Saturday, May 25, 2013

Peace Sign Pickles (and other giggles)

Here's what's kept me giggling (or simply swooning) these past few weeks:

Pax and I were getting ready to bake.  I put on my brand-new owl apron (so cute!). Pax looked at me and said excitedly, "Oh!  Mommy, I want to have my cape on just like yous have yours.

Apron = cape.  No wonder moms get such a reputation for being superheros!
On a different day, Pax and I had spent many hours baking cupcakes and cookies.  I was tired, cranky, and feeling gloomy because of the endless rain we were receiving, and then there was a bit of a miscommunication between Jeff and me over who was going to take out the last batch of cupcakes from the oven.  13 minutes after the timer went off, I headed back inside and discovered, much to my dismay, that the cupcakes were still in the oven.  It's possible that someone just over 5 feet tall had a bit of a tantrum over this discovery, and her frustration and annoyance were abundantly clear to all those present.

A few minutes after the tantrum had subsided, Pax walked up to the 5ish foot person and said so kindly, "Thank you for helping me to make cupcakes.  It was SO FUN!!"  He delivered a hug, then walked away. 
Looking around the room after having come downstairs, Leo said to me, "Our house is like a library.  There are books EVERYWHERE!" 
(be still my heart!  a library!  here!!!)
Shopping for pizza toppings today at the grocery store, Pax spotted the nearby jarred and sliced jalapeno peppers.  "Ooh!  Mom!!  Look at those peace sign pickles!!"

That's my boy. Spotting peace in the peppers. Of course, they were next to the olives.... 

Olive you, peaceful pepper.  
Olive you, too.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dream On

I love these last days of school, the days where I hold tight to what I've come to enjoy for so many months - long days with "just Pax"; busy days of Gettin' It Done; quiet afternoons; rigid structure, carefully crafted routines; predictable schedules.

And I love the anticipation of what's to come.  As I hold on to what has been so good, simultaneously I look forward to what will be good.  I anticipate what summer promises to be, what I expect it to be, based on years and years of stockpiling memories, both those we enjoyed as children and those we build with our own children.  Every year, I think about how this might just be the best summer ever, even though the language changes each time.  "This will be the best summer yet because we'll have our new baby... because we're going to California... because Jeff's finished with school... because of swim team... because I'm finished with clinics..."

I love the intentions I have in these final school days - the goals; the plans; the dreams.

Field Trip Fridays.  We'll pack a cooler every Friday morning and take off on adventure:  Maymont; the sprinkler park; geocaching, if we can get Daddy to stay home one day.  We'll have a rainy day Friday where we'll stay in and paint canvases, or head out to watch a movie.  We'll each look forward to the end of the week, in a deliciously different way than we did during the school year.

Weekly dinner picnics.  Everyone will love what I pack, no one will complain that they wanted only cream cheese on their bagel, not jelly, too.  We'll head to the beach, or borrow the boat for the evening, or simply head down to the clubhouse for dinner. 

Summer reading:  a stack of read-alouds I'll prepare in advance, carefully balancing adventure with quality literature and thought-provoking work.  I'll pile them high against the mantle in eye candy-anticipation of what we'll enjoy.  I'll have books and books of just-right text for Leo; enticing titles piled high of the all-absorbing books that Aidan favors, books like Wonder and Rules.  I'll have a basket of books just for Pax, ones he'll flip through, independently and often, studying the illustrations and memorizing the text. In late afternoons, we'll curl up on the couch, sip lemonade (Aidan) or iced coffee (Anne, Leo, and Pax) and read together.

Writing:  we'll fill up Bare Books of poetry and creative stories we've drafted, revised, edited, and published.  We'll draw inspiration from nature, from characters we're reading in other stories, from the "Poem of the Week" I'll post every Monday morning on the refrigerator.

Me time:  I'll squeeze in the exercise I require for my mental health and sanity as the kids happily watch a television show they all agree on, or maybe I'll put together fitness routines I can do outside as they ride their bikes around me - we'll be out on the street, first thing, before we get too hot.  We'll all hop on bikes together and cruise the streets; we'll take a trip over to Grandma and Grandpa's house by bike.    

Quiet Time in the afternoon will be just that - quiet.  I'll stock their rooms with the aforementioned books, plus headphones and CD players for audiobooks, or art supplies for concentrated doodling.

I'll take the extra time in summer to host playdates and impromptu lunches with friends.  I'll put each boy on a rotation in the kitchen with me so that they learn more cooking skills and dinner prep.  We'll visit the local farmer's market regularly, and use what we purchase to inspire our dinners. They'll learn how to clean the bathrooms to my satisfaction; we'll find a better way to tackle cleaning up the house.  They'll learn to make their own sandwiches, dole out their own snacks, and calmly and efficiently pack the cooler each morning before we head out to the pool, the beach, or Friday Field Trip. 

Notice what I didn't include:  I didn't mention vows I've made with myself, like never, not ever grocery shopping with three children.  Sometimes, those outdoor picnics will be because there is no food left to cook until a free evening arrives, and we're left to scrabbling together PB&Js.  I didn't include a goal about not cursing swim team when it's 9:00 at night and I'm waiting out a thunderstorm in a hot stuffy car so my six year old can take 4 minutes to swim backstroke across a pool 45 minutes away from home, surrounded by tired, cranky people and fully depleted of contents for my closed container.  I didn't mention how I'll combat the dirt and sand that covers my floor from little, careless feet who could care less about the filth that, left untreated, turns me into Mean Monster Mother.  I certainly didn't dream of eliminating the most unbecoming or annoying habits of each of my children:  know-it-all attitude and sassy mouth; whining and tattling; hitting and biting.... 

....because ALL of these goals and plans are lofty.  Unrealistic.  Unattainable.  But the dreaming itself is not lofty, and it is the dreaming that I love.  Summer offers us a fresh start, a new beginning, a series of days to celebrate merely because they are summer days.  In every one of these dreams, there is some truth of what will become the memories of this summer.  There will be field trips, and lots of reading, and good, quality writing, and me time, and picnics, and quiet time, and extra time, and so much more...

In fact, this summer sounds like it might just be the best one yet.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Soul Food

Two weekends ago, our family joined a handful of other families from our church in one particularly  gorgeous valley of the Shenandoah Mountains.  We pitched our tents, stoked the fire, and settled in for a wonderful, food-for-the-soul kind of weekend.

The trip delivered everything we could have hoped it would:

I never grew tired of looking at this gorgeous redbud!
Pax, working hard on his no-dye tie dye t shirt

Ta Da!  My Dad's awesome shirt.  They all turned out so well!

Cozying up with Richard Scarry
Awesome Camp Medallions
Strawberries and firefly crafts:  what could be better?
Roasting Marshmallows
The biggest s'more EVER!
The beautiful lake in the morning
10 minutes after "happy campers" photo was taken
Some of the families from our fabulous church family.  Love!!

Soul Food? Absolutely.  For these photos don't even begin to capture or describe the fellowship, the laughter, the bonds of friendship, the shared responsibilities of meal prep, of childcare, of care for one another. They don't reflect the beauty of our outdoor worship service, or the spiritual nourishment it provided. My beloved, favorite poet Mary Oliver describes the following in an excerpt of her work titled I Have Decided:

"I have decided to find myself a home in the mountains, somewhere high up where one learns to live peacefully in the cold and the silence.  It's said that in such a place certain revelations may be discovered.  That what the spirit reaches for may be eventually felt, if not exactly understood.  Slowly, no doubt.  I'm not talking about a vacation."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dibs and Dabs

Driving Aidan to karate practice this afternoon, Aidan asked if he could look at the GPS.

"No!"  Pax responded in a slightly panicked voice.  He continued,
"Mommy NEEDS the GPS so her knows where her is going.  That is why you CANNOT HAVE the GPS."

Oddly, Aidan had no response.  I'm afraid he realized the truth of Pax's words.... never mind the dojo is just 3 miles away from home.  And even worse, at the tender age of three, Pax already knows how directionally challenged his mother is.

Last week, our family hit a bit of a rough patch.  Thursday was particularly awful since Pax and I were completely miserable at having to go to both Food Lion and Wal-Mart on the same day.  In this case, though, Misery did not love Company.  Thus, Pax decided to throw the Mother Of All Tantrums.  I thought I was past the point where my children's behavior was embarrassing to me.  I thought I'd seen enough of it to not let it bother me.  I was wrong.  It was the kind of scene that  induces visceral flashbacks, that makes you shudder in horror, that leaves a staggering memory in its wake.

But as I steered my cart back to the car, the incurable optimist in me offered this tidbit:  "Well, Anne, look at the public service you provided.  Pax's Mother of All Tantrums provided those teenage cashiers a healthy reminder to practice safe sex. What a contribution you and your son have made to this little community today!"

Wise words from the voices inside my head.
Want to know more about that rough patch?  Take a listen to the book Leo composed at school last week.  It's titled "Pax Bit Me."  (Editor's note:  the author's spelling is in caps; "grown up writing" in italics)

One day I was getting dressed.  I took something from Pax.  He bit me.  I cried.

Pax got in trouble.  

Dad put a band-aid on me.

I got dressed.

And I went to gymnastics.  

The illustrations are hilarious.  On page 1, when Leo cried, the stick figure has a speech bubble with "Mom!" written plaintively inside of it.  On page 2, when Pax gets in trouble, Mom, Dad, and Leo, all have sad, frowny faces.  Pax is grinning.

And on the last page, apparently, we all get into our Motor Home to drive off to gymnastics together...

(Just be sure the GPS is working, will you?)