One of the joyful advantages of some time off is that I’ve had a chance to use my nice camera. In fact, I bought a digital photography book and have been reading it. Another nice thing is I actually have time to pull the pictures off in a timely manner. So here is three days worth of pictures (over 450 before I weeded them!).
Fierce weather has cut a swath across this continent. Tonight it is touching down in my small Commonwealth – but so far distantly. Tonight, after the children were tucked in, I snuck up to our high attic to watch the lightening. It was truly a remarkable night for lightening. The sky flickered as though some distant celestial campfire threw shadows upon our darkened world – illuminating the spring-heavy trees and church steeples. The thunder was a constant rumble. The lightening I saw never touched down – it threaded across the sky like revealed veins in the encircling arms of the sky. But here, north and east of Boston, it seems not much more than a summer storm, ushering fast, cool winds.
The fifteen minutes I spent there, in a dark room watching lightening flicker ceaselessly, seems like the first quiet fifteen minutes I’ve had in about two weeks. It has been a busy stretch! When I think of all the things I’ve saved up to tell you – important things! – I feel nearly overwhelmed. And tonight I feel too poetic for bullet points. Last night I stayed up until 1:15 in the morning transcribing 18 pages of notes on the risks and mitigations of an ERP transition for a 9 hour meeting I attended. If I never see another brutally factual bullet point, it may be too soon.
So instead we will wander on together, long form.
First: my knee. When last we left our favorite joint, it was in dire discomfort. I checked that wall I so blithely jumped off again yesterday, and I must confess that it might be closer to five feet than the four I defended myself with. A week after the initial injury I met with an orthopedic surgeon, who got me to PT not 5 minutes later. Really. Remarkable. I did a few PT sessions, and now I’m quite certain that it was a bad sprain. Today, I managed to do several flights of stairs leading with BOTH legs. I even ran for a bit before I realized that was probably a bad idea. (But it was pouring!) I kneeled to pick up toys. I am pretty sure in two weeks there will be barely a twinge left. I’m going to try to actually get ahead of my pre-injured state with the PT sessions I have remaining though. This knee has never been quite as strong and capable as we might desire. But at this point, it is only hampering the most enthusiastic of my activities. (No 5K for me this weekend, not that I was planning on one!)
Second: it’s a darn good thing I was 90% mobile, as we went camping this weekend. At the time, I would’ve told you it was buggy, stressful and I was unsure of whether this was all worth it. It has only taken a few days to fade into lovely memories. How wonderful and odd our minds are to make it possible for us to enjoy things in retrospect that we did not enjoy at the time, or to forget pain and remember pleasure. One of those remembered pleasures was swimming. Our preferred campground, White Lake State Park boasts a lovely sandy beach offering access to a lovely mountain lake which is surprisingly warm, even in May. We went swimming three times, which is a pretty good ratio for so early in the season. Grey displayed significantly more water skill. Thane showed significantly more water-wariness (after recreationally attempting to drown himself constantly last year). I got to take some lovely swims out towards the middle of the lake, past the sight of inflatable alligators where all I could see were mountains, trees and water. Grey made a friend in the little boy at the next campsite. Thane did 1000 puzzles, just like he would’ve done at home. We also had a lovely “car walk” across the Kankamangus, down to Lake Winnepesaukee and back. I have concluded that the thing that would make camping super fun was if some of my friends came too, so we could tell tall tales around campfire. Unfortunately, my friends all seem to have either a) lake houses or access thereto or b) sense.
Third. It has come to my attention that my children are growing up too fast. I’d like to complain to the management, please! This morning was, truth be told, Kindergarten orientation. We went up to Grey’s to-be classroom and met his to-be classmates and to-be teacher. It is a lovely classroom, with books and colors and name tags. It is a place where I think he will be happy. The school is super duper. I mean, I went to FOUR elementary schools, and you could combine the enrichment features of all four of them and still end up short of this one. There’s a music room, and art room, a gym, a stage, a science room (seriously?!!?). They have onsite physical and occupational therapists. There is a school nurse and school psychologist. The library was large and friendly. There was a well equipped computer classroom. The children we saw all seemed to be engaged, having fun, learning, doing cool things. They were very friendly, welcoming the little kids to the school. It felt like a very healthy, happy place where the kids learned good things – and where there was room for them to be themselves. I am super-pleased, since this is just our local public school!
Then, when I picked Thane up, I got the word that he will be going to preschool next month. Indeed, he had apparently gone for a visit today, and his teachers had a hard time convincing him to come back to the Toddler 2 classroom. “He’s so ready” they told me. I know he is. I can’t argue. But sometimes I look at him and wonder where my little baby went. I can hardly see any traces of the infant in his determined features and flamboyant curls.
So while the accountant in me looks at these big changes and says “KACHING!” (because lo! Preschool + public Kindergarten < toddler care + preschool!), the woman in me, growing a little older, looks a little wistfully at how quickly her sons are wantonly abandoning their baby-hoods in preference for boyhood. I like babies. I was rather fond of my babies. I'm proud and pleased by the young men my sons are becoming, but I hope they don't feel the need to be too grown, too soon.
There you go – the momentous events of the last week and a half. Perhaps sometime I'll have the leisure and opportunity to post things that are NOT bare-bones updates… but we will all have to wait together for that moment.
I’m pretty sure I have several posts lined up in my mental list. Sadly, now (45 minutes before bedtime) on Sunday night when I finally have time, I’ll be darned if I can remember any of them. Isn’t that always the way? Ah well.
Easter was lovely. The weather was superb. The kids were incredibly cute and well behaved. I was in some of my finest trumpet form in years, and played some of the hardest repertoire I’ve attempted in quite some time. We went out to dinner tonight at a local restaurant, and then wandered around our local town square in the warm twilight. There was tag, the scent of magnolias, holding sticky sweet little hands, and an evening ending in ice cream. It was a delight.
I’m figuring this is the last time Grey will believe in the bringers of gifts: Santa, Easter Bunny. He wrote the Easter Bunny a note, “How do bunnies go across water?” he asked in it. He asked me if the Easter Bunny was real. I asked him what he thought. He pondered, and said that maybe it wasn’t a bunny, but a person who sneaks into our house to leave the gifts. I don’t invest a tremendous amount of my personal credibility in these myths, nor do I have them well constructed. I’m pretty sure Grey is at the “trying hard not to notice” stage.
Grey has been really awesome lately. I’ve had a lot of fun with him. The other night he decided to make a chocolate cake. He got out a recipe and all the ingredients. He needed some help with some techniques (greasing the pan, measuring fractions), but he did a remarkable amount of it himself. I was really proud of him. So I decided any kid working with flour regularly needs their own apron.
It’s surprisingly hard to find an apron for boys, but I managed:
Don’t boys play chef anymore? Sheesh.
We also have had our last swimming lesson of the winter. Grey started them in fall, and ever single Saturday morning has been spent with swimming lessons, followed by lunch, followed by aikido. However, Grey is staring down his first ever graduation: preschool. In July he will go to summer camp instead of preschool. And part of the YMCA summer camp is swimming lessons! So although Grey is not yet 100% independent in water, I figure we might just be able to get our Saturday mornings back. That would rock. I think Thane may be sad, though. He really liked their babysitting. And he has to be potty trained in order to do swimming lessons which… well, we’re nowhere close to that.
This summer camp sounds awesome. They have weekly field trips, go to swimming lessons, go to the town pool on another day, and play play play. I’m totally jealous. I’m also totally ready for him to be starting Kindergarten in the fall. I think we’re all ready and excited.
Thane has a little less going on, being two and all. He’ll move to transitional preschool this summer (yes, the sound you’re hearing is the “kaching!” going off in my head as the boys move to less expensive forms of child care….) His language is totally exploding. He’s putting together complicated sentences with unusual verb forms and complex structures. “You would have done it, mommy.” He likes to mimic his brother, who is remarkably tolerant about it. He has a 24 piece dinosaur puzzle he puts together over and over again, with remarkable dexterity.
My sweet Thane is a natural singer. He sings ALL THE TIME. He sings nursery rhymes. He sings folk songs. He sings while he puts the puzzles together. He sings at night. He sings in the morning. He sings the doxology before dinner (which he will refuse to eat). He sings Ring Around the Rosy. He sings “Star of the County Down” and “These are My Mountains”. I love his singing.
Grey and Thane are the best brothers you could possibly expect them to be … which is to say, not perfect, but they have a lot of fun together.
So that’s what’s going on over here. Hopefully this week I’ll find some time to remember what I was going to write about and write about it… but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
PS – I do remember one bit. I was actually in California for two days this week. That’s really surprisingly disruptive.
I’m still wrestling with what it means to be the mother of boys. I was always a tomboy growing up, so in many ways I suspect I’m more comfortable this way. I can backpack, paddle a canoe, pitch a tent, play trumpet, program computers, role-play, curse out the pitcher, lift heavy objects, and do stuff without fear of breaking my nails. I’ve always been a bit more comfortable in the guy’s world than the girl’s world. I still don’t wear makeup or nail polish regularly. I don’t dye or style my hair. It’s not that I’m incapable of being girly: I have an extensive jewelry and wardrobe collection, delight in sparkly gel pens, and cook up a storm in the kitchen. But, well, if I were a 19th century heroine who had to cut her hair, bind her breasts and pass as one of the guys, I think I’d do fine.
I’m finally completely comfortable with my own gender and it’s expression. I am who I am, and for the most part I like who I am.
But I’m responsible for helping to raise two young men. And guess what? There is no “default gender” that happens to be male. Just because my boys are boys doesn’t mean that there aren’t gender issues. I think it just means that we’re less likely to confront them.
A few examples.
Grey came home from daycare the other day, and told me that one of the girls at daycare said he couldn’t play with her toy, because it was a girl’s toy and he was a boy. She was probably right in a strict gender-divide definition. If you flip through the 900000 toy catalogs I get this time of year you can more or less mark each page as “boy”, “girl” or “neutral”. It takes maybe a second a page to determine this. The number of neutral pages is depressingly slim. In fact, for more fun, for each page note how many toys have BOTH boys and girls playing with them. There are the blocks. And, um, the blocks. Maybe. If they’re not divided into GI Joe and Hello Kitty colors.
So he wanted to a play with a friend’s toy, and was told he couldn’t because he was a boy and this was a girl’s toy.
I’m pretty sure that if someone had told me, even at four, that I couldn’t play with a toy because it was a boy’s toy and I was a girl, I would have told them to take a long walk off a short dock and promptly spent the next 3 weeks playing with nothing but that toy. (Man, parenting me must’ve been SO MUCH FUN.) At five my favorite night gown said, “Anything boys can do girls can do better”. In fact, if you want to know the #1 reason I became an excellent trumpet player, it was because I was consistently told by the boys around me that girls couldn’t play trumpet. There was only one way to prove them wrong.
Why would I consider it acceptable to make my sons accept gender constraints that would’ve infuriated me when I was a child?
So I told Grey that different people have different opinions, but I’m his mom. And I say that he can play with any toy that’s safe and fun, and that I don’t think there are girl toys and boy toys. And if he wants Shrinky-dink jewelry or a My Little Pony, I’m happy to put Santa’s money where my mouth is.
But… but but.
For one thing, so many of the girl’s toys are absolutely atrocious. Have you LOOKED at those? Fashion designer software. Dolls in 93 outfits of the same pink. (Try to find a boy baby doll appropriate for a 2 year old next time you have time to kill in a toy store.) Bratz. Makeup kits. Hair kits. It makes me, I confess, extremely glad to have boys when I flip through those pages.
And then there’s the bit where, like all mothers, I want my son to be accepted and have friends. I want him to be liked. I want him to feel comfortable in the world he inhabits. These things are much easier when you look and act “right” for how people expect you to be.
I recently read a blog entry (wish I could find it — I can’t — please pass on the link if you read it and remember! EDITED: Here it is — elapsed time for internet audience to find the answer = time it took to go to the bathroom) about a mom struggling with her son’s sincere wish to wear a dress to preschool, even if it meant that people teased him. I admired her pragmatism and courage. I admired his sense of self and determination. I was so grateful that it wasn’t me having to make those choices. So far, at least, Grey seems very comfortable being a boy and doing boy things.
But he’s not monolithic. He loves his pair of pink kitty cat pajamas. (He asked for them, and I said yes. Because why not?) The other day he wanted to try on one of my dresses (he hasn’t asked to since). He nurtures his stuffed animals with great solicitude. And sometimes he wants to play with the girl’s toys. He’s not yet afraid to be caught doing the “wrong” stuff — having a pink toy or a brush. I don’t want him to. I want him to look and say: is this fun? Will I enjoy this? I want him to have friends who are girls and friends who are boys.
And most of all, I want two things. When Grey does encounter someone (as he almost certainly will) who does not feel comfortable with the gender expressions assigned to them, I want him to see them as the person they truly are.
And finally, I want Grey to feel free to be the person his is.
I had an awesome weekend. It started Thursday night — we took Friday off. We stayed up late late late making lists and going shopping and packing stuff into the car for our first camping trip with the boys.
I love camping. I’ve loved camping for as long as I remember. I love exploring, and the fire. I love the sound of a zipper in the morning. I love pine needles in my breakfast and clear morning sunlight on the mountains. However, here in New England I haven’t known WHERE to go camping, we haven’t had all the gear we needed out here, and since Grey was born I’ve been too chicken to bring him out. Life is too short to not do things you love because you’re chicken, so I put a trip on the calendar this spring.
We went to White Lake State Park in New Hampshire. It was an excellent combination of facilities (nice bathrooms, a playground, a great beach with a lifeguard, an onsite canteen, etc).
On Friday morning, when the boys woke up at 6 am, we shoveled ourselves into the car and headed North. It was a beautiful drive, on one of the first warm days of the summer. We stopped at the Miss Wakefield Diner for second breakfasts, and were still at the campground by like 10 am.
We had a ball. I’d bought a new tent, which turned out to be absolutely enormous. It was more than big enough for a Pack-and-play, two grownups, and a cuddly three year old. The lake was really quite warm for this early in the spring. Grey had a wonderful time swimming. I got floaters for both boys, and Thane seemed to really enjoy swimming too. After we were done with water play, there was sand to be dug into. Naps didn’t really happen, sadly, so our nature walk around the lake was a little more contentious than I’d have hoped. (Grey was tired. Adam and I were TIRED. Thane was sleeping on my back.)
That night we had a great campfire (bragging alert: I got the fire started with one piece of newspaper, with the same match I used to light the mosquito lantern). We roasted hot dogs and made s’mores. We sat and stared at the coals of the fire. It was everything a night in the woods should be.
Around midnight the rain started. This would usually be a sign that camping was about to stop being fun, but we’d put away pretty much all of our gear before retiring, we’d put a tarp over the tent, and the tent proved to be far more water-tight than our old tents were. So the several hours of rain ended up being pretty much a non-entity.
To sum up: camping was really really fun and I want to go again SOON!
But we had to get back home because Grey’s final dance recital was 5 pm on Friday. Grey has been going to dance classes all year. He’s been good about going, although he doesn’t talk about it much. I think he did it and was ok with it, but definitely didn’t love it. The recital kept getting more and more complex. We had to pony up $55 in OCTOBER for a costume that turned out to be a very crappy, Halloween-style tuxedo. There was the Sunday morning lineup to buy tickets to the rehearsal. The tickets were pricey ($20), and they said we’d need to buy them even for Grey if we wanted him to watch any of the recital. Group pictures were $15. A dvd of the performance was $45. They sold bouquets, including bouquets of lollipops which made Grey feel like dancing = entitled to sweets. Then there was a dress rehearsal at 4 pm on a Wednesday, which required massive coordination to make happen. The upside was that Grey did a great job. He looked really cute. He worked hard and paid attention. I’m sure he learned some important things in the classes. But he didn’t love it. Thank heavens. I hated the whole circumstances of the recital, and I’m relieved never to be doing THAT again.
I loved camping. I didn’t love the dance class. Perhaps it’s just as well I’m a mother of boys!