Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving: Pass It On! (Cross-post)

Yesterday was a humbling day. An emotional day. A Thanksgiving kind of day.

The Sunday School class my husband and I are part of decided to donate money to buy boxes of food for families at one of our neighborhood elementary schools. It's the school that our kids attend, and where several of our class members are employed. It's a school that has some 70% of its students qualifying for free or reduced lunch programs. It's also the official "homeless" school for our community.

We collected money in class and quickly came up with enough money to buy 10 boxes of food from a local distribution center.

Yesterday, our family went to pick up that food and deliver it to the school, where the guidance counselor had selected 10 families to receive the boxes.

We got the food loaded up much more quickly than we had expected, and found ourselves with extra time on our hands. We decided to go to the grocery store and pick up a few items of our own. It was a typical family grocery store trip. Some bickering about who got to sit on that side of the car, some impatient snapping at each other, some negotiating for treats, some minor annoyances. We loaded back up with our own groceries (charged on plastic with nary a thought) now also in tow and drove to the school for the delivery.


Some of the families were already at the school, waiting, and the positive energy in the room was almost palpable. Everyone was smiling and helping and quietly talking. When we were done unloading, the counselor asked if we would be doing this regularly, and I said that I hoped so, but wasn't sure. He said that after talking with teachers, he had identified 16 families in need (though certainly there are more), and he would love to be able to connect more of them with some assistance.

It was with very mixed emotions that we left the building, realizing that we felt so good about this thing we had done...but that it was only a drop in the bucket. As we walked out the door, the counselor handed us some envelopes, explaining that the families had written thank you notes.

I got back in the car, working my feet in between our bags of groceries piled there on the floor. We drove away in silence, trying to process it all. And then I handed out the envelopes so we could read some of the thank you notes out loud. I wanted the kids to hear. I wanted them to know what it means to help others. I wanted them to understand this thing they were now a part of. (Or perhaps, this thing that was now a part of them.)

The thank you notes were heartfelt, gracious, kind. I had a knot in my throat reading the first one out loud, and found myself blinking back tears, just thankful for what we have, and thankful to be a part of something good, and incredibly moved by the simple fact of people helping people.

When my son started to read a card out loud, the emotions swirling through our heads reached a moment of overwhelming depths. (Or heights, depending on your view.)

Tears started to run down his cheeks, and he couldn't finish.

"He said there were sixteen families...but we only had ten boxes," he said.


I started this post last Sunday, but I couldn't finish it. I just didn't have the words. And now, even as I type this days later, the tears once again begin to rise up my throat and I find I still don't have the words.

But I know that when I come back and read this, I will remember.

I don't know how to record the moment, but simply to say that it was beautiful and tragic all at once. That it made me feel both immensely powerful in my ability to make a difference, and also to feel incredibly small and of no consequence at all. It made me feel incredibly good, and incredibly guilty. It was despair and hope, mingling together in one breath.


On the way home from the school, we stopped to pick up Max. (He paid a visit to his grandparents while we did the grocery run.) It was time to go to his Physical Therapy appointment.

This is a new addition to his weekly therapy routine. Through word-of-mouth, we heard about an amazing therapist nearby -- the kind with magic fingers and sensitive spirit -- and she was willing to see him. Despite her full schedule. Despite our total inability to verbalize what we want her to do to him. Despite the fact that she doesn't take Medicaid, though that is the only coverage Max has, and that we can't really afford her full-price visits. She was not only willing, but excited, energetic, curious, eager! She's offering us a greatly reduced price and is seeing him 5 weeks in a row for a trial run. I don't know what might happen, but I am extremely grateful for the possibility.

I left the house with my grocery tears barely dried, then drove straight to this appointment, a fresh set of kindness-of-others tears threatening to spill over.


They say it's better to give than to receive, and I agree. It's certainly easier, I do know that.

But what is really amazing is to be on both ends of that equation within a short span of time.

My cup runneth over. I'm filled with Thanksgiving, though it it's not the official day for that. I'm proud to be a part of the human race today. That may sound like a crazy statement to make, but in a world where the headlines sometimes make me hang my head in shame -- for all of us -- it is a profound and welcome feeling to be a small, fitted piece in this very good puzzle.

Here's my challenge: Do something good today.

It can be large or small....just something above & beyond the usual, whatever your particular brand of usual might be. If something nice has happened to you recently, pay it forward. If nothing nice has happened lately, do it anyway.

Just tip that first domino over, and trust that the momentum can flow on down the line.

Happy Thanksgiving, world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I Swear He Was In School ALL DAY!

This headline jumped off the browser and caught my attention this morning: Pirates Hijack Tanker with $100M in Oil.

I sort of forget this stuff still really happens. (And, I swear, Max was in school all day; he had NOTHING to do with it!)

And now I better change topics before Homeland Security develops an interest in my son.
(PS. JOKE! Joking here! Just kidding around! Please don't flag us, Mr. Officer Sir! Just a little pirate humor for the day! HA HA HA, WE'RE ALL LAUGHING, SEE?! = Joke!)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Pirate For All Seasons

I originally picked up a baseball costume for Max to wear while Trick-Or-Treating. I don't usually buy ready-made costumes, but this one was in Cubs colors, and had built-in muscles, and I just couldn't resist. Now, if Halloween fell during the summer months (i.e., Cubs season), it would have remained the obvious choice. But baseball season is over, and since making that purchase we have been completely taken over by PIRATES.

I returned the baseball costume, and dug through the dress-up box for pirate wear instead. It may be a tired cliche for others, but it's exciting new stuff for us!

A Guy Named Glen, Raggedy Ann, and The Dread Pirate Max

Granted, the outfit was a bit more King Arthur than Pirate (especially once he took off the vest and all headgear -- kerchief, earring, AND eye patch), but Max totally got it. He really got behind the whole Trick-Or-Treating concept this year, too! We walked around with him while his siblings were with other groups of kids, and even without their assistance, he went up to each door and got his candy. Some places (the ones that had the really good stuff, I guess) inspired him to linger at length and gaze VERY CLOSELY at the goody stash, but he really was able to do it quite independently. It was fun to watch.

And of course he was a natural at the racing* and pillaging, jumping off the poop deck**, and sounding his joyful "arrrgh!" -- and he even remembered to sign "thank you" now and then.

It was another one of those Aha! moments, when I realize just how far we've come. Max kind of enjoyed trick-or-treating last year, but needed to walk hand-in-hand with his grandpa, and was completely out of sorts and signing "all done" after a trek around the block.

Flashback moment: Gilligan & The Skipper (Halloween 2007)

Furthermore, his costume last year was purely for OUR enjoyment...but this year he was completely on board and took obvious personal pleasure in wearing his pirate duds.

I found a pirate mirror cling set at Target in the post-Halloween clearance aisle. I plan on putting it on the mirror in his bedroom so that even though the traditional piracy season is now over, he continue to be a pirate any ol' time he wants.


* Yes, clearly I meant the 'c'.

** Not quite sure what this means, but it sounds totally plausible...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Because Sometimes Pirates Have Disabilities, Too...

So we're continuing on the pirate theme around here. I've been amused to see the places Max finds a pirate -- pirates in places I hadn't even thought to look! It's like he's living in a "Where's Waldo?" book, singlemindedly focused on finding random pirates tucked here and there, behind each door, and in every nook and cranny.

Did you know there's a pirate in the intro to SpongeBob Squarepants shows? I obviously knew on some level, because I've heard/seen it a jillion times...but previously, Max was always focused on hearing the "Ohhhhhhhhhh!..." at the start of the theme song, not necessarily on the pirate who is singing it. But now SpongeBob's like a whole new show! Because PIRATE! Right there! On the screen!

There are pirates on the yogurt!

There are pirates in the alphabet book! (Ooo!) Pirate Halloween costumes in the newspaper flier! (Ahh!)

In the store aisles, we even discovered a box of pirate band-aids and a pirate toothbrush!

(Tooth brushing is a rather gaggy & unpleasant event around here, so if this battery-operated, Pirates of the Caribbean-themed, rotating brush can help, it's money well spent! Thank you, Disney.)

I was browsing this morning to search for pirate images and came across this one -- not exactly right for Max, but I quite like the graphic:

(Click on the photos for links & ordering info.)

Are there any wheelchair-using scallywags out there in the market for a pirate shirt?

Some other pirate designs caught my eye as well -- like this one, featuring ASL:

And this one, in braille:

And this one, targeting dyslexia:

These shirts can be snarky, or good honest fun, (or BOTH), depending on who is wearing them (and why). I was rather tickled to come across them.

Normally, I would be tempted by the sign language shirt, but Argh-ing like a pirate is definitely a VERBAL interest for Max, so I continued browsing and found these two shirts that seemed more appropriate for him:

The dog-PLUS-pirate combo would absolutely thrill him. (And somehow the idea behind it seems sort of appropriate -- I often feel like we are translating a secret & mysterious language, too. Plus it just tickles my funny bone.)

And then there's this option.
It's a solid nod to talking like a pirate that would likely trigger many spontaneous "arghing" conversations, which Max would enjoy greatly, AND it is one of the few with an actual pirate instead of a skull....but, frankly, the knife in the mouth worries me a bit.

I plan on ordering a pirate-y shirt for one of Max's Christmas presents this year. Are there any other fun recommendations out there I should consider before placing my order?