Monday, August 27, 2012

First Day of School 2012

Brothers - both were so excited to go to school!

He's ready to go!!
So excited he can barely stand still for a picture!

Just for comparison: 1st day, August 2010.

And They're Off!

UPDATE: As promised, here's a little video of Benji taken on his first day.

Today is a milestone for our family. Both of our boys started school, (Danny kindergarten and Benji pre-school), and as is to be expected, this has conjured up some emotions. We seem to have a good mix of friends with kids of varying ages, so I've been having different conversations about how hard it is to transition--whether sending your "baby" out the door to when they are really young or to start college. I think that the one thing both have in common is that we as parents are asked to trust.

Trust that the school we are sending our children to is safe and engaging. Trust that our child will listen and learn and make good decisions. And trust that we've not sheltered them so much that they are unable to cope and adjust to this thing called real life.

But I also think there is something else that discomfits us even more than this question of trust. It's this question of pain.

What parent in his or her right mind wants to cause their child pain? And yet as we walk out the door of the school or wave goodbye to a bus on that first day, we know that even if they seemed okay, there will come a time in moments, hours or days that they will miss us so much they will ache. Real and actual internal pain. And the only place in the world they will want to be is enveloped in our arms as we cradle them and assure them that everything is going to be okay.

But we won't be with them in that moment. And I kind of hate that.

If we/they are lucky, they will be consoled by teachers or peers or friends, and their pain will start to recede like the ocean's tide.

But for those of us who sent them off, the specter of that pain does not recede far from our psyches. We are the ones anxiously eying the clock on these first days.  Imagining our child trying to navigate a whole new world without, well, us. Ridiculous right?

Both Danny and Benji make us so proud. They are bright and social and funny and I know on some level that they will be just fine. It's just all the other levels I struggle with a bit ;-)

For the record, Danny is starting his 3rd year at a charter school in our neighborhood. He is surrounded by teachers he knows and virtually all of the same classmates he's had. For him it was like "old home week" heading back. He seemed so happy and as we stayed for opening activity, it was clear to see that he was behaving well, confident and listening well to his teachers. Of the two boys he's more introverted in some ways I'd say, so going into this very familiar world was comforting for all of us.

Benji, (whom I'd describe as a bit more extroverted) on the other hand went today for the first time to a school where he knows no one. He's only two so I'm not even sure if he remembers the tour we took a few months ago. It's a lovely pre-school, and he was so sweet meeting his teachers this morning. He was not at all happy to see us say good-bye, and frankly he's the one I'm most anxious about. Maybe I'm projecting a bit though. I went to a new elementary school every year when I was a kid and it was hard to be the new kid. All the other kids where Benji started today have been together already for weeks (or longer). Anyway, I am going to optimistically predict that he will do well. He has pretty darned advanced language skills for being only 32 months old, so maybe we'll try to interview him on camera tonight and make a video of his story of his first day.

I am praying today that both boys have great days and that come tomorrow, both will be excited about returning. If not, that's a battle I don't even want to think about! Hasta la vista. -Monica

Friday, August 24, 2012

Our Summer Vacation (#2)

Day two of our Minnesota adventure took us on a drive from St. Paul up north to Woman Lake.  The highlight of the day was a stop at Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd. 

27' tall Paul Bunyan himself greeted the boys with a hearty "Hello Danny and Benji!" as we walked in the front gate.  This did NOT go over well, particularly with Benji.  Neither boy could be convinced to sit on Paul's boot for a picture despite his invitation to do so.  As you can see, even getting this picture was a bit of a challenge.

Babe the Blue Ox was definitely less intimidating - thank goodness he didn't bellow "Good Bye!" as we left.

Our Minnesota trip was all the more special because we had been invited by our wonderful neighbors from DC - Melissa & Norman and daughters Josie & Callagh. A week on a lake in northern Minnesota is a long standing family tradition for Melissa's family, and we were so grateful to be invited along.  The whole family has long been raving about how wonderful and relaxing (parents' take on it) and fun (kids' take on it) the trip would be. 

Paul Bunyan Land is part of the annual tradition, so we met up with the family there.  As you can see here, the boys had a fantastic time on the rides with Josie and Callagh.
During the later days of our trip and especially when we were driving back to St. Paul to go home, Benji would frequently pine for "Bunyan Land! I want to go to Bunyan Land!" in the back seat.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Our Summer Vacation (#1)

I took 238 pictures during our week long vacation in Minnesota and spent quite a bit of time deleting the not so great ones off the camera to fit more and more! (Monica took some of them too.) Now I have a bit of work ahead of me to organize and show off the best ones.  We had several different stops during our travels - St. Paul visiting with Monica's family, Paul Bunyan Land in Brainerd, Kee Nee Moo Sha on Woman Lake in Hackensack, a day at Pine Beach Resort in Nevis, and the trip back to the Twin Cities to fly home. All this to say that this will only be the first installment of several for our vacation photos.

On the day of our arrival we spent the afternoon at the Minnesota Children's Museum in St. Paul with Monica's brother Paul (aka Uncle Pauly) and her niece Janna.  That's Benji driving the two of them on the bus:
Danny spent a few minutes in the dog house pretending to be a dog and then he said to Uncle, "OK, now you be a person!"  He makes a pretty good person, that Uncle!

The construction crane was also a big hit with the boys.  Thanks to Janna's help they were able to lift the I-Beam up onto a truck:
Even Monica (lower left) gave it a try while the boys raced off to other endeavors.

The Curious George room was so fun we had to go there twice! (Yes, thus lots of pictures.)

And this was just the first 2 hours of our vacation! Really! There are more Children's Museum pictures (after all, there was water play and a rooftop garden with a climbing structure, the opportunity to be a turtle, etc, etc) but check back for Our Summer Vacation (#2): Paul Bunyan Land.

Monday, August 06, 2012

We love Nana and Baseball

The boys had a great time at a National's game with their Nana a few weeks ago.  Here's a great picture of the three of them:

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Putting Your Hatred Where Your Mouth Is

Dismayed. Disheartened. These are the best two adjectives I can think of to explain how I felt about an hour ago. You see, I had traveled today to a different government building than I usually go to, and after working on a project all morning with a colleague, stopped for lunch. As we approached the Corner Bakery, we both noticed a really long line stretching down the sidewalk. I remember thinking "must be free ice cream or something at the place next door."

So we had lunch and then wandered outside to get to the Metro. The line stretched even farther down the block. Looked like tourists and office workers, all hanging out in the hot sun to get into the place next door. I think I gasped when I turned and saw that the store they were all waiting to enter was Chick-Fil-A.

For those who have not followed the news of late, the owner of Chick-Fil-A, Dan Cathy (yes, his name is really Mr. Cathy!) has been vocal about being against same-sex marriage and has donated tons of money to causes that negatively affect gay people. This caused an uproar. So Mike Huckabee (former president-wannabe) has rallied "the troops" to show their support for Chick-Fil-A by buying food there this week. This story shows what happened yesterday in Louisville.

Where was I? Oh yes. In Arlington, VA. A long line snaked down the sidewalk. No one was being militant. People just stood there waiting. I didn't hear any of their conversations. Nicely dressed. Nicely behaved. But to see this long line stretching down the street, I was struck with such sadness.

Parents standing with their children were teaching them to hate before my very eyes. In this group of office workers and tourists, I recognized no one, and yet recognized them all. That silent group that smiles and nods when I introduce my wife but suddenly seems really busy--too busy to chat. Those folks who KNOW what Jesus said in the bible about homosexuality. (Umm...sorry to steal this one from John Stewart (or was it Stephen Colbert?), but hey, Jesus said not one word.)

As we walked past this quiet (yet apparently oh so hungry) crowd, we came upon a reporter interviewing a  woman. I couldn't help but stop for a moment and hear her tell the camera man oh so earnestly how "this was about freedom of speech, and being on the side of righteousness...". I turned away shaking my head as she continued on and on about "love" and "God" etc...

I wish I could tell you I got my 15 minutes of fame right there. How I insinuated myself into the interview and said a thing or two. I did not.

I got on my train and went back to work.

But this is not over.