later when he got off the bus, he was excited and amazed that we had felt it, too. I asked him what he thought of the earthquake and he replied enthusiastically, "It was COOL!"

I, on the other hand, was all shook up. But as I helped the kids process the event during the afternoon and into the evening, I realized that for them, this was very exciting. They didn't know to be scared. Aidan wanted to know all about how the plates beneath the ground shift, and what the ground looked like when it was shaking. He wondered about other places in the world where earthquakes are more common, and remembered hearing about the ones in Japan. He was excited to remember that earthquakes that happen in the ocean can cause tsunamis. Leo wanted to watch the weather, to find out when the next earthquake would be happening. He was convinced that our local forecasters had all the answers to when the next time the "shaking thing would happen." And Pax, blissfully oblivious to the shaking and quaking, laughed and giggled his way through the evening, jumping from the arm of the couch onto the cushions and crouching against the pillows - his version of hide-and-seek.

Admittedly, I haven't been able to fully embrace the "curiosity" viewpoint of my children, nor the oblivion. But taking a step back from the worry and the stress and the adrenaline rush that the afternoon provided, they have a valid point.... what did the ground look like? Do the plates settle back into their former positions after the quake? Why can't forecasters predict the quakes? And what kind of wonderful poem might one write from the perspective of the "fault lines," who always take the blame?
Browsing through children's books at the library earlier today, a story I've searched for many times but have been unable to find literally jumped off the shelf at me. (My recall of the title was just slightly off, and I assumed it was out of print.) As I child, I read it obsessively, loving the illustrations, the tender story, loving how very full-circle it is, loving the sweet bond between Bobby and his grandfather, Bob. Now One Foot, Now the Other is told with poignant and gentle elegance. Tomie de Paola weaves together the past and the present as the grandfather describes to Bobby how he first taught him to walk on his own, how to build large towers of blocks, how to eat with a spoon. Bobby especially loves to hear the story of how he learned to walk - now one foot, now the other. Later, after Grandfather experiences a debilitating stroke, Bobby slowly teaches his grandfather each of these skills again, ending with- now one foot, now the other.
Close to a year ago, I shared the story of Pax's recognition of communion during church. Months later, Pax has created a place for himself at that table. Although our church is very clear that all are welcome, it was my own reluctance that prevented Pax from taking communion with the rest of us. But then, it happened - quite by accident, the first time. The pastor held the bread, intended for me, a little too close to Pax's graspy fingers. Too late to stop him, he snatched the bread from her fingers and clutched it in a white-knuckled fist. Pastor and I exchanged a glance, she quietly tore off another piece for me, and the meal continued. All were fed.

Since that day, Pax has continued to commune with us at the table. He has made a place for himself, insisted that he be a part of the meal. The squirming, fussy, busy almost-two-year old turns into a calm, focused, quiet child when we kneel down at the altar. Perched on my knee, he carefully holds out his tiny hands in a gesture similar to his sign for "book" as he waits for the bread. Patiently he watches for the chalice to be brought to him, where he dips his bread into the wine before he carefully eats. Each week, bearing witness to this tiny child who is so serious and so intentional in his communion, I become verklempt. In "Communion," "to share," Pax has taught me, has helped me to understand - all are welcome. He has opened my eyes to a new perspective, a new understanding of what it means to belong, to be welcome, to be accepted.

My children are my greatest teachers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Several drafts are in the queue, so check back soon. In the meantime, I simply love this tidbit from our afternoon together......
Today Aidan informed me that he knows just what he wants his next birthday party theme to be (his MAY birthday party) - "I'd like to have a science, reading, and math birthday party. We'll do experiments, and read books that go with them, and do math stuff. It will be awesome."

That's my boy.

I've fallen out of the habit of recording these quotable quotes, so I'm redoubling my effort to jot down these priceless moments. Following another writer's suggestion, I have a small journal (embellished with a large "Q" for "quotes") that I keep in my nightstand, and I try to remember to record these gems as they happen. On nights when I feel heavy-hearted, or need a good laugh, or when I am deeply reveling in the joy of my children, I pull out this small book and remember these seemingly unforgettable moments in their lives... only to realize that I have forgotten so much, and thus feel so grateful that I took the time to bear witness, to record, and in doing so, to remember.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

To Have and to Hold

Ten years ago, on August 4, 2001, Jeff and I began our life as a married couple. At our wedding reception, we chose to dance to Israel Kamakawiwo Ole's version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. At the time, we chose it because it was lovely and beautiful. Now, a decade later as I listen to the song, the words have gained a whole new meaning....

...and the dreams that you dreamed of
Dreams really do come true...

Yes - dreams really do come true. We are making our dreams come true....

I hear babies cry and I watch them grow,
They'll learn much more
Than we'll know
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world...

Yes - our babies - yes - what a wonderful world.

And yet it was the rainbow that really struck me, when listening to this song anew. Significant and poignant, the image of the rainbow, a promise.

Originally, in the story of Noah's Ark, God sent a rainbow as a sign of God's promise to all God's people. The rainbow in our song choice represents the promise we each made,to love one another for all the rest of our days. My beloved is mine, and I am his.

And so the song inspired the creation of this montage, celebrating a decade of our lives together.