The trumpet shall sound

I was strictly rationed on how many pictures I got during the rental.
I was strictly rationed on how many pictures I got during the rental.

In my imagined version of what it would be like to raise children, those children picked up where I had left off with music. They loved to sing before they could even talk. When I introduced early piano lessons, they spent hours dedicated to wringing skill out of their fingers. They practiced guitar until their fingers were red.

Those were not the children I got. They sing – but only when no one can hear. Practicing was a huge struggle when we tried it. They just weren’t ready.

In first grade, arguments about practicing guitar were frequent and unpleasant.
In first grade, arguments about practicing guitar were frequent and unpleasant.

Now with music, there are different entry points. The world class violinists start at 3 or 4. The pianists 5 or 6. Even Thane is probably too old to be world class in some instruments. But… a child is physically too small to play a brass or wind instrument until they’re around 10, which is perfect since that’s much closer to the age at which a (normal) kid is more ready to spend long term focus working on a remote goal. (Well, at least my kids.) So although I’ve watched that particular parental daydream disappear – along with any girl-daydream and my quiet dark-haired poet daydream – I prefer my actual real children over my daydreams.

But my parents thought I was not very musical after years of piano lessons in which I didn’t really focus or practice or excel. And then I hit trumpet and the world was a new and beautiful place and music took a central place in my life. So, there is hope.

And then, last Tuesday, a huge moment came. Instrument rental night. My last best hope for a child to follow in my musical footsteps.

A boy and his new trumpet. OMG.
A boy and his new trumpet. OMG.

Now, I tried really, really, really hard not to make this too big a deal for Grey. I casually asked if he wanted to do band. (Please note: band is at 4 pm on Monday afternoons. School gets out at 2:20. So I had to switch Grey’s afterschool to school afterschool instead of Y afterschool on Mondays to make this work. SO MANY LOGISTICS. What a terrible time for a working parent!) Then I lightly inquired if he’d thought about what instrument he wanted to play.

“I want to play trumpet!” – words every parent wants to hear.

When asked why, there were many answers. “It only has three buttons! It’s the easiest!” “I love how it sounds.” Then in a quiet, vulnerable moment… “Because I want you to be proud of me.”

Ah. How clearly our children see us. It breaks my heart a little that my son is searching for ways to win my approval, as though it is some elusive and difficult substance. But yet… he is right. I cannot stop my heart from glowing that he picked my instrument. He’s asked me to teach him, and begged me for lessons every night since. I am not sure I have ever seen him more excited than he was the night we went to get his instrument. “I’m not actually sure I’ve been more excited myself, mom.”

I hear him working his way through to “Hot Cross Buns”. I remember a little girl on her front porch, some 27 years ago, doing the same. And I can only hope that he has as much joy of his instrument as I had and still have of mine.

Welcome to brass, my son.

First trumpet lesson: posture and hands
First trumpet lesson: posture and hands

Enjoy some pictures of both King Richard’s Faire and rental night!

I want to ride my bicycle

New bike
New bike

I rode my bike a lot as a kid. This was back in another era, where a 2nd grader’s primary form of transportation was not “mom” but “myself”. I had the most beautiful wine-red Schwinn – with gears! I loved that thing dearly. I remember registering it with the police, somberly. (I mean, who wouldn’t want to steal that glorious machine?!)

That bike and I went all over town – to the roller rink, the swimming pool (often), Bonanza 88 (home to things I could actually afford on my allowance). We went to friends houses and parks. All this while I was younger than Grey is now. I remember once when Heidi and I went to the Tri-Cities for a ride on a bike path. There was a key issue which resurfaced several times in my childhood regarding my sister’s complete lack of navigational skills. (Ask me about the time we went to Tumwater when we were attempting to go to Tukwila.) The upshot was that 9 year old Brenda and 11 year old Heidi were massively lost miles and miles from home on our bikes in a pre-cellphone era. I remember being very thirsty and hot. You’ll be glad to hear that we did finally reconnect with our parents at some point.

It got harder when we moved to Mineral. NOTHING was a block away from our first house – it was over a mile to Dick’s store. And once you did that mile there was… Dick’s Store. It’s more like 6 – on steep hills with no shoulders and logging trucks – to the next interesting thing to do. Which was Elbe – not high on the list of interesting. My interest in my wine-red Schwinn waned as my interest in the dark, loamy forest paths waxed.

When I was maybe 13 my sister got in a near-fatal bike accident. I failed to understand the gravity, and made fun of her mummy-like bandages. She would likely have died without a helmet. As it was, I permanently lost my “stitches” competition with her, as she had scars across her face. (Happily, they are not -much- there now.) And that was pretty much the last time I rode a bike. I didn’t really realize it. There wasn’t a moment where I looked at my bike and thought “I’m never getting on THAT death-trap again!” I just didn’t have cause to ride. And so I didn’t.

At my college graduation, my parents offered to buy me an espresso machine. This was a brilliant idea, as I’ve never met a more caffeinated person than myself. Being eminently practical, I asked for a bike instead. I had two months that summer at the college with no transport, working on the college website. And summer at college is entirely different than college at college. I did ride my bike to get groceries, but uneasily. Nervously. Since that summer, it has sat unused in a variety of basements. (I actually got it all tuned and ready to go days before I busted my knee!)

Practice circles
Practice circles

But now my sons are nine and six. Next spring they break ground on the bikeway. Grey already has a small measure of independence but longs for more. In 15 months he’ll be going to middle school – and I have no intention of driving him there. On a bike, a kid from Stoneham can get to a pool, a forest, parks galore, a lake, the soccer fields, golf courses … the world within 5 miles of our house is wide and varied and wondrous. Even if they never take advantage of that liberty, I can’t quite imagine sending a young adult into the world who doesn’t know how to ride a bike, even if they don’t choose to do so. So the last few weeks I’ve been sneaking into parking lots with the kids, attempting to teach them.

Thane doesn’t have training wheels, and is still crashing and burning all the time. (Which is not fun.) Therefore I am spending a lot of time running behind him holding on to him. (Also not fun.) He’s gone two or three pedal strokes, but is not there yet.

But Grey… this last week Grey got it. He’s been able to kind of go 20 feet without falling down for a year or so. But he couldn’t get himself started, or turn, or you know… ride. But this weekend, he figured out how to start from a stop. He’s gone in circles and circles around the buildings. He can stop gracefully. My heart sang at the pride in his face, and enjoyment. “Mom, can we go bike riding tonight?”

On Saturday, Grey and I will go to the Breakheart Reservation and try out the bike trails there. I’m not sure who I’m more nervous for – him or me. But I am sure it’s going to be awesome!

Meme teaching Thane
Meme teaching Thane

Like a hole in his head

I sent a perfectly intact child to school this morning. The kid I came home to has a hole in his head!

He’s flawed! Flawed I tell you!

As if I don’t have enough angsty change to deal with, with one of my sweet little babies turning nine, one of my sweet little babies starting Kindergarten, and now a missing tooth! It’s like the universe is trying to tell me that I don’t have any babies, I have boys!

Thane swallowed his tooth. (Rookie move.) I tried to convince him that the tooth fairy would just operate on him in his sleep (he still clearly totally buys the whole tooth fairy thing), but he insisted that his stomach acid would dissolve the tooth. How can a kid be so smart and yet so gullible?

He wrote a note to the tooth fairy, in lieu of the tooth. Being that he’s in his third week in Kindergarten, it’s pretty unreadable. As far as I can tell it says, Dear Tooth Fairy, I lost my too-th. It fell out and I don’t know where my lost tooth is.” He said he wrote it in bands like a rainbow, only this was three bands and rainbows have seven. I think the green thing is a picture of the tooth. I promise that the actual tooth was not green at the time of loss.

Accepted as legal tender by tooth fairies everywhere.

Kindly disregard this letter

It was almost a month ago that I made the journey north to New Hampshire to pick up my son from Camp Wilmot. I had to get up crazy early in the morning for a Saturday, like 7 am, but I was so eager to see my son again – to hear how it had gone – that I was markedly less grumpy than you would expect. (I am _not_ a morning person.)

Grey and one of his bunkmates
Grey and one of his bunkmates

I arrived at the camp just a bit early – just like I had been to drop him off. Sure sign of a noobie parent a little anxious about her first-born, I think. Grey was just headed up the hill as I pulled in and I got the biggest, completest, least “hey-that’s-not-cool-my-friends-are-watching” hug ever. I breathed in deeply as I held him tight, and felt that all was well. (Happily this might be less dangerous than you think as daily trips to the lake nicely negated the complete neglect evidenced by the optimistic soap I’d put in his dopp kit.) He introduced me to some friends, and I gathered his belongings and watched the “Purple cabin” clean up the firepit before we all settled into the cafeteria for the closing ceremonies.

They started with a flash from the past. The campers and counselors did “Energizers” familiar to prior generations of Christian campers. I was amazed that “Star Trekkin'” – not an obviously Presbyterian tune – was as popular 25 years later and 3000 miles away as it was in the Presbytery of Olympia in my youth. The spirit moves in truly mysterious ways. I watched Grey, my eyes hungry for him. (Constantinope and Star Trekkin here ) He was in the penultimate row, hidden behind the much taller, more confident kids in front of him. I’m used to Grey being the biggest one – the oldest in our group of friends, the tallest in any portrait. On this day, he was the baby, unsure, learning, in the back. He was circled gently by a loving ring of twice-his-height counselors and I could tell by how they all moved together that these young men had helped Grey through what I know was a challenging week for him. I watched my son slightly out of synch and a step behind the others (an unusual spot for him) and wondered what he’d say to me when we got in the car and he was ready to talk.

There was some song singing (unfamiliar to me – I stopped listening to Christian Pop with Amy Grant) and then they launched in on a photomontage of the week. A number of the kids had opted for photography lessons, and to the accompaniment of more Christian pop I didn’t recognize. I was terribly grateful for this chance (never offered to my parents) to see his week through the eyes of his fellow campers. (Best of all, the CD of the pics was for sale. WIN!) Grey didn’t show up until about 20 in, and in the early pictures he looked shy. But as the pictures went on, he started to show up more – in the funny outfits, kayaking, hiking (an area where he apparently distinguished himself).

He fell, exhausted, into the car after all the goodbyes had been said. He had seemed very reserved, but passionately wanted a t-shirt, and the pictures. His counselors told me he’d been great.

“So what do you think?” I asked, heart in my throat.

“I can’t wait to go back next year! Man, I’m soooooo tired!”

It was exactly what I hoped to hear.

Here are some of the fast facts I’ve been able to wrest out of him:

  • They stayed up until past ten every night. The night they stayed up to see the stars, it was 11.
  • Archery was his favorite part.
  • He’s totally going back next year.
  • The food was the best, especially the BBQ chicken the first night
  • They had a wacky clothes day. He crazily wore his SOCKS on his HANDS.
  • We did this one hilarious skit …. and then we said, “oh no, a horsefly!” and pretended to panic. It was soooo funny!
  • Also, horseflies are a near-mortal peril
  • He wasn’t a fan of the Scottish country dancing. “It was ok I guess”. I was jealous.
  • The worship didn’t seem to make a big impression on him, but he liked some of the music. I have NO IDEA what songs/artists they were listening to, so I haven’t been able to spring it on him. Anyone know what was likely?

    Since he came home, Camp Wilmot has been sprinkled sparingly in his conversation. A note about what Ethan said once. This hilARIOUS skit they did. How much he liked the food. How he can totally stay up later than this. I asked him, tonight, what I should tell you about Camp Wilmot.

    “Tell them” he said “That Camp Wilmot is a great place to go if you want to make friends. If you need some time alone, they give it to you. If you need some help, they’re there. If you want fun, there’s tons of fun. Tell them they will like Camp Wilmot!”

    Consider yourself told.

    Grey handles a kayak
    Grey handles a kayak
    Grey on ropes
    Grey on ropes
    Scottish dancing - that's what you get for being Presbyterian my son!
    Scottish dancing – that’s what you get for being Presbyterian my son!
    How goofy can you get? (The glasses came home safely)
    How goofy can you get? (The glasses came home safely)
    Bunkmates with dirty faces
    Bunkmates with dirty faces
    Crazy clothes
    Crazy clothes
    A happy camper
    A happy camper

    PS – I notice he’s wearing the same shirt in all these pictures. In at least one of the pictures, he’s wearing a different shirt. What I don’t know for a fact doesn’t hurt me, right? Maybe these pictures were all on the same day, right? Right?

  • First, first, first day of Kindergarten

    My firstborn son went to his first day of his first year of school. I have been anticipating this day for, oh, about 6+ years now. There’s trepidation and excitement: will he love school like I did? Have I taught him the right amount of the right things? Did I do everything I was supposed to do in order to do this first handoff? From now on, he will have to choose to do the things he is supposed to do, and I’m just the supporting cast.

    The first day of Kindergarten was a big day for me.

    SOME parents don't get surly faced kids until Middle School!!!
    SOME parents don't get surly faced kids until Middle School!!!

    Not for him. You could almost hear the “yeah yeah” as he happily ran ahead of me to the door. He tried to convince me that I could just drop him off. That I didn’t have to come in. That he was FINE thanks mom! There was, I think, a brief rolling of eyes when I held out my hand. He spotted his teacher and whoosh! He was gone – pausing only to give me a high-five on his way out the door.
    Can you spot the Grey?
    Can you spot the Grey?

    The other parents and I looked at each other and shrugged. I guess that was it. My neighbor gave me a hug.

    All day I wondered how it was going. Was he having fun? (More fun than I was having, I’d warrant!) Was he starting off on the right foot? Was anyone making fun of him or his lunch or anything?

    When I picked him up from afterschool care, I asked how the day had gone. “Awesome!” He filled us in on the details: they play music at lunch, they played a fighting game in computer class, gym was his favorite part (a candy-filled pinata seemed to influence that decision), a kid had bullied him but the situation had been quickly and favorably resolved (I am having particular trouble figuring out what really happened with this one), all his friends had a great day too.

    So Kindergarten, one day in, two thumbs up.

    Lincoln and Grey lining up to go upstairs
    Lincoln and Grey lining up to go upstairs

    Milestones

    There are moments when, all of a sudden, your place in life lurches forward.

    Tonight, for the first time, Thane used the toilet for the purpose it was intended. Twice. Let the record show that he is 2 1/4, and bribed with lollipops. (Actually, I made it a joint endeavor and bribed both him AND Grey so that I wouldn’t deal with melty Grey when Thane got a treat and he didn’t, and so that Grey would have a motivation to help potty train his brother.)

    My sweet Thane boy seems so far from a baby, sometimes.

    And then, tomorrow morning? I’m going to go to South School and sign my eldest up for Kindergarten in the fall. Which, I must admit. It seems well PAST time for him to be in Kindergarten. But still! School!

    Brothers in PJs
    Brothers in PJs

    Brothers in scarves
    Brothers in scarves

    Kindergarten Registration

    My son, Grey
    My son, Grey

    Today I am filling out forms for Grey’s Kindergarten registration in the fall. I’m pretty sure what I’m supposed to be feeling is How fast the time flies! It seems like he was a baby just yesterday! It can’t possibly already be time for my preshus snowflake to go to school, can it? What I really feel like is You have got to be kidding me. Kid was more than ready THIS fall. It seems like he’s been a big, grownup-person forever… you sure he was actually a baby? Really? Huh, go figure. In point of fact, Grey is five and has been for several months now. He missed the cutoff by four weeks this year.

    To say it succinctly: I’m ready. He’s ready. Let’s do this Kindergarten thing.

    Since Grey will be attending public schools, I figured that Kindergarten would be my payola — the moment where huge chunks of change returned to my budget. Currently, child care is a bigger cost for us than our mortgage. And we live within 10 miles of Boston in a 4 bedroom house. This is to say… it is a not inconsiderable expense. So Kindergarten will be huge savings, right? Right?

    It turns out that while there is free part day Kindergarten, ALL DAY Kindergarten costs money. $3500 to be exact. Ok, so that’s really not bad. It’s like 3 months of preschool. BUT, we’ll have to have after-school care. That (including transportation) is $500 a month. Oh, and remember school vacations? Those end up costing $56/day. So do snow days. So…. yeah. Not really saving anything there. First grade. First grade will be the payola…

    Returning to the pastel nostalgia of Kindergarten! School! My child’s entree into education! I’m pretty excited. I think Grey is superbly prepared for it. The sitting still problem will be his biggest challenge of Kindergarten, as it is for so many energetic young children. I’m slightly concerned that his reading ability will pose some challenges for his classroom, but I figure we all have to worry about something, and that’s a good something. I will NOT accept from him complaints about being bored. In that case, the thing he’ll need to learn from his classroom is how to deal with boredom in a productive way. That’s a super-useful life skill that will come in handy in adulthood.

    I had meant this to be a chance to talk about Grey, and how much fun he is. Because he’s super duper awesome. It was really fantastic to get to spend lots of time with him at Christmas. He’s got an active imagination and a wide repertoire of blowing-up noises. He can be tenderly solicitous (he likes to make little Lego “babies” which he says are “so cute!”). He can also be very rough and tumble. Over Christmas, he spent considerable time with his 8 year old cousin, and barring a few hungry/tired related meltdowns, he did an excellent job of keeping up with his cousin.

    Keeping up literally and figuratively
    Keeping up literally and figuratively

    If you ask Grey what his favorite things are, he will tell you “Screens”. And he’s probably right. Although we attempt to limit screen time, Grey loves cartoons and tv, his DS (he only gets to play in the car/on airplanes/when we really need him to), Wii, the iPad, the computer and all manner of screens. At Christmas, I confess, there was significant brain-rottage.
    Rotting his brain with his cousin
    Rotting his brain with his cousin

    It’s hard to capture the unfolding complexity of your child. He is striving desperately to tell funny jokes, poring over joke-books to try to figure it out. He is surprisingly patient and sweet to his younger brother… most of the time. They created this new game he calls “Ready Freddy” which involves hiding, having your brother find you, then screaming and running away to do it again. He likes to read, but usually only when there’s no more alluring option. He loves Legos and Bakugan and Pokemon cards. He could care less about cars and isn’t wildly interested in art or drawing, although he really likes mazes. He insists on having music playing at night while he goes to sleep. He sleeps with all his stuffed animals piled on his bed and makes special accommodations for Tigry and Puppy. He can play Blokus with actual strategy.

    I find myself having more and more things I WANT to do with Grey. I want to play games with him. I want to take him to see the movies. I want to take him shopping with me. (He begged to go grocery shopping with me this last week and did a phenomenal job!) I want to read him books. I want to teach him how to ride a bike.

    It’s much harder with younger children. I sometimes look at Mr. Two Year Old and think… “What do I DO with you?” But I can play with Grey in a way that’s fun for me, too.

    He’s a fun kid. I’m glad he’s mine.

    Also, I want Santa-riding-rocketship pajamas!
    Also, I want Santa-riding-rocketship pajamas!

    OK, I should probably disclaim that I have bronchitis and am hopped up on 300% more drugs than usual… usually I just abuse caffeine. So in case this doesn’t actually have any narrative structure (I, um, have my doubts) here are some bonus pictures to make you forget!

    Beautiful blue eyes. He's probably asking if he can have more candy/screens/presents.
    Beautiful blue eyes. He's probably asking if he can have more candy/screens/presents.

    Snuggling angelically with daddy
    Snuggling angelically with daddy

    Playing Bakugan with his cousin.
    Playing Bakugan with his cousin.

    I took a gazillion shots of this scene and they were all lousy.
    I took a gazillion shots of this scene and they were all lousy.

    He rearranged the icons on Grandma's iTouch and she almost didn't forgive him!
    He rearranged the icons on Grandma's iTouch and she almost didn't forgive him!