Trust the Process and other Such Jabber-Wockey

We’re picking up M-ito on Saturday, two days and counting.

The apartment has been strangely silent. Mom-ita and I have adjusted. We’ve had some wonderful time to ourselves while missing our son, sometimes alternately and sometimes at the same time. How strange that is – parental guilt laced with joy.

We’ve seen pictures of him since day five almost every day. He is smiling but then they wouldn’t take pictures of a disheartened and unhappy child, would they? Still, we have been trusting the process developed by the camp over its 125 years of service in helping children to be away from home for the first time.

We received a letter from M-ito on day nine of his adventure. It is the only letter we’ve received so far. He wrote the letter on his first full day of camp and let’s just say… he was not happy. According to his letter they were (you guess and I’ll tell you the answers tomorrow) on his first full day at camp:
1. made to play dodgeball for 2 hours
2. force-marched for five miles up mount Baldy and back without food or water
3. tortured with roasting marshmallows without chocolate or graham crackers for an hour before bed
4. made to sing songs about God
5. made to eat cocoa pebbles until their stomachs were ready to burst
6. made to watch Yellow Submarine three times in a row because of heavy rain in “the big house” which is like a prison

Seriously. If you read his letter it would break your heart. He actually said, “I miss you very much.”

Ouch.

I’m glad we didn’t get this until day nine. At the same time if we had known how upset he was on day one would we have gone up and taken him home? Did he expect that? Have we failed as parents and will he feel like we abandoned him? Do I foresee skyrocketing therapy costs in our future? Did we do the right things by trusting the process and the pictures and the words of his counselor? These are the things that keep Mom-ita and me up at night staring at the ceiling.

It’s almost 9pm Thursday evening.

Less than 2-days to go.

Hollow Space – Part II

BUNK BED $198

Drop off was hard, but we did it. We met two families for lunch earlier in a town near the camp and the boys had a chance to talk, fool around, and settle their nerves. Us adults sat, smiled at each other, and made small-talk. Some of the adults were veterans and a few of us were newbies.

At the camp we were too late to get a bottom bunk. We’d been early but not early enough. This doesn’t seem like a big deal at first glance but M-ito was a little freaked out by the closeness of the tent roof to the bed and the challenge of getting up into the bunk without a ladder. He’s never been in a bunk bed before.

Mom-ita came to the rescue. M-ito said it was okay, but I could tell it wasn’t. He was holding himself together the best he could but this was unravelling him. Mom-ita set to work. M-ito and I went to get the mosquito netting while Mom-ita wrangled with the counselors to see how our son could end up on a bottom bunk. His tent was the only one with all four bottom bunks taken. He was the fifth one to arrive.

This kind of thing always happens to me when I travel. I get a room with a brick wall outside my window, or a dumpster, or soiled carpet of a suspicious nature, or my reservation is missing, or it was for the following week. Sometimes these things happen to M-ito too.

On the way to get the netting. M-ito said, “Why do these things always happen to me?”

I didn’t know what to answer. “Mom-ita will take care of it. Have faith,” I said.

Two weeks of build-up was showing on his face. We sprinted a few times on the way to the store as if he needed to burn off something and leave it behind.

“I don’t think I can get up onto that top bunk,” he said softly, his head down, his hands in his pockets. “There’s a pin on the ceiling of one that will probably poke me in the head or take my eye out. And did you see the graffiti above the other beds? It’s creepy.”

“Let’s see what Mom-ita can do to fix things,” I said. “Have faith.”

We got the netting and slogged back up the path to the tents of the 10-11 year olds. Mom-ita was at another tent talking to a new counselor. M-ito’s things had been moved. “You’re over here now,” she said, “Bottom bunk.” His friend had switched with him, bottom for top, tent for tent. This was his second year at the camp so he was a veteran and didn’t mind.

M-ito’s face lit up.

We said goodbye and he ran off, leading a new boy who had the bunk above him whom he’d just met, to the camp store. I wanted to hold him a while, tell him I loved him again, but he needed to go.

I have a hollow space in the center of my chest. It’s amazing how I could find a true smile as he left and feel such sadness at the same time.

Now it’s time to look for his picture in the daily photo gallery. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

Disney in August

With M-ito 8 years old these are  some of the things we did right this time:

  • We went for 6-nights and 7 days which was just enough time, not too much and not too little (though we’d rather have stayed on vacation another week). We left on a Tuesday, early so we could go to a park in the afternoon and evening. We left in the evening on Labor Day so we had the whole day to play before we loaded up and got to the airport. Mom-ita planned everything out and it was just about perfect.
  • We slept in almost every day and didn’t get to the parks until 11 or 12 each day which was just fine with all of us. I got up and did my yoga practice as the sun rose, before Mom-ita and M-ito got up. We hit two parks almost every day but one in the afternoon and one in the evening. It didn’t feel rushed that way.
  • We spent a lot of time in EPCOT exploring the countries, the attractions, and the fireworks. There’s still plenty more to explore on future trips. I am amazed at how much there is to explore there.
  • We used fast passes only once but that was because it wasn’t too crowded and the most we waited for anything was maybe fifteen minutes. Mostly we walked on rides without a wait or a five-minute wait.
  • We came the last week of August when kids in Florida are back in school. The parks were pretty empty (as empty as I’ve ever seen them) which meant there were minimal lines.
  • We spent a lot of time at the hotel pool almost every day.
  • We went to Wilderness lodge – a good choice even if the food choices are not the greatest (Animal Kingdom lodge had the best food as far as we’re concerned). It’s beautiful and the rooms were good size – the staff very nice and helpful.
  • We found a ride we liked and went on it again and again. This trip it was Buzz Lightyear’s ride. M-ito loved it and going on the ride (with no line) meant we could actually get better and better at ray-gunning invading aliens so that by the time we finished with it all of us felt like we had some proficiency and M-ito’s confidence on rides in general was boosted.
  • Half of our trip was with a friend of M-ito’s and his mom. M-ito and K-ito played well together and were good company for each other. We all got along and had a good time together. The second half of the trip we were on our own and had some good alone family time. It was a nice balance.

Some things that didn’t work out:

  • As great as it was to have empty parks and few lines for most of the time we were there it is HOT HOT HOT in August. So we sweat alot and we found ourselves doing the it’s-ninety-plus-and-we’re-sweating-shuffle. It’s a slow walk from shade spot to shade spot, cooling station to cooling station. M-ito had a little trouble with the heat on our second to last day, needing to sit down, drink, and cool off. Mom-ita bought him a canvas hat. I soaked it in a vendors ice water and put it on his head. Then I had him put his hands up to his wrists into the water. Along with drinking lots of water these things brought him back to himself.
  • The middle restaurant at the Wilderness Lodge was okay but not something we looked forward to eating at so that left us with the fast food area (crowded and an okay selection but again not something I looked forward to every day). Note, we did find the expensive restaurant to be excellent and had our last evening meal there – well worth it but not feasible for every day because of the price.
  • Bus to Animal Kingdom took an hour each time – way too long.
  • We never made it to Disney Studios – M-ito just didn’t feel like it so we skipped it this time.
  • We never made it to Harry Potter at Universal – different park experience, and needs its own trip to do. Also we heard it was packed and the lines were too too long.

Some things we did that were either new or just fun:

  • We took small two person motor boats out onto the lake for an hour. Very cool.
  • We could take ferries to Magic Kingdom and back. Very cool.
  • Pin trading again was a blast.
  • We did two Kim Possibles (Japan and Mexico – both were excellent and lots of fun) at EPCOT.
  • M-ito went on his first official roller coaster – Goofy’s Barnstorming – which looked very slow but once you got on was really a good ride and a good one for him to go on first. We went on once and that was all but M-ito said he really liked it. This was the same roller coaster we tried to get on in April and left after one look at the coaster roaring by. Good confidence builder for M-ito. Plus I had fun.
  • We spent an hour in Dino Land at Animal Kingdom in the Boneyard playground playing hide and seek then digging for fossils. Some things never get old.
  • We went on the Animal Safari at Animal Kingdom 2x and it was just as good as all the other times we’ve been on it over the years even if the “poacher” chatter is getting a little old.
  • Pangani Jungle Walk was a great experience and the gorillas were awesome. This trip M-ito seemed to want to see all the animals in Animal Kingdom – which was great, if tiring for Mom-ita nd Dad-dito.
  • Buzz Light Year at Magic Kingdom was a great surprise. A large shooting video game with a real skill factor that we all enjoyed about eight times (I think).
  • We also went on Soaring at EPCOT which was great. M-ito loved it and it was also a great confidence builder as it dealt with heights (even if imaginary), movement, and the feeling of flying.
  • We went on an hour guided tour with a naturalist/botanist behind the scenes at The Land in EPCOT that was really great. They showed us their hydroponics gardens and fishery. Great for ideas about future science projects even if it was hot in the hot-house.

School tomorrow. First day of Third Grade. So it goes. We’re all breathing big sighs and preparing ourselves for the fall. We’re going to pick up Spike today also! Dog in the house again!

Fireflies

Hank called me over to the courtyard at the Marriott in the middle of the French Quarter in New Orleans. This was last September. He was smoking a cigar. We were both presenting to a group of drug court practitioners – me for one day, him for the whole week. In the courtyard he told me a story about his son that he savored between puffs on his stogie, the burning end reminding me of a giant firefly. It’s been haunting me a bit since last year. He lives up in Buffalo and one year his at that time teenage son asked him to get tickets to the Syracuse football team’s home games. It was a two and a half hour drive each way. Hank told him yes and bought the tickets. He said it was the best two and a half hours of his life because all the way there and all the way back he and his son talked. “We’re best friends,” he told me in his deep, raspy, one of a kind voice. Two months later Hank had a major stroke and now almost a year later he still hasn’t recovered, though he lives and breathes.

Today my son asked me to go with him to Carvel after dinner. It’s a fifteen minute walk. “I love to go to Carvel after dinner, ” he said. We talk all the way there and all the way back. The whole trip takes almost an hour. We talk about alien creatures, summer fireflies, favorite things we’ve done so far this summer, determine how many days are left in the summer, play improv games that he makes up as we walk like making up a story one word at a time alternating between the two of us, eat our ice-cream cones before they melt, and hold hands a good part of the way with him sometimes even reaching for mine. It’s one of the best hours of my life.

Visibility from the 102nd Floor of the Empire State Building

9am – Visibility from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building is 50 miles.

M-ito came with me to work today. He did yesterday also. Yesterday he worked for three hours on two journal entries (he has to do ten this summer) on two books he’s read . He’s a voracious reader so this shouldn’t be a problem -but it is. He spent almost two hours this morning on one entry, then did some math problems and called it a day. I had to leave the office for a meeting at NYU for two hours so Momita looked in on him while I was gone. The rain storm hit about noon.

12 noon – Visibility from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building is 0 miles; thunderstorm closes the observatories.

I got soaked on the way back to my office. I was wearing sandals so it could have been worse. I didn’t have an umbrella. It’s a good thing I brought a change of clothes. I took a half day off so at 1:30pm M-ito and I went to lunch. The rain was still coming down, almost sideways with the wind. By the time we came out of Rickshaw Dumplings on 23rd the rain had almost stopped and there was a little bit of sun.

2pm – visibility from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building is 10 miles; the observatory is open again.

We walked up to the 34th and 5th avenue entrance. There was no line. We walked past empty red velvet ropes and brass stanchions in room after room. Men and women in red suits and caps directed us onward. There were only three elevators going up. We got off at the 80th floor, went up another elevator to the 86th and out onto the observatory there.

2:22pm – Visibility from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building is 2 miles.

Clouds came in quickly. We could see down and a little ways out, maybe twenty blocks or so in all directions but the clouds were moving in quickly. We circled the observatory once then headed up to the 102nd floor. We had to pay $15 each extra for the trip.

2:35pm – Visibility from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building is 0 miles.

Getting off the elevator the man in the red suit shook his head with a smile. The world was white around us, It was dizzying and disorienting. “Another storm,” he said. M-ito pressed his nose against the glass and said, “This is so cool!” It was like Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief and we were in Olympus in the middle of the clouds. We took pictures of each other and the man in the red suit took a picture of the two of us together with the white clouds as background. We walked around about fifteen feet to the other side and watched the clouds. They looked like thick cotton.

2:41pm – Visibility from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building is 0 -10 miles

After about three minutes of watching the white shift and spin, then press up against the glass in front of us, a dark shadow appeared and the cloud thinned and M-ito and my mouth’s dropped open. We looked at each other as a hole in the clouds opened up and showed us the city below. The Flat Iron building and my office at the Mason’s Building stood out eleven blocks away. It was like hands had parted the white and made a special view just for us. The man in red called out to us, “Do you see it!” “Yes,” we called back looking at each other, then out at the city again. The clouds closed up as quickly as they had opened. We waited a few more minutes and it happened again. When the clouds closed up we headed for the elevator and down back to earth our feet floating off the ground.

2:58 – Visibility from inside M-ito and Dad-dito’s heads is unlimited.

Aparigraha Lessons

It (aparigraha) means non-possessiveness or non-hoarding and it’s a yogic concept right out of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Last year at parent teacher conferences in First Grade I took a look at the interior of M-ito’s desk and found it filled with papers, old homework, half-finished drawings, used and new tissues, and all the way at the back there was a sandwich of some sort, wrapped in sarran wrap. I don’t know how old it was and neither did M-ito. Neither of us wanted to see what it looked like so it just got thrown out.

“In case I was hungry,” M-ito said, when asked,”Why?”

Last week at parent teacher conferences in Second Grade, at a new school (which we are amazingly still happy about) we found that our son was hoarding pencils. He picked them up whenever he found them during the day and put them in his desk. He had quite a few of them from 3/4’s of a year’s tidying up of pencils. He told us, “I’m hoarding pencils,” with a big smile on his face. One of his friends was hoarding scissors, the same way. I’m glad M-ito was only hoarding pencils. The kids at M-ito’s school all have pencils, scissors, notebooks, folders, and pens (when they get to them) given to them by the school. There’s no competition over styles and designs, no extra cash to lay out for these kinds of utensils of student work. It’s all in the tuition. Gulp. So M-ito’s collection of pencils is not differentiated by these things. Instead each is differentiated by whether a pencil is sharpened or not, how many times it has been sharpened which determines its length, and finally how much of an eraser is left – maybe he also codes them by the size of the bite marks left on them – I don’t know. My son collects pennies too – wheat pennies only. It’s a hold-over from my grandfather who was a trainman, and myself who collected in his footsteps.

I believe he’s going to give all the pencils back to his teacher at some point. At least that’s what he said when I asked him. At least he’s helping to keep the floor clean. Gotta give that to him.

I’m singing in the rain …

Okay, I’m not singing – mostly groaning. Why me? Why me? Giving my son a shower is not my favorite thing to do. I’m just putting that out there so you know where I’m coming from. It never really has been. Back when he took baths it wasn’t my favorite thing to do either – mostly because my son doesn’t like to take either a shower or a bath. But… these days it’s showers he takes and in the last couple of months I’ve noticed some changes. It’s not like it used to be.

Old days for a bath: I chase my son around the apartment and try to get him to take a bath. He won’t do it. I plead. I insist. He eventually goes in, complaining the whole time, sometimes kicking and screaming. “The water’s too hot. The water’s too cold. I don’t want to get my head wet. You’re pulling my hair. Ouch.” Then, I can’t get him out. He plays and plays and plays. I get splashed. It’s exhausting.

Old days for a shower: The same thing for starters. Arguments, and explaining why a shower is important (smelling bad is bad, smelling good is good) begins things, then half an hour later entrance into the bathroom. I shower him and he complains the whole way through. “The water’s too cold. The water’s too hot. Don’t splash me. I don’t like it when you splash me. I’m cacacacacacooold. I’m hahahahot.” Then it’s time to get out and he wants to stay in. The water is like rain and he’s singing. He laughs. I cry. It’s exhausting.

New days for a shower: Mom-ita says, “Shower night,” and both M-ito and I sigh and say, “NO!” at the same time. Mom-ita laughs. It takes a half an hour to get him into the bathroom – another ten minutes to get him undressed. I sit on the toilet seat (seat down) because there’s no where else to sit and watch as he slowly, slowly, slowly washes himself. To do his feet he puts the washcloth on the floor, steps on it and moves his feet back and forth – a big smile on his face. It’s genius. He doesn’t actually step under the water until he has finished dabbing and touching each of the areas he’s supposed to wash with a washcloth that has just a little bit of soap on it. Then I wash his hair and he laughs through most of it. Every once in a while he complains about the water being too hot or cold. Then I tell him to wash his face. This whole procedure from beginning to end can take another twenty minutes with me constantly prodding, “Come on M-ito. Wash yourself.”

I don’t get as wet as I used to so that’s something. I’m still just as tired when he finishes. He cleans himself more often than not. And he does laugh a lot. He likes to wash himself, even if he doesn’t do the best of jobs. I’m trying to let it go at that. Because when he’s finished, he smells good and that’s what Mom-ita checks for when he comes out.