Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lorelei's Eye Patch

Lorelei needs an eye patch.  For just two hours a day, one of her impossibly bright blue eyes will be covered up in an effort to strengthen the other one. This seemingly tiny addition to my day has provided an eruption of lessons in empathy in me, but also in my young Lorelei.

"I'll wear it to camp!  I think I'm ready!" she said yesterday as she climbed into my car with a teddy bear eye patch on her face.  Along the way, I suggested we role play a bit, so she could practice explaining why she needs to wear an eye patch.  She didn't want to.  Her normally bold voice steadily decreased until it was just a whimper, and I could sense a trembling chin in my rear view mirror.  As we approached her school on that first day of camp, she got a little weepy.  "I don't know.  I'm scared."

My maternal suggestion: "Take it off!  You don't have to wear it right now."  Avoidance is, after all, one option I like to employ in my own life...

So she did take it off before being whisked from my car in the unexpectedly short carpool line to her waiting math teacher.  The eye patch fell to the bottom of my car, happily finding a place amidst Cheerios and snack bar wrappers and library hold cards.

Some hours later, we had a good discussion about standing out, on being different: The idea of it is so fun!  Look at me, I'm different!  But then she realized that standing out and being different does come at a price: having a whole lot of attention directed at you.  Kids are curious.  They will ask questions.  You'll have their attention, all right.  Ready or not, here it comes…  Clearly Lorelei was not ready then.  But she looked down at the bottom of the car and saw her teddy bear eye patch right where she had dropped it.  She picked it up, finding it still sticky.

"I have to wear it for another hour, right, Mom?  I think I'll do it at the library."

This time, she heeded my advice and practiced what she would say when someone would ask her.  Just a few sentences, but having them ready in her back pocket gave a little more confidence to deal with her first day of going public with an attention-grabbing eye patch (did I mention sparkles decorated the space surrounding the teddy bears?).

We walked into the very familiar library, a place we go at least twice a week.  As a book lover and book blogger they know me and my kids very, very well. After being there for about fifteen minutes, she whispered to me, "No one has said anything."  I discreetly asked the head librarian to ask her about it.  Daniella pretended to wander around the library until she just happened to arrive at the spot Lorelei was in and moved books around for a minute before looking down at my daughter.

"Lorelei!  Hi there!  What happened to your eye?"

Lorelei paused. She collected herself as I held my breath. Then she said, "I'm okay.  My left eye isn't as strong as my right.  I have to wear this eye patch two hours a day on my right eye so my left eye becomes as strong as my right."  She responded just as confidently and bravely when another librarian asked about it on the way out (this one was not prompted by me, promise).

We have learned so much in the past few days about standing out, being unique, having empathy for others, having courage, learning to ask about something that's different about someone else, having the words to say before you actually need to say them.  I'm humbled by the gratitude I feel for my three kids' health--we've been so amazingly lucky--but also so grateful to have this little opportunity to teach not just Lorelei but also Ben and Kiefer the definition of empathy.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Baking Cherry Pie

I'm typing on my kitchen table.  It has junk all over it.  A bowl from the dining room table, moved here because we had our beloved sitter over to throw her a little baby shower.  Felicity the doll.  A Catapult put-it-together thing that Lorelei got for her birthday, but I still can't figure out who got it for her.  And why, to be honest…  Two cars, one pink headband, two ripped out book titles I added to my Goodreads list yesterday, a magazine from my alma matar, Seattle University.  Three--no four, one is buried under some clutter--library books that should be returned soon.  My coffee mug.  That's about the only thing that should be here.

Don't go far, Coffee.  I need you.

My kitchen is similarly cluttered, having that lived-in look that doesn't really surface much in the Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware catalogs I get in the mail.  My counters need scrubbing, not just wiping.

I'm not the best cleaner-upper.  I have three little kids, which doesn't help.  The five of us are at the end of the year, and at the end of our wits, crawling to get to the wonderful, warm light at the end of the school year tunnel: Summer!  We'll be there in just one day.  Hooray!  But before that celebration happens I have to finish planning one child's end of the year party, welcome a new sitter and get her settled in tomorrow, and a host of other things.

I also have to bake a homemade, from-scratch cherry pie today.

My to-do list includes: host my Grandpa K, who is 92 (I think), and a gem of a human.  We have a special bond that I'm really grateful for.  We just, I don't know, click.  We share the same sense of humor, we have the same ability to chat up anyone, at any time.  We're charming sorts, him and me.  And two years ago I tried to lure him down from Erie, PA, to visit by asking him what his favorite pie is.  Cherry, he said.  I've had one cherry pie--made with a teacher-friend of mine from cheap frozen cherries and it was extraordinarily, surprisingly good.  So I didn't hesitate to volunteer: "I'll make you cherry pie when you visit!" I said.

Grandma's Cherry Pie Recipe
I don't care what else I'm supposed to be doing today, but I will make this cherry pie.  My mom even sent me her mom/his wife's recipe for it, so I've got that to guide me as I cut and pit, mix and roll out.  She died when I was five; he never remarried though has a very loyal, long-time girlfriend.  (It's complicated even for Grandpa.) Therese, his late wife, was The One in a big way.  I kind of, just a little, look like her (she was a million times more beautiful and I'm sure her kitchen counters never needed scrubbing).

So that's what I'm off to do.  Think of my Grandma in heaven while I churn out a cherry pie for my Grandpa who is still charming me and everyone else on this Earth.

Really, is there anything more important than that today?

I have to go.  I have cherries to wash and cut...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Last At-Bat

At the Cincinnati Reds' t-ball practice, Kiefer always gets the final hit.  As the youngest in our family, he is one big tagalong, one big follower, one big wait-over-here-while-we-do-what-we-do-er.  This arrangement where the big kids, including his big brother and big sister, field his single hit is a nod to his third-kid status, a way to thank his patience, his easy temperament, the fact that where they go, he's got to go, too.

So he walks up with his bat, barely three but already working on his swagger, grin so big his eyes are squinting.  He insists on a batting helmet just like the others wore during practice.  It fits just fine because he's got an inordinately large head that powers an inordinately stout body.  Just like his big brother, he takes the bat and does some practice swings.  He hits the bat on the ground by home plate.  He means to make a statement: I'm here!  Take me seriously!
Kiefer, in the middle, with his Nats hat and Santa shirt on,
fitting in just fine between his uniformed Reds siblings.

As he peers through the cage on the front of the helmet, he's got to feel satisfied.  Because the Cincinnati Reds t-ball team does take him seriously.  They are all in the in-field, in ready position with their hands on their knees, watching and waiting for the ball.  He's their friend's little brother, so they all know him well and are sweet to him.  They wait for his hit, seriously, and call out encouragement from their positions.

Coach places the ball on the tee.  "Don't swing yet.  Wait until I say 'okay,' okay, Kiefer?"

Kiefer replies, "Okay."

And when he hears that "Okay!  Swing, Kiefer!" he swings with all his toddler might.

THWACK!  He hits it a good five feet!  Nearly a home run!  He pauses to watch, still not able to swing and run without first admiring his hit.  But then he runs!  His feet scurry, toes slightly out and hustling as fast as those short, stout legs can.  His arms are pumping like mad, his left one characteristically pumping stronger than his right for some adorable reason.  They help propel him forward.

But not quite to first base.  Kiefer heads that way at first, but instead of continuing all the way to the base (which is actually one of Coach's extra gloves), he veers suddenly towards second base.  He's running amok on the infield now, trying to confuse those big kids as he cuts a path wherever his bright orange shoes want to take him, dodging kids and bases along the way.  The parents cheer, the kids egg him on, and Kiefer zips and zooms around the field until he plops himself down on the edge of the outfield, exhausted and happy from the hit, the run, the day.

And he smiles over at me as some of the big kids go check on him, give him high-fives, whisper that Coach brought popsicles for everyone.  He belongs.  In his own way--in his own happy way--he belongs.