Carter is in a state of near delirium. Yesterday (on my birthday) he talked his father into letting him buy me The Encyclopedia Immaturity: How to Never Grow Up, a big fat red book full of every silly thing you ever forgot from your childhood. Along with this lovely present (so fitting for a fortieth birthday) came this card:
I was not offended. If there is anything I know about Carter, my sage old soul, it's that he understands neither one of us will live forever, and the thought that I would go first just kills him. It's heavy stuff, I know, but that's Carter. The best I can do is live life with him with all the passion and joy I have in my heart; this and this alone gives his tender heart comfort.
Hence, the book. It makes perfect sense. If either one of us could make time stand still by not growing up or getting older--well, nothing could be better than that.
He makes me promise we'll do something from the book everyday. Absolutely. Today it's that trick where you hold your arms in tight against a doorway, then take a step forward and watch them rise like magic (page 60). Remember that one? Tomorrow it's learn how to make noises under your arm (page 18). The Encyclopedia graciously cleans up the titles of all these little tricks, but we know better. Those "funny" noises you make under your arm sound remarkably like someone just cut the cheese--please!
Either way, I'm glad with a seven year old boy, I won't have to grow up anytime soon. At least not until I learn how to build a plastic spoon catapult (page 124) or set the world record on finger snapping (page 47).
What silly little thing are you bringing back from your childhood to enjoy with your kids this time around? Comments are reserved for skipping stones, Miss Mary Mack or whatever else you've got going to keep you young at heart.
The phenomenon is being seen across the board with all my friends with preschoolers. Maybe it's just developmentally appropriate or maybe I have a right to blame Word World. My life has become a spelling bee. All day long I am forced to spell. It was starting to get out of hand with words like "firefighter" and "sidewalk" so I had to utilize that age old trick of redirection.
Kristen: How about "dog?" Duh O Gug.
Or something like that.
Ethan: D. O. G.
Ethan: How about cow?
Kristen: Cuh O wah.
I think I could have done better than that. Especially for a Hooked on Phonics graduate (hello, decade of the 70s).
Kristen: Well, no. Actually it's C.
Ethan: But MOM. It sounds like your letter.
Kristen: I know. It's complicated.
Two minutes later we were at it with "cat."
Ethan: K. A. T.
Kristen: Actually it's C.
Ethan: BUT MOM! Mom. Mom.
Kristen: New policy. Just defer to C.
Ethan: But YOUR name starts with a K.
Kristen: My name is like one of the only names that start with K.
My husband looked at me.
Kristen: I mean, other than kite, kangaroo and kitchen.
My husband continued to look at me.
Kristen: Just guess C. I promise you'll do better.
Isn't this the computer generation anyway? Spell check will be messing up his "there" and "their" options before long. I would just like a good solid non-kat every once in a while.
Yesterday we happened upon the open house at our local volunteer fire house. It's interesting how the words "Open House" coupled with "Free Ice Cream" will just direct your car into the parking lot to a destination not on your list of things to do for the day. Not that we aren't big fans of all things related to
fires firefighting, but I was in a rush to get home to get stuff done.
This post was supposed to be about how great it is to be part of a community that is so incredibly giving and caring. The firefighters even got out the hose and let the kids hose down some bottles. I don't know how else Derek would have figured out how to get his hands on the fire hose if he didn't have The Baby as an excuse. It's not like a toddler can hold a fire hose all by himself.
No, this post is not about being a part of a community. It's now about that little girl in line in front of us for the free face painting. You know that little child. The one who is always providing the unsolicited advice. I have one of those children too, so normally it doesn't bother me. But it did this time.
Ethan was looking over all his options for face painting. This woman could paint anything. There must have been a hundred different options (to include one of my favorites--car tracks. Doesn't every kid want tread marks across his face for fun?). As he discussed his options with me, he happened up the rainbow with "Theresa" emblazoned across it.
Ethan: Mom. I think I want THIS one.
Kristen: Um, okay.
Little Girl: He can't have THAT. That's for girls.
I decided to remain aloof, non-confrontational and non-defensive. Borderline disinterested. This election season has made me a MASTER of this technique.
Kristen: You think so? (to the little girl) I don't think it's just for girls.
Little Girl's Mom: It's not just for girls. It's not like it's pink.
Hmm. It's not like it's pink. I'm guessing she is the same mom who apologizes for her daughter's choice in clothing for the morning. For all you parents out there, we KNOW when a child has dressed herself. Trust me. We don't think you picked those gingham checked pants to go with that flower top. It's okay. I think it's cool. I love me some purple patent leather pumps with a pink and yellow outfit. The kids are only young for such a short time. Kids are kids. They like what they like. It's not like I'm letting Ethan wear a tiara and leg warmers to the third grade. He's 3.
I looked down at Ethan. He was looking up at me. Expecting something. I don't know what.
Kristen: You know what, Buddy? That isn't just for girls. You can have ANYTHING you want. It's about what YOU like.
He turned to me with a smile and said, "Then I want THIS," pointing to a picture of a girl with a Goth face. Completely white. With black daggers coming out of her eyes. I took a breath and before I could stop myself, it was there.
Kristen: You can have anything you want. Except that. Mom changed her mind.
Five minutes later, I had myself the cutest little spider man you have ever seen. I could have tolerated the pink and purple unicorn. But I'll admit I'm a little glad it didn't go down that way.
Jack bounds out of bed, and appears in my bedroom doorway like some sort of magic. His lanky arms wrap tight around my neck as he falls into my bed. I pretend to be asleep until he turns and insists that I spoon his little frame, he melts and molds into my arms. This morning routine is almost religious for my four year old.
"Is it video game day mama?" he asks.
"No baby, but you can watch George if you want."
Jackie-boy breaks free from my tired embrace and a loud "woohoo!" follows him down the hall. I can be one of those obsessed mothers who worries that surely my kids brains are fried due to television marathons but today is not one of those days. And besides, it's Curious George, that little monkey has saved us in more ways than one.
During the entire year of three, Jack could not resist puddles. It's as if they called to him, like they knew his first name and had a window to his heart. This made for many wet curls, muddy brown socks and endless laundry. My hopes of ever being on time to preschool were pretty much a pipe dream; the call of the puddles was just too great.
It seemed like there were a million other tiny things like the puddles. Things like running his fingers through every groove of the brick on our old row house, pulling out the bottom toilet paper roll at the grocery store display or having to pick every dandelion in sight. A messy disaster could be waiting for me around any corner. On days with agendas and schedules, he could make me so crazy.
I'm sure there are very few moments in parenting where something or someone reveals a whole new way of thinking but thankfully this happened to me. After a particularly tiring day Jack and I were watching Curious George. We have read the books for years but something was different seeing him on the screen that day. It never occurred to me that I've really been rearing a monkey all along. This happy little monkey who must try everything, his inquisitiveness driving his every decision, his need to soak up every part of his world. This was my boy in so many ways.
So now my sometimes motherhood feelings of personal affliction feel so much less personal. I have a new admiration for the man in the yellow hat. It is a camaraderie shared by parents who are rearing joyous little monkeys everywhere.
My friend Marelle has one of those precocious children. She was practically talking when she came out of the womb, and frankly, hasn't stopped since. A wise first grader now, I remember calling the house when she was just three and she would answer the phone.
We would have long conversations in which she would describe her day or one of her pieces of artwork. After a while, I would ask to talk to her mother. Faith would yell, "GOODBYE" and hang up quickly. Every single time. I don't think I talked to Marelle for three months. When I finally did, the truth came out. Faith wasn't ALLOWED to answer the phone. She wasn't allowed to answer the phone because 1) her mother was making an attempt to never talk to anyone on the phone and 2) Faith never actually told her mother that anyone had called.
I thought it was the most hilarious thing ever. Until The Boy discovered the phone this week. Ever since I have gotten pregnant, I have been feeling less-than-stellar. There is very little mercy in the world for the nauseous woman who never vomits. So when I'm not in the basement trying to get some order out, I have spent the better part of the last three months on the couch. I lost all four of the cordless phones but I occasionally know where my cell is. The home phone in the kitchen continues to ring. Hopes of sleeping though it are now a distant memory.
Ethan: Hello. (pause) Who's this? (pause) Hi, Wendy. (pause) She's upstairs sleeping. (pause) I'm watching my show. (pause) No, I can't wake her. She's SLEEPING. (pause) Nate's sleeping too. (pause) I'm being good. (pause) OK, bye.
Sometimes I'm asleep on the couch and I just can't get to the phone. I beg him not to answer. He ignores me. The conversation is normally about the same, with the variation of "she's sleeping on the couch" or "she's watching her show." Sometimes it's the Cake Lady, calling from the grocery store because she realizes I haven't gone in four months and my family can't live on rice forever. He shouts out questions about grocery shopping that are clearly being fed to him. There will be dinner tonight. I feel the guilt that comes with having been caught trying to not answer a phone and having the person on the other end trying to serve me. It's just that once your three-year-old has disclosed all the current events in the house, it's frowned upon to just blow off the yet-to-be-identified caller who now knows everything.
I'd try unplugging the phone, but I'm actually on the mend. When you call today, I promise to answer.
This supersister is exhausted this morning--mostly from going way too long without touching one thing on my list-of-things-to-do-when-you're-not-feeling-so-super. You know the list of which I speak, right? That secret list of things every parent needs and every parent neglects when things get too crazy and overwhelming. I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours. And then let's promise each other to cross something off sometime soon, okay?
1. Go to the movies in the middle of the day. This is the true purpose of the sick day, the real reason children go to school, the most essential indulgence of parenting ever. I promise you the scandal of it alone will make everything feel better. Add snowcaps and you're golden.
2. Go for a walk. And I don't mean a power walk to get rid of that last ten pounds. I'm talking a walk in the park, a stroll, a meander. Go slowly and please smell the roses. Extra points if you can pick a path that includes a river, stream, fountain or some other soothing sound of water.
3. Buy groceries that you actually want and that are good for you, not what's on sale or what you think your kids will eat. There are all kinds of foods that never make it on my list because I'm the only one who will eat them. I promise just the sight of that pomegranate in your crisper will make you happy every time you open the frig.
4. Lie in the grass and look at the sky. I'm not kidding. When was the last time I did this? Oh yeah, the very last time I felt totally like myself. Pretend you are seven and that there's nothing to do but pick out Orion's belt or imagine the clouds are heart-shaped just for you. Only good can come from it.
5. Create your own personal chocolate stash and stock it. I knew a woman (a very wise woman) who hid little individually wrapped chocolates above the child proof line of discovery. Coming upon that blissful goodness long after the fact was her lifeline to sanity. I. must. do. this.
6. Collect your own bunch of wildflowers and display them prominently. Do you have any memory of wearing a dandelion necklace? gathering a buttercup bouquet? soaking queen anne's lace in food coloring? Any one of these activities will still make me happy. How about you?
7. Make a mixed tape or iMix or whatever it is the kids are calling it these days. Go ahead. Download Karen Carpenter. You know you still love her. Need to relive your glorious eighties? Madonna is still your girl. Need more cheese? How about Air Supply? Celine Dion? It takes energy to maintain your sophisticated musical taste and sometimes you just want the most over-the-top playlist on earth. I say no one has to know. Go for it.
I hope you're feeling more better than I am this morning. Feel free to say what's not feeling so super in the comments below. And *please* pretty please tell me what's a must-have, must-see, must-do on your list. (Superdads, too!)