Saturday, October 30, 2010

Neighborly (or Feeling Sappy About Being a Mom to Boys)

Shaun and the boys are out having an adventure in the rain. Well, first they went to get new rain boots at Fred Meyer. Wet adventures are a lot more fun when one is properly equipped.

I should have gone along, because I could use some boots (and an adventure as well) but I am starting to come down with something. Staying home in the warm dry quiet sounded positively restorative.

Camas High School had their homecoming football game last night (which we can hear from our house if we leave our windows open) and it got me to thinking about the days when our kids will be that big. I thought about Nels graduating and Willem still being here without his brother, and that just about did me in.

Then I heard a knock at the door. I peeked out the kitchen window and saw a tall teenage boy in basketball shorts with his sweatshirt hood up against the rain.

I opened the door.

"Is your husband home?"

"Oh, no...he's not here right now."

I figured it must the boy from next door, but I have no idea when he got all tall and thin. He looked super disappointed when I said Shaun wasn't around. He turned to go.

"Is there anything I can help you with?"

"Well, it's my homecoming tonight. My dad's out of town and I need help with my tie." His dad is a co-pilot for Alaska Airlines.

"I think I might know how to do it..."

"Yeah, that's what my mom and my sister said, too. I thought someone who does it all the time..."

He tilted his head towards the house across the street.

"He's a business guy. I'll ask him."

"OK. Come back if nothing else works. Have fun tonight."

"Thanks." And he very bravely headed to the neighbor's house.

I say bravely because the neighbor has had a visitor outside on the driveway working on a car project all day, in addition to a landscaping crew doing something in the yard. I know I'm a wimp, but I would have had to summon a lot of courage to go ask an acquaintance to tie my tie with all of those other people around. And while this neighbor is always always polite and as kind as he knows how to be, he's not exactly the warm and fuzzy type.

I am, though.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Happy Five!

Earlier this week I found a few clean shirts tossed onto Willem's floor.

"What's this about?" I asked him. "Did they come from your drawer?"

"Those are the ones with 4's on them. I threw 'em out."

Willem's dearest wish is to somehow catch up with his older brother. There has never been a kid more excited to turn five than this one is.

Monday, October 18, 2010

An Unexpectedly Sweet Fall

Fall this year has truly felt like a new, unique season.

The routine imposed by school has proved to be more relaxing than the haphazard nature of our summer activities. We've had the most perfectly sunny and crisp fall weather, the kind that makes you smile even while bracing for the meteorological bummer that will inevitably follow.

I've been thankful for how beautiful it is where we live, and for the fun I'm having with Shaun as we get to know our increasingly odd and delightful children. This quietly busy time feels like a real gift, and I feel gratitude to God for the undeserved goodness in my life even on the days when I think my ears will start to bleed if Willem asks me one more question.

We recently took advantage of the fine fall weather, taking a hike at Beacon Rock State Park. We'd already hiked up Beacon Rock itself before, so this time we opted for the less harrowing trek to the (more poetically named) Rodney Falls Pool of Winds.

Our kids seemed the only kids on the trail that day, and nearly everyone we saw greeted us. It was the friendliest bunch of outdoorspeople I have ever encountered.

This part of the trail has a spectacular view of Bonneville Dam. We did stop to take in the view after powering up this little stretch.

It's so pretty that sometimes I feel like I'm getting away with something by living here.

The damp smell and feel of this little hollow were exactly those of the Log Ride at Knott's Berry Farm. I had a total flashback to my childhood and almost cried.

Looking down from the Pool of Winds.

Time for a trail mix break. The boys were tired...

And loopy. Per usual.

Yep, it's still beautiful.

And, yep, we are the kind of people who take pictures of bathroom doors if the hardware takes our fancy.

All of the original buildings at the state park are just beautiful. I am ready to move in to this picnic shelter.

It even has an oven.

We've been enjoying ourselves right at home, too. I don't know how it started, but Willem likes to ask Nels if he wants to "have a chat," and it is a definite thing. Nels sits in a chair, and Willem pulls up a bucket or a stool, or whatever is handy. Shirts are optional, but leaning on the elbows is obligatory. Extra authenticity points if you have a beverage that looks like a glass of whiskey.

Willem took this picture of Nels in his yard-sale helmet. And astronaut suit.

Wow. Who knew that a Clone Trooper outfit cinched at the waist with a leather belt would be soooo creepy? Way to bring the weird, Nels.

Happy fall, all.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Birthday

Nels wanted a Star Wars party for his birthday. What you see below is as elaborate as the themed decorations got. Yes, the "word bubble" and its contents were Nels's idea. And no, we did not follow through; no attempts were made to recreate the interior of the Death Star. Unless some lesser-publicized corner of the Death Star was festooned with balloons and brightly colored crepe paper streamers.

Tough crowd.

How much personal space do seven year-old boys need?

Not much.

I'm no fool; I knew just the man to leave in charge of the cake.

Nels got an assist (or two) blowing out the candles.

Clone trooper Nels.

From this:

to this:

in seven years. I can hardly wait to see what's next.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Something New

I had all sorts of expectations about what this school year would be like, and most of them were wrong.

I thought it would be a big hassle not to get to send Nels to school on the bus (a privilege we lost due to budget cuts and the fact that we live less than a mile from the school.) It turns out that there are all sorts of good things about taking him myself:

-We don't have to be out the door quite as early (15 minutes is an eternity in getting-ready-for school time.)

-I can do someone else a favor. Willem's pre-school teacher has a son who attends Nels's school, so when I drop Willem off, I exchange him for Isaac and then take the big boys to school.

-I can meet the families we live near! When school gets out, all of the kids who don't ride the bus funnel through one little gate past Mr. Cleary, the librarian. All of the parents of the "walkers" stand around and wait for their kids. I haven't branched out much yet, but I've chatted with the mom of one of Nels's friends and I am glad to get to know her.

-We can walk! Isn't life better when you can walk to the places you need to go? Friday garage sales are an added bonus. Willem is one remote-control car richer and Nels now owns a motocross helmet thanks to our decision to walk home one fine Friday afternoon.

Another misperception I had about this year is that it would be just like last year for Nels, only with longer days. But the difference between Kindergarten and first grade extends beyond the obvious quantitative one.

From birth through Kindergarten, I have held Nels's hand. His movements have been accounted for, his waking hours supervised. And now, this year, he is independent in a way he's never been before. When he walks out that school gate at 3:30, he's a free agent. It's nobody's job to keep track of him but his own. And it's been an unexpected thrill as a parent to watch him rise to the occasion.

For instance, Nels wanted to invite some friends from last year's class to his birthday party, but I had no contact information for any of them. So we put together the invitations and I sent them to school with Nels to pass out at recess, trusting him to get it done.

I thought it would be asking too much to put names on the invitations and have Nels match them to the right kid, so I left the envelopes blank, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. And it worked! (Well, mostly. I was very surprised to get a call from a girl's dad saying she could come to the party, because not only was she not on the invite list, but Nels was quite certain that he did not invite any girls.)

Another time, Nels came home without the water bottle from his lunch box. We told him to try to get it back the next day. To our delight, he came home with the water bottle. Whoop-de-do, right? But it was a big deal to me, because he handled it.

First, Nels went and checked the lost and found. The bottle wasn't there, so at lunch time he asked the principal (who apparently has lunch duty) for help. The principal didn't know about it, but he pointed Nels to the custodian, who helped him find it.

Initiative! Follow-through! The emergence of these grown-up qualities has taken me by surprise. It's a welcome development, but bittersweet. I am less inclined these days to roll my eyes at the folks (you parents get this all the time, don't you?) who stop me in the grocery store when I'm with the boys and tell me to enjoy it, because it all goes by so fast.

Because it does. It all goes by so fast.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Perhaps I Don't Bake Enough

Willem: "I know how to make bread, Mom."

Me: "Oh yeah?"

Willem: "Yeah. You get some wheat..."

Me: "Yes."

Willem: "You get some wheat, and then you weave it. Right?"