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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

weather...or not

For the third time in our marriage, my husband stared at a monitor, warning me about what was coming but talking me through it and reassuring me that everything was going to be okay. The first two times this happened, he was watching the contraction monitor I was hooked up to while in active labor. This time, he was watching the Doppler Radar on the Weather Channel.

The storms that ravaged the south over the past few days were heading through town this morning, much less dangerous by now, with the threat of tornadic activity largely eliminated. But still, they were calling for potentially severe thunderstorms with potentially damaging winds.

And my baby was all by himself at preschool.

Maybe not all by himself. There were 13 other children and two very capable adults sharing the room with him, and countless other capable and protective adults in the building....but I wasn't one of them.

He woke up in the morning already concerned. "I listened to the wind all night," he said, "do you think our trees are safe?" I don't know where he learned to be worried about storms and wind. We didn't teach him that...I guess that's one of those things that doesn't need to be taught.

I reassured him that, though the winds are strong, we're safe inside our home....and in school. But isn't that what all parents say? The parents in Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia surely told their worried preschoolers the same thing. But not all of them were safe....and even some of the "lucky" ones lost everything. What then?

We had a normal, laid-back morning....I tried to hide my surreptitious glances out the window at the gathering, darkening clouds....and he was happy to leave the house for school. He asked a few more questions about the wind and the dark sky on the ride to school, but they seemed largely of the information-gathering variety...not rooted in fear or worry. When we arrived at the classroom, he bounded in, without a backward glance and hardly a wave goodbye. I warned his teacher about his anxiety-filled night, though, and told her to call me if he expressed any concerns while at school. The storms were predicted to stay largely to our west, but there was the possibility that they would drift our way, and the worst of it was to be in the late morning hours. I told her that I would remain close by, running errands just a few minutes away, and that I'd come back and get him early if it started to look bad.

And then I left him.

To face a storm without me. For the first time. And for the first time, I would be without him....I wouldn't be the one to say the words, "the winds are strong but we're safe," whether or not I actually believed them....would he be okay? Would I? Is this what the parents in the south thought as they were tucking their children into bed as the storms were approaching? I feel sick thinking about those families.

And so I got in the car and called Sam. "Check the radar!" I pleaded, "Where are the storms? What are they predicting? Should I go back in and get him?" Sam checked the radar and calmed my fears. I left him with explicit instructions to call me the second severe weather started to head our way.

Max and I met my sister to run some errands and I glanced, every chance I got, out the window...just waiting for the moment I expected to come, the moment where I would glance outside and just know that it was time to go and get him. While picking out fabrics for our burp cloths with my sister, Sam called, "A small storm is headed your way now. It doesn't look terrible and it looks like it's moving quickly, so if it gets bad, don't worry, it'll be over soon." I relayed the update to my sister who couldn't help but smile: "It sounds like he's talking you through a contraction!" She needs to be a doula.

So we made it through the morning, my sister distracting me with random stories and her adorable kids, and Sam calling me, reassuring me, and making the decision for me to leave Evan at school...because he's safe there.

The storms never materialized here....I spent my whole morning worrying for nothing. The severe weather stayed to our west and the worst we got was an ominous sky and some rain. Looking outside now, the sun is shining and the ground is dry. We might even go outside to play when Max wakes up.

Lesson Learned:
This is yet another example of my worrisome nature....the same worry-gene that I passed on to my little boy. Sorry, Evan. But I worry because I love....and though I can't understand what those Moms and Dads in the South are going through right now...the parents who lost everything....I can empathize with them and my heart can break for them.

And the other lesson learned: Though I love, love, love the spring, I hate, hate, hate spring storms.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

yo ho ho....and a sippy cup of milk

Evan is currently loving Disney's Jake and the Never Land Pirates. It's still age-appropriate for my innocent little 4-year old, while providing just a hint of Big Kid entertainment (pirates, treasure-hunting, swords...though no sword fighting, and the quintessential Bad Guy in the form of Captain Hook).

I'm actually surprised it's taken so long for him to want to "play" Jake and his crew. Today was our lucky day. I was Izzy, Max was Cubby, and Evan was, of course, Jake....the leader of the pack.

First, we had to construct our super-secret Pirate Hideaway to hide all of our gold doubloons (or, "duh-boons," according to Evan....and "buh-oons" according to Max....who I think really thought we were looking for balloons).

Cubby was our lookout...he had to survey the area for signs of Captain Hook. His main goal, however, was gaining entrance into the Hideaway. Jake was pretty particular about that Secret Code to get in....

But when given an opportunity, Cubby took it.

Suddenly, Jake realized that our treasure had been stolen, "right under our noses."

We had to act fast to find Hook and Smee (or "Pee" according to Evan, who is still working on those initial blends). We left our Hideout on our mission, sang the Pirates songs, and searched for footprints leading us to Captain Hook and our treasure. Basically, it meant that we marched around the house in a single file line, following Jake, of course, for about 15 minutes saying things like, "Yo Ho Ho, mateys!" or "Arrggghhh!" or "Aww, crackers!" And then, Cubby glanced out the window and alerted us to two pretty birds enjoying the bird seed in the feeder we refilled over the weekend.

As we took a break from the treasure hunt to watch them, Jake announced, "Now that's what I call 'A Happy Ending.'"

And then I asked them each to make their best Pirate Face.

Shiver me timbers.

Lesson Learned:
So what did you do today?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

easter, my way

Although I am not a religious person, I do find myself celebrating "Easter" each year. Now that I have kids, the celebrating involves the requisite visit from the Easter Bunny, who leaves a few sweet treats...

Baby's First Peep (the first of three of the day)

...new pajamas, and a few spring/summer toys (bubbles, chalk, water games, etc.). He also hides coin-filled eggs for the boys to find and fill their piggy banks with.....

But there's more. It's also a day spent with family, wearing Fancy New Spring Clothes...

Huge victory of the day: Getting Evan to agree to Short Sleeves. No small feat.

...and spending time outside (which Mother Nature provided for perfectly this year).

But there's more.

Although I am not a religious person, I find myself recognizing and celebrating a different kind of "resurrection" on this day....it's the beauty of nature and it's waking-up from winter, it's burst of color in my garden, it's life-sustaining power. I do believe in "something" bigger than me, something like God...It may sound totally corny, but my backyard is my church...

And Mother Nature is my god. Well, one of them, anyway.

Have you read the poem Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens? You should. I won't copy it here, but it is about a woman who spends her Easter Sunday morning not at church, but at home, having a sunny, leisurely breakfast and enjoying the beauty of the natural world around her. She becomes consumed with guilt, however, over her decision to forsake the conventional devotions of the day. The poet questions her guilt and suggests there is a godliness, or divinity, in the beauty, power, and change of nature. It is, in fact, the changing of nature which makes it divine. My favorite line of the poem is, "Death is the mother of beauty." We appreciate the budding spring all the more because it follows the lifelessness of winter. We appreciate a sunny day after the rain. We look forward to the first crisp evening in the fall after the suppressive heat of the summer.

This is what I celebrate on Easter. And my family. Always, my family.

This morning, after the Easter Egg hunt and the consumption of massive quantities of jelly beans (and a sneaky Reece's Peanut Butter Egg for me, which is ordinarily strictly forbidden in this peanut-avoiding house), we headed outside. Sam cleaned and organized the garage (hooray!) and I assembled our new compost drum, which I will use to make compost to fertilize our new vegetable garden, coming later this spring! (Stay tuned for frequent updates as we embark on this endeavor to grow our own food. Well, our own cucumbers. And maybe tomatoes. And, hopefully, strawberries. But maybe just basil. We'll see.)

Site of Future Vegetable Garden
Lesson Learned:
The older I get, the more I realize that it's not what you celebrate, but that you celebrate....Believe in something. Take moments to recognize something that's bigger and more important than you, whether it's God, Nature, Family, or Love, and celebrate that you have That in your life.

Friday, April 22, 2011

love your mother: take 2

Happy Earth Day! Guess who FINALLY made those super cool and easy Tie Dye Earths? ME! I mean....Evan. And Max! I suppose it was worth the (365-day) wait so our itty bitty baby would be big enough to share the fun....

Tie Dye Earth materials:
round coffee filters
*washable* markers in blues and greens
spray bottle
paper towels (just enough to dry the coffee filters on...don't go crazy with them and be all wasteful...it IS Earth Day, you know)

Have your kiddos color the coffee filters with the markers. Encourage them to use lots of color, but they can leave some space white, too.

Spray with water. Three or four squirts should do...enough to dampen the entire filter but not so much that it is dripping wet.

I gave each Earth a little crumple just after spraying to help with the tie-dye effect since our Earths were largely left blank.

Let dry on the paper towels, then hang 'em up in a window and enjoy! 

Lesson Learned:
How to Take Care of the Earth
dictated by Evan
recorded by Mom

"Well, you could share the water. You know, like, turn it off when you're finished using it and let other people and animals have turns at the water fountain. You already know to cut down just the old trees and leave the new trees for the animals of the world. And then you could just plant plants and flowers and stuff. And just take the stuff you need. You know, just share the world."

Max, for the record, does his part, too. We call him The Seagull: He doesn't let a bite of food, from his plate, Evan's plate, or the floor go to waste at mealtimes. Such a sweet little Captain Planet.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


January and February tend to be my least favorite months of the year. I'm not alone in this. The newness of winter has worn off and now it's just cold and gray. The holidays are over, and with them the wonder and magic as they are experienced by little ones, and the anticipation of family togetherness. This year was no exception, and piled on top of the usual post-holiday/still-weeks-to-go-of-dreary-cold doldrums, were some emotionally draining issues for me personally...weaning Max (and dealing with post-weaning hair loss), and figuring out what in the world was going on with Evan and what should I be doing about it, especially.

But we made it through. Max weaned beautifully, and I've decided to just ignore my hair issues...it's hormonal and there's nothing I can do about it. If I want to keep having and nursing babies, which I do, then I'll have to accept the hormonal havoc that they wreak on my body. Maybe when I'm in my 40s, I'll take my body back and try to undo the damage they have done. And I've finally found peace with my concerns about Evan. I'm reading a great book right now that is helping with that...more on that later.

And, perhaps mostly:

Spring is finally, fully, and beautifully here. The trees are bright and shiny with brand-new, spring-green leaves...

My garden is coming back to life with tiny bursts of color...

And welcome guests.....

We're spending time outside, learning to use new toys...

 ...and rediscovering some old toys reclaimed from their Put-Away for Winter status.

Life is, once again, Good.

And after breathing in the goodness to be found in the Right Now, I realized that it was the coming together of many of my favorite things that have helped to revive my mood and restore my spirit. (Yup. Another list. Turns out I'm really not a resolutions person. I'm okay with that.)

My Recipe for Restoration
--Going OUT for coffee and bagels on a Sunday morning with a Mommy Friend, who knew me first as Teacher Friend, but knows me best as a We're Practically The Same Person Friend (but I'm more neurotic and she's way better at maintaining that elusive Go With The Flow attitude).
--Catching up on the phone with an olllllllld friend, like middle school old, and finding out that, though time and distance may have come in the way of that friendship....we really can pick up where we left off.....but it's even better than before because now we share stories about our babies instead of boys and gym class.
--Vacuuming with the windows wide open and my iPod blasting at an unsafe decibel while my three guys play outside. [...and then having that vacuuming interrupted by the 4-year old who must tell me Right Now that he discovered a real, live bird's nest under the deck with a real, live Mommy Bird sitting on her eggs...not in his imagination!]
--Our now almost-daily impromptu afternoon playdates with the neighbors...

--Heading back outside after dinner, with drippy popsicles in hand, to bask in the last remaining slivers of sunlight.
--Reading books that don't have pictures in them. Or text that rhymes. Or that are about trucks or dinosaurs.
--Picnics. In the park, at the zoo, on a bench at a playground....lunch always tastes better when it's eaten outside.
--Purging! There is something about the way the sunlight enters my house in the springtime that makes me look around and think, "My god this place is a mess." It never actually is, though, because I've got that Type-A personality that has me wiping up the kitchen floor with a wet paper towel five times a day (I'm under-estimating in an effort to save face.). But there is something to be said for a twice-a-year purge of closets and drawers (and playrooms, after bedtime). Usually, I walk around the house with boxes and trash bags, looking for no-longer-needed or -used items. Boxes go to Goodwill and bags go to the dump. This year, though, we're going to need a trailer. I have a serious itch to do some major damage to the unnecessary clutter that has accumulated in the attic. It's going to feel great. 
--Max and Mommy Breakfast Dates. During one of the two mornings that Evan is at school, Max and I go out for breakfast. Sometimes it's just a muffin from the Starbucks drive-thru shared on a sunny bench, but it's such a fun little tradition that we've started and I love our one-on-one time.
--Starbucks drive-thru.

Lesson Learned:
It's important to know what restores you so that you can restore. I need to remember to do these things more often.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

a letter to Evan, on his birthday

Man, buddy. This has been a big year. I feel like I watched you grow from a little boy into a little Kid, right before my eyes. You achieved some Major Milestones, like using the potty, playing your first sport, and going to school...

...but more than that, our relationship has changed from one of Mother-and-Baby, where I meet your physical and emotional needs and you coo and cuddle sweetly and appreciatively, to one of Mother-and-Son, where we have to figure out, not only how to work together and find compromises to meet each other's needs, but also how to adjust to and nurture your developing personality. It hasn't been easy, and it hasn't always been pretty, but it's all been worth it.

The minute you were born, I became a Mother. I think, over the course of this past year, I have started to become a Parent. Thank you for that. For all of it.

I am so amazed by you; by what you know, what you can do, what you care about, and who you are. When you were a tiny baby--probably just three or four months old, a stranger--an older woman, dressed in a traditional Indian sari--approached us. She took one look at you and smiled. She turned to me, with a twinkle in her eye, and said, "This is a special one. He's very bright. You're a lucky mother, but he'll keep you on your toes. Enjoy him."  I'll never forget her, or the way she looked at you and the way you met her gaze. How did she know?

My All-Time Favorite Contemplative Evan picture
You were a sponge when you were little, soaking everything in and processing it all. Now, you're so much more. You are a receptive, reflective, responsive, and interactive part of this world and I am absolutely in love with watching you learn. And you learn so quickly and so deeply, that I have to pay really close attention, or I'll miss something....like the time when you asked me "So what happened to all the plates in Japan?" I wasn't sure what you were talking about until you explained that we had been talking--months earlier, I'm sure--about how the earth was different during the time of the Dinosaurs. That the plates beneath the Earth's crust were moving and shifting, creating different land areas. I had said, at the time, that when these plates shift, they can cause earthquakes. A mere mention of the devastating Japanese earthquakes in March caused you to recall that conversation and you demanded an explanation. I did the best I could with my somewhat limited knowledge of plate tectonics. It won't be long, I'm afraid, before we'll have to consult with the experts in order to come up with an explanation that is satisfactory to your unquenchable thirst for information.

You're thirsty, for sure, and always have been. After "backhoe," the word "why?" quickly became the most predominant word in your vocabulary. This year, however, you started to do more than ask questions. You want to share with the world all that you have learned. I can't tell you the number of people (teachers, neighbors, friends, family members, etc.) that approach me to relay an adorable story about you. And they all start like this: "Evan came up to me and said, 'Let me tell you something....'" You catch everyone by surprise with what you know. Everyone just loves you, baby.

But maybe no one so much as your little "Boo Boo Baby Maxwell." [I'm going to start crying now.]

Evan, if I were fortunate enough to be able to hand pick the Perfect Big Brother for that sweet baby, it would be you, every time. You were born to be the Big Brother and you excel at it. You are a leader, always willing and able to teach Max everything you know from table manners to proper motor and siren noises for different vehicles. You are patient and forgiving when that King Kong Baby tramples over your GeoTrax town or bulldozes (inappropriately) through your construction site.

 You let him tackle you and drool on you in his many, many attempts to hug and kiss you. You read him books. You applaud his achievements. You protect him (mostly from his own danger-seeking personality). You involve him in your make-believe scenarios and, through that, you are teaching him about creativity and imagination. You sing to him and make him laugh his big huge belly laugh. You make him light up more than anyone else when he sees you first thing in the morning. He wants to use the same cup you use....sit on the same side of the table as you....and play with the same exact toy that you are using. And you let him, but not always, because you are also teaching him about sharing, and taking turns, and being patient.

Before Max was born, I worried about not being able to divide myself equally between you two. That both of you would just end up wanting more of me than I could give. I could never have predicted just how much you two are here for each other...that having two babies didn't divide anything at all....we multiplied. Evan, Max loves you so much, and he truly does look up to you....and it's a good thing, too, because I'm pretty sure he's going to close the gap on the three pounds that separate you two in the next few months!

Sometimes I wish I could look into a crystal ball and see your future...just a glimpse....to see where you are and what you're doing. I know you're going to do Big and Wonderful things. You are already passionately interested in important issues facing your future and the world you will inherit. Ever since the Safari Ride at Disney's Animal Kingdom, you've worried about the fate of the black rhino. And since reading the book Penguins! by Gail Gibbons, you've become concerned about oil spills and their effect on the dwindling penguin populations. You are going to be a Worker Man, yet you have already promised to cut down only "old trees, where there are no bird nests or squirrel nests or monkey nests....wait, monkeys don't make nests...I'll only cut down trees with no monkey homes." Your compassion for all living things and your innate sense of right and wrong humbles me and makes me so proud.

And your exquisite imagination will provide you with unlimited access to new ideas and novel approaches to solve old problems.

[Just an aside about your imagination...your imaginary world has expanded of late, to include a bull, whom you ride to get places quickly...as in when I say, "Come on, Evan, we need to hurry to the van!" You respond with, "Giddy-up, Bull! Let's move!" There is also a "Grandpa" who just returned from a research expedition on the island of Texas, where he was studying the gorilla population. You and "Grandpa" will someday open a Gorilla Sanctuary together. I really can't get enough of your stories and ideas, Evan, and thank goodness for this space where I can record them all so that I won't ever forget them.]

You are my sweet, smart, opinionated, complex, funny, loving, deep-thinking and imaginative little boy. I love you to infinity and back.

Lesson Learned:
As much as I can't wait to see you when you've found your Perfect Place in this world, I can. I'll wait patiently and enjoy each moment of the Getting There, because this--the Growing Up--is already going way too fast.

On your Fourth Birthday, Evan, my wish for you is to be little and innocent, and to keep having big ideas and a big heart. And my wish for me, is to be present in your Now and to stop worrying so much about your Tomorrow or Next Year....because, Evan, my love, you're going to be Amazing.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

It's a Dinosaur Train Birthday!

We have been talking about Evan's 4th Birthday Party for MONTHS now. He wanted to have a "friends" party and invite kids from class, which I was thrilled to hear....but he also wanted to invite his Dinosaur Friends...Annie, Mookie, and Michelle, who have been living with us for awhile now. Annie, Mookie, and Michelle are all (secondary) characters on the PBS Kids show, "Dinosaur Train," so the theme for the party was obvious.

We started decorating for the party the Monday before his Saturday morning party. I had a feeling the signs, balloons, and rearranged furniture may take some getting used to, and I didn't want to spring it all on him on the Big Day.

I'm not sure if this was a good idea or not....it helped because we were able to decide, together?, that the Reading Tent should not, as it turned out, be moved even a little bit.  But it may have added to some of his nervous anticipation...he lay awake in bed from midnight until 4am the night before his party. We know this because he came into our room approximately eight times within that time frame to let us know that he was, in fact, still awake.

This made for a pretty tired little Party Guy, but he hung in there until right after the cupcakes. Then he asked to go take a nap...while his guests were still here....

But the party was fun! Really it was! I set up the party just like our Holiday Celebration Days in Kindergarten. There were "stations" set up all around the party area with different activities. The kids and their parents went wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted. A Choose Your Own Adventure party...it was just right for Evan...because, as he said, "You can do whatever you want! If you don't want to Pin the Horn on the Triceratops--because I Do Not want to do THAT--you don't have to! No big deal!"

I was beside myself with happiness when, while scrolling through the pictures my sister had taken on my camera, I saw this:

This was the crowd favorite, I think:
These were the "nests"
Baby Dinosaurs were hidden in plastic eggs all over the room. When found, the baby dinos were delivered to the right mama.
Aunt Lizzie was the official Egg Hider. It was a big job. She could hardly keep up with the super-sleuth egg-finders. But she tried!

I'm not sure that anyone, at any point, went into Tiny's Tiny Space Reading Tent.
Oh, well.

There is something so adorable and funny about such a sweet, dainty little flower of a girl playing with a huge, fierce Dilophosaurus. (Trust me on that one. We did our homework.)

And of course, there were trains.

And chips.
Max had Mom Mom wrapped around his little finger. He never let her take him more than an arm's reach from the snack table, and he knew that Mom Mom just couldn't tell him No.

And cake.
I said that my goal in decorating the Dinosaur Train cake was just to avoid making an appearance on Cake Wrecks. Jury's still out.
Evan said, "Good job, Mommy! It's green and yellow and red, just like the Dinosaur Train!"
But his expression here seems to suggest mild disappointment.
1-2-3 ...

Practicing Sly Winks over Cupcakes.

And then it was naptime.

But the party continued first thing the next morning, when there were brand new, wonderful presents to be played with....and balloons.

Lesson Learned:
I'll admit it, I was stressed about this party. I'm always stressed to entertain. But Evan wanted a Dinosaur Train Party, so a party we had. The stress was good though....it kept my attention on non-sentimental things such as "Will 10 kids be able to eat more than 24 dinosaur-shaped sandwiches? Better make a few more."

Now that the party is over, I have four days to prepare myself for the inevitable: On Thursday, April 14, at 11:32 in the morning, Evan will officially be FOUR YEARS OLD.