Just a little patience….and grace…..and joy.

One push of the pedal…

Two pushes

Three and he was off

Training wheels gone and Micah was soaring…and I’ve heard nothing else for the past two days than “Can we go ride our bikes?”

It’s so fun to see the joy on their faces when they learn something new. Micah knew he was ready to do it this time. Any other time that the training wheels even wobbled a smidge, he would get upset and unwilling to ride his bike. But the other day, it was Ryan’s new bike and it just seemed so attractive to Micah. And there were no training wheels on it so it was the perfect opportunity to try. And he did it – around and around the church parking lot he went, testing out his speed, figuring out how to slow down to make the turns, learning to put his feet down to stop. He was in heaven. I hope he soon learns to use the brakes rather than the tops of his shoes to slow down the tires!

As there was a wrench handy and sheer joy in Micah’s new accomplishments, Noah brought his little bike over and demanded that his training wheels take a hike too. I knew Noah had the balance for it so a few hard twists of rusted bolts, and he was ready to try. His bike is a little big for him so he needed some steadying of it until he got peddling and then kaboom! He was gone. I ran alongside him wondering if I really intended to be helpful in any way should he start falling. Probably not. I shouldn’t have worried – he never even wobbled – and after a few seconds, he said “Next I’ll ride with one hand!”  Tiny little 4-year-old whizzing around on a tiny little bike. With grit and determination and a whole TON of tears, he finally taught himself to start peddling on his own without me holding the bike. It was a mix of his desire and my “planned ignorance” to encourage him to learn.

Such a fun evening for both of them (and they were wiped-out asleep by 7:30!). However, I was not interested in taking them back to the parking lot at 7:10 the next morning and so promised we’d take the bikes to the park after church. Given a little bit of inappropriate running in church (“Geesh, M and N! I JUST told you as we drove in to the parking lot to NOT run in church!!), the bikes were required to spend 10 minutes in the car contemplating their misbehavior before they could get out and cruise around the pond.  Soon, though, the two boys were learning such things as how to avoid casual pedestrians and zippy little toddlers, how to keep their eyes looking forward, and to keep the two bikes away from each other to minimize scrapes and falls. These are lessons that will need to be learned in a very repetitive fashion I can tell.

While the bike excitement lapped the pond, I chased little Seth. As we passed a few people, an older guy caught my eye after he clearly noted the older boys. “Yes,” I said in one of those I’m-the-proud-mother tone of voice, “they just learned to ride two wheels yesterday.” My smile smoldered when he cut “oh, they’re yours, eh?”  I walked on wondering how a total stranger can dash parental joy and wondering what issue he had with the boys (though a few minutes later I noticed him beckon them to slow down and I realized he was probably trying to protect his dainty toddling granddaughter from the vicious bike gang).

It’s amazing how every life is a little thread that goes and goes, intersecting with other people’s threads and getting bumped or jiggled…or totally derailed as a result. My boys’ threads were in the joy of a new skill and the freedom of bikes without training-wheel drag. I rejoiced in their new ability….and “the” stranger’s thread bumped into ours with dismay….but, he does not know their joy. And he does not know that they are still learning. That one day soon they will realize their responsibility as a bike rider to not clip the back of someone’s heel. They will know to keep it slow around other people and kids. They will learn to slow down to make a sharp turn. But yesterday, their thread was so early on in their learning process – they were still working on slight shifts in balance.

As I think about this, I wonder about the times when my life thread bumps into other people and I grump at them or snap impatiently. I knowingly at times or unsuspectingly other times cause a shift in their life. It’s a good reminder to give a little grace as I don’t know where the other is coming from, how far along they are in their thread and what direction they’re actually going in. The word of the month for Micah’s karate class is “patience.” I think I need to work on it a little bit more sometimes.

Okay….the truth….I know I need to work on it more!

So, today I “patiently” lifted bikes in and out of the back of my car (I hate how the wheels turn and pinch your fingers, the grease marks up your hands, and the trunk of the van beeps its refusal to close when it thinks something’s in its way!). And I patiently watched them ride around for another hour.  And I patiently put the bikes back in the garage.

I can’t wait until we get to the beach next week so the boys can walk out of the house, hit the boardwalk, and ride and ride….(and for the sake of innocent pedestrians, I hope they soon learn to dodge people!).

A Perfectly Good (Adopted) Family

We added a new boy to the family this week (fortunately, not by the phone call of the foster caseworker to announce the birth of a sibling!).  Stephen was officially adopted by my sister in a small courtroom in downtown Pittsburgh.  He is the fifth child of his biological mother to be adopted out and the judge who followed this case for years was so touched that it was “ending well,” that she came over especially to “proclaim” the adoption.  I am so excited for my sister.

It’s been a long time coming with many heartaches.  When Stephen was about two months old at the first court hearing, the judge said she would have handed him over for adoption right then and there, knowing the birth mom, if the CYF system had asked for it.  Instead, for the past two years, it’s been up and down with numerous, numerous attempts to help the mother “be” a mother….until recently when her “rights were terminated” as a parent….and she fled the state to try to block the “system” from taking her next newborn baby a couple months ago.

So Kathy has gracefully ridden this roller-coaster of hope and heartache, and all the while has loved this little guy every single second (including, even if not actually obvious at the time, when he spills a full gallon of milk splashing across the table and cascading majestically to the floor, upending his cereal bowl on a near-daily basis, and removing his own diapers at some of the most inopportune times!).

And now, it is final.  Stephen has a new name……Karl…with a “K.”  (It’s going to take a while to get that imprinted in my brain.  I’m getting pretty good at it…except when he’s about to pull all the bananas onto the floor, or is pounding on the dining room table with the tines of his fork, or is gleefully flicking the lights on and off in the living room….and I slip into a stern “S-t-e-p-h-e-n!”)  It will probably take even longer for the boys to figure out the name change, as Noah asked today “who’s Karl? Where?”.

It’s been a good time to review “name changes” and adoption with Micah.  He likes to ask what his original name was.  We review that he was born to another woman and came to live here when he was a very tiny baby.  We review that I love him “forever, for always, and no matter what” and I renew that commitment in my head.  We discuss that Seth will also one day change his last name (I already switched his first name when he turned one as that was easier for me J) and become “forever” family (hopefully in the next few months).

And even though I can talk about this to Micah (and sometimes to Noah who doesn’t really pay attention), it still sometimes seems so surreal to me.  I know that Micah and Noah are forever mine…..that I am their Mommy (because they “tell” me so hundreds of times a day!)….and yet, sometimes, I sit back and pause and say “wow….I am a mother….”  I can easily think of many things that I am – a woman, a Christian, a doctor, a night-owl, a reader, a work-a-holic (most likely), …. and I am a mother.  This is one of those “I am” things that is palpable in the way that I become very defensive on behalf of the boys, in the way I beam with pride in their very very little league sports accomplishments, in the way I peer intensely into their eyes sometimes and say “I love you.”  Sometimes you can just touch that “mother” aspect and roll it around and bounce it here and there.  You can lift it high, you can bend it, you can smash it, you can pound it….but you can never ever ever break it.  I am their mother – forever, for always, and no matter what.  And this Christmas season I am thankful (again) for that gift in my life.

Our family

Our family

 

Kathy realized as she hung the stockings that this year, Seth’s name had changed from one with a K to an S….and Stephen’s name changed from an S to a K….and so our stockings of last year with initials embroidered upon them still reflect our family perfectly.  A perfectly good little family.

Soccer Mom – It had to happen….

It has to happen at some point, especially if one has a boy.  At some point, I have to become a Soccer Mom, if only for a season.  I’m secretly wishing that it’ll catch on with at least one of the boys since I like the sport.

On the other hand, maybe I should wish that they will all have a preference for basketball.  It is at least an indoor sport!  I thought about this last weekend when we arrived at the field in a torrential rain storm and I prayed for game cancellation despite my sons’ enthusiasm.  We had just the day before gone to the soccer store and purchased cleats for both (poor Seth can barely walk in regular shoes) and socks and shin guards and balls.  Noah would have worn the cleats and shin guards to bed if I had let him.  So when the coaches started yelling out “U8 games are cancelled” I was very happy.  The boys, however, decided that the now sprinkling water shower was actually enjoyable and they spent the next 30 minutes sloshing about in a mud puddle….in their new shoes!

So here’s my list of things you need as a Soccer Mom…in very little particular order…and with the caveat that we’ve only had one “game” for each kid and my thoughts are highly likely to change over time.

  1. The perfect water bottle.  The ones that leak all over the neighboring diaper bag while at the bottom of the stroller are not so ideal.  The ones that shrink to one third the original size as a result of dishwasher cleansing even if on the upper rack are also now worth only recycling.  The ones that Micah has chewed on the pop-up value so much that they can’t close anymore are also of little value.  I know….probably should get a Nalgene.
  2. Collapsible captain’s chair.  I have two of them.  They work fine, but they really are a pain to carry on one’s back while pushing a stroller through damp grass to the farthest field EVER!  And who wants to fold them and put them back in their “handy” bags?!?!
  3. A golf umbrella.  Let’s face it – despite years of ridiculing my father for such a HUGE umbrella, last week I looked on other people with envy as they kept “mostly” dry with kids scurrying around under their feet.
  4. A really warm parka.  Again, back to the basketball.  I’m not sure I’m cut out for rainy days, cold days.  I might need inside sports to avoid the damp cold (and I certainly don’t plan to be the one to teach the boys to ski!).
  5. Rubber car mats.  After playing in the rain and the mud, I’m pretty adamant that they remove their shoes as they clamber into the van….before stepping on the seats as they make their way into their carseats (and thank goodness for babywipes when they do get things muddy!).
  6. Extra shoes to have the boys change out of cleats when they finish playing.  I haven’t figured out the logistics of this yet – which is why 3 of them (my nephew also plays at the same time as Micah but on a different teams so they don’t strangle one another or just stand on the field making potty sounds at each other) wore cleats to the movie theater see “Finding Nemo 3D” yesterday afternoon!
  7. Extra food in the car.  Even though the boys get a snack after the game (and I was wondering today what I’ll do when it’s my turn), they still pile into the van and ask “what do you have to eat?”  I must remember that they eat every 2 hours no matter what and are not capable of “calmly” overcoming this strong impulse.
  8. A duffle bag to keep team shirts, socks, shoes, shin guards and balls in whenever a straying item is found throughout the week so that by Saturday morning you can just grab it and go.
  9.  Grandma!  Yes, she is vital for pushing a stroller through long damp grass, carrying folding chairs on the back, taking siblings to the “potty” while the other one plays (or just changing a diaper on the ground), cheering loudly, and generally just helping with everything!
  10. A strong heart to swell with pride at every goal, every good  defensive play, pretty much every move.  It’s amazing how teary-eyed I get while watching the boys.  I don’t know who sports is better for – them or me.

Please help me – what else do I need?  I know I’m forgetting something.