"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Thursday, November 29, 2012

thanks and giving

Thanks... 

The day before Thanksgiving, Max and Evan set up Thanksgiving feasts for their buddies:

It's a Feast at the Clubhouse!

Ninjaaaaaa-GO! It's Turkey Time!
Thanksgiving morning, Molly danced to Colbie Calliat during the Macy's Day Parade.


And, on what was an unseasonably warm day in late November at Grandmother and Grandpop's house, we played in the leaves.



....and posed sweetly for pictures.


Before we ate, we wrote our Thanks on Grandmother's Thanksgiving wreath. My thanks, of course, were three-fold: Evan, Max, and Molly. There are others, naturally...including, but not limited to the fact that Good Decisions Were Made in November by the majority of my fellow Americans. 

(But there's no room for politics at Thanksgiving.)

Max (whose leaf is pictured below, on the right) is thankful for "Mommy." [Heart. Melting.] Evan is thankful, as you might be able to see, for "Ninjago." [He's growing up too fast. He, too, was once thankful for Mommy. Sigh.]


After we ate, and enjoyed time with family...and then ate some more and enjoyed even more time with even more family. We wrapped up our weekend with a visit with friends on our way back home.

The babies evaluated each other.


And the lunch table overflowed with cuteness.


And I was thankful for the strength and the bond of True Friendship...where time and distance and life changes don't take away from the relationship...but add to it. Where the months between visits disappear the moment you're in each other's company once again. Where the kids play like siblings, not because of time spent together, but because of a level of comfort felt. 
And where the husbands are as happy to hang out together as we are.

We love you guys.

And Giving...

The boys, particularly Evan, but Me-Too Max, too, are getting to the age where we want to make Charity a regular part of our lives. Generosity for generosity's sake. Yes, it's nice to be thankful for what you have and mindful of the needs of others at this time of year, but really, we want Giving (and volunteering, supporting local business, etc.) to be a regular and natural thing we do. Because we can. And we should.

And so, even though it seemed to come at a Giving time of the year, we wanted to make a Teachable Moment out of Superstorm Sandy, and the devastation that was left in its wake.  We were affected by the storm, minimally, but the boys knew about it as it was happening. Immediately following the storm, we went to New Jersey for my Grandpop's funeral. The boys saw, firsthand, some of the more damaging effects of Sandy. They saw downed trees, gas lines, and storm-strewn debris. They heard my relatives talking about days and days and days with no power. They heard about the people, unluckier than my relatives, who had lost their homes and everything in them.

And when we got home, it was my birthday. I was given some money by my parents and also my grandmother who instructed, "Be frivolous. TREAT yourself!" And I did. I freshened up my fall wardrobe and felt perfectly treated. When my new clothes arrived (because I do all of my shopping online...), I made a big, gushing show of my loot. I donned my new cardigan and twirled in the kitchen saying, "What a lucky Birthday Girl I am!"

Then, I became serious. I looked at alllllll of my new clothes and I did some thinking aloud....loud enough for the boys, seated at the counter, to hear: "Hmmmm. Now I have all the clothes I need. In fact, I can't think of ANY thing else that I need to buy right now. But I have some money left over from my Birthday money. Hmmmmm......"

Pause.

Pause.

"I know!" I said, as if it had just occurred to me. "I should donate some of my money to the Red Cross! They're helping the people who lost their clothes and houses and toys in Hurricane Sandy!"

Evan was very quiet. Listening. And then he hopped off his stool. "I'll be right back!" he shouted as he bounded up the stairs. And when he returned, he was holding his wallet. He carefully selected some of his dollars (all of which have holiday stickers on them from his Great Mom Mom, who sends him a crisp $1-bill every holiday and birthday) and handed them to me: "Mommy, these are MY extra dollars. You should send these to the Red Cross, too."

My heart swelled with pride. And we poured it on pretty thick. "Evan! What a kind and caring, Big Boy thing to do! This is really going to make a difference for those people in New Jersey who have been so sad since the storm. Doesn't it feel good to help others?" We talked it up. We won't over-praise forever. But they're still learning about generosity. Someday, there won't be any congratulating when they drop a buck in the Salvation Army bucket because they'll know that donating, helping, giving, volunteering is just What We Do. But we're still in the days (years?) where we high-five when they eat all of their Healthy Bites at dinner or wipe their own noses. So we celebrated the good choice.

While the praising was going on, Max was very quiet. Listening.  And then he hopped off his stool. "I'll be right back!" he shouted as he fast-as-he-could made his way up the stairs. And when he returned, he was holding his wallet. He climbed back up on his stool and laid each and every one of his dollars out on the counter. As he lined them up, perfectly straight and facing the same direction, I started to get teary. My little boy. Just three-years old. And GIVING is already coming so naturally to him.

"All these dollars here?" he started, "They're all mine. Just for me."

Um.....

"Max!" said Evan, "You should give some of them away to the Red Cross!"

"No, it's okay," I reassured them both. "Donating some of your money is a very Grown Up Decision that you made today, Evan, and we're really proud of you. Max is still learning about donating, though. Maybe he'll choose to help others in a different way, or when he's older."

"When I'm older, all these dollars are still going to be just mine and for me."

Oh, my Maxwell.

***

When I originally sat down to write this post, several days ago, this was the end of the story. And it was a good one. A funny, true, glimpse into our lives. It was sort of perfect in how it sums up my two yin and yang boys at this moment in their lives and at these stages of their development.  But then, yesterday, Max came up to me with three dollar bills crumpled up in his hand. We hadn't talked about Donation or the Red Cross in over a week. "I'm ready to make a Grown Up Choice about my dollars," he said. I gave him a hug and told him how proud I was of him. And man, you should have seen the look on his face when Sam got home and he got to tell Daddy of his Grown Up Choice.

What a kid.

Lesson Learned:
And now, on to the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

Monday, November 12, 2012

handsome in pink

At the beginning of last summer, I gritted my teeth and brought the boys to the Crocs-knock-off section of Target. I hate those damn shoes, but they're perfect for protecting toes on the pool deck and for hosing off after a trip to the beach.

Max, of course, pointed to the bright pink fake-Crocs. The right thing to do would have been to buy the bright pink shoes. I hesitated, though, because I assumed that he would soon outgrow his love of pink and would, halfway through the summer or sooner, refuse to wear them. And then what? Buy MORE stupid fake-Crocs? Instead, I steered him away...but I was careful not to disrespect the pink: "Oh, look, Max. They also have green in your size. Green like a crocodile...get it? Crocodile? CROCS?!" He thought this was hilarious and so agreed to the green.

I regretted my decision all summer.

Max loves pink. And purple and lavender. He loves sparkles and glitter and princesses and cupcakes. His Birthday Cupcakes were frosted in gooey pink frosting and dusted with lavender sprinkles. In fact, his favorite game in the entire world ever was brought to him as a surprise from the Great Pumpkin:


When he's not playing the game, he carries around the princess cards remarking on the princesses' beautiful "costumes" and commenting on their cupcake decorations of choice. He asks me to tell him the story of when Cinderella and the Prince fall in love in the beautiful castle. He recreates the scenes of Cinderella being bossed around by her evil stepmother (I'm the evil stepmother) even though he's never seen the movie.  He collects special, small, shiny things (like my jewelry and shiny coins) in his Treasure Box, which he used ($3 of) his Birthday Money from Great Mom Mom for:


What can I say? He didn't outgrow his love of pink. Not yet. But he might. Someday. Maybe it'll happen organically, as his tastes and preferences change as he grows...they inevitably do. Or, they'll change by outside influence. He'll start to hear about "boy" things versus "girl" things and maybe he'll feel pressure to follow the "norm."

But maybe they won't.

I know they won't by pressure from within his family.

We were in the car the other day and, all of a sudden, Max sighed and said, "When I'm big like Evan I'll have to like other big boy colors best, like red and yellow and orange and brown." I asked him why he would think that he would need to pick a new favorite color when he was five. He sighed again and said, "Evan's a big boy and he doesn't like pink." I told him that everyone has different favorite colors and it's okay if Evan likes other colors more than he likes pink. No colors are better than any other. I assured him that he will always get to choose his favorite color, even when he's a big, tall grown-up like Uncle Mike.

When my brother Mike was turning three, all he wanted for his birthday was the Barbie Corvette. But he didn't want the coveted-by-his-sisters name brand silver Barbie Corvette...he wanted the knock-off "11-inch Doll" car. Because it was pink.  His idea of playing with Mr. Potato Head was wearing Mrs. Potato Head's earrings and glasses and carrying around her purse, as is also true for Max. When he grew up, he wanted to drive a pink garbage truck. My brother's dreams may have changed and that chubby little toddler clicking around in red sparkly dress-up heels may have grown up into 6'4" hulking 215-pound Guy, but if Max ever asks, he had better own up to still loving pink.

Lesson Learned:

I love that Max loves pink. It fits his personality. It makes him happy.

And what makes me happy is that, as worldly and streetwise as his Big Kindergartner Brother Evan may be, he's not so jaded to be the one to burst Max's color bubble....

Talk of princesses and castles came up while the neighborhood kids were playing last week. One of the boys made a "yuck" noise and said, with confidence, "Princesses are Girl Things. Girls like princesses." Max just looked at him. Evan said, "Anybody can like anything they like." Well said, big brother. Well said.

And I've learned from my mistake with those bright pink crocs. Max had all of Target to browse for his new winter hat....and he found the perfect one.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

7 minutes

...of her day today.

Reading (and eating) books.


...with only one sock on...


studying...


exploring...


discovering...


playing...



  
learning.



Lesson Learned:
I am in love with 8 months. I am in love with this girl.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

make-your-own mobile

Yes, she's eight (and a half) months old. Yes, we've been settled in our new house, and she in her new room, for more than four months. And yes, I just today hung Molly's new mobile in her room.

At least I hung it over a crib and it didn't take me until she moved to her Big Girl bed.

And here it is!


I started by using a circle punch (it's about a one-inch diameter circle) to cut circles of scrapbook paper that coordinated with Molly's bedding. (Her bedding is from Dwell Studio and I'm in absolute love with it. I'll have to find a way to recycle it once she leaves her crib.) 

Using a hot glue gun, I attached the circles to both sides of lengths of ribbon. (So the ribbon is sandwiched between two circles of paper.) Each ribbon has differing patterns of circles, with more or fewer circles on each ribbon, for variety and movement.


Then, again with the hot glue gun, I attached the ribbons to embroidery hoops that I had secured together with my....hot glue gun. I also tied ribbons around where the hoops crossed for added security. 


I covered the hoops with more ribbon, this one patterned, and again...with the glue gun. Then, I added ribbon ties on each side and end to hang it up.

I think it completes the room just perfectly.



And I think it's time we lower that crib mattress to the lowest setting. Look at my big girl!

Lesson Learned:
It's amazing what I can do with a hot glue gun and A YEAR.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

in memorium

The Calm Before the Storm

It's Sunday afternoon and the wind is starting to blow. Hurricane/Post-Tropical/SuperStorm Sandy is headed North and it's going to be ugly. We just don't know how ugly. Because we're only expecting to feel the outer bands of the storm's strength, I'm not worried, necessarily, just anxious. The last time a large wind storm blew through, we lost power for four days. I'm "prepared," (batteries, flashlights, non-perishables, bottled water, basement camp set up, etc.), but are you ever really ready?

Add to the encroaching storm and all of it's unknowns: Halloween costumes to prepare, school parties to bake for and attend, out-of-town guests to ready the house for (if we have power the day they are to arrive, that is), and a baby who is becoming increasingly cough-ier/snottier/not-sleeping-er by the day to worry about and I am just Done.

"I just have this feeling that it's going to be a tough week," I tell Sam. "I want to fast forward to next week."

Sandy

We ride out the storm with relative ease. School is cancelled for two days so, while the wind howls outside the window and debris litters the neighborhood, we hunker down in our warm, safe home and play. Halloween costumes are readied, school treats are baked, the guest room is cleaned, a visit to the pediatrician is scheduled for my coughing baby girl. The total cost of the storm for us? Twelve hours without power and one sleepless night. Not bad at all, we realize, once the lights come back on and we start to read stories online about the devastation our friends and family up North are experiencing.

I check in on Facebook with my cousins in New Jersey...It's a mess up there. Most are without power, but all are relatively fine. And then I read about a levee break in Bergen County, where my Grandpop lives. It's a few towns over from his but, not being very familiar with the area, I start to worry. I ask if anyone has heard from him. I call my Dad. "Uncle Mike just talked to him," my Dad assures, "he's pissed that he can't get on the Internet because he doesn't have power, but he's fine. I'm going to call him now and check in on him."

A few hours pass and things here return to relative normal. We invite friends to come over and play and we get excited about tomorrow night's Trick-or-Treat festivities. The phone rings and I'm not surprised to see my parents' home telephone number on the display. The minute my Mom starts to speak, however, I know it's not good.

"Sarah, Grandpop died."

Whirlwind

The next few hours bring some clarity. Grandpop was fine. Power was returning to his community in waves and, although his was still out, my uncle who lives nearby had his restored. He called Grandpop and convinced him to pack a bag and stay with them for a few days, until things settled a bit. "I'll be over to pick you up in twenty minutes," my uncle said. When he got to his house, Grandpop was lying, unresponsive, on the couch. The paramedics said it was fast...peaceful.

***
Grandpop was 84. He is survived by his five sons, 24 grandchildren, 13 great-grandkids, and scores of people whose lives he touched. His, along with that of my Grandma, was a good life, an American Dream sort of life in which a young, penniless couple marry for love and stay together forever through devotion and hard work. They are successful in their careers and in the family that they create and watch grow. They are lucky, and they know it. They sit back and marvel over what they've built, and they're happy.
***

Between all the goings on (because, despite my Grandpop's death, life does go on...Halloween, school parties, doctor visits, packing, traveling to and preparing to stay for a few days in a place where power was spotty and gas was scarce, remembering....grieving....), I feel like my feet don't touch the ground...I am, as is often the case in these situations, in a fog.

Transition

After school on Thursday, we pack the car and dinner for the road and set out on our journey to New Jersey. The boys know what we're doing and where we're going, but I'm not sure they quite grasp the loss. Evan builds a new vocabulary over the next few days: visitation, funeral, casket, incense, priest...As our destination nears, the anxiety starts to build in my chest again...I realize that I'm not just grieving my own loss, but I'm mourning the loss of my grandfather on behalf of my Dad. What must it feel like to lose both of your parents? To know that, in your family tree, you're at the top...that there's no one to look up to for the guidance, support, unconditional love that Grandpop could always be counted on to give. I'm afraid to see my Dad for the first time in person since hearing the news.

We arrive at my Grandparents' house at about 11pm. I'm carrying a baby in one arm and overnight bags in the other. The boys are fumbling behind me, groggy and bleary-eyed from being awoken. As I start up the stairs that I've climbed countless times for nearly 33 years, I feel too tall. Too big....like a giant, or....a grown up. I look to the top of the stairs and see, at the door to the kitchen, not my Grandpop, but my Dad.

And it hits me....I'm no longer the Granddaughter. I'm the Mom. My kids? They're the grandchildren. A transition has occurred. A generational shift.

Reflection and Remembrance

The next two days are difficult, as is always the case. I see my Dad and his four brothers weakened by the loss of their Dad. My cousins and their spouses who loved my Grandpop as their own are grieving and trying to figure out how to "teach" this impossible thing--death--to their kids.

But, punctuating the sadness, there is levity. My Grandpop was a character. He cracked us up in life, as he rocked a Members Only jacket in his 80s, and cursed the bad drivers on the road. We remember, we share stories, we find comfort in the fact that it really feels like he chose his time to go....as I know my Grandma did before him. And we look around the room and realize that he had it all...that this, his family, was all that he ever wanted. Family is everything.

I see my cousins, who I ran around with as kids, now as adults...my brothers and cousins who acted as pallbearers, Men. My uncles are grandfathers and my cousins are parents. My kids and their....cousins-once-removed?....they're running around together, playing hide-and-seek and stealing chips and cookies from the kitchen table. It's like deja vu....and it's a glimpse into the future all at once. And my Grandparents' legacy? It's alive and well.

Lessons Learned:
Death is never easy. I'm going to miss my Grandpop. I'm sad for my Dad's loss. But....my Grandpop is at peace, and his passing was peaceful. He had a long, fulfilling, and successful life. I believe that he chose his time and that he was ready. I believe that his love, devotion, generosity, and sense of humor will live on in all who knew him. Joseph Keenan, you will be sorely missed.