Friday, September 26, 2014

Boys In The Hood!

Andy, Alex, and I went on a walk after dinner tonight.  This is what our walks look like.  Andy rides ahead on his bike while I call out his name, repeatedly, to use his brakes and stop at corners. The whole neighborhood knows his name.  I keep up a peppy stroll behind him while dragging the wagon, inside which sits a super-chillaxed Alex, all lounging and enjoying the ride.  Alex wears his helmet out of choice, looking a bit odd. It's like he's got cranial issues, which I suppose he does, since he is constantly falling and hitting his cranium. Just today, he got super excited when he saw that I had one of those cheese and breadstick snack packs (the kind where the ratio of golden cheese type product is way off in terms of stale little breadsticks).  He ran wailing towards me to get a taste of breadstick and cheese, went to grab the snack pack, missed completely, stumbled, and then slammed his head into the refrigerator.  What a klutz.  At least it distracted him from wanting my snack.

Remember this awful boy from "A Christmas Story?"
  He haunts my dreams.
So we're on our walk, and we pass a couple of older boys playing by some trees.  I would guess the boys were about eight or so.  Andy immediately yelled out a cheerful hello to the young lads, informing them that his bike was Hot Wheels and had an "engine."  The boys barely glanced up, as they were in the middle of sawing one of the trees down.  Now, from my vantage point, it was kind of hard to see if they were using a REAL saw or not, but it sure looked like it.  And my first thought was:  What a couple of little assholes.  There you have some typical boys, using their free time to kill nature.  Would eight year old girls ever try to saw down a tree?  No, of course not.  Girls aren't idiots.

To be fair, I've seen these boys before, and last year they were throwing snowballs at passing cars, which also deeply irritated me.  So, when I saw these boys sawing down the tree, it just added to my list of reasons why I did not like them.  There you have it.  Two pretty decent reasons.

Potentially, this is a problem, as I have two young boys. I am constantly looking at boys in the 8 to 12 range and just thinking pretty hateful thoughts.  I see them bullying at the park.  I hear their awful dares and stupid ideas.  Their looks of mischief do not delight me but instead inflame me.  I look at 8 to 12 year old girls, however, and think, "What lovely children."  Because it seems that whenever I see young ladies, they're doing something nice, such as reading or in some way assisting the elderly.

How will I handle my own boys once they become assholes throwing snowballs at passing cars and chopping down trees with what I can only assume is a stolen saw?  Of course I will love them, but how much will I like them?  Fortunately, a couple things give me solace.

One.  TEENAGE boys don't irritate me as much as TEENAGE girls.  A group of teenage girls is far more annoying and distasteful than a group of teenage boys.  I think it's the clothing and all of those insipid hearts over their i's. So, if anything, those annoying years will just be a hump of sorts.

Two.  I clearly remember being around a friend's toddler when Andy was just an infant thinking THIS KID IS AWFUL, WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WHEN ANDY IS THAT AGE AND I START TO LOATHE HIM?  Obviously, my love (and like) only grew, even during the toddler years.  So hopefully it's the same for the grade school years.  Fingers crossed!

Three.  My boys aren't going to throw snowballs at cars or hack down trees.  They're not going to be as deeply annoying as other kids in that age group because I'm an excellent mother who's going to somehow find a way to raise them in a bubble and suppress all their natural boyish urges. That sounds healthy, right?

Four.  Other people's children are just more annoying than one's own children.  This is a fact I know to be true and almost any mother will agree with that statement, except for a couple women I know who have TRULY annoying children.

Five.  That's still some time away. I still have time with my little boys as they are now: sweet, thoughtful, loving, kind.  Sometimes a little awful, but really only just sometimes.

It's true, these are the years I would like to bottle up.  Andy who proudly gives me a beaded necklace he made for me at school and makes me promise to always wear it.  Alex who comes barreling out of his preschool class into my arms (knocking his cranium against me) in pure delight just to see me. I see these older boys, and I cringe, because they don't match up with the little guys I have at home, in my house, sitting next to me on the couch, cuddling up to Mommy to the tenth degree.

But of course they do match up.  I just haven't made the connection because I'm not there yet.

Regardless, please let my two boys be less deeply annoying than other boys I see.  Let my gender bias be proven wrong somehow.  Truly, let it be that ALL grade school kids, boys or girls, are just equally awful.  But, for real, let teenage boys be easier to be around than teenage girls.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bible Banging!

The boys are enrolled in a preschool at a church, which is quite funny if you remember how I struggled with sending Andy to one specific Christian preschool when he was two.  That one I had a couple of issues with, though, mainly the fact that it operated out of somebody's house and just felt... wrong.  I went with my gut on that one, and after two years of being preschooled at the park district, we switched to a very lovely Lutheran school that we are all quite happy with.  I'm mostly impressed at the level of CONTROL the teachers seem to have over the children.  At the park district, you could always hear a lot of ruckus and yelling coming from the preschool room.  At the church preschool, the children file in politely, know where to find their seat, and begin to quietly work.  I have to imagine that the children are better behaved in part because of the teaching style employed and in part because they all are now living with the absolute fear of God.

Of course, Alex doesn't report too much home to me aside from naming the snack that he was given and occasionally name-dropping one of his friends.  But Andy is providing me with a lot of information, often volunteering, out of nowhere, "Miss Laura has a book called the Bible and everything in it's THE TRUTH."  When he says this, Alex will pipe up, "Bible!  Bible!"  I guess he is trying to communicate that on Monday he not only got cheese crackers but also a dose of Bible!

And before I continue any further, let me just say that I am in agreement with all the Christian tenements and basically think it's a good thing that the boys are getting a religious education.  But man oh man.  I think religion may be a bigger focus than learning to read or count.

These are the things that Andy wants to know:

Does Jesus love ME, too?

Am I going to go to Heaven one day?

Why did God make all the creatures?

Do I know Adam and Eve?

How many eyes does God have?  Because Andy thinks he has a HUNDRED so he can see EVERYTHING.

Do I remember when it rained a lot and all of the animals had to get in the boat?

Why didn't I kiss my dead Grandpa to bring him back to life?

Oh, wait, that last question was after watching "Snow White."  To which I didn't have a good answer other than it's only true love's kiss that brings one back to life, and that's only in cartoons anyway. Now who wants a doughnut?

Andy is extremely interested in Bible stories, and there is no more effective way to quell his occasional naughtiness than to remind him of the hundred eyes of God.  Which is the obvious response, I'd imagine.  I do fully expect him to start acting a little more righteous in the house and perhaps begin pointing out my occasional sinning, mostly taking the name of the Lord in vain and forgetting to keep the Sabbath day holy.  What, that's every third Monday, right?

But, really, upon review of the ten commandments, how is MURDERING SOMEONE on par with coveting a neighbor's ox?  I myself have a lot of questions about religion but will keep them to myself lest Andy decides to school me.

I am interested to see how Andy's (and Alex's) beliefs start to form and get uniquely molded. This is an important point in their religious journey, Miss Laura's Bible and the tales of Adam, Eve, Noah, and Snow White.

It's important that my children have some sense of wonder and faith.  It goes beyond religion, like when Andy bemoans that none of his wishes come true. Chris and I have opposite responses to Andy's sadness over unfulfilled wishes.

Chris:  Most wishes don't come true, Andy.  Go to sleep.

Me:  Wishes do come true, Andy.  Just sometimes not right away and how you would expect.  Go to sleep.

I know most of my wishes have come true.  Two of them are at preschool as we speak, amazed how so little fish and bread could feed an enormous crowd while six garlic knots at dinner last night only fed two of us. Sorry, Chris and Alex.  Andy and I ate all the garlic knots.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Alex, Talking!

Well, it took long enough, but Alex has burst onto the scene with his vocabulary, combining words and making short sentences as if he were Billy Collins, the Poet Laureate with the best poem titles including "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep A Gun In The House," about a neighbor's barking dog, and my all time favorite poem title, "Picnic, Lightning," which really appeals to my particular brand of paranoid neuroses.

This poet would kill your dog if only he had a gun.

Oh, right.  Alex.  Also, the above paragraph is probably the single longest sentence I've ever written, or at least top five.

But I digress, because we're talking about how Alex is suddenly answering questions and making statements like the official poet of the whole goddamn nation.  My worries have been quashed by his sudden linguistics.  His first full sentence came out a couple weeks ago, and it was perfectly poetic.  "Andy popped balloon," he bemoaned, to which an exasperated Andy cried out, "Alex, will you stop talking about that already??!"  Here it was, Alex's first subject-predicate, and Andy was already irritated.

Now Alex is explaining that he wants grilled cheese in his mouth for lunch and that teacher Nina gave him a snack banana.  There are other non-food related items, such as waking up in soaked pajamas and needing two mints, one of which will be for Andy.  I'm going to pretend the mint request is non-food otherwise I'm forced to admit that half of Alex's caloric intake these days come from Altoids.

And so I'm not terribly worried about Alex anymore, at least not in terms of his ability to communicate.  There are other issues on my mind though, such as the fact that he seems to be done with napping, his clumsiness is bound to send him AGAIN to the emergency room sometime soon, and when I kiss and cuddle him and ask him who he loves, his answer is not me, Mommy.  It's Andy. Alex loves Andy best despite the fact that Mommy supplies all of his basic necessities for living and Daddy lets him stay up late.  The little goofball chooses Andy- the one who popped his balloon.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Captain Andy!

Today, Andy found his Perfect Friend.  We were at the park, and I would have gotten Perfect Friend's contact info if not for the fact that her male caregiver seemed kind of skeevy and slightly sex-offenderish.  In fact, when I first saw him sitting on the bench, I immediately assumed he was a pervert and made a mental note to make sure my kids didn't run by him. Mental note:  Pervert on the bench.  Also, get more goat cheese from Aldi.

Captain Andy, sliding into the ocean.
This girl was either his daughter or granddaughter, hard to say.  But she approached Andy with a smile and a just-happy-to-be-here attitude, accepting Andy's matter-of-fact statement.  "I'm the captain of this boat," he told her, gesturing to the playground structure that was acting as his ship.

"Oh, captain!"  the little girl replied.  "Okay!"  She then proceeded to follow Andy around his boat, asking of various playground features, "Captain, what does THIS do?"

"Oh, that's the slide into the ocean," Andy would remark.  Or, "That's the monkey bars across the ocean.  That's the slide into the OTHER SIDE of the ocean."

"Captain, what does this do?"  his friend would ask again and again.

Andy was just tickled pink to explain all of the parts and pieces of his imaginary boat.  While he did this, I couldn't help but notice another, younger girl across the playground.  As I had dressed Andy and Alex in matching Spiderman T-shirts this morning, her pervert-looking male caregiver had also dressed she and her younger sister in matching peach T-shirts, denim shorts, and white socks with black gym shoes.  I had to inwardly applaud him on the black gym shoes.  I hardly ever notice preschool girls in just plain black Chuck Taylor-like sneakers and it seems like a crime against fashion.

The younger peach T-shirt girl started trailing behind her big sister and Captain Andy just as Alex began to join in on the fun.  I followed after them after being invited into the highest part of the ship, which also featured a bench.  Then, as if the planets had suddenly aligned, all four children sat down.  There was the younger peach T-shirted girl (a blonde like Alex), the older peach T-shirt girl (a brunette like Andy), Andy in his Spiderman shirt, and then Alex in his Spiderman shirt.  It was a perfect visage, the kind of photo that you might one day see in a wedding slideshow.  Abruptly, it was as if Andy could read my mind.

"Mommy," he said,  "Don't you want to take a picture of us?"

YES, Andy, I totally wanted to take a picture.  It was picture perfect, you two boys and your perfect girl counterparts.  But of course, I couldn't, as it's the number one cardinal rule of cell phone photography.  Do not take snapshots of other's people's children.  Or grandchildren.  Or whatever relation they are.

The boys and their perfect girl friends played happily for a while longer until I had to break apart the foursome.  We did, after all, have goat cheese to buy at Aldi.


One other thing happened at the park today.  I asked a woman when she was due with her baby.  It turned out she was not pregnant.  I was mortified.  I am still flushing bright red just thinking about this moment.  If there's some sort of womanly, motherly code, I totally broke it.  Even the pervert on the bench was shaking his head at me.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Preschool? Mmm hmm!

Yesterday was the boys' first day of school.  Andy, as a four year old, is now entering his third year of preschool, which begs the question of, honestly, how many ding dong years of preschool do we actually need before REAL school?  I mean, this is longer than Chris attended college!  Well, the answer was staring me in the face as I sent Alex off to his first day of two year old preschool.  Three years of preschool.  They start at age two and they just go forever, from preschool to kindergarten to grade school and then eventually the exact right two year program at the local college.  Which brings me back to my original point.  X-ray technician? Two years.  Preschool?  THREE years.

Sure, we could just skip two year old preschool (and probably three year old preschool, let's be honest), but then where would we be?  As a family, we'd be at least $140 richer per month, sure. We could probably trade paying for preschool into paying for cable television which requires no commute AND allows the children to wear open toe sandals. But preschool, all THREE ridiculous years of it, does offer so much.  For instance:

Socialization skills.

Basic counting and alphabet skills.

Finger painting in a building that has smocks.

An adult who teaches all the verses to "The Wheels on The Bus" and doesn't improvise with that made up ones about the alcoholics on the bus going barf, barf, barf.

Anyway, I was okay dropping both of the kids off at school yesterday, even my baby Alex.  He ran right into his classroom and barely glanced back at me as I called out good-bye.  Alex has been longingly watching Andy get shuttled into preschool and story time and park district classes for the last two years. He's been waiting for his turn, and here it was.

I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in either class, but especially Alex's.  I've never dropped this kid off anywhere, and his actual listening skills are pretty terrible.  So how did Alex's first actual day go, you might ask?  I don't know.  When the teacher opened the door at the end of class, Alex flew out and I didn't even make eye contact with the teacher, much less talk to her.  I get the distinct impression she's avoiding me.


So the boys are in preschool and I'm in the thick of things at work, right in week three or four or whatever week this is of my part time job.  It's going well so far, and the two nights a week plus one weekend day are admittedly ideal and rather easy.  Almost enjoyable.  It's good for all of us that Chris gets that long weekend day with just him and the boys.  I've always been a huge proponent for male bonding.  We have a baby-sitter for during the week as there's about an hour between when I have to leave and when Chris gets home.  It seems to be working out well except for the fact that this young girl is incredibly shy and doesn't actually speak to me or Chris.  She has not said a word to either of us except for an agreeable "Mmm hmm."

"How were the kids?"

"Mmm hmm."

"Okay.... So I owe you eight dollars?"

"Mmm hmm."

"Okay.... So, see you Monday?"

"Mmm hmm."

We've decided that next week, we're both going to ask only open-ended questions.

I myself was a very shy twelve year old, and I'm sure that Chris and I are mildly terrifying to this young girl, especially Chris with his unruly goatee and me with my strict rules such as "Don't bother changing Alex's diaper if he poops; he can just sit in it and wait for his father."  The boys are very happy with her, though, and I'm sure she's doing a great job and at least a little more talking when we're not around, and that's all that matters to me.  She'll come out of her shell one day.  Perhaps, like myself, when she finally enters college and discovers mixed drinks.