Friday, December 28, 2012

This Time He Turned 8

If you read my blog last year, you know I was a little less than excited about Sam turning 7. It made me feel a little panicked to think of him leaving early childhood behind him...I didn't want him to lose his cuddliness, his lispy squeakiness, his baby-toothed smile, his willingness to do what I wanted him to, his footie pajamas, the way he said "mind" instead of "mine" and still played dinosaurs with his brother.  Six seemed little, seven seemed on the way to B.O. and size 12 shoes and not wanting to get up in the morning and not wanting to hold my hand anymore.
This year he turned 8, and it was a completely different story.  He has done so well adjusting to our new life and his new school.  He is still loyal in his heart to the Fantastic Four from Flagstaff (his group of friends), but he has made new friends and enjoys being a leader in his classroom.  He was invited to be a part of an advanced math group and is really growing as a writer. 
Even more than his success at school, I think Jeremy and I are proud of him for his character and how he has accepted the role of big brother and oldest son in our new life here.  He often has a lot of people giving him instruction, feedback, attention, and yet he continues to be sweet and soft-hearted.  We have expected a lot from him and he has risen to the challenge. 
(He still struggles to finish a meal without spilled milk or crumbs everywhere, but Jeremy said to me, "Inside of Sam is a man making plans to conquer the world.  I don't think paying attention to crumbs and spills fits into the picture."  True point.)  He has grand plans and so much desire to create and make his ideas into reality and not as much patience for the details it takes to finish the project well...and I am learning to really appreciate his process and see that the joy for him is in the doing, not the perfection.  He is so much like me and yet I want to be more like him.
The moment I realized I was at peace with his growing-up came when my sister pointed out that in the picture of us walking on the beach (at the top of this blog), Sam is 3/4ths as tall as I am.  He really is becoming a little man!  I gave up picking him up a long time I can relish in the fact that he can carry heavier groceries for me or can cross the street with Annie and Evan to go visit their friend Stephen and he is tall enough to be seen by passing vehicles.
I think Sam's 7th year was really a rite of passage in some was the year that he became aware of more of the hard things in life.  I have learned, from unofficial research with other moms here and there, that the age of 7 is kind of a time when kids become aware of their weaknesses and a little afraid of the world.  A friend who is a family therapist said that she treats a lot of 8 year olds who have been struggling with anxiety and depression for a while and their parents finally get frustrated enough to seek makes sense from what I have observed. 
Specifically for Sam, he seemed to become aware of the world and its woes this year.  He will say it happened when he accidentally got locked in a bathroom in Phoenix and it took him and I quite a while to calm our heart rates down after I found him screaming and almost kicked the door off of its hinges to rescue him.  But in his 7th year he had to say goodbye to his friends, move from the only home he had known in his childhood, start at a new school, watch an election and learn about some of the issues that face society, and even to recently understand the actions of an evil man in Connecticut.
Yet, he remains energetic, compassionate, playful, and hopeful.  He gives gifts generously and remembers to pray for sick friends or Stephen's mom who has cancer or the Bowman family.  We have had fun doing more grown-up things like reading The Hobbit or playing soccer in the backyard or riding bikes for 2 miles.
So we are proud of him and proud to watch him turn 8.  We planned a BMX-themed birthday celebration for him at the park where we spend a lot of time after school. 
The boys had fun putting on biker tattoos, decorating cup holders for their Gatorade, eating lots of red dye #40, and mastering a challenge course of obstacles.  Even I got in on the action in between judging duties and texting a mom whose child disappeared for a little while.  No biggie.

Annie was right in there with the boys...she is a future BMX champion--she can do jumps and stunts that seem unnatural for a 3 year old!  (Don't worry, she wore a helmet MOST of the time)

This boy won the medal for Most Creative riding

Evan could do everything the bigger boys could do also.  Seriously, my kids got their bike-riding genes from their father.
Then we moved on to the race...Sam and Jeremy mapped out a course that included twists and turns and an option to go over a jump. We had heats and ultimately a champion...fittingly, the champion was the birthday boy, but a huge pile-up right in front of the finish line sort of messed things up and ultimately added to the excitement and memories.

Annie can even ride blindfolded!

We finished with cupcakes and medals and lots of playing before it got dark and cold (by Southern CA standards).

Making sure each boy gets a medal Carefully tabulating the results.

We had wanted to have a celebration with the neighborhood kids but it seemed too much to plan 2 events.  The next morning, though, the kids in the cul-de-sac ended up setting up another Challenge Course and we had just enough leftover Gatorade and cupcakes to make another unofficial celebration.

 So now he is officially 8 and officially a biker champion.  He's so proud!  (But not too proud to still hold my hand and play dinosaurs with his brother, phew!)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thanks Giving

Thanksgiving was special this year.  It just felt, well, thankful.

We've been living with my parents for almost 6 months, 5 months at Thanksgiving...and I mention that because I really feel like we are starting to reap the deeper benefits of living so *close* to each other.  There weren't all the pressures and stresses of a trip to San Diego and who sleeps where and are we spending enough time with each other.  Someone blessed our family with some money to spend so we were able to get a hotel room for the 5 of us at a really nice hotel by my sister's house.  We spent hours and hours by the pool...swimming, diving, making new friends...and because my kids are pretty proficient (Annie with a life jacket) in the water, I actually got to relax and read a bit.  It was really and truly relaxing!  We got to spend some meals together with my sister and my parents and we went exploring Cabrillo National Monument one morning.  We just all know each other better now, there are bonds and there is silence and there is just enjoying the moments together.  I felt the same when we lived really close to Jeremy's parents in Tucson when Sam was a baby...doing daily life together can have its ups and downs, but it is really special and I am thankful for both of our families.

Tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument with Aunt Kendra, the teacher who became a pilot (but still is a 3 kiddos).

Before we went to the hotel in San Diego, Evan claimed he remembered that last year when the kids stayed there with my parents, the hot tub was on one side of the pool one day, and then the next day, they had moved it to the other side.  He was adamant that this had happened, though he admitted freely that it would have been hard work to move all the bricks and cement in the middle of the night.  He was so sure of himself, we couldn't convince him otherwise.  While at the hotel this time, we noticed the map...I have no idea what the blue area next to the pool is, but he is more convinced than ever that he is right!

Even though I don't love dogs, I love my sister's constant companion, Ranger.  I am thankful for him!

Taking a walk after dinner to see the neighbor's house that had burned down the night before.  If looking at that sight (along with scores of curious neighbors) doesn't make you thankful, I don't know what will!

We can obviously see what Evan is thankful for :)

While in San Diego, I finished reading a special book that was given to me by another mom on Sam's soccer team after she had only known me for a little while but was sensitive enough to know that I could use some encouragement.  The book is called 1,000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  What I thought it was going to be and what it turned out actually being are two very different things.  I thought it was going to be along the lines of Oprah's gratitude journals and how we should be more thankful blah blah blah.  What it turned out to be was a deep probing into the character of God and our relationship with him and how giving thanks is a pivotal part of not only rejoicing in the good things he gives us, but trusting him and being comforted by him in the really hard stuff...the stuff she calls the Ugly Beautiful.  I was really motivated to finish it on Thanksgiving Day and I sat by the pool with my embarrassing choked-up face and tears on my cheeks reading the last few chapters.  Many times with books, I get finished (or I don't even finish) saying "Yeah, yeah, I get it, now I understand."  But this book felt like a call to start back over on my own journey at Chapter 1 and experience for myself the things that she explores and experiences in the book.  The book starts with a dare from the author's friend to write down 1,000 things she is thankful for.  I dare my friends to read this book and then start a list along with me in 2013 and to watch and share what happens.  Let me know if you're in, I'm serious!

1.  Friends' birthday parties with face paint
I wanted to write more...I wanted to write about the suffering and sadness in the news this week, but there are already so many voices, I don't just want to add to the noise. The book 1,000 Gifts opens with a story that reminds me that death and suffering are happening every day in the world and yet, unless it is happening directly to us, we go about our lives not wanting to think about it.  The tragedy in CT makes me long to look my friends (and myself) in the eye and say, "are you willing to take a long hard look at this and really think through why death and suffering exist and why we long for reason in the midst of it?"  Death should make us sad or mad enough to really go to the end of our worldviews and test the way they hold up under the hardest questions.  Likewise, blessings and good things should make us stop to wonder just as much...where do they come from and why do they even exist?  Moments like this awaken us from the numbness and avoidance and empty busyness we fill our days with...let's not miss the crucial opportunity for true comfort and peace by just watching the news and wringing our hands and locking our doors more than we used to.  Ann Voskamp calls it "the Ugly Beautiful" find God in the midst of suffering.  Sarah Warren's parents remind us that "it is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting, because this is the end of every man, and people should take it to heart."  They modeled to me how to give thanks in the midst of suffering, how to really enjoy the blessings and how to accept the ugly beautiful, and I want to, too.
2.  Freedom and security that we take for granted so much that events like this week's shock us because we are used to relative safety compared to many other places in the world.
3.  A spunky girl with spunky hair, even though it now is looking a little like...(see below)
4.  MOPS class with Grandma as her teacher.   Priceless.
5.  Silly moments with Crampaw at the dinner table when your cheeks hurt from smiling later
6.  Not being mad at the kids for being late for school when the reason is that you found them like this instead of getting ready.