Sunday, September 28, 2008

being repetitive

I seem to be stuck. Repeating myself. Saying the same damned thing over and over. Quick, someone find the reset switch, because I'm stuck.

Rosh Hashana is staring me down, eyeball to eyeball (okay, liturgy?), and waiting for me to blink. Yes, okay, I know you are coming. Deep thoughts, internal cataloguing, the usual half-resigned, half-pleased discussion with my ceiling. Yes, I see you coming: the raisin challahs are cooling on the counter, and the boys are practicing on the Man's shofar.

But I'm not so much coming up with anything new to say to you. Or for that matter, anything off the donkey-track I've been tracing for the past few weeks. All I can think about is fear, and I think I've amply covered that one already. But what the hey, you're here and I'm here, so why not.

Recently, a doctor that I was working with told me that he thought I had an anxiety disorder, and pushed me to get a psychiatric evaluation. The psychiatrist laughed and sent me on my way, with a cautionary note about doctors and their opinions. But not before I, the apparently not clinically anxious, started to worry. Am I too anxious? Am I limiting my family and my self with my anxieties? Reluctantly, I let a niggle from the back of my brain creep into the light: am I defective? Will I need medication to be a functioning human being?

Self-doubt is a cruel thing, not just because of the way that it can undercut you, but also because it makes you back up and admit to fears and feelings that you would really rather bury. The Eldest takes medication to function, as does the Toddles, as do I. We've settled into our hematological and immunological imperfections, and kicked the idea of defectiveness into lurking under a rug. Where it waits for a new category to turn up, so that it can come out and loom.

This is where fear meets choice: defectiveness, imperfection, disability, challenges - the words we choose to define ourselves show what we want, as well as what we fear to be. My children will be marvellously imperfect and challenged, but they won't be disabled or defective. I can say that as often as I like, and even believe it. But oh, for that lurker.

Which brings me to Rosh Hashana. Every year at this time, I look myself over, poke at the bruised spots and pick at the scabs, as part of choosing how I want to kick myself in the ass. I can do better, we say around here, and we pick ourselves up and try. And as always, the boys are way ahead of me. While I worried about allergens, the Toddles went happily into his new preschool classroom, reconsidered the next day, and casually dismissed me on the third. You can go now, he told me. I'm going to have all the fun at peeschool, and then you can come and pick me up. Oh. The Eldest went up that crazy high ladder, over and over again, each time refusing to let a limit stop him at the bottom, and willing to try and see if the boundaries could change. It was fine not to make it all the way up, because I knew that I tried, and that's what counts, he informed me. Up, pause, down. Up a bit farther, pause, down. Yes, I'm watching you. And yes, I'm starting to get it.

Why must fear be static? say the boys. Why must our definitions of ourselves be static? reluctantly admits the mama. Our boundaries? (A brief pause to admit that this year, I've come up with a tough one. It's easier to stay within your boundaries than to question them, and investigate beyond. Sigh. But like I said, this is all I've got right now.)

So I started with something symbolic. Mind you, this wasn't my idea - somebody got this idea, and somebody had a new baby, and somebody needed to do something crazy. And she wanted me to do it with her. Ahem: no. But I somehow wasn't flatly turning her down, either. (And at this point, my apologies to anyone who is now really sick of trapeze stories, but hey, like I said: repetitive. )

As you may recall, the Eldest got stuck on this ladder. He made it high enough to touch the board between the ladders, but not onto the board, and certainly not off the board and onto the trapeze. And nevermind the net. Sneakily, my friend approached him: if your mum went up on the trapeze with you, would you try it? The Eldest considered, then agreed: yes.

I weighed my fear of heights against the strength of that agreement, knowing that his yes could easily melt near the top rungs. I pushed on the idea of my feet on the ground, and decided that in fact, I was quite happy with them there. I hate heights, hate the idea of falling, and losing control. Long since a member of the anti-rollercoaster party, I didn't have to think about this much. Yes, terra firma suits me fine. No thanks, I told my friend. Just not going up there. Can't. See you on the teacup ride.

Hearing fear shut down choice, something under the rug sniggered.

A few days later, the Eldest went up that ladder again. On the other side of the net, I did too. Until I stood at the base of the ladder, with my hands on the rungs, I hadn't really appreciated how damned high it was. Holy crap, my brain suggested. Not the point, I told it. I focused on the kid, watching him and hoping quietly that maybe together we could push past his limits. Rung by rung, we went up, carrying each other. Two-thirds of the way up, the Eldest stopped and remembered to be afraid. I'm here, I told him. We'll do this together. The kid reached the top of the ladder, and let go. He double high-fived the staffers at the top, his hands comfortably in the air - and then he went back down. The staffers cheered as he went down the ladder, and turned to me. Okay, then, up you go.

Watching the Eldest, my heart in my eyes, I blinked. Wha? Where?

The staffer smiled. Here, she said. Here turned out to be the board on which you stand, waiting for the trapeze. It was just barely wider than my feet are long.

Oh, I said. Um. Somewhere in my stomach, my brain muttered. The staffer reached out. Put your hand on the bar, she told me, and steadied the trapeze. I looked at the bar. To reach it, I'd have to lean far out - so far that I'd be off balance. I'd be falling.

Bloody fucking hell, my brain said. I'm outta here. In the frozen silence, the rest of me stopped and considered. One rung at a time, I remembered. I can choose to take the next rung. I accepted the cold tightness in my chest and reached past it. There was my hand on the bar, then another, and I was bending my knees and not - looking - down. Take a breath. Another. My hand is on the needle, on the EpiPen, yes, love, I told him years ago, but look at me and breathe. Yes.

and fly.

One of the things that I like about this bread, besides that it's gluten-free, egg-free and generally Imperfect-friendly, is that it's so flexibly flavored. Replace the honey with molasses, the vinegar with apple cider vinegar, and you have a pumpernickel-ish dough that practically begs for caraway seeds. Try a milder vinegar and honey or agave syrup, and you have a milder bread. We put raisins in this batch, but we've also flavored the bread with a mix of annato, mustard seeds, pink peppercorns and cumin seeds. Trust me: it's good. But however you mix it up, this is one gluten-free bread that is a legitimate challah, thanks to the oats. For some time now, we Imperfects have had non-legit challahs and invited our guests to make their ritual blessings on bread before arriving for our shabbat or holiday meals - or, sadly, to go off and make their blessings while we make ours. Meet you back here for main course! we'd say, but the division is pretty nastily symbolic.

However you choose to start your new year, there's few things that can beat an entire family, celebrating at one table. One meal, one bread, one ritual - and one family. If I needed a reminder that food has power, this might just be it.

Legally Yours: Oat Challah
makes 2 loaves on an ordinary day, 2 loaves plus a couple of rolls when the dough's enthusiastic

dry ingredients:
2 c brown rice flour
1 c oat flour
1 c teff flour
1/2 c quinoa/buckwheat flour
1 c tapioca flour
2/3 c arrowroot/cornstarch
2/3 c sweet rice flour
1/2 c flaxmeal/cornmeal
2 Tb xanthan/guar gum
6 Tb Ener-G egg replacer
6 Tb brown sugar
1 Tb salt

Combine dry ingredients, mixing gently. Keep very dry. (Note: you can combine these ingredients the night before using, but then keep in an airtight container.)

wet ingredients:
5 Tb hot water
1 tsp vinegar (see note above)
8 Tb margarine, melted
2 Tb honey/molasses/agave syrup (see note above)

Make sure that dry ingredients are at room temperature. Pour over dry ingredients.

2 Tb yeast
2 Tb sugar
3.5 c. hot water

Mix gently and let sit until the yeast is frothy, or awake! (as the Toddles says). Good morning, yeast. Pour gently into the dry and wet ingredients you've assembled thus far.

Mix all together - the dry ingredients will fly out of the bowl if you start mixing vigorously, so try being a bit gentle initially, and then mixing strongly. I use my cake mixer here, and mix for about 3-4 minutes.

Pour into greased loaf tins (or muffin pans, if you want rolls). Put in a warm place to rise for about 45 minutes - for me, this is on top of the oven, with the oven on to about 300 or 350F. Bake at 380F for 45 minutes. Cool on rack for 5 minutes before tipping the bread out of the pan.

To magid's friend in New Jersey, you are right: I should have a list of recipes. Magid pointed this out to me, and I realized that I don't even remember all of the recipes that I have on this thing. Which is part of the point. (sheesh) Hang in there with me - I'm working on it, starting with a list of my tags.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

letting him choose

(for this carnival, if somewhat belatedly. Sorry, folks!)

When the Eldest was just a lump in my tum, happily kicking my bladder, the Man and I discovered his lullabye. By Trout Fishing in America, it was an old song sung sweetly - and we fell in love.

Close your eyes and listen to my song
Lullabye, sleep the whole night long
The cricket's serenade echoes softly through the night
The clouds are on the lake and the moon is shining bright.
Don't worry, I'll be beside you should you call -
just go to sleep now, close your eyes.

We sang this song to each other, to my tummy, and when the Eldest was born (okay, extracted), I listened to the Man singing this to our tiny baby, while the docs sewed me up. Eight days later, we sang it to the Eldest while he got his first IV, his first transfusion, and his first emergency CT scan. I'll be beside you should you call, we sang, and we were.

One diagnosis later, we went home, and watched our cozy nest fill up with clotting meds and needles. On the table, the sharps container glowed.

Dragons in the sky, flying with their golden treasure
If you catch their eye, wishes granted more than you can measure

But could this kid fly? What kind of treasures could he have? Now, we laugh at the very question, but at the time, we couldn't imagine. So we settled for the end of the verse:

I'll be beside you should you fall,
just go to sleep now, close your eyes.

And we were. With cushions and knee pads and foam, in a caricature of the anxious parent. In fact, learning to let the Eldest fall was one of our greatest challenge as new - and newly diagnosed - parents. Letting him fall came to mean trust and knowledge for us: we had to know that he could fall without long-term harm, and we had to trust the three of us to figure out how to handle the aftermath. But we kept our promise: if he fell, we would be there for him. If he needed us.

We learned our lesson well, I think (I flatter myself), but the Eldest is still learning his. On the occasions when he remembers to be afraid, he's extremely good at it. Play soccer? no problem. Climb on the playground structures? sure. But something new comes with a high barrier: I don't know it, so I am reserving the right to be afraid of it, the Eldest tells us. Left to his own devices, half of the old question lingered: would this kid fly - or would he tie himself to the ground? The treasures, it turns out, were part of the answer.

This summer's adventures in circuses - and specifically, flying - was a much debated challenge to the Eldest's self-made boundaries. The Man was uncertain, I was uncertain, but we could both see the opportunity shining in front of the kid. On the days when the Eldest bounced home from circus camp, the Man glowed. I flew! The Eldest would tell us, and spout details about the trapeze. On the mornings when the Eldest huddled, refusing to go to camp, the Man glowered at me. By the time we were done, I felt like I was the one hooked into the trapeze safety lines, and being hauled up and down.

When camp ended, the Eldest turned to me and said, wistfully, Couldn't we have another class? I stared for a bit, and then sat down and turned to a friend. Moral support and friendship would help here, I thought - but she was ahead of me. Swiftly, she put together a group of three of the Eldest's classmates: the four of them would have a lesson together. Chattering, joking and irritating each other by turns, they did.

That day, the Eldest swung happily on the small trapeze (a mere 7 or so feet off the ground). I watched his body direct the swing, moving confidently and comfortably at that height. Well, now, I thought. That's new. The Eldest dropped down, unhooked his harness and stopped cold. He stared at the ladder going up, up to the big trapeze (goodness knows how high, but the net was above arm's length). He walked over to me, his face calm.

I'm going to try the ladder, he told me. I hugged him.

And he did. Up and up he climbed, making it about three-quarters of the way up. I could hardly watch him, afraid that he'd stop, be scared and the fear would overwhelm his courage. He stopped most of the way up, stared at the top and went back down. Holy crap, I thought. Now that's beyond new.

He came back to me, and I hugged him again. I'm so proud of you! I whispered. That was not easy, to try that. He pulled back a little. I'm going to get comfortable on the ladder first, he told me, and then I'll try standing on the board. And THEN, I'm going to try that trapeze. I let go of the kid before I started dripping on him, and wished him luck.

That day, he made it most of the way up, stopping four rungs from the top. A staffer leaned alarmingly far to high-five him, and he came down glowing. Slightly hoarse, I drove him home. We were nearly home when he spoke up. Can I do that again? I blinked and grabbed for my best poker face. Let me see what I can do.

On the last day, the Eldest made it up the ladder. He touched the board and thought it over. I think that's enough, he said. I tried not to crack his ribs. Well done, love, I told him.

On our way home, the Eldest politely listened to me enthuse. You have power in your body, I told him, and the Eldest nodded. You can use that power to kick a soccer ball, or to climb a ladder or even to use a needle. The Eldest made an I'm-listening noise. But when you are scared, it's easy to forget that you have power, isn't it? All you can think, or feel or see is scared. The Eldest's face lit up. Yes! That's exactly it!

Today, kid, I went on, I watched you push past being scared and remember your power. You had it on the little trapeze, and you had it when you chose to try the ladder. That's very hard to do, and I'm proud of you.

Quiet now, I listened to the Eldest thinking. He didn't fall, and he didn't fly either. But he did let himself reach for the sky.

It was more than enough.

tired of trapezes? No worries. For a change of pace, try getting your ears pinned back over here. So, are you pro-choice, pro-life, or pro-birth? Julia did a beautiful job on an often bitter topic - but what else is new?

Monday, September 15, 2008

the tides of September

September is a laden month for we Imperfects, as I race to finish the careful processes of August and July, when I start the preparations for the boys (boys?) time at school.

In August and July, I have meetings with teachers and administrators. In September, I discover emails with last minute questions about art supplies, birthday celebrations, and whether or not the Eldest can play dodgeball. (He can, maybe, with one of the softer balls, and the more mellow rules.) I've been up long past midnight researching tempera paint (may contain gluten or eggs), adhesives (stickers!! can have gluten) and the contents of animal feed (don't get me started).

And then there's the Toddles' birthday, a complex day of joy and sadnesses. Born a day after my grandfather's yahrzeit, and a couple of days before my uncle's, he came into a time rich with memory. And then he added a carefully judged fillip.

The Toddles was born on 9/11/2005, which was bound to happen to somebody - but it is perfect for our lad. Precisely a year before the Toddles was born, we nearly lost the Eldest - 9/11/2004. Joy and terror, sorrow over what was, and hope for what might be stood in the delivery room when the Toddles was born. And then he came, and joy followed in his wake. (Also a hell of a lot of sleepless nights and missed showers, but let's not spoil the mood here, hmm?)

In choosing to have the Toddles, and in choosing to have him come without the fiddling of modern medicine (PGD, termination), we trusted ourselves - and risked hope. Hope is a wonderful, terrifying thing, and we walk carefully with it through our laden Septembers.

Some of our walks are more literal than others. Last year, we went for this particular
stroll, replete with the generosity that we found here. This year, we'll walk again with a family who understands the terror of hope, and whose daughter showed them the joy that can come with it. The Smiths chose to have a child much as we did, and that child had infant ALL. We'd seen this disease before, and watched its progress and endings. I recognized its face before the doctors admitted it, and grieved. We walked last September waiting for what would come next in this tale. Sometimes, this is a diagnosis with a happy ending. But not often.*

Carefully, weighted with love and memory, we'll be walking on Sunday. Won't you join us? For those of you with disposable income, you can pop over here and poke around. We're sorry that we couldn't trade lemonade for your kindness, but we promise to appreciate it. For those of you with sneakers, come on down. We'll be there: the Man, the Eldest, the Toddles and I. And so will Amelia.

* to quote the clever folks here, this is the typical infant ALL outcome:
4yr event free survival in infants ALL is 1/3 and median event free survival (EFS) is 1yr
In infants aged less than a month, 6 months survival is only 1/3, both in ANLL and in ALL
as the prognosis is most often very poor.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

and then we were free (updated, with polka dots)

Or, if you prefer, 3.

On Tuesday, the Toddles has his birthday. Every year, I try to take a few loving photos of my offspring on their birthday. Last year, I caught some lovely black and white shots of a thoughtful, then uproariously laughing Toddles. Perfection! This year, I tried again - but all I managed was this:

Poor kid, he ran a fever of 102 the day before his birthday, 103.5 on his birthday, and then a sedate 101 the day after. Which is the number-heavy way of saying that, come his happy happy day, the kid was toast. He put his dad's sweatshirt on, curled his arms inside it, and stood there, puzzled as to what had happened to him.

We'd planned a quiet day, and a quiet celebration with QG and ourselves. The Toddles chose his birthday menu: Mary Jr's Painted Rooster (rooster separate from the paint, please), corn on the cob, salad and birfday cake. The Toddles paused here to hold a long and slightly incoherent conversation with his overalls. Birfday cake with green and blue polka dots, he corrected himself. The overalls nodded approvingly. I added a bowl of pickles, tucked Thai basil into the paint, and decreed myself happy.

Which made one of us.

All day long, the kid collapsed in tears. He didn't want milk, he wanted water. He didn't want to wear sandals, he wanted his far too small sneakers. He didn't want to lie down, he wantzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. By the end of the day, the child was wringing wet, I had been used as a tissue so often that I was tempted to throw myself out, and he couldn't decide if he wanted to be held or if he...wanted to be held. Um.

Oh, but it was an absolutely delightful day, with a chaser of good cheer.

That night, eyeing the Toddles wailing in a random corner over something incomprehensible, we started dinner with birfday cake. The Toddles bounced over, blew out his candle, licked the polka dots off the cupcake, and chattered his way through the rest of the dinner.

Should we have been surprised? Indeed, we were not. There is one truth about our lad there, and that is his resilience. Given a chance, a breather and a hug, the Toddles will bounce back. Sunshine and fire and love, with a dash of giggles, I said last year, and oh but it is still true. His sense of humor may have ripened slightly towards the bucket-on-the-head style, but he's deliciously fun when he's not driving one to drink. Bounce, bounce, bounce, joy, arrgh. Which is just as he needs to be. Right now, the Toddles is drawing heavily on his store of bounce to adapt to the changes in his life: just over a week ago, we said a sad goodbye to QG and a nervous hello to preschool.

Our QG days have been a real blessing. Like Mary Jr before her, she slid into place like the family member we hadn't realized we were missing. She's been a source of hugs, a listening ear, a helping hand and, oh yes, she also did things for the kidlet. Generously, QG fell in love with the Toddles (which, I know, only shows good sense, but still), and then spread her affection to the Eldest, and even to Bom. We all bloomed under her care, and we'll miss our regular doses.

A sharp judge of character, the Toddles liked her immediately upon meeting her, and talked about her constantly until she started coming regularly. Now, he asks after her wistfully, puzzled by her absence. I'm puzzled too, kid. Still, I want my backpack, the Toddles informed me, I'm going to peeschool. Bag on his determined little back, he went off to put on his shoes. (If only he did this when it was actually time to go, but still. I'll take the rehearsal with a grain of hope.)

Happy birthday, Toddles. It's going to be a big year for a small person, but we'll do our best to pack it with love. The joy, we suspect, you are going to discover on your own.
Since you asked, here's a terrible picture of the polka dot cupcakes:
We colored the icing green and blue, and then I first squirted dots of one color, and then filled in, kind of, with the other color. Cake decorating is not my forte, and this was just about at my limit.

And, following up on my Palin bashing, here's on the subject of Palin and book banning. Because, if you are going to slam a candidate, it's important to do it correctly. Of course, Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe says we're all wrong, and we should stop telling Palin stories. I agree, as it happens: less Palin, more talking about actual plans to fix things.
Dow Jones, anyone?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

choosing my advocate

In case you were wondering, I'm amazingly unimpressed by Palin. Did you expect anything else?
I'm not going to bother with her here, but I'll run you through the short version. Nice to see a woman on a ticket (again), nice to see a mom on the ticket, although I could do without the Bush deja vu that she's inspiring.

More relevant to me - and to the blog is that she's also a new special needs mom, and is offering to be my advocate in the White House. Okay, pause for a brief inhale and exhale.

It's a sweet offer, but can I say no thanks? She has a four month old baby with a diagnosis. Now, all credit to her for having that baby, but the kid is four months old. Which makes her, as a diagnosis-mom, four months on the job. She knows nothing yet about advocacy, although she may learn, if she leaves that cushy government job and scrabbles with the rest of us. Right now, she knows only diapers-worth about special needs, and I wouldn't choose any new diagnosis mom for the job of advocate. Hells bells, I remember how I was when the Eldest was four month old - who wants that blithering mess as an advocate? In about six years, when she's been talking to schools about mainstream vs special ed, pull in or push out programs, well, then I'll be interested in hearing from her. (But then again, considering her ideas about controlling the flow of ideas and books and choices and the environment, maybe not.)

Advocacy is a negotiation that works to shape the available resources to the needs of the community and individual. That means extensive awareness of the resources (she has staffers for that), and the needs of the community, not to mention how they vary by individual. Alas, at this point, Palin has staffers for that, too. And should she continue on the campaign trail - and I'd not tell her to back away from it - the demands of the campaign mean that she will not be Trig's primary advocate and caregiver. When will she spend hours watching Trig develop? Tracking his needs and meeting them? A campaign is gruelling, physically, mentally and emotionally - being a full time mom just can't happen at the same time. So when will she learn? I can only try and judge by her track record as to whether she'll be a caring influence in Washington, and her track record scares me. Cutting money to pregnant teens? Carelessness about environmental issues? Looking at the checks that she cut for Alaskans, taken from the state gas taxes, I wonder how much of that is caring for the little guy, and how much is a showy, teeth baring at Big Business. I don't know.

Honestly, she scares me. Anyone who thinks that she knows enough to limit another's choices or the range of knowledge that they are taught (and did I hear something about banning books while mayor?), has altogether too much certainty to accept the quirks, or shades of gray that come with an individual's needs. There's a reason that the autism ribbon is a patchwork - there's no telling exactly where a diagnosis can tell you. No black and white there, just a shifting array of needs. Can an absolutely certain person accept this uncertainty?

It's certainly worth something to the GOP to have her look like she can. The disability vote is not entirely insignificant. Mothers and fathers of children with asthma, food allergy, autism, diabetes, attention deficit disorders - these are so amazingly common nowadays, and that's not even counting the rarer, and variously well-organized groups, like bleeding disorders. We're a nice slice of the voter pie, people. Can Palin buy us? Through our endorsements, can she buy enough sympathetic, non-diagnosis voters? How easy are we going to be on this date?

If I voted - and again, I'm just kibbitzing here - my price tag would be details. Someone who has thought enough to have generalities that show they understand the needs of a community - mine, others, whatever - and has enough specifics to let me evaluate how much of this thought is solid and how much of it is airy promise. Trust slowly. Walk away from the cute baby and nice image, and look for what happens after the voting is over. Is this what happens? It's going to take something astonishing to avoid that, and more of that. Private insurance is failing, and pushing the expensive folks out and towards the range of backup, government run plans. Which are unprepared for folks like mine. So.

Cards on the table, I've been looking at Obama's healthcare plan. Wet behind those sticky-out ears he might be, but that plan has the potential to protect my family - and others - from those tiered drug plans that are currently rolling my way. Or those insidiuous little dodges that are going to save the insurance some cash, by taking it out of my pocket. My insurance provider just suggested that we pay 20% of our factor costs, having decided that my HTC's factor program, run by a major hospital, is somehow out of network.

Hello? An entire major medical research and teaching hospital is out of network? Can't be that the place is too small - it's huge - or insufficiently reputable (Hahvahd would be soooo ticked). It's not like you can't walk from the insurer's MA office to the hospital, right? Right. Then again, they're refusing also to pay for my recent mammogram, and let me tell ya, a woman my age does not have a mammogram because it's fun and there's nothing good on the blog that day. Oh, no. Little dodges. Big cost to me.

Yep. If I were a single issue voter, I'd be voting for the guy - or gal - with the best health care plan. Happily, as I'm not a single issue voter (or kibbitzer), I note that with a good health care plan comes also a sense of awareness of the life of people outside of the golden parachute.

But enough about that. Life is inching imperfectly forwards here, as the Toddles starts preschool and the Eldest slips smoothly into first grade. Forget politics, and it's crafted, argued soundbites. Let's talk school, hmm?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

the one in the back is mine

Day Five:

it was the day of the big show, and the day that the Eldest woke up to find his cousins in the house. I'm not going to camp, you know, he said conversationally. Ah. Come sit down with me, I invited. As we sat, I explained that he was part of a team that was putting on this show, and that we'd all zip out to watch him - and his team - put it on. He thought this over.

You'll all come and see me? I nodded. Cousins too? I grinned, and hugged him. Cousins too, I promised. And the Eldest went to camp.

Come the appointed hour, cousins, sibling and one excited-nervous-excited mama were in the auditorium. Oh, oh, oh, what we saw. We saw
  • girls spinning in great hoops
  • tumbling
  • girls swinging themselves up and round and down and round with long silks
  • boys and girls doing magic tricks
  • acrobatics on a trapeze
  • a disappearing act
  • an Indiana Jones bit
  • clowns and balloons
  • silks draped from the ceiling, and people twining themselves through
.......but we didn't see the Eldest.

Eventually, it came time for a clownish boxing match. Out trooped the clowns, out trooped the kids in their costumes. And out came the Eldest, wearing his regular clothes. He stood there, a little kid poised awkwardly but happily on the stage, with a huge sign: CHEER. He waited for his moment, and held up the sign. CHEER.
And we did.

When his counsellor, dressed in a silly clown costume (but no scary painted face) ran out on stage, the Eldest bravely chased him around a bit with a big foam mallet. And then wandered around, looking lost. The audience waited patiently, while the Eldest found his bearings. Which was good: he had one, last job to do.

It was the juggling act, his father's hobby and the Eldest's favorite. But he'd felt no need to actually learn any control over the balls, nor to practice any specific moves. Instead, the kid liked to throw the ball. High. And then catch it. Mostly.

So, out walked the Eldest onto the empty stage, holding his ball. At center stage he paused, grinned and yelled, ball! and threw it. Up, up, up. And tried to catch it. A horde of kids with juggling paraphernalia come pouring out, and filled the stage in front of the kid throwing and catching his single ball. They perform, and then line up for a bow. In the back, the Eldest was still throwing and catching his ball, oblivious.

Eventually, he realized that he should join the group, and shyly tried to find a spot to stand. He found one, was edged out by a more enthusiastic kid, looked for another spot, gave up and went back to throwing. Bow, go the group of kids. Hooray! shouted the adults. Ball, whispered the Eldest to himself, and tried to catch it. Watching my non-theatrical son find pleasure on the stage, I laughed and smiled until it hurt. (Oh, little love.)

The show over, we all hustled outside, to cheer for the kids trying to swing - and get caught - on the big trapeze. (remember the net?) The Eldest watched, awed, as his friend swung and was caught, a rare success among the courageous. Safety harness on, the Eldest had other plans.

He found his favored circus staff, and she hooked him up to the little swing. I looked up at the Eldest, dangling from that thing, and considered how I would really rather not get on it, myself. But there he was, trying to swing his body back and forth. Going down, said Renata, and let him down. Whoops! Going up! she said, and yanked him up. The Eldest, a firm believer in ample advance warning was somehow grinning as she hauled him up and down, comfortable with having her manage his safety. He was relaxing, I thought, into his body and what it could do. He was, I hoped, thinking less about what he couldn't do - or about what might happen if he did.

Look! said Renata, laughing, he trusts me now! I looked. I saw the Eldest laughing, Renata's understanding of all that he let go in order to laugh, and I smiled so hard my eyes watered.

If that's the kid's boundary, then he crossed it this week. And I can smile - and get damp - over that. Bravo, Eldest. Bravo, dear one.