Monday, January 25, 2010

Bye, Bye Bedtime Story

Like so many families, part of our bedtime routine involves reading a few stories. For the last four years we have read Mr. T some terrific books - and loved every minute of it. Lately, though, he's gotten into dinosaurs and mammals, and he's more interested in reading reference guides on the topics than listening to stories. This is somewhat annoying for my husband & I, mainly because reading a dinosaur encyclopedia out loud can be embarassing. When your child can pronounce the names of the creatures flawlessly - and corrects you every few sentences - the reading roles have officially reversed!

To our advantage - most of the time - our little guy can already read. Okay, okay, you're thinking: Yeah, right! But seriously, the kid can read. Proficiently. Other than read to him - and talk about sounds here and there - we did absolutely nothing out of the ordinary to encourage this habit. He just figured it out, and gets better at it every day. We have mixed feelings about this - it's certainly impressive that he can read already, and it's also great to know that he won't struggle with the process of learning in school. also means we can't sneak much by him. The age-old parental tactic of spelling is worthless. We've discussed becoming a bilingual parental team (pig latin or gibberish: I am fluent!), but it hasn't caught on just yet.

Last night's bedtime was a shocker. He jumped right into bed, rolled over on his tummy, and whipped out his Atlas of the World book. With his characteristic I-can-do-it-myself face, he put up his little hand as if to wave me off and said, "I can read to myself tonight, Mom."

I wanted to cry! I did not expect my little fella to want to read alone before bed until he turned 12! (Okay, maybe 10?) That snuggle time at the end of the day is important to my husband and I - it erases all the frustrations and power struggles that come with parenting a four year old boy in the dead of winter in Chicago. I stubbornly told Mr. T that he could read alone for 10 minutes, but that I was going to read him a short story after that.

Stubborn and selfish? Maybe. But I don't care. I have to believe that he needs that little cuddle before bed, too. Even if he doesn't know it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ne pas parle Creole

Inspired years ago by my dear friend K's high school Easter break trip to Honduras, I visited Haiti. It was 13 years ago, but I can recall so much of the trip with a vividness that must be attributed to the vibrancy of Haitian culture. I was one of three white women in our group of 12 college students. At the time, it was very good for me to feel so out of place, at least physically, at least at first. But only at first. The beauty of the Haitian people was (and is!) striking - their high cheekbones and wide smiles, their proud, long necks. I admit I was surprised by the physical pull they had on me.

The details of the trip are shocking now - how my parents must have privately groaned with terror as I described the third (or maybe it was the fourth) time I thought we would be killed using Haiti's "public transportation system." That is, if you can call sitting on the edge of a upturned tire while holding someone else's infant (so they can keep their rooster calm and inside the empty feedbag they're using to transport the animal to market) in the back of a dump truck with at least 100 others part of a system. Did I mention we were rollicking our way down the side of a mountain on our way from La Valle to Jacmel? It was good to have that sweet baby to concetrate on - it kept me from looking out the sides of the truck. We stayed in Port-au-Prince for most of the trip, at a guest house run by the St.Joseph's Home for Boys. Though news from Haiti is very bad, a minor miracle occurred at St. Joseph's: everyone in their community is accounted for. Only 2 needed medical attention. The rest, and there are many in the St. Joseph family, are coping together and managing, for now.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New year, new plans, new - blog?

Sometimes we just need that push - that moment of confidence - to feel just cocky enough to start expressing ourselves again. For real - even though no one may be listening. (or perhaps for that very reason?) So a new year has started - our THIRD frigid winter underway in Chicago - and I find myself aching for a more authentic connection with the world outside my home. Well, maybe more honestly, what I'm hoping for is a connection inward.

I could probably wring every ounce of cheese from this whole Idea of Connectedness - and get all philosophical on you, but there isn't really time for that. Between my Raucous Talker (4) and My Rose (6 mos), a part-time writing job, a oft-traveling, talented, and oh-so handsome hubby - it's a wonder I notice the outside world at all.

But of course there are some news stories you don't miss - like psunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Events that change (or destroy) people's lives thousands of miles away tend to nip at you like cold waves as the tide gradually comes in. You could move your blanket further up the beach - or let yourself be carried away with the undertow. Or you could do what many of us do - take notice of the water, hesitate...and then move our blankets.