21 Months: Toddler Time

Lucky lucky me got to spend another week with Angel Boy 2.0.

AB 1.0 asked me to bring some of his favorite childhood Christmas tree ornaments that his grandma and I had collected over the years so they could continue the tradition.

We brought home a seven-foot Noble fir and spent my first night decorating the tree with Theo. It took a while, but he finally understood the concept of leaving the ornaments ON the tree and not pulling them off and throwing them like a major league pitcher.

Although it had been raining for a few days, while I was there, the weather was beautiful but FREEZING, at least for this SoCal girl. I was wearing about a dozen layers, perfectly suited for Pacific Northwest arctic temps.

The next morning Mr. T and I went on a walk to the marina. He was all bundled up and you can see the snow on the Olympic mountains in the background.

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On the way to Ballard Locks.64F334D4-FE48-441F-9658-D72E7951B705

After a power nap, Theo and I made a pizza, helping me roll out the dough and scattering sliced zucchini, green peppers, and broccoli over tomato sauce.  With lentil soup, it was a perfect winter lunch.

For some reason, I became his sole choice for ALL diaper changes…AmmahAmmah had to do them all, and there were NO complaints from mom or dad. Besotted as I am with this little human, even THAT melted my heart and I gladly complied with his request.

These moments are so fleeting – one minute you’re changing a diaper and the next you’re sending them off to college. I learned a long time ago with the original Angel Boy to appreciate each and every detail along the journey. Even diaper changes. Yes, even that.

When he was here for Thanksgiving and we walked to the park and he was kinda balky, I created the game of “Puppy” with each of us holding something (or a pretend something) as a leash to encourage him to keep moving, and he remembered (!) which meant there was lots of puppy play and kitty play. And tea parties.

Yes, I am the ULTIMATE playmate. Laser focused attention. HEAVEN. BLISSFUL. JOY.

EF00EA0F-55A4-43BB-9777-2D1BEB561D83As the sun set in the evening, he’d choose a few books and we’d snuggle on the sofa and wind down with Peppa the Pig or Postman Pat or his new Hannukah book or my favorite ones about animals.

He’s memorized so many stories that have already been read to him a billion times.

It’s an important interactive pre-reading experience.

To engage a bright young mind with a lifelong love of learning and reading is a goal we all share.

One of those priceless moments I’ll forever savor and never forget is the heavy weight of a perfectly relaxed little boy nestled in the curve of my protective arm, feeling his excitement as he points to the picture of a wolf when prompted and howls when asked, “what does a wolf say?”

The next day we went to his Gymboree class, which was so cool for me because I had taken his dad there when they first started franchising in the 1980s.

It was amazing to observe Theo’s interaction with the instructor and other children. He is so much like his daddy was at that age, it’s a great response to the debate of nature versus nurture. When my son was very little, a brilliant woman told me “he sees the world in his own way” and I saw those very same characteristics in Theo. He’s not shy, he’s exceptionally self confident, but like his dad, he’s reserved; a thinker and an observer, absorbing everything and filing it away in his mind to process in his own way, but he’s not much of an active participant, although he very much enjoyed himself and helped pick up and put away the musical instruments when it was over. This week was the culmination of Beatle’s music, so when we went back home, I played the same songs that we heard in class, Yellow Submarine, All You Need is Love, and Hello/Goodbye. Theo sung along and shook the maracas exactly the same way he had paid such close attention to. With all children, it’s a great idea to take their lead in situations like this and let them guide their level of participation.

His verbal skills are on fire now, parroting dozens of new words and learning sentence structure. I call it the Helen Keller moment. Two-word directives like “Theo down” …Choo choo loud” “Daddy home” is being expanded upon. DIL and I both heard him clearly say “I want Abby’s cake” when we had a little birthday party for a friend. OF COURSE he was rewarded with the cake that he wanted. OF COURSE. It’s all about positive reinforcement, right?

My brother came to visit from Portland for a couple of days and one of our excursions was the zoo. As you might imagine, I hate zoos. I hate caged and captive wild animals. I hate that their very existence is used to make money as entertainment. I HATE seeing them in their unnatural habitats. But I figured that if I went to the zoo, later on at the appropriate age, I could begin a discussion about all of that, so I did. Theo especially loves gorillas and flamingos, so that’s what we saw. I can’t tell you how sad it was to watch those magnificent gorillas who should have been SOMEWHERE ELSE and I actually thought they seemed depressed. I felt like I shouldn’t be looking at him. Tragic.

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The very best part of the day was on the way out.

I noticed a woman crouched on one knee pointing a camera into a tree. I looked up and saw a magnificent OWL, also one of Theo’s fave animals. When he followed my gaze and saw the owl, he was transfixed. We stayed there for a bit and he called it Daddy Owl because it was so large. The sun was going down, so this isn’t the best pic, but it was a spectacular sighting.

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Although he gifted me with a nasty sore throat and the beginnings of the flu or some type of upper respiratory infection, it was once again a magical time; although flying home to vicious Santa Ana winds and out of control fires, loss of homes, dozens of horses perishing, and emergency notifications from the city to prepare for possible evacuation brought me right back to reality. The winds have died down for now but are forecasted to be gust at 50+ mph on Sunday.

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Bitter+Sweet

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This is how I know I had an amazingspectularawesome fun time with Angel Boy 2.0–when his playroom looks like we’re in the eye of a Category 5 hurricane.

Hurricane Theo lol.

Yes, that’s a ukelele–Theo loves music, and yes, that’s a tent. He won’t sleep in a crib and we’re exploring other options.

Since SoCal had record breaking heat, most of our time was spent at the beach or the park or in the garden.

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Or even cooking with Grandma…which actually meant he was eating all the food in the bowl as I prepared my world famous Kugel, the only time canned fruit enters this house haha.

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I hope everyone had as wonderful and exhausting Thanksgiving as we did.

Now it’s time to clean up the mess.

That’s the bittersweet part. Saying goodbye. And the silence. No squeals, no laughter, no JOY!!!

#Thankful #Grateful #Love #Family

Taking a minute to breathe before heading to the airport to claim Angel Boy 2.0. I suppose I’ll have to tote my son and DIL home too, as 20 month Theo is still too young to fly to me by himself, but they don’t really matter. HAHA. No really. They.Do.Not.Matter.

For all the years that my laser focus was directed at the original Angel Boy, I bet if he had known that the way stop me from being a drone and hovering and helicoptering was simply to procreate, he might have done it YEARS AGO.

While I sense a slight, very slight wistfulness in his voice sometimes because it’s ALL ABOUT THEO, I know he’s very proud of his accomplishment in whatever part he played in the creation of Theodore. Just to see him play with Theo brings tears to my eyes.

Did you know that AB named Theo? Years ago, he shared an experience with his best friend in Greece where they were climbing Mt. Olympus and didn’t realize how very far it was to go up and then down, a miscalculation on the part of those (then) undergrads.

I don’t remember all the details, but just as they were near exhaustion, out of nowhere, a truck appeared, stopped, and the driver took pity on them and drove them to the bottom.

As they thanked him profusely, my son asked his name. In broken English, he said he was called Theodore, which means “god’s gift”.

Apparently, that kindness stayed with my son all these years, and that’s how Theo came to be.

My break is over. I’ve already made the stuffing, apple and pumpkin pies, kugel, and fresh cranberry sauce, filled the wading pool with water, and set up a little sandbox. I wanted to get as much done as possible in advance to have more playtime for me and Mr. T, and since I make everything from scratch, it helps to prep early.

It’s going to be record breaking heat today in the 80s at the beach.

Time to go to the airport!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and I’m sure you can figure out what I’m grateful for.

Home really is where the heart is today for sure!

What’s NOT the best choice for a bedtime story? Ballad of the Harp-Weaver.

There sat my mother
   With the harp against her shoulder
Looking nineteen
   And not a day older,
A smile about her lips,
   And a light about her head,
And her hands in the harp-strings
   Frozen dead.

 

Since I was lucky enough to become a grandma (thank you DIL!) I’m always searching for new and interesting books to tempt Angel Boy 2.0 and his voracious appetite for words and pictures and language. One of my favorite photos was of AB 2.0 at around two months looking intently at AB 1.0 while he read a story. We swear he was paying attention. Maybe/maybe not, but we like to think so.

I went to our local library where they have a store staffed by volunteers and always find great books-sadly some never even cracked open-and grabbed an armful.

I parked myself in a little child-sized chair and briefly skimmed through my treasures. I found a book by one of my son’s favorite authors, James Herriot, who wrote All Creatures Great and Small and Moses the Kitten, along with about a dozen other really good stories, mostly about animals (my personal interests shining through).

Somehow, though, this book slipped by…

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver by Edna St. Vincent Millay, illustrated by Beth Peek.

Visually stunning, I anticipated a lovely illustrated poem that Theo would enjoy, but waited until I had already driven home to fully read this one.

UH OH, thank goodness I read it first and I’m even more grateful that Theo can’t read at all.

I know I initially read it in high school, because as soon as I saw this page, the horror I had initially felt–returned.

A bedtime story? I think not. Not unless you want to seed some traumatic nightmares! I can’t imagine what kind of positive life lesson there could be here, can you?

I didn’t remember that it ended with the mom dying, having sacrificed her life for her son, and it’s not even that I DISAGREE with that concept because I believe a good parent should place her/his needs beneath those of the innocents we bring into this universe, BUT the guilt trip that little guy will most likely endure isn’t an equivalent value for having his loving mother ALIVE.

No wonder it appeared that this book looked as if it had never been touched.

The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver

“Son,” said my mother,
   When I was knee-high,
“You’ve need of clothes to cover you,
   And not a rag have I.
“There’s nothing in the house
   To make a boy breeches,
Nor shears to cut a cloth with
   Nor thread to take stitches.
“There’s nothing in the house
   But a loaf-end of rye,
And a harp with a woman’s head
   Nobody will buy,”
   And she began to cry.
That was in the early fall.
   When came the late fall,
“Son,” she said, “the sight of you
   Makes your mother’s blood crawl,—
“Little skinny shoulder-blades
   Sticking through your clothes!
And where you’ll get a jacket from
   God above knows.
“It’s lucky for me, lad,
   Your daddy’s in the ground,
And can’t see the way I let
   His son go around!”
   And she made a queer sound.
That was in the late fall.
   When the winter came,
I’d not a pair of breeches
   Nor a shirt to my name.
I couldn’t go to school,
   Or out of doors to play.
And all the other little boys
   Passed our way.
“Son,” said my mother,
   “Come, climb into my lap,
And I’ll chafe your little bones
   While you take a nap.”
And, oh, but we were silly
   For half an hour or more,
Me with my long legs
   Dragging on the floor,
A-rock-rock-rocking
   To a mother-goose rhyme!
Oh, but we were happy
   For half an hour’s time!
But there was I, a great boy,
   And what would folks say
To hear my mother singing me
   To sleep all day,
   In such a daft way?
Men say the winter
   Was bad that year;
Fuel was scarce,
   And food was dear.
A wind with a wolf’s head
   Howled about our door,
And we burned up the chairs
   And sat on the floor.
All that was left us
   Was a chair we couldn’t break,
And the harp with a woman’s head
   Nobody would take,
   For song or pity’s sake.
The night before Christmas
   I cried with the cold,
I cried myself to sleep
   Like a two-year-old.
And in the deep night
   I felt my mother rise,
And stare down upon me
   With love in her eyes.
I saw my mother sitting
   On the one good chair,
A light falling on her
   From I couldn’t tell where,
Looking nineteen,
   And not a day older,
And the harp with a woman’s head
   Leaned against her shoulder.
Her thin fingers, moving
   In the thin, tall strings,
Were weav-weav-weaving
   Wonderful things.
Many bright threads,
   From where I couldn’t see,
Were running through the harp-strings
  Rapidly,
And gold threads whistling
   Through my mother’s hand.
I saw the web grow,
   And the pattern expand.
She wove a child’s jacket,
   And when it was done
She laid it on the floor
   And wove another one.
She wove a red cloak
   So regal to see,
“She’s made it for a king’s son,”
   I said, “and not for me.”
   But I knew it was for me.
She wove a pair of breeches
   Quicker than that!
She wove a pair of boots
   And a little cocked hat.
She wove a pair of mittens,
   She wove a little blouse,
She wove all night
   In the still, cold house.
She sang as she worked,
   And the harp-strings spoke;
Her voice never faltered,
   And the thread never broke.
   And when I awoke,—
There sat my mother
   With the harp against her shoulder
Looking nineteen
   And not a day older,
A smile about her lips,
   And a light about her head,
And her hands in the harp-strings
   Frozen dead.
And piled up beside her
   And toppling to the skies,
Were the clothes of a king’s son,
   Just my size.

Shake It Off

Not the Taylor Swift tune, although it’s one of my faves, but I’m talking about shaking off the much too serious posts I’ve been writing about wetiko, death, and the dark night of the soul!

While I haven’t done a whole lot of retail therapy shopping lately unless it’s toys or clothes for a growing Angel Boy 2.0,  I’ll tell you about a heartbreakingly exquisite moment that he and I shared on a recent visit.

Picture this: he lives between Puget Sound and some MAJOR railroad tracks. The good thing is the neverending entertainment of watching boats and sunsets and moonrises and the tiny little beach that’s across the street and the less good thing is the long and loud freight trains that heavily traverse the tracks all day and all night.

However, to a little boy, choo choos are AWESOME and AMAZING ALL THE TIME, exactly like his daddy thought at that age. We often drove to the train museum at Balboa Park and rode the little train there, too.

The day I was leaving, as I was packing my suitcase, Theo came in my room and grabbed my hand. I said, “What’s up, Mr. T? I’m packing up to go home, do you want to help?”

He looked at me intently still holding my hand and pulled me to my feet. In a sweet, small voice, he whispered excitedly, “AmmahAmmah, choo choo!” and raised his arms so I could pick him up. We stood at the window and he patted my back and leaned into me as I read to him all the names on the cars and we counted them until the train passed. I counted 56 cars and never wanted to put him down. I wish there had been 10,556 more.

Time stopped for those few minutes.

Nothing else mattered.

A boy, his grandma, a shared love of trains, and the beauty of a little human whose spirit shines so brightly even at eighteen months that he already knows the meaning of life and of happiness, being fully invested in the moment, the mindfullness of joyful living that some of us seem to lose as we transition into adults.

My little buddy. Beyond adorable…THEO-dorable!

This is the Balboa Park train. Can’t wait to take 2.0 !!!

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Gratitude + Joy

I don’t often post pictures of Angel Boy 2.0 because we are all protective of his image but every single time I look at this photo, it sets my world right again, so I thought I’d share it with my friends.

With hurricanes and floods and fires and murders and other toxic disasters that seem to engulf our consciousness lately, there’s the opposite and equally powerful tug of LOVE at our hearts and minds and souls and spirits.

He’s the reason why my sun rises every single day.

Pure in his magnificence, my heart softens and melts. And heals.

Just a boy and his Peppa the Pig plate full of a lentil burger, broccoli, hummus, and tomatoes.

Pure love. We all need a big dose it right about now.

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Synchronicity

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Like autumn leaves turning color, falling to expose naked branches,  I see the green, golden, and red leafy reminders of the same word everywhere I turn.

When I was with Angel Boy 2.0, we stood in the forest and I picked up handfuls of maple leaves, tossed them high into the air and we laughed as they gently floated down around us.

“More! More!” he squealed. “AmmahAmmah, MORE!” And so I did. And the moment was even more precious as he raced away clutching one of them to keep for the walk home.

The word I see and hear everywhere is FORGIVEness.

On social media, in emails, songs I hear over and over again, in a seemingly random manner or maybe not so random, right?

And this old song, “Heart of the Matter”…is it time to pay attention, to really LISTEN to that inner voice?

Just like those maple leaves, let it go.

‘Nuff said…

 

#takeaknee I’m an intermittent rebel, but I think I was first: I didn’t stand up for the national anthem at a Major League Baseball game and I almost got attacked

At the time, my reasons for not standing were different than the initial reasons why football players knelt during the national anthem, but these silent protests have become the subject of national attention — this time, because Trump has launched a days-long tirade at players who have joined the movement.

A year ago, it was Colin Kaepernick’s act of kneeling to protest police treatment of African Americans that captured the most attention, in 2017, it appears to be Trump’s unconventional response to the act.

It’s all about freedom: of speech and of thought.

My story:

It was in the early 1990s. I’m not a huge fan of baseball, but somebody had given me a couple of tickets to a Padres game and I thought it would be something my then thirteen-year-old son would enjoy.

After all this time, I can’t remember what team we were playing, but since my son was an avid collector of baseball cards and knew everyone’s stats by heart, it was a big deal to him.

I’m an intermittent rebel. Most of the time I comply with socially accepted behavior norms but sometimes I don’t, and there is really no rhyme or reason why I’ll do something one minute and turn into Pussy Riot the next.

Mercurial is a good word to describe me.

Or batshit crazy. Your choice. Whatever.

On this particular day, I was feeling especially contemplative and introspective. Or pissy, or just contrary, or all of the above…

When it was time for the national anthem and everyone was asked to stand, I stayed seated. My newly teenaged-don’t-make-waves-and-certainly-for-heaven’s-sake-don’t-call-attention-to-the-fact-that-he’s-out-in-public-with-his MOM son stood when everyone else did and then sat back down.

He was confused.

He asked me why I was sitting. I replied that I didn’t like to be told what to do, that I was neither a sheep nor a lemming, that my love or respect for our country had nothing to do with standing simply because everyone seemed to expect it, and putting my hand over my heart was rather offensive to me and reminded me of similar blind devotion to Hitler.

As far back as elementary school, I decided not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance because I felt it personally offensive in ways I couldn’t comprehend nor verbalize at the time, but I had a strong feeling that it wasn’t something I wanted to do. Of course I got in trouble, sent to the principal’s office and all that; parents called, and my lawyer dad told the administration that it was my RIGHT and my decision whether I chose to participate in that activity and he supported me. I appreciate that he advocated for my free will even at that age.

The almost but not yet completely drunk people sitting behind us started yelling at me to stand up. That created enough ruckus so that others started paying attention to the situation. The crowd turned ugly. Everyone was yelling at us to stand and accusing me of being a bad mother. Someone threw popcorn.

I told my son that this was a perfect example of what I was explaining to him, that if he felt like he needed to go along with the peer pressure crowd mentality — that was his individual decision, but he should ask himself if he was standing because he wanted to honor his country or because he was being bullied into it?

What was his motivation? What was his intention?

He told me I was a troublemaker and I embarassed him.

With love, I told him I was sorry that I made him feel badly, but that I really wanted him to grow up to be someone that thought for himself and made his own life decisions based on his inner voice of that was right and wrong for HIM.

Did my NOT standing make me LESS of an patriotic American? IT DID NOT. I am not a fan of public displays of rote allegiance.

As soon as as the game started, everyone forgot about it and that’s how it ended, but for a brief moment, I thought things were going to escalate into some sort of overt hostility.

Intermittent or not, I am a proud social protester: when I fought to add wolves to the Endangered Species List, fought against abhorrent puppy mills, and when I stood proudly with my sisters and brothers to protest in support of women’s rights last January.

I’m proud that I stand up (or sit down) for what I believe in.

Not standing for the national anthem is a legal form of peaceful protest, which is a First Amendment right.

There is a method to my seeming madness…it’s a foundation of my belief system of mindful parenting

Mindful parenting means taking responsibility for as well as being present with our own feelings and actions to model this thoughtful insightfulness to our children. This creates a level of self-discovery and self-awareness and self-control over our moment-to-moment reactions. Instead of a negative, punitive connotation, discipline does not only refer to the guiding or teaching of a child, but begins with self and builds individuation.

Although this was my parenting philosophy that I pretty much put into practice instinctually with my son 36 years ago, you can now read about one progressive and loving approach here: Resources for Infant Educarers® (RIE®) https://www.rie.org/

To put it simply, I wanted my son to think for himself, to question authority, to use his brains and his heart to navigate through life, and I’m glad to see that he and DIL are raising my grandson with that same sort of loving mindfulness.

And finally…

This is how President Obama reacted (via Huffington Post):

Almost exactly a year ago, Obama offered a nuanced insight into Kaepernick’s protests.

“Well, as I’ve said before, I believe that us honoring our flag and our anthem is part of what binds us together as a nation,” Obama said during a CNN town hall in September 2016. “But I also always try to remind folks that part of what makes this country special is that we respect people’s rights to have a different opinion. We fight sometimes so that people can do things that we disagree with … As long as they’re doing it within the law, then we can voice our opinion objecting to it, but it’s also their right.”

″I think that it’s also important for us to recognize that sometimes out of these controversies, we start getting into a conversation, and I want everybody to listen to each other,” Obama continued. “I want Mr. Kaepernick and others who are on a knee, I want them to listen to the pain that that may cause somebody who, for example, had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat, and why it hurts them to see somebody not standing. But I also want people to think about the pain that he may be expressing about somebody who’s lost a loved one that they think was unfairly shot.”

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A Little Name Change

Although I thought Princess Rosebud just about said it all; aspiration as well as inspiration, I’ve been renamed.

For most of my life, the most wonderful way to get my attention was to hear my son call out “MOM or Mommy!” and I’d immediately stop what I was doing and give my 100% laser-focused attention to Angel Boy.

I never thought I’d become an obnoxious grandmother; it’s a huge surprise to me, but I confess that I’m REALLY obnoxious. I show pics of Theo to friends at the gym and complete strangers. He’s the most amazing child in the world. HE IS, I promise you.

But now things are different. I still love to hear my son refer to me as Mom, but it doesn’t touch my heart the way it does when Theo, Angel Boy 2.0, wants his  “AmmahAmmah”.

It’s the most beautiful sound in all the land, along with the song of the coyote and the howl of a wolf.

Theo first named me “Gammma” and it’s morphed into “AmmhaAmmah”, which sounds cool and hip and a for sure guarantee that he will forever and ever get every single toy that he will ever want.

ammatheoThose eyes, that hair, oh yes, he’s my heart of hearts.

What do your grandkids call you?

 

Walking away…The bittersweetness of it.

Nothing stays the same.

Children grow.

No matter how much you want them to remain babies that simply smile, sleep, poop, and eat, children don’t stay that way forever.

As soon as they begin to move, to crawl, to walk; the rest of their life seems to be dedicated to moving AWAY from us.

I visited sweet Angel Boy 2.0 recently and my overall observation was of his back, moving TOWARD what caught his eye, what intrigued him, and what was the next obstacle to surmount.

No longer a baby, AB 2.0 walks and runs everywhere; his autonomy and confidence is a magnificent thing to behold, albeit a bit scary, too.

He’s fearless, this amazing boy of my boy.

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Contemplating a sea of possibilities

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His confident and empowered stride

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The world is endlessly fascinating

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A boy and his balloon

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The magic of salmon

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My two boys, Angel 1.0 and 2.0