Monday, August 30, 2010

Brave - Part I

During our recent vacation to the shore we dealt with pretty strong rip currents. Never far from my or my husband's minds was the knowledge that last year a 12-year-old boy drowned at the very beach we visit. He was taken by a rip current during our final day of vacation. We were not there but the news rippled through the little vacation community we visit.

We spent the two weeks this summer being extremely vigilant as my 10-year-old sons and 6-year-old daughter became more comfortable throwing themselves into waves and riding boogie boards into the shore. We talked with them about how to get out of a rip current. I never thought to talk through with them how long it would take or how much energy.

Every year as we return home we visit some of my family. On a beautiful sunny day this past weekend, the boys and I joined my cousin and her two oldest sons for a swim across the small bay to a dock and then swim back. My guys are full of energy and can run for hours. They are strong swimmers and I figured it wouldn't be too far for them. I grossly misjudged the distance since it was over one half a mile to the far dock and back. It was fairly easy for one of my guys.

It wasn't easy for the other one.

Before we had crossed over to the far away dock I heard a pretty sickening sound. The sound of someone gulping air, taking in some water then trying to cough it up.

My guy was really struggling.

I talked to him, encouraging him to get to the far dock. Once there he declared he wanted to get out and walk back. The other boys were ready to go back so my cousin swam with them to her dock.

After catching his breath, he agreed to swim back. We swam to the closest dock and I thought that would be our strategy - to go from dock to dock until we return to the original one. But he decided to go straight for it.

I encouraged him to swim on his back and use less energy. He did and stayed in control of his breathing. I told him how great his was doing, how we were getting closer, how he was showing real stamina. And I was thinking this was the best way to show what it takes to get out of a rip tide.

After a while, I waved to my cousin and she swam the last bit to us with a styrofoam noodle. Little man gratefully tucked it under his arms and did the breast stroke back to the dock. Then he pulled himself up the ladder, turned toward the water and jumped right back in.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Love, more

Not only am I coming out of vacation but I am coming out of non-blogging mode to honor my boys' 10th birthday. And even though they are twins, they deserve their own letters which makes this a bit long for a blog post. But it is their birthday. And their first year in double digits.

Dear little man,

I sometimes can't figure you out. You can be maddeningly mean to your younger sister, mocking her 6-year-old illogical comments or fantastical stories, to the point where I think I've raised a vicious young man. You and your brother can gang up on her and just be merciless.

Yet you carefully help her make "parfaits" just like her favorite book character, Fancy Nancy, and use all the fancy words that Nancy uses ("Why YES! Putting a layer of jimmies in our parfaits is just stupendous!!!" you said to your little sister, making her beam with pride). You offer to fix her hair or play with dolls. I celebrate your kindness and practically cane you when you are mean.

Then, during the last parent-teacher conference for the grade you just finished, your teacher told me how you are the one she went to when a classmate was struggling. She shared that she often would pull you aside before recess, tell you that she was worried about one classmate or another, and ask you to "check in on the playground".

And you would.

You also in front of all your friends come up to me, slide your arm around my waist and lay your head against me. It still floors me that you continue to show such affection in public. In private you are even more cuddly. While I was cleaning the kitchen in our vacation home this week you came up behind me, wrapped your arms around me and starting singing Taylor Swift's You Belong With Me.

If you only knew how true that is.

Happy birthday little man,


Dear little man,

You are convinced you are going to be discovered on the Internet on some home video. Or you will single-handedly save an entire nation from ruin. It depends on the day. Or hour.

One excitement during your 9th year was you and your brother were hired to be "mother's helpers" for a mom with three-year-old twin boys. You got to spend 1/3 of your earnings that week, place 1/3 in savings and after several months designate the final third for a charity. We had talked during that time that you would donate to the local food pantry because it would make a real difference in our community.

And then an earthquake struck Haiti. You have classmates with family who live there. You had to listen to me talk about my own friends who were trying to locate their families. And you decided that your $18 from babysitting should go to Haiti. Three days after the earthquake. We eventually agreed to give the money to the pantry because it wasn't clear if the money would actually get to people in Haiti.

When you first heard We are the World: 25 for Haiti you were floored. Months later you continue to sing along with the song with a sincerity and passion that humbles me. I'm pretty grateful for the sunglasses I wear in the car while driving when you start singing "send them your heart/ so they know that someone cares..." You sing the entire song with feeling, eyes closed, and as loud as a you can. Your sincerity makes me weep which I hide behind the sunglasses.

And then Katie Perry's California Gurls comes on the radio and you sing that perfectly, loudly and with great zest. Making me wonder just where your passions are. Saving the world, or being a star.

I'm looking forward to seeing what it will be.

Happy birthday little man,