Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Learning to be a good neighbor from a child

Christmas Tree is Up!

For about two months, we've lived in the "country."  By country, I mean we no longer live in a neighborhood.  Our mailing address consists of a series of numbers and directions.  Farm fields run along the back of our property.

We do have two neighbors that live on either side of our home.  Upon moving into our home, one set of neighbors quickly made their introductions.  They are a friendly young couple with a baby on the hip and a toddler racing around the yard.  They welcomed us into their "neighborhood," but warned that the neighbors on the other side of our home were not, shall we say, "social."

The neighbors' warning came as no surprise to our family.  By the appearance of the house alone, we had reservations on whether these neighbors would welcome us with open arms.  The home could best be described as a warehouse-like structure.  Rarely, if ever, did I see anyone outside the home.  With my runaway imagination, I wandered if they were stockpiling weapons or creating some sort of militia group within the walls (which we wouldn't be able to see because the house lacks many windows).  
We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we would be neighbors who merely coexisted in close proximity to each other lacking any sort of relationship.  

Yesterday, Cooper and I decided to walk through the farm field behind our property.  As our feet crunched the broken corn husks, Cooper gazed at the warehouse home.

"Let's go meet the neighbors," he proclaimed.  "And bring them cookies."

I tried to talk him out of it.

"They look busy," I guessed.

"What if they have weapons," I warned.

"Wouldn't that be a better activity for another day," I suggested.

Cooper would not waiver on his resolution to make our acquaintances.

We grabbed a plate of homemade cookies sitting on our counter and piled them on a paper plate.  Then, we made the (seemingly) long walk over to the warehouse.  Cooper raced ahead, while I lagged behind battling the multitude of reservations bubbling in my mind.

He rang the bell and knocked on the door to ensure our presence was known.  Within seconds, a man appeared.

He wasn't clutching a weapon or wearing fatigues.  He didn't appear gruff.  In fact, he looked completely normal with a welcoming smile.  After happily accepting the paper plate of cookies, we began a series of small talk and introductions.  Slowly my built up anxiety began to wane and a feeling of shame grew in my heart.  It took my 11 year old to teach me to be a good neighbor, look past the outer appearances, and work past fear.

I walked back to our house with a feel of gratefulness for a son who taught me a lesson in the true meaning of how to love a neighbor.  

Monday, December 4, 2017

Weekend Recap: First Dance, Quiz Bowl, and Moon Gazing

Lunch birthday celebration for our friend Suzanne.

Quiz bowl match.  What I learned is that I am too dumb to make the high school team!

First dance for these two dapper men!

Absolutely beautiful December day (look no coats!).  Perfect day to spend at a Christmas tree farm.

I remember that at one time weekends were relaxing.  I have vague memories about spending hours on the couch without a set agenda or a massive to do list.

How I miss those days.

Weekends now, with four growing boys, have transformed into revolving carpools, endless sporting events, constant birthday parties or social events, and a slew more.

This weekend was no different.

On Saturday morning, Caleb participated in a quiz bowl competition, and I was his designated cheerleader.  Caleb and three other equally shrewd high school students sat on one side of the table with an ingenious group of opponents placed on the opposite side.

I took a seat in the back within earshot of the moderator reading the questions.  By the second question, I knew that I lacked the brain power to make the team.  Famous Dutch painters and complex mathematical equations are no longer in my wheelhouse of knowledge.  (Who am I kidding....they never were.)  At that moment, I realized that we share similar biological traits, but a love of quiz bowl in no way was inherited from my genes.  Be grateful, sweet son, that you have a father who could give any Jeopardy contestant a run for his or her money.

By the evening, our family experienced a first.  Connor went to his first boy-girl dance.  He made the decision to attend the night before, which put us into a tailspin to hunt down the proper dance clothing.  We selected brown leather shoes from Target which Connor complained looked like tap shoes.  A tie was selected from Kohls.  We landed on a comprise: a clip on tie that was appropriate, yet functional.

I tried to prep Connor about interacting with a girl.  He expressed displeasure in continuing the conversation and questioned whether I was in a position to coach him on girl interaction.  I reminded him that I am in fact a female, and may have a bit of personal experience dealing with my own gender.  I also tried to coach him on dance moves to which he also rebuked my offers. (I guess he's never really seen me bust a move on the dance floor!)

Although I had some fears about the going ons at the dance (images of Connor holed up in the corner with a girl while locking lips), Connor recounted that he didn't dance one bit and claimed to not even talk to a single female all evening.  But, he seemed pleased to have spent the evening with same-gender friends while wearing a clip on tie and tap shoes.  Success in my book!

On Sunday, the weekends' activities had me spent.  The holiday season left me with a massive to do list. I struggled with what to tackle first.  While I was frantically running around my kitchen, Cooper asked me to sit outside with him and stare at the moon. 

Last night, you see, the super moon made an appearance.  It was a giant illuminating figure that dressed up the sky in the most fantastic way.  I dropped what I was doing and followed Cooper out to the front porch.  We slipped under a blanket and stared out into the sky.  He pointed out the craters as I slipped back into the bench.  

The hustle and bustle of life almost stopped me from this experience.  I'm grateful for tournaments, dances, and kids' activities, but sometimes I just need to take a minute to sit with a son and gaze at the sky.  Of all the moments from the weekend, this one was the most precious.