Nothing goes away

Eric took this picture of his empty cubby.

Chasing his friend Sylvia, who's been in his class since they were three.

Singing his SOLO verse of Old Dan Tucker...he was amazingly confident and poised!

I love this picture because he looks so grown up and so little at the same time...I'm pretty sure they'll always look that way to me.

My heart is bursting. Today we said goodbye to the preschool that has been so much a part of our lives these past few years that I can't imagine life without it. When we moved here three years ago, Eric had given up his nap and he and I were both desperate for a little time away from each other. On my neighbor's recommendation, I called to ask if there was a spot for Eric in her kids' old preschool, making sure to describe in detail what a wonderful, mature, compliant child he was. There wasn't one, but somehow, later that day, there was. I took him in to meet his teacher and see the school before I signed him up. The carpet was orange and had obviously been there since the seventies, maybe longer. The toys were old and wooden and durable-looking. The teachers had all been there for years, some of them since they'd been students themselves. There was a skin horse feeling about the whole place...it wasn't beautiful and shiny and it didn't have mechanical parts- but it was wonderful and sweet and real. The director and founder of the school, in her eighties, stood outside every single morning, rain or shine, to greet the children as they came in. I knew I had found a place where my kids would be valued and treasured almost as much as they were at home.

Eric loved every minute of school that first year. He learned songs and stories that I hadn't taught him and didn't know. For the first time he had a world that was separate from mine. The next year was a milestone...with Eric in 'junior kindergarten' five days a week and Brigham in the three-year-old class, I had my first small taste of freedom. Two precious mornings a week to move and think and act without the wonderful but cumbersome burden of my boys. When the time came to decide whether to send Eric to the public school for kindergarten this year, or keep him with Brigham at what had become "our school", I hesitated. I worried at first that when he got to first grade he would lag behind the other kids who had gone to full-day kindergarten, who'd been tested and grouped and assessed. What I learned is that education is as much about developing a love of learning as it is about the learning itself. I learned to relax and let my kids grow at their own pace- that forcing a child to learn something he's not ready to learn is pointless and silly. And that, when it's approached correctly learning is, to a child, pure joy.

It was the rainbow song that undid me yesterday. We were sitting in little yellow chairs in Eric's classroom, smiling and clapping and video-taping our way through the end-of-year program. Just that morning I'd thought of how little I remember from my own kindergarten year. A few blurry recollections are all I have left of what is, for Eric, the center of the universe right now. That broke my heart- the thought that this momentous year will fade into his subconscious until he barely remembers it at all. And then they started singing the rainbow song and at the words, "I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow too....", I suddenly started to cry. My favorite quote from Margaret Atwood sprang to mind: "time [is] like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of another. You don't look back along time but down through it like water. Sometimes this comes to the surface, sometimes that, sometimes nothing. Nothing goes away." The long-buried memory of that song floated up from my own forgotten kindergarten days. In that moment I knew that this treasured year, this little class of nine boys and three girls, these beloved teachers wouldn't fade in Eric's mind so much as get overlaid by all the experiences to come, and that one day, when he needs to feel the love and safety and wonder of kindergarten, they'll be there, floating up through the years.

Words cannot express the love and gratitude I feel for these women to whom I've entrusted my boys these last three years. I only hope that they can feel, in some small measure, the honor of being so loved by so many little hearts. On days when I was barely holding it together, and sometimes just plain not holding it together, they stood at the classroom door with wise, kind smiles. They said goodbye today with teary eyes and that same wisdom and kindness...they've done this before. None of us are quite ready to look ahead yet, but the six short weeks of summer vacation have already begun, and soon I'm sure we'll be picking strawberries and hunting for sea-turtle nests. I do hope though that my adult mind can keep these precious preschool years close to the surface, and never forget the lessons the boys and I have learned together.


Taking a breath....

So Eric and the boys just pulled out of the driveway, on their way to our stake's father-son camp out. This is a yearly tradition in our church, and the one of the hight-lights of Eric and Brigham's year. I remember our second year in Seattle, Eric declared that he was taking the boys, who were all of 2 1/2 and 1. I wavered all week between letting him take the baby and keeping him, my mind changing with the onset of a runny nose, moments of desperation for alone time, the wind, etc. In the end, he took both boys and I had about 20 hours of blissful solitude. Sprinkled with bouts of separation anxiety and paranoia that someone would break into our apartment and they would come home to find me in pieces on the living room floor. Or that they would all drown in a freak canoe accident. Or get ticks. Or, gulp, not miss me.

And so it is that every May, as the time for the camp out approaches, I vacillate wildly between wanting and not wanting them to go. On the one hand, it is so, so nice to be alone in a quiet house, eat what I want for dinner, when I want, and stay up as late as I want with the knowledge that absolutely no one but the birds is going to wake me up in the morning. In the early days I scrambled to find friends to pass the time with, drinking up the moments of deep conversation without children demanding our attention. But these days I actually prefer to just be alone. On the other hand, however, I still fight back the urge to cry when they drive away down the street. I stand on the porch and make silly faces at them the way my grandmother used to do when my brother and I left with our parents after an extended visit, crying inconsolably. And isn't that another of the great mysteries of motherhood? The way in which the constant desire to escape your children, your home, your responsibilities somehow coexists with the intense need to be with them, to smell, see and feel them in all their precious, innocent glory?

Of course what I think is actually moot. A few days ago Eric came home from school incredibly stressed out. The words, "you don't have to go on the father-son campout this weekend" almost came out of my mouth. But then I realized that that idea would be shot down as soon as I said it, so I didn't even bother. There is something sacred to the three of them about being in nature together, just the boys. As I write, a driving rain has started....it looks like they're in for an interesting night! And as for me, after getting all this out into the blogosphere, I feel ready to relax and enjoy what I've just realized will be my very last father-son camp out all by myself. Wow.


To Brigham on his birthday

Your eyes
The fuzzy one and the better-but-still-not-perfect one
And yet,
they see a world invisible to others
of soda-tabs in the gutter
dead blowfish in the surf
tree frogs by the side of the path
Everything is beautiful, interesting, worthy to you
I ask God
to let me see what you see

It seems you've got a pink kink in your think

The new color is in honor of our news: We're having a baby and it's a girl! I'm due October 6th. Just thought I would let everyone who hasn't seen me recently know. We're incredibly excited to be having a little girl! Now begins my campaign to paint just ONE wall in our house pink. I'm getting opposition from the boys and Eric, but I think I can wear them down. And pretty soon, I won't be quite so outnumbered!


Back from the Beach, and Happy Mother's Day

In Thomas Friedman's column in the New York Times today, he talked about his mother, who died this past year, and how he wished he could send her flowers and call to wish her happy Mother's Day today. This, of course, made me cry, and think of how lucky I am that I can call my own mom today. But something else struck me even harder. He said he was thinking of all the things his mother could have accomplished had she had the chance to finish school and do all the things she always encouraged him to do. To quote, "It's easy to forget. Your mom had dreams too." I thought about the dreams I had before (and after) I had children. I wanted to be a lawyer, a teacher, a scientist. To get a PhD and write a book. Above all, to have a paid housekeeper! Then I thought about how all of my dreams combined could never have matched the incredible, unfathomable dream of my boys. Those other dreams are good, worthy, important, and I'm grateful for other women who work at them and make the voice of mothers known in the public sphere. But in my heart I know that no degree, no earthly pursuit could possibly be more worthwhile or rewarding than motherhood. I hate when people say that motherhood is the toughest job in the world. I know they mean well, but I just don't believe that, and I don't think they do either. Working in a coal mine all day, breathing in poisonous dust, or in an emergency room, watching people die is obviously harder than going to the park and making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But, in my opinion, although it's not the hardest, it is the most important job in the world, and I'm grateful to be able to call it mine.

On that note, here are some pictures from our recent trip to Emerald Isle, N.C. See how tough a job motherhood is?:)

Little Eric practicing his swimming

The breakdown of the no-kids-in-the-hot-tub rule. Words cannot convey the disgustingness of that water.....

Moms slaving away, as always!

This is the blowfish that Briggie found in the surf one day. We left him out on the porch for a few days and he puffed up- the boys thought that was pretty cool!