The importance of saying yes

About a month ago, I walked into the garage to find Chase and three of his friends in the middle of a project.  I'd like to say this is an unusual phenomenon at our house, but it's not.  Chase is almost always in the middle of constructing something.  He's built a hover board, a rifle, a go-cart, a knife, several bows and arrows, as well as a variety of other odd projects.  If he can dream it, he can build it.  He's stopped coming to me for permission, and bypasses my authority for that of the Husband's.  

Rightly so.  

I know nothing about power tools and building weapons of mass destruction.  My first instinct is almost always to say no.

They had decided this time to build a boat.  They spent their own money on wood, came up with a design, and started working.

The project took several weeks.  I laughed every time I passed a garage full of sawdust-covered boys sanding the boat with cheerful grins on their faces and music blaring in the corner.  They experimented with waterproof finishes and found a deeply discounted bucket of green paint with which to complete their creation.  They joked and laughed and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the process.

Yesterday was the inaugural launch of their boat.  They took it (all couple hundreds pounds of wood, paint and finish) to a nearby pond and prayed to the gods of the sea for success.  It was no surprise, really, that it worked.  Their little green boat sailed like a champ.

More importantly, however, is the lesson here for mothers everywhere.  When your boys want to build and create - say yes.  Even though it will be messy and probably slightly dangerous.  No doubt it will be inconvenient.  There will be sawdust covering your wood floor and paint dripped into your sink.  There will be loud music playing at all hours, and sweaty boys rummaging through your pantry.  Their project will maybe even occupy the spot in the garage where your car should be.  For weeks at a time.

But there is so much more happening.  There is growth, creativity, knowledge and leadership.  They are problem solving and learning to work as a team.  They are using their imagination and understanding the value of hard work. None of them are on devices or sitting in front of a television.  They are setting a goal, and moving heaven and earth to make it happen.  All by themselves.  They are thinking, dreaming, planning, laboring.

They are not really putting together a boat, after all.  

They are putting together the men they are becoming.

And that is a fantastic, miraculous process at work.

A show of solidarity, hair style

Every year, I look forward to May for so many reasons.  May brings such happy milestones with her.  School is almost out, the weather is (usually) nice, and summer is just around the corner.   You can almost taste the crisp, sweet watermelon; feel the cold chlorine pools; and smell the musky bar-b-que smoke.  May is the reward for surviving the Winter cold and the April rains.

It's glorious.

May also means that it is time for The Mowhawks.  And, yes, a tradition that has lived on for seven years in our family deserves its own capitalization.  (For previous years comparisons, see here, here, here, here, and here.) 

Oh, but this day has brought such bittersweet feelings in my heart this year.  It means that our time in St. Louis is fast approaching its end.  And I'm not at all emotionally prepared to face that reality.

But that is a post for another (sob-filled) day.

Making this year's Mohawks that much more awesome is the fact that my boys conned two of their friends into getting them, as well.  If you're going to be brave and crazy, you might as well have some company.

Without further adieu, here is a plethora of photos documenting the fabulous process that is The Mowhawks.

May the tradition live on, long after we have left this place.

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The heart of a giant

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Several weeks ago, Chase came home to tell me about a field trip his grade at school was taking.  He explained that there were three possible field trips and each hall was assigned a different one.  He was pretty excited at the chance to escape classwork and tests for a day of play.  

Field trip option number one was the City Museum.  For those of you not fortunate enough to live in St. Louis, the City Museum is a paradise for kids (and adults if you're anyone other than me).  It's a 600,000 square-foot building that is essentially an urban recycled playground.  There are old airplanes and buses strapped to the roof that kids can climb in and play with.  There is a three-story indoor slide.  There are tunnels to explore and large structures to scale.  Everything is made from salvaged urban materials.  It's visually incredible, and physically exhausting.  There is not a child alive who would be sad to visit this place.

Field trip option number two was an indoor recreation facility.  The kids would spend the day swimming, playing basketball, racquetball, and tennis.  The full facility would be at the students' disposal, including the indoor skating rink.  It would have been a blast for sure.

The last, and final, field trip option was a trip to the local nuclear waste dump.

Yes.  AND HOLY JUDAS, YES.

I have no idea how they pulled that one out of the hat, when the other two options are so clearly fun and, you know, not a day spent looking at garbage.  

Well.  As Murphy's Law would have it, Chase's hall drew the short end of the toxic nuclear stick.  They were assigned the field trip NO ONE would ever want to go on.  Ever.   

I offered to let him stay home and, better yet, go visit the City Museum on our own.  But my sweet, lanky, broad-shouldered boy just shrugged and smiled.  He laughed and said that he didn't mind going on it, and that he might learn something new.  

And as he cheerfully walked out the door to study trash instead of to play, I marveled at the heart inside my boy.  He has a better attitude than most adults I know (definitely this one).  He truly sees the glass as half-full, and doesn't feel a sense of entitlement for anything in his life.  He is grateful for what he has, and makes the most of every day he is given.

Even if that day includes a field trip to look at garbage.

I love him something fierce.

For my number one fan

They say the surest way to a mama's heart is through her kids.

Never has this been more true in my life. I am painfully aware of the wondrously lush group of friends that we have been blessed to know here in St. Louis. It didn't take our impending move for us to appreciate them either. I could write posts for days about the fabulous people I'm blessed to have in my life.  Friends that really are family.  Kids that are like cousins.  Girlfriends that are the sisters I never had.  We got lucky when we moved here. Lucky because a fabulous group of women opened their hearts to me, and naturally, my kids.

One friend in particular I'd like to talk about today. And it's not because he has dubbed himself my "number one blog fan."

Though, I have to say, I am flattered to have such a distinction.  Honestly, I'm just thrilled to even HAVE a fan. (And possibly wondering who paid him off.)

But, no, the reason I want to talk about this kid is because he's amazing and deserves a blog post all his own.

Meet Nick.

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Nick is a boy whom we met our first week here in 2007. Their family had just moved from Connecticut about seven months prior to our move to St. Louis.  They matched up perfectly to our family in every way.  I could write post after post about the things his mom has done for me.  Oh wait, I did.  And here, too.  Aaannnd here.

See?  Told you they were amazing.

Anyway.  Back to Nick.

Nick is the same age as Chase.  While they differ considerably in height, they are a perfect match in every other way.

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Nick, much like Chase, roots for the underdog and has no tolerance for hate.  He is one of the kindest souls I've ever met.  He is funny without being obnoxious. (Yes, Mindy.  It's true.  We all find Nick hilarious.  Make peace with that.)

He cheers my boy on at every race, while brushing off any praise for his own (far superior) time.  When Nick took first place in the district junior high track meet?  He was more happy for Chase, who took third.  Because he knew just how far Chase had come.  His smile matched my boy's that day, and my heart melted at the love shown by Nick.

And last year, when he was the last in his class to graduate from primary, his attitude was as cheerful as the eager, new Sunbeams.  He didn't sulk or pout his lot in life, as many before him have done.  He raised his hand with questions, listened when I was teaching, and taught me more than he'll ever know.

Nick is not jealous or petty.  He is not concerned with appearances or the pervasive middle school curse of trying to look "cool."  He is confident, yet humble.  He is eager to have fun and wants to make sure no one gets left out.

He is my son's best friend.

Lord help him, but he loves my goofy boy, even when Chase does his Gollum impression.  He helps my boy to push himself harder with the running, and is always there to cheer him on.  He listens for hours to talk of airsoft guns and World War II.  He gives of himself freely, and asks nothing in return.

His mom quite often jokes and apologizes for his goofiness.  What she does not know is this:  There is a special place in this mama's heart for goofy boys.

After all, I'm raising two and married to one.

Goofy boys are pretty much the bomb.

So thanks, Nick, for making Chase's time here the best of his young life.  Thanks for being a true friend, and for loving us in spite of ourselves.  We fully expect to see your family often.  Texas is not that far away.

Friends like you are worth their weight in gold.

5-7-9

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Today, my newborn baby boy started high school. It's a little hard to imagine how he is getting from class to class, what with his being like FOUR DAYS OLD and all. But maybe someone gave him a piggy back ride? Helped him open his locker with his tiny, peeling, newborn fists?

I do hope so.

Because I'm sort of a wreck just thinking about it.

All day long, I've been chomping at the bit, anxiously awaiting his arrival home.

And, thanks to the cross country practice, he won't get here until dinner time.

By which point, I expect he's grown a full beard, has a job, and four kids of his own.

Don't mock.  It feels about that long since he WAS a newborn. They always told me it would go so fast. When I had three kids under age four, I fervently hoped it was true with every fiber of my being.  The days were endless, and the nights - anything but restful.  It was one long sleep-deprived millennia, dotted here and there with moments that made it all worth while.

Like when they were all asleep at the same time.

But now that they're fun, interesting, and like the same movies as me? I'd sort of like time to just stand still for a moment.  To freeze the laughter that fills the air like a thick fog when we watch Seinfeld re-runs together.  To remember their sharp wit, and bottle up the occasional hugs from their long, gangly bodies.  To hold on to them for just a little longer.

Sigh.

The other two were much more nonchalant as they headed out the door this morning.

The middle child is smack dab in the middle of his middle school career. He knows the ropes, he has his friends, and it's all not nearly as exciting as the 900 hours he taped for Shark Week.

But, man, do I love him something fierce.

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And my baby girl.  Starting what will be our final year of elementary school. She is as dramatic as she always has been. What with the ASSIGNED SEATS AT LUNCH, UGH. And actual HOMEWORK required of her. But still. I forgive her for growing up because she flies into my arms with a choking squeeze as soon as she gets off the bus.  Never knowing which one of us really needs that touch more.

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I think it's going to be all right.

Plus?  We're now one day closer to summer vacation next year.

Celebrating the important holidays

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Yesterday was a big day.

In case you didn't know, it marked its 68th year.

Around here, this holiday is probably second only to Christmas for one of my children.

Still clueless?

Then you must be new around here.

You see, every year, on June 6th, we celebrate the allied invasion at Normandy during World War II. Otherwise known as D-Day. Or Operation Neptune. Or Operation Overlord.

I know all these things, you see, because he tells me.  Every year.

Whatever you call the day, it's a big deal in the heart of my boy.

First thing out of bed, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, his face is in mine, as he wishes me a Happy D-Day. He then proceeds to follow me around the house, sharing time lines and details from that morning long ago. He doesn't just find it interesting; he breathes it in his soul. His passion spills over to the rest of us, and we can't help but get caught up in it, too.

(Though, for his brother and sister, I suspect a lot of the enthusiasm comes from the annual cake that Chase makes to celebrate.)

This year, it was a tank, made up and created entirely by Chase.

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So, fallen brothers at Normandy, let your souls be at peace. All the way across the pond, in a little suburb of St. Louis, a 12-year-old boy remembers your sacrifice.

And makes sure that none of us forget it either.

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I think it's pretty freaking awesome.