Monday, October 31, 2011

Clinically wiggly. Thank goodness someone else noticed.

Andrew fascinates me.  And not just in a "how did this creature jumping on the bed grow inside of my body" type of fascination.  Although there's that too.  

He just makes no sense in so many ways, and yet it all comes together to be Perfectly Andrew.  Even the things that drive me crazy... like his constant need to climb/jump/tackle/bounce...I wouldn't actually change any of it, really, even if I have long periods of temptation for a straightjacket for him.  Just for 5 minutes.  Or 10.

Andrew had an assessment this weekend -- the first time a professional "outsider" has reviewed or analyzed him.  It was just a 35 minute entrance thingy for an academic program, so it wasn't an exhaustive battery.  But she was a psychologist and had a lot of experience, and I was curious to hear her thoughts. 

The highlights from her verbal report, right after the battery:

He missed easy questions, but dominated the hard ones.  As in, missed naming some letters, but read words.  Got the one that just counted squares wrong, but quickly answered correctly: "If you had 7 items and someone took 3 away, how many would you have?"  

Yes!  I know!  This is the same kid who completely skipped over baby toys and went right into action figures.  Who would rather watch grown-up movies (and follow the plot) than watch cartoons.  Who doesn't like kid music, but loves the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, etc.  The same kid who was asking existential questions about our purpose in life before he could name colors. 

What does this mean?  And: Does it matter?  Is this a problem, or just a quirk?  

I wanted to hug her (tightly and weirdly long) when said: "Andrew is very wiggly, isn't he?  I have 3 sons, and this isn't just a 'boy wiggly' thing.  He's really active!"

Thank you, Psychologist, for professionally validating that for me.  

She doesn't think it's ADHD, because he was focused on the test the entire time.  Stayed intellectually connected and aware, but just moved the entire time.

My working-theory is that he's just SO bodily-kinesthetic as a learner that if you ask him to stop moving, his brain shuts down.  So to process the test, he needed to stay moving.  

I don't know.  But gawd, is he wiggly.  To put it nicely. 

When I think about who Andrew is going to be as an adult, I don't even feel a flutter of concern.  I can look into his being, right now, and see a great man in there.  Not even the great man that he's going to be, but that it's already in him.  

He feels things so strongly.  The good and the bad, but along the way, he'll find that balance if we guide him.  He's such a deep thinker and has so much curiosity. And I can already see in him what a good husband and father he would be -- his caretaker spirit and his protective love for people around him.  

If a crystal ball predicted he'd be a Doctors Without Borders doctor, I wouldn't be surprised.  He seems so tuned in with saving other people and life and death and other cultures. In whatever job he chooses, I really think there will be an element of "superhero" in it.  Saving lives or just helping people.

Whatever he'll be, I know he'll be fine.  Not just fine, but great.  There's a lot of complex goodness in him. 

But in the day-to-day of raising him, I feel exhausted sometimes.  Sometimes it's about the bouncing off the walls.  Sometimes it's about the non-stop philosophizing in the backseat, and not wanting to crush his spirit but also needing a moment of quiet space. Knowing what to do with a child who takes a completely non-conventional path to everything.  Figuring out how to honor everything about him, but sand down the edges of traits that might complicate his life.

Simone and Jack have their own complex parenting journey, definitely, but it's a different one.  For another post.  They seemed to come out of the womb with their own manual pre-written, and it's just about listening to their instructions.  :)

Andrew has this gorgeous, colorful, complex soul that really aches to be understood and nurtured.  He's so much more wrapped up in the interpersonal elements of life -- cherishing family and spending time together -- that figuring him out as we go just seems trickier. When I mess up with him, I feel even more strongly about going and making it right with him.  Apologizing and re-connecting.  His value on our relationship is so powerful in his life.

I know that someday, I will look across the room at Grown Andrew and how truly great he turned out will take my breath away. I really believe that.

Along the way, though, I see a lot of late night chats with Steve, figuring out this special little man who came into our family.  He deserves the best we can give him. 

I am committed to his complexity.  We can do this.  Wiggly and all.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Mission Simplify. Or: I'm getting really crabby about driving so much.

I had a dream the other night that I needed to get the kids somewhere, and had planned to ride my bike. I came out to find the chain had fallen off, and I was frustrated I was going to have to walk the kids 20 miles to their activity.  I was packing my bag for our 20-mile walk, and then a neighbor said: "Why don't you just drive them in the car?"  I looked over and saw there was a car sitting right there, and I hadn't even noticed.

Much better to drive 20 miles with 3 kids than to walk it.

I woke up from the dream, and decided almost immediately that my sub-conscious was telling me we've been making things too complicated, more work than they need to be.

Whether that's the dream's point or not, I ran with it.  Agreed with my sub-conscious, and re-doubled my efforts on Mission Simplify.  

We're moving to Richmond in mid-December.  This is a completely blank slate for us.  A chance to create our logistics from the ground-up.  There are no co-op friendships to revolve around, we can live anywhere in the city, etc etc. 

For the last semester, I have been driving 100 miles round-trip to get to our "old" schooling co-ops.  As in, the ones that made sense to attend back when we lived on the southside of Hampton Roads.  We've worked hard to maintain our friendships from Virginia Beach, which sometimes meant Herculean efforts.  

My last Saturday: Driving 50 miles to pick up Samuel, Andrew's best friend, bringing those two and Simone to Young Chef Academy, then driving another 25 miles (each way) to bring Jack to his Russian teacher of 3 years, then back to pick up the kiddos...and then drive 50 miles home.

This is the problem with living in Nomad Purgatory.  We haven't wanted to create a whole new life in Williamsburg, because we're leaving it in 6 weeks.  But trying to drag our Virginia Beach life behind's a bit like walking 20 miles when you should have just driven it.

As I told Ashley last week: "There's a lot to be said for living life in the present."

Do I regret our decision to take heroic measures to maintain our Virginia Beach network?  Not in the least.  Samuel, Andrew, and Simone had an incredible time at Young Chef Academy - and I'm even planning another field trip to do that same drive again soon.  I can't believe how much they are learning at the co-ops, especially Jack in the older-kid classes, taking science and languages that I can't teach him. 

And losing Natalia, Jack's Russian teacher, and her daughter M after our move? We will shed some tears over that loss.  Right now, the hour drive to her is achievable, so we've made it happen.  2 hours, we'll have to cut that cord. I really believe her loving, kind, intelligent friendship and Russian lessons with him have re-shaped the entire rest of his life.  We will never forget her. 

We've already chosen our new co-op in Richmond, The Athenian Academy, so I took a page from Andrea's life-manual and rented a home within 10 minutes of it.  Gah, I am so excited about this!!!  We've never had that experience in Hampton Roads; we were driving 30-45 minutes even from Virginia Beach.  

Simone is now enrolled in preschool (another post to come on that one) starting next semester.  5 minutes from our house.  

And when we find a new Russian teacher for Jack?  Well, hopefully there will be a native Russian speaker within 10 minutes of our house.

Because their good natures aside...I think my kids will appreciate a life that seems to actually be planned around us and our needs...and not driving all over the kingdom to make it a perfect fit for us. 

In the meantime, though, these kids have memorized every song on my iTunes shuffle...and lordy, it's adorable to hear them belting out the words from the backseat.  Andrew can sing a mean Lady Gaga's "Born This Way."  I might actually miss that part.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why Steve is one of the most courageous persons I've ever met.

A year ago, Steve had new clarity that he was ready for the next phase.  He'd wanted to be a math teacher when our children were young - summers off, especially - but to move into a more math-oriented field down the road.  He realized that he was ready to shift gears, found out that William and Mary (only an hour away) had one of the best accounting graduate programs in the country, and that we get in-state tuition.  He scrambled for the GMAT and got a rockin' score.  And applied to W&M and was accepted, including a merit scholarship.

Spring semester, he worked full time and took 21 credit hours of accounting prerequisites.  It was madness, but we kept saying on repeat: "This is an investment.  It's an investment."

We were already in transition, like living in the winter rental only through May -- in part to take advantage of new opportunities.  This was one of them.  He ended teaching in June, we travelled all summer, and he started the one-year graduate program this fall.

Yesterday, we found out he was accepted at Deloitte in Richmond.  The top ranked accounting firm, and one of the Big 4.  An incredibly difficult position to get, especially as a 32 year old seeking a CPA position, instead of being a younger fresh-out-of-college guy. 

The W&M program told him initially he shouldn't expect a Big 4 job, because of his age, and we both agreed that wasn't what we needed.  He had a lot of directions he could take his CPA and still be happy.

But now that we know he's been accepted...OMG.  

He did it.

THIS is the message I wanted my children to see -- from that first moment he came home and asked my opinion about leaving his job and going back to school.  The message that if you really believe in something and are willing to back it with incredibly hard work, you can make it happen. 

I believe in risk-taking when it's about listening to your inner-self and being authentic to the direction you're supposed to go. I believe in changing directions when you know it isn't right.  That life is short, yes, but's pretty long, too, in that you get to shift gears when things aren't working.  31 was too young to decide it was "too old" to change careers. 

Sometimes those next steps are scary because you just know the current situation isn't right...but the Other Side of it isn't yet clear.

Steve was getting accolades galore for his teaching...getting the highest exam scores for his subject area in the department...and nominated for Distinguished Teacher of the Year.  Perhaps to many, including his colleagues, leaving didn't make sense.

But it did to me.  I trusted him and knew he would always take care of our family.  And even if the decision seemed strange to others, it didn't feel strange to me.  Being a good teacher isn't the same as having it be your passion, and he needed to go down his right-path.

So here we are. 

He starts his internship in January for two months, and then his contract begins in September - the standard start time for CPAs.  Which means I get another summer to travel with the family. :)

California, here we come. 

The big question now is when to move to Richmond: January, and have him reverse-commute to W&M the last two months of the semester, or wait until the fall.  

He's left it up to me, and my biggest sticking point is my children's co-ops.  Right now, they're an hour each direction from Williamsburg.  Richmond has an incredible co-op, 4 days a week where you pick and choose your classes (college-style) for each of the kids.  Similar to the current ones, but on a larger scale.  So I'm not concerned about schooling options once we get there --- just wondering whether we're ready to leave our current ones.  I'm pretty sure we're not.  

Either way, my most resounding emotion is absolute joy for Steve. That he could create a goal for his life and bring it to fruition...even against all odds...creates a feeling in my stomach that I can't even describe.  

The 15-years-ago-Steve would laugh at me saying this, but he's got quite the adventurous streak. ;)  Maybe not with travel the way I feel it, but with demanding good things from life - and having the adventurous courage to make it happen.  

I am inspired.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Belated camp card

My dad just sent a packet of letters that came to his address, and one of them was a card from Jack from camp that didn't make it in time before we left.


Mom, I hope you are having a grate day.  Last nite the Jermin camp stuc a bell in the lake."

"Jermin" = German. 

That was the entire card.  

For so many reasons, I love this.  And will save it forever.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

How trash-picked bikes can change the world. Or at least, make my day.

Sometimes giving really isn't giving at all. It's being a selfish part of a moment that really took little effort, time, etc.  But it can still feel really, really good in a way that only helping others can truly do for the spirit.

Yesterday, we were doing errands back by our winter rental from last year.  When we moved, we'd left two outgrown bikes at the indoor bike rack, hoping someone could use them.  One was trash-picked by my father-in-law and one I bought at Goodwill for $5.  Both were too small for the boys now, but were still in good condition.

I realized mid-summer that they might just rot there, since I hadn't put a FREE sign or anything on them.  Since we were back that way, I swung by to see if they were still there.  They were. 

So, I loaded them in the back of my car and decided to donate them somewhere.

Later that day, I was sitting outside of Peter's apartment, waiting for him to get home so I could drop off some things for him.  He lives at an apartment complex that includes other Sudanese refugee families -- some whom I know, others I don't. 

While waiting in my car with the kids, I watched a man and his toddler son for a while.  The father was warm and kind with his son, both of them laughing, as he watched his son run around an open space in the parking lot.  

Suddenly, I realized I had these bikes in the back of my car, and went over to him.  He spoke little English, but understood "bike" - and let me know that no, they didn't have one.  So I took out the one meant for a 2-3 year old and gave it to his son.

I will never forget the sweet joy in the boy's little face as he climbed on the bike and started pedaling. 

I said to the dad: "I have another bike.  Big bike.  You know a big boy with no bike?"

He shook his head no, but at that same moment, an older gentleman was walking by us and had been listening to the situation.  "There's a lot of kids here with no bike. I'll make sure it gets a good home."  I was overwhelmed by his goodness, just in that brief moment. 

Trying to not show him I was tearing up, I pulled out the other bike and handed it to him.  Thanked him.  And then felt sheepish when he told me that was generous of me. 

Because really, it wasn't. 

The sum total of the bikes was $5. I'd left them for dead at the old condo building. And I was there only to drop off something for Peter.

And yet, that situation burned into me.  I felt an overwhelming urge to run out and collect all those $5 bikes I see at thrift stores, pass them out at underprivileged apartment complexes. Now, I understand how easily these moments in life can happen.

Sometimes, life gives you exactly the moment you need. Even when you don't deserve it.