Monthly Archives: July 2012

Clear and Present

We are rapidly approaching the summer doldrums. Jack’s summer school is a distant memory, but the first days of school are still far off, wavering like a mirage in the desert heat. We have planned for these endless, end-of-summer weeks by taking some of Jeff’s vacation time so that he may be around to help with the wrangling of children.

The past week was one of these delicious periods when we’ve managed to shake up the routine a bit and steal ourselves a bit of peaceful time away, both alone and together. Jeff seized a chance to go fly-fishing for a day, and when he returned, I sneaked away for a long afternoon to myself.

I feel that the past week of my life has contained an embarrassment of riches. Because, you see, after my lovely day out and about, Jeff and I left for another long-planned mini-break which serves the dual purposes of a) celebrating our fifteenth year of marriage, and b) keeping us mentally healthy for the month of August.

We stayed the night in a historic hotel downtown, which was completely charming. We dined al fresco at various beautiful venues for every single meal. We visited with old friends. We drank homemade horchata on my sister’s quaint old-timey porch. We went to three movies in a twenty-four hour period. We slept late. And we spent a fair amount of time just sitting together enjoying unhurried conversation. We soaked it up, this peaceful, quiet time.

Sigh.

I feel slightly more ready now to face the next few weeks of busyness. Not entirely ready, but a bit more.

As I was sitting in a quiet place on my solitary day away this week, I had this recurring thought: now is a good time to focus my energies on the problems at hand, instead of fretting over what the problems may be like at some point in the future.

This little epiphany perhaps might seem rather elementary to most, but to me it was a pleasant realization that I can stop pushing my figurative heavily-laden wheelbarrow of worries about the future. Instead, I can park that bad boy someplace out of the way and get to work addressing only my current challenges.

It feels more manageable to simply focus on now.

Yesterday is history
Tomorrow is a mystery.
But today is a gift–
That is why it is called the present.

(Name that movie!)

Perfect = Boring

This week I read an excerpt from a book by a single mom who raised three successful sons. She stated that her target audience was single parents, but as I read about the challenges she faced parenting her young boys on her own, I felt that many of the lessons she discussed applied to my family dynamic, too.

First, she said that parents coping with less-than-ideal circumstances have to do one central, important thing: get rid of the notion of nearly perfect. It will never happen and it must be banished forever. I love this woman! I contemplated how much grief I have given myself in striving to reach a standard of nearly perfect at various times in my life. It’s a game a reformed perfectionist like myself just couldn’t win. Rarely did things measure up to my ridiculous expectations.

I recently celebrated my birthday and ruminated about the fact that I really like being a thirty-something. I believe that somewhere in the process of parenting my unique boys and growing into a grown-up, I discovered the truth that when things are nearly perfect on the outside, they typically aren’t all that interesting, nor are they realistic to maintain. Growth involves struggles, changes, and messes. And boy, are we growing around here!

The single mom from the article also shared this maxim: identify what you think is important for parenting your kids and then start eliminating items from the list. As I read this, I realized that she had essentially summarized what Jack’s presence in our family has been teaching me for years. We can’t do it all, but we can focus with laser-like intensity on those few things which are paramount.

For the single mom writing the book, those non-negotiable things did not include home-cooked meals, clean bedrooms, or attractively-dressed children. They did include politeness, kindness, church attendance, family time together, and sports participation (because it wore her boys out and taught them responsibility). I admire this writer for deciding that Hot Pockets as a regular evening meal for her boys was really not the end of the world and she wasn’t going to let it get her knickers in a twist. For her and her children, being at church each week was important; that her boys looked like bedraggled orphans while there was less so.

My list of absolutes isn’t really all that different from the single mom’s. I admire her for realizing that she couldn’t do everything, but she could prioritize a few things she wanted her family to learn, and then work resolutely to make those things happen.

So while these dog days of summer are doggedly testing my stores of creativity, problem-solving, and energy, the fact that it’s “all kids all the time” doesn’t have to wear me down completely. I just have to remind myself that nearly perfect is not only nearly unattainable, but also pretty darn boring. And while there are lots of things you could call my family, boring really isn’t one of them.

Jack Cam

I am currently watching a live video feed of Jack rolling around his room. He is fighting sleep, as are his brothers. I’m not sure why I seem to be the only exhausted person in the house when 9:00 P.M. rolls around, but such is life.

The Jack Cam has been an oft discussed topic in these parts. After literally years of talking about it, Jeff ordered a system and installed it yesterday morning between work calls and Jack’s bus returning him from school.

It’s pretty sweet: it offers a birds’ eye view of Jack’s entire bedroom and has infrared capabilities, which means we can see what he’s doing in the dark. Yep, Big Brother is watching Jack with night vision. Or rather, Big Momma and Big Pop are.

Henry are Charlie are fascinated with the Jack Cam. They take turns watching the monitor and running into Jack’s room to wave at each other. I don’t blame them. It IS pretty fascinating.

We are waiting and watching for the pre-BM moment, when we can avert a Code Brown and redirect Jack’s little tush to the bathroom. I think it just might work. Jeff already rushed in once after the Jack Cam revealed one pale boy jettisoning his pj’s and undies.

Jeff has promised to soon have the Jack Cam ready for portable viewing on my iPad, meaning no matter my lccation or current household task, if Jack is in his room, I will be able to see him preparing to duece and (theoretically) help break the Code Brown habit in favor of a new era of clean self-sufficiency.

In the past week, Jack has pooped in the potty a record FIVE times. This was all pre-Jack Cam, mind you, and it is a new, phenomenal record. Perhaps the Jack Cam will help cement this pleasant and welcome behavior.

I’m filled with hope!

My Dependents’ Day

This week I’ve been thinking about two of my sons: specifically, the two who flank Jack in birth order. I believe these boys came before and behind Jack for the purpose of being kind, watchful, protective helpers for their special brother.

Henry has always watched over Jack and helped him in myriad ways. When they both shared a train fascination, Henry would set up and run the Polar Express locomotive train set to Jack’s delight. When they were just little boys, Henry would watch movies with Jack and make sure he didn’t venture off the sidewalk and into the street. He buckled Jack’s seatbelt and washed Jack’s hair in the bath. Now he often helps Jack open tricky packages or retrieve favorite toys which have been lobbed into the window well.

Charlie seems to have emerged from his early years of being intensely disliked by Jack with great devotion and everlasting fondness for his big, silly brother. Chachi isn’t the least bit concerned that Jack completely despised him in his infancy. He just seems to revel in the fact that Jack follows him through the house and backyard–swinging when he swings, bouncing when he bounces, and vegging out to Tangled when Charlie does. These two often roll around like a couple of little bear cubs. They don’t say a whole lot to each other vocally during such moments, but their tactile play fulfills a need for sensory input and brotherly wrestling.

This close physical connection proved very handy yesterday when Jack, who had spent the morning resisting therapy, breakfast, and backyard playtime, decided to unlock the front door and bolt at full speed down the street. I heard him take off but was holding an almost-sleeping baby and wasn’t as fast as Charlie, who followed Jack and chased him several doors down, where he grabbed Jack’s shirt and held on with all his might. The four-year-old stopped Jack dead in his tracks. Good work, Chach.

Henry’s kindness for Jack again played out today when he came to the rescue. I had stopped at my parents’ home where the three boys were going to hang out while I took Jack to Shriner’s Hospital for his yearly x-rays and check of his leg-length discrepancy and knock-knees. In the two minutes while I used the restroom, Jack went outside to the pool, which was stuck partially open because the pool cover had broken down beyond repair, and got himself soaking wet. Five minutes of panic ensued because a) Jack was drenched, b) we needed to leave NOW for Shriner’s, and c) we had no spare clothes.

In frenetic desperation, I found a tee shirt with the logo of a university my eldest refuses to wear and pulled it quickly over Jack’s head. Then I turned to Henry and asked if he would loan Jack his shorts and make due with something scrounged from Grandma’s drawers. Without argument or even hesitation, H simply handed over his camo shorts. And suddenly Jack, while “going commando,” was decent enough for a visit to see the orthopedist.

Brotherly love, indeed.