Sunday, November 04, 2007

unconventional paths to a career

In thinking about the choices we've made about education in our family, I had a realization -- it's not just the kids who enjoy an unconventional path to learning.

Gary's current job is a perfect illustration of how learning happens without formal instruction or a curriculum. Almost 10 years ago, we decided on a huge life change. It's become so much bigger than we could have imagined when it all started. I had just decided to quit my full-time job to be home with Andy. On my 35th birthday. From there things quickly evolved from me working at home to a decision to sell our home in Northern Virginia and move to New Mexico.

We'd expected that Gary would find a job in the gov't contractor field, as he'd done for the previous 18 years. When we arrived, tho, he wasn't able to find work. After several discouraging weeks looking for positions, he saw an add for delivery drivers, using your own pick-up or van. We had a minivan, and he enjoys driving, so he took that job. He found he loved it --just the right balance of time alone and time with customers, beautiful views while driving around, time outdoors in the fresh air, no office politics, no work to bring home, and a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day when the van was empty. He was very happy, but wanted to make more money.

That first job gave way to other delivery gigs, with a couple of nationwide shippers. Really, tho, the in and out of home deliveries wasn't really what he wanted. As time went on, he wanted to do more driving and less delivering. And he wanted more money, which meant getting his commercial license. He continuously looked for new job opportunities, finally finding one with a small, local company, delivering freight. The owner agreed to help Gary earn his first commercial license, a CDL-B. Within a couple of months, Gary had his B license. That company closed up shop and Gary was laid off. He signed on with an office products company, where he was able to gain more experience with 24' trucks that require a CDL-B license.

The real money, tho, requires a CDL-A license, to drive tractor-trailers. The usual route to a CDL-A license is to attend truck driving school. The company he worked for didn't need class A drivers, so they weren't in a position to help him get the training he needed. Truck driving school costs about $4,000 and takes 4 wks of time without pay. We couldn't afford that, so he'd need to get his A license without formal training.

Last October, that company announced they were closing the local warehouse and letting everyone go. This time, tho, he was already interviewing with a freight company that would help him get his CDL-A license.

When the warehouse closed, Gary took the new job immediately. Within 3 months, he had his CDL-A license. Continuing the job search, he found that virtually all the good driving jobs required over the road driving time, anywhere from 6 mos to 3 years. While there are companies that hire inexperienced CDL-A drivers, they usually keep their drivers away from home for weeks at a time, which isn't our first choice for a lifestyle.

Last month, he was offered a job with a national carrier, home at least once a week -- actually, he's home twice a week, tho with only one true 'day' off. He's finally found the over the road opportunity he needs for experience to qualify for better jobs that will bring him home more often. He's finally making the 'more money' he's wanted for the past several years -- a take-home increase of about 40%.

While he misses being home every night and all weekend, he really enjoys this driving job. It's still not entirely driving, but much better than any other job he's had. We all know this is temporary -- just another part of the path to the next thing.

He's accomplished all this without any formal training -- and he was in his 40's when he got that first commercial license, now he's 52. What an illustration for our boys that you can learn anything you want, when you're open to finding the path that fits your chosen life. And that you don't have to spend your entire adult life in a job that's wrong for you. Not to mention that it's never too late to redesign your life to fit your dreams!

How cool is it that our kids get to learn from Dad how to find your own joy in life, on your own agenda?

UPDATE: Now it's September, 2010 and I was reminded of this post today, in a conversation with another unschooling Mom. Now Gary has a job driving a truck on a local route, working for a company whose offices are exactly one mile from our home. Four years ago, when we bought this house, Gary said "wouldn't it be cool if I could get a job there?" Last June, that company offered him a job. Now he has a job he enjoys more than any other he's ever had, and it's right in our neighborhood, so he's home every night -- weekends and holidays, too!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Andy CAN read cursive!

Last month, after the grandparents visited, my mother in law told us "Andy wishes he could read cursive." hmmm, news to me! I asked Andy and he related that during a neighborhood walk with Grandma, they came across a handwritten sign, in cursive, and she asked him if he could read what it said. He had replied, "too bad I don't read cursive." She had taken that to mean he really wanted to be able to. Okay, that makes much more sense, knowing Andy.

"Do you want to learn to read or write cursive?"

"No, I don't really need to -- I don't see it very often."

"If you decide you'd like help, let me know -- and you know Dad or I will always be happy to read cursive for you, if you can't."

I included his answer in an email to my mother inlaw, with an assurance that when Andy is ready to read cursive, we will of course help him.

A couple of days ago, I received a birthday card in the mail from Will's fiance, Elena. It was a funny one and since I was driving when the boys found it in the car, Andy offered to read it to Dan. He read only the pre-printed portion and they laughed at the joke. Later in the day, I stopped for gas. When I came back to the car, Andy held up the card and said "Mom, what's this word -- I can't read it."

"It's in cursive, sweetie -- what word do you need help with?"

"This one here" and he point to a word that was about the eighth in a sentence of a dozen or so words.

I told him what the word was, and he read the rest of the sentence. I said, "cool -- you can read cursive!"

"Oh, that's right. It's in cursive and I read it -- it was easy! Elena's cursive is easier to read than that sign I saw with Grandma. I can read cursive!"

Andy was right -- Elena's cursive is easier to read than most. She writes in big, round letters. Who knows how clear the sign was?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

We had a fabulous time tonight at the Fuller's house for Halloween. Pizza, pumpkin lager, friends, dry ice, great costumes, even some Guitar Hero!

Chris with the kids and a bowl of dry ice -- very cool stuff!
Most of the crew (minus Dan) before heading out to trick or treat

The all important candy trade afterwards!
Andy playing Guitar Hero
I watched Andy playing Guitar Hero tonight and he had such fun I just had to video a few seconds. It's interesting to note that when Dan plays GH, the ONLY things that moves are his fingers. Literally, he stands there like Keith Richards. Andy, tho is moving all over the place -- he plays that guitar with everything he's got!

And yes!!! this time the video worked -- I can now put videos on my blog and make them work!!!

All Hallows Party

On Monday, the tribe had our All Hallows Party at the park. Some dressed for the occasion, some didn't.

Susan brought a pumpkin pinata -- here's Emma talking her turn
After the sack race
There was way more going on that I didn't get pictures of -- everyone set up a *house* gave away candy, we had face painting, hair painting. Dennis even let Jenny paint a Homer-esque zigzag on the back of his head!
We had a new family join us too! Something like 30 people at one time -- our tribe is growing!

Aquarium/Botanic Gardens

A couple of weekends ago, we spent a wonderful day at he aquarium/botanic gardens with friends. yeah, I've been lax about getting pix into the computer, but here they are.

Megan, Emma, Dan & Andy watching the small mantas (or are they skates?)

The kids spent what seemed like hours sliding down and running back up to do it again!

By the time they were done everyone was ready for some lunch.

Andy challenged Kevin to arm wrestle. Then everyone joined in!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Dan does math

About half an hour ago, Dan came to me with a handful of nickels, and told me he'd just counted his nickels and got all the way to 400!

Wow! 400? Can you show me how you counted that?

He spread his nickels out on the desk, and started counting them one by one into his hand.... 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, all the way up to 100. Then he paused a moment, and looked at me. He asked, "what comes next?"

One hundred and five -- a dollar five when you're counting money.

Okay. One dollar five, one dollar ten, one dollar fifteen, all the way up to one dollar forty. He just beamed, and I wondered when Dan learned to count by 5's.

Minutes later, he came running with two quarters. "Will gave me 50 cents to put with my other money! How much do I have now?"

Let's see - you have $1.40, add 25 cents you have a dollar sixty-five, twenty-five more makes a dollar ninety. If you go get that dime off the counter in front of the microwave, how much will you have then?

Immediate reply. "Two dollars!" and off he ran.

I asked Will just a moment ago if he'd shown Dan how to count his nickels. He answered, "no, I gave him two quarters I didn't need, but I didn't help him count anything."

Dan knows how to count by fives, and that a dollar ninety plus one dime is two dollars!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pictures Again!

I don't know how it happened, but my camera is resurrected. Last month, the camera stopped, and I swapped to a new battery (at least, I thought it was new) but the camera was still dead. I put the camera, along with two (presumably new) batteries, in the glove box and began camping on ebay for a new camera. Didn't win any bids in my price range, so I've been without pictures for about a month. Thursday, on a whim, I put in a new battery and the camera came to life! I don't know whether it was that I had grabbed a dead battery or that a new battery was defective, but we have pictures again.

These were taken before the camera battery died, on a tribe park day.

Trying to help Sorscha down from the tree

Andy showing off his strength with Judson on his shoulders -- Judson is 5" taller than Andy, tho somewhat lighter.
Andy watching Sorscha & Spencer in the tree -- don't know where he found the Readers Digest

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dan at L&L

Dan's been home from the Live and Learn Conference for almost 2 wks now, and it's been a whirlwind of activity. The grandparents came and went -- a visit truly deserving of it's own blog post -- and now we're settling into life post-visit, and post-conference.

I finally figured out how to move pictures from Dan's phone to my email, and then to my computer's hard drive files -- even how to post them on the blogs! Imagine that! One reason for all those technical achievements is that our camera died while Dan was away in North Carolina. I've shopped a few on ebay, but not found any at a price we can afford. Until then, pix from Dan's phone will have to be enough!

Here's Jenny -- I'm not sure why she looks like she's angry at her Fanta soda, but I hear she had a good time in spite of having three kids in her room, and a very long walk to the other buildings from their room in the Night Owl Family Lodge.

Scotty licking a battery -- taken by Dan with his phone. Okay, so the details aren't great, but we've all done the charge-check on a 9-volt battery, so we can imagine what it felt like for Scotty. And anyone who really knows Scotty will be happy to hear he didn't actually eat the battery!
Emma, taking Dan's picture during their infamous 'camera fight' -- apparently it was just another ongoing skirmish, along with the food fight in the (rental) minivan, and a napkin fight (location not disclosed by Dan).

Dan, looking incredibly tired at the talent show -- shared with me by Diana. That's the look on his face when just staying awake takes all his concentration, lest he drift off and fall off his chair.
Dan has regaled us with tales of fishing -- where they caught a sucker fish *this big*; playing in the creek with Emma; swimming in the pond -- he says never swim in a pond, that's where wasps hang out to sting you; rolling down the hill with his heelies -- and he agrees with Kevin, he did break the speed limit; his first night in the top bunk where he almost fell out -- leaving Jenny to share the smaller top bunk with Eliza while the boys shared the expansive lower bunk (have I mentioned before how much my friends love my kids?); the talent show acts; the soccer game; how they were forced to go to McDonalds because "all the restaurants in Asheville were closed -- can you believe that, Mom?"; and so much more.
He had a great time, and has said that the next time there's a conference and I can't or don't want to go, he'll be happy to go with someone else. For future conferences, maybe I'll just put him out there in a *kid for rent -- cheap* t-shirt! (Will actually owned such a t-shirt many years ago)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Dan's on his way!

We woke up at 3 am, and were at the airport by 4:45 for his 6 am flight with Kevin to Live & Learn 07. Here's Dan at check in, wearing his backpack and hauling his own suitcase.

They'll be in South Carolina before Andy & I get to the park for tribal time this afternoon. I'm expecting phone calls from Dallas and Greenville just to let me know they've made it. I am so not an airline traveler, so altho I know (rationally) that he's safe in the air, I'll be happiest when he has his feet on the ground!

Monday, September 03, 2007

One the eve of his trip

As I type this, we're only 8 hours from Dan's departure for his first trip away from home without us. His bag is packed and his backpack is filled with the electronics he wants for his adventure. I've just read Beth's blog and know that she & Emma are waiting in South Carolina for Kevin & Dan to arrive tomorrow.

Dan has been so excited all day -- all weekend, really. We've been on a major cleaning since the grandparents show up next week, and I unearthed 3 of his favorite (missing) CD's for him, after having made another for the trip. His music choices on the new CD are interesting --a few songs by The Jonas Brothers, several by Hannah Montana, two from the Talking Heads, and Sweet Escape by Gwen Stefani! He's an eclectic kid, with his own sense about so many things, from music to hair color and styles, to soccer.
Finally, he's passed out on the couch, only about 30 minutes after announcing he just couldn't sleep. That announcement followed after he came to me at about 7pm and said, in his sweetest voice with smiling face, "SNU-U-U-GGLE!" I climbed into bed with him, exhausted from a day spent shampooing the carpet and packing his bags, and finding must-have items for the trip. Dan wanted to read Garfield, and Andy offered to read for a while, so I got to spend about 10 minutes in bed snuggled up with Dan, listening as Andy read and they both laughed riotously. When Andy had read all he wanted, Gary took over for a while, but Dan found he was restless, so he and I got up to watch TV. One episode of Zack & Cody later, he's out cold!

It's been a very sweet, snuggly, happy evening -- time to try to get some sleep before we get up -- at 3 AM! --to head for the airport at 4:15..... 'sokay, that way tomorrow morning, I'll be too sleep-deprived to be neurotic about air travel.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Respectful Parenting

One of the coolest benefits for our family in this journey is the way we've come to parent. Choosing to live in a radically responsive parenting path has blessed us with such depth of trust, joy and, well, respect.

Today we met with Dan's new soccer coach & team for the first time this new season. The coach and his wife are very nice people -- as were the other parents we met. I was reminded, tho, just how different our life is from most people. It's noticeable to me because we're fortunate to spend almost all of our time with other families like ours -- with our tribe, for whom I am unbelievably grateful, by the way. So, when we spend regular time with mainstream families, seeing them week after week, I see much more than just in the casual encounters at the grocery store and the like.

As I look forward to the next several months spent sharing one weeknight and part of every Saturday with the other team families -- all schooled kids -- I know I'll see more instances of the parenting path we didn't choose. I'll embrace the opportunities to reach out to the children in these families and Dan's teammates and to just be who we are even when everyone else does things differently.

I also agreed to volunteer as an assistant coach -- more adventures in the mainstream world! I'm looking forward to it, actually.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Simpsons Movie

We just saw it today -- and had the best time! It was so funny & clever! Andy laughed like mad -- okay, so we all did. Definitely worth the price. On the way home, we talked about why it was it was a bad for god to *choose* Homer's Dad to speak thru, did that thing really have a thousand eyes, why the carnie set up the *win my truck* scam the way he did. Andy said *it's really sad that Bart didn't know how it felt to get a pat on the back* and I said, "yeah, Homer's never really been the best Dad, but wasn't it cool at the end?" Then, Andy recited for us his vision for the sequel -- a sure sign that he loved this movie enough to want more!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Two best friends

This is why the folks who love both Dan & Scotty have gone to such lengths to have them both at the L&L conference next month!

Andy & Sorscha

This past week, we've had a couple of outings with Crystal & Sorscha. Last week, Andy & I met them at the zoo while Dan had a day at Ironwood Farm. We had a great time. We leisurely saw a few animals, spent time at the playground, Andy played in the water jets for the first time this season -- it was much less busy than it's been since school got out.
On the elaborate marble throne in the Africa exhibit
Yesterday, Andy, Dan & I met Crystal & Sorscha at the Aquarium/Botanic Gardens to catch the Summer Nights concert. We met at 4pm, saw a few things then walked to the nearby McDonalds for a bite and a break. The kids played and had a great time. As we were leaving, Andy asked me if I had his Nintendo DS case. Nope -- I thought he had it. We looked on and under our tables, in both restrooms. No Nintendo case. I was starting to worry - his DS, Pokemon Diamond game, and charger were all in that case. I should have known better. Andy has the best karma on the planet -- probably because he always pays it forward. If Andy finds something, it goes to the lost & found. He once found a $20 bill at a park, and asked every person there if they'd lost a 20. No one said it was theirs! Just amazingly good karma!
So, it really was no surprise when we asked the counter and the girl said, "It was just here under the counter, let me check the office." Of course, she came back with the case, all it's contents intact.
Once we got back to the Gardens, we found a magic show. Andy was called up to be the first assistant!
Andy tied the knots for the magician's version of the 3-rings trick.

Andy & Sorscha (he's gasping, not yawning) watching the magic show.

There was a quick, cooling shower early in the evening -- like what we'd expected on Monday. The music was good, the magic fun, and Gary joined us about halfway thru. Dan was thrilled. All day long, he'd been asking when Dad would join us, an whether we'd come next week if Dad had to miss this one. I'm so glad Gary could make it, since last night was the last magic show of the season.

of monsoons & restrooms

This past Monday, the monsoon finally arrived at our tribe's weekly parkday. Sure, we've all been waiting for it, begging for it, but we didn't really want it like this!
In the middle of a humid afternoon, we heard the thunder. Being Albuquerque desert dwellers we figured it would be a passing shower, just enough to cool everything off. We gather under a couple of big trees that usually would make enough cover for a passing shower. Crystal, Sorscha & Andy were smart -- they headed right out to Crystal's mini-van for shelter. Jenny was somewhere else nearer the building, tho Eliza was still with us. The rest of us thought we'd just wait it out while the kids played. In Albuquerque, we know better than expect that our kids will come in out of the rain!
There we were -- four Moms and several kids. Moms hiding under the tree, some kids hiding under a picnic table, some running in the rain. The first several minutes were okay -- cool steady rain. We were still sure it would pass. Then it started raining horizontally, and hard. Beth suggested it might be time to head for the only place with a roof, the restrooms. As we ran to the restrooms - across a long stretch of grass thru what felt like hail -- the rain got stronger. So, there we were -- five Moms & eight kids crammed into the bathroom. I had left my bag -- with the camera and a nintendo DS inside -- and two books in the tunnel slide, hoping for shelter from from the rain. I'd done this when I expected a quick shower. During a quick break in the rain (not stopped, just lighter) I ran and got my stuff. The bag was soaked, the books a bit soggy, but the camera and DS were dry!

Now I could take a few pictures. I didn't get anything with everyone in the bathroom, but here are a few pics:

Dan, soaked in the rain, Scotty climbing the wall - literally!

The hand dryer was popular to warm up between trips out into the rain

A picture of Beth & Scotty that was just too beautiful not to post!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dan's solo adventure

Dan on Independence Day

Yesterday, I had to accept that our planned trip to the Live & Learn Conference '07 was just beyond our means. I cancelled our reservations and told the boys. They were somewhat disappointed, but took the news well enough. Andy was okay, since altho he'll miss a few friends, Sorscha isn't going either, so she'll still be in town that week.

When Jenny arrived at group, she told me she had a proposal for me. She and Beth had a plan, hatched after they read a post I made at the L&L yahoo group. Would we let Dan fly to NC with Kevin, stay at the conference with Jenny's family (they already had an extra bed) and fly back home with Kevin? Wow! So, throughout the next couple of hours, I talked to Andy to see if he'd be okay with Dan going while he stayed home (he is very okay with this), to Gary to see that he was okay with it (he's very happy for Dan) and finally with Dan. Both Jenny & Beth had said they wouldn't be at all surprised if Dan said no. I was pretty sure he'd say yes, because Dan is always up for an adventure, and he'd do just about anything to spend time with Scotty.

What most touches me isn't their generous offer, or the way it's come together -- it's that all this was proposed to meet the needs of a child! As Jenny pointed out, Dan really is Scotty's rock. We all knew that upon hearing Dan wouldn't be at the L&L Scotty would insist he didn't want to go. We all grew up in a time when a child's distress at making a family trip, for any reason --much less 'just' that he'd miss his best buddy -- would not even have been considered by the adults involved. Kids were just expected to suck it up and do what their parents told them to do. That we belong to a community, a tribe, whose adults have such empathy for our children that we'd all go to these lengths for one child's emotional comfort, is more precious to me than I can say.

So, we've begun making arrangements for Dan's first solo adventure. I cannot believe my baby is big enough for this rite of passage! He's my tiny man, my sweet puddin' -- how can he be big enough to be willing to fly to the conference without his parents?! Jenny shared that Beth had wondered if it was asking too much of me. Asking a Mom to let her 6yo child be gone for a week! Thousands of miles away! I laughed and answered that I've been letting 6yo boys go away on vacation since the first time I had a 6yo boy!

Then, I realized. This really is a rite of passage for Dan. Will was 6 the first time I drove away from him at summer camp. He stayed 2 weeks that summer -- and for every summer until he was 13. The year he was 13, he flew off to spend the summer with his grandparents in Hawaii; at 14, he flew as an adult (no airline escort) to BWI (by then we lived here in New Mexico), caught a ride with friends to a month of camp, then spent a week or two with his childhood best friend's family in Northern VA. Andy took his first trip without us to Hawaii at 5 -- grandpa flew here, took Andy home with him to spend 5 wks, and grandma flew home with him. He made the same trip at 6, and another, without either grandparent -- flying unaccompanied -- at 9.

So, it must be Dan's turn to have his first adventure away from Mom & Dad. Does this mean I'm now dispensable? Is it a first step, another beginning of the end of his dependence on me, on us? I suppose really, tho it's not even a beginning for Dan -- just another step in his independence.

Dan is clearly ready - the first thing he said to Gary when we picked him up from work was "I'm going to Conference!" I'm sure I'll be ready by the time he flies away.

More importantly, tho, this whole adventure is the evidence of how very deeply our children are loved in this tribe we belong to. Three sets of parents have come together to make it possible for two boys who are the best of friends -- in many ways two halves of a whole -- to have a summer adventure together, for the simple reason that we recognize their need for each other, and that our efforts will bring joy to those two little boys we all love.

Friday, July 06, 2007

What a happy bunch!

We spent a wonderful day at the Millers' on the 4th. The weather which had been insufferably hot for days, was cool, and breezy by late afternoon, with a light rain at nightfall. We'd come dressed for heat and by fireworks time were borrowing sweatshirts and wrapped in blankets!

I had tried a photobucket album here, but couldn't get it to work, so I had to load pix one by one.

Gary on the trampoline with Spencer, Cipriano & Sorscha. Dan, sporting his new hair color. I colored it for him the day before -- from the bleached stripes on brown to a licorice black. It takes some getting used to!
Late in the day, Chris set up Scotty's steam engine. Here's Scotty trying to light a match using the grindstone run by his steam engine.

The best thing about having a tribal gathering on a holiday is the abundance of Daddys. Pablo, Chris and & Gary were right there in the engine action.

Eliza and Pablo playing with toy animals.

Spencer, Andy & Dan watching a neighboring fireworks display from the back wall.

Dan, Eliza & Scotty enjoying the s'mores mini-pizzas Sorscha found for the party.

Scotty with sprinklers. We all brought some smaller backyard fireworks, and also watched some fireworks -- two city displays and some big works (not really city-legal, but might pretty) being fired off by neighbors out on the mesa.

Andy & Sorscha enjoying lunch on the trampoline.

Eliza used the fishtank an a brush to decorate the flagstone with paintings. Here she's putting the finishing touches on a car.

.... and on an elephant!
Jenny & Eliza

Gary & Dave spent some time fiddling with our computer -- which we brought over for Dave's help with loading World of Warcraft. We're still trying to find the drive space for WOW, but in the meantime our computer runs much faster after Dave's help.

We had a really wonderful day -- lots of conversation, happy kids running around, great weather, fireworks, and great time spent with friends. Everyone brought something for the grill, giving us more food than we could eat -- at the end of the night I discovered the corn on the cob I'd brought at Jenny's suggestion. I'd completely forgotten to throw it on the grill --sorry Jen! It's been delicious over the past few days!
Thanks, Crystal & Dave & Sorscha, for hosting us all!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Two such happy boys

Yesterday, we packed up a picnic, and headed out to our favorite park, with all manner of wheels. Andy spent about two hours on his roller blades, with short breaks on the blanket. Dan spent about half the time on his bike, switching to his blades to roll off with Andy. We've been coming to Mariposa park for about 8 years now. It was walking distance from our last house, so we were there almost every day since Andy was 3, and before Dan was born. Now, it's about 7 miles from our new home, and tho we have two neighborhood parks, neither one is as well-suited to our activities as Mariposa, so at least once a week -- often two or three times -- we spend a few hours there. Now that I'm home weekends, it's a regular destination for the four of us most weekends. The park has lots of parking, lots of sidewalks, a concrete basketball court --all essential for blading and biking -- shade, tables, and a playground.

With summer vacation on now, we find we're more often sharing the park with others. I'll admit we like to have it to ourselves -- I enjoy the quiet, and the boys enjoy the free access to the courts and sidewalks. One thing I've noticed is how often I see kids crying when it's time to go home, or unhappy with the outing in some way, usually to do with being overly controlled by their parent/s, or not getting enough help or involvement from their parents.

Noticing that caused me to reflect on what happy children our boys are. What a joyous and free life we enjoy. They are good friends and wonderful companions to each other. Sure, they bicker sometimes, and they're very different people at their core, but they really do look out for and think of each other. I attribute this to at least two things we've managed to give them -- security and autonomy. Our boys know we love not only them, but each other, and that our love for them, our desire to see them happy and joy-filled, is the outgrowth of that love. They also know that respecting their autonomy is my most deeply-held goal. It's not our place to dictate to them what their life should be. Rather it is our honor to watch them grow, to support in them the spark of whatever they love to do, to explore their path with them, led by their passions. We know they are already complete -- and magnificent -- individuals, capable of amazing, wondrous feats, and inherently joy-filled.

These are concepts I grew up without, so I don't know from my own experience how it feels to have security and autonomy, but I can see in our children, what a gift it is, and I'm so happy -- and at times surprised, challenged and humbled -- to be able to give this to them. I'm so very grateful for this life we live, together. For the love and joy and wonder in our lives every day.

Andy posed for this picture -- and for several other funny ones, with his hands over his eyes and his tongue sticking out -- and I just can't believe this boy of mine who looks - and is -- so self-assured, bright, loving, and thoughtful.

I sneaked this picture of Dan, but he didn't protest. How is it that my baby is so big? Look at those dancing eyes and that smile. In this shot, he had just skated over to us and was dropping onto the blanket to be 'in the middle' of a hug. His insistence on being in the middle of everything reminds me that it was his arrival that made our family 'done.'

When we arrived the boys on the fire engine were using the basketball court. Within a few minutes, Andy had invited them to chase him on his blades, meaning no one had to surrender the play space.