Thursday, February 13, 2014

Friends who make you happy

Friends of ours are moving away on Friday. While my first instinct in these situations is to cross my arms, dig in my heals, stick out my lower lip, and refuse to enable yet another departure of people we like and haven’t had nearly enough time with, the adult in me eventually regains control, offering assistance in whatever way I can provide it.

This week that means lots of extra playtime for Aidan with his bestest of best friends, Charlotte. Her little brother will be joining us this afternoon as well, while Van, the harried mom who is one wrong look away from losing it (a PCS state of being I am all too familiar with), gets her house clean, suitcases organized, and finds a new place to stay after a surprise hotel cancellation left them sleeping on a borrowed air mattress in the middle of their empty house last night.

I am well-practiced in the art of saying goodbye. I have to be with this highly-transient lifestyle. Sometimes, it isn’t goodbye so much as, see you at another base somewhere down the line, as is the case with several of my friends in Hawaii, originally met during different assignments. Mostly though, the personal relationships I develop are carried forward through Facebook, Christmas cards, and the occasional email or text, just checking in.

As Aidan gets older, he is developing friendships on his own, outside of the playdates I set up for him with moms I like who happen to have kids his age. He established connections in Charlottesville that I’m still hearing about (Will the real “My Corey” please stand up?) but not necessarily local friends solely of his own choosing. Hawaii has been different.

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While riding to school earlier this week, Aidan announced, in a sad little voice from the backseat : Mama, Charlotte moves on Friday. Mama, when Charlottes leaves I’m going to be sad. I’d been expecting this and replied in my most sympathetic voice: I know, Honey. It’s okay to sad. I’m going to be sad too. We can be sad together. What I wasn’t expecting was his response: Mama, I’m not going to have any friends ever again.

And with that, the mundanity of our morning commute became a minefield to navigate, simultaneously trying to safely traverse the road while reassuring my 3-year-old son that life was not over. That there would be other friends, now and later. That different friends make us happy in different ways. That it is okay to be sad when parting with one friend, just as it is okay to delight in a new friendship made.

I wanted, more than anything, to pull that car over and gather Aidan to me in the most giant of giant bear hugs. I would have too,if there had been a good place to do it. Instead, I had to wait seven agonizing minutes until we pulled into the school’s parking lot. Seven minutes that tore me up. Seven minutes during which I silently cursed the military, Reagan’s job, the general unfairness of life, the specific unfairness of Aidan suffering needlessly. I mourned the friends I’ve had to leave, wallowed in self-pity, cried a few tiny tears, wished things could be another way, and, then, looked around, first in accusation, then in wonder.

We live in an amazing place, surround by friends and friends we have not met yet. We live here because of the military, because of Reagan’s job, because of the general unfairness of life. And while it is true neither Aidan or I will ever be able to point to someone and say, I’ve spent my whole life growing up next to this friend, what we lack in depth, we make up for in breadth.

I am so thankful for the friends I’ve met and the ones I’ve yet to meet. I am thankful for this beautiful, challenging life we lead. I’m thankful that, even though Aidan is experiencing his first real loss with the departure of Charlotte, he has a mama who is uniquely qualified to help him with his grief. Whose arms and body are just the right size to wrap around him and tuck him in tight. Who can hold him, comfort him, kiss him, and, when he’s ready, will let him jump back down to the pavement to race off in search of his friends. And there they will be, different friends who make him happy in different ways, but friends all the same.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Little Boy Lives Here

It’s quiet. Aidan is in bed. Reagan is working at the desk. I stand up from the couch to take my empty mug into the kitchen tripping over a stray ball that has clearly wandered from its basket. Regaining my balance, I deposit my dish in the kitchen and move to the bathroom, my original goal for disrupting the exhaustion-induced coma I’d been enjoying a moment before.

Still not fully aware of my surroundings, I am surprised when my hand encounters a small truck, lined up with precision along the corner of the stool, instead of the tissue I’d been searching for. I laugh. Aidan.

Even while he sleeps, his presence permeates the house. I stop to think about it for a minute, sighing, knowing that one day I will miss this. I will miss his littleness. I grab my camera and start walking.

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I find the multi-story airplane hanger Aidan and Grandpa Frank built earlier in the day. Matching planes—one little, one big—just like the two boys playing with them--are tucked inside.

Farther beyond, the Christmas tree is still surrounded by wrapped presents, although on this eve of December 27 Christmas has already come and gone. Each present has been a delight for Aidan. He opens one and immediately starts using it. Suggestions to continue opening more presents are met with loud protests or flat out refusal. He just wants to enjoy what he has right now. We’ll make it through all of them eventually. I appreciate the generosity of family and friends but right now, in this moment, I am thankful that my son is so content to be. To play. To truly embrace a gift instead of glancing at it and tossing it aside for whatever is coming next. I imagine that Christmas will be a different story next year so I savor this for a moment and then continue my stroll.

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Piles have accumulated on the dining room table. Aidan’s yellow sun hat rests below the child-sized Santa hat he has been sporting off and on for the past few days. A bag full of tropical ocean figurines sits on the edge, abandoned there after a Skype call with the Baxters. Aidan was so excited that he and the girls all have fish and scuba divers now.

Model dinosaurs join us for meals.  A spot-on gift from Auntie Bean and Co., Aidan can’t get enough of Tyrannosaurus Rex roaring or Triceratops stomping (not pictured). Thanks to PBS’s Dinosaur Train, Aidan can list off an impressive number of dinosaurs and their notable features when he is in the mood to share such information with me. Which isn’t always.

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Books are everywhere. He loves reading cuddled up on the couch most of all. The loft reading nook in his bedroom is a close second. He is showing all the signs of a budding reader. His interests are varied. Soon we will step into the magical world of chapter books. While I have encouraged a love of reading from the very beginning, my heart gets all pitter-pattery when I think of what literary adventures are coming next.

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I find vehicles and musical instruments in the bathrooms. Objects no doubt carried in, clutched in a tiny hand, to be held while he goes potty or brushes his teeth, only to be abandoned when a more enticing distraction takes the reins. Sometimes they get cleaned up. Sometimes they sit there, little forgotten treasures, to be rediscovered later.

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Walking on, I find pieces of toys tucked into corners of the hallway and my bedroom. A Lego from an earlier project sits, waiting to be reunited with the rest of the set; a train track piece and a hammer, used together to help a stubborn piece set into place, also forgotten when the baskets were refilled. Some nights I am surprised by books or bath toys that have somehow migrated from their rightful places to the covers on my bed. Little treasures layered between sheets and blankets, no doubt during a boisterous game of hide-and-go-seek. It elicits a smile every time. A reminder that my son was here, playing, enjoying life, in a place he finds safe and comforting.

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The candles on the bathtub ledge share space with wind-up water toys and other little boy bathing paraphernalia. He has his own bathtub but there is something magical about Mama and Daddy’s space. I wonder when he will be too big for us to take baths together. He is not aware of anatomy differences in any meaningful way yet. He enjoys making bubble beards, hanging foam letter ornaments on his make-believe Christmas tree, and motoring his submarine through the deep cave created by my or Reagan’s bent knees. He’s playful and lovable and happy. I love being happy with him.

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And then here, my final destination. A place I come to every night before retreating to my own bedroom.

Aidan’s days are filled with imagination. His nights are too. The hallway light is on, his door open wide—our compromise in an ongoing challenge to get him to fall asleep on his own when he would rather cling to us claiming he is “sca-wood.” Mike and Sully, lovingly painted by Auntie Em, guard the entrance to his bed. An array of stuffed animals stand at the ready if he needs them. His bedtime books rest on the floor, waiting to be put away or paged through in the morning.

And he sleeps. The deep, restful sleep of a contented, thoroughly exhausted child, recharging for another day of exploration. I can hear his little boy snores, muffled by the blanket, and see his long eyelashes resting gently against his sun-kissed cheeks. I end every day like this, standing or kneeling by his bed, just watching him sleep. No matter how hard the days has been or how ready I was for him to just-go-to-bed-already a few hours earlier, I am overcome by the urge to crawl in bed alongside him and snuggle in. To hold him tight, kiss his head, and just cherish these quiet moments, these crazy days.

A little boy lives here. A little boy who is loved so very, very much.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween 2013

Thanks to Auntie Patricia’s Christmas gift last year, Aidan’s costume has been ready to go for months (you’ve got mad sewing skills, P). Add some dinosaur slippers and a trick-or-treat bag from Uncle Will and Aunt Marjie and the boy was set. Try though I might, Aidan would not stay still long enough for me to get a single picture featuring the whole costume and his smiling face so we are going more catalog style here—front and back. After a Halloween party at school Aidan was all warmed up to the concept of trick-or-treating. As soon as our door opened he was off at a break-neck pace searching for his friends. Truthfully, candy was a secondary thought—he just liked the thought of being with friends. He had to be prompted to start going up to houses. A better parent might have rejoiced in that—I mentally mourned all the Snickers bars I wouldn’t get to raid from his stash.

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Aidan with his friend Grant /Trick-or-treating with friend and next door neighbor, Abby. Aidan spent the entire night trying to keep these two and Abby’s older brother, Andy, in his sight. 

Halloween2013-2267Halloween2013-2279                        Aidan ditched the dinosaur tail and slippers about a block from the house. Reagan took the opportunity to add a hat and gloves to his get-up./ Lots of neighbors did a stellar job decorating for Halloween (“Uncle Fred- not quite dead” featured by the Koncaks). For the first time ever, Reagan actually paid attention to decorations and decided we were not up to par. We added some lights and skeletons last minute but I imagine there will be more shopping for next year’s line up.

Halloween2013-2288Halloween2013-2333                         Aidan followed the bigger kids’ lead and finally started digging into the candy part of the evening (yes!). There was very little doorbell ringing. Most people set-up shop in their driveways. It was certainly easier but the chaperones in our group lamented the passing of the good ole’ days. Halloween2013-2284        Eventually the little kids got bored and it was time to give them a turn passing out candy. Aidan took over at Abby’s house so we invited Abby to come help us. Aidan tried trick-or-treating at our house. Abby was generous but Aidan was disappointed to learn that not only couldn’t he eat it he had to give it someone else. He was not impressed. Halloween2013-2302                  The police showed up around 7:30.Halloween2013-2304               Never ones to miss an opportunity, Abby and Aidan jumped into the car when the officer was distracted and tried to make off with the car. This much is clear: The first kid to get a battery operated car is going to be the most popular kid on the block. All the little people swarmed to this car like flies. Halloween2013-2308       Official trick-or-treat hours were from 6-8 pm but because we live on the fun street, the party was just getting going when most people were headed home. The neighbors across and down from us set up a disco-type thing as part of their Halloween decorations and all of our little people embraced the opportunity to bust a move. Okay, some of the adults too. We have great neighbors!Halloween2013-2319Halloween2013-2334                      I totally spaced on taking a picture of our decorations when it was lighter outside so this isn’t as pretty as it might have been. The beauty of my new camera is that I can take a picture without flash in essentially total darkness and still get a decent picture out of the deal. There is a key “Halloween in Hawaii” element here. Can you find it?Halloween2013-2338                  And lest you think Aidan was the only one who enjoyed Halloween fun this year: Reagan and I, all dressed up as Barney and Betty Rubble, for the Adults Only! Halloween block party last weekend (many thanks to Amy and Shannon for making our awesomeness possible and to Jamie and Craig for hosting)./ Amy and I dressed up for costume Zumba. We’re cute. ;)

Halloween2013-224020131030_181242                                         If we hadn’t been scrambling last night, Betty might have rejoined the party. We’ll start planning now for next year’s celebration.   Halloween2013-2271

Happy Halloween! Hope your evening was as fantastic as ours.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Aloun Farms Pumpkin Patch Outing

The local pumpkin patch opened up today. Just to clarify, yes, they do grow pumpkins in Hawaii. (We have had a surprising number of inquiries on the subject.) It’s Hawaii, after all. We have a pretty great growing season year-round and pumpkins are just one of the many crops found here. In fact, Aloun Farms grows 90% of the pumpkins sold in HI. It’s a pretty impressive set-up. blog-1917                     In addition to pumpkins, there were also U-pick sunflowers, string beans, and corn available. Carnival rides, concerts, and the Redneck Olympics rounded out the entertainment. And there was food. Yummy, yummy food.

blog-1855 blog-1860                After a quick hayride the boys began their pumpkin search in earnest. blog-1878blog-1881blog-1882blog-1884               Aidan was a big fan of the process. We quickly reached our three pumpkin limit, plus one, and had to loudly forbid Aidan from touching anything else on the ground. Using classic toddler diversion tactics, we walked across the road to where the giant pumpkins were growing. No chance of Aidan accidently picking one here but he found climbing all over them to be equally as fun.                                                     blog-1892blog-1899                               I love this family photo! We were sporting Cougar colors in a show of support for their game against Stanford today. Reagan did a excellent job coaching the recorded game from the couch later in the evening but they just couldn’t pull out a win. Better luck next week, Cougs. blog-1907-2            If you didn’t have the skyline to give it away (namely Diamond Head), would you guess that we are in HI? The west side of Oahu looks a lot like parts of Eastern Washington and Idaho. It’s a little disorienting at first. blog-1909              What is a Hawaiian outing without shaved ice?                        blog-1933blog-1944  Aidan is a big fan of the Elmo bouncy castle. He used to be terrified of the slide but now approaches it with more of a “Bring it on, sucker!” mentality. This is our second outing that involved carnival rides and all of them were duplicates. It appears there is only one game in town around here. This bodes well for Aidan having another Elmo encounter.                                                                 blog-1949blog-1952 

Aidan serenaded us on the way home with a variety of songs. I am always amazed at how much he learns and retains at school. It is hard to keep up with.

Several blocks from our house Aidan announced that he had to go potty. We asked if he could hold it for a couple of minutes and he assured us that he could. I love literal toddlers. :)

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Sunday is a rest/recover/work day. On Monday, we play again. Thank you, Christopher Columbus and fellow discovers. Three-day weekends rock.

Cheers!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Right Now: Aidan

Okay, almost right now. I started this in August so it’s not that out-of-date. Many of the notes still apply, although I am surprised at how many things have changed in just one month. I’m leaving the original items and adding updates to bring it current, rather than write two posts. 

Starting with a picture of our little helper: when Dad’s tools come out, so do Aidan’s.

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Watching Daniel Tiger, Super Why, Dinosaur Train. Update: Daniel Tiger and SW are out! Dinosaur Train is the only cartoon Aidan requests. On good days, he gets to watch 2 episodes—thank you, Hulu Plus. He likes it so much we can use it in our negotiations as a consequence/reward.

Loving school. The first week he attended he went home under protest every day. He did not want to leave. Update: He still loves school but he’s remembered how cool Mom is too. There are protests most mornings and not too much waiting on my part when school is over.

Wanting to be big while still being little. Picks and chooses when he can do something himself and when he wants to be a baby and have it done for him.

Eating a lot. Loves watermelon & strawberries in particular. Not loving pineapple so much, which is almost a crime when living in Hawaii. Update: Dinner time is a battle-front but he’s made a tentative peace with pineapple. As long as we only give him the pieces that have minimal acidity, he’ll eat it.

Playing with trains, blocks, cars, and puzzles. Update: More and more imaginative play happening. He’s really starting to interact with his boat-load of stuffed animals and he’s more interested in dress-up. Now he wants to wear his Halloween costume from last year.

His first tea party. I love that he used Legos as cups. blog-8478

Singing lots of Daniel Tiger ditties (Grown ups come back to you. Grown ups come back they do. Grow-ow-own ups come back. \ If you have to go potty STOP! and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way.) Update: DT got bounced here too. We hear A LOT of the Dinosaur Train theme song these days.

Asking about male and female parts and classifying accordingly. Who's got a penis. Who's got a vagina. Or just telling people. Occasionally awkward, but mostly hysterical. Update: We are entering the question phase. No particular theme, just lots of them.

Negotiating with Mom and Dad for more of everything: Just one more minute (while holding up 5 fingers), just one more show, just one more song, book, popsicle, whatever. Sometimes he wins out of sheer cuteness (or because we have been thoroughly beaten down) although he's getting better at actual negotiation (versus all-or-nothing demands). Update: Of late, we’ve also been working with him on conquering his fear of masks and loud noises. His dentist appointment last week was a real treat.

Wearing slipper pajamas. He requests them every night and will only wear something else if none of his 3 slipper pajamas are available.

Looking a little crazy in the morning with his rat's nest hair. The end of the curly mop is approaching. Update: Bye-bye, curls. Hello, little boy.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

CM Shooting 201, Beyond the Basics: My homework submissions, part 2

It has been more than a month since this class wrapped up but it only occurred to me a few days ago that I forgot to share the rest of my assignments on the blog. Oops.

During week three, we were challenged to photograph a silhouette, a reflection, and a long exposure/night shot (not pictured). I hit a major wall with the third task so I am not sharing it here, but I am continuing to work on that skill.

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The assignment for the final week was to tell a story using only photos. I borrowed Marjie, a.k.a Aunt Maojie, to help get this one recorded. It’s no surprise why our little “I want to do it myself!”–er looks forward to our occasional trips to Whole Foods to stock up on soy yogurt, soy cheese, and almond milk.

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With a new class starting this week—embracing flash photography--I’ll no doubt have more to show you soon. Of course, first I have to make nice with my new camera. Reagan and my parents went in together on a Happy Everything in 2013! Canon 6D for me, a major upgrade from the camera I was using before. I desperately wanted the 6D but I didn’t really understand what I was about to subject myself to. I’ve outgrown my Rebel T1i, feature-wise, but I felt like a rock star shooting with it. With the 6D, I feel like a dunce. The concepts are the same but the camera is configured differently. I no longer have the muscle memory for the controls. I have to think about every.single. shot I take and I am missing moments like crazy. *sigh*. Practice, practice, practice. I know. I wish I had a decent shot, or twenty, to show for my efforts though. I suppose the upside to taking crappy shots is that it makes my photo purging/editing go much faster: I mostly just delete. C’est la vie.  At least I am maintaining my optimism. :-)

Cheers!