I love the 4th of July. And for the last few years, it has become a holiday of traditions in our home. Our little community is very patriotic, and we love walking up the street to watch the parade, and spend the day with friends.
Sycamore Park always has games and booths after the parade.
John had a very missed, old friend stop by as well. It just made the day even better.
One of my favorite traditions of the day... yummy.
This summer we've had the most amazing monsoon season I've seen since we've lived here. The desert is so green right now. August, the month I always feel the heat melting my skin, has been humid and wet. It's been refreshing.
But, with all the rain, the cottonwood trees have been falling left and right.
John and I were out in the garage one evening this last July, while the rain was coming down. We were putting stuff away, planning our next to-do on the house, when we heard what I thought was thunder cracking and snapping closely. I closed my eyes and covered my head instinctively, but John ran out of the garage to see what was going on.
Our neighbor's cottonwood tree had fallen on her house. This is what it looked like after the cleaning up began.
The next week, our neighbors on the other side of us had their cottonwood tree fall on their house as well.
If you know anything about cottonwoods, they rot and dye from the inside out. You don't know you've got a dying tree, until it's fallen on your roof and you can then see the hollowness inside. They look healthy and beautiful in their brilliant green leaves, and then one day they fall on your roof. They are weak trees that don't weather storms well.
We don't have any cottonwood's on our property. And this summer, I've never been more grateful. We have walnut trees. And if you know anything about walnut trees, they are strong. Their roots go deep and their branches hold firm. And every year I complain about the mess they make, and getting hit on the head by a nut from time to time. But after this summer, I am so grateful for my walnut trees.
I ran into a guy I grew up with the other day, right here in my own community. We grew up in Eagar and our homes were about a mile from each other. We are the same age, and were often in the same classes throughout school. We always had lockers right next to each other in Jr. High, and he was always real nice to me. Sometimes we walked to school together on the days we were going the same direction at the same time. But, he had a hard childhood. I remember thinking that as a kid as I watched him struggle throughout his youth. I remember being so young, yet thinking, "The odds are against him. Why does life have to be so hard for him?" I remember thinking how unfair life is. How we grew up a mile apart, yet I had two parents who loved me and loved each other. I had rules and support at home, and here he was, trying to find his own way, doing it all alone. Him against the world. It wasn't fair.
So when I ran into him the other day, my heart hurt. Because just by looking at him, and the few minutes we conversed, I could tell it was still him against the world. He spoke of prison and a few bad choices he had made. And even though we are the same age, he looked years older.
My heart hurt for him. And I couldn't help but think of the cottonwood trees.
And I couldn't help but think of the first time I felt real compassion toward someone. Because for me, it was for this friend when we were kids. And when I say real compassion, I mean not just pitying someone and then going on with life. But true compassion is from a much deeper place within us, with a more eternal perspective. Its having true understanding without judgement.
Life is hard. And we are all flawed. I am in no way saying I am a better person than my friend. Because I'm not. On those few walks to school years ago, I remember admiring his strength, kindness and frankness, and wishing I had those strengths. Because as a kid, I wasn't always strong. I wasn't always kind. And I often walked the path of least resistance.
But like I said, life is hard. And if we let it, it will destroy us from the inside out. And even though I've always known this, seeing my old friend again, reminded me of this. And it was after this little lesson, that I allowed myself to let go of the built up anger I've harbored against others recently. And I've taken time to focus on forgiveness and cleansing my own spirit. Because I don't want to be a cottonwood tree.
Also in June, the boys tested and moved up to the next belt levels in Tae Kwon Do. I've said it hundreds of times, and I'll say it again, Tae Kwon Do has been so good for our family. We're so grateful for the time we spend with these great people. Witten tested and received his Lil' Dragon's Green Belt, and Race tested and received his Solid Yellow belt (which is equivalent to a Lil' Dragon's Green in regular classes).
Witt with his teacher (and one of our favorite ladies), Ms. Kathy. We love you Ms. Kathy!
And here is Witt with the fabulous Ms. Jyoti. She's also Witt's school teacher, and he loves her to pieces.
Our long time friend Jadon does Tae Kwon Do now too! It's so great seeing them at the testing. Whenever I see new pictures of them together, images of them playing together as two year old's pop in my head.
This one's a little blurry, but this is Race and Jadon again, getting ready to test.
Moving up to the 8 and Up class has been a big transition for Race. The classes are bigger, more demanding, more work. Much different from the Lil' Dragon's classes. But it's been good for us. It's because of this transition that I decided to join Tae Kwon Do. So I could understand a little bit better of what's required and help the boys practice at home. It's been fun, the boys love that I'm going to class too.
Race with Ms. Kathy. Something really awesome about Ms. Kathy is that her oldest son is blind, and a black belt. And she started Tae Kwon Do for a lot of the same reasons I did. To help her son. She's kind of become a mentor for me... just one of the reasons we love her so much. :)
Race loves performing. He isn't shy at all. What he doesn't like is dressing up like a fire-fly... (a girl costume, he called it).
The week after Day Camp, the Missoula Children's Theatre came to town once again. Witten and Race both tried out, but Witt got cut. He was actually very relieved. Totally not his thing:
When he didn't hear his name called he said, "Did I get cut?"
"I think so."
"Oh. Can we go swimming now?"
Like I said, he could have cared less.
But Race made it. And had a great time...except for the costume, of course.
Race and his friend Emily were both in the show.
Race with all the other fire-fly's. He was the only boy in his group.
The entire cast of The Secret Garden.
Another year down. Race once again won for the high ticket sales. And, I secretly keep hoping he doesn't want to try out again, because the week just seems to be very stressful for the both of us. But, we'll see.
Well, here's more catching up. Now that we're home-schooling (and I can't wait to post about how well it's going), I've had little time for my fabulous blog:
June was jammed with fun. At the beginning of June, Race and I went to Day Camp. We had a blast. It was hot. We were exhausted. And somehow I got talked into being a den mother to 12 eight year old boys when I was only supposed to being a walk-along-mother... talk about an adventure.
Race loves scouts. He loves earning badges and having a book to keep track of his achievements. He's a very self-motivated scout, and for that I'm happy.
We both made some new friends:
Race and Bryson
Janelle and I co-piloted the den. We were a great team!
My son Witten is an amazing boy. He cracks jokes. He is constantly making me smile. He is such a happy kid. I love to sneak up on him in the middle of him pretending and... just listen. I hide behind the wall and listen to the amazing imagination of his. The way he talks to his toys and how his room is this secret place where magic happens. He reminds me so much of myself when I was a kid.
Imagination is a piece of childhood I miss, and I ache for it. As a writer, I often wish I could rewind 25 years and remember all those big ideas I had as a kid and write them all down.
One day this past year, Witt had a friend over from school. And he was so eager to show his friend his room; his magical place where he plays with his trains and dinosaurs. The place where his army men and hot wheels cars set up camp behind the stuffed animals that are temporarily used for mountains. He couldn’t wait for his friend to see it all.
So you could imagine the hurt I felt when, not long into their playing, I heard the little friend tell Witt, “You play with baby toys.” I held my breath as I sat at the kitchen table cutting up watermelon. I waited to hear what Witt would say.
“I don’t play with baby toys. Trains aren’t baby toys.”
“Yes they are.”
The conversation passed. And the boys got to playing something else as boys do. And I wasn’t going to bring it up. No big deal.
Until later that afternoon when the friend had gone home. Race was in the living room laughing his head off at an episode of Diego and I was folding laundry. Witt brought me a shoebox filled with his Thomas Trains. He had a look on his face that was trying to be real grown up. He was fighting back the tears when he said, “I don’t need these anymore. I’m going to give them to Lane.”
“Well,” I said as I put the laundry down. “That’s very nice of you, Cowboy. But I’m confused. You love your trains.”
It took him a second to say, “They’re baby toys.”
I wanted to scoop my little Cowboy up and hug him. But I could tell he was all business. “Who thinks they’re baby toys. You? Or somebody else?”
He didn’t answer, but started to cry instead.
“You know what I think?” I asked him as I scooped him in for a big mommy hug.
“I think you love your trains and who cares what anybody thinks about it.”
He just cried and hugged me back.
“You love your trains, Witt.”
“Yes, I don’t want to give them to Lane,” he cried.
The conversation went on for a bit before Witten eventually climbed off my lap and went back to his magical bedroom to set up his train tracks.I sat at the table filled with mixed emotions. I stared across the room at Race who was once again busting up laughing because of something one of the animals on Diego did.And as I watched Race, I listened to Witt escape again into his imagination and start talking to his trains.
At first I thought, how dare some kid come into my home, and just like that, have such an influence on my Cowboy. Enough influence to make him lose a bit of his childhood. Just like that.
And how easily influenced my little man is! I mean, he’s only five!
I sat and watched Race laugh some more. My eight year old boy sat in front of the TV and laughed his heart away at a silly cartoon. He could care less about what anybody thought of that. He loved Diego. So what if it was a baby show.
And I thought to myself... if only we could all be like that. Not care about what people think. And in that moment, for just a moment, because it might change in the future... but in that moment, for some things, it might be easier to be autistic.
Race has never cared what people think. He likes what he likes. It’s that simple.
But Witt... as I mentioned earlier, we’re a lot alike. Because as a kid, I cared way too much about what others thought.And it sucked. It’s wrong that my five year old boy feels like he has to change something about himself because somebody else said something stupid to him. And it breaks my heart that a few words said by a friend has to make my kid lose a little bit of his childhood.
And at that moment I preferred dealing with the autism than the struggles I knew my developmentally normal child would have to face time and time again.