Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Little Things

One night as I was calling the kids up to dinner, I felt rather impatient that it was taking Leo and Pax so long to come up from the basement. We were rushed, as usual, squeezing in dinner between karate practice and Jeff's departure for work. Knowing that this is an exceptionally difficult time of day for all of us, I've been working really hard on being patient, understanding, and cool-headed. Just as I was about to blow my lid, up darts Pax and Leo, dressed for dinner:

My frustration vanished as we laughed and settled into our seats, ready to enjoy a meal fit for kings.
Perhaps because he is a late talker, Pax is unusually expressive in his body language, his pantomime, and his facial expressions. This one, I love. This is his "ready, aim, fire!" face, but it looks a lot like his "I'm putting so much effort into this!" face. (As in trying REALLY HARD to open a lollipop wrapper, or climb the top shelf of the cupboard.)

Pax's favorite thing today: The book, 10 Minutes Till Bedtime. (You know, that adorable one with all the mischievous hamsters who cause trouble at bedtime...)

My favorite thing about Pax today: the seriousness with which he applies himself to his job - his work in the sandbox. He enters that sandbox a man on a mission, and works hard at scooping, sifting, shoveling, spreading, and sculpting until the foreman has to drag him, kicking and screaming, off to bed.

Leo is so much more than just a pretty face, but oh, that child is so beautiful. I adore him in this jacket - it was (obviously) Jeff's when he was a kid, and his mother carefully preserved it all these years for another Carter to enjoy. While I don't think a rainbow striped jacket had quite as much political weight and innuendo attached to it in the early 80's as it does today, I still love and admire that Jeff's mom dressed him in clothes like this - because children look beautiful in vibrant colors.

Leo's favorite thing today: elaborate, imaginative play with one tiny doll and one matchbox car.

My favorite thing about Leo today: curling up with him and drifting off to sleep with him - a rare catnap for both of us, one that I relished in sharing with him.... my heart hurts already in thinking about how much I will miss him, miss our afternoons together, next year when he goes to kindergarten.


[Aidan, handing me a bunch of "beautiful" weeds he's just picked from the yard - ]

"Here, Mom, do you have a little vase we can put these in?"
"Yes, we do!" [me, digging it out and filling it with water...]
"Okay, good. Be sure to put it in the windowsill. I left all the leaves on at the top, you know why? Because that way, photosynthesis can still take place."

He is such a creative artist. It's not that he is an amazing artist, that he draws really well or is very talented in that way. But he is so, so creative. Nothing is beyond his capacity to imagine, to dream, to create. This was some kind of a painting of a dream he'd had, capturing the bad dream inside this irregular box. He labeled it, "Don't Come Out" at the top.

On St. Patrick's Day, he decided that his lovey Gladys needed to be appropriately dressed. So he found supplies - markers, glue, construction paper, scissors, stapler - and fashioned her this hat, and later, a matching green vest.
Aidan's favorite thing today: Reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

My favorite thing about Aidan today: That he is reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. That these conversations about Harry are just beginning. That Aidan is entering the genre and age and realm of juvenile/young adult/adolescent reading that I know - and love - best. That every time I turn around to ask Aidan to do something for me, he is curled up on the couch, deeply engrossed in the magic of Harry Potter.

...although I'm not at all surprised. Our shared love of Harry began many years ago, on Halloween: Aidan, dressed as Hedwig, with his Harry Mother.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Just Say No

I never thought there would ever be a word that our mostly-mute boy Pax would love to say more than "Mama," but I was wrong.

There's a new word in town, and that word is....

(Can you guess it? Those who know me best thought it might be of the four letter variety, but--)


That's right - topping the charts as "most frequently used and most beloved word ever: No." He uses it because he can. Because it (finally) sounds so good, after lots of practice. He uses it because he knows it is powerful, because it gets a reaction, because it is a valid response. He uses it even when he means yes. (And he has that word, too, but No is so much more fun.)

"Pax, do you want your other shoe on?"
(...then hands me the other shoe, to put on his foot.)

"Pax, would you like some milk?"
(then digs out a cup from the drawer and hands it to me, pointing impatiently at the carton of milk.)

"Pax, do you love Mama?"
"No!" he says. And grins.

(This prompted me to try out the double negative. Pax, do you not love Mama? He peered at me, quizzically, then walked away.)

Armed with this newly discovered power and skill, Pax decided to try it out on the cat one morning. Alice was scratching the wooden door frame, and Pax rushed over to her, wagged his finger in her furry face and said in a sing-song voice, "No, No, No, No, Nooo!!!" If ever there was a moment I wish I'd had on video, it was that one. Luckily, Leo was witness to his admonition as well, and we laughed over it many times that day, trying, to no avail, to get him to do a repeat performance.

Of all the words Pax has learned to say over the past few months, I never thought I'd be so excited over this one - but I am. Just say no, baby, just say no.

Other words in Pax's daily vocabulary include...

Words we've gotten him to say on occasion....
Whooo.... (like an owl)
Maaaa (like a goat)
Baaaa (like a sheep)

Our quest to the speech acquisition finish line has been more tortoise, less hare, but words like NO feel like giant leaps.

And when the road to the finish line feels weary and tired, Pax's humor spurs us onward. Last week, when Katie (his speech therapist) was here, he was pretending to eat one Matchbox car after another, in rapid succession. He made the requisite "um-um-um-um-um" noise for each car, then finally finished his meal, looked at us straight on, and said with a barely concealed smile, "BURP."

Sunday, March 18, 2012


(Our newest canvas. Leo's handprints; Aidan painted the heart himself; Pax's footprints. I saw a similar idea on Pinterest, but adapted it somewhat.... it is the perfect addition to our family room, serving as a daily reminder; the following post is adapted from a stewardship talk I gave some months ago.)

About two years ago, we chose a family bible verse – our motto, if you will. It comes from Micah: Do Justice, Love Kindness, Walk Humbly with your God. With three very active young boys, choosing a bible verse packed with verbs – do; love; walk – seemed to go hand-in-hand with their boundless energy. And yet the call-to-action: justice; kindness; humility; and with God – supports the most essential foundations upon which we are working to grow our family.

We are called to do justice. In September 2010, a death row inmate named Teresa Lewis was awaiting execution in the nearby women’s prison. While I am unconditionally opposed to capital punishment, the circumstances of her case were especially appalling to me. My call was clear: Do Justice. On the day of her execution, I, along with two of my children, stood outside the courthouse in protest. We were there for Teresa, to bear witness to her life, and to her terrible death sentence; to join others, in solidarity, against the injustice of her execution. While I protected my kids from the “what” of our protest, I was clear in the why. We were there to stand up for a woman who couldn’t stand up for herself. We heeded the call; we stood up for justice. [I blogged about it, here.]

We are called to love kindness. Learning how to love kindness requires compassion, and compassion often requires action. In October, our local food bank was all but depleted. The cry for help was desperate, and I’m proud to say that our whole community rallied and that the supply is gradually being replaced. I’m proud of the small kindness our children made to that end. After a brief explanation of the desperate need for food for our hungry neighbors, each boy eagerly withdrew some money from his piggy bank, contributing funds to what Jeff and I had already put aside from our own food budget. Together, we headed to the grocery store. Although we’ve shopped together countless times before, it was different this time. No one asked if we could buy more ice cream, or if they could get a treat at the checkout. Everyone was intent on filling our cart – for our hungry neighbors. Together, we delivered the food to the pantry, and later, over dinner, we gave thanks that a few more bellies would be filled that night.

This past weekend, for the second year in a row, our family planned, prepared, and served dinner to the homeless women who are staying as guests in our church's fellowship hall for two weeks. Many of the area churches collaborate each winter to provide food, shelter, and warmth during the long winter months to the the homeless men and women in our community. Despite the unseasonably warm weather - which typically results in fewer guests - we still served 12 homeless women. I took the kids with me to shop for the food we needed to prepare our meal, and while I cooked, Jeff worked with the kids on decorating a placemat for each of our guests to enjoy during her meal. Another family joined us in serving dinner, and together, our 5 young boys led the grace - Johnny Appleseed - before helping get drinks, set the table, clean up spills, and chat with the women. I felt proud of our two young families, pleased with the results of our efforts - yet my heart felt heavy in leaving. Heavy from wishing and wanting to do more. Feeling too lucky, too blessed, to have a home. Envisioning myself in each of their shoes, I was humbled.

We must walk humbly. To me, walking humbly is perhaps the most important, that we are humble in how we serve. And so I was torn, really, about whether or not to write about our service. But then I decided that sharing and remaining humble are not mutually exclusive. My hope is that in sharing our small acts of justice and kindness, I might inspire others to do the same. That another family might think, hey, we really could include the kids in this - they're not too young! They can handle it. It's important. And I know it isn't much - our protest; our food bank contribution; our dinner; other small acts. I know I can do more, that I should do more, that I need to do more - and that knowledge alone grounds me, fills me with humility of what is not yet done, what I have failed to do. And that knowledge fills me anew with the desire to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with God.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Like Frederick, I've been collecting small tidbits of warmth and life and laughter to enjoy as the nights stay cold, the days are long and tiresome, and the burdens feel too heavy....

One weary night as I was pushing us all ever closer to bedtime, two guests made an unexpected appearance in our home: Boy and Fishnika, Aidan's imaginary friends. They greeted him in the shower where they apparently hurried him along quite a bit, yet managed to remind him to scrub thoroughly and rinse well. He emerged from the steaming bathroom smelling clean and leaving me gaping at him - not once had I issued a reminder:

stay on task; wash your hair; please finish up; now you're wasting water; you need to stay focused; Aidan PLEASE get out of the shower!!!

Once dressed (again - an amazing, unprecedented 2 minute towel-to-pajamas record), Aidan refereed an elaborate sparring match between Boy and Fishnika, calling points and occasionally coming between them to settle a dispute. He started singing an original song that seemed to develop as the words and melody left his mouth; later, he explained to me that the song signaled the end of the match. Fishnika was named the winner. He laughed and chatted with them as I quietly eavesdropped from outside the door, until he threw it open to find me --excitedly, Aidan announced that tomorrow, March 1, was actually Fishnika's birthday - did I know that?

...but then, regrettably, I announced it was time for bed, and Fishnika and Boy disappeared, as imaginary friends tend to do. I'm not sure what I loved more about their reappearance that night - the fact that they came back, or the reminder of what life was like when they were a part of our daily routine - buckling Boy into seatbelts in the car and putting him in time out in the grocery store for encouraging mischief in Aidan. Mostly, I just love that boy's endlessly creative imagination.


For a boy who is as easygoing as Pax tends to be, he has definite preferences about one thing: his pajamas. He absolutely abhors "footie" pajamas - you know, the cozy ones that zip from toe to chin. Hates, loathes, despises them! I was puzzling over why this could be, and after stuffing a wailing and thrashing two-year-old into the offending pajamas the third night in a row, I gave up the fight. A short time later, reading Goodnight, Moon in two-piece striped pajamas, I discovered why he hates the footies so much: he can't lift up his shirt, stick out his belly, and pretend to warm himself by the glow of the fire in the book, on every single (other) page. Grinning, pointing to the mouse in camaraderie and mutual appreciation of the hearth's glow....


...and finally, a quote from my funny boy, Leo Gabe:

Leo: (after astounding us all with an especially smart answer):

You know how I knew that? THIS big boy right here. My Brain.