Wednesday, December 20, 2017

It's Not Your Birthday!

Emily was laying on the floor at my feet, body curled into a fetal ball, thumb dangling out of the corner of her lips like a half smoked, forgotten cigarette.  "Happy birthday to you," she crooned softly to herself.  "Happy birthday to you.  Happy birthday dear Emmy.  Happy birthday to you."

"It is not your birthday, Emily," I stated above her as I scraped her entire, uneaten lunch into the trash. The sentence was barely out of my mouth before she protested.  "No, it IS my birthday!"

We had been going back and forth for days.  Everyday was her birthday.  Everyday, she asked about her party, when her cousins and papas were coming over, and when she'd get her presents and cake.  When bedtime arrived and the day had closed without the spectacle of said cake, party, and presents, I believe she turned in her crib, hugged her stuffed puppy tight, and said, "Ok.  So TOMORROW must be my birthday."  In the morning, if she was asked how old she was, she'd confidently answer, "I three."  

"No, you are not three.  You are two."

"NO.  I three!"  Tears, instantly, on that beautiful, sweet little face.  "It's my birthday.  I not two anymore, I three."  Where are my damn balloons?

This May baby- late May baby- has many more non-birthday days until she reaches the big 0-3.  Long days filled with singing "Happy Birthday" tunelessly to herself on the cold kitchen floor, of wondering about the start of her imagined party, of waiting for gifts and cake that simply do not materialize.  As I looked down at her sweet face staring up at mine, crinkled in denial of my proclamation, I wondered if I should go fetch the library book I had checked out for her the day before.  It was called, "When Is My Birthday?"  Spoiler alert.  It's not today.  But, no.  Perhaps it was best to just move past the B word entirely.  

She'd been to a couple birthday parties in the last month, most notably her older cousin's (big party) and younger cousin's (even bigger party).  A couple of her classmates at preschool have also celebrated their birthdays.  Surely, Emily has felt that she has waited patiently for her turn to feel special and to be on the receiving end of an infinite pile of slickly packaged presents and an entire cake addressed specifically with her name on it.  "Today must definitely be the day," she likely thinks each morning as we swap out her ten pound wet diaper for a dry one with an air of optimism.  But, of course, she is wrong.

What do you tell a three year old about patience and selflessness?  Wait.  I mean, what do you tell a two year old?  Dammit, Emily, you've even got me partially fooled.  Here's the problem, Emily, and it's a lesson of grace that most of us don't fully comprehend until we are much older, if ever.  Other people will have parties or honors that you simply may not have, but the joy that you have in celebrating with them should not be tempered by the question of when you are going to get yours.  Perhaps, when your birthday rolls around FINALLY in May, you might have a party, or you might not.  There might be a mountain of presents, or there might not.  I'll probably get you a cake.  But hey.  Maybe not.  All birthdays are not created equal, as individual lives which may veer off down different roads aren't either.  But regarding the cake- let's just see how Mommy's feeling.

Yikes.  Perhaps that came out heavier than I intended.  

I looked down at my daughter curled into a knot on the floor, singing Happy Birthday to herself and I put down the plate I'd just cleaned off.  What triumphs await these kids of mine- what heartaches?  It's too much to sift through, sometimes- the possibilities both full and hollow.  What are we to do with these sweet little kids too tiny to understand the intricacies of magnanimity?  Sometimes I just follow my heart.  I scooped up my darling Emily, ignored the fact that she'd dismissed her healthy lunch with an insulting smirk, and found a Little Debbie cake for us in the pantry.  I did not sing Happy Birthday as we ate it together.  I did not say the B word.  But yeah, Emily definitely received my slightly confusing message in between bites of chocolate.  Happy Today, Emily.  Happy Today.  Now excuse me while I go find something to wrap.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Footsy Wootsy Bang Bangs!

"Come on, Emily!"  I yelled from the stairs.  "Time to put your socky wocky ding dongs on your footsy wootsy bang bangs!"

Perhaps these sound like words uttered by a complete lunatic.  Somebody who is playing with only half a deck- a stay at home mother who has been speaking nonstop baby talk for the past seven and a half years and has lost her ever-loving mind.  Or- at the very least- had every vital piece of adult information ever learned replaced surely and methodically with the entire screenplay of Moana, the names of all of Caillou's goofy friends, where to find a library story time at any given moment, and desperate parenting hacks that often fail.

Desperate Parenting Hack #384

If your child won't take her liquid antibiotic, perhaps the prescribed 6 milliliters of it will dissolve into the chocolate Twinkie she's been begging for.

How Desperate Parenting Hack #384 Actually Plays Out

"NO!  NO!  There's MEDICINE on my CAKE! NOOOO!"

"Amelia Jane!"  I yelled, waving the socky wocky ding dongs in the air.  "LET'S GO!"

And of course her name is not Amelia Jane, either.  Neither of those names is correct.  I had a neighbor once hear me call her that, and she asked, "Oh, is that Emily's full name?"  To which I had to reply, "No.  She's Emily Julianne.  I don't know why I call her Amelia Jane.  It's completely incorrect."

But I do call her Amelia Jane.  Maybe that's what I should have named her.  None of it makes any sense.

I know the baby talk and all of the nonsense that comes out of my mouth irritates Chris, but he also spends the majority of his day with adults even if most of those adults make him want to stab out his eyeballs in much the same fashion of how my children often make me feel.  He doesn't get overcome with the urge to baby talk like I do.  However, he's come around to footsy wootsy bang bang.  "You played the long con with that one," he said the other day.  I've been saying footsy wootsy bang bang for years, and now it's finally paying off, because nothing is as satisfyingly funny as when Emily hits her foot against something and innocently, casually mumbles, "Oh, my footsy bang bang."

She leaves out the wootsy part.  Perhaps that little bit is just one step too asinine for her.

Often, I put her socky wocky ding dongs on her footsy wootsy bang bangs and drive her off to preschool, which is something that many parents don't do with two year olds.  Two year old preschool is completely unnecessary.  Three year old preschool is probably completely unnecessary, too.  I mean, unless you add up all the social benefits of a little one meeting new friends and being around different adults and all the mental benefits for a mom to just go somewhere and scream into a pillow uninterrupted for two hours- except for all of THOSE benefits, it's completely superfluous.  Something we do for our tykes to mix it up a bit.  Because even though I KNOW where all of the library story times are- much like an addict can find a meeting whenever they need one- whenever we hit more than one story time per week, I start to feel like maybe I'm unraveling a bit.  Plus, at this point, on child three, I've heard all the stories.  I've read all the books.  I've done all the crafts.  Sure it's new for Emily, but not everything is just for Emily. 

Two year old preschool.  That's just for Emily.  Or so she would be led to believe.

We have our own language.
The other day, I picked her up from preschool only to be greeted by the teacher:  "You know, Emily is having such fun in class, but we just feel bad because we can't understand her a lot of the time.  Is she currently in speech?"

Inwardly, I groaned.  Here we go again, I thought, thinking back to every conversation I'd ever had with Andy and Alex's preschool teachers.  I mean, admittedly, both boys do have documented speech issues. You got me there.  But, come on.  Emily too?  She's a powerhouse of conversation.  She's only twenty-nine months old.  She's basically perfect.  And, let's not forget, this two year old preschool thing?  It's a BONUS for her little life.  This conversation we're having about her speech right here in front of all of the other moms?  An EXTRA in our lives. I will take the remarks about her speech under consideration.  But for now, she's fine, and where should I put my monthly tuition check?

"Hmm," I replied intelligently to the teacher.  "No, she's not in speech...."  It was at this time that Emily looked down at her new shoes.  The teacher smiled at her and said, "Emily is proud of her new shoes!"

Ah, yes, her new shoes.  The ones that we put on over her socky wocky ding dongs atop her-

"Footsy bang bangs!" Emily murmured, sticking her foot out, to which the teacher smugly shrugged as if to say, "See?  What the hell did she just say?"

It may not be a speech problem as much as a consequence of spending too much time with her nutty mother.  Her wacky Jackie.  Her mommy mommy bo bommy, banana fana.....


But, they are only itty bitty once, for such a short time, and the pure joy I get from hearing Emily talk about her footsy bang bangs and her resistance to going down for nappy wappies- it's mine, and I will wrap myself in it for as long as I am able.  Like a socky wocky ding dong around the toesy woesies, I will be warmed by the beautiful craziness of our own easily decipherable secret language for as long as possible.

Now, would anyone care for a wicky woon?

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Somewhere You Feel Free!

My dad took me to see Tom Petty in concert when I was 16.  He got the tickets well in advance, and when the night of the event rolled around, I was mildly surprised to learn we were still going.  Oh, yeah.  A night with my dad.  I have to do this- no driving around aimlessly with my friends tonight, no sleepover at Jane's house, no movie at the dollar show.  I have to go see Tom Petty with my dad, go dancing at the zombie zoo.

It's what I'm seeing a lot on social media now, twenty years later, on the occasion of Petty's death.  The link between Tom and people's dads.  The dads of my childhood loved that guy.  And so did we, the good girls and Indiana boys.  I remember first discovering music and it started in my family room with the tapes and some shiny CDs that I would divide up between my mom's collection and my dad's.  My dad's collection was for sure a lot better.  Toni Braxton sucks. Chaka Kahn can only take you so far.  But my dad had the good stuff.  Journey.  The Stones.  Steve Miller Band, of course.  And Tom Petty.  I remember unfolding the lyrics in the cassette box and singing along with "Refugee."  "Breakdown."  "Here Comes My Girl."  And, yeah, man.  That Tom Petty was pretty rad.

We still talk about that Tom Petty concert, some twenty odd years later.  It was one of the most surprising nights of my youth, how much fun I could have with my dad.  We both sang our hearts out, and I remember looking over at him and seeing him in all his loud, sweaty, rocking out glory.  It's like those celebrity magazines, the ones that show famous doing ordinary things like grocery shopping in yoga pants.  "Stars are people, too!"  Except it was the reverse.  "Dads are awesome, too!"

And when Tom Petty belted out his cover of "Gloria" for his encore and the audience was crazy, thrumming, glowing, and feeling more alive than possible, I could officially admit it, out loud.  This was a hell of a lot more fun than a sleepover at Jane's.

Lately, I've been dwelling on some of the sour bits of my childhood.  I think this is mostly a function of looking at Andy and understanding that he's in the golden age of childhood- the years that feel like they physically form you forever.  I remember a lot about being seven, many more things about seven than being five, like Alex.  I'm quite sure I don't remember anything about being two, but I suppose it's all there, buried deep in my cells.  I'm looking at my kids and praying that when they reminisce about being young, at home with mom and dad, they will have wonderful, joyous, and happy things to say.  I am devoting myself to them, both selflessly and selfishly.  I give to them all I wanted as a kid, or at least I try.  And I attempt to hold the crazier parts back, but sometimes they come spilling out anyway.  You don't know how it feels, I sometimes think with an anxious flair.  To be me.

But when Tom Petty died, yesterday, I immediately thought about that concert with my dad.  One of the best nights of my younger life.  Despite the harshness with which I have sometimes judged my parents, there were shining, surprising moments that I need to give more equal weight.  You wreck me baby.  Yeah you break me in two.  But you move me, honey.  Yes you do.

I am nostalgic about the past and preemptively so about the present.  I take pictures of special moments, both spectacular and ordinary, so that my kids can look at them when we're all so old.  Running the bases at Wrigley Field.  Soccer on Saturday mornings.  That seven dollar ice cream cone.  Drawing in chalk on the driveway.  Riding a roller coaster at Six Flags. Buying all the flavors of Pringles at the store.  A stay at the water park.  Look guys!  Mom and Dad were fun!  They loved you so very hard.

I wonder which musician Andy, Alex, and Emily will associate with me?  Which otherwise happy songs will bring tears to their eyes?  I suppose that's not mine for knowing.  The kids will tell.  And me?  I'll just take it on faith, I'll take it to the heart.

Rest in peace, good man.

Monday, September 18, 2017

My Time Traveling Son!

Before Andy was even born, I was relatively certain that he'd invented time travel.  We had picked out his name, and when I googled it just to make sure that there weren't any Andrew J. Berger serial killers or Fox News commentators, an image of my son popped up- or at least a pretty spot on predication of what my son would look like. He had dark brown hair, brown eyes, and seemed to awkwardly rock a kind of a skinny, dorky look.  He wore glasses- clearly myopic just like his mother. He was a professor in another state, and when I looked at the picture, I  had a tumbling feeling in my gut.  My son had invented time travel.  This was him.  And he had come back to the past to fix a wrong or to apply an academic solution to some future problem.  Who knew- his mission could be multi-faceted. Maybe he'd show up in my life just in time to push me out of the path of an oncoming bus.  Or into it, depending on what kind of mother I was about to become.

Over the years, my suspicion has grown.  Last year, Andy become obsessed with inventing A TIME MACHINE.  That's right.  He has worked hard on his blueprints, mapping out the machine in crayon and talking earnestly about it with his school friends.  Now, I'll be honest.  These time machine plans are a bit rudimentary.  There's usually a pretty big, unevenly drawn circle in the middle of the page where one would assume the time traveler would sit.  Then there's some wires wiggling out.  A couple months ago, Andy asked me what the most powerful battery was.  "Lithium ion?"  I guessed, only semi-confident that I wasn't just making those words up.

"Lithium ion," Andy repeated.  "What does it look like?"

"I think they're rectangular," I replied intelligently, and Andy scribbled in a rectangular lithium ion connected to the wires of his latest time machine circle.

"There," Andy said, satisfied.  "Laminate this, ok?"

Of course, time travel is the ultimate form of entertainment.  Andy and Alex have been captured by the time travel plot lines of Captain Underpants, and I myself often look up "Best Time Travel Books" on the Goodreads website looking for my latest fix.  Sometimes I have to look up "Decent Time Travel Books" because I've already read all of the best ones and now I'll just take something mediocre to keep me going.

"I think I would go back to... 1639," Andy said one day at dinner when time travel was once again the topic of conversation.  He was throwing out a completely random date.  "Yes, I would go back all the way to then.  I'd probably have to wear something old in order to blend in.  Maybe I could borrow something from Daddy."

"Yeah, good thinking," I agreed.  I know for a fact that some of Chris' T-shirts go back 20 years, and they're not even cool ones.  If anyone would keep four hundred year old clothes, it would be him.  "Alex, when would you go back to?"

Alex had his answer ready.  "I would definitely time travel to when I was four," he announced.  "I would time travel to when I was 4 and go find Daddy and tell him to buy the right Skylander Trap Force portal."  This, of course, was in reference to last week's video game disappointment.  You know, the one in which the aforementioned Daddy bought the wrong Skylander Trap Force portal. Alex, with his dry, non-ironic delivery is either a stand up comic in the future or everyone's favorite office coworker at some low to medium level job in which his droll comments at the water cooler are basically what keep all of the other associates from hanging themselves each night.   He never fails to unintentionally crack me up.  To wit, we were recently at Great America, sitting inside the Mystery Van Scooby Doo ride.  I called it a bus when describing it to Emily, and Alex, looking disdainfully around at all of the sticky surfaces, was quick to correct me.  "It's not a bus, it's a van.  A mystery van. Because there's lots of mysteries on the floor."

"That's probably a good era to travel back to," I replied to Alex now.  "Like four months ago, in the pre-kindergarten period.  That was truly the golden age."

Andy, never quite amused by Alex, just ignored us and asked, "What exactly is the time-space continuum?"

Oh boy, here we go. I cut into my chicken and began to wax poetic on the very fabric of time, explaining the intricacies of the universe and of course, the most important thing about time travel, which was that you could never accidentally kill your grandmother.  "Just think," I said, "about the paradox created if you did something and your grandmother died and then I wasn't born and then of course YOU weren't born."

Andy's eyes got very wide, and Alex, who I had assumed checked out of the conversation five minutes ago, poked around his plate and piped up, "Yeah.  Maybe we shouldn't do any time traveling. It sounds pretty unsafe."

You know, it does sound pretty unsafe.  Would these wise words convince Andy?  Later that day, I googled his name just to see.  Andrew J. Berger- my grown up son, the professor- still came up first in my search.  He was still here, existing in the present.  My time traveling son who figured out the exact precise way to connect the lithium ion battery to the time travel machine.  You did it, boy.  Now even though we've all been born and it's technically okay to kill your grandmother- it's probably still best if you don't.  But maybe you could go back a few weeks and drop Daddy an anonymous note about that Skylander portal, just to be a nice big brother.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Unfair and Biased!

After I put Alex on the bus to kindergarten yesterday, Emily and I hopped into the minivan and raced over to the school.  We were there to give him an encouraging wave as he entered the building, found his teacher, and sat among his classmates.  He was quiet and still, not chatting or crying, not fiddling around or getting up and switching seats.  He gave us a brave smile now and then, and my heart nearly broke in two when the teachers all led their classes away to their room.  Alex brought up the rear of his group, looking aimless yet tentatively stoic as he disappeared from me.  There it was.  My baby boy was gone to school.

I didn't drive to the school like that when Andy started kindergarten.  I didn't really think that parents were supposed to do that, and so when I put him on the bus that morning, Alex, baby Emily, and I went on with our morning as planned, and Andy started his on his own, sans encouraging wave from a loving face in the crowd.  Later, getting off the bus, he was quick to ask where I was.  "All the other moms were there," he said accusingly.  To which I replied, "Really?  My bad."

I try hard not to treat my children differently from each other, but it's exceedingly difficult not to.  In the grand scheme of things, I'm sure they understand that I love them each (about) the same.  I mean, if there's any differences in the quantity or quality of my love, the fluctuations are mostly minute to minute and tend to even out towards the end of the day, at least if you measure to the closest tenth decimal. But, yes, I did drive to school on Alex's first day of kindergarten when I didn't drive to school on Andy's first.  And, yesterday, when Alex and I were discussing the fact that I was there in those first few minutes, Andy was quick to pick up on it.

Alex, realizing at Kindergarten
meet and greet that shit was getting real.
"How come you didn't come see me today?"  he cried.  It hadn't even occurred to me to check in on Andy.  I mean, it would have been impossible due to the fact that I am only one person who cannot be in two buildings at once.  Also, who cares about a second grader's first day of school?  This is your third time doing this, buddy.  The novelty's worn off for all of us.

"I did come see you, though!" I was quick to lie.  Dishonesty- the answer to most of life's problems.  "But your class was too fast!  I got to your building, and you guys were already gone!  I was so bummed out."  I snapped my fingers in an aw-shucks kind of move in order to get my point across.

"Hmm.  Ok."  Andy was willing to accept this explanation, even though I saw a glimmer of distrust in his dark eyes.  "Can I have an extra cookie for dessert?  However many Alex has, plus one?"

I still carry Alex up the stairs at night, to bed.  He's a skinny little bag of bones, and he weighs next to nothing.  Honestly, Emily with her solid, tree trunk legs and chubby little belly sometimes feels heavier in my arms.  Alex is light, and he likes it when I carry him like a baby, which I do, kissing him on his cheeks on the way up the stairs.  He's still transitioning from babyhood, as far as I'm concerned.  I feel like it goes fast once they turn five.  So I soak moments like that up, perhaps a little too flamboyantly, as Andy has complained about having to walk up the stairs.  Obtuse mother that I am, I thought Andy's complaints were because he just didn't want to WALK to bed, to expend any of the energy.  Lazy bastard.  Then, last week, I tucked Andy in with a hug and a kiss, and he motioned for me to move in closer.  Like a secret, he whispered into my ears.  "Can I tell you something?  I don't like when you carry Alex up the stairs.  It makes me feel a little jealous."  And when I leaned back and looked at him, I saw it written on his face.  Hurt.  Envy.  A feeling of rejection.

"Oh Andy," I replied.  "Thank you for telling me that.  I didn't know.  Alex is younger and still small, so that's why I carry him.  Just like I did when you were five."  But the truth, as I was suddenly remembering, was that I didn't carry Andy like that when he was five.  Because I was carrying Alex that way, since he was only three.  In both of these scenarios, Emily was already fast asleep, having her earlier bedtime.  So during the times when it is just the two boys, it always reverts the same way, to Andy being Big Brother and Alex being Baby.

The next night, at bedtime, I grabbed Andy around the waist and scooped him up into my arms, kissing his face and carrying him up the stairs like a newborn baby.  I literally dislocated four of my vertebrae and almost fell down the stairs killing us both, but the look of surprised joy on Andy's sweet face made the subsequent $600 ER bill totally worth it.

Andy and I have our favorite TV shows that we like to watch together that Alex isn't interested in. I'm mostly thinking "Impractical Jokers" and "This Is Us," both of which I understand are super age-inappropriate.  There's a lot that Andy gets to do that Alex doesn't.  Of course, Alex will get most of those things too with age, and probably earlier too if we're all being honest.  And Emily, now that it's just her and me during the day- something that's new to both of us, since I've never been home in such extended hours with only ONE child- well, there's bound to be a whole lot of specialness there. So what's the answer with bouts of sibling rivalry or feeling unfairly treated?

I don't have an answer.  But I do hope that the occasional extra cookie will go far in smoothing over any residual hurt feelings.  If a little well-intentioned dishonesty solves a few problems, maybe emotional eating and/or an extra treat can solve a few other.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Keys!

I lost my keys this morning.  Emily and Alex had finally just been buckled in after the usual fifteen minutes of frantic cajoling.  I never truly understood the idiom of herding cats until I became a mother, specifically Alex's mother, and just getting him into the car in the morning is a task in and of itself.  When I tell him to go upstairs and brush his teeth, he without fail wanders off towards his bed and simply climbs back into it, burrowing into the pile of blankets and animals he affectionately, and irritatingly, refers to as Comfy Town.  While I tackle Emily to put on her socks, he forgets what we're doing and heads off to check if his various dragon eggs have hatched yet on his iPad game.  When I tell him to put his shoes on, I hear him clear on the opposite side of the house singing Elton John's "I'm Still Standing," or at least that one line of it, over and over, ad nauseum, until I tell him it's time to go NOW and he blankly asks me, "Oh.  Are we going somewhere?"

In the driver's seat of the car, I could feel myself teetering on the verge of a panic attack.  Have I ever actually had a panic attack?  I think in order to answer that question, I have to refer you to when I gave birth to Emily.  I went in for my scheduled induction, feeling perfectly normal- or at least no less normal than usual- and when they hooked me up to all of the machines, they gave me a puzzled look and said, "You're having contractions less than five minutes apart.  You're in active labor already."  My body is constantly in a state of frenzy that I am fully used to just pushing through my day even if I can't breathe because my keys are lost, we're late to preschool, I have my morning plans, I have to drive two other kids home later, there are two baseball games to get to in the evening, and seriously, who has time to replace ALL of those keys?  Or, you know, I have a seven pound baby peeking out of me. Same difference.  So, no I have never had an official panic attack. My life itself is just one living, breathing, mostly functioning panic attack.

I rifle through the belongings of my purse, smearing a tube of uncapped red lipstick across the upholstery. There's so much useless stuff in my purse, it's ridiculous, and the next time Emily goes in there and pulls out an unwrapped tampon caked in gum bits, that's probably going to be the final straw on the farm of mortification.  I pushed aside bags of food, old coupons, diapers, wipes, loose change, thinking my keys have to be in my purse, they have to be, I'm just not seeing them, they must be there, shit, they are totally, absolutely, NOT.

Oh, but to retrace my steps that morning!  I know I had my keys when I unlocked Chris' car to get the extra car seat out.  Then I hauled two overflowing bags of landscape waste to my neighbor's house because they pay for landscape waste pick up and, you know, we don't.  Then I took our garbage cans out, both of them.  Then I put the extra car seat in my car.  I went back in the house and literally went into every room, making breakfasts and lunch, getting children dressed, wiping asses, turning the TV volume down, chasing a toddler, putting on make-up, putting together Andy's backpack, going out into the backyard to get a bag of dirt, bringing it up front to the garage, then, while I was out there, watering all the dead spots, sod spots, seeded spots, dirt spots.  Then I walked Andy down to the bus stop, stood around a bit fielding questions about large numbers multiplied by other large numbers, then headed home and yelled after Alex for twenty minutes.  So, somewhere on this map of crazy- from the garbage cans to the landscape bags, to the interior of my home, to the exterior of my home, from here four houses down to the corner and back- SOMEWHERE had to be my goddamn keys.

I sucked in my breath, got out of the car, and started looking.

I felt like I looked everything and still couldn't find them.  The clock was ticking ahead, and the morning was going to go on without us if I couldn't get the car started.  Somewhere in all of this searching and overturning and running around, I found my inner monologue running on high.  It was telling me I had to stop.  I had to calm down.  I had to stop trying to do so much, so fast.  I had to give some things up before I had a full on heart attack.  I had to just breathe.

I got out my phone and called Chris, thinking that maybe I'd dropped the keys in his backseat while I was getting out the car seat.  On the highway, en route to his job that supports five people, I had him craning his neck to look behind him.  I imagined his red car swerving wildly across three lanes while he humored me and felt around back there.  "I'll get off the highway to check," he said.  "Did you retrace your steps?"

"Of course, I retraced my steps, you moron!" I replied.  And then, aloud, I retraced my steps again.  The garbage.  The house.  The backyard.  The car seats.  Oh, there had been Andy's baseball snack back there from Saturday, right before we'd received notification that the game was cancelled due to rain.  A big bag of oatmeal cream pies and juice pouches.  What did I do with those when I brought them in?  I stuck them in the pantry. In the pantry. But first I put my keys in there because my hands were full.

"Okay, I'm pulling off the highway now," Chris said, just as I reached into the oatmeal cream pie snack bag, pulled out my keys, and hollered, "I found them!  Thanks.  Gotta go, running late."


I am not a perfect mother.  I am not a great wife, I'm an insecure friend.  I'm a terrible daughter, and I don't call my sister nearly enough.  Sometimes I feel like I'm floundering as an adult, like everybody else has it together, and I'm running around like a chicken with her head cut off, poorly doing five things at once, and expecting way more out of a four year old than he is actually capable of.  Also out of a six year old.  Not so much out of my almost two year old.  I expect very little from her except her unwavering cuteness.  I'm failing.  I'm falling apart.  My body is in labor and I don't even know it.

But then I find my keys.  I pull them triumphantly out of the oatmeal cream pie bag, hang up on my husband, and I think, "YES!  AHA!  Eureka!"  And everything is instantly wonderful again.  I got this.  I got ALL this.

I just need to find a minute to stop and appreciate it.  And to remember the oatmeal cream pies.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Better Start Packing?!

Andy's Iceless Hockey team won third place!  They won third out of fourth in their division.  If my team won third out of fourth, I would feel rather ho-hum about the whole thing.  That's because I'm a jaded adult who wouldn't bother to get out of bed for less than second place.  But Andy, who has the heart of a champion, cannot be more proud of himself and his team.  This is partly because he doesn't understand that the third place is within his given four team division only.  And partly because they gave him a trophy!

Andy's thrilled to be a winner and to have a trophy. When we got home after the ceremony, he ran the trophy upstairs to his room and immediately dumped it into this big cardboard box he's started keeping on the foot of his mattress.  There's a bunch of stuff in that box.  His Captain Underpants books.  The basket he built at Home Depot.  His wallet.  His diary.  (Entry one is the poetic masterpiece: "Alex is a poop face.")  I watched him throw the trophy in, and I asked, "Andy, don't you want to put that trophy on display somewhere?"  And he replied, "Nah.  I'm going to pack it in my box so I don't forget to take it with me."

Pause.  Take it with him?

"Wait," I said to Andy as he closed the flaps on the box.  "You're packing?  To move out?"

"Well yeah," He climbed down from the top bunk, and in the shadows I saw, for an instant, the first few buds of facial hair.  "I mean, eventually I'm going to have to move out.  When I'm grown up, that is. And that box is full of all the stuff I don't want to forget."

"Makes sense," I mumbled as he moved past me to get downstairs and perhaps brew himself a strong pot of coffee, clean out the gutters, or do something else equally adult-like.  I very clearly remember, two years ago, having to gently break the news to Andy that one day he would grow up, move out, get married to a woman other than me, and have his own family.  I have since learned from my mistakes, and now when Alex tells me he loves me, wants to marry me, and will stay with me forever, I squeeze him tight and say, "That's right, Alex.  You belong here with me.  Until the end of time."  I try to keep my voice from sounding creepy, my squeeze from being painful.

These kids are growing fast, though.  Of course they are.  It's what kids do, and it's the foundation of every mother's mothering blog.  Andy's aforementioned diary contains other hints of this growing, and yes, of course I read his diary.  The lock is not exactly difficult to pick.  "I love Lori," he wrote recently.  Lori!  Who's this Lori bitch and how dare she try to steal my son!  I have since sought out this Lori in line for gym at the school, which is when I see Andy's class while I drop Alex off for speech, and have basically given her the stink eye.  Two stink eyes, really.  Isn't this all too soon?  This liking girls nonsense?  Of course, when I clearly remember my first crush right around first or second grade, my heart sinks like a stone for my children.  Crushes.  They use that crippling, air compressing word for a reason.

Alas, I'm also in deep denial that Emily is turning two next month.  I thought for a long time that Andy was a brilliant baby/ toddler/ child.  Then I thought Alex was really the smart one, as I watched him, as a three year old, put together 50 piece puzzles with ease.  "Forget Andy," I muttered to myself.  "Now my money's on Alex."  Lately, I'm thinking I had it all wrong, and Emily is the real genius of the family.  Of course, a better mother than me would never make such comparisons on her children's intelligence levels, but I never said I was a better mother.  I'll be honest with you, though.  Emily's blowing these guys out of the water.  She can already count to ten, she knows her ABCs, she sings many different songs, and she has a penchant for doing things correctly. She is independent, laughs at jokes, and tackles the playground like a child twice her age.  Truly, she is turning into everything I wish I was as a woman.  Beautiful, fearless, funny, smart.  Looks good in tight pants. Can polish off an entire ice cream sandwich leaving behind nary a crumb or drip. Is excellent at penciling in information on long, complex forms.  All of this does nothing for my denial that she is also growing older.

Now Emily's diary will be a sight to behold when she gets to be a little older.  And yes, I will read that too.  Which brother will she call a poop face?  Which young boy will she get her first crush on? Hopefully it is someone like I think and hope Andy is.  Someone who their teacher calls an "absolute pleasure."  A really nice boy, the kind of boy who thinks ahead and starts packing for college eleven years in advance.

Or maybe a boy like Alex who giggles nervously when he talks about growing up and says, while snuggling in, "I'm going to stay with you forever, Mommy." Either way, I guess.  Either way.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Did you know it's National Reading Month?

I started an ill-conceived journey to document how many books I'm reading this year.  It's like when people with other, more adventurous hobbies chronicle how many countries they're visiting, miles they're running, or meals they're prepping.  It's like that movie "Julie and Julia," where the aforementioned Julie decides to work her whole way through Julia Child's cookbook.  Except I can't eat anything when I'm done.  I don't need to know how to make a roux.  And I'm not working my way through an entire anything.  Or am I?

"How many books will I read in 2017?"  I wondered late 2016 as I finished Jodi Picoult's "Small Great Things" with a satisfied slam of cover.  I tried to do the math in my head.  Maybe two books a month?  Three?  Somewhere between 24 and 36?  Who knows!  But what better way to find out than to snap a picture of each book I finish in the year.  And of course place it on social media for posterity.

I'm getting the distinct impression that I'll be closer to 50 books.  Which is much more than I thought. But we shall see.

I did a version of this when I was a kid.  I had a notebook, and I wrote down the titles I finished, and by the time 1989 or whenever was done, I'd read something insane, like 250 books.  Some weekends, I would crank through 3 or 4.  Perhaps I have given you an unasked for, distasteful peek into young Jaclyn's social life.  Perhaps you feel sorry for such a shy bookworm in red plastic glasses.  Or perhaps you envy me.  "If only I'd read 250 books in 1989," you might be thinking, "My life wouldn't have turned into such a goddamn disaster."

Because 36 year old Jackie has it all.  Including free afternoons with a napping toddler and a self-entertaining, Wii-loving four year old in which she can plow through a couple chapters.  Including quiet evenings tucked into her bed with her lamp glowing late into the night so she can find out what the hell's wrong with The Couple Next Door.  Is my reading a product of being a stay at home mom with heavily routined children and a nighttime social life that rivals 1989?  I don't know.  I think if I were working and/or busier, though, I'd probably read close to the same amount.  Possibly a little less.  I carve out time for it.  Nothing is better and more relaxing than a really good book.  With the Super Mario theme song playing softly in the background, punctuated by the sound of Mario falling off the same simple cliff 27 times in a row.

The only problem is that now that I'm documenting it, I'm starting to think, "Oh crap.  I finished another one," every time I snap that picture.  "This is getting embarrassing."

I care about reading, though, and reading to my children.  I'm pushing Andy to read independently more, and I thoughtfully pick out all sorts of levels of books for the three of them to get into.  My book bag's getting heavy.

Novels for me.

Board books about princesses and grandparents for Emily.  (She really loves books about old people.)

Picture books for Alex.

Easy Readers for Andy.

Beginning chapter books for Andy and/or Alex.

Nothing for Chris.

(That last part is pretty light, at least physically.)

Some of the books I read with the kids, I really get into and appreciate.  Yes, I did like Captain Underpants.  I think Robert Munsch is pretty cool.  Old school Curious George is great.  Unfortunately, most of the books Alex in particular picks out- well, they're awful.  We've gone through every superhero book in the superhero book at the basket, and I know none of these tomes are NYT best-sellers, but seriously, these are the worst written books I've ever read.  Terrible writing.  Ridiculous plots.  Asinine pun-based dialogue.  Abrupt scene changes.  Actually, that last part may be due to the fact that all of these books at the library are missing pages (because they're all checked out by rambunctious boys.  The books in the Barbie and My Little Pony box look a lot more pristine,)  It almost insults my own parental intelligence and integrity to read these aloud to Alex.  But I know this is how readers are raised.  If he's drawn to the insufferable, then that's what I will read to him, and that is true love.

The book I was most embarrassed to take a picture with.
So far.  It's only March!
I love to know what everybody else's kids are reading.  Sometimes I'm blown away by other children's choices.  I found out a friend's daughter, also in first grade, is reading "The Boxcar Children" by herself.  The Boxcar Children!  My first thought, upon hearing this, was flashing back to Andy reading his Level 2 book the night before about Tiny the Big Dog, thinking "Why is Andy so damn dumb??"  My second thought was a much more tempered, "Hmm.  Why is my friend's daughter such a damn genius?"  I then surreptitiously asked my friend for a list of nutrients and vitamins she was slipping into her daughter's diet so that I could mimic the formula in an attempt to boost Andy's own brain power.  She said something about hard-boiled eggs.  It takes like twenty minutes to hard boil an egg, peel it, etc.  Forget it.  Tiny the Big Dog it is!

Which brings me to my final point.  Tiny the Big Dog.  Superhero books with atrocious storylines.  I could write this stuff.  Anybody could.  I just need an illustrator, a couple semi-original ideas, and some more free time.  Children's author could totally be my next career!  But not in 2017.  My afternoon time is already taken up with novel reading for Instagram.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Fun House!

The nice thing about having a preschooler- one of the many nice things, of course- is that you can pick their friends for them.  Sure, your preschooler may express feelings of friendship towards any number of children they encounter at school, but ultimately it is in your hands as parent to set up the playdates with the children of your choosing.  "Yes, that child will do," you might think to yourself in a voice that rings, only slightly, with the tone of evil mastermind as you steeple your fingers together and narrow your eyes at the kind, smiley young specimen.  Then you may find your gaze drifting to a different child, one who is just brimming with a loud and naughty sort of glee.  This particular child is holding a Nerf gun, racing around madly, and demanding lollipops.  He has shoes that leak playground sand for some reason.  "That child will never darken my doorway," you think to yourself, and you don't even bother to smile at his mother, the only woman standing there who would be genuinely grateful for a smile.  You suck.  A little.

Then, your child leaves preschool and is in kindergarten.  Let's just say first grade.  Let's just say your child's name is Andy and has a wild head of hair and a history of poor decision making.  Actually, I take that last part back.  Andy's decision making is mostly sound.  He is now out in the world and he is making his own friends, coming home and discussing other children in that excited tone of voice that adults usually reserve for landscaping or a good deal on a late model used vehicle.  Right away, in first grade, Andy made himself a new friend, a young whippersnapper we shall call Ramone.  "Ramone is always right," Andy said matter-of-factly one evening.  Humorlessly, I laughed in his face.  "No one is always right," I replied.  "ESPECIALLY Ramone."

Nonetheless, having seen sweet cheeks Ramone out and about at school functions, I decided I really liked the always right, never wrong young man, despite his obvious ego situation.  "Yes, you can have a play date with Ramone," I told Andy.  "Let me just find his mom.... Oh, there she is."  We exchanged numbers after an awkward hello.  I've been told by other friends that when I start greetings with "Are you such-and-such's mom?  This is awkward but..." it sounds like I'm about to pronounce that their kid was doing something shitty and NOT that I was interested in setting up a play date with their mostly UNshitty child.  Ironically, my pronouncement of awkwardness once again makes things more awkward.  It's as if my social life is a never-ending loop of eighth grade.

And so, three months later, young Ramone finally came over.  These playdates can take a while to plan.  The boys had a wonderful time after I laid down all of the ground rules.  No being loud after Emily goes to sleep.  No running or fighting or throwing.  No crumby snacks on carpeted areas.  But HAVE FUN, KIDS!  And they did have fun!  Alex too, who announced, "Ramone is my friend, too!"  Ramone came back a week later, and then Ramone's mother invited Andy over.

"I want to go, too!"  Alex yelled excitedly when I told Andy he was going to Ramone's house.  I got down to eye level with Alex, which is one of those parenting tips that really only works if you're delivering good news, not bad news. 

"You cannot go to Ramone's," I told Alex.  "Only Andy was invited.  Ramone is Andy's friend from first grade."

At this point, Alex was sobbing so hard and so loud that the neighbors were dialing the first few digits to DCFS.  The across the street neighbors.

"You will have your own playdates with your own friends," I said, struggling to be heard over the sound of misery.  I racked my brain, the pictures of the boys in his preschool class spinning through my head like images in a slot machine.  Chucky.  Ivan.  Harry.  Jackpot!  "I'll talk to Harry's mom.  Please stop crying.  Please."

He did not stop crying.  His wails continued as we all piled into the car, Andy grinning from ear to ear, and went on until we got out of the car three minutes later at Ramone's house.  I listed all the reasons why Alex could not go to Ramone's too.  I offered to go buy him a Wendy's frosty.  Or take a turn at his Batman Lego game and get him to the next level.  Anything!  We all got out of the vehicle- me, Andy, Emily, her pink puppy, and sobbing Alex.  At the doorway, Ramone's mother swung open the front door and said, "Hello!  Does Alex want to stay and play too?"

"YES!"  Alex screamed, wiping away the last of this tears, kicking off his shoes, and running off joyously into the depths of the house.

"Wow," I said to Ramone's mother.  "That is so nice of you."  Silently, I told her, "Just so you know, you've sealed your fate and made this into a package deal from here on out.  Sucker."

The boys had had a wonderful time at my house the week before.  But they had an AMAZING, MIND BLOWING, JUST GODDAMN INCREDIBLE time at Ramone's.  It was truly the House of Fun.  Kids running everywhere!  Being loud!  Eating candy!  Making crumbs!  Throwing things!  It was a child's paradise!  When I finally picked up the boys two hours later, they both declared Ramone's house THE BEST HOUSE EVER!

"Ramone's house is so much fun!"  Andy exclaimed, sinking down into our sofa.  

"Our house is fun, too," I replied defensively, looking around our own crumb-free family room, which was forever dimly lit as to set a quiet, studious mood.  "Lots of fun!  Stop wiggling so much.  I mean, it's SO much fun here!"

Going to bed that night, I had a small panic attack.  What if my house just wasn't fun enough to keep the kids captive?  What if they loved me less because I didn't want them swinging plastic swords around my neatly painted walls?  What if they ran away one day because I wanted their volume at a respectable five instead of a headache inducing, toddler waking ten?  What if I LOST MY KIDS FOREVER?

This is where I drop my kids off.
The next week, the boys (both of them, of course!) went back to Ramone's.  I felt sick again afterwards when I picked my children up, inspecting their blue tongues (Blue candy, Mom!  And we had pop, too!) when we got home.  The following week, I anxiously suggested we invite Ramone over.  Afraid the boys were going to try to twist their playdate into another fun-filled afternoon at Ramone's House of Rowdy, I suggested all the great things they could do.  Play video games!  Set up the Gotham City toys!  Get out the Crayola animation kit we hadn't opened up yet!  Have a sugary snack!  (No crumbs, though).

Finally, dinner was over and Ramone was at our door, busting through the doorway with the glee of a child truly happy to be in my home.  And the kids had a good time, I reassured myself.  Such a good time, with just enough rambunctiousness that I decided to silently retract my offer of sugary snacks and instead slipped a little Benadryl into each of their juices.  I'm kidding of course!  Ramone's mom, I would never do that to your kid!  Never.

Watching Ramone and his mother drive away later, and watching my kids tuck themselves into the sofa to play a quiet, relaxing game together (Batman Lego video game), I decided that any new friend and house was going to shine with the novelty of being different.  It was okay.  I was not going to lose my six year old and four year old to somebody else's good time party shack.  Probably.

And, yes, it was working out with Andy picking his own friends instead of me directing the selection like I could still do with Alex.  It was working out very well.  Because, as I may have mentioned, I get to drop Andy AND ALEX off at playdates.  Package deal!  Two for one!  BOGO half off!  Free with purchase!  Et cetera.

Young Ramone will stay in our lives for a very long time.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Love Post for Emily!

I hate to see her go, but I love to watch her run.  Emily runs, and I drown a little every time, the blood pumping double time from my heart and filling me to the brink.  Her booty shakes.  Her head bounces. Her hands and arms bob side to side.  Her legs are steady and assured, pretty Mary Jane clod feet landing each step confidently.  She runs to her brothers.  She runs to the bus stop, to Alex's class at school.  She runs when I announce we're going out, spun into an excited panic to gather up her shoes and coat, which she will attempt to put on herself- a first in this family where some mornings I find myself rolling socks onto the growing, slack foot of a lazy six and a half year old. She runs to the stairs if she hears the words "bath" or "night night."  She runs to find her best friend, her pink Pup Pup.  She runs, and I can't help but beam.

Emily brings this family joy.  Yes, obviously, Andy and Alex bring this family joy, too, in their boyish, loving, poop joke telling ways.  Chris every once in a while comes home from working bringing joy (and a case of wine).  Perhaps some of these people in this house look at me, Mommy, and think that yes, that stressed out, chronically dehydrated, full of reminders, rules, lists- yeah, that lady sometimes brings a little joy.  Perhaps.  But Emily.  Emily brings this family joy.  Constantly.

Perhaps it's because I'm still surprised that I have her at all.  When Alex was born, I thought, This is it.  My complete family of four.  Cut to two years later, when Alex started his first day of two year old preschool and I suddenly found myself without a *baby.*  Oh crap, I distinctly remember thinking. These boys are growing up.  I'm losing my babies.  I'm going to be thirty-five next year.  It's the perfect, fertile storm.  

And now we've got Emily starting two year old preschool in the fall.  No matter how many kids you have, they just keep leaving you for the wide open, lonely expanse of two hour twice a week preschool.  I swear this time, the storm brewing will not be one of aging, last chance baby fertility. For real this time, the family is complete.  And it's because of the most beautiful, giggly, girl I know- future track star, Emily.

Emily has her quirks. She says Andy's name constantly, calling out for him and referring to him when he's not around.  But she has never really said Alex's name.  Is it too hard to pronounce?  Does she think "Andy" is just the word for brother and so it fits Alex too?  Or does she just simply not like Alex as much as she adores Andy?  Andy is kind and thoughtful to her.  Andy is proud of her.  Alex- well, Alex has a different view of Emily than the rest of us.  Alex sees her as a pain.  And if Alex sits on my lap when Emily is around, Emily will SHOVE him off.  Those two have a little something different going on.  It's called "unabashed dismay."

Emily talks a lot.  She says, "I don't know" if she doesn't know.  She says, "Here it is!" when she's found something she's looking for.  She cries out "Eww!" when she's disgusted by something. "Shoes?" if she wants to go out.  And she sings, as toddlers are want to do.  Her favorite song is "Baa Baa Black Sheep."  But her second favorite song is "No" by Meghan Trainor.  Emily sings, melodically, "No no no no no no no no." And, hilariously, her third favorite song is "Don't Wanna Know" by Maroon 5.  Emily also sings along: "Don't wanna know, know, know, know...."

I'd like to just state, for the record, that Emily and I have drastically different favorite songs.

Emily will do anything if her brothers do it first.  If they are nice to somebody she's not familiar with, she's okay with that person, too.  If they are playing a game, she butts her way right in.  If they are looking at the iPad, she runs to me asking for our cheap little tablet:  "Pad!  Pad!"  And then she'll run right back to sit next to the boys with her own device.  She likes to splash in the bath with them, usually standing at some point to dump a large cup of water right onto Alex's head.  Never Andy's.

She runs with the boys.  Literally.

Emily's not always front and center in this family.  Her needs often get shoved to the bottom of the list if Andy and Alex need to go somewhere, get an assignment done, or need help with their own pursuits.  For the most part, everything Emily does is as a tag-a-long for the boys.  This is one reason why I look forward to her starting two year old preschool in the fall.  It will be something just for Emily that doesn't involve walking around Target with Mom.  She deserves to feel special, to make friends, to sing songs that don't have the sounds baa or no and feel proud of things she made without me.  Emily, bearer of joy and happiness, who may sometimes feel like an afterthought growing up, must know that although she's the last, the little one- without her, we'd be lost.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Alexander the Bate!

Alex got his first library card this week.  I told him that he had to be able to sign his name before he could get one, and he's only been writing his name consistently well for the past month or so.  I've been worried about Alex, since I know he's starting kindergarten in the fall.  Is he as prepared as Andy was?  Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that he doesn't know any of the letters of the alphabet?  Maybe I should sit down and work with him while Emily is napping... or maybe since he seems content to play Batman on the Nintendo DS, I should just let sleeping dogs lie while I get in some of my own quiet time.  Yeah, we'll work on letters tomorrow.

Alex took the task of signing up for his first library card very seriously.  He signed his name on the back of the card as directed, and then, later, I compared his signature to Andy's, the one Andy wrote out when he was basically Alex's exact age.  Here are the two of them for your own perusal:

So, of course Andy's signature is faded. And he has an "n," a difficult letter (of which he wrote backwards.)  However, I'm going to go ahead and say the writing is about the same.  Could have been done by the same kid.  Except- Alex's is slightly better.

I need a little encouragement on the Alex front.  I finally got his speech evaluated, after two years of brushing off his poor enunciation as "normal" or "almost normal" or "it'll eventually be normal." Because the thing about Alex, as documented in his IEP paperwork, is that his comprehension, interpersonal skills, and ability to relate and converse to others is through the roof.  He gets it.  He's great fun to have a conversation with.  His sense of recall is eerie.  These are the things that reassured me that he was basically fine.  But his blended sounds come out as "d"s or "b"s.  The color green is bean.  A grape is a bape.  A green grape would be a bean bape.  And if you ask the guy at the grocery store (bocery door) where the bean bapes are, you are certainly not coming home with any kind of grapes, green or otherwise.

Did I mention that kindergarten is on the horizon?  I need to get his speech up to speed before the fall, before he is sounding out words to read and expressing needs and participating in a classroom that is less forgiving than those lovely Lutherans down at the church preschool. Suddenly, I have a deadline and a sense of urgency, and my parenting knob is being turned from a lazy 3 to an amped up 11.  The good news is that the speech pathologist has set up goals for him to start making progress as early as March and really does he think he'll be up to speed soon.  "He has a great attitude and motivation," the speech pathologist reassured me.  "Yeah!" repeated Alex to himself as we walked out.  "I'm BATE!"

At the library, my sweet Alex- who I of course love no more than my other two kids but inexplicably holds an extra special place in my heart- immediately lost his new library card.  "Oh no!  My library card is gone!" he exclaimed, exactly forty-five seconds after it had been issued.  I tracked down the missing card for him and we went downstairs to pick out our library books.  Alex chose three superhero books and a Batman DVD with his new card.  Andy, not to be outdone even though I'd already been to a DIFFERENT library earlier that day where I had picked out exactly fifteen books for him- a blend of picture, chapter, and easy readers as to meet all of his literary needs- decided to pick out his own book, too, using his library card.  When he handed me the book on Dios de la Muertos, I didn't have the heart to tell him that nobody in our household could speak or read Spanish. 

I had signed the boys up for this program at the library, which was the real reason we were there.  They were going to program these little robot bees to navigate mazes, which sounded fun to me.  The program was ages 5-7, which didn't stop me from enrolling four year old Alex.  Of course, I forgot about honest Andy who immediately called out Alex's correct age upon hearing another, more official adult than myself, speak out the ages of the program.  "Alex is close enough," I said with the smile of a beauty pageant contestant who is realizing she knows nothing about the specifics of World Peace during the Q & A portion. "Now get in that room.  Take your little brother with you.  And help him out.  He's only four."

And yes, Alex is only four. He has a lot of growing to do, even in just the six months before kindergarten.  This is the portion of my blog entry where I tell you all of the reasons I am NOT worried about Alex.  He can easily put together 100 piece puzzles by himself.  He is a hard worker on any task given to him.  He loves assembling Lego sets and creating his own storylines using the mini-figs.  He takes pride in his accomplishments.  He has a great heart, which shines through his smile, which shows all of his teeth, lower and top.  It's a smile of pure happiness.  He has the exact right amount of attachment to me. He will be perfectly fine getting on that bus, which is an important accomplishment in and of itself, and he will give me that wide, toothsome joyous smile when he gets off eight hours later.

Eight hours later.  

But Andy did it just fine, and so will Alex.  Although, when Emily sees both boys get on that bus in August, she's going to fall apart, far worse even than how she fell apart when they went into the robot bee program at the library without her. "Get a grip," I'll have to tell her.  And Alex will wave from the window and say, hopefully,  "Yeah!  Get a grip!" 

As opposed to, "Get a bip."

Because he will start to speak better.  And when he's communicating absolutely perfectly in the fall, nobody will ever need to know how I completely dropped the ball until hour eleven.

PS.  This is how I think Emily will sign her own library card in three years.  There are already signs.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Food, Folks, and Fun!

These are the foods I loved eating when I was growing up.  Rice-A-Roni.  Nothing was better than a big heaping salty side of Rice-A-Roni; it even sounded vaguely international since it was the San Francisco treat (yes, I am aware that San Francisco is in THIS country- that's why I said "vaguely.") Tater tots.  Oh man, were tater tots delicious.  I had a ritualistic way of smashing each individual tot into a small patty and then dressing with a little ketchup before eating.  White bread.  We didn't buy white bread very often, but when we did it was a treat, and I would savor toasted slices slathered with margarine. I had a steady love affair with ramen noodles and condensed chicken noodle soups.  Once I got old enough, I was in charge of making the instant mashed potatoes, another weeknight staple. We ate a lot of refrigerated biscuits, too.  You know the kind- you have to peel the cardboard cylinder and wait for it to "pop."  I still wince every time I open one of those things, fully expecting a to scale reenactment of the Hindenburg in my hands.

My mother didn't cook meals as much as prepare them.  Most foods were from the box or bag.  My dad is the cook and he was the chef when he was home.  I really liked his chili, and I used to swirl in whole slices of yellow cheese product to really amp up the flavor.  This was my special gourmet touch.  He made a good clam linguine and humored me the one day that I decided to go red meat free with a tuna spaghetti.  Sidenote.  After twenty-six hours, I found myself accidentally eating three Whoppers from Burger King.  Once again, a bout of healthfulness was easily defeated by beefy, flame-broiled deliciousness.

The food that we ate growing up was ok.  Not great, but not terrible.  Sometimes I wonder what my kids will remember about our meals.  I know I'm a better cook than my mother, and honestly I think I might be better than my dad, too.  I would cook a full meal every night if I could get even a small amount of appreciation out of the three young beings that rule my life.  Alas, most nights we're eating pasta with jarred sauce, frozen pizza, or a bag of nuggets and some microwaveable corn.  No Rice-A-Roni though.  I haven't had any Rice-A-Roni in twenty years, and I'm afraid if I make some now, the last of my childhood illusions would dissolve up the kitchen exhaust fan.

There are certain things, though, that my kids really do love eating.  There are items that they may one day list semi-nostalgically in their own blogs, or maybe just tweet about in a concise, adjective free 140 characters.  Here they are.  Non-concisely.

White Trash Casserole.  I don't call this White Trash Casserole in front of my kids, because I have a great deal of class, so they know it as Beefy Macaroni.  It's the macaroni and cheese I might have eaten as a child but it's so much better.  I mix it with ground beef, tomatoes, and extra shredded cheese and bake for twenty minutes.  It's the heartiest, yummiest dinner, and all the kids love it. However, I am very close to having to make a double batch of this stuff just to get us through one meal.  When the boys get bigger and Emily is eating full servings- jeez, I'm going to be running a full on catering company.

Baked Tilapia.  Alex and Emily are less than complimentary about the fish, but Andy loves it.  He likes to help prepare it, too.  Tilapia fillets are seasoned (a little randomly) and then baked with some olive oil and lemon.  Delicious!

Meatballs.  My kids think I make the best meatballs!  I've tasted better, but I love that my kids hold
such high praise for them.  We usually make them together, which might be part of the appeal.  Of course, then I serve them after they've simmered in a jar of sauce, which to me is perfectly fine and delicious but to Chris is a travesty.  "You should make your own sauce!"  he often declares, by which he means opening eight cans of tomatoes instead of popping open the one, perfectly delicious jar that I used.

Beef Tacos.  Not to be confused with my chicken tacos, which have been boldly and loudly declared as disgusting.  Andy gets excited about beef taco night, and although he only adds cheese to his, I excited await the day when the children eat the tomatoes, lettuce, avocado, and sour cream I painstakingly put out for them.  One day.  One day.

Pork Tenderloin.  This is a grab and go item from the grocery story that I literally cut open from its plastic, drop onto a sheet pan, and stick in the oven for 40 minutes.  Pork is the meat that everyone will eat.  It was Emily's first solid meat last winter, and even though she had explosive diarrhea afterwards, I still counted it as a success.  Even picky Alex will eat all of his pork, and sometimes- just sometimes- he'll ask for MORE.  This is a rare occasion in my house, and I have to remind myself to act cool.

Meat loaf.  I am definitely falling into the kingdom of pre-packaged godsends with this one, but I have to give a shout out to the fine people at Stouffer's for making a truly amazing frozen meat loaf. The gravy, the beef, the little to no effort I have to excise.  Yet another meat that all of the kids will happily eat.  And bonus, it's preservative free.  #stillagoodmom.

Cheeseburgers.  Andy especially loves cheeseburgers.  He says that Red Robin has the best cheeseburgers followed closely by mine, which are absolutely nothing special and are fried up busy mom style in a skillet.  The patties are sold four to a pack, which is fine for now.  One for me, one for Chris, one for Andy, and Emily and Alex share.  This is one of those times, though, when I think to myself, "The world is truly made for families of four" and cringe to think of how I will feed my family when Emily and Alex are eating full burgers.  Do I buy two four packs?  Then I have eight? Five for one night, and then three extras?  Or do I hope that Emily will transcend on some misguided no-red-meat journey, so it's just the initial four burgers plus a helping of tuna spaghetti?  Only time will tell how I solve this particular riddle.

Crescent rolls, garlic toast, saltines, buttered toast.  We love carbs.

Lobster.  I'll add this last one only because Chris insisted on giving the boys their own lobster tails the last two times we scrounged up enough money to go buy some.  This angered me.  "You're going to give the CHILDREN their own LOBSTER?"  I fumed.  "You might as well throw the money directly in the trash!  These kids won't appreciate it!  Sometimes they eat hardened fruit snacks from beneath the couch cushions!  They do not have refined palates."

Of course, spoiler alert, turns out they love lobster.  LOVE lobster.  Too bad we can only afford it once every two years, otherwise I'd find myself fuming even more frequently.  It's our lack of disposable income that truly keeps me grounded.

Next week's post:  A complete list of all of the baked items I have completely ruined, and the subsequent tears of children.