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.