Monthly Archives: April 2013

Being A Kid

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I don’t think I was very good at being a kid.  Once I learned to be self-conscious, I excelled at it and I always wanted to be a little older than I was.  I was more comfortable talking to a babysitter than kids my own age.  I never danced with abandon or was really excited to have my face painted or have a balloon animal.  I just wanted to blend in.

To some extent, I am still very much that way.  In most situations, all I want to do is blend and I abhor doing new things – especially by myself.  I am, much to some people’s surprise, a near textbook introvert at heart.  I would rather stay home and read a book than go out with friends.  College never found me in bars and rarely in large parties where I didn’t know most of the people there.  Before Robbie was born, I relished the hour or so of pure quiet I had after work before Justin got home, especially because, as a teacher, I don’t have the option to be an introvert.  I pretend all day and then need time to recharge.

Robbie is, much to my delight and exhaustion, nothing like that.  He is every bit an extrovert and he soaks in every aspect of being a kid without the fear of judgement I had.  Take today, for instance…

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For the past week, Robbie has been begging me to get his face painted.  We went to Sunrise Trackside at Keeneland last weekend, and the face painting line closed before we could get there.  Someone at work sent out an email about an open house with, you guessed it, face painting.  We had to be there.

After Chinese school, Robbie and I headed to the open house.  He ran to get into line to get his face painted and was immediately distracted by a clown making balloon animals.  When the clown asked Robbie what he wanted, Robbie replied, “A rocket ship!” with more enthusiasm than I would have about finding out someone was going to do my laundry for the next year.   Unfortunately, a rocket wasn’t an option; however, a rocket hat was.  As he stood there watching his hat being built, the smile grew larger and larger.  And then he did what I never would have done as a kid – he wore it.  For nearly an hour.

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After the rocket hat, Robbie got back in line to have his face painted.  As soon as it was his turn, the face painter asked Robbie what he wanted on his face.  He replied, without hesitation, “I want you to make me a blue shark, please.”  I had no idea such a thing existed – and I’m not sure the face painter did either.  She asked if he wanted her to draw a shark on his cheek, and he confidently replied, “No.  Please make me a blue shark with sharp teeth.”  And so she did.  He proudly displayed his shark face until it was wiped off shortly before bed – including the four hours that he spent at church with all the big kids at parents’ night out.

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Robbie dances like no one is watching.  He plays games even when he’s not sure all of the rules – take the dunking booth this afternoon for example.  He had no idea how it worked, but he had a blast throwing baseballs and even connected twice (just not hard enough to dunk the freezing person stuck on the platform).  He climbs tall, inflatable slides with the big kids.  Robbie has fun, and he doesn’t care if he sticks out or if anyone notices at all.  So, even though I didn’t do all of these things as a child (and still don’t as an adult), I love watching Robbie do it.  It fulfills something that’s been missing in me, and I’m grateful I have someone to show me that it doesn’t matter what other people think as long as you’re having fun.

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Purpose…

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It seems like there is a new tragedy everywhere we turn.  School shootings.  Marathon bombings.  Massive plant explosions.  Whole cities under lockdown.  There is virtually no escape from it, with 24-hour news access, Twitter, and Facebook.  We see things we shouldn’t – gruesome images from the Boston finish line and the dead body of a bomber on a cold metal table.  And we can’t help asking ourselves what the purpose of it all is.  I’ve known more than one parent to ask, “What was I thinking, having children when I knew the world was like this?”  I’ve wondered the same thing myself.

I may not have a perfect answer, but I have the one that helps me sleep at night.  I brought a child into this world because I am confident that there is good, and my child will be a part of it.  So many of us are scared of where the world is going – and, if we think about it, where the world has been – that it is impossible to not be a little afraid of the future.  But when I look in my child’s eyes, I am not afraid of what the world has in store for him.  I know that the world will be a better place because he has been a part of it.

Sure, maybe not on the days when he wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, gets sent home for scratching someone too hard at pre-school, and throws his dinner across the kitchen instead of eating it.  But most days?  Absolutely.  He is three-and-a-half-years-old, and every day Robbie makes my world a better place.  His frantic racing to give his dad a hug and kiss when we leave in the morning.  The patient way he talks to a scared animal.  The powerful way that he assures me that I am his best friend – unless Daddy is around.  My world is a better place because he stops to pick up and throw away trash, because he says please and thank you in public, and because he remembers when his Aunt Hilary is sick – and asks if she is feeling better yet until she actually is.  He is making good on his daily promise to me that he will be a helper.

If he can reach the people that he knows, making their worlds better, I can only imagine the power he – and all of our children – will have when they are older and have larger circles to influence.  They will not always make the right choices, but, at the end of the day, our children are good people who will grow up to be even better people.  Perhaps our children will bring the end of disease and senseless violence; perhaps they are the change we have been waiting for.  And that, my friends, is something worth celebrating.

Robert: On God

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In times where there seems to be tragedy and anger everywhere we look, it can be difficult to remember that there is a God and that He loves us.  Every day,  but particularly today, I am increasingly thankful that I have a child who believes in God so faithfully.  Here are a few of his pearls of wisdom.

“Mom, God painted me, right?  Well, I don’t like the color he used.  I think I want to be blue.”

After hearing me say, “Robbie, I sure am glad I made you!”, he turned to look at me in shock and said, “You didn’t make me.  God did.  God made me, Mom!  And he made you and Daddy, too.  God made all of us.”

“God gave me to you, right, Mom?  Kind of like a present.  I’m a present to you!”

And, when asking him if he remembered someone he hadn’t seen in months, Robbie replied, “I remember Kirsten, Mom.  I like her.”

Of course, I asked him why, since it seemed like a random comment to add.  His answer?  “Because God made her, Mom.  And if God made her, she is good.”

And so, I will close with the words Robbie prays every night before we eat: “God is great; God is good.  And we thank him (for our food).  Amen.”

Boston, You’re My Home

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This was the first time in eight years that I hadn’t felt the build up of Marathon Monday.  Listening to the meteorologist who was training talk about what day would be better for the long run on the weekend, running with people much faster than me on the Minuteman Trail and on into Boston in the weeks leading to the marathon.  Being intimidated and then inspired by my good friends’ desire to run the Boston Marathon.  But today?  Today, I almost forgot.

The marathon was in the back of my mind as I emailed my friend Allie, asking if it was strange to not be running this year.  And again when Micah, Allie’s husband, sent an email saying that he was excited to be at the finish line and watch the elites cross.  And then again when the message from Fox25 came across my phone: “Explosion at Marathon Finish Line.”  Surely it was something small, right?  An accident.

But it wasn’t.  It was something terrible – people are dead, including an eight-year-old boy.  People have lost limbs.  And, while my heart breaks for anyone who would lose a leg, there is added tragedy for someone who had just completed the marathon.  I think of the grueling hours of training, the time away from your family, when you dedicate yourself to a marathon.  And to have it all destroyed forever when you’ve just finished doing something you love.  I can’t imagine.

I haven’t been running lately.  Too many things have gotten in the way and excuses have become too easy.  But I need to start again.  I know it’s not going to change anything for anyone else, but I have two legs.  I can run.  And I can rejoin the wonderful community that embraced me with open arms when I could hardly do more than walk fast.

I held Robbie a little longer tonight and talked to him before he went to sleep.  I made him promise me that he would make the world a better place and be kind.  And, perhaps most importantly, help.  If I can teach him nothing else, I hope that I can teach my child to help.  And, God, I hope he does.  I hope we can all raise our children to help and be kind.  It sounds so simple, but, after events like today, I can’t help but think about how impossible it seems.

S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G

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Much to the detriment of our adult communication, Robbie understands everything that is being said.  Furthering the problem is Justin’s inability to speak in code. Therefore, I have resorted to spelling things to Justin when Robbie is around, particularly because we are in the middle of trying to plan a surprise trip for Robbie, who understands every word associated with Disney.  Case in point – we said “monorail” in the car yesterday.  Robbie, who hadn’t said a word in five minutes, pipes up with, “Do you mean the monorail at Magic Kingdom, Dad?  Are you talking about Magic Kingdom.  I wanna go there soon.”  And, so, I spell.

Somehow, young Robert has caught on to this.  I would love to have been in his mind when he realized that if he didn’t understand what we were spelling, we probably wouldn’t understand what he was spelling.  Yesterday at lunch, Robbie was trying to communicate to me that Justin was upset and I was in big trouble (neither of which was true at this particular time!).

Robbie looked back and forth at Justin and myself as we spelled out some words to our conversation before bursting in.  All of a sudden, Robbie said, “Hey, Mom!  Daddy a-g-d-r-y-m-q.  Right, Mom?” And then he collapsed into fits of laughter about what he had just spelled to me.  He continued spelling for the next few minutes, each time laughing hysterically about the code he had just communicated to me.

I still have no idea what Justin actually did, but that may be a good thing.  I just hope Robbie doesn’t learn to really spell anytime soon.

Perfection

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Do you ever have one of those days that you wish you could bottle, put on a shelf, and pull back out to revisit on a day when the world hasn’t been so kind?  That was last Saturday for me.  It may have been the most perfect day of my life.  Nothing major happened.  It was so many little things that all combined for the unique kind of perfection you can only find every so often.

It was Justin’s birthday, so, after we ran a family 5k, Robbie and I headed out on some errands to finish preparing for Justin’s party that afternoon.  Robbie and I picked up some pieces we’d painted a few weeks before and then headed to Target.  Robbie was on a mission to find the perfect presents for his dad, settling on monster trucks, water guns, an Awkward Family Photos book, some running clothes, a rocket to launch, and undershirts.  He’d already ordered the perfect race car cake earlier in the week.  Watching Robbie and Justin open presents, well, it almost brought a tear to my eye.  I don’t know which of them was more excited – Robbie because he had bought Justin perfect toys for them to enjoy together or Justin because so much thought went into the presents.  And there really was a great deal of thought.  Robbie put several things back on the shelf because they were things he wanted, not things Justin would want.

After we opened presents, it was time for Justin to play with all of his toys, so the two boys sat down to play monster trucks.  Somehow, and I’m not quite sure where I went wrong here, it turned into a tickle fest, ending with both of them tickling me.  And it was a moment seared into my memory, one I wish I could have filmed to watch again and again.  There they were, Justin and Robbie, their massive heads blocking anything else from my sight, each of them grinning from ear to ear and laughing so completely and with such abandon that it had to be real.  It was the epitome of happiness, and so I laid there soaking up as much of it as I could, afraid that, all to soon, it would be over.

As the day came to an end, I found myself trying desperately to hold onto it, almost afraid to let it lapse into a memory where time would fade the sincerity of the laughter or the total perfection of individual moments.  I snuggled with Robbie a little longer, relishing that he wanted my arms around him while he drifted off.