Thursday, August 28, 2014

adventures of donna and wilson; the wedding

last weekend we celebrated a wedding--and i was not the photographer! instead i chased my four children around. it was hard work. harder than being the photographer. next time, i think i'll just be the photographer.

seth was the ringbearer and ava and kate were the flower girls. they all did their jobs fairly well. seth did his job and immediately took off his boutonniere and his suspenders, untucked his shirt and sat down with a flop. "is this wedding almost over?" he groaned loudly.

this wedding was amazing. so gorgeous. when a link appears with pictures of the actual wedding i'll post a link and you can see. all i've got right now is the photos i took of my kids:
my brother david with a baby who suddenly only wants me
pretty flower girl
my cousin cameron's little girl, isabelle, with kate
my dad and his girlsfriend, shauna

james eating with his tie over his shoulder. the guy means business!
the sweetest ringbearer i ever did see
introduction to champagne flutes
my couisn grace, a bridesmaid, and kate

us! by my cousin jay

my cousin rachel with sarah

isabelle, jill, kate and ava
camera selfie. hooray for couple photos!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

first day of school! first day of school!

ava in third, seth in we go!

Monday, August 25, 2014

happy birthday, seth

a fan of  getting his photo taken, i see
dear seth,

on saturday you turned six years old. it was a bit of a crazy day for us, since my cousin wilson was getting married and you were the ring bearer. so i sang to you softly because you woke up before everyone else and then we ate a big bowl of cinnamon square cereal for breakfast--you're favorite. you had two. because it really is your favorite. 

seth, you are six. i can hardly believe it, but when i wrap my arms around you and try to lift you up i know it must be because suddenly your body is so heavy, so hard to lift! and i have to try so hard just to get you onto my lap, a place, by the way, that you used to fit perfectly and used to use often, now you are too big and a little uncomfortable. finding a place to rest isn't as easy. usually you end up finding a place for only a little while, then slipping off to do something else. like hang out with kate. you two are such good buddies. i'm talking hours and hours of playing here. you and ava are, too, but kate is so desperate for your attention i think she's more willing to play whatever you want to play. ava's a little pickier. you and kate mostly get along well. sometimes things get a little rough. sometimes she gets a little too close to the shelf of special lego things you've built and you just scream, "NOOOO!!!!" like we're in some lord of the rings movie. 

recently we discovered your allergy to bees. and corn, actually, which i don't understand and it'll take another visit to the allergist to figure that one out. anyway, we were at the splash park in oak park when you stepped on a bee on your way to the car. within minutes your body was swollen and covered in hives. your lips were huge! your eyes were nearly shut! we discovered this all while i was driving, trying to keep one eye on the road and the other on you in the rear-view mirror. you looked scared. i was scared. we were 15 minutes away from the nearest hospital and 30 away from the hospital that accepts our insurance. i didn't know what to do. i knew that severe bee allergies seemed often to mention the throat swelling up and breathing to stop so i called 9-1-1 for help, ending up outside a bank waiting for the ambulance. i held you in my arms, my hands running along your hives, looking into your eyes for any new signs of fear, and listening to your breath. you were getting sleepy, trying to rest your head in my lap, closing your eyes, telling me you just wanted to sleep...and the ambulance arrived. thank goodness. i laid you out on the gurney, you managed to wake up and look around (apparently ambulances and fire trucks are much more interesting than your mom) and tell the paramedic your name. then they whisked you off. i couldn't go with you. i had to drive the three little girls somewhere and meet you at the hospital. it killed me to send you away by yourself. i got to the hospital 25 minutes later, having sat in some traffic that made me feel like ripping my hair out, and you...were just fine. the benadryl they gave you in the ambulance kicked in quickly and so effectively i am in awe. your swelling was down considerably, your hives were already faint. i grabbed your hand through the slots in the hospital bed and sat on the floor...and tried not to throw up. in an hour you were sent home with a handful of prescriptions. next time, seth, we'll have the epi-pen. next time we'll be ready. but seth, i hope there is no next time. i never want to see you like that again.

this summer you had a big, fat lightbulb go off over your head in the pool. and now, you swim. you're amazing, of course. and you love to dive! my favorite pool is the ymca because of the large shallow section and all of the toys and fins they have for you to use. we get there, you strap on some fins, grab a torpedo shaped diving toy and head out. for hours. i don't think i've heard you volunteer to leave before i was ready once. you are a swimming machine. 

you love legos, star wars, lego star wars, the lego star wars game on my ipad (and all summer you were more than willing to read for 30 minutes to earn your screen time minutes. no complaints!), projects at the dining room table with paper, scissors, markers and the stapler, hikes and other sorts of adventures and your scooter. you're an active, fun kid, seth. and we love you. you bring a peace to our family, a connection. your silliness is warm, your sensitivity a gentle reminder to be kind, and your passion for justice helps us to be fair. 

happy birthday. 



Thursday, August 21, 2014

what we read, summer edition

favorite books we read together this summer:

1. the voyage of the dawn treader by cs lewis. you know those star wars geeks who know everything about all the characters and have opinions on everything and you hear them and it's both amazing and a little bit scary? that's me and the narnia books and i'm okay with that. Reading these has been beyond fun. And they are ALWAYS good. 

2. flora and ulysses by kate dicamillo. we read tale of despereaux not to long ago, which was, of course, so unbelievably good, and flora and ulysses was even better. or at least equally good. the vocabulary is tremendous, it's clever,  there are little comic book strips here and there. ava and i put together a puzzle while ryan read and kate "helped" by "sorting" pieces into piles.  

3. heidi by tomi ungereer. ava and i read this together, sometimes with an enormous bowl of popcorn and sometimes a bag of m&ms. this was a favorite as a child and one i've been holding on to for a really long time. i love reading with my children. 

up next: 
the magician's elephant by kate dicamillo
peter pan by jm barrie
black beauty by anna sewell (horses. duh)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

the village

we're getting ready for school around here. this means i sit on amazon more than normal and order big boxes full of reams of copier paper and colored pencils. yes, school supplies are fresh, organized and color coordinated, but also extremely dull. i feel a thrill of excitement when i see them all lined up, promising all kinds of efficiency. a new leaf will turned this year, i vow. this year will be the year. i mean it this time. but i also feel a very familiar feeling of exhaustion. this? again? weren't we just here? and wasn't i exhausted because of it?

last year seth turned five only two days before his first year of school started. he was the youngest in his class. scholastically, he did well. he loves school. he loves fresh paper and rules and learning. school suits a big part of his personality. but he also didn't do really well. he was self conscious. he was overwhelmed by the classroom experience. at recess, when the time was free he tried to stay in the classroom, oftentimes connecting with a yard duty and spending the time with her. when everyone was doing jumping jacks in PE, or learning a dance for a program, seth felt self conscious and refused to participate. if he felt he had disappointed his teacher, he hid under a table and cried.

"he's a little too young," his teachers said, "we think he should probably repeat kindergarten again."

i knew this was an option going in, and i was open to it, but when those words were said to me, i have to admit that my first reaction was a critical the direction of the teacher, not the child.

no, i thought. he'll mature.a lot can happen in six months. they don't know seth the way i do. they don't know what he's like at home. he's doing just fine with the schoolwork! is there a hidden agenda here?

there wasn't. and those teachers were right. everyday i dropped seth off with his teachers for five hours. and for five hours they taught him. he came home with songs about numbers, activities revolving around letters, timelines, art projects and homework. he learned things. he loved it. and he missed a lot of it. he worked slowly, he was easily distracted. he wasn't confident.

when i sat down with his teachers again in april, i resisted what they were saying. i wanted to tell myself everything was going to be okay, that it would all even out. that these teachers didn't know who they were talking about--i did. i was his mother. i knew him better than anyone else. he was smart, he was funny, he was capable.

there was a moment when i had to stop myself and ask, am i worried about seth? or am i worried about me?

and then the truth hit me full force, right in my gut: it was me. when they said seth wasn't quite ready for school, i heard them telling me that i should have known that. that a good mother would have held on to him for another year. that a good mother wouldn't have forced him into a situation he wasn't ready for. and instead of admitting to anything i wanted to tell them they were wrong.

i left that day feeling awful. i went home and hugged seth long and hard (he didn't like it and wiggled out of my arms). i felt like i had failed him. i hadn't sent him where he was prepared to go and wasn't that my job? wasn't i supposed to provide this child with the tools to make a successful human being and my first test of functionality- the kindergarten classroom, had failed. i wanted to beg for forgiveness, i wanted desperately to receive it.

really, there was nothing to do but this: say a prayer and realize that this whole parenting thing is not a one-man band. you know that saying "it takes a village"? well, seth needed a village. and seth's village was trying to weigh in and help me out and i was refusing to listen to them because i didn't want to feel like i had done anything wrong. but guess what? IT WASN'T ABOUT ME. no one was sitting around criticizing my parenting because NO ONE WAS THINKING ABOUT ME. they were thinking about seth. what was he like? what were his strengths? what were his weaknesses? what did he need?

i am seth's mother. it is my job to raise him. that means i need to feed him, and i need to clothe him. i should provide some shelter and i should teach him how to be kind, how to do the right thing. but what seth ends up doing, what seth is capable of doing, is out of my control. if seth is too young for school then he is too young for school. if seth needs to be six years old for kindergarten it's not because i didn't hold him enough as a baby or make him eat enough broccoli as a toddler. it's because seth is seth. and he will benefit from a year's worth of maturity before conquering kindergarten. and those teachers? they weren't hiding an agenda or writing seth off as a child or me off as a parent. they were trying to help seth. and if i didn't chill out seth was going to miss out on someone else in his village giving him a hand.

being a mother is really hard. mostly because it messes with your head. most of the time i feel like it messes with my head while also depriving me of sleep. i cry, and most of the time the tears i'm shedding are related to my motherhood. sometimes i laugh because my only two options are to laugh or cry and i scare the children when i cry. so i laugh. and it ends up being frightening anyway and that is SO motherhood: to do something thinking it'll be better and only to find out it's a total mess anyway and you just have to live with it.

so this year, three days after turning six, seth will give this whole kindergarten thing a whirl, one more time. and i will try to remember that my children are humans, separate from myself. i can not base my success on their success. not everything is capable of the same thing.

and also, it's going to be okay. i have a village.

here's to school year 2014-2015.