Monday, September 23, 2013


The victims.
Andy and Alex got into their first car accident this afternoon.  I'm pleased to inform you that everyone is okay and that it was not my fault.  I am quick to point out that the accident is not my fault because I myself caused an accident,with damage to not one but TWO other cars, over three years ago when I was pregnant with Andy.  Playing the pregnancy card did not get me out of the ticket, FYI.  Just once, I'd love to play some sort of card to my advantage.

But, today, we were on our way home from a pleasant morning at the park when I was rear-ended at an intersection.  There was a tremendous crash and bump, and Alex immediately issued a blood-curdling scream.  This scream was not unlike the blood-curdling scream I myself gave two days ago when a tree frog jumped on my back while I was sitting on the ground outside.  Alex screamed and cried, Andy asked what that bump was, and I went into mild panic mode, pulling off to the side, and grabbing my phone, which was handy, because I had been texting while driving only a short while ago.*

Andy and Alex won't remember this car accident, which, so very fortunately, boils down to an irritating inconvenience.  I remember my first accident, though.  I was five or six at the time, and we were in my mother's Monte Carlo, which my parents still talk about even today.  "That was a great car," my dad likes to say, as if fondly remembering an uncle.  He wasn't in the car at the time- it was just my mother, me, and my sister.  Just like it was only me, Andy, and Alex today. The similarities end there, though.  The total destruction of the Monte Carlo was a family tragedy, and the three of us were lucky to walk away.  My mother hit the trailer end of a truck on a four lane highway, and the Monte Carlo went spinning off into the opposite lanes until we were facing the opposite direction.  I remember my mother screaming and my little sister crying.  And I remember Marcia and I were both cut up on our faces a little, Marcia around the eyes, and that my mother's knee ballooned out into a huge purple bruise.  The Monte Carlo's front gaped like an unhinged, crumpled monster.  And it felt like we were there forever at the scene of the accident, my mother using the land line at the nearby laundry mat for hours on end, calling and recalling my father, as this was the era where we didn't need to use the distinction of "land line."  There were no cell phones.  Dad wasn't home, and he didn't know what was going on until he drove past us, on the way home, and saw the wrecked, former beauty of the Monte Carlo.

The accident shook me to my core at the time, and when I couldn't sleep that night, I remember the flickering glare of my mother's bedroom TV when I went to seek her out.  I'm quite positive that she told me that we were lucky to be alive, which was a terrify notion to me at the time.  What did she mean, lucky to be alive???  Was the concept of mortality and close calls something that I was supposed to have a rational handle during the kindergarten year?  I must have gotten over it, though, because it wasn't until today that the memory came back to me, in stunning colors.  The purple of her bruised knee.  The taupe of the laundry mat phone.  The blue flicker of the television. The brown beard of the truck driver.  The gray of the very lax car seat laws of 1985.

Today, my children were fine.  Alex calmed down after I pulled over, opened his car door, and stroked his face.  Andy was totally fine and thrilled to see a real live police officer and the friendly face of his classmate's awesomely kind mother, who just happened to be driving by and decided to check to see if we were okay.  We waited patiently for the police report to be written up, and then I got back into my smooshed up car and drove us home, where Alex promptly slept the whole thing off and Andy skipped lunch in favor of using the iPad and having a PediaSure.  Like any other normal day!

I am very grateful that our accident was minor and that my children are okay.  I don't ever want to hear Alex's scared scream again, though.  And I want to always have the strength I need to take care of business during difficult events, and to stay calm and not make things unnecessarily frightening for my kids.  I don't know for sure if I have all of that in me, but I think I do, and I'll try my hardest.

Now on to the fun adventure of driving a rental car!  The backseat of which is about to get so sticky and trashed, it will be considered downright unbelievable.

*Kidding!  I don't text while driving, although it's quite possible the girl that hit me today was doing just that.

Friday, September 20, 2013

I'm Sorry!

Andy's been apologizing entirely too much lately.  In the grand spectrum of preschooler problems, having a child who is TOO sorry is probably way preferable than having one who shows little to no remorse at all.  And yet, I am starting to grow weary of hearing Andy say, "I'm sorry, Mommy" and "I'm really very sorry, Mommy."  The thing is, it's not that I doubt the sincerity of his apologies.  Andy is very sincere.  The problem is that he is too sincere, too sorry, too apologetic, too remorseful over what amounts to trivial or nonexistent issues.  The problem is that he cares too much.  Someone needs to tell this kid to man up already.

Here is a short list of what Andy has apologized for in the past two days.

- Dropping a macaroni on the floor.
- Walking too slow.
- Walking too fast.
- Wanting dessert.
- Pushing Alex out of the wagon so that the baby tumbled out head first (Note: This was the one warranted apology, and possibly the least sincere.)
- Talking during story time.
- Asking me to pick him up when my hands were full.
- Wanting to wear a different shirt.
- Having dirty hands.
- Putting his shoes on incorrectly.
- Peeing in his pull-up while asleep.
- Mispronouncing "caterpillar" as "helicopter."  The Very Hunger Helicopter, indeed!

I have tried to explain that Andy need not be sorry for certain things, but when I tell Andy he doesn't need to be sorry for, say, sliding down the slide too fast, he is quick to frown and apologize for apologizing.  In many ways, I feel like something has snapped in Andy and he has switched bodies with myself as an insecure seventeen year old.  And in an alternate universe, sixteen years ago, a teenaged Jackie is suddenly obsessed with watching men unload trucks, excavators dig dirt, and saying hello to every single person in the grocery store.

I wonder if I did this to Andy, if I made him feel like he needs to constantly be sorry.  A couple of weeks ago, we had one of those trying days in which I did a lot of yelling and put him into numerous time outs.  Granted, if my memory serves me correctly, the time outs were mostly deserved and my yelling wasn't entirely unjustified, but it was the kind of aggravating day that all stay at home mothers have every once in a while (I assume) where I felt like I was losing my mind and all I wanted was fifteen seconds of silence in which to pour myself a glass of water.  When I did not get those fifteen seconds and instead had to deal with Andy screaming about Alex and Alex screaming about wanting to drink Drano, I did my own fair amount of screaming, and next thing I knew, Andy was apologizing for everything.  And he's been apologizing ever since, despite a lack of screamy, crazy-go-nuts sort of days and instead a lull of quiet, mostly pleasant ones.  And it is only now I ask myself- which came first, the apologizing chicken or the mild-manner egg of days?

I want this period of extreme contrition to pass, as I obviously don't want to raise children who constantly feel at fault.  And yet, I don't want ALL of this contrition to pass.  Boys, it is good to feel sorry when you have truly done something wrong and hurtful.  And it is good to say it aloud and admit that you were wrong.  This is a good lesson for every grown man I have ever met, and it is grown men that I will eventually have raised.  But, Andy, you must not cross that fine line from secure, occasionally regretful boy to insecure, despairing wimp.  I guess maybe this is a conversation we can revisit when you are a teenager and no longer my little, eager to please three year old.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Alex's First Haircut!

Alex had his first haircut with a complete and utter lack of fanfare.  This haircut, seeing as it was free, saved us between $6.00 (SuperCuts with a coupon) and $20.00 (Kid Clips without a coupon). What do I intend to do with this savings?  Well, I'll pass it on to Alex, of course.  In the form of crackers.

Actually, Andy and Alex both got free haircuts yesterday, so the total savings is somewhere in the neighborhood of $12.00 to $40.00, and that's not including tip.  The thing about children is that they are expensive.  For the most part, the expenses are minimal- a $3.00 t-shirt from Wal-Mart here, a $1.50 cake pop from Starbucks there- but they add up, and fast.  So if you can find the savings in the form of DIY haircuts or by having your first born son sleep in what is clearly a girl's twin bed (that his aunt used for about twenty years before it was handed down), then you have no choice but to go for it.  But don't bother making the homemade laundry detergent- you might as well just commit yourself to a lifetime of oddly smelling sweaters.

Alex's surfer boy blond hair was long and unruly, flapping up over his ears like the wings of some ridiculous, yet beautiful, bird.  He had a peculiar, long cowlick that somehow gave him the impression of looking both drunken and homeless.  Like a wino, I would say.  And while his lengthy, cornsilk hair has become one of his defining features, it was definitely time to clean him up.

And what better way to accomplish this than outside, with the buzz clippers?  For free?

"Time for baldy sours!"  Chris exclaimed joyously, using a term that is clearly from the era of silent films.  He took off his socks in order to get ready to do the hair cuts- because the buzzes were to be performed outside, apparently in Alabama.  Either that, or Chris knows that you cannot go outside in socks, so taking off the socks is somewhat easier than putting on some shoes.  Andy was quick to rip off his own stinky socks, too, but I held Alex on my lap and strapped on his little shoes and buried my face in his beautiful hair one last, sweet time before heading out to the yard.

You may remember Andy's first hair cut.  Alex's was much different.  Alex basically sat in the lawn chair while Chris efficiently buzzed it.  There were no tears, no big adventure to the mall, and really only a tiny amount of squirming.  And it was not until Alex's first golden lock fell to the lawn that I freaked out and realized what we were doing, scrambling quickly to catch the hair clumps like they were dollar bills inside of one of those wacky, windy money booths.

In a matter of moments, Alex's hair was off of his head and in fistfuls in my hands.  First haircut, done.  Chris called Andy over for his turn, and I was left to contemplate the new shaved look of my youngest son.  My baby.

I was relieved to note that Alex somehow looked even cuter without his distinctive blond locks.  His eyes looked even bigger and browner and softer, and the perfect roundness of his cue ball head was more evident than ever.  All in all, the first hair cut was a success.

It's strange what is left over as my kids hit their milestones.  I've had infant carriers and baby swings that I've thrown straight into the trash.  I've gifted crumpled up newborn onesies to a friend with a younger son.  I had Chris drive over a used diaper genie to his sister's house (I sprayed it with Lysol first, don't worry).  There's a drawer in my house full of unidentifiable "art" projects from day care that are basically blank construction paper pages with a few miscellaneous marker or paint smears on them. I have a trash bag stuffed in a kitchen cabinet full of Andy's old bottles and pacifiers. I don't know why I have this bag.  I keep forgetting about it, and then I keep discovering it behind all the pots and asking myself, "What am I saving this for again?"  And then, yesterday, I found myself holding freshly shorn hair from my baby- finally, a true treasure worth the save.  And ever so gently, I carefully tied it up with a little blue ribbon and put it in my nightstand to keep forever.  Along with the cash I might have spent at the mall.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The World's Most Annoying Boy!

There are days that Andy wakes up with his dial already set to eleven.  We call these days "everyday."  He will burst into my room, start jumping on the bed, pull the string to the blinds to helpfully illustrate that it's morning time, and immediately start demanding his milk and very specific episodes of TV shows.  He will roll his toy train into my room and stand on it in order to either climb into my bed for the sole purpose of jumping directly on my kidney, turn on the light, or execute a complicated half cartwheel into the unforgiving air.  He may start assembling or disassembling various shelving and storage units. Sometimes he wakes up with a song in his heart, which will erupt from his mouth so that I hear "Baa Baa Black Sheep" on endless loop for my first five minutes of the day.  Which is slightly better than his version of "Blurred Lines."

Alex isn't much better these days.  He will snuggle with me for the duration of his morning milk, and then it's go time.  Alex will either hand me his completed bottle or very deliberately set it down on my nightstand (which I find adorable even in my early morning cranky state), and then try his damndest to catapult himself off the side of the bed in search of adventure, which generally entails digesting half a box of Q-tips or throwing all of my socks into the trash can.

This morning was no different, of course, except for the fact that Andy was somehow even louder and more demanding than usual.  Finally, we left for the park, where Andy disdainfully noted the lack of children.  We played half-heartedly together for a bit until a minivan pulled up, its driver struggling to maneuver into the parking spot next to mine, which I was half parked in.  (I am really bad at parking.  I am an excellent driver, but a terrible parker.  It must be the thrill of finally arriving at a destination that clouds my good judgement when it comes to staying between two widely spaced lines and not being an inconsiderate jackass.)

"That's my friend!" Andy yelled when he saw the minivan.  We, of course, did not know these people, but that did not stop Andy from running to greet them, showing them his three pennies, and then suggesting a race with the little girl, who was already looking warily at him.

I watched as Andy basically harassed the mother and child, telling the girl's mother that he liked monster trucks and fruit snacks and big, long carrots but sometimes the little carrots, too.  He suggested different games for the little girl to join him in (sliding together, swinging together, sitting on the rocking bumblebee together, pretending to be planes, etc).  The little girl grew increasingly disinterested in Andy's advances.  Luckily, she got a small reprieve from him when the groundskeeper rolled up in his golf cart to collect the trash, as Andy was quick to greet him and ask him four million questions involving the golf cart, the garbage, why did the groundskeeper have a golf cart, where was his real car, why did he take the garbage, where did he take the garbage, and how did he feel about the growing situation over in Syria?

"Come on, Andy," I urged, trying to get him away from the man at several different points, even though Andy had already declared the man to be his friend.  Of course, as I was doing this, Alex had toddled up to the mother of the little girl and was in turns demanding that she pick him up and rooting through her purse that she'd placed on the bench.

"My children have a distinct lack of boundaries," I explained, handing her her cell phone after finally wrestling it out of Alex's sticky hands.

The groundskeeper left and Andy was back on the little girl, chasing her around the swings.  "Mommy," the girl finally moaned, having had enough.  "I don't want to play with this boy!  Go away, little boy!"

This is certainly not the first time I've heard these words directed to my kid.  Go away, little boy.

Andy wasn't about to be deterred, though, and even started following them off to the porta john a minute later.  I had to grab his arm and physically hold him back while he cried out, "I want to go with my friend!  Where are they going?  What are they doing?  I hope she doesn't drop her pants in the potty like me!"  Then when they finally came out and headed over the merry go round, Andy yelled, "Wait for me!" and then ran after them and hopped onto the spinning merry go round, full speed.  It should be noted that it was at this precise time that the little girl declared she wanted to get OFF the merry go round, and away from the little boy.

And at this point, I just wanted to scream to Andy, "WILL YOU LEAVE THEM THE HELL ALONE ALREADY????"

It was time to go home.  I managed to get both kids in the car, where Andy started demanding answers and treats.  He did not accept my explanation that sometimes other kids want to play alone.  He did not accept my statement that it wasn't always a good idea to follow a strange man around a park.  He did not accept that we could not stop for Happy Meals on the way home.  He had questions about the little girl, the mother, the man, the park, the garbage, the pine cones from the trees, why I didn't have any fruit snacks in the car, and where an airplane in the sky was headed.
Andy, getting arrested for being

And I had to bite back, really swallow, my urge to yell, "OH MY GOD WILL YOU JUST SHUT UP!?"

Here's where the struggle comes in.  What do you do with a well-meaning, very social little boy with an active mind?  Do you suppress his urge to be friends with everyone and ask an infinite number of questions?  Or do you allow him to pester other children and parents and strangers to the point where little girls come to loathe him and even a friendly mother becomes irritated?  And is it okay that sometimes I want to scream at him to just STOP and TAKE A BREAK?  That sometimes it's all just too much, and the whole universe is craving just sixty seconds of quiet time from him?  Do I nurture his loud, friendly, inquisitive, and inherently annoying nature or do I sit him down and say, "Andy.  Listen.  Enough is enough."

I've made it clear I love both my kids more than life itself.  But man oh man.  At least we still have nap time.  It's T minus one hour until they wake up, simultaneously, ready to run like animals, hound well-behaved children, and extract a series of answers from strangers. Serenity, now!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

This Blog Post Is Not Funny!

Being a mother to Andy and Alex means that- at least for now- I have two people who love me unconditionally, no matter what, regardless of any of my many character flaws and simply because I am their mommy.  My husband, I suppose we love each other *almost* unconditionally, unless I have left food to rot in the sink (his major complaint) or he has kept me up all night with bearish snoring (the whole tri-county's complaint).

These two boys really do think I hung the moon.  I have to think that's one of the major reasons we end up having kids- to experience the pure, unadulterated love that passes back and forth for no other reason than the fact that we exist.  To be a mother is to love so hard that your very soul feels like it's going to crack wide open and spill out into the universe.  And my children love me back perhaps not as intensely but with a need that is still raw and unfiltered.  I feel their love in the way they climb so deep into my lap and lay their heads against my chest, in the way they burrow their faces in my shoulder and rope their skinny little arms around my neck.  I feel it when Alex toddles up behind me and throws his whole body into the back of legs, sticking his soft little face full on into the backs of my thighs.  I feel it when he climbs on me like a jungle gym, those joyous giggles erupting from his sweet, kitten-like mouth as we play, the way his eyes shine with happiness when we laugh together.  I feel it during his morning bottle, when he nuzzles against me under the blanket and keeps his hands rested near my heart.

My boys.
Andy, he tells me loves me.  He gives me kisses the way I give him kisses- randomly and without announcement.  He tucks his hand inside mine and trusts me fully as we cross the street or head off on a new adventure.  His actions are for my benefit- jokes to make me chuckle, good behavior done in plain view with a glance my way to make sure I noticed his sharing or other kind act, a completed puzzle to earn my praise.  He picks me flowers on walks, draws pictures for me, and wants me to witness his every action.  He wants to sit on the counter while I cook, wants to stand next to me while I brush my teeth, and wails with despair on evenings when I leave him behind for a night out with my friends.  He is my constant, loving shadow, and I could be the biggest jackass in the world, the most annoying and unlikable person alive, but as far as Andy is concerned, I am the best thing ever.  And it is still amazing to me, after over three years of being a mom, that nothing else about me matters to this kid except that I am his mom.  Mistakes I've made, my own self-doubts, however awkward or stupid I've felt, if I leave the house with especially bad hair and an unflattering outfit, moments of being snarky or rude, poorly timed comments- none of it matters to Andy.  He still gives me the widest smile every morning and has an opinion of me that would be a perfect 10.

How long does this last, I wonder?  Do I have a mere couple years left before Andy starts feeling like I'm too much?  When does he start getting embarrassed of me?  I do remember the years of loving my own mother without that fog of irritation hanging over us, but those are memories from when I was too young, too little.  I fear for when my boys start to judge me or don't so freely show their love and affection.  I feel lost and alone just imagining it.

Which is why I try to soak it in while I have it, why I try to remind myself that these are the days and that I need to stop and pause and bathe in it without getting frustrated over sticky hands or slow poke mornings or screaming over behavior that, while not entirely naughty, is just too overwhelming at times when it happens in consecutive bumps.  But that's easier said than done. Because sometimes these kids make me want to pull out my own hair or scream into a towel or throw something so hard it shatters.  Sometimes it's more than sticky hands- it's a disaster.  Sometimes it's more than a slow poke morning- it's downright disobedience complete with hitting, biting, pushing.  And sometimes it's behavior that's beyond naughty- it's the kind of horrid behavior that is truly, utterly deserving of corporeal punishment.

None of those bad moments make any kind of dent in how I feel about my children, though.  I think it's just all part of the package.  There are the outwardly lovey dovey moments of being a mother and then there are the moments when you have to search a little deeper to find it because everyone at that time just happens to be crying over a fight involving two boys, one choo choo, and a head injury involving a small dump truck.  But it's there.  Andy and Alex, I love you so much, all day and all of the time.  And please love me forever, too, just as you do in these fleeting moments.  This is my pathetic plea to that ticking clock.