Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gold Stars & Blue Belts

It was a big weekend for Aidan.  On Friday, he was awarded the "Student of the Month" award for September.  His principal visited his class to present the award, which came with a free large pizza from Papa John's.  I love that Aidan is such a good student, but even above working hard and doing well, I love the unquenchable thirst for knowledge and understanding he demonstrates.  

Then on Saturday, after 6 1/2 (!!!) loooong, agonizing, grueling hours, Aidan earned his blue belt in karate.  This is the first "advanced" belt, and we're so proud of Aidan for his commitment to karate and his dedication to earning the belt, even when he was exhausted and drained from the demands of the blue belt test. 

Eventually, Aidan will earn a high blue belt, then a purple belt, then three different ranked brown belts before working toward the highly respected black belt (and all its ranks).  But today, I couldn't be happier for him or more proud of his hard work and dedication - both at school and outside of school as well.  

We are so proud of you and so happy for you, Aidan Paul!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Favorite Things: Happy 3rd Birthday, Pax!

A party just isn't a party unless it has a theme is my general opinion of celebrations and festivities.  Hence, although our birthday celebration for sweet Pax this year was family-only, I was plagued with guilt because a "real" party should have a theme.

I had a theme, but two wise friends and one very convincing mother talked me out of it - my theme was "Go to Chuck E. Cheese."  We've never taken the kids, and I figured it would be fun for them - but the gasps of horror when I announced this plan coupled with the fact that my mother kept telling me that my father was asking her, "Did I really agree to go to C.E.C., or was that just a nightmare I had?"  - convinced me to consider alternatives.

Finally, I settled on a new theme and a better plan - a "Favorite Things" party.  We would do all of Pax's favorite things, all on one day, one right after another.

So we had pizza at a fun restaurant with a small arcade in the back (a nod to my original plan of Chuck E Cheese.):

We headed to one of the best playgrounds in town, one we don't get a chance to go to all that often, but always enjoy:

Pax's new best friend, Skippyjon Jones, was thrilled to join in every adventure.....

We attempted a group photo. (Betcha didn't know that one of Pax's favorite things is group photos...!)  But Leo was in a total funk, and it took eleven shots to get just two with all of us in it.  Totally entertaining for everyone at the park who watched us beg, plead, coax, and cajole Leo into joining us.  Imagine my annoyance, therefore, to discover that the ISO setting was way too high on the camera, and all of said pictures were blurry.  (Or blurry because of the ISOL setting - that would be In Search Of Leo....)

We headed to a local orchard for apple picking, running around, and generally having a good time.  But the orchard was packed; we were all in our church clothes, still; and there were two mean boys determined to torment the already-fragile Leo.  (Not even my meanest stink-eye nor giving them a bit of a MamaBear what-for deterred them from calling him "buttcheek" and "little wimp.")  We enjoyed a quick snack of apple cider and apple cider donuts (still warm and so fresh!) and then escaped the madness of the apple orchard.

Next we took a ride on the golf cart out to the boat for a boat ride (favorite things, remember?) and it was simply a gorgeous day on the water.  I love these times on the lake, because of the imminent change - the leaves just starting to show their colors; the air, blowing in cool gusts, suggesting colder days ahead; the water, calmer and quieter now that summer has ended.  Our three year old driver impressed us with his skill behind the wheel:

We topped the night off with hot dogs and cheese doodles, then had cake and ice cream:

One of my favorite things?  is him.  My baby.  My sweet Pax boy.  Who asked for a "hold onto" instead of "drumettes" or "chicken leg" when I served rotisserie chicken the other night at dinner.  Who announced, clearly and carefully at dinner that same night during good part/bad part, "My best part was yous clean my room for me" - this on the heels of me spending the entire day immersed in swapping out clothes according to seasons and sizes, purging paperwork unearthed from closets stored the day we moved into the house, and largely ignoring the small boy who helped himself to candy corn, poured himself some Diet Coke, and stacked couch cushions up in the kitchen, just to see what was on the countertops.  Who, on that same day, saw with apparent relief that my own bed was finally cleared off and exclaimed, "Yay yay!  Yous bed is clean now, yay yay!"  Who says "yous" all the time instead of "you."

Happy Birthday, Pax, Augustus.  I love this first photo of you because of the unmistakable emotions evident in my own face: relief; joy; gratitude; love. Mostly, this photo says to me, "I am so glad you are here. I cannot imagine my life without you...." We are even more smitten with you now than we were in those first few moments together.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Big Red Rock Eater

This past summer, I lamented to anyone who would listen that one of the things I dreaded most about Leo starting Kindergarten was that he was my buddy who chatted with me all day long; once he was off to school, who would fill the silence of my days?

I should have known all along how Pax-filled my days would be.

One year ago, as he neared his 2nd birthday, Pax had approximately 20 words and signs - his expressive language was more like a one year old than a two year old.  We started speech therapy in November, and progress was slow.  Hoping but not expecting to see a huge change when he had tubes placed in his ears in February, we only observed how much more he noticed in the noisy world around him.  Those months were long, and frustrating, and largely quiet.

In June, after making a giant leap in expressive speech, we were happy to realize that Pax was using nearly 200 words or so.  Two months later, his expressive vocabulary grew to include nearly 400 words.  He began to string together multiple words to form sentences and mimicked multisyllabic words like "emulsifier" (thanks to his beer brewing daddy, of course.)

And then this weekend, even more emerged in his speech: the jokester, the comedian, the funny guy who finally has enough language to deliver the punch lines to his most adoring fans.

What is big and red and eats rocks?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Car Talk and Driveway Moments

I am helpless when it comes to directions; my internal compass rose is something more like a wildflower.  Driving through town today with Pax as my co-captain, I turned on the GPS to help me navigate through the confusing grid of streets.  Yet as I got my bearings, I didn't like the route that Amelia was giving me (my nickname for the Garmin), so I ventured off the beaten path.

"Turn left, then turn left!" Amelia implored when she sensed my detour.

"Turn left, then turn left!" she repeated, with urgency uncommon in a pre-programmed voice.

"Turn left, THEN TURN LEFT!!!"  my co-captain shouted from the back seat.  TURN LEFT, THEN TURN LEFT!!"  

I love that stop-me-in-my-tracks feeling when Pax so clearly articulates a new phrase, a new mimic, a new command.  I love the tiny, careful, deliberate voice that fills the quiet of my days at home.  On our adventures around town, I love our car talk.

(...and yet, might I add, I feel equal parts awe - and exasperation - with the fact that even nearly-3-year-old Pax believes the electronic gadget is smarter than his very own mother. Humph.)

NPR published a book of stories titled "Driveway Moments."  They're the stories that make you sit in your car after you've arrived at your destination.  You stay and listen, because you can't bear not knowing the end.  I love these driveway moments.

Similarly, I've begun to enjoy the fleeting moments in the car that are filled with insight and information from a budding tween.  This age group, and especially teens, are notorious for clamming up despite your best open-ended questions - yet seem to come alive, miraculously talkative and uninhibited, when trapped traveling in a car.  Yesterday, I could tell that Aidan was troubled by something, but I couldn't figure out what it was, despite my best queries.  On the way to karate, just the two of us in the car, he was quiet, then asked, "So there wasn't a plane that hit the White House, right?" I instantly knew what lay so heavy on his heart.  At school, they had discussed the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, and he was desperately trying to make sense of it.  I felt so torn, wanting Aidan to feel safe and protected, yet wanting Aidan to emerge from our shelter just a bit, to begin to learn of the injustice, the hatred, the sorrow, the reality of the grown up world. He asked questions; I answered them as best I could in that driveway moment. 

Another day, on another ride, Aidan asked me, "Do you think that animals have souls?"  I stammered and stuttered, trying to explain my answer, feeling inadequate and unprepared.  My driveway moment came to a screeching halt - you know, the kind where you go just a little too fast into the parking spot, and everyone holds their breath to see if you're going to hit something...?  Later, the next morning, I broached the question again, more prepared this time with an answer.  He was eager, receptive, ready to talk again, ready to share his perspective.  We swapped our favorite pet stories, wondered aloud about where pets of the past might be, before unceremoniously segueing back into the morning routine: did you make your bed?  where are your shoes?  Please close that door behind you.  Keep your hands to yourself!  Put that stick down!  Pax, stop hitting your brother!  Come on, we are going to miss the bus if we don't hurry!    

Oh, I love these driveway moments.