On the Road

We used to have a big car–a Honda Pilot–when we had only two children.  Now that we have three, though, we have a Honda Accord–a much smaller car.  Fewer children, bigger vehicle; more children, smaller vehicle.  I know–it doesn’t make much sense.   But before you shake your head and say, “Poor befuddled math-impaired English teacher with little to no sense of spatial relations,” don’t worry.  It really was all about the gas.  Filling up the Pilot always left me somewhat angst-ridden–if not financially depleted.  So, when it was time to get a new vehicle, I opted for fuel-efficiency–and more money in my bank account (or for Stop & Shop–take your pick). 

I knew, though, that squeezing three boys in the back seat of a small car would be interesting–that they’d be tight and VERY close together with nothing but each other to entertain them: no DVD player, no aisle between them. 

So, what is life REALLY like in our car?  Oh, it’s interesting.  Some of the boys’ most profound disagreements have been in that car.  So have some of their most profound wounds.  Scratches, pinches, hair-pulling–you name it. 

But for all the squabbles and altercations, there have also been some of the best all-out belly laughs, snuggles, and imaginative play I have ever seen.  They have gotten to know each other, talked to each other, paid attention to each other.  They’ve looked out the windows and found familiar shapes in the clouds.  They’ve played games that involved geography and science.  They have watched the weather.  They have watched each other. 

So even though they’re packed in there like sardines, I’m hoping that the net result will be something they could never achieve if they were all three feet apart or in separate rows or riveted by a movie in a descending DVD player–conflict resolution to be sure, but also friendship and togetherness–and, of course, the memory of their ever-patient mother in the front seat who was always willing to sacrifice a little quiet for the good of this cause.

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Unplugged

From the time the Thanksgiving dishes were put in the dishwasher on that Thursday night last November, the official kickoff of the Christmas season in homes all over America, all we heard for the next three-and-a-half weeks was how very much we NEEDED a Wii. 

Now, as a board-certified ’80’s girl, I know my way around Pac-Man and Centipede.  Heck, we even had an Atari system for a while.  But the Wii (and its competition) had me baffled.  So many games.  So many controls.  It’s like wallpaper books and paint chips–too many choices and I become easily overwhelmed.

But Oscar and Edgar NEEDED a Wii, or so they said.  So I researched.  And then when their grandparents solicited our suggestions for ideas for Christmas gifts, it seemed like the perfect pairing. 

Done. 

Part of me, of course, felt as though I was succumbing to the lure of technology, that I should have been able to keep them from this for another year or two–the part of me that prefers a 19th-century novel to the television, the part that would rather use my hands to dig in the dirt than to tap on a keyboard.  But the other part prevailed–the one that knows kids need to connect with other kids; and if the Wii was how they were accomplishing this, then as much as is reasonable, we would allow them to participate. 

Christmas came, and they opened their gift; and a few days later Don set it up.  (I hid in the other room, probably with a cup of tea, only half-listening to the myriad instructions that seem second-nature to my six-year-old but presented an insurmountable learning curve for me.)

For a few months, Oscar and Edgar seemed mildly intrigued–a game here, a game there.  Nothing in excess, not in the least.

But then something happened this past Saturday:  Wii Bowling (not a bad game, all things considered).  A mini tournament happening between Oscar and Edgar.  About five minutes in, though, Edgar remembered that in one of his stashes of toys he had toy bowling pins.  He ran to get them.  He set them up in the dining room.  Oscar came out and asked him what he was doing.  Edgar told him he was playing real bowling–with a twist.  He was going to be one of the pins.  He asked his brother if he wanted to play.  Oscar got a small ball, tossed it toward the pins and his brother (the best, most expressive pin of all), and declared after a single round, “This bowling beats virtual bowling any day.”  And then they played–together, cooperatively, and whimsically–for 45 minutes. 

It’s hard to say if this spells the end of the Wii and electronic games–probably not.  But the fact that they came to the conclusion themselves that a real life is better than a virtual one gives me hope that my sons, too, may one day opt to read instead of watch television, reside in nature instead of in front of monitor, and choose a cup of tea when the rest of the world is moving at warp speed.  And I’ll be right there with them–not one of  the bowling pins (I may be a tad too old for that)–happily unplugged.

Imitation Is the Highest Form of . . . Something

They say, of course, that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but here, of late, imitation is the highest form of . . . well, I’ll let you decide:

Edgar says at the breakfast table, “May I have a waffle?”

Oscar says, “May I have a waffle?”

I say, “Please brush your teeth.”

Oscar says, “Please brush your teeth.”

Don says, “Please stop repeating everything we say.”

And, of course, Oscar says, “Please stop repeating everything we say.” 

You get the idea. 

I am sure it’s a phase . . . right? 

In the meantime . . .

PLEASE!

I Found You. You Found Me. We Became a Family.

 

They have never been this big, and they will never again be this little; and as I look at this picture, I am struck on every level of how important it is to seize the moment when you find yourself in the right place at the right time.

Life, to me, has always been this elusive combination of free choice and inexplicable luck–the trick being, of course,  to know when something or someone is going to be good for you and to grab on with abandon, to hold on with faith, and to embrace with gratitude.

The four people in this photograph have taught, inspired, and loved me more than I will ever be able to articulate but not more than I will continually endeavor to reciprocate.  

Edgar, every now and then, will whisper the following words as I tuck him into bed:  “I found you.  You found me.  We became a family.”  Luck, choice, and foresight . . . abandon, faith, and gratitude–and a moment and a life to savor.

Something Old, Something New

“Mom, I think we need a new house,” said Oscar quite earnestly this week.

“Why do you think that?” I inquired, immediately starting to feel more than a little defensive about the 1900 Victorian cottage with which Don and I fell head over heels in love almost 15 years ago.

“Well, the stairs and floor creak and the walls aren’t smooth in lots of spots, and . . .” He continued to list our home’s ‘transgressions,’ if you will, as I sat in complete shock that anyone–least of all my son–could not see the charm and beauty of our (his!) home.

The stairs and floor do creak; and many of the horsehair plaster walls are rough in spots.  And there is paint chipping here and there, and there are scratches and dents–some due to the house’s age and others to the exuberant presence of young children.

And I wouldn’t change a thing. 

In terms of architecture and no less in life, Don and I have always sought the beauty in imperfections.  This doesn’t, of course, mean that we allow our home to fall into disrepair or actively seek to mar it, but rather it is the bumps and bruises of life–of history–that most attracted us to this house.  And it’s probably why–after several attempts to sell it as our family grew and we became convinced that it couldn’t accommodate us–it won’t let us go.

Oscar is young and still sees the world very much in black and white–literally and figuratively.  But you can bet that as his parents we will tirelessly work to be sure he sees those shades of gray and appreciate the beauty in a slightly crooked smile, a weed growing in the middle of a manicured garden, and the bumpy walls and creaky stairs of a house that has sat on and survived this world for more than 100 years. 

We live in a society that aspires to so-called perfection–airbrushed photos, disposable everything when it is the least bit used, and a beauty industry compelled to remove every last trace of wisdom off any face on the planet that can afford it.  

I hope by growing up in an “old” and less-than-perfect house, Oscar, Edgar, and August will see the honor it is to reside in history, to reuse more than replace, and to embrace insead of fight the physical changes that come with age.

And me?  Well, as the mother of too-soon-to-be three teenage sons, those creaky stairs are going to provide a great service to me . . . Nope, I wouldn’t change a thing!