Category Archives: family

Ten.

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Ten is whip-smart. He talks all day, sharing observations about his version of heaven and asking all the questions about divorce that other kids won’t ask and the sale of our house and something that happened five years ago. Ten wonders about and then remembers everything.

Ten loves big roller coasters and karate and his bike. He will swim all day if you let him. Ten will hop on a charter bus in a YMCA parking lot and head off to a new overnight camp out of state, not knowing a blessed soul, and have a great time. Ten wants as many gummy worms on his ice cream as humanly possible.

Ten is a loyal friend, especially if you are a similarly smart, cynical, and -underneath it all- very sensitive boy. Ten has no time for girls. He used to be shy, observed a neighbor this summer. Now he’s just selective.

Ten has a sense of style that’s all his own. This sometimes means a zip-up rainbow tie with a pink polo shirt. And madras shorts. With black high top chucks. All at the same time. Ten dresses with pride but don’t try to take his picture: he won’t have it.

Ten is beyond hilarious, leaving his family in stitches every other time he opens his mouth. Do you ever get tired of being random?, Ten recently asked me as he was falling asleep. No, I really don’t, I told him. Me neither, he replied happily.

Ten insists on bedtime cuddles, skinny little boy arms wrapped tightly around me as he falls asleep at night, usually right after lodging at least one heartfelt complaint about having to move out of his house or navigating parents who are split up or going back to school too soon. And then he wakes up smiling all over again in the morning.

Happy Birthday, Kiddo. Ten is amazing.

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Bedtime

At their insistence she climbs nightly into the lower bunk, squeezed in with the younger one and complete insanity ensues. The kind where the high schooler is laughing so hard up above that he snorts several times and the 5th grader is his most outrageously hilarious self, making her cry with laughter. She tries to extract herself when it gets late but is held there by a small arm curled around hers and pleas to stay, promises that they’ll be quiet and go to sleep, and then within seconds a silly phrase and now another round: peals of screaming laughter reminding her of every raucous sleepover party she ever went to as a kid. Except these nights are even better because laughing like this in a bunk bed with her own two boys, there’s no grown-up telling them to stop.

One School Year

Dear Baxter & Lyle,

September 2012 to June 2013 — 9 months — one school year. So much change. Your lives at home have changed dramatically and you look so very different. But here you are, laughing and being ridiculous together just as you’ve always done.

Love you boys, and I’m so proud of how beautifully you are growing up. Keep being ridiculous together.

xo,

Mom

September 2012 June2013

Homeschooling

His head was already on the dining room table in defeat. He was crying over the chicken I’d served for dinner. Because Why wasn’t it hot dogs?? But when he picked himself back up toward the end of the meal and looked at me again, there was a completely different question on Lyle’s mind: Why won’t you just homeschool me?

When I am being my best Mom self, you know, when I have time to sit there with my kid and my glass of wine and fantasize right along with him, it’s well worth doing. I remember sitting with this same child 5 years ago, him crying on the floor before preschool because he wanted to stay home with me (anyone notice a theme here?), dreaming up how we would spend the day if we were together. In the end we wrote “Watch Backyardigans” on a piece of paper and posted it right by the door so we’d remember immediately after school that we were going to do that together, and then he wiped his eyes and headed out the door for school.

And so, rather than dismissing this new request by saying, Oh, don’t be silly, you love school! or But what about all your great friends? (or even There’s no way in hell I could afford to quit my job! or, what would’ve been the worst dream killer of all, We aren’t even together all five school days!) I let him spin this thought out tonight as far as he wanted, saying, Wouldn’t that be great? I wonder what it would look like if I homeschooled you? He had a lot of great ideas, so I used another one of my favorite parenting strategies, and told him we’d better write them all down because they were so important. When we do this, we don’t just jot them down on scrap paper; I make sure we get a legal pad from my home office. It’s official that way. You wouldn’t believe how happy it makes kids when we take their ideas seriously enough to write them on a legal pad.  He wanted to write them himself and he immediately brightened.

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He created one column for the benefits of a homeschool life and one column filled with his brainstormed ideas about how we’d spend our days. I loved this process because it gave me a window into what he was craving: mainly, homeschool would be quieter. He wouldn’t have to rush in the morning and neither would I. There would be no fire drills and he could avoid his least favorite classes, choir and Spanish. What I heard was that the chaos and noise of school is feeling like too much right now, and so I verbalized that and empathized with him. He’s hoping we could have a Minecraft class every day and take a lot of field trips. He wants to do art with me daily, and have the freedom to take a bathroom break any old time. And he’s dying to study topics of his choosing. Who can blame him for any of those wishes?

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He decided to type up his list and I agreed that would be a good idea. When he was finished, I suggested he put an asterisk next to the things that were most important to him, but instead he made smiley faces next to those – there was a smiley face by each line when he was done.

ImageOn his own, he brought up the challenge of income for me. He thought maybe we could homeschool on MWF and I could work T/Th and weekends. He’d come along to my office when I had to work and play games on his iPod Touch all day (how generous of him!). I simply told him it was a pretty big decision to homeschool and change my work around, and we were only having the first conversation about it. He was satisfied with this and went off to read in bed, relaxed because he’d gotten to share all that was on his mind and knew he’d been heard.

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I don’t expect to homeschool Lyle. It’s true that I was originally planning to be a teacher before speech pathology called my name, and it’s also true that many times when the boys were younger I marveled at their quick minds and interest in everything I told them, and thought, Wow, would it ever be cool to be this kid’s teacher! Lyle’s ideas about how we would spend our days are also appealing to me, minus the Minecraft class. But the reality is, I love my career. When I stayed home with the boys for periods of time over the years, it didn’t feel like a good fit for me. I also have a belief that my income is important because it is currently paying for many critical things. And so I have never seriously considered homeschooling them.

But when Lyle and I were discussing this tonight I’m sure he believed I was open to the idea because, in fact, I was. My interest in his thoughts about it were sincere and I let myself imagine it along with him. If there is one thing I’ve learned in the last couple of years, it’s the importance of being fully open to new ideas, to turn off the I can’t voice and just listen. I could never have made the big decisions I’ve made in the past year without that openness. Could I be divorced? Could I be a single mom? Could I live in an apartment in another neighborhood? Where do I want to live? Chicago? Evanston? Our own condo? Should I go work for someone else? Should I reorganize my own practice to make it work better? What would each of those paths look and feel like? I fully explored every option, quite often going down multiple imagined paths simultaneously with complete openness, until I finally chose certain ones. Which is, I believe, how I ultimately landed in a new life and work situation that feels very, very right to me.

My guess is, Lyle will bring up homeschooling on occasion. We’ll revisit his list, probably add to it a few times, and I’ll watch and see if he continues to feel so strongly about this once we transition into summer and leave behind the extra end-of-the-year chaos that has been especially tough for the two of us this past week. Chances are, he will find quite a few good reasons to go back to school in the fall, and will be happy to have come to that decision on his own. But if he doesn’t, I will continue to imagine it along with him and perhaps we’ll eventually find ourselves on some totally different path we’d never have expected in a million years. To me that would mean we’re living an amazing, full life.

26 Acts of Kindness

IMG_0920Yesterday was the last day of school here in Chicago before the winter break. In lieu of a cheesy holiday movie on that last interminable day of school, my seventh grader’s teacher made the decision to show the kids a video about Ann Curry’s 26 Acts of Kindness campaign, created to honor the 26 children and adults who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT one week before. My son and his friends were very aware of the tragedy in Newtown, pulling together the following Monday to wear blue in honor of those killed, and talking about it quite a bit. The kids were inspired to go out and engage in 26 Acts of Kindness themselves and then come back to share what they’ve been doing in person and on their class’ private educational social media site. The students have been posting their acts of kindness this weekend, and they’re quite uplifting.

My son came home with the idea to bake cookies for 26 people and deliver them around the city this weekend; his 8-year old brother jumped into the idea with both feet and they were off and running. I can’t express enough what a joy it was for us as a family to do this together and I believe that it is especially important for school children to feel that they are helping in some positive way during a time that is so sad and scary for them. I am very grateful for the teacher’s idea to share this with the kids; it’s a perfect example of ways teachers impact our children for life. I can point to specific ways my teachers positively influenced my thoughts and actions as I grew up and now I see the same thing happening for my kids.

For me, the heart and energy I saw the boys pour into this project, and their interactions with strangers around our neighborhood, was all the gift I needed this Christmas. Below are photos of our adventure as the four of us worked together to make this happen today. Here is our story (click on any picture to see it enlarged):

Each of the boys made 13 cards to attach to their plates of cookies…

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We all worked hard making a huge batch of sugar cookies while listening to music DJ’d by the 7th grader.

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Here we have the requisite Gangnam Style dance interlude while one batch was baking…

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Next, the kids assembled 26 plates of cookies, covered them in plastic wrap, and attached their notes to the top of them. They each carried a bag of 13 plates out into the neighborhood.

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Starting with our mail carrier, the boys approached every person they passed in our neighborhood, asking if they’d like some free homemade cookies. We walked the couple blocks to our local El stop and gave them out to people coming and going from the train, including a failed attempt to give some to the CTA worker inside. We all had our favorite recipients; mine was probably the runner who jogged the rest of the way home carrying his plate of homemade cookies. He gave each of the boys a high-five, exclaiming to each of them in turn, “You my man!” 

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Our New Year’s resolution is to think of more random acts of kindness all year long. Happy Holidays to you all!

(For more information about this campaign, here’s a video about it; you can also find plenty of inspiring ideas by searching the #26Acts and #20Acts hashtags on Twitter!) 

The Old One-Two

I love it when my kids hit me with the “old one-two”. Lyle appears with this funny little drawing of an “up and down” man, and Baxter looks at it over my shoulder and comments seriously, “He’s probably bipolar.”

Look Who’s Blogging!

Six years ago I started my first blog on the eve of Baxter’s first day of kindergarten. Now a mature sixth grader, worldly in the ways of school, he has started a blog of his own. Try and keep up with it if you dare: not only does my tween post frequently, but he changes its template and design at least once a day.

A Bird in the Hand of Doom

For a school fundraiser, Lyle’s second grade class was asked to do a funny little assignment. They were given the beginning of a common saying and asked to fill in the rest of it any way they wanted. Next, they were asked to draw pictures of four of them. Somehow artsy people will turn this into something to be auctioned off.

I wonder what they’ll make of my son’s contributions:

Lyle greatly enjoyed completing these phrases to the best of his ability.

1. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you; cry and you’ll end up laughing.

[Yep, that’s my kid!]

2. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.

[Damn. He’s heard that one.)

3. You get out of something only what you hate.

[It would be nice if we could get out of things we hate, yes.]

4. A bird in the hand of doom.

[I’ve seen this five times and I still just snorted.]

5. Better late than never.

Here are the pictures he drew:

“Ahh! The pool!” This is a depiction of a child getting out of something he hates: swimming lessons.

See? Cry and you’ll end up laughing.

This amazing contraption is a futuristic car with individual doors for each passenger. That way the kids in carpool won’t push and shove their way out of the car every morning, but rather exit through their own door in an orderly fashion.  I think he’s right: better late than never on this one.

And there you have it, folks. The bird in the hand of doom.

My Days with Lyle

A collection of recent quotes from Lyle, as culled from my own Facebook page.

Jan. 25, 2012 –

Lyle just walked through the room saying, “Mommy, I was going to name this Panda bear “Bimbo” because he makes really bad choices, but then I changed it.”

Jan. 24, 2012 –

Lyle: “Did you know that in Iraq the left hand is used for ‘Toilet operations’?? It’s true! I read about it in Culture!”

Jan. 20, 2012-

Lyle just appeared in only his underwear. “Me and Baxter are Sumo wrestling.”

Jan. 19, 2012-

Lyle to Baxter: “Why don’t you have some respect? How do you sleep at night??”

Jan. 11, 2012-

Lyle to me: “Who you callin’ an IMP, BIMBO??”

(After riotous laughter: “What’s a bimbo, anyway?”)

Dec. 25, 2011-

Lyle: “Mommy! This year I decided I’m gonna try to be good ALL YEAR and not just at Christmastime!”

Dec. 22, 2011-

Lyle is positive that a new-year-old baby could definitely balance on one of his fingertips.

Dec. 14, 2011-

Lyle & I are going to wrap a few gifts. He suggested we bring the dog in with us, “So he can give us feedback on which wrapping paper to use”.  Feedback!

Dec. 3, 2011-

Lyle has a plan to set up my laptop out on the sidewalk and sell printouts of people’s favorite pictures from Google Images. Mama’s little capitalist.

 

The Boys’ Room: Before and After

As I mentioned in my last post, I am on a de-cluttering junket around my house and cannot be stopped. I’ve known for a few weeks that the boys’ bedroom would be up next. Not only was I closing their bedroom door whenever anyone came over, but I was needing to close it when I was home alone so that I didn’t catch sight of it – it was that bad.

You see, it was more than Little Boy Detritus™ all over a floor that needed organizing. This room of theirs, on the main level of our duplex condo, had been our home office for years. We used that term loosely, primarily because the room held two desks. But, in reality, it was the room where we put things we didn’t know what to do with or simply weren’t dealing with. Online purchases to be returned? Throw that box in the “office”.  Kitchen countertop paperwork stuffed into a bag before a dinner party? Why not toss that in there, too? The door will be closed, who would know! When I did need a quiet place to work, I couldn’t really find the desk, so I set up shop with my laptop at the dining room table and had a makeshift office in that room. So when the boys asked last summer if we could move their bedroom into that room, we shrugged. It’s not like we were really using it, right?

Yeah, we were happy to oblige, only we cleared out furniture to make room for their bunk bed and then ran out of time. There were still bulletin boards on the wall near where my desk had stood, a large book case full of our books, and bags of unidentified paperwork. And so when we’d ask the boys to clean their room, there was only so much they could do – no real shelves or storage bins to be found.

Can you see now why this might’ve been a big problem?

Okay, so I will allow you to see some “before” pictures, only because I am so pleased with the “after” set. This is my view of their room from the hallway (basically from the entrance to our home) this morning while they were in the midst of playing with Bey Blades:

Scary, yes?

And here is the same view at bedtime tonight. Turns out, they have a rug!

Next – and this takes guts, Wonderfriends – here is one side of their room where we have given them no storage and haven’t cleaned out our “office” stuff in the 5 months since they moved into this room. I can only hope humility is my ticket to heaven here.

This always looks this way.

Well. The craziest thing happened. I spent about four hours clearing our things out of that corner, generating two bags of recycling and another carload for Salvation Army. I found old mail – Oh! There’s that J. Jill credit card that I swore (indignantly) over the phone I had never received! – and forms I filled out that apparently never made it to the kids’ school in 2010, among other treasures. Then I took out the old bookcase and replaced it with a storage unit I went to pick up from Target. Voila!

I can’t even see all the Bey Blades now. Miracles do happen!

There are still a couple things to take off their wall (overstuffed “officey” organizers, and I do use that term loosely) and some art we’ll put up, but that will wait until tomorrow.

Next up: the very large playroom downstairs! But first I need to gather my strength.