Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Halloween and Other Holidays
Dominick and I returned Sunday night from our little getaway weekend. We spent the weekend exploring Boulder, where we had never been before, sleeping in late, and pretty much doing as little as possible. The kids had a blast spending the weekend at our friends' house and we were able to escape completely worry free, knowing they were happy and well cared for. We haven't been alone together like that with one exception in over 7 years, and it was wonderful. This past year, heck, the past 7 years, have been pretty stressful in many ways. It was nice to have a conversation without having one or another boy tugging at our sleeves, to talk about our future and reminisce about how much our lives have changed. We actually managed to spend much of the weekend talking about something other than 3 little boys, although I'll admit to feeling a little bit too footloose. It is hard to believe we were married for 13 years without children and we spent that much time alone...and quiet!! Well, with me around, I guess it is probably never really quiet...hahahaha!
While in Boulder we visited an artist co-op where I fell in love with the most expensive yet expressive furniture! It is nothing I could ever afford in a million years, yet would die to have. It is a line called "Sticks" and you can see it at www.sticks.com . What I loved about it was that it was colorful, whimsical, could be personalized, and had phrases on many pieces that describe our lives to a "T". Tables and wall mirrors carved with sayings like "Be Creative", "Cherish Family", "Give of Yourself", "Seek Knowledge" and many others that support our notion of what a good life is all about. As I have often discussed in this blog, I am not anyone's image of a Martha Stewart-type, and the last thing on earth I am likely to ever take an interest in is furniture, but these pieces blend a folk art feel with sentiments that mean something to me, and although I will never be able to afford any of it (Not at $1200 and up for wall mirrors!!) it is one of the few things I have ever seen that has grabbed me that way and held my thoughts long afterward. If I ever have a spare $2000 sitting around (don't laugh too hard at that one) one of the huge wooden carved wall calendars will be mine!!
We have spent the past month in countdown mode for Kenny's birthday, which is next Thursday (the 15th). You have no idea how many times I have answered the question "Mom, how many days my birthday???"! I know most kids his age are excited about the arrival of their birthday, but though this is technically Kenny's ninth birthday, it is really his first birthday...his first ever celebrated with a cake and presents and party hats, the whole nine yards. It will also be the first ever celebrated with his family beside him. Matthew's eighth birthday was only a week after we returned home with Kenny, and Kenny's understanding of what was going on was evident and thereafter his desire to have his very own birthday was neverending!
We will have a cake at school, and then a small party at home with friends. I had to explain to him that the kids at school would NOT be bringing him presents, that they would celebrate by eating cake and singing to him. Surprisingly, we are having a hard time coming up with ideas for birthday and Christmas gifts for him. You would think it would be so easy...this child who has had nothing for his entire life, shouldn't this be simple? But he will be nine years old, he is developmentally in many ways closer to 6 (but also surprisingly mature in other ways), he has no reading skills yet, he doesn't much care for cars or sports, and he has shown no strong desires yet as everything is so new. Then throw in the mix that I am fairly particular about what we spend on our money on...wanting it to be something substantial and durable that will last and is not necessarily the latest Walmart plastic toy that will break in 5 minutes and we have a real conundrum.
And then...and then...here is where some of you might chide me...I don't want him to develop a less-than-grateful heart. There is this balancing act with older adopted children, one that requires that you walk that tightrope carefully or your decisions will lead to years of "undoing" what you initially did out of compassion (and, let's face it, the desire to prove how much you love your new child by giving them everything they have never had!). With Kenny, right away it was apparent that he had no concept of what things cost, and as expected had a distorted view of how "rich" we were. The first couple of weeks we had him while still in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, he asked us for EVERYTHING he saw. He threw tantrums in stores, picked up everything thinking we would buy it for him, and had to have several firm sit-downs to "get it", that his new family did not have loads of money. Our young Kazakh friends did us a favor and had it out with him at one point, offering explanations and probably telling him a few choice things they didn't translate for us :-) After we returned home, a friend of ours gave all three kids each a dollar and Kenny looked at it with a bit of disdain and said "Only one dollar?" which mortified me and surprised both Matthew and Joshua. With much consistency, that beast has now been somewhat tamed, and I fear that buying too much for his birthday will not only set a precedent we are not wealthy enough to maintain, but will undo much of the work of the past several months as we have focused on helping to create a grateful heart in him.
I know, I know, it is his first birthday and I should just let go of all of it for awhile, right? After all, what harm could come from a little spoiling? I find myself see-sawing back and forth on this one, all the while knowing that my more practical self will win out and we will keep it well under control even if there is that Fairy Godmother part of me that wants to hand him over several hundred dollars and turn him loose in a Toys R Us! But his spirit is worth far more than the short term pleasure we would get. Not everyone understands what we are trying to do with him, actually with all 3 of our sons, but that is ok. I want them to see that real joy comes from relationships and shared love, not things or monetary rewards. Dominick and I together have had times in our lives when we have had more, and times when we have had less and we could never look at the times when we could be freer with money and call them happier. Often it is the anticipation of something long yearned for that brings one happiness, while the realization of that dream is often a little lackluster. We are in lean times now, and yet we want for very little. It is my heartfelt desire that Kenny somehow takes that in and can use it to sustain himself later in life when the going gets rough.
We left the day after Halloween and I didn't get to post about Kenny's first Trick Or Treating extravaganza! I spent the day at school, carving pumpkins and dancing back and forth between parties in 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms. It was so much fun to see the kids all wound up, costumes on, smiles wide. That evening we went into town for trick or treating with friends, and within the first house or two Kenny was WAY into it and there was no stopping him. As it often has been with him, we find that he blends in so easily and handles new experiences so well that we have to remind ourselves that he is "new". At the end of the night with candy spread from one end of the floor to the other, all the kids started haggling for things they wanted to trade...Smarties for Twix bars, Tootsie Rolls for M & M's. The silly part of the evening was watching all of us make sour faces after popping a "Warhead" into our mouths! My camera battery decided to suddenly stop holding a charge, so I had to rely on my friend to snap pictures for me of the kids in their costumes, as you can see from the photos shown here. My Superman, Power Ranger, and Pilot all kept me safe for the evening!
I had a special "Mommy Reward" yesterday when a friend called me up to share what had happened at school between Matthew and her son, who had broken his arm this weekend. Matthew's buddy was concerned about how he was going to use the restroom because he couldn't maneuver well enough to work with pants! We had a talk the night before and Matthew said he would help...but you always wonder if something like that will be too embarassing for an 8 year old boy. Well, on the phone the mom told me that you always hope your children will find special friends who will really stick by them, and she felt very fortunate that Matthew was her son's friend, that he helped make his buddy feel much more comfortable at school that day. And there, once again, my quieter less flashy son works his special magic, and I prayerfully give thanks for him, that he is the "older" child in our family and sets such a wonderful example of kindness, diligence, and obedience to both Kenny and Joshua, who also have their own special magic they work in our lives.