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Gospel Music at River Valley

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On Saturday I had the good fortune of brining K & O to what is, thankfully, starting to be a tradition – The Brockington Ensemble’s concert at River Valley Waldorf School.

Although it’s a bit strange for me, as a white man with two black sons to be at an almost all white school listening to an all black choir who are raising the roof and praising, with a lot of eyes on us and how we three handle the entire thing…. despite that hyper awareness and sense of vulnerability, we had a great time and the boys loved the music.

During the intermission, they ran up to the drummer and chatted it up and tried out the cymbals.  During the final song when everyone got up to “get up” we got up and were a witness along with the rising euphoria of the ensemble. Pretty awesome.

Sleeping Together For At Least One Year

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February 26, 2009 I posted this post: click here. Apparently at that point K & O had been sleeping together for 2-3 weeks. (I would never, ever have remembered that if it weren’t for this blog.) They’ve been sleeping together every night since then. So, it has been at least a year, solid, of sleeping together. They still sleep with Owen’s Lovey Lion and Lovey Lion’s twin brother and with Kyle’s Honey Bunny and Honey Bunny’s twin brother. “Turtle” or “Tortoise” (as they sometimes call him) –a light-up turtle that I gave to Owen– also has been sleeping with them for the past few months. They still always have “sleep music” blaring all night long. And numerous night-lights. They almost always choose to sleep in Owen’s room. And they almost always do well at bedtime. This (doing well at bedtime) is a huge improvement over the years prior, when bedtime was a serious challenge. Now, more often than not, bedtime is pleasant for all involved. I think it is so sweet that our boys want to sleep together at night. When we check on them before we go to bed they are almost always entwined under the covers. I love that they have this.

Notes From the Trenches of (Yet Another) Snow Day

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We’re dreaming of vacation. That is always the dead give-away that we’re in the depths of the doldrums of the winter-time-blues. Pre-kids, Braydon and I would always start dreaming of vacation right about late February/early March. It happened every year. We’d start planning a May trip then, and the hopes-dreams-plans for that spring vacation would keep us going through the end of the school year. {We never entered the “real world” and have always, still to this day, operated on an academic-year-type-calendar.} Well, now that we have kids, nothing has changed in the right-around-late-Feb-early-March hoping-dreaming-planning for vacation department. Except that now our kids participate in it with us. Sometimes it feels like that May vacation, and that alone, is what keeps us going. How pathetic is that? (I posted about the less-pathetic aspects of this phenomenon here.) Pretty pathetic. I’m not sure exactly what to make of it that K & O are just like their parents when it comes to travel. I suppose it shouldn’t be such a surprise, but still– it was surprising today that during Meera’s nap, while K, O, and I were sitting at the table drawing (with a near-BLIZZARD outside our windows and nearly 2 FEET of new snow piled up), I found my boys drawing pictures of “our next big trip.” Kyle drew what is, for him, a very detailed and painstaking drawing of a “Hotel Map” (note the yellow ‘beach’ and the blue ‘ocean’). Owen drew an airplane and next to it wrote out a long sequence of numbers, which were “our airline ticket numbers” and “our hotel room number.” They asked me to draw “a boat going to an island with starfish and coral under the water.” Nice. So, that pretty much sums it up. At least in some existential kind of way that sort of says it all, I think. Just a couple other notes from this, the MILLIONTH SNOW DAY OF THE WINTER OF 2010:

Seriously, the biggest, most grueling task of being home with the boys all day long (i.e., with them having no school, no outings, no nothing allllll daaaaaaaaaaaaaaay loooooooooooooong) is the FOOD PRODUCTION. I cannot even explain how intense it is. Seriously. They eat sooooo muuuuuuuuch.And they are onlyyyyyyyyyyy fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive years old. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: What on earth will it be like when they are fifteen?????????? They eat so much. They are hungry almost all day long. They are bottomless pits. Lately Kyle, especially, is just ALWAYS hungry. He finishes a huge meal and within an hour he’s asking for more food. He must be going through a growth spurt. But seriously, you have to see it to believe it. Photo above taken at 9:30 this morning. After many and multiple breakfast food items between the hours of 7:00-9:00 a.m., they were ready for “a real snack” (i.e., what most of us would consider a MEAL) at 9:30 a.m. While I drank coffee Owen had leftover pizza and Kyle had leftover ravioli with pesto and parmesan. That satisfied them for about a 1/2 hour. Over the course of the day Kyle ate 3 bananas, the two of them combined ate 5 clementines, Owen ate so many oatmeal-cranberry-white-chocolate cookies that I lost track, and they (along with their sister) consumed 1/2 gallon of whole milk. That is just in addition to their real meals and many other various snacks. For dinner they ate — amongst other things — an entire “Family Size” package of chicken nuggets. Keeping up with their food consumption is truly exhausting. It, alone, keeps me 100% busy all day long on a day like today. By the end of the day I want nothing– absolutely nothing– to do with food prep, ever again.

In a moment of brilliance we dragged an old toy from the boys’ toddler-hood out of the basement. It kept them all occupied for quite some time. And it brought back a lot of memories of when K & O were M’s age. It was a lot of fun, and probably (pathetic as this is…) the highlight of our day. It was not one of our greatest days. Nobody under the age of six had any major meltdowns (miraculously), Meera continued to pee (and poop today!!!!!) in the potty, and no parent lost their temper (huge accomplishment)… but Mommy cried (hard) twice, and the parental unit was not so unified (including one major blow-out). We are so sick and tired of snow, and the novelty of Snow Days has definitely worn off. But, thank God, today is all done, and tomorrow is a new day.

PeePee on the Potty!!! And Other Firsts!

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Yesterday, late afternoon, while the boys were at Kung Fu (and Braydon chaperoning them there), Meera did her first pee pee on the potty!!!!!!!!!!!!! Huge, huge, very big deal!!! It was deliberate and purposeful; it was the real deal. Then again, this morning, she did a repeat performance for the whole family! We all did the happy dance and she got a little chunk of good Swedish chocolate as a reward. What a proud little 20-month-old she is! In the past couple of weeks Meera’s had a few big ‘Firsts’…
First time at the climbing wall!
First french braid!
First day of “school”!!! Meera and I are doing Garden Gate together at our Waldorf School on Monday mornings this semester. We’ve had two sessions so far, and we are both loving it. Braydon took the photo above just as Meera and I were pulling out of the garage to head off to our first day.

An Owen Quote

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Owen is in constant motion. He is capable of sitting still for long periods of time if need be. But more often than not you’ll find him moving. Moving moving moving. We’ve had a couple of different evaluations done over time, and his teachers (including his daycare and preschool teachers when he was younger) have always been in unanimous agreement too — he does not seem to have ADD/ADHD. It seems –everyone so far conclusively agrees– that Owen is just an incredibly active kid. Kyle is too. But Owen is even slightly more. Off-the-charts-active. Like, totally, totally energetic beyond anything most people have ever seen. The kid has more energy than any of us know what to do with. It is an endless bottomless boundless pit of ACTIVE. And he’s just so enthralled and engrossed and engaged in every detail of every day of life. It is an amazing (and intense) way to live! (and makes for a seriously fun — but seriously challenging — kid to parent). Anyway, this past Sunday evening Owen and I were talking while he was in the bath. The boys had just come home from a birthday party and were clearly exhausted. I said, “Birthday parties are exhausting, aren’t they?” Owen said, (as he crazily splashed, poured, whirled and twirled in the bathtub) “They aren’t exhausting for me!” I said, “Owen, everyone gets exhausted from birthday parties– even you.” He said, “Why? Why do people get exhausted from birthday parties?” I said something like, “Well, because kids all go crazy at birthday parties — with all their friends together in one place, and all the special fun stuff to do, and the excitement of the birthday, the cake, the presents, and everything — it is just exhausting for everyone!” He said, “I feel like I’m at a birthday party everyday!”

A Meera ‘Quote’

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We’ve done just a little bit of sign language with all three of our kids during their baby/toddler-hood. We’ve done the same four words with Meera as we did with Kyle and Owen: ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘more,’ and ‘all done.’ Only four words, but K & O, and now M’s ability to use these four signed words has allowed them very effective communication as little ones. It is amazing how much you can communicate with just four little words. Meera is starting to be more and more verbal lately, and she’s saying quite a few words these days. But she still exclusively signs “thank you.” Our sign for thank you is an upturned hand slid out toward the person to whom the ‘thank you’ is being communicated (photo above). The thing that is so very cute is that she ‘says’ [signs] “thank you” completely unprompted for every single thing imaginable for which you might say ‘thank you.’ You give her a little cup of water, she signs ‘thank you’; you give her a snack, she signs ‘thank you’; you put her shoes on, she signs ‘thank you’; you put her in the bathtub, she signs ‘thank you’; you change her diaper, she signs ‘thank you’; and it goes on and on and on all day. She will stay totally still, with her outstretched hand, signing ‘thank you’ until you notice it and respond, “you’re welcome.” She does this with everyone she spends time with and everything that they do for her everyday. It is really sweet and I know it will eventually end as she starts replacing the sign more and more by verbally saying the words “thank you.” I want to never forget how cute it was when we were in this time with our baby Meera.

A Kyle Quote

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Kyle is a serious sweetie pie charmer. He always has been. From the time he was a toddler women have been telling me, “He’s going to make a great husband for some lucky woman some day!” And it is true– he is seriously sweet, especially with the ladies. The top of his ‘Ladies List’ is — lucky for me! — his Mama. There are others right up there at the top (MorMor, his teacher Miss Amanda, his good friend from school Alyssa, etc.), but I am, without a doubt, his Numero Uno (and I plan to do my darnedest to keep it that way for a long, long time). Not a day goes by that this boy doesn’t do or say something outrageously sweet and lovey to me. He kisses me, spontaneously, at random times throughout the day. He loves to cuddle anytime he has the chance. Rarely does a dinner come and go without him getting up from his seat when he’s done eating, walking over to me at the table, hugging me, and then saying, “Thank you for dinner!” And he regularly says things that just absolutely melt my heart (and he always seems to be genuinely sincere in saying them). It is a gift he has, I tell ya! At one point this past weekend we were eating dinner out at Chipotle. We were talking about food, and different types of food — Chipotle is “Mexican food,” and we also love “Thai food” and “Haitian food” and “Indian food” and “Swedish food” and “Italian food” etc. I said, “I love Mexican food — I think Mexican food is my favorite.” And then I said, “Kyle, what is your favorite kind of food?” And he said, barely skipping a beat, “Mommy food.”

The Three

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Every once in a while they’ll call for me –from wherever they are in the house, to wherever I am in the house– they’ll shout out to me to “come quick! and bring the camera!” Sometimes it is a crazy scene they want to capture (usually involving something “naughty” that Meera has done… i.e., took off her diaper, spilled water all over the couch, tried to ‘clean the kitty litter,’ etc.), and sometimes it is something amazingly cute — something I never could have captured with the camera if I had tried to pose them. This moment, captured above, was one of the latter.

Celebration of African Cultures 2010

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Kyle flaunts his moves in the center of the Hip-Hop circle!

Yesterday we went into Philadelphia for the Celebration of African Cultures at the Penn Museum. This was our third year going. It has become such a great annual tradition for our family. Kyle and Owen are starting to understand some basics of their ancestry. They understand that they are Haitian-American, first and foremost, and they are starting to understand the bigger picture of what it means to be African-American and part of the Haitian and African diaspora. This was the first year since we started going to the Celebration of African Cultures that the boys began asking what the word “culture” really means. We had some big discussions about that. Recently I can feel us moving into new realms with their curiosity, inquisitiveness, and questioning regarding more complex questions of race, ethnicity, heritage, lineage, and the larger social world. I anticipate lots and lots of big conversations in the years to come. Going to the Celebration of African Cultures each year — even at these young ages — is one of the (so many) ways we are conscientiously trying our darnedest to lay down a strong foundation for our boys. We feel a heavy burden, as white parents raising black sons. We are grateful for every opportunity that we can grasp on this journey. Yesterday was a great day for us. Highlights~~ Kyle and Owen participated in two workshops–  first an African Dance Workshop and then a Hip-Hop Dance Workshop (both were awesome!); the boys made fast friends with some cool kids (always so amazing how quickly kids can become tight!); and the “Stilt Man” (K & O’s name for him) — a big hit with the boys — returned again this year in the Grand Finale Show. Meera was not thrilled about the whole event, but she tolerated it well with very little fussing (albeit not much enthusiasm either), and the boys’ enthusiasm more than made up for her lack-thereof.


Meera’s Necklaces

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Lately Meera has taken her love affair with necklaces to a whole new level. She is fully in the throws of another phase of lovin’-the-necklaces (and needing to wear them often). Not that Meera’s necklace phase ever really ended, but it does seem to kind of ebb and flow — and right now, the necklaces are really flowing. But in the past few days she’s started something new– she’s taken to also putting necklaces on Baby and Kitty. She gets them all necklaced-up and then takes them for a stroll. Meera Grace has really come into her own in the past couple of months; her personality is shining through loud and clear these days; and we’re beginning to think that our girl is almost as crazy as her brothers…  how did that happen????????????

Love these fabrics!

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I rarely do stuff like this (endorse material items on our blog), but every once in a while I can’t help myself. I just love these fabrics– check them out! I’ve already hooked in my mom to these fabrics and she’s already made a dress for Meera with some and is working on bed-quilts for the boys’ with more. Very hard for families like ours to find stuff like this out there in the world!— have a look and you’ll see what I mean!

[Note: even though I’ve been asked a bunch of times by various people/places to blog about products here, with only one exception {something I’m going to blog about sometime soon}, I have always said no and have never done product endorsements on this blog. I did not receive anything in return for writing this post, and the fabric-designer/blogger was not even aware that I was going to post this]

Snow and Stuff

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Well, we are officially in the deep down depths of winter. Since moving to Pennsylvania in 2003 we have never seen so much snow here. This winter we’ve had a series of snowstorms that have left a bunch of snow on the ground without having a chance to melt before the next storm comes. It isn’t anything like the winters I had growing up in New Hampshire, but it is the closest that I’ve seen since moving to this part of the country. The J-Ms seem to have a love-hate relationship with snow. We do love it. And we do hate it. What it really boils down to is that basically we love a lot of snow when we’re visiting New Hampshire. Otherwise, at home, we could be very happy without it. And yet, here we are. We’re trying to make the best of it, but really– we just want spring to come, and it is only mid-February. Ugh. And we have a lot on our minds, too. Haiti is still right up at the surface for us. It is a constant, daily conversation. As it should be. But still, it isn’t easy. I cannot even imagine how hard it is for families who experienced being there for the earthquake… let alone the reality of life for everyone still on the ground in Haiti right now. It is all constantly on our minds. And we’re dealing with our own earthquake-aftermath stuff which runs pretty deep (and which I’m not going to write about in any detail here). So, again, here we are. It is what it is. And there is no way over it, under it, or around it — we just gotta go through it. But I’m not gonna lie about it —  it is tough right now. On top of it all is work. Both Braydon and I are absolutely swamped. And it is just hard when we’re both swamped because it means we’re just totally overextended and spread far too thin on every front. And so it goes. The hardest part of each day, however, (at least for me), is leaving Meera to go to work in the morning. We’ve got the best nanny in the whole world. Margie is a God send and I thank my lucky stars (and I thank her profusely) each and every day. But still, it is tough. The boys go skipping off onto the bus to school each morning, so it isn’t totally gut-wrenching to leave them (at least not most days)… but Meera is another story. She’s happy as can be, and I am grateful for that, but it still kills me to leave her each day. She’ll kiss me and cheerily say, “Bye bye!” when she sees me pick up the bag I carry to work. And now, just in the past couple of days, she has started to say “I love you!” (sounds like “la lu!”) as I walk out the door. Seriously, it melts –and breaks– my heart each and every morning. I cannot imagine not working. But I also would be dishonest if I didn’t admit to the fact that it pains me to walk out the door each day. So, it is a lot of mixed emotions. Emotions that working moms don’t really get enough of a chance to talk about or process or sort through. These are the same sorts of mixed jumbled up emotions I feel as I watch Margie with the kids sometimes. Every once in a while I work from home (I try to avoid it because it is really hard on everyone to have me present, but not really present)… and I can truthfully say that having my kids so well cared for by Margie is one of the most amazing feelings I’ve ever felt. I cannot even explain the depths of peace and comfort that it brings to me. On the other hand, as I watch them for brief moments here and there, it just breaks my heart to see them doing things together that I wish I could be doing with them. Like playing in the snow. Truth is, I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to go sledding with them… and yet… there is nothing in the world I’d rather do than go sledding with my kids. It is impossible to explain. But it is what it is. And so, again, here we are. Hopefully spring will come, and with it the blossoming of new energy and new new emotions. But right now… we’re just kind of dealing with snow and stuff. (photos below – Margie and the bambinos sledding)