Garden of Eden

A few weeks ago, a very kind woman and friend peeked out our back door and remarked, while taking a gander at our yard, “Wow, your garden has really changed!”  What this person meant, I am fairly certain, is that what was once my garden essentially no longer exists.  I know she didn’t mean any offense; but for a moment I wondered if she, as a fellow avid gardener, might have felt bad for me, seeing the disappearance of my garden as a sacrifice made not necessarily unwillingly but begrudgingly, accompanied by a sense of loss.

When we moved into our home, our backyard was an empty canvas; and I, as a novice yet incredibly enthusiastic gardener, filled the space with every striking plant that caught my eye.  I lined the periphery with a variety of sun- and shade-loving perennials and filled pots with colorful annuals.  It was thrilling to be able to express myself in this fashion as I had grown up in an apartment complex and never had the opportunity to tend–let along create–a garden.   Sitting in the middle of our yard on the patio that we had built surrounded by lush plant life on all sides was sumptuous to say the least.

But slowly, with the arrival of children, needs emerged that could only be solved by looking to our backyard.  We installed a fenced-in dog area within our already fenced-in yard so that our dogs would have a place to conduct their business, and we would not have to do a survey and clean-up of our yard every time we wanted to go out with toddling and curious children.  We also put up a shed, which solved a host of storage problems.  We then replaced mulch with grass so that summers in the kiddie pool would be a little less messy for all involved.  Add to that a very large outdoor play set, sand box, teeter totter, tractor, tricycle, scooter, shovels, rakes, a Little Tikes basketball hoop, a trampoline, and every other outdoor toy imaginable, and soon the garden disappeared.  What is left is a tiny perennial garden on the south side of the yard and strategically placed pots and garden accouterments throughout the yard.

It’s not the same as it once was–but, then again, neither are we.  When it was just the two of us, the yard and garden offered a sanctuary from our busy work weeks, a warm and fragrant environment in which to put up our feet, read, and nap.  Now that we are a family of five, the yard and garden is an ode to childhood joy.  This was a willing and conscious move, resulting in a place where my children and everyone we know feel welcome, safe, and embraced.  The beauty still surrounds us, though it has taken a different form.

And this is more sumptuous than I ever could have imagined.

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Limiting Labels

I have never been a fan of labels–on clothing or on people.  So, when Edgar’s karate teacher asked me yesterday if I had ever considered having him tested for ADHD, I did what every self-respecting mother does in such a situation–I became defensive.

She noted that in her experience she generally avoids such labeling; however, she quickly added that there have been a couple of kids she has known that she “could point to and say ‘ADHD.'”  I made the assumption that she felt Edgar was one of the two.

For every article that exists extolling the virtues of testing/diagnosis/medication/behavior  modification, there is one saying that there is a blatant epidemic of over diagnosing in this country.   Given my resistance to labeling–in both my personal and professional lives–I tend to sit in the latter camp.   Couple that with the fact that I find the word “normal” practically offensive, I found myself wondering why we label and what benefit–if any–is derived from it.

Why must an outgoing person categorize a quiet child as “shy”?  Why must a concrete thinker categorize a child who loves art or music as a “dreamer”?  And why must an adult who has clearly mastered self-control categorize an energetic four-year-old as “ADHD”?

I don’t know.  But here is what I do know:  Edgar is pure energy.  He is passionate, visceral, and is one of the few people I know who seems to truly, unabashedly love life.  He takes pleasure in finding a snail in the yard, eating a fresh strawberry, having a conversation with a person (or his Dream Horse), petting a dog, and feeling the sun on his face.  He was made for this earth and thrives on it.  He can sit and attend–when he’s riding a horse, listening to a favorite story, constructing a feat of engineering excellence out of Tinker Toys, or feasting his eyes on the miracle of clay-mation that is Wallace and Gromit.  He loves to laugh and makes others laugh.  He is clever, creative, admittedly messy, and unbelievably silly.

Does the fact that he has a hard time–at age four–sitting still in karate class mean he has ADHD?  We’ll never know.  Because a label that limits my child in any way or colors the way others perceive him is not for me.  Edgar’s presence brings happiness to others; and those who are able to look at him instead of label him will be the beneficiaries of his joy.

Boy in a Box

The moments after dinner and before bath/stories/bed are customarily quiet in our house.  Oscar and Edgar, as if they sense there are but a few sacred minutes to get in one last round of play, are very, very quiet.  I believe that on some level they think that if I don’t hear them, I won’t see them.  And if I don’t see them, I will forget that they’re there, and their bath (and thus bedtime) will be postponed.

Genius, really.

Which is why I was a little surprised at the BOOM and CRASH that occurred while I was sweeping up the evening’s detritus after last night’s repast, followed by Oscar’s informing me in a show of pure brotherly love:  “Mom, Edgar just dumped both toy bins!”

From ten feet away, I thought to myself, “Why?”  Why at 6:30 PM would the toy bins need to be emptied?  Why do the toy bins need to be emptied at all?  What seemed to me arbitrary at best and senseless at worst was quickly explained by a walk into the toy room:

Edgar needed a platform and an enclosed seat–and how else to achieve this but to empty the two toy bins?  Nothing arbitrary or senseless about that.

Heart and Sole Walk for the Animals

The Potter League’s Heart and Sole Walk for the Animals is on Sunday, 6 June 2010–and this year’s walk will be bittersweet.  It will be Gabrielle’s and August’s first walk (and he may very well be walking by then), but our first without Templeton by our side.

We are dedicating this year’s walk to the memory of Templeton (and Lucy, too, of course).

If you would like to visit our fundraising page, here is the link:

http://www.firstgiving.com/oscaredgaraugust

Any amount you can give is most appreciated!

What’s in Your Classroom?

Tonight while perusing Oscar’s backpack, I discovered a little gem of an assignment entitled “Write the Room.”  If my teacher instincts are accurate, I am going to guess that students, in order to practice their printing, move from station to station throughout the classroom and write what they see that begins with a particular letter–in this case “K.”

Here is what Oscar found in his KINDERGARTEN classroom:

One of the items on the list doesn’t surprise me, three intrigue me, and one, well, let’s just say I’m uncharacteristically speechless.

On the bright side, his printing is really coming along.

The Cutting-Edge of Porch Decor

Our front porch has always been a source of inspiration–and pride–for me.  When we knew this was the home for us, the very first purchase we made for it was an outdoor wicker set–a couch, two chairs, and a small table.  Visions of lazy summer days followed by even lazier summer nights accompanied the purchase.  Hooks and hardware were installed to house a fragrant and colorful array of plants–an empty horticultural canvas that could be wiped clean and reinvented each season.  Gardening magazines were combed for ideas; and when the porch floor needed to be replaced in 2004, we went with cedar, knowing our love affair with our porch was forever.

And now we have small boys who have their own ideas as to what looks great on our porch.

This might be an alligator, or it could be a crocodile (I’ll defer to my Floridian friends for that); but, fret not, it’s not real.  However, Oscar and Edgar think it looks absolutely splendid near our front door–a sort of unofficial greeter to our visitors, who, when they get a load of our new friend, may  not stay too long.

It’s not the porch decor I imagined–but, then again, how could it be: My imagination, compared to that of a four- and five-year-old is lacking, relying on pretty pictures in glossy magazines to actualize its vision.  Oscar and Edgar saw their alligator (or crocodile) and decided it needed to be on our front porch.  Pure and simple.  And, of course, I’m leaving it there–at least until the City of Newport tells us to bring it in the house because it’s terrifying the citizenry.

Rock Beats Scissors, and Blog Beats Facebook

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a fan of Facebook.

I joined over a year ago after having dinner with a friend, who proclaimed that if I were interested in seeing photos of her beautiful then-year-old daughter, I’d have to join because that’s where the photos were.

So, I joined–and I am truly happy I did.  I have reconnected with childhood friends, former students, and classmates–not to mention my father, sisters, and brother.

But as much as I enjoy what Facebook has to offer, I have noticed something else, something less than desirable: Events that a year ago I would have written about here in this blog, events I felt worthy of preserving for my children, have become mere “status updates” on Facebook–quick and efficient, yes, but also impermanent, never to be seen again after a click of the “Remove” button.

There should be posts here about Oscar’s Adoption Day anniversary, my most recent parent/teacher conference with his kindergarten teacher, and his surgery.  There should be photos here from the boys’ Art Gallery Night, the incredible birthday party they attended last weekend, Don’s birthday, Edgar’s first round of horseback-riding for the season, and our pilgrimage to Frosty Freez.  And there should be tons of photos of August and his countless milestones–crawling, scooting, waving, and getting into all sorts of trouble.

I have never viewed this blog as a chore; the word “should” has never been attached to it.  It has been and is a true joy to create.  Nevertheless, I think it might be time to pause and be sure that the method I choose to document the ordinary and extraordinary is commensurate to the event itself.

And while status updates regarding what I am up to might be fine, I think I want to offer my children more.  These moments are far too fleeting.

And it is this blog–and not Facebook–that offers the best shot at preserving them.