On the morning of his birthday Jacob and Ben woke up early and hid around the corner waiting to get him with silly spray as he came downstairs. I can't remember when we started this tradition in our family but the boys love it and I'm starting to regret it. It makes such a mess! Anyway, we had his favorite breakfast of crepes (my kind of kid) then sent him off to school. That evening Papa and Grandma came over for his birthday dinner and family party. He chose a random collection of some of his favorite foods for his birthday feast: Macaroni and Cheese (the box kind which I hate and rarely serve), croissant rolls, Orange sherbet jello salad, and steamed broccoli with cheese. This was also the first year that he wanted just a regular cake (not something crazy or colorfully decorated). It was much easier for me and much better tasting. I have a great recipe for chocolate cake and fudge frosting that we hadn't had in a while, it was soooooooo yummy! (and yes, I did have a piece)
Aaron and I were really struggling to come up with ideas for gifts this year. One great thing about having kids that don't watch a lot of TV is they don't see all the commercials for the newest greatest things. Consequently, they also aren't much help when you ask them, "what do you want for your birthday?" He couldn't come up with anything more than Legos (which he already has a ton of) so we went back and forth on several ideas until Aaron stumbled upon the best idea ever. Joseph has been studying the solar system in school and has been fascinated with what he's learning. So Aaron found a really good telescope online and had it ordered just in time to arrive on his birthday. He was ecstatic when he opened it and wanted to try it out right away. We had to wait until it got dark but when we did there was a full moon and we were ALL amazed as we looked at the surface of the moon with amazing clarity and detail. You are supposed to be able to see the rings on Saturn too but we are still working on finding Saturn in the night sky....
Joseph's wanted to have a basketball themed birthday party with his friends, which meant we kind of needed to have a basketball hoop. I had no idea how expensive they were until I started shopping around for one. In the end I decided to save some money and found an old free one on craigslist. After I cleaned it up, repainted it and put on a new net it looked pretty good. Aaron sunk it into the ground back behind the garage where there was a concrete slab already poured for who knows what. Now it's our mini basketball court for the boys.
We had so many things going on the Saturday of his party (District Pinewood Derby race for Jacob, birthday party for Lauren's friend, Ben's T-Ball game) that the only time we could fit in his party was in the evening. So we had a pizza party during the dinner hour with a plan to have a basketball game and to watch Air Bud inside the house. Well, things never go as planned. It seems that the big event quickly shifted from playing basketball to running around the property throwing horsetails at each other. We call these "horsetail wars" at our house and our boys play them all the time, grabbing the weeds by the dozens and chucking them at each other as they run around the yard. Who would have known that it would be such a hit when you add a few more boys to the mix. Apparently it was more exciting than anything else we had planned. I was fine with abandoning our party plans in the name of boys making their own fun (really it was much easier for me anyway). However, we did have multiple kids coming in and out needing to be treated with baking soda and water for nettle bites they had acquired in battle. And one boy even fell into the pond and came to the door shivering and soaking wet with pond weeds all over him. It was pretty comical but not at all what we had expected. You just never know what you're going to get when you have a house full of boys.
Here are some random observations that I want to record about my 7 year old Joseph.
-Joseph is extremely generous. If you ask him to share with you or give you a bite of whatever he has he will always say yes. Recently I was with him at a birthday party of one of his friends and they were doing the pinata outside. After the pinata broke and the rush of kids had frantically gathered every last piece of candy into their Ziploc bags it was discovered that 2 of the kids were off playing and missed the rush. One of the parents asked if the kids might be willing to share some of their candy with these boys and Joseph immediately went to them and emptied his entire bag into their two bags. I was speechless. He is such a generous little boy.
-Joseph is a great student. He is very conscientious about learning and prides himself on his school work. He enjoys doing his homework and has a real hunger for learning. He's an excellent reader and has amazing penmanship. His mind is like a sponge soaking up everything he learns in school. During their unit on the solar system he would come home every day telling me new (and very interesting) facts that he had learned about different planets. One Friday he came home near the end of their unit and started making a book about the solar system. Each page was about a different planet where he wrote several facts about the planet and included diagrammed pictures on each page. He stapled the pages together and gave it a cover and presented it to me proudly. It was amazing. Right now they are studying insects and I'm learning a TON from all of the things he comes home and "teaches" me. I love it.
-Joseph likes to be organized and will often write notes on post-its like To-Do lists for what he wants to do for the day. Recently I was organizing his drawers and after showing him how I had organized the shirts and pants in his drawers he had went back later to label the stacks with the appropriate tag.
-Joseph has a very interesting sense of style. He has these brown pants that he loves and I hate. Luckily they recently wore a hole in the knee so now they are off limits for school but forever he would wear these ugly straight leg/slim fit brown pants that I hated but he loved. I kept trying to buy him other pants to get him to wear but he always complained that he didn't like them. When I questioned him as to why he informed me that cargo pants or pockets on the sides are "ugly" and he hates those pants. He also goes crazy if his pants are too loose fit or too long. He likes the straight peg legs and he likes them to hit them exactly at the bottom of his heel, no longer. He freaks out if I make him wear dark denim or any other pants that he doesn't think look cool. I have to keep reminding myself that he is a boy because my other boys could care less what they wear. I've had to send him off to the bus crying hysterically because he "hates these pants." Even though they're actually the stylish ones that look nice on him. It's crazy.
-Joseph thrives when he is praised. You can almost see him glowing when you compliment him on something he's done. I try very hard to shower him with praise for the good things he does to off-set the many times that I have to correct him for crazy stuff he does. Which leads me to another thing about Joseph.....
-He's very, very quirky and regularly does things that make you wonder "WHAT IS HE THINKING!" I have felt like I'm going to go crazy many times. In addition to his spazzy mannerisms like making this annoying hoarse laugh that sounds like a (I still don't know what) whenever he gets to feeling silly, he regularly does crazy things that make you scratch you head in wonder. Recently, Aaron caught him outside with a nail carving lines into the side of our suburban. We had just gotten it back from being washed and waxed and it was cleaner than it had been in years and for whatever reason our nearly 7 year old thought that using a giant nail and carving lines back and forth, several times in random patterns spanning the entire length of the passenger side door would be okay. UNBELIEVABLE! The whole thing was so shocking neither of us knew what to say or do, we were literally speechless. He told me later that he didn't see "what the big deal was and why we cared so much." Ughhhhhh!
-Joseph is easily frustrated when he is working on something new. If he does not find immediate success he will often become inconsolably frustrated and abandon all efforts. He wants so badly to be successful that if he tries a few times and doesn't get the right answer or can't play the piano piece perfectly he gets very upset and will often begin what I call his self destructive talk. "I'm terrible", or "I'm stupid, I can't do this!" It's very challenging as a mother to try and help him understand that it's okay to make mistakes and to keep him motivated to keep trying and not give up. Each week when he has a new song he's practicing for his piano lessons we go through this. He usually starts out the first couple days barely able to get through the piece and sometimes crying that "it's so hard he'll never be able to play it". I have to deal with him slamming his fingers on the keyboard or storming off upstairs because he got to the last measure of the song and then made a tiny mistake which turns into a huge meltdown. But, by the end of the week he plays it perfectly. He was also having trouble passing a level in his math wizard for subtraction a couple months ago. Each week on the day of his test he'd come home from school devastated that he was still on Level 1 for the timed subtraction test. It broke my heart to see him so frustrated and sad week after week. Finally, I made it a priority (I should have done it much sooner) to work on it with him at home. After giving him a bunch of practice tests with similar problems he began to see himself improve. By the day of the next test he could pass it easily at home and he had the confidence to be able to do it at school. Once he got over that hump and realized he could do it he's been doing great.
-Joesph leaves me little random love notes all over the house. I will find them in the office or on my pillow. Usually they just say things like "I love you Mom" or just "I love you" with a little hand drawn heart. He's a sweetie. Speaking of sweetie, look at what he wrote me for Mothers Day. I saw him excitedly working on something the day before mothers day but he was very secretive about it. Needless to say I was speechless when he presented it to me. It's the first poem he's ever written.
-Joseph has terrible luck. He's like me on this. No matter what, when he's playing any game with an element of chance he is sure to lose.
-Joseph is very social and his relationships with his friends are very important to him. We have already had to deal with "playground friend drama." We are working with him on being a leader and sticking up for the kids in the group that some of the boys are excluding. I was really proud of him when he took a stand against a ring leader bully (that also happens to be his friend) that was being mean to their mutual friend. He abandoned the group for the rest of the week and played with the other boy who was excluded at every recess. When they tried to get him to play with them he told them he wasn't going to be in their group if they weren't going to let the other boy play with them too. Granted, I coached him into doing this but I was still impressed that he chose to do it and stood up to his friends in support of the other boy.
-Joseph is still very irreverent with his body. I am seriously worried that I'll be one of those mothers getting a call from the principal in high school telling me that my son just mooned someone in the school parking lot. He just has no sense of boundaries despite our efforts to teach him modesty and appropriate behavior. I try to get him to keep a towel on after the bath when he goes up to his room but he is completely comfortable streaking through the house naked. I probably wouldn't care so much is we didn't have to worry about Lauren being exposed to his private parts. I'm constantly reminding him to dress in his room and am frequently horrified at his lack of modesty in her presence. I just caught him the other night while he was getting dressed for bed holding a metal slinky in front of his private parts and whipping it around like it was the world's longest you know what. He thought it was the funniest thing in the world and I was mortified.
-Joseph is very service oriented. He does his chores but sometimes he will on his own just do somethings sweet without being asked, like unload the dishwasher or organize the shoe closet. It doesn't happen very often but it happens often enough that I know its unusual because my other kids don't do it.
-Joseph is still writing on things. I see his marks all over the house. Writing on the walls, the window sills, the piano! It's very, very frustrating. I keep thinking....isn't he too old to be doing this! Why does he keep doing this? The latest one I found was on a window sill in black permanent marker. It said, "I love mom." Talk about feeling two emotions at once. That was a weird sensation.
-I have mentioned before that Joseph has a very spiritual nature. He is always talking about God and Jesus and will often ask very deep questions of a spiritual nature. He is also very good about looking at life with a spiritual eye and relating every day situations to a spiritual metaphor of sorts. Something recent that comes to mind was when he bore his testimony. On the first Sunday of the month we have a little family testimony meeting in our home where we each take turns sharing our faith and beliefs. We set up the piano bench in front of the fireplace and use the paper towel holder as the microphone. Usually the kids are kind of silly about it but recently Joseph surprised us all with his testimony about prayer and having faith. This is a brief summary of part of his testimony: "Last week when I was trying to feed the chickens (his chore) I was trying to get in their pen and grab the feeder without them escaping but they kept trying to get out because they were following the food container. No matter what I did they kept trying to get out and no one was there to hold the door for me. So I walked away and waited for them to go back inside their hen house. Then I tried to sneak back to their pen and grab their food container but as soon as they heard me they came out of the house and were swarming me again. So I went back out and prayed really hard that Heavenly Father would keep them in the hen house so that I could get their feeder and feed then without them all getting out of the pen. When I went back they were all in their house and they stayed in there the whole time. So, I have a testimony of prayer, I know it works." I also would like to add however, that almost without fail every Sunday when it's time to get dressed he cries that "he hates going to church".
-Joseph will often destroy something he's made or worked hard on if when he shows it to you you do not exhibit enough excitement or interest in his work. Just the other day after picking the kids up from school he was showing me his hole punch card from the Diabetes walk/run. He was very proud that he had completed 38 laps in the 3 days. I was very proud of him too but because I had just received a phone call that was making my mind wander and giving me stress I responded to his card with a "good job buddy." and not "Oh my goodness, that is awesome Joseph!!!!!" (We had already talked about the run in the car on the drive home and I had sung his praises for being such a good runner and being able to do that many laps). Well, apparently none of that mattered because somehow he interpreted my somewhat distracted "good job buddy" as a lack of interest and and he totally called me on it too. He had a partial meltdown because he assumed I didn't care and later that night I found his hole punched card torn up into tiny pieces in a pile on the kitchen table. I've also noticed him do this with pictures or cards he's made for other people. If he's not happy with it and doesn't think it's perfect he won't just put it to the side and start on another one he'll completely shred it to pieces or take a big marker and scribble all over the top of it.
-Sometimes when I wake Joseph up in the mornings I will find him sucking his thumb in his sleep. He was my only thumb sucker and he started doing it when he was 6 months old. It's a sweet little trait that he inherited from his father who also sucked his thumb. One of my favorite pictures I have of Joseph in my head is him as a little baby/toddler in his dark green sleeper pajamas holding his blankie in one hand and having his other thumb in his mouth. When he got older (3-5) he only did it at night when he would sleep. It was so sweet I just figured I'd let him grow out of the phase on his own but alas his pediatric dentist started noticing that it was affecting his teeth and encouraged us to work with him on it. So we used "Thumb Suck" at night and within a few months he didn't suck his thumb anymore. Now that he's a "big boy" (and I know we're going to have to get braces for him anyway) I just smile when occasionally I see him sucking his thumb in his sleep. It reminds me of my sweet little baby JoJo.