Last night I took Meera to see the Moscow Festival Ballet’s performance of The Sleeping Beauty. It was absolutely exquisite in every way.
The boys had basketball practice, so the plan was for Braydon to take them while I gave Meera a very special night out. She’s 5.5, this was her first ballet, and I was not sure how it would go. I had explained to her repeatedly that there wouldn’t be any words, and she seemed to understand the concept of “dancing out” the story. She’s currently taking a Creative Movement class after school once a week, so she gets the concept of expression through movement. And she knows the story of Sleeping Beauty inside and out (it has always been her favorite princess story). But I still wasn’t sure how we’d fare (plus, it started at 8pm, which is already 1/2 hour past her bedtime; and it was a Friday — the end of a tiring week). I figured if she made it to intermission and got even some enjoyment out of it, we’d be golden.
I had hoped for, but could not have expected, what happened. She was enchanted and thrilled and enthralled by the entire production. At many moments the ballet literally took her breath away, and she’d audibly gasp so that several of the beautiful, ballet-loving, gray-haired men and women in the audience around us would smile and nod in delight (there were very few children in the audience). I’m not sure who enjoyed the ballet more— Meera, or those gentle arts-adoring seniors surrounding us who got so much joy in sharing Meera’s first ballet with her and me (several came to me after the show and commented on how “lovely” and “wonderful” it was to see me take my young child to such a production; and how they were sure she’d remember it for the rest of her life).
Meera made it through the whole show, finally giving up and falling asleep sitting upright in her chair in the last five minutes. But for the first two hours she leaned over to me and whispered, “This is awesome!” at least a half dozen times. She adored it.
I had brought a small pair of binoculars, thinking Meera might like to use them a bit. She kept them hung around her neck throughout the entire ballet and watched at least 2/3 of the performance through them. She notices every detail— the costumes, the jewelry, the pink jewels adorning the silver crown on Princess Aurora, the gold sparkled belt on the Prince, what color tights they are all wearing, the turquoise feathers in the hand-held fan of the queen, the smoke marking the entrance and exit of Maleficent. I appreciate how much she appreciates it all.
I got so much enjoyment from the ballet too — but for me, at least half of that joy came from experiencing it with my arts-loving daughter.
We haven’t done any promotion on our blog, since it’s really a family record and our way of remembering these years of parenting our young kids. I guess we mostly spend our time trying to be good parents, and making progress in our work. I’d like to say that we also have tons of creative hobbies and a super, active social life, but you know that’s not true!
And one of the things we, and lots of American parents, are thinking about and dealing with, is how much technology our kids are using on a daily basis. Tablets, cell phones, computers, streaming media, television; the screen engagement is tremendous. In years past, there was the “sweet 16″ and the new-found freedom of getting a drivers license and maybe a car. But today it seems that most teens would take a smartphone over a vehicle. Freedom has taken on a new form. And it’s a form that is staring us all in the face…literally.
But when our adult heads are down in our phones for email, facebook, texting or amazon and our kids need to use iPads in the class, and our music is coming from the phone plugged into the stereo, or we can finish a movie on the TV that we started on a tablet, and the moment we’re not connected is a moment of fear and trepidation of missing something, what do we do?
What do we do when we look up from our screens and see our 5 year old staring at a screen just the way we do? What do we do when we hear our parents’ nagging voice in our heads to move away from the TV, that our heads will turn to mush, that you’ve exceeded your 2 hour cartoon limit, that you need to go outside and play? How do we handle that with our own kids?
Alex and Alexa asked us to chime in on this very question in a Google Hangout, and it was something I felt would be a great conversation to have. Join us Thursday at 1:30 PM EDT to find out if we have anything worthwhile to say about it.
Click here to see it, or just watch it here:
We each drove three hours to meet up halfway between where we both live. 2 moms, 3 boys, for a Mother&Son Getaway. We checked into the hotel and proceeded directly to the pool. The Haitian Sensations swam and played like there was no tomorrow. Their moms put their feet up, drank rum punch, and talked like there was no tomorrow. The pool closed at 11pm, so we called it a day. We slept in cozy beds, in rooms that we didn’t have to clean. We woke up the next morning, ate a breakfast that we didn’t have to make, and then hit the pool again (substituting coffee for rum punch).
From check-in to check-out we never left that hotel once. We planned it perfectly: we planned to do nothing but spend some time together. By the time we left, the boys were convinced that they are biological cousins. And the moms were re-reminded that real-deal-friendship is the key to getting through life relatively whole-and-intact. It was a combined total of approximately 12 hours driving time. For one night away. But that Mother&Son Getaway was priceless. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, and I’d drive double the distance. It was that good, for us all.
Love you Erin & Geoff! xoxox
Meera: “ I love fashion! I love pretty, fancy things! I’m addicted to fashion!”
She even cooks (for a crowd no less!) in fashion~~
Julie, Dan, Kyle, Jon, Meera, Owen, Kelsey
As a family, we give a lot to our Lehigh-friends-neighbors-students. We sort of pour our hearts into them, and fully embrace them into our lives. From all outside appearances, you might think we’re providing some sort of student-centered “service” or “outreach,” and, in fact, what we do (through living on campus) is often referred to as that. But when I hear comments about the “service” we are providing by doing what we do, it rubs me the wrong way. Not because I don’t think we are doing a lot for students (trust me, I know more than anyone just how much we are doing for students). But, rather, because in calling it that, it devalues and misrepresents what is actually happening.
People who think what we’re doing is uni-dimensional “student service” are truly misunderstanding what is going on here. What is going on here is a real reciprocal relationship between us and the Lehigh students with whom we interact. We’re building relationships that are genuine. There is give and take, and back and forth. There is community. There is reciprocity. For all that we give, we get back tenfold.
This Saturday, four of our Lehigh-friends-neighbors-students came to Kyle and Owen’s basketball game. They spent the afternoon with us, off campus, at the Bethlehem Township Community Center, cheering from the bleachers for their two favorite 9-year-old-twin-basketball players. Then we all went out to Red Robin, where Braydon and I treated these kids (the bambinos and the students) to a non-dining-hall meal complete with lots of rambunctiousness and goofing off at the table.
This is — dare I say it? — quite unique. I can say with 100% certainty that this is unique at Lehigh. But even I, who went to a small liberal arts college, with an uber-dedicated faculty devoted to out-of-classroom-interaction (where professors are actually encouraged and credited for spending time with students)… even I, who took full advantage of that situation and formed life-long relationships with some of those professors (and sometimes babysat for their kids and/or was invited to their houses for dinner)… even I, who really made the most out of that sort of collegiate residential experience… never experienced anything close to resembling what our Lehigh-friends-neighbors-students are experiencing with us. Although I was in some sense “close” to some of my professors (a fact for which I will be eternally grateful; and a fact of which I’m very proud), I never ever ever would have been hanging out at the local community center on a Saturday afternoon watching their kids play basketball. Voluntarily. Just because I wanted to see one of their games and cheer them on.
We are taking the relationships to a whole other level, I think, in large part because we are doing it as a whole family. We’re giving of ourselves and each other, and in return, we get so much.
Do you know how much it meant to Kyle and Owen to have Jon, Dan, Kelsey, and Julie come to their game? It meant the world to them. My guess is that they’ll never forget it. My guess, too, is that Jon, Dan, Kelsey, and Julie will remember that day long after they’ve forgotten much of the rest of their college experiences. That afternoon will make a much larger impact than any physics lecture or required reading or frat party or extra-curricular-club-event.
I’m betting that the impact will be huge for all involved, in ways that go far beyond what any of us could now imagine.
Saturday there were these special fans in the stands at K & O’s game. And when I say, ‘special,’ I do mean special. These friends-neighbors-students are amazing (them taking a Saturday afternoon to cheer on the Residential Fellow kids is just the tip of the iceberg). I stand back and marvel at these young people, and at the honor that it is for us to know them and have them in our lives. We get the privilege and joy of seeing these students in such an honest and real way. We live with them, we teach them, we learn from them, and we cheer each other on. We’re not doing a service. We’re receiving a gift.
Meera. Gosh do I ever love her. This girl is nothing like anything I ever would have imagined to come from me. In an unexpected twist, my only biological child is the one who challenges all of my preconceived notions of nature vs. nurture; she’s so much more dissimilar from me than her adopted brothers have ever been. This girl is full of grace, twirl, sparkle, and pink; she’s entirely centered in who she is, and has been that way from the start; happiest at home coloring or painting, surrounded by her little family; no need to be top of her class or “best” at anything… it is remarkably stellar the person that she is. I stand back and watch, and am overwhelmed by admiration for her, and by relief for the path that she’s on. I adore every part of her, respect her, and am awed by her. She has fundamentally challenged me more than any other person on this planet. Somehow I got matched with the most perfect daughter for me.
Owen. Gosh do I ever love him. A foodie after my own heart, this boy made it his New Year’s Resolution to “learn to really cook” (Penne Alfredo & Roasted Broccoli is the meal he’s determined to master first.) And he doesn’t just cook, he gets completely into it and makes me laugh the entire time. This is a kid who has always engaged fully in life — everything he does he does fully. Including making my heart overflow. Somehow I got matched with the most perfect son for me.
Kyle. Gosh do I ever love him. Runny nose, snowy ice, and all. Seriously, I know I’m biased, but this kid is the soulfully sweetest and soulfully strongest boy I’ve ever known. He has a genuine passion for social justice and he is a real conversationalist. I feel like he and I are in a never-ending conversation about everything important. Somehow I got matched with the most perfect son for me.
Longtime readers might recall me complaining about Valentine’s Day in past years. Well, not this year. We are finally at a school that does not require intricate and numerous and unique homemade and from scratch valentines! Hip-hip-hooray x3 for us. Hip-hip-hooray particularly for me. This year we could be like so much of the rest of America and just buy the dang valentines at Target and be done with it. I have got to tell you: It was AWESOME. All three kids loved it. And it was truly painless. It made me a very happy mother.
Due to snow days, and snow delays, and President’s Day, and snow days, and snow delays… did I say snow days? and snow delays?… due to all that, V-Day got a tad bit stretched out this year. But, as of tonight, all three bambinos are finally officially done with Valentine’s Day. The school class parties and valentines exchanges are finally complete, and we can put another V-Day behind us. It was the best yet… because of the lovely simplicity. I think even Kyle and Owen enjoyed it this year. Which is really saying something.
The true love, however, has come in the form of snow removal. In the days surrounding Valentine’s, I have watched my family — all five of us in our own separate ways — step up to the plate and help many-a-Lehigh-student shovel out. It has been a really sweet thing for me to see. And the love has come back ‘round too. Last night, for just one example, a student that Braydon, Kyle, and Owen had helped shovel out came and brought us a whole batch of scrumptious, oozy gooey, warm, straight-from-the-oven, homemade chocolate chip cookies. All of this is the kind of thing that makes my heart just melt… even when it is frigid cold and we’re surrounding by mounds and mounds of ice and snow.
Now that we live in a tiny apartment, in a dorm, on a college campus, it is much harder to have my parents visit. Gone is the guest room, and the guest bathroom, and the three floors, and the loads and loads and loads of space to stretch out. Gone is the ease to have visitors. A year and a half in, this is the thing I miss most about our old house.
You’ve gotta really love someone, and be willing to let a lot go, in order to spend overnight visits co-existing together in a space as small as ours. It is sort of like spending a few nights on a sailboat together… except, there is no vast open sea all around you, boat deck to sunbath on, or the adventure of yachting to justify the cramped corners. I appreciate my parents’ sheer willingness, and our family of five’s emotional capacity, to allow for us to still have visits despite our current home being so non-conducive to guests. It is a joint effort and a reciprocal relationship that makes it in any way possible.
And then… for this particular visit… add to it all…. SNOW. More and more and more snow just keeps piling up this winter. Keeping us stuck inside. And I’m about to lose my mind. Having overnight guests (even if they are your own parents), in a 750 square foot apartment, during yet another snow event… well, it takes ‘cabin fever’ to a whole other level.
MorMor arrived Tuesday afternoon. MorFar arrived Friday morning. They both left Saturday afternoon. The snow dominated pretty much the entire time they were here.
I had been greatly anticipating my mom’s visit, and had planned so much fun stuff for us to do. Almost none of it actually happened on account of snow. It is enough to push a hostess over the edge. (I consider it no small feat of victory, and also a testament to my unusually good relationship with my mother, that I only came close to — but did not, in fact — go over the edge).
The visit was bookended by two things that actually went as planned. And, glory glory hallelujah, those were the two most important things where the bambinos are concerned:
- I had planned for MorMor to be Mystery Reader in Meera’s kindergarten class. It happened Wednesday, and it was absolutely such a sweet, sweet thing. Meera was so thrilled and surprised to have MorMor show up, and MorMor did a fabulous job with it. It could not have gone more perfectly.
- We had planned the visit so that MorMor and MorFar could go to one of Kyle and Owen’s basketball games. It happened Saturday, and it was such a thrill for the boys to have MorMor and MorFar see them play. It was such a thrill, in fact, that they actually played the worst that they have all year… and even confessed later that they had been so distracted by trying to impress their special audience in the stands that they “totally flubbed it up” (their words). But it was very special, for all involved, nonetheless.
Everything in between those two good bookends was all about the snow. School was cancelled. Plans were cancelled. Everything was cancelled. We basically hunkered down with SNOW snow SNOW. My mom got to experience a real live string of J-M snow days. She also helped ease the pain of it all by making us a rare and special treat — a delicious homemade almond coffee bread. That is something only a MorMor would do. And it was much appreciated by all five J-Ms (and a couple of lucky students too, who got to help eat the leftovers).
Toward the end we did manage to get out of the house. On Valentine’s Day we had the bambinos’ favorite— Kome Hibachi lunch (for K & O), and YoFresh dessert (for M). The picture below totally cracks me up— you can barely see it in the photo, but I looked over and saw that my mother and my daughter were unselfconsciously sitting in exactly the same precise positions — perfect posture, ankles crossed, hands together in their laps. If my grandmother had been there she too would have been sitting in exactly that same precise position — I’d bet my life on it. I don’t even know how to fully process that tri-generational-fact.
The highlight of the visit, for me, was a lot of quality downtime with my mom and dad. Nothing went as I had planned it. But I got everything I wanted out of the visit.
The bambinos, in the back seat, on the drive home from school (I know there will come a day, far too soon, that I will desperately miss having this crazy crew in the backseat of my car):
Meera’s dinner (or, in this case, dessert!), at Rathbone Dining Hall,with her very own, hand-selected, cherry-picked, babysitters for the night:
Kyle & Owen, out for a night on the town, alone with Mommy & Papi (no little sister!), dinner out, and then… The Harlem Globetrotters!… which, of course, they loved, loved, loved, loved, loved:
At 3:50 this afternoon I got a text from one of our friends/neighbors/students, the gist of which was, ‘Tell the boys: snow football in 10 minutes!’ Ten minutes later K & O were out there, on the icy-snow-covered lawn, with a whole bunch of students, playing a hard-core game of Snow Football. They’ve been going strong for two hours and counting. It is now 5:55pm, and they are still out there (now in the pitch dark), playing football in the ice and snow.