Monday, September 29, 2008

Waiting for the Bus

We have a complicated schedule of pick ups and drop offs for all three children during the week. We created a chart and posted it on the refrigerator to keep everything straight, and we still make paranoid phone calls to each other during the day to make sure someone doesn't get left behind. I recall the story of the man who left his baby in the car all day in his work parking lot and think, "There but for the grace of God go I."

Within all the insanity, two or three days a week, I have the pleasure of waiting for the bus with Ellis. On those mornings, we walk up one block to his bus stop and I listen to him chatter on about whatever is on his mind at the moment. I hold his hand as he climbs up onto the retaining wall on the side of our across-the-street neighbor's house and balances on the stones all the way to the end until he jumps off with a feeling of great satisfaction. At the stop, he spins around in a circle holding out his backpack - a "magic trick" he learned from one of the other boys. We play games, I observe the other children, sometimes, I talk to the pastor of the church located on the same corner. Then the bus comes and I say, "Here comes the bus. Remember to get off at your stop. I love you. Have a good day!"

Perhaps, once winter comes and the dewy mild fall mornings end, I won't always leave the house earlier than we need to. For now, though, I appreciate the way this act of waiting makes me feel as if I have somehow stepped out of time. Waiting for the schoolbus gives me the freedom to linger, to be completely in a moment with my sweet kindergartner, before we both get swept up into the busy flow of the day.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Three Boys

At work, I stop often to look at pictures of my children. I love them so fiercely and am amazed at the things they have been able to accomplish this fall with a greater nonchalance than their parents who worry over every aspect of their lives. Ellis rode the school bus by himself this morning for the first time and told the teacher "It was great!" Charlie maintains his reputation as mellow little man at childcare, confirming my opinion that he is the easiest baby on Earth. Nate seems to be making great strides from last year on the school front, and I take our recent need to upgrade our cellphone plan to unlimited messaging as a good indicator that he is building a good group of friends.

What was officially meant to be a summer for Charlie and me, was also a summer for Ellis and me, and Nate and me. My relationships with each of these boys opened me up to things hard and wonderful and furthered along my development and theirs.

First, Charlie. It started when I was pregnant with him - this overwhelming feeling of inner peace and tranquility. It's good to live in Charlie's world because Charlie is unruffled by much of the drama of everyday life. He set the tone of quiet easiness that marked this summer and I feel like carrying him and mothering him has created in me a freedom from worry that didn't exist before.

Next, Nate. This summer Nate managed to put me back in touch with an earlier version of myself - the me of my late teens and early twenties. And while, there was definite turbulence to that time, I look back at it fondly because those were the years that I spent defining myself as my own person. It seemed every time he got into something new, it was something that I liked in the early 90's or evoked something I liked at that time. I have passed two treasured mementos onto Nate from that time - my dog tags from high school and the corduroy jacket that I wore in college that I inherited from my stepfather. Quintessential Charlotte, quintessential Nate.

Finally, Ellis. This summer was a rough transition for both of us. Ellis went from being my one and only baby to an insecure and needy older brother to a brilliant self-possessed kindergartner all in the course of three months. This summer I learned that even the best relationships have rocky points, but they grow because of that. I learned about the horrible conflicted feeling that comes when you like and dislike someone you love at the same time. I learned that the voice of insecurity that makes you grasp at people desperately is a voice that needs to always be checked against reality. Above all, I learned to work harder to be patient and to not let the voice of worry and concern be expressed through anger.

It is hubris to think that our main job as parents is to teach our children. Better to remain open to learn all the things they can show us - the lessons we didn't learn the first time and the things we've never noticed before about the world or ourselves.

Soundtrack to a Transformative Summer

I spent the last half of my summer with Old Man Luedecke's album Proof of Love on heavy rotation. There are many artists who reach a deep spiritual place in me, but I have come across few who seem to have an almost identical spiritual vision to mine. He sees the importance of fully embracing this world and this life with a sense of hope and faith that comes from experiencing the rough and the beautiful aspects of a life lived to full intensity.

The words from the song "Just Like A River" have become another motto for my life: "Hard work and hope trump hard luck and trouble. This world is it. We will make it our home."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Reflections on a Summer

In seminary, they often talked about the importance of taking time for reflection. The concept lay in the twin pillars of praxis and reflection, which were meant to ebb and flow in a successful professional life. Being a person who lives mostly in the realm of action, I never really took the calls for reflection seriously. Maybe it was the methods employed in that environment – too touchy feely like journals and group debriefing. Maybe it was that in my mid-twenties I didn’t have as much to reflect upon. Maybe it seemed like there was always so much to do that there wasn’t room to sit and think. In any case, I officially admit that I have learned the value of reflection as a complementary twin to praxis. Ironically, I have learned it at the end of a summer spent almost entirely living in the moment.

As my time at home has drawn to a close, I find myself wanting to capture the things that I learned in some sort of concrete way. The posts over the next few days will be an attempt to capture some of the wisdom that I gained over the past twelve weeks.

First Day Back

When you drop your baby at daycare for the first time, you cry like you are taking him to his execution. Your brain knows that his caregivers are wonderful and that his older brother thrived in that environment. Your heart doesn't care one bit about what your brain knows, though. It feels the separation of a few hours with the same acute pain as if he were going away forever.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

More Art Around the Neighborhood

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These signs are part of a project called "The Art of Traffic Calming" produced by Saint Paul Public Works. I noticed them by chance one day while driving up Thomas Avenue. Once again confirming my opinion that St. Paul is such a cool place to live.

Four Children

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Tourist in My Original Hometown

Labor Day weekend was spent in Chicago. We seem to be getting the hang of road trips with the kids and I was able to sneak in a few photos at the Hegewisch train station and around Millennium park. It peaked interest in me to spend some more concentrated time there enjoying the architecture and the general vibe of a much bigger city than I've been used to of late. Perhaps I'm starting to warm a bit to the city of my birth.

Perhaps most fun was seeing the kids connect with their cousins and other family members. There have been times in the last few years that I didn't think that such a thing would really be possible, but this has been a summer that has brought many pleasant surprises.

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