Monday, February 29, 2016

Aidan's New Adventure

AOK at age 5

Here's a post I wrote just shy of 10 years ago about Aidan in kindergarten, going to the beat of his own drum even at age five, and much of it still rings true.

In 2nd grade he asked if he could quit school. I wanted to know what he didn't like about school and his answer was, "I like it, but it just takes too much time away from my own projects!" He was always building things, writing and drawing, stapling together his own books, and wanting more unstructured time.

Last month Aidan was accepted to Denver School of The Arts, a magnet school. Over 300 students applied for three Creative Writing slots, as the school begins in 6th grade and anticipates few openings for 9th grade.

We were so proud of him just for applying in October, and working his way through the portfolio in November, then the writing audition in December, and final interview in January. We went out to celebrate after his interview, because putting himself "in the arena," as Teddy Roosevelt put it, is reason enough to celebrate, and we knew he had no real control over the outcome so we wanted to celebrate the effort. 

At one session, when asked how to prepare for the creative writing assessment, the teacher said the best preparation is reading good books. Aidan turned to me and said in his deadpan way, "Then I've been preparing for this for years."

In nine days, Aidan will turn 14. 

There is so much I want to say about Aidan at 14. I've joked that I should create a PSA telling parents of 12-year-old kids that it gets better. But really, I wish I could go back and tell myself two years ago to be more patient and compassionate. The young boy in that lower right photo was 12. Less than two years later, he is the young man in the lower left photo. I swear it happened almost overnight. I could probably count on two three hands the number of days when he was moody or sullen, but it was still a shock for us. Aidan had always been the most easy-going and easily-pleased kid. Adding to the drama, his family had picked up and moved him to a new state, far from all his friends and "the home I built with my own hands" as he eloquently put it that summer, referencing the "help" he provided at age two while Brian worked on our house.

And now...I have to remind him how much he loved Moab, because he is a self-declared "city boy" who can't wait to move to London or Seattle. Every time we go downtown, he asks us why we don't live down there. He no longer eats a dozen green apples a week and no longer likes pizza, skateboarding or Rick Riordan, three things he loved at age 11. His favorite band is now Imagine Dragons instead of the Beatles. And I have to look up now in order to look him in the eye, as he is just shy of 6 feet already.

So much has changed. And so much has remained. He still always has a book in his hands, and helps me without a sigh when I ask him to find my phone or empty the dishwasher (do you know how beautiful the sound of no sigh is? If so, then you too have parented a teen). He still loves Harry Potter, Calvin & Hobbes, video games, drawing and reading, and his dog Duke. He is still a loyal friend.

And my favorite thing about Aidan at age 14 is the same thing I wrote in that post when he was five:
his kindness.

Just the two of us sat outside the classroom, waiting for his DSA interview. One after another student went in and out, never acknowledging anyone else waiting. When Aidan came out, he held the door for the girl whose turn was next and said, "Good luck!' in a tone of voice that was so encouraging, my heart overflowed. He is more informed on politics and civil rights that I am (well, he actually reads The Week that I subscribe to!), and I so admire his passion for justice. He's brave and smart and kind, and he makes mistakes and owns them and learns from them. 

We have a number of things to figure out about next year, like how he'll get from Golden to Denver every day and how this new school works and whether he'll continue with Tae Kwon Do or join clubs at school. Ahead there is learning to drive (God be with me), and the first job (he's hoping to work at the movie theater near our house), and then college, and then...

That's me, always getting ahead of myself. Aidan is here now, and these are the golden days---for our family at least. I know he dreams of living on his own some day, getting to play all those video games his parents deem too violent, and eating Freddy's burgers on a daily basis, and never wearing long-sleeves again. And that's how it should be---that dream of independence is a great motivator (though I'll keep praying that he discovers FPS games are boring and that salads taste great in Seattle). 

We have four more years with Aidan at our breakfast table every morning and at dinner with us each evening. While I look forward to seeing the path he chooses and the life he tailors for himself, I cherish every day we still have as a family of five all under the same roof.

The song "Jack & Diane" claims you should hold on to being a teenager as long as you can; I hope Aidan at 14 will hold on to these wise words from my favorite funny philosopher, Mindy Kaling:
As it is, I find “Jack & Diane” a little disgusting. A child of immigrant professionals, I can’t help but notice the frivolity of it. Why are they not home doing homework? Why aren’t they setting the table for dinner? Who allows kids to hang out in parking lots? Isn’t that loitering?
In high school, I had fun in my academic clubs; watching movies with my friends; learning Latin; having unrequited crushes on guys who didn’t know me; and yes, hanging out with my family. I liked hanging out with my family! You pretty much have only 18 years to spend with them full-time, and that’s it. So, yeah, it all added up to a happy, memorable time. Even though I was never a star.
The chorus of “Jack & Diane” is: “Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of livin’ is gone.”
Are you kidding me? The thrill of living was high school? Come on, Mr. Cougar Mellencamp. Get a life.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

February Life Savers

One of my goals for 2016 is to blog at least once a month. Ideally once a week, but after six months of silence here, I'll be happy with once a month. And yet...I've been silent because I want to finish up my best of 2015 posts about books, movies and more. That takes time and thought and while I want them done, I don't want to write them.

So I'm setting them aside to write what I do feel like writing. Anne Bogel from Modern Mrs. Darcy has a monthly post called The things that are saving my life right now, based on a passage from Barbara Brown Taylor's memoir Leaving Church.

I am predisposed to consider and discuss what is killing me, so I love this push to consider what is saving me right now.

1. Elise Cripe's Goal Tracker.

I love goals and I love visuals. I've decided to give up sweets for 2016, and often it is the idea of having to draw an X in a circle that helps me resist temptation. I've always preferred salty to sweet, but sweets are what seem to trigger insatiability in me. So I feel much freer just not having any.

I printed another tracker to use just for Lent and track the progress I make devoting 20 minutes a day to my home office. I used her tracker last year as well, but kept it hidden inside my medicine cabinet---sharing this one with my family (and on Instagram) has motivated me a bit more.

2.  A Color Story app

Image from A Beautiful Mess

I so did not need another phone photo app, but I'm so glad I gave A Color Story a try. I love how it brightens without distorting colors. Here's a iphone photo I took last weekend with it:

Clean and bright, which is what I'm always aiming for with photos, and which is especially challenging with phones. Photos+Words are my love language, and this app has made me happy.

3. This man

I love the above photo, the only SLR photo I took at Christmas. I love the father Brian is to our sons. Love how he builds Legos with Nolan, humors Sean who is constantly trying to wrestle him, and listens to Aidan's overflowing excitement over the next Marvel movie. Love his steadfastness.

The man also makes me crazy. There is no one else I am as impatient with or as critical of, and I like to think that is only because there is no one else for whom I have such high expectations. January was a hard month, the kind that my brain likes to use as an excuse to imagine every worst case scenario and ring all the end-of-the-world alarms. But when I was near him, simply in the same room as him, it was like fear was no longer allowed at the wheel of my brain or emotions and I would become calm again. In that way, he saves my life daily.

And this morning, I woke up particularly grumpy. We were out of milk, which triggered all my guilt over too many long days at work and the horrible feeling that I'm out of touch with the running of our home. Brian had worked from home on Friday since our kids had the day off, and I was snarky and short in an attempt to deflect the guilt I felt. I sent him a text saying sorry just as he returned from the grocery store with a gallon of milk...and a hot chai for me. 

You can keep your roses on Valentine's Day, because the gift of thoughtfulness, especially when you least deserve it, puts those tight red buds to shame.

4. A Girls Getaway in St. George, Utah

I so almost didn't go. As I said, January was a beast. Now I'm so grateful I went. 

Once upon a time Angie and I dreamed of living in the same town and sharing childcare as we started our families. And we tried---Brian and I lived with her and Jeff for three months while job searching after our time in the Peace Corps. We ended up finding jobs in Oregon. Even though we only get to see each other a couple times a year (when we're lucky!), I feel like my kids know their Arizona cousins well, and I'm grateful she's includes me in this circle of smart and hilarious women. Boston, Denver, Idaho, Flagstaff---we all made our way to St. George and once again shared delicious meals, great stories, and hilarious memories. 

I loved being there while we were there, but I was even more grateful after I returned home. These are the kind of voices I want in my head, and I love how time with them reaffirms my faith in the world, and in the art of carving out a life uniquely fit to your heart's desire. 

And that's what is saving my life right now.

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