Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Letter to My Oldest on His Eighth

Dear John-John,

Today is your 8th birthday.  And just as I do on each your birthday eves, last night I told you the story of your birth.  Not the part about my usage of bad grammar and begging for drugs ... just the part about the castor oil and diarrhea, of course. 

Every year you listen but seem more and more nonplussed.  A point I may need to revisit on 9/15/13.

This year your birthday seems more poignant than usual.  Maybe it's because you are not having a party (another story for another post).  Or maybe it's because two families that we know have recently lost their young, 30-something mothers to grave illness.  

John-John, I wouldn't write this if I thought that you might read it soon, but those events have absolutely shaken me to the core.  Kids are not supposed to lose their parents (and vice versa).  I never want to lose you, I never want to be lost, and I have ZERO control over any of that, which may be the most terrifying part of all.  

One of the women who passed away (Camden & Scott's mom) spent her last two years encouraging people to SAVOR each moment with their children.  She created a website called  At her funeral two weeks ago, there was a song that someone had written for her.  The last line of the chorus was something like, "The way that you died has showed me how to live."

I will not be so bold as to say that I now completely understand "how to live," but John, I think that I have learned a little bit from Sara about how to be a better, more in-the-moment mom.

It may seem like little changes, but I hope they'll have big effects.  I have stopped listening to NPR in the car when you are with me.  Now, I listen to YOU.  Even though half the time you are describing in excruciating amazing detail the logistics of a video game, I still try to listen and appear somewhat interested.  Even though I don't have answers to many of your questions -- especially those about weapons such as grenades, rifles, shotguns, pistols, and the like -- I try to find you a book (or a website) that can help.    And most importantly, I try to notice as much as I can about how you are right now because I have seen first-hand that not all parents have the luxury of watching their healthy, smart, hard-working, creative kiddos blossom into adulthood.

I don't mean to sound sad on your birthday ... I just want you to know that while it may not seem like I'm always in the moment with you, I'm working really hard on it.  Savoring my time with you is, for me, a lot like facing the most challenging yoga position of all: Corpse Pose -- the one where you lie on your back and just relax. It shouldn't be hard -- it feels good, just like being your mom feels good -- but with all that's going on around us, it's sometimes hard to just be there in the moment.

However, when I am with you and really listening and savoring, I am always in a state of absolute awe of your mind and your talents.  When I was growing up, people used tell me that I was talented.  As an adult, I've come to see that what they really meant was that I was hard working.

But you, John -- YOU, really are talented.  Talented means that you don't really have to work hard to be good at something.  Talented means that you are good at something because of who you are.  You can get better through hard work, but a lot of it is natural: You have SO many talents.

So, I'd like to spend a few moments documenting -- and savoring -- your eight-year-old talents.

1. You are an Amazing Builder of Lego Creations.  

(You made almost all of these in one night while I read, aloud, one chapter of our current favorite book, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan.  The last picture shows what you spent every cent of your birthday money on.  That one took you two non-stop hours to complete.  Amazing.

2.   You are a dreamer of specific dreams.  I'm particularly impressed with your knowledge of the jargon of such a career and your ability to synthesize the benefits and drawbacks.  Additionally, it's noteworthy that you have been consistent and persistent about this goal for the entirety of your 7th year.

3.  You are a writer of important words.  John -- it is no secret that you and I go round and round about our shared domestic existence.  I'm proud of you for always trying to make things better, for admitting when you're wrong, and for writing me letters about such matters.  I'm also pretty darn impressed by your beyond-your-years recognition that sometimes your behavior is more like that of a teenager than an elementary schooler.  I'm sure that this is not because I often stomp around mumbling about how I'm going to seriously consider boarding school during your teen years. (Ha!).  Actually, I'm sure that it's because of me that you sometimes act like a spoiled angry teenager.  Occasionally I play that role myself.  Which is why the next thing I need to say is THANK YOU for always listening to my words (important or not) and for forgiving me even when I don't ask, as I should.  When I do remember to acknowledge my mistakes, you are always gracious, and many times you even encourage me to forgive myself.  On those days, I'm glad that you sometimes act older than your years.

Exhibit A
4.  You have a wonderful sense of humor which includes the ability to entertain and participate in my enjoyment of weirdness.  There is no one on this planet (aside from my friends as they were in middle school) who can make me laugh like you do.  I want to remember that you and I laughed so hard about the first picture below (marked "Exhibit A"), that your dad -- exhausted from a stomach virus and unable to yell loud enough to drown out our laughter -- began knocking vehemently on the wall of the "master" bedroom in the hopes that you and I would settle down.

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Exhibit B

John:  You are all the things that I have come to be simultaneously thankful for and terrified of in life:  health, fun, energy, hard work, and empathy. I'm thankful because I love ALL of those things about you; I'm terrified because I realize that losing any one of them might be devastating.  

So, I'm eight times more thankful this year that I have the opportunity to SAVOR our relationship.  I'm doubly grateful for the opportunity to know, enjoy, and value the particular eccentricities & talents of YOU.

As for your gifts this year... please accept the flaming football t-shirt that I gave you as a sign of my commitment to no longer complaining about your particular method of hugging: From now on, you can tackle-hug me anytime you want ... I'll try to be tougher.  Regarding your dad's gift to you (the real-life, um, rocket), well, I don't think I have to explain that one -- everyone can see that it perfectly represents your fast, furious, blasting-forward personality, your constant desire to understand  physics, and your ever-present spirit of adventure.

Happy 8th Birthday!


Friday, September 14, 2012

Why I Now Volunteer at John's School

It took me awhile to figure it out, but now I definitely get why it's better to have a work-at-home parent: So that someone can volunteer at the child's school and encourage the doling out of As.

No, seriously.  John earned this flawless record all on his own.  But I do have to say this:  Now that Ms. Roberta Robertson knows that I play the piano due to my role in the first-grade musical (note which class she teaches), he has earned his first-ever "A" in music.

Not that this is all about me, of course. 

This post is mostly written in a joking manner.  But I have to say that recently I have noticed that if you are in a position of authority within the PTO, your child has a MUCH better (read: 100%) chance of always being placed with the most experienced, most well-respected teacher.

Luckily, I believe that my child can learn in all kinds of situations and with all kinds of different teachers, so this doesn't bother me.  I just notice it.  You know.  Like you notice that you've been passed over for a promotion or that the kids in the school across town don't even have a PTO.  And if they did, they couldn't have meetings unless they provided transportation, translators, and paid time off from work. 

We have gotten so spoiled at this school.  They are a top public school in the state in terms of test scores --which is more than amazing when you consider the fact that they teach one of the vitally important testing subjects (math) in another language (Spanish).

They also recently got recognized as a Governor's Reward school (or something like that), and this article ran in a local paper. 

The reason I've been thinking about this is because Sam is a full five years younger than John.  If he were four years younger, then he would be guaranteed a spot at this school, which is K-4th.  So when it's Sam's turn to enter kindergarten, we will have to enter the lottery all over again.  But that's not until 2015, so who cares, right?


For now, all that matters is that Ms. Roberta Robertson (it is a pleasure just to type that name) has been consistently asking me to accompany the school choir for various performances.  In a town like Nashville where everyone is a musician, that's a compliment indeed.  You see, out of all those people, I'm one of the only ones who can actually read music.

Onward (upward is a luxury),

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What the boys have been up to lately ...

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Recently, we asked a friend to watch the boys ...

 These are not pictures from that event, but these pictures do illustrate her feelings about the event, which she posted on my Facebook timeline as this:  There are no English words to describe the experience of watching your 2 boys. I am unequipped for this.
 To which I responded, "Me neither." 
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