Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Fighter, The Lover, The Lap Cat

The Fighter

Friday morning at the bus stop, I asked Aidan if he wanted to go to kumite (karate sparring) that night. (Secretly, I always hope he'll say no. I took him, once, and it was hard for me to watch. I admire and respect his Shihan (essentially, translated to master teacher) so much -
and I respect the discipline that karate instills in my son and in so many other children. I understand that the kumite is kind of the point of karate, and yet... I hate seeing kids hit each
other. Even when they are highly skilled, very impressive, very careful and respectful and simply honing their craft, without a trace of maliciousness or malevolent intent.) Anyway. I asked Aidan if he wanted to go to kumite.

"Yes," he replied with conviction. "I have a plan," he said.

I love this about him. I love that he is such a strategist. He thinks about what he'll do, plans the move he wants to focus on during the sparring match, and works hard to execute (His plan? Any time the opponent tried to deliver a roundhouse kick, Aidan thought he'd sweep him to the ground. We practiced at the bus stop - once. Thank god I still outweigh him more than twice his weight. And that I was wearing cleats.) I love watching him play chess with Jeff,
watching him work out problems with his potential moves, anticipating what Jeff might do. I love playing checkers with him, seeing how he counts remaining checkers, defends his last row against crowning kings. I love that he is competitive, eager to see how he'll fare against a bigger, more aggressive, more experienced opponents. I love this about him, because it is so different than how I am, how Jeff is. The "nature" argument wins in this debate. Aidan's competitive spirit is definitely innate. This boy, he is a fighter - a thinker, a strategist. I learn so much from


The Lover

Leo loves to go and watch Aidan do karate and kumite. He's occasionally expressed interest in joining his brother, but ultimately opts to stick to his own pursuits - right now, ice skating and soccer. Still - he begs to accompany whomever is taking Aidan to the dojo, and sits quietly, taking it all in. I couldn't help but grin at the irony of Friday night, however, after they had all
returned home from kumite. Aidan headed straight for the shower; Leo, having bathed earlier, went straight for his sketch pad and markers. And proceeded to draw 8 of the most perfectly formed red hearts I've ever seen. Straight from watching 45 minutes of intense fighting (for there were some kicks to the head, blows to the jaw, tears, and struggle - ) he sat down at his table and colored eight red hearts. He is such a tender-hearted love.

The Lap Cat

If I'm sitting, chances are, my lap is full of a boy. A Pax boy. I affectionately call him my lap cat, alternately, my shadow - because if I'm sitting, it's with him. If I'm walking, he's behind me. I realized, quite suddenly, how much I will miss having a Lap Cat when this boy grows to be as big as either brother. The intimacy of the first years - of having a newborn who fits snug into one arm; an infant who nestles perfectly into your chest; a baby who drapes across your shoulder; a toddler who molds effortlessly into the jut of your hip - is something that cannot be replaced, only remembered. I will miss these lap cat days - mealtime, story time, play time, bed time, every time - these days of having laps and hips and arms full of a small, affectionate, delicious little person. Pax - my lap cat.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Resident Artists

Aidan is one of those kids who prefers "process" over "product," and I'm one of those moms who encourages it. As a result, many of his crafts and paintings and art projects look amazing as he's working on them, but when he's finished experimenting, the end result not exactly refrigerator-worthy. But occasionally, he creates something really awesome, and this is my most recent favorite. It's quite timely for the Chinese New Year, which happens to be the Year of the Dragon:

Leo is an expressive artist, capturing his emotions, thoughts, and feelings through his frequent drawings and paintings. He draws stick figures who are crying when he is upset or angry; colors huge hearts to give to whomever is feeling sad; illustrates cards of himself holding hands with friends from his class; carefully constructs family portraits, labeling each character (cats; snowpeople; monsters) with our names. Recently, he drew this snowman:

"You know who that is by the snowman's heart?" he asked. "Who is it, Leo?" I replied. "That's God. Because God is always in your heart."

Yes, Leo, God is always in our hearts.
But you - and all those whom I love - are in my heart.

By e.e. cummings:

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Ox

According to the Chinese Zodiac, an Ox is someone who exhibits strength and determination. Our ox, Pax, certainly embodies those characteristics, most obviously in his determination to communicate - silently - and in his stubborn refusal, his strength - in trying to speak new words. I vacillate between admiring him for his downright beautiful miming skills, and feeling so frustrated and desperate for him to speak to us.

On this morning, however, no words could have made this scene more beautiful, tender, heartening. Largely unaware of my presence, Pax went about his caretaking in a most gentle and loving manner:

Pax climbed carefully on a step stool to reach diapers, a changing cloth, and wipes. Baby laid so still and so sweetly, ready to be freshened up:

I love the look of determination, tongue tucked between his teeth as he pulls out the wipe from the pouch...

Evidently deciding that Baby is happier unclothed, Pax gently trimmed each of Baby's toenails......then decided to trim his own.

Knowing how much Baby enjoys books, Pax chose a favorite - Snuggle Me, Snuggly - and nestled in for a quiet show of pictures.

I love you, my strong, determined Ox.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Pirate's Life for Me!

One month ago, I didn't even own a 2012 calendar. That was so... next year. I'd scribble in the random appointment, here or there, on the extra pages that followed December, pushing out any thought unrelated to the weeks of celebrating that lay ahead. How nice it will be, I kept thinking, to have two and a half weeks of freedom before my class starts again!

Ha. The first day of 2012 found me at the starting line with my sneakers laced tight - I was off and running. I had several lovely posts planned to start the new year. They seem rather... faded now, as only today - tonight - have my feet had the chance to touch the ground.

Five years ago, the time between Christmas, New Year's, and January 5 stretched far and wide, feeling like an eternity had passed between each date. This year, with Christmas behind us, New Year's upon us, and Leo's 5th Birthday looming on the horizon, all I could think was, his birthday is SO CLOSE to Christmas! New Year's! How did this happen??

Despite the frenetic pace of 2012, we managed to throw a mighty fine party to celebrate Leo's 5th year. Months ago, Leo decided on a pirate theme, so I set to work gathering ideas and brainstorming activities. I nearly set the house afire with the invites, but they were well worth the cost of listening to the smoke detectors (tea-stained and edge-burned, for authenticity):

Dissatisfied with the chintzy hats I found in catalogs and party stores, I commissioned my mom to make bandanas for each party-goer, and they turned out as cute as could be:

Knowing how crafty my kids are, and how much crafting the kids do in preschool, I turned to Family Fun for a pirate-themed craft idea. The kids looved making the parrots and teaching them how to speak like a pirate!

We played several fun games, including"Swab the Deck," a game that Aidan plays at the end of karate sometimes. Essentially, it's Simon Says with some pirate swagger. (My personal favorite is "Seasick", where each kid pretends to vomit all over the ship's deck. Ironic, given how the mere thought of puking can give me a vaso-vagal (fainting) response.)

The culminating event of the party, though, was the Hunt for Buried Treasure:
Scavenger Hunt Clues:

Follow your Captian (Leo) to the ship's deck
He will steer the boat so it won't wreck! (clue hidden on lower deck)

Land ho! Now everyone off the decks,
Through the grass to find a spot marked X. (clue hidden in garden box, under cardboard X)

Now up the hill, we won't be poor
if we find a treasure clue at the front door- (front door!!)

Single file, Mateys, through the cabin -
No lollygaggin', fightin', or blabbin' - (hidden inside a hat in the family room)

If you can't take the heat don't dillydally,
yer treasure awaits - go past the stove in the galley. (look to dining room)

Ahoy! With a pace that was steadfast and measured
you followed the rhymes to a merry treasure.
Enjoy some grog, a pirate brew -
you can have your treasure and eat it, too!

Let them eat cake! I am always amazed at my husband - a non-baker, non-cooker, non-crafter, - at his ability to swoop in at the 11th hour (literally - he found someone to cover the rest of his night shift the night before his party) and turn something good into something unforgettable.
We even had a chance to sing a little sea chanty -

Sea Chantey (to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star)

I'm a pirate, that I be!
I sail me ship upon the sea!
I stay up late - till half past three!
And that's a peg below my knee!
I'm a pirate, that I be!
Come sail upon my ship with me!

All in all, it was a wonderful celebration for an amazing boy. I adore Leo for his fierce determination, his ability to go with the flow, his reflective and kind nature, and his mischievous grin. He is our beloved, FIVE year old son. Happy Birthday, Leo! Aaargh!

Why couldn't the pirate kids go to the movie? Because it was rated AARRGHH!!

What do you call the pirate who is really angry? A P-IRATE!! (irate, get it?)