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

JackieReads2017!

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.