Friday, September 14, 2012

What Preteen Boys Are Made Of...

Last week I gave you a glimpse of the girls in this moment.  Today I wanted to capture the boy.  But when I walked into his room, I struggled with the image.  What do I photograph in a room that's a collection of little bits of things strewn about?  Then I spied his night stand.  It seemed to be the perfect glimpse of what preteen boys are made of, or at least what my preteen boy is made of.  

He's a collection of parts that he's trying to form into a whole right now.  This is an awkward stage of life.  It's about self discovery and independence but it's also about learning boundaries and responsibility.   There's a lot of falling down as you try to walk.  But thankfully it's all done with a mom not far behind ready to help you up, (not that you would admit to anyone that you need help with anything).   It's a whole lot of ego contrasted with a whole lot of self consciousness.   Adults don't usually have fond memories of middle school for a reason.  It's a messy in-between stage that's hard to navigate gracefully.  

But we're getting through it, one meltdown at a time.  And each day gets a little bit easier, (as long as you ignore the challenges you know will arise tomorrow).  He's a great kid. And a pretty cool one at that.  Let's break down the night stand, shall we.  

  • Middle School style makes me laugh.  Note the cookie monster hat.  He's also really into neon yellow.  His shoes are so bright that they reflect light.  He gets comments everywhere we go.  People think he's cool.  He thinks he's cool too.  Until late at night, when self doubt gets to him.  I wish I could will his self doubt away.  
  • The Vita.  He got that for his birthday from family members who thinks he's awesome.  See, he had been saving for one for awhile.  But then for Mother's Day, he decided to spend all of his savings on a camera for me.  So my family all chipped in to buy him the Vita because they were so impressed with his generosity.  So was I.  And I remind him of it daily.  
  • Note the purple.  Not many boys will claim purple as their favorite color.  He does. Proudly.  This year he even put a streak of purple in his hair.  It was his "rebel without a cause" moment.  Sadly, that's against middle school dress code, so he has to grow it out.  This made him question authority and why they make up silly rules.  I tell him to respect authority and he does because he's a good kid, but really, it is a silly rule, and I don't fault him for calling them out on it.  
  • Yes, that is a whole box of cookies on his night stand. He was sick all week, so one of his friends brought him a box of cookies.  OK, actually, it went more like this.  "Hey, I'm sick. I want cookies."  So the friend went and got cookies.  (I wish I could get chocolate milkshakes delivered on command.)  He's not bossy.  He was sort of joking.  But see he's charming and a good friend.  (He did say thank you, by the way.)  He's also shy so he doesn't even realize how much people like him.  Some days when kids are being kids and he's in fight with his best friends, he claims he has no friends.  Now I can say, remember when you got a whole box of cookies from that guy.  People don't do that unless they're your friend.  
  • Finally, socks.  Yes, I said socks.  I find socks all over this house.  What is it with boys and socks?  That has absolutely nothing to do with his character.  Just a mom note.  
He's in a questioning stage of life.  Questioning everyone and everything.  Mostly himself.  But my hope is that if I keep telling him that he's great, maybe he'll survive middle school believing it.  Because he is.  He is one fantastic kid.  Sometimes I'm amazed that he's mine.  No matter how hard this middle school thing gets, I'll be right here to tell him that he can do it, even if he's convinced that he can't.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

This Is What Little Girls Are Made Of...

This bookshelf says a lot.  It may look like an overstuffed jumbled mess but it tells a story.  It's the story of where my girls are right now.  As I stopped by their room this morning to collect their laundry, I was struck by how much of who they are is explained by the things on this shelf.  I wish that I had taken more time to chronicle these things.   Because the bittersweet thing about having children is that they grow up.  And as they grow the shelf changes.  A doll today will be gone tomorrow replaced with something else meant to fit their changing personalities.  So today I'm pausing to write down who they are in this moment.  It's a twist on the normal "this moment" Friday post.  This moment is one I want to savor, for I know how quickly it will pass.  So let me tell you what's on the shelf.

  • Tumtum and Nutmeg: Adventures Beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn.  This book is simply lovely.  It has been our bedtime reading for the past month.  We're all very much caught up in the stories and all very much sad that we're nearly done.
  • Meet Kit: An American Girl 1934 . Analiese got Kit for her birthday this year.  She has begged for an American Girl doll for a few years now, but I had a hard time paying so much for a doll.  I finally broke down this year and bought the one she wanted.  Watching her love that doll has made it worth every penny.  And, an added bonus is that it opened up a new book series for both girls which makes me love it even more.
  • Dork Diaries  by Rachel Rene Russell.  Analiese has struggled for a while with reading.  She just wasn't a huge fan.  I felt like that was largely because she couldn't find books she liked.  And then we stumbled on the Dork Diaries and everything changed.  I was hesitant at first, for the same reason I was hesitant to let Chris read Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  It just seems so dumbed down.  But both series hit a comedic nerve with this age group.  And most importantly, it got my girl reading.  She has now discovered that she loves graphic novels.  Maybe its the artistic side of her merging art and reading.  I'm just glad she's reading.  I think she just needed a kick start with something she really enjoyed. 
  • Ivy and Bean.   Sicily has read every single book in this series at least three times.  She loves it!  Now she's started on The Boxcar Children and  Dragon Slippers  which she is loving.  Of the three sprites, she is the most likely to sit down and read for pleasure.  She just really enjoys reading.  Sometimes on Saturday mornings I find her sitting on her bed with a stack of picture books, reading through the whole pile.  Her favorites right now are Curious George (a long time favorite) and Berenstain Bears.  
  • Baby Beluga has been on our bookshelf for years.  It may seem a funny book to still keep around given the ages of my children but it has a funny magic to it that we can't get over.  When Chris began preschool at Montessori, his teacher would play the Baby Beluga song right before nap time.  I picked it up about that time and occasionally I would sing it to him at bedtime.  About the time Sicily came along, I began singing it to the girls at bedtime as well.  Now, many years later, when the girls are very tired, one of them will pull the book off of the shelf and ask me to sing Baby Beluga.  I've sung it to them the last three nights.  We are all very tired as the back to school schedule is starting to wear on us.  Last night, as I finished singing, I found the boy curled up, just about asleep, at the end of the girls' bunk bed.  He had crawled in silently when he heard the familiar melody from his room.  I'm telling you, the song is magical.  
  • Legos.  Every room in our house contains Legos.  Legos are just awesome.  They never get old.  We have recently starting purchasing the Friends sets, which are geared toward girls. Though the girls love the Creation sets as well.  That way the Friends can have fast cars and airplanes too.  I love seeing the creations that come out of those buckets of multi-colored bricks.  
  • Lalaloopsy.  Those funny little dolls are a hit with both girls.  They save up money just to buy new ones.   Each doll comes with a poster and those posters fill the walls of their room.  And to think, everyone thought those dolls looked so weird, if not a little creepy, when they first came out. 
  • Acting Out, a charades type game.  Dramatic girls need dramatic games.  Need I say more.  
  • And finally, a word about the giraffe.  Analiese won the giraffe at the fair this past weekend.  But she gave it to Sicily almost immediately.  Why?  Because, "she's sad that she didn't win anything. And I had fun playing the game so it's OK."  I thought it was a sweet sister moment.    Now it sits on the shelf for them both to share and remember a fun afternoon.
There's so much more that I could unpack on this bookshelf.  The Eiffel Tower, Strawberry Shortcake, other books, a bug microsope.  There's just so much there.  I fear I could go on for hours trying to describe every item.  But I feel I've hit the highlights so I'll leave the picture to tell the rest.  

It is a picture that captures this one moment in their lives.  Next month the shelf will look different.  New books will be the stars.  New animals will be put in the place of honor.  New Lego creations will be laid out before the books.  As parents we have to stop and capture these moments while we can.  Otherwise we'll turn around and they'll be gone with no record of their existence.  And time will wear down the memory so that we can't remember the special books and beloved toys and most importantly the story behind them.  This is why I take pictures of "stuff".  Events and holidays are certainly important photo-ops, but sometimes it's the daily stuff that tells the story that corresponds with the growing portraits of their beautiful faces.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Grey Days

I'm struggling to start this week.  And I know, it's a short week, having yesterday off.  But maybe that's it; the week feels stifled.  Maybe it's because I really don't like my class load this semester.  Maybe it's because I resituated myself back into being at home with my sprites this summer and I miss them.  Maybe it's because I've got the future on my mind and I'm staring at three different paths with no idea which one to choose.  Maybe it's the nearly autumn rain. Maybe it's all of those things.  Maybe it's none of them.

When I'm stuck in a melancholy lingering kind of mood I find my mind wandering to poetry.  I find myself wanting to pour over Frost, Browning, and Cummings.  I want to listen to moody well versed songs that strike a note within.  And I find myself drawn to the poet's and writer's world, reading articles and blog posts about shared melancholy, shared worlds.  I'm drawn to people who connect to the deeper soul part of me where my own verse lies waiting to pour forth.  This tendency points to the path I should take, though it's the hard, unprofitable one.  The path "less traveled" I suppose.  I'm told taken said path will make "all the difference"*, though I'm not so sure. Yet.  I'm sure more will reveal itself as we progress.

For now, though, I leave you with melancholy bits to linger on.  Come with me to a world of subtle colors and grey.  A place where we take "the weather so personally"**.  It's quietly muddled here.  Which can be a rather nice thing, if you let it.

1. Read:  What to do when you can't remember who you are.  by Sara Sophia.  Beautiful.

2. Read: When you're broken and don't know where to go by Ann Voskamp.  For moments when parenting seems an impossible task.

3. Watch.  Enjoy.  I love this song.  And the movie we all relate it to.  (As I type this my own "Cat" is sitting to the left of my keyboard, happily sleeping and purring away a perfectly grey day.)

*The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
** partial quote by J.D. Salinger

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Festival Fun

I'm a festival junkie.  I am.  I get a major high from the one thing that most adults hate.  Most adults, that I know anyway, hate everything that comes with a festival: the crowds, the heat, the noise, the expense.  I love it all.  Well, maybe not the expense.  But I'm willing to pay for my addiction.  I love the crowds, the noise, and even the heat rising off of the pavement.  It's all part of the late summer festival experience.  I love the community of it.  I love the sounds of the rides and the shrill cries of children as they fly through the air.  I love the the calls of the concession workers and the game operators.  I love the art for sale and the craft aisles.  Oh, and I love funnel cakes and fresh squeezed lemonade.  Throw in a parade and, well, I'm a very happy girl.  Really, you have to be seriously grumpy not to love a parade.  It's so much fun!

 Festivals are magical, in their own way.  They keep the child in me alive.  And because I am prone to fits of nostalgia, most often outside of my history, I only have to step foot on the midway to be pulled into the pure entertainment of early fairs.  Festivals recall a time long past when the fair coming to town was a really big deal.  It meant a break from hard work.  It was a novel form of escape.  A time when the Ferris Wheel really was magical, and a little scary, because no one had ever seen one before.  As we walk around, I see the street in sepia tones.  As I photograph our day I feel as though I can sense the emotions of a crowd long gone.  

And yes, I know that nothing about it is pure.  The rides, games, and food are over priced.  People are rude because they're tired and sweaty and overspent.  I know that the goal of the operators is to make you leave with empty pockets.  And we do.  But we also leave with cotton candy, lemonade, and maybe a prize or two, and the satisfaction of a fun afternoon spent as a family.  I guess it's all in how you see it.  You can see it all in black and white, good and evil.  Or you can see it in sepia-toned lightly processed shades of community.  People pulled together to cheer for veterans and fire trucks and marching bands.  Children delighted by simple pleasures.  And a day spent with friends and family in the late summer heat.   I prefer the latter.  I choose to live in the magic of nostalgia.   And my children have started to live there as well.  This morning, nothing was going to keep them from going downtown.  I'm OK with that.  I like our little family of festival junkies.  A day with them is a day very well spent.