Thursday, August 11, 2011

And So It Begins . . . Again

Crying a lot has always come quite easy to me--it's sort of a family trait on my dad's side. So last night when I was trying to go to sleep I wasn't surprised when the first tear fell. For I knew that this morning my youngest would be walking into his new kindergarten classroom.

Almost exactly two years ago I penned my first blog entry. It was prompted by my daughter's first day of school and the emotions and events of that day. It sure seems appropriate (and rather therapeutic) to write this now.

I value crying. It is good for us. Our bodies, minds, and spirits need us to shed tears. I think Jim Valvano said it better than I . . .

If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special.

Boy, Jim, you got that right.

We walked my son in this morning--my husband, his big second-grade sister, and me. My eyes burned all morning, but I fought back the family tradition of letting the floodgates open, at least so much as others could see. I wanted to be strong, especially in front of my son, who had already mentioned (approximately 3,647 times) this summer that he preferred not to go to kindergarten, but if he had to go to school he'd feel much better being in his sister's class so they could be together.

All summer I had been concerned about my little hesitant school boy. Of course I have passed along the extra crying gene, so he shed many tiny tears in anticipation of today. We rehearsed all summer the classic lines of how school was great, he'd do just fine--all the typical positive reinforcement a family can give.

I completely understand my son's cautious feelings. My pre-kindergarten fears wore well into school. In fact, I recall crying well into first grade most days after my mom dropped me off.

I am pleased to say that when we took him in the well-decorated, kid-friendly classroom, he was brave and happy and smiling that wonderful pleased-with-himself grin. After his teacher showed him around the room he was still just fine. And when his loving entourage left, he paused, asked me for "just one more hug" and went back to his bug puzzle.

But lucky for me, I had left his extra school supply bag in my car, so I HAD to return to his classroom to give it to his sweet teacher. Of course, he still looked happy and was really having a ball, and barely noticing me.

So he's been at school about two hours now. And although I'd win an award at next year's family reunion for my wet, red eyes, I am so proud to know my little guy was able to break the tradition--at least for today.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Whale in Your Tale

I got caught in a lie one day with my young son. Well, not actually a lie. I'd prefer to call it a euphemism. You know, a way to say something that is somehow unpleasant by glossing over the actual meaning. Please don't misunderstand, my intent is not to confuse or hide the truth from my kids. But on occasion I find it fun to add humor to the inherent unpleasantness of some bodily functions and generally gross behaviors. A lot of us do it, especially when talking to young ones, I think. But on this summer day, I learned that it can backfire, literally.

This particular incident happened when the kids and I were on our play set. To set the scene--I was struggling to balance on the two-person glider swing, a device clearly not intended for anyone equipped with anything larger than a toddler tush. Then out of nowhere, a funny, loud squirty sound (that would have made my Uncle Joe puff up with pride) came from my co-pilot son, followed by an over-the-shoulder glance and impish smile. "You got a buffalo in your britches?" I asked. (In our house when someone let's one go, one of us--normally me--poses this question, normally inserting whatever large creature comes to mind. Buffalo are a popular favorite, followed by dinosaur and giraffe--the larger the animal the better.) Of course, the stinky little man denied it, grinning like the Cheshire cat that he is.

After a short delay, he owned up to his rotten rear rip. Then after a short pause with furrowed brow, puppy-dog eyes, and tilted head he asks me in all seriousness, "So how DO the animals get up your beezer?"

Ugh. . . caught in my foolish fib, my tall tale, my cockamamy expression. I stammered. I winced. I tried to think quickly. So how do I explain the process of the ol' passing of gas to my preschooler? As I tried to imagine the internal human anatomy, particularly focusing on the guts and beyond, I couldn't help but envision a smiling, chubby rhinoceros staring back at me as it made its way through the intestinal tract.

"Well, honey. Actually there are no animals up there. It happens because, well, you see, they start when, well, it, I mean they . . ." How did they happen exactly?! There, I was just a hangin', trying to articulate just the right explanation, the perfect description of how a toot truly transpires. And I was a little stumped on what words to use, what details to share. How did I give an honest and informative answer after seriously confusing my sweet son? What would make sense to his young developing mind which I had previously supplied major misinformation?

After a few minutes of hemming and hawing, while attempting to draw a few pitiful diagrams in the sand, he squealed with delight, "Gotcha! Mommy, I KNOW big animals don't come out of there!" now rolling in hysterics with his big sister who was also reveling at the idea of their mom squirming for an explanation.

I was reminded of a few good life lessons that day. Like my kids are smarter than me. It's good to laugh at yourself. Honesty is the best policy. So while I have not completely dropped my use of colorful accounts of certain foul functions, when someone lets one slip, I still stop short of asking "Who farted?" Which, truth be told, still somehow sounds more vile to me than having a mammoth pop out of your butt.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Gift of a Girl

While sitting on my husband's cousin's bed slightly dazed, I looked around the room at the typical teenager guy posters and smattering of displayed sports memorabilia. I snuggled my little baby daughter, often caressing her cute chubby cheeks. She nursed on, completely unaware of the swirling sadness all around her. I couldn't imagine going into the other upstairs bedroom-to be where another sweet girl used to lay her precious head almost every night of her short sixteen years on Earth.

I wasn't alone. My husband's aunt sat nearby me in disbelief and raw sorrow as she talked about how hard this was going to be on the family. She was especially concerned, as we all were, about how her brother- and sister-in-law could go on after the death of their child-their only daughter. With each mention of that word I remember pulling my then only cherished child closer, trying NOT to know what it would be like. I could not comprehend, nor did I want to. How could I? My daughter had only been in my life for six months. We were just starting to get to know one another. I was learning her habits, she was learning my voice. We were in awe of each other, for very different reasons. I was her main source of love, nurturing, and nourishment. She was my new hope, inspiration, and my, well, new everything.

I only met my husband's cousin a few times, but she is the kind of girl who leaves an impression. A fantastic smile, full of life, and unique, gorgeous eyes that you simply would have to see for yourself to understand. My most significant memory of her was when she caught the bouquet at our wedding. Her face bright and proud, as many of my single girlfriends looked on and tried to be polite that a "tweener" had caught the bridal flowers instead of one of the ready-to-finally-get-the-ring young women. I remember laughing inside and thinking, Good for you, girl. Way to go after what you want! I was impressed at her chutzpah (not to mention her cat-like reflexes).

So I sat on the bed of the brother who had just lost his little sister days before, and all I wanted to think about was that great flower catch. At least for that instant. I wanted to bathe in the beauty and wonderful moment she gave me and the wedding guests. Crying tears of joy cradling my own daughter, I also cried tears of pain for someone else's, while I prayed that her parents would be able to both cover and fill themselves to overflowing with the thousands of unforgettable and amazing memories she left for them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Love for My New Florist

I used to hate them, I mean absolutely abhor them, so much so I wanted to kill them every chance I could. I got such satisfaction when I ripped one up out of the ground--my unfriendly outdoor foe--the dandelion. Whenever I spotted one in our yard, I'd practically trip over myself to go grab the garden tool which twists the pesty plants up, roots and all. Heaven forbid if I ever caught one in my flower or veggie garden. Bye-bye, you good-plant-obliterating, water-stealing sucker!

But as with so many other things, one of my children has again helped changed my perspective and shed some new light. Since we have been staying at my husband's parents' house till our own off the mountain sells, we have not planted a full-size garden here, just some simple container planting to scratch the garden growing itch for now (and a pretty effective way to keep weeds at bay). However, I have been blessed with blossoms in a different way--a dandy way. Throughout this spring my son has been bringing me these large frilly yellow flowers that he finds. And he is so excited and proud each time he presents me with a dandelion. As his chubby hand grips each one, he announces "For you Mommy." Then he usually reminds me that he knows that they are my favorite color. And because of his gorgeous gifts, I have another favorite flower.

What's even better about this is that when I recently mentioned to him that "some people" actually consider dandelions to be weeds, he simply shrugged then said, "They're still pretty," and ran off to pick me some more. Oh yes, beauty can be found if you are willing and open to it AND choose not to let others define it for you.

So of course now whenever I'm out driving in the country or running downtown and see a patch of dandelions or even a single dandy bloom, I no longer feel ill-will but rather a big fat goofy smile emerge--yet another present to add to the growing heap that my children continue to give.

But what will I do next spring when we have our own yard and (YES!) our own gardens again? Hhhmmm . . . guess I'll be reading and rereading this blog post (and as a backup, hiding my cool weed tool in the shed from my sweet son).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Snow Day

After walking my daughter into school this morning to deliver the class snack, I was struck--and yes, I mean literally PELTED by the most enormous, gorgeous, fluffy white clusters of snow! They were awesome, in fact, they are still falling now (so I better hurry up and write this, as they may be calling off school any minute.)

Then as I sat in my car to get it warmed back up, I glanced across the parking lot and was struck even deeper. One of the second-grade teachers was outside with her students catching these giant white flakes from the sky. While looking at them I could not help but see an image of what the delighted and dancing Israelites must have felt like so long ago as they awoke to discover the much-needed manna that had fallen around them.

These kids (and even perhaps more so their teacher) were dancing around with all eyes looking upward. It was a celebration of the awesomeness of nature--a true science lesson they will not soon forget. When their Moses led her snow strutting crew with their collection of white puffs on paper sheets, I smiled as they skipped back into the classroom with their frozen treasures.

We've been in Boone for seven months now, and I haven't blogged since then. Although there have been many things to share--both good and well, challenging--today's scenes and images are just what I needed, and so wanted to share them. And I am thankful.

Thank you, teachers, for providing what our children need. In a time of questionable economy and world disaster, in a time where teachers are enduring through substantial criticism and blame, I say thank you to the educators who stick it out each day and continue to teach real lessons to our children. Here's to the millions of "snow days" happening in classrooms all over the world today.