Thursday, April 11, 2013

Traveling Around Panama - San Blas

Several months ago we got the great news that New York cousins Phil and Leslie, and kids Noah and Evan, were coming for a visit! Stewart teamed up with the for planning a neat vacation to San Blas - I would never have planned a sailboat vacation but I'm so glad they did!

Sleeping was a little rough (it was hot and a little cramped). The first night, Nate and I slept up on the deck of the boat. The stars and the breeze were wonderful, and Nate woke me at sunrise by saying something beautiful and deep that I have not managed to remember at all. But I remember being so glad he had the chance to be there, and it clearly struck a chord with him. We work very hard to vocalize our appreciate for life and hearing him echo our perspective was thrilling.

Jack was his usual impish self and dove right into the activities. The first day, they both swam like fish under the water right off the back of the boat! There was a little perch in the front of the boat which was duly fought over. Even Mama took a little time sitting there and yes, I had to fight for it with all the other little rugrats.

Evan and Noah were great sports and great cousins to my boys. Jack and Nate just reveled in being there with them and it was beyond heartwarming. I don't have a big family, so to see the next generation connecting makes me really happy.

Our grouchy captain had a little dinghy and a surfboard of sorts to pull the kids around on. Nate was a little timid but went for it. Jack was not timid and went for it. Even Leslie got in on the fun!

It was amazingly beautiful. Stewart, who is not one to gush over anything besides his kids, said "It looks like it's out of the pages of a travel magazine." Spot on.

I had purchased a snorkel set for the boys and the last day we were there we found an amazing reef - it was out of a movie. Tons of different types of coral, hundreds of fish darting around. I took Jack out and he was a little soldier - swam all the way out, looked around, nodded his head, headed back without much hooplah. Nate was very nervous about stingrays and the seagrass and the big unknown but agreed to go with me and Stewart. We swam together, each of us holding one of Nate's hands. He did it. He really did it. He stuck it out and showed himself he could do it. Seeing the reef and the fish pales in comparison to the will he showed in conquering multiple fears. Beyond impressive.

All in all, a wonderful trip. Thank you Wagners for making it happen!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Right where we are

With a little more free-time on my hands these days, I am taking a second to document random things going on with us lately.

Jack figured out how to do kung-fu: "You just need peace, Mom." Said earnestly, with hands folded in the prayer position across his chest. Playdate with Ronan, Nate led the little boys in a kung-fu lesson on the trampoline. Kids come back inside, Ronan is sniffling. He is only level zero and Jack is level 2,000. I hear Jack helpfully tell Ronan: "You just need to have peace!" Ronan whines that he really does have peace, and Jack reassures him he too can get to level 2,000. "You just need to have the same amount of peace that I have." Problem solved.

Jack still uses the word "fastly." As in: "Mom, did I clean up my room really fastly?!?!" Nate continues to insist that "brung" is a word, as in "I brung it home with me." Jack continues to lisp mightily, skipping "th" where it belongs, turning three into "free", and adding "th" almost anywhere it does not belong. I should probably do something about it.

The boys got to play robbers at a play-place here in Panama - it was a little dark room set up with lasers pointing all which ways, and the boys had to go over and under and steal the diamond at the end of the room. They were graded on speed, and how few times they triggered the laser. They loved it. I loved when Nate decided to simply run through the room and see how many times he could trigger the laser. A year ago he would never have been able to deviate from the rules like that!

The kids are doing memorization projects with Stewart. Nate memorized all of the presidents in order, and is now working on the Bill of Rights (the 5th Amendment is long!). Jack has memorized all of the countries and capitals in Central American, and the planets in order. Stewart is starting him on the States next, though Jack is advocating for dinosaur species. There are treats involved in this memorizing which is a nice feature for the brother of the child who has memorized something - everyone gets a treat. Nice for the parents too.

We took a sailing trip to San Blas with the New York Wagners. Nate and Jack reveled in the company of older cousins Noah and Evan. We are gearing up for a trip to Orlando to see Islands of Adventure and Disneyworld. I may be more excited about it than the children. I am certainly more excited about it than Stewart is, poor dumpling. Then in July, a trip home to DC. We are all looking forward to it greatly.

Nate has started emailing recently and he gets very emotional when he hears from someone in DC. Sometimes I think about whether this life is fair to them. It has so many advantages, but there is so much loss. I'm missing home and family a lot, so I empathize with my sweet tenderhearted Nate.

Nate continues to act as Jack's third parent, the sternest of the lot. At dinner the other night he scolded Jack for slurping his spaghetti (something that Nate does every single time, but anyhow...). Jack's indignant response? "I wasn't slurping it, I was just kissing it!"

Nate's mind continues to amaze and impress. We were talking about numbers the other day and I said something about not being able to do math without numbers. Nate insisted I was wrong (as usual). Okay, Nate, how could we do math without numbers? He thought for a moment and offered up shapes: triangle + triangle = Chanukah star. Not too shabby. Jack was putting something in his backpack and I hear him talking to it: "Say ahhhhhh backpack!"

I went to Jack's track and field event at school, and for the first time he didn't run into my arms. He hardly spoke to me. He smiled shyly but definitely kept his distance. He held my hand between events. He is growing up.

Nate did an overnight field trip with his school, where they traveled around Gamboa all day and then slept in tents in the big field behind the school. I drove by to check on him before bedtime and he was happy and wanted to stay. I watch him watch the other boys run around, an eager smile on his face, learning what he's "supposed" to be doing. He wants to fit in. He runs after them. Then I see him at school for his play's rehearsal, and the other kids are trying to get his attention, to whisper and laugh with him, and he brushes them off and sits quietly because that's what you're supposed to be doing. He is growing up.

Jack still likes to organize everything. He sorts crayons into little color piles. He lines up little wooden animals on the window sill, grouped in "armies." He took the time to sort all of the Candyland cards into colored piles, then came to me and earnestly explained that what I'd told him had worked: he'd stuck with it, done it inch by inch, and he finished! He wasn't sure he could, but he did! What do you do with a child like this? How do you keep him forever?

Nate got his second-trimester report card. Summary: "Nate is an excellent student. He is very knowledgeable about many topics. He is a thinker and he is creative with his ideas. Nate is passionate about his success in the classroom and about doing his best. He always tries to go the extra mile in his work and discipline. He is helpful and sensitive to others. His peers and teachers always recognize his caring ways. Nate is a role model in our classroom and students learn from his commitment and motivation. It is a joy to have Nate in our class."

Jack got his second-trimester report card, too. Summary: ""Jack is a bright, outgoing, and very confident child whose considerate manners and happy, friendly demeanor have earned him many friends among his peers. He is always a cooperative and constructive team member and is willing to play on any team to which he is assigned. He accepts various roles within the class and group, including leadership. He is a highly motivated student who participates in class activities with creativity and a great deal of enthusiasm. He loves learning new things, which becomes evident in his enthusiasm about work in general. All in all, Jack is a balanced child who enjoys learning as much as socializing and playing with his friends. Keep on shining, sunshine Jack!"

The two of them, it's almost unspeakable how much I love them. I would do anything to make sure they always know how much we love them, and how proud we are to be their parents. So on Saturday I will shower them with sushi and edamame, and we will wear our fancy clothes and clink glasses, and try to breathe in our good fortune and save it up for later. Love you boys.