Monday, October 26, 2009

Still More O-Speak.

If you will remember, dear old Scout recently had some mild health issues. Our carpet is a little worse for it, so we purchased a carpet steam cleaner (Used the $100 rebate coupon I got at BlogHer from Bissell! Already got the check back!). Haven't used it yet, but it's sitting in the dining room. N. likes to climb on it. O. likes to tattle.
"Mom! N.'s standing on the pee cleaner again!"

N is babbling in a very cute way about something, and getting enough attention that she keeps saying it: "N., let's stop talking about this already!"

"Everyone knows that the world turns around and around."

"Mom, did God make even the dogs? Does Scout know God?"

"Mom, you are ruining my life." (This is later attributed to N's Barbie and Pegasus DVD. I knew Barbie was a bad idea.)

"I love you bigger than our whole house. I love you bigger'n the whole world."

"When you put your arm around me, that's called snuggling, right?"

"Can you believe it is October? And summer is gone? It is almost Christmas! Well, it's almost Halloween."

"What is spring all about? What is autumn? Why did they name my friend Autumn, if that's the same as fall?"

"Splendid!"

"Everyone in my class knows my name. And I'm not even friends with all of my schoolmates. Just some of my schoolmates." (Seriously. Who says 'schoolmates'??)

Better not change those reality TV child labor laws yet:
"Mom, maybe I should just have a video with me while I'm at school. Then I won't have to tell you all about it."

"We're having story club over here! (Begins to look at a book with his sister) Mom! N. knows what purple is! And a hat! Okay. Story club didn't really start yet. I'm teaching N. some things over here. (Two minutes pass.) Okay. Story club is starting! We're about to read! You don't want to miss it, do ya?"

"Mom, what do you think we should do at the end? You know, when I don't have to go to school anymore? No, when I am all done with school and am a grown up. What should we do together then? It's okay. We have a long time to think about it. I'm still just a little kid."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'm Taking Today Pass/Fail

So, J.'s been traveling for work since MondayCheck Spelling, and isn't due back until after kid bedtime tonight. Although we've had a good week, with good weather, mostly good attitudes, and no illness (yet), it's still been awfully long.
Haunting most of the week has been a steadily growing case of H1N1 anxiety. I've been trying really hard to keep myself from being overly influenced by media hype, and generally creating a situation for myself where I am preoccupied with and panicked by something that is almost entirely out of my control . However, the case where a five year old died in the town where my parents live has been FREAKING ME OUT and I'm not being as successful keeping my mind off of it as I'd like. He had a mild case of asthma. Like a certain two year old girl who lives in my house. And my son's best friend from school went home from school yesterday, took a nap (which he never does) and woke up with a fever.
I won't bore you with all the details of phone calls and research I've done to track down information about the vaccine and its availability. Just know that what I should be doing today is packing so we can go to Cleveland for the weekend. (I have a lead on a H1N1 vaccine clinic there. Do you think I'm kidding?)
I am not even done with the laundry yet. But I've decided not to hold myself to too high a standard today, with the hope I can just make it through. Everything is Pass/Fail today, and I'm really hoping for the "C."

FAIL: Eat some hearty fiber cereal, so at least we'll FEEL healthy. I bought this at Trader Joe's, a store I love but that is not close to me. The cereal itself is a grains/puffs/twigs mix, slightly sweetened and is not that bad. It's the Whole Grain Drink I bought to eat it with that I am giving a big fat "F". I don't think I've mentioned here that one of the few bonuses to N's allergy diagnosis has been my own discovery of rice milk. I can't do dairy products myself, and anytime I had ever tried to substitute soymilk, I felt vaguely ill. I always assumed it was psychosomatic, but still, usually ate cold cereal with water on it. (I know. Gross.) But when N. was on rice milk, I tried it myself, and found I felt no odd tingling like I did with soy. So now I'm a rice milk convert, and eat cereal almost everyday. When I saw this Whole Grain drink at Trader Joe's alongside the other alternative milk products, I thought I would give it a try. Bad idea. It tastes like you would expect perfume to if you drank it. Dumped it right down the sink, without even trying to use it in some other way that might make it less offensive. It was that bad. Hope the TJ brand Rice Drink isn't as bad, b/c I bought two cartons of it.

FAIL: The huge pack of bendy straws I bought at the grocery store for $1.99. They are way thinner than the old ones I had, so that they will not puncture the foil of a drink yogurt top without bending and splitting. So irritating, yet I probably won't throw them out.

FAIL: My favorite knife, which has become very dull recently. I know I'm probably going to get cut badly with it soon, and chopping vegetables, a task I usually enjoy, has become a pain.
However, I have yet to figure out how I'm going to get it sharpened. Nowhere in my normal shopping radius offers this service, and what, I'm going to stick my 6 inch chef's knife in my purse along with the diapers and fruit snacks and take it into the mall with me, two kids in tow?

FAIL: Moose A. Moose singing "Believe in Spring" on the Preschool on Demand channel. This channel often gets left on in the background when the kids are romping around, and there's a loop of clips from the available programming. I'm sure my subconscious has it memorized. And isn't it time for spring to have come and gone?? How about a little ode to fall or something??

PASS: The Monster At the End of the Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover. One of my own personal favorites growing up, we have had this book for probably two years, and O. has always liked it. However, it had gotten lost in the jumble of books for quite a while and just re-emerged yesterday. Since then, we have probably read it at least twelve times. O. laughs hysterically every time. He's finally caught on to the humor, absurdity, and general naughtiness that the book encourages. He thinks it is hilarious to turn those pages, exactly as Grover is instructing him NOT to do. A delightful diversion.

PASS: Cherrybrook Kitchen Arthur's Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix. (yes, the PBS character is on the box) Cherrybrook Kitchen is a company that makes Peanut Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free bake mixes, and this is the one we've tried most recently. Just had to add a stick of butter and some water, and they cooked up really nicely, fluffy and not flat! The kids helped roll them and put them on the pans, and watched them bake as well. "Mom! The balls are almost flatted out! I think they are done!" Quite yummy, too.

PASS: Bungee cord and a roll of plastic craft twine for toys. O. has amused himself for good long stretches of time with these. The bungee cord is a tiny one, taken from his dad's tool box, and works well to create all sorts of traps and contraptions, or simply to connect two stuffed animals together. The twine was a finish line, necklace, and net in the half hour before N's nap today.

PASS: The prospect of some shows my husband and I will enjoy watching together stored up on the DVR. We've got House and Amazing Race and How I Met Your Mother and Top Chef waiting for us. To quote Barney Stinson: "Awesome!" And this evening, while we watch, Flash Forward, The Office, Grey's Anatomy, and Fringe will all magically be recorded. I heart television, and I'm not all that guilty about it. I mean, how awesome was that Sweet Caroline serenade by Puck last night on Glee?

INCOMPLETE: Roasted butternut squash. The house smells amazing because I cut up the one that O. picked out as his take home treat from the pumpkin farm field trip on Monday. You could have picked a small pumpkin, a gourd, or any squash. I think it's strange that this was his choice, but since it's one of my favorite foods, was delighted we could have it to eat this week. I peeled it, chunked it, and stuck it on a baking sheet for a 45 minute roast in the oven. I plan to add it to some pasta and sauteed onion for dinner. The reason the grade is still being withheld on this one is that ever since I cut it up and handled the seeds, I've been feeling like I'm having an allergic reaction. My esophagus is having spasms, and my eyes are itchy -- exactly the symptoms I have when I eat pumpkin seeds lately (Goodbye favorite post Jack O' lantern snack. Goodbye yummy pepita laced salad at Don Pablos.) Hoping it's just that I put shredded cheese on my sandwich today, and not the squash. To be safe, I took some of N's Benadryl. Benadryl usually knocks me out for a full day, so I thought maybe the children's dose would be better. Also, I realized it is expired, so why not use it up? (I know. Wrong for so many reasons. I'm feeling better, though.)

INCOMPLETE: My Kindle is broken. Acting very weird when I turned it on this morning in anticipation of taking it on our car trip tomorrow. Can't tell you how much this bummed me out. But... I called the customer support line, and after only a five minute conversation with a real person, a replacement is on its way. As long as it arrives tomorrow as promised, this will very much be a PASS. Great customer service is so hard to come by these days.

Okay. I may actually be standing in line at a health department two counties over tomorrow trying to get the kids vaccinated and imagine it will potentially take hours out of our day only to be possibly be turned away because we don't actually live in the county. (I recognize that this makes me sound crazy and desperate. But what else am I gonna do??) That means I HAVE to go pack.

Friday, October 16, 2009

What Day is it today?

What makes the difference between a Day full of meltdowns, drama and all around screaming and a Day that sails smoothly from breakfast cereal all the way into naptime and beyond, ending in a pronouncement "It was a great day today" from your son?

Nothing. Not so far as I can tell.

There are times when I fool myself into thinking I might have a clue about this parenting thing. Just one or maybe two.

For example, my husband will do something tricky like pretend to put another cupcake on my daughter's plate when she's screaming that the one that is right there in front of her is no good at all, not like those other ones, those blue ones that only SEEM to look the same over there on the serving plate. And she will fall for it and stop crying. And my husband will say to my mother: "I learned that one from E..."

I will feel so proud of myself. Like wow. I hold the secrets to making my irrational children happy.

On an evening such as this, my children will charm the pants off of every other adult in the room, chattering up a storm, saying all kinds of precocious and adorable things, hugging and consoling each other about some cute fear.

J. and I will remark on the way home "Who were those kids? They were nice."

But then there's the next day. Those same children will inexplicably morph into children that cry for absolutely no reason other than the straw is not sticking out of the cup at the right height.

And I will suddenly be the mother that can't remember that this is the child that needs the water put in the sippy cup before the juice, not the one that needs it poured on top of the juice.

I will be unable to figure out if my son is crying because he didn't get his own red slush from Sonic, or because he has a bad teacher this year at preschool.

Everyone will cry all day long. Not even because I am the one who is tired, or bored of playing dinosaurs and babies, or missing an adult to talk to. Because those things happen too. I understand on those days that I'm the one that's a wreck, and I yelled too much or put off paying attention for a little too long and upset the order of things. Helped to create the general sense of chaos and dismay that color our days.

It's the days that I'm willing to go along, willing to console and empathize, create diversions and projects and we STILL have a bad day that confound me.

I know. They are bored, tired and frustrated themselves. It's no easier to be four or two than it is to be thirty-six. But can't we sometime, sometime, coordinate our schedules and have our good days and bad days together?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dear N., You Know You're the Second Child When Your Birthday Letter Arrives More Than A Month Late.

Dear N.,

In celebration of your second year of life, if not your actual birthday, some thoughts.

There is so much to say about you and who you've become, how do you put it all in one letter, one page, one anything?

What I know is that you are a delight, just as you've been since the day we knew you would be a part of our family. You've been through an awful lot this year, things that could keep just about anyone down, but you've emerged from all the itching, the food restrictions, and the rounds of doctor visits with a winning personality, a real ability to connect with other people, and with the world at large, a sense of humor and air of joy that sparkles right out of those eyes, those blue blue eyes.

"I thought my little girl smiled a lot, but man. She has an amazing smile. She just grins through the whole class. Has she always been like that?"
The dad in your music class asked me this question last week, and I immediately answered, "Oh yes, she's always been my happy baby."

Maybe it's not exactly true that you were always happy. I look at photos of you during that rough patch in the winter and spring before we got a handle on the itching and the swelling preceding your allergy diagnosis and it is clear that at least some of the anxiety I felt got transferred to you. It was the not knowing how to help you that was hardest on us all. Now, that we have clear answers, and plans for treating you, it seems the only restrictions on your enjoyment of life are the few foods you can't eat.

I watch you slide face first down a slide on the playground just for the pure joy of it, chase after your brother and the other big kids in tumbling class as fast as your feet can run down the tumble track and jump with NO fear off the end into the big padded "pool." I watch you clap your hands and twirl, and sit right in the middle of the story blanket at music class. I watch you laugh with abandon as you make some funny motion that will delight your brother. I can hardly remember a time when you weren't this delighted with life on a regular basis.

You are so much more willing to engage with new situations than your brother ever was, and I love the way you participate in life with so little anxiety. I wouldn't call you gregarious, as you still have to check to see if I am close by, and come back over for some "up" time in my arms after you dance, wave hello to a potential new friend, or show off your newest "Shortcake" doll.

In the last month or so, you've started to speak in phrases. You've always been good at communicating, though you were slow to use actual words to do so. Facial expressions, gestures, and just grabbing my hand and taking me where you wanted to go worked quite well for you for a good long time. So it still takes me by surprise at times when I realize that I'm actually having conversations with you, not just interpreting your body language. I tuck you into your bed at night, and you give me instructions:

"Monkey night night." (Put my stuffed Curious George next to me and cover us both up with a blanket)
"Cowie tummy." (Now put that giant stuffed horse right on top of me, on my tummy.)
"Dove Ew, Mommy. Munning." (Love you Mommy. See you in the morning)
And then in the morning, when you wake up, and I go to get you up, you greet me with:
"Hi Mommy, hi. Munning." I get the distinct impression that nothing could thrill you more than to see me, and I don't think I have to tell you how amazing THAT feels.

Oh, you are not all sweetness and light, not all sugar and spice and everything nice. I don't know whose little girls are made of all that. No, you're pretty darn demanding, and have the shriek to prove it. The facial expressions and gestures still go a long way in this regard. Yesterday, you shot me the evil eye right out from underneath your eyebrows. Also, when you recovered the princess book your dad and I told you was missing (we really didn't know where it was!) from underneath the coffee table, your dad tells me the look of 'how-dare-you' triumph on your face was unmistakable. And if something is smelly, or messy, or otherwise potentially off-putting, you loudly proclaim "Ewwww. Dohhss!" with a definite crinkle of the nose.

You are a girl, there is no mistaking that. Ponies, Strawberry Shortcake, stickers, stuffed animals, and babies, always the babies. These are your favorite things, and you actually play with them on your own. You fill up your purse, ask for crayons to color in your Little People book (Girl. Girl.), then make me tea and plastic hot dog soup. And then, because you are lucky enough to have a big brother, you go pile up some dinosaurs and cram as many marbles and bouncy balls as you can in your purse on top of the ponies and hair bows.

O is still your very best friend, and you are missing him when he's at school, so much so that you often squeal and run to hug him when he comes out of his classroom at the end of his day. But it is clear you are loving having some time on your own, for you and I to go to the grocery store together, sit at the table and play with playdoh, or just snuggle in a chair and eat dry cereal out of a cup.

I am so glad I get to be your mom.

Happy Belated Birthday, sweet girl.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Lucky Guess

Yesterday, I actually had the local news on for a little bit in the evening, just as the weather report came on to inform us that O's very first field trip, a visit to the pumpkin farm for a hayride, will most likely be accompanied by by rain and mud. We had some discussion about the fact that he would most likely get to wear his boots and raincoat.
Today, the rain arrived a little ahead of schedule, and as I was wiping the dogs paws off, O. looked thoughtfully out at the rain splashed driveway.
I thought he was getting concerned about the pile of berries he had plucked from our burning bush and left for the birds, but instead, he asked, "Mom, how do the weather people know what is going to happen? Is it just a lucky guess?"
I explained that they study the wind and the clouds and what's going on in the rest of the country and that they use their computers help them figure some of this out as well.
"Oh wow. That sounds really cool."
"Do you think you'd like to do something like that someday?" I asked.
Well...it does sound cool, but also really hard and tiring. Do you think they ever get to sleep?"
I tell him that one of his friend's mommy does this for a living, and remind him that he's seen her on TV before.
"Oh. Yeah. And does she get to have a drink? And eat something sometimes?"

P.S. I am working on a much overdue post to celebrate Miss N's second year, just so you don't think she's being neglected around here. Look for it soon. (Maybe if I write it here, it will happen more quickly??)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Compulsion

I can barely remember a time when I didn't call myself a writer. I've been scribbling stories since I was a kid and ripped off the plot of "The Popcorn Dragon" (a lame story I read in school) and called it my own. I've written plays for puppets, scripts for magic shows, and newspapers with single copy subscriptions.

I've kept journals off and on, written short stories and essays about my life. When I was a teacher, I was most energized when I was helping students work through the painful process of writing. For a two year period, I even worked at a serious level on a book of poems, and emerged with a degree in creative writing. I still claim the title of poet, though I haven't written a single line of verse in six years. I call myself a writer, because I think in terms of character, voice, and phrasing. I understand the world through metaphor, often living figuratively instead of literally through struggle.

In my teaching history, I've come across many who were afraid to claim the title of writer, afraid to let their own voices be enough to share their experiences. So maybe it's my training to encourage reluctant and timid writers that allows me to so freely call myself a writer. After all, I've been telling my story my whole life on the page, what else would I be?

However, there's always been a disconnect between my willingness to claim the role of writer and my ability to maintain it as a constant in my everyday life Writers when interviewed always talk about the urge to write, the compulsion, the hunger, the NEED to get words on the page, to create, to tame the beast that compels them to listen to the characters or the ideas that are speaking to them in their heads. While I recognize I'm lacking the ambition and drive that would push me out into the frightening arena of publication, what's more puzzling is that for much of my life, those beasts and voices simply haven't been hounding me. I could go long stretches, years even, without writing anything of real substance.

Part of it was that I never saw a purpose to what I was writing. I'd jot down a scrap of this, an encapsulated essay on that, a line or two that really captured the essence of how I was feeling at a particular time, and then the blank book I'd started would be abandoned until I had to do a timed writing assignment along with my students, wherein I'd jot down another thought or two. But they were all jumbled up, no real order or direction to any of these ramblings about myself, and certainly no audience. For that is something we discussed a lot in my writing classes. Who is your audience? What are you writing this to accomplish? And the answer to that question was always 'I have no idea.' So the blank book would get put on a shelf, until I got another one as a gift, and the process started anew.

Until that is, until I found this blog. And suddenly, there was a format that fit exactly all the writing I'd been doing all these years. Certainly, it's not as polished as the writing I did back when I was a practicing poet, but then I had a workshop to answer to, and an assignment every week, and time and reason to revise. But every day, I flip open my laptop, and staring back at me from the bookmark bar is the title of my blog and the reminder that I probably didn't write anything yesterday, or the day before, or maybe even the week before.

And while there are not so many of you that make up my audience, there are a few, and so I feel an obligation again to produce. If only to gain the satisfaction of a couple of written comments, or the idea that my husband who is traveling will have a concrete way to participate in the activity Small World while he's absent, more fleshed out than I'd be able to convey in a phone call. And certainly, it's for me, as well. The days I can compose a post and actually get it on the blogger screen are days that I feel like I've won the battle against entropy that is raising small children.

I don't achieve poetry here, not that often. I don't even get half of what I'd like to write down. There are times when I get so overwhelmed by the fact that I've missed so many moments that I wanted to digest, crystalize and treasure that I can't even write a single word. But always, I am drawn back in, beckoned by the blogs of others that I read and am in awe of, ones that can coax beauty and sense out of almost every single day in the form of a post.

There are times when keeping a blog seems far too much for me. I get a sick headache feeling when I try to figure out where in the day I'm going to carve out the moment to do some writing other than in my head. But guess what?

I'm writing in my head.

Nearly all of the time.

HOLY CRAP.

That sick headache, I fear, means I'm becoming even more the real writer I've claimed to be for so long, but was secretly afraid I wasn't. The beasts whisper to me in the night of posts I'm supposed to be writing. The voices of my children, my characters, long to speak from the screen. So many of these ideas and stories have slid away from me before I've gotten there, and I feel actually sick about it. Today I realize that this means I'm doomed.

Doomed and compelled to continue to be a writer.