Five things right now

I think that this is week four of school but I’m not entirely sure. Everything is tough to juggle right now. Today I was in the middle of a work meeting when a friend came to pick Vivi up for an outdoor play date and I realized I had no idea where she was. I excused myself so that I could yell her name from the front yard like a crazy person and eventually realized that Kristin told her she could go to the playground. Kristin then had to leave her work meeting to go to the playground to find her. A few minutes later I heard Jonah’s therapist say (as Jonah carried the laptop through the house), “Do you think you could find somewhere quiet for us to talk?” so I excused myself from my meeting again to suggest a new location. When I returned to the meeting a colleague asked me, “so where’s Jude?” and I had to admit that I had no idea. They’re raising themselves, honestly.

So for my own sanity, because reflecting on good things is grounding, I’m returning to Five Things Right Now.

#1. Jonah playing Bellyache on the guitar. It makes me happy that Jonah is still sticking with guitar lessons, especially after his brother and sister quit. It’s important to me that it feels like his choice because I want them to discover things they love, not feel that music (or any other sort of lesson) is a chore that’s forced upon them. Awhile back his teacher agreed to teach him a song of his choice, Bellyache by Billie Eilish (chosen only because he happens to know the three chords in the song – lyrically it’s questionable for a seven-year-old, but whatever). He worked on it for several weeks and is now proud enough that he’s asked to perform it for others on more than one occasion. It’s his first full-length “real” song, which is big. He likes to have me sing it while he plays, and for a reason I can’t quite explain that means a lot to me.

#2. Jonah earning his yellow belt in karate. This is more of the same, but Jonah has been taking karate for a little over a year now. He stuck it out for the months that it was entirely via Zoom, practicing alone in our basement, and he just returned to the dojo last week. On his second class back his teacher presented him with his yellow belt and Jonah was SO PROUD. I could tell he was surprised, and I was thrilled for him. I wouldn’t say that karate has come easy to him, but he’s stuck with it through the challenges and I’m so happy that he gets to experience the way that sticking with something can really pay off.

#3. Taking school photos for our friends’ kids. I decided that a fun way to make this weird school year seem more special would be to offer to take “school” pictures for friends’ kids. I set up my backdrop just inside of our garage so that the whole thing was outdoors and could easily be done without any social distance barriers being crossed. I did my own kids first just to test it out and since then have done them for three other kids. I don’t know why but I find it to be so enjoyable. I think it’s because it feels good to share one of my gifts with people I care about, and I also know that if you aren’t into photography sometimes a nice portrait of your kid is hard to come by (or expensive). It’s really fun to edit these and see that I’ve captured a wonderful part of a kid’s spark for their folks. Who needs Lifetouch and their fancy backgrounds?

#4. Working on Halloween costumes. The kids chose some pretty awesome stuff for Halloween this year (I mean, I think that every year) and I bought fabric and got started a couple of weeks ago. They actually decided in mid-August and while I realize they could have changed their minds well before October I was committed and was confident that I could keep them focused (so far so good). There’s always one tough one (at least) and this year it’s Jude (Jonah’s is actually 95% done). I have yet to start it in earnest but we’ll get there. The only bummer is that I have no idea what Halloween is going to involve. It’s looking like our neighborhood isn’t willing to hand out candy this year, and while I’d hoped to pull together some sort of small friend-group party for the kids that’s beginning to feel unlikely as well (we’re all in, but others are a lot more concerned). One way or another we’ll make some magic, and I think I’m going to pull out all of our decorations this weekend because October or not, it’s time.

#5. Doing puzzles with Jude. Jude Christopher absolutely loves jigsaw puzzles, and it’s such a charming thing that makes him who he is. He’s so committed and so good at it, and really loves having you join him in the effort (but is happy to knock the whole thing out without you if you leave for too long). Over the last week or two we’ve done a few favorites together and I’d forgotten how much fun it is to sit there with him and collaborate.

#6. Watching the Brendan James concert with Vivi. Last week we had tickets to a live stream Brendan James concert, one of Vivi’s absolute favorites, and Kristin was out with a friend so it was just me and the kids. We all watched the first third or so but eventually the boys wandered off to play with LEGOs and it was just Vivi and me on the couch. She sat on my lap and we both sang along on and off and it was such a lovely, special thing to share with her. It was also an incredible show.

So that’s it, five things plus one more that are bringing me joy right now in this challenging and often dark time. What’s keeping your spirits up?

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