Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hairoes and friends

I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Dierks and Cassidy Bentley are the nicest people on the planet.

I imagine their lives are a little busy right now. Baby Evie is almost five months old. Dierks is promoting Feel That Fire - out less than a month and already number one on the country album charts. Our TiVo memory is full of his recent television appearances. He's on the road touring with Brad Paisley. I think they've got a lot going on.

And yet, somehow, Bud got a package in the mail last week with a postmark from Nashville, Tennessee. I knew instantly who'd sent it, since I'd gotten an e-mail from Cassidy with a heads-up that it might arrive soon.

"Bud!" I called. "You have a package!"

He came running. "A package for me?"

"It's from Nashville, Tennessee. Do you know who lives in Nashville?"

"Who does?"

"It's a friend of yours who has curly hair."

"DIERKS BENTLEY????"

Bud tore into the package, then smiled the kind of smile that starts around the toenails, then radiates out through the top of the head.

He pulled out an 8x10 picture of his friend Dierks, taken back when his hair was closely cropped. It used to be the look (the only look) that Bud preferred, but Bud's come a long way since then and he now prefers Dierks' current look - the one he calls "the new curly hair." In fact, just last Saturday Bud asked his own hair stylist if she could give him "curly hair like Dierks Bentley," but when she started talking about perms, Bud quickly interrupted her and said "I'm just joking." (He was delighted to find, though, that because he pulled on his winter hat after leaving the salon with damp hair, his hair was sticking out at angles from his head later in the day, making him crow, "Just like Dierks!")

Bud loved the short-haired picture just the same, especially when we read what Dierks had written across it: "Bud, Still waiting on the new pictures w/ my longer hair!!! I'll get you one of those as soon as I get them! - Dierks Bentley"

Then Bud took a second item out of the package - a copy of Feel That Fire, the album he's been singing nonstop for weeks, with the same familiar scrawl across the front: "Bud, Thanks dude! Thanks for being my #1 fan!!! - Dierks Bentley"

And Bud really is his number one fan - though recently, it seems Bud's become a fan of the whole Bentley family. He got the People magazine country music edition for Valentine's Day, and since then he's been carrying it around, opened to the two-page photo spread of Dierks, Cassidy, and Evie. He dines with them, reads stories with them, and makes sure they're settled before he turns in for the night. Bud also insists that the woman who sings backing vocals on Feel That Fire's romantic "I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes" is Cassidy. (It's not, of course, but I think Bud simply can't entertain the notion that Dierks is two-timing with someone else.) It even appears that, despite his general unease with babies, Bud has decided that Evie Bentley must be one of the "good ones."

He's planning on writing a thank-you note this weekend, and I'm fascinated to see what he'll come up with. As for me, I have not begun to find words to let the Bentleys know how touched I am by their kindness, how moved I am by their efforts to connect with a boy who can find it so hard to connect.

Bud struggles with interpersonal interaction. He shies away from social situations. But I will tell you this: when it comes to friendships, Bud sure knows how to pick them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

First mom

This evening I gave Bud a political pop quiz.

"Bud, who is the President?"

"Barack Obama."

"Right. And who is the Secretary of State?"

"His wife?"

"No, she's the First Lady. The Secretary of State is Hill-"

"Hillary Clinton?"

"Right!"

"She's what?"

"Secretary of State."

And on we went - Vice President, Governor... Then, slyly, I asked, "And who is the best mom in the whole wide world?"

"Mrs. Obama."

"Mrs. Obama? She's the BEST mom in the WHOLE world?"

"Yes. Mrs. Obama."

"Well, who is the second best mom?"

"You, Mom."

Yeah.

I think that's what's known in the business as "payback." But, Bud? I hate to break this to you, honey, but I'll bet Mrs. Obama gives Malia and Sasha pop quizzes a lot more often than I give them to you.

And, Bud?

She also makes them make their own beds.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Man of letters

I've been reading the best stuff lately!

Bud continues to bring home original writing in his backpack on a regular basis. Last week, he brought home a story about his umbrella breaking at recess. He also brought home the broken umbrella.

Yesterday, he brought home a letter:

Dear Mom,

I did a great job reading. I am reading in a group with Kiley, Samuel, and Mim. Today we read The Oxstar. I took my turn to read. I did a good job reading. I listened to my friends read.

Sometimes I chat with my friends. I chat about that nana's back is sore. I chat about bowling with some other friends on Friday. Kiley drew some cats in a picture. She shared her picture with us. We said "wow, its beautiful! " Next I shared my pbs kids paper characters with my friends. "They're wonderful!" they said. I have fun in my reading group.

love bud

Did you catch that?

"I took my turn..."

"I listened..."

"I chat with my friends..."

"She shared..."

"I shared..."

"I have fun in my reading group."

Right on, Bud. Write on!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lasting impressions

I've been thinking lately about the way we parents record and preserve our memories of our children's milestones. I think about the things in Bud's baby book, meticulously recorded through the early weeks, months, and years of his life - the first time he smiled, the first time he laughed, the first time he rolled over, the first time he sat up, the first time he crawled, the first time he walked.

As Bud gets older, though, I sometimes find myself reflecting less on the firsts, and more on the lasts. I don't have any record of the lasts - probably because the lasts happened while I wasn't looking. I didn't realize they'd never happen again when I grumbled through them or zipped past them or moved mechanically through their motions. So now I look at my big, heavy nine year old boy and I think about how I used to carry him down the stairs for breakfast every morning and I recognize that I would not be able to carry him down the stairs today if I tried. And I wonder: when was the last time that I carried Bud down the stairs? Why didn't I cherish that moment, breathe in the smell of it, imprint it on my heart? Why didn't I recognize that it was a last?

And there are so many other lasts: the last time he nursed, the last time he rode on my shoulders, the last time he sat in a shopping cart seat, the last time I picked him up and twirled him upside down. There must have been a last time for each of them, right? But I have no memory of any of them.

And then, of course, I wonder: what are the lasts that I'm missing right now? What has Bud done for the last time this year, this month, this week, this day, that I will only recognize in retrospect is missing, but will not remember having ended?

I suppose this is how childhood works - how life works. We rush eagerly forward to the next check-point, the next marker, the Next Big Thing. Maybe we're programmed that way for a reason. Maybe our kids need us to push them forward and not hold them back while we linger over the things they'll leave behind.

And maybe, for parents, it's in the moving forward, the pushing onward, and the celebration of challenges met - maybe it's in the growth and change, in the hurdles and transitions, in the Look How Far We've Comes - maybe it's in the painstaking preservation of all of those milestone firsts, that we really make childhood last.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Still on fire

So, did you see Paul McCartney on the Grammys last night? He did "I Saw Her Standing There," and I swear, if you closed your eyes and listened, it could have been ten years ago, twenty years ago, thirty years ago. The man's voice does not age.

So, yes, amazing performance. But I have to admit, when I heard that he was performing with Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, I'd hoped he'd be doing a live performance of a track from Electric Arguments, his third collaboration with producer Youth released under the name The Fireman. I'd been thinking about The Fireman quite a bit this week, what with all the talk of Feeling That Fire and all. It occured to me that I haven't mentioned it here, even though it's been out for several months. So now I am. In truth, McCartney's Fireman releases are not always my thing, and some of the tracks on Electric Arguments are also not my thing, but this one - this one positively soars. And the fact that I heard it for the first time shortly after Barack Obama won the election made me love it even more.

Sing The Changes - feel a little bit of this fire:



Saturday, February 07, 2009

And the winner is

This week, Bud and I have listened to Dierks Bentley's new album, Feel That Fire, enough that our favorite songs have floated to the top and we're each ready to announce our picks for Best Album Tracks. In the old days, Bud and I almost always gravitated toward the same sounds, but that's no longer the case.

Tonight, Bud told me that his favorite cuts are "Feel That Fire," "I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes," "Here She Comes," and "Sideways."

I told Bud that my favorite tracks are "Beautiful World," "You Hold Me Together," "I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes," and "Better Believer."

This means, of course, that our ultra-scientific study with a sample size of two has determined that the definitive best album track on Feel That Fire is, in fact, "I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes." But I don't think we're alone in that assessment. It seems that the women from the Today show are big fans as well...


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Feel That Fire

Earlier this week, as I was shouting from a virtual mountaintop about the impending release of Dierks Bentley's latest CD, Feel That Fire, Gretchen popped in, in her inimitable Gretchen way, to ask "Are you on his payroll yet?"

And the answer, Gretchen, is no, I'm not. I provide my endorsements purely as a public service. I know that most of my readers are the busy parents of high-maintenance children (and I say that with love), who don't always have time to scout out the latest and greatest that popular culture has to offer. So, just as I rely on Jordan and Drama Mama for cosmetic advice, on Kristen for the word on all things cashmere, on Betty and Boo's Mom for book recommendations, and on lots of other bloggers for lots of other things, I like to think I'm saving my readers from having to dredge through a lot of mediocre music by helping them cut right through to the good stuff.

Which brings me to this: Feel That Fire, released this week and already a hit with Bud and me. The title track and first single has been topping the charts on country radio for months, but I have to tell you (sorry, Dierks), it's not even close to being the strongest track on the album, which is packed with instant classics - from the sure-to-be-a-hit-single-'cause-it-makes-the-girls-swoon "I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes," to the gorgeous and moving "Beautiful World," to the hard-rocking "Life on the Run," to the so-poignant-it's-physically-painful "Pray."

Not convinced yet? Preview it here and you'll see what I mean. You can thank me later.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Bud, blogger in training

Bud's in a good school district, which means that the children have always been expected to do a lot of writing. Because Bud struggles with fine motor skills, he often dictates his compositions to an aide, who either writes or types his words for him. In the early grades, Bud used these exercises as an opportunity to script and he would often come home with pages and pages of dutifully transcribed episodes of Teletubbies, Sesame Street or Blues Clues.

As Bud got older and his echolalia became more sophisticated, he began mitigating scripts in his writing, swapping out details from the scripts with details from his life, so that the writing appeared to be original, but really wasn't. He got so good at it, in fact, that at this year's parent/teacher conference, his teacher proudly showed me a story he'd written about a trip that he and I had taken to a farm. Of course, we hadn't taken a trip to a farm. I recognized the framework of the essay as a direct lift from Elmo's World.

Some of the essays I saw at this year's parent/teacher conference, though, were not scripted. They were Bud's genuine attempts to tell a story - but they were not always true stories. They typically started with a germ of truth - he'd start with an event that had actually happened - but then he'd veer off into a story he seemed to find more interesting. Sometimes - I'm guessing when he'd had enough of the exercise - he defaulted to a script as the essay reached its end.

Last week, a stack of papers from last semester came home in Bud's backpack, and among them I found this essay:

I Went For A Ride With Mom

My mom and I went for a ride to return spoons that we used for a party. So we went to Kiki's cottage which is on Placid Lake, and we returned the spoons. Then we had to go to the gas station and fill up the tank.

On the way I listen to music on my ipod. My favorite singer is Dierks Bentley. He sings country music. Then we headed back home, but on the way mom hit a big mud puddle and the windows got all muddy.

I like to go for rides with mom in her car. I get all excited when mom says, "Lets go for a ride." I think mom's car looks like a red apple. I love to look out the windows and watch the other cars go by.

I was completely blown away.

The essay is well-written. It's well-organized. The language is sophisticated. And the story is told exactly as it happened. It's not a story his teacher would have known, so she could not have prompted him. It's got to be all Bud's.

I've re-read the essay a hundred times, and I'm still not sure which part of me is prouder: the writing instructor or the mom.