Two years ago, my first post for the Supersisters was a post about Ethan teaching Nathan how to climb out of his crib.
It will surprise no one who has followed our craziness over the last two years that just this morning I overheard Nathan trying to teach Mason how to climb out of his crib. Yes, my children are pretty much all the same. Ethan was too busy to teach Mason how to climb out of his crib because he's busy trying to figure out how to make this thing called a "ramp" that his friend Harrison brought to his attention. Apparently if you ride your bike over it really fast, you can go in the air a little. Yay....
Midday brought us a trip to Lowe's where the boys used rebar as guns that they fired from their shoulders at each other between the piles of concrete. I got a double whammy of a self-righteous mother declaring she doesn't allow her children to play guns (I thought I got away with shoving the rebar in their hands and teaching them how to "reload" when no one was looking) and the incredible amount of filth that was everywhere, thanks to said rebar.
So pretty much, the more things change, the more they stay the same. While we will no longer be regaling you with stories of emergency room visits and bike riding and crib breakouts here at PBS, you can be sure that wherever we are, those things are still happening.
I leave you with this video which debuted a mere two years ago. I think my favorite thing is either the fact that Nate has only one leg in his pants or the fact that he crosses in front of the video like an SNL skit gone bad. Either way, I'm really glad we didn't name Mason Flying Squirrel.
As the three boys fell out of the car (literally), I glanced to the other side of the "parking lot" at the pumpkin field. A father was walking with three blond brothers down the road. They seemed to be ahead of us by a couple of years. The boys were maybe 3, 5 and 7. As my children screamed (apparently one had rolled under the car and his brothers weren't letting him out), the father with the three boys fielded three different conversations. I tried to get his attention to give him a conspiratorial nod, but he was too focused on maintaining three conversations at once.
You see, when you have three boys that are relatively close in age, you always notice other people with the same. I imagine this happens with every family, grasping similarities and giving others with the same family make up some form of solitary sign. We don't see a lot of families of three boys, but it's not uncommon for me to have a mom come up to me in the store and say, "I have three boys too and now they are grown up. It's possible." This usually happens when I have kids climbing out of the cart on both sides and a less-than-cheery baby screaming because his method of escape is being hindered by the seat belt.
I don't know why I am continually surprised by raising boys. Mason spent the better part of the afternoon at the field attempting to climb out the front of the wagon. This would make you believe that what he really wanted was to walk with his brothers. Not really. He really just wanted to continually climb in and out of the wagon. When he did walk, he was obsessed with the rotten apples that had fallen from the trees. He spent an hour trying to pick up all the rotten apples and put them in the basket. If only he felt such passion about toys in his room at clean up time.
Things picked up for Mason considerably when his brothers graciously showed him that an even better option for rotten apples was to throw them at each other. I looked around the crowded fall locale and not one little girl was throwing apples. Come to think of it, no one else was throwing apples. I sighed and looked at their father. He looked back at me and laughed. I guess this is just the way it is when you have three boys.
One of my favorite things about Sesame Street is that it's relatively watchable by parents too. Sesame Street was one of the original shows to bring in the greats in a way that connects with children and parents alike. My rock-free childhood was saved by The Beetles "Letter B." So when I heard that Katy Perry's Hot N Cold duet with Elmo wasn't going to air because it was deemed too sexy, I was shocked. Okay, at first I laughed. I've met some of the Sesame Street people and the thought of them letting anything through that did not meet high standards was craziness. Craziness, I say.
According to US Magazine, a Sesame Street representative gave the following statement.
"Sesame Street has a long history of working with celebrities across all genres, including athletes, actors, musicians and artists. Sesame Street has always been written on two levels, for the child and adult. We use parodies and celebrity segments to interest adults in the show because we know that a child learns best when co-viewing with a parent or care-giver. We also value our viewer's opinions and particularly those of parents. In light of the feedback we've received on the Katy Perry music video which was released on You Tube only, we have decided we will not air the segment on the television broadcast of Sesame Street, which is aimed at preschoolers. Katy Perry fans will still be able to view the video on You Tube."
I'm torn. I think it was awesome that Sesame Street listened to their viewers, or should I say, their viewers' mothers. The thing is, I don't get what the big deal is. I watched the video. If I'm going to be honest, the first thing I thought when I saw the video was that I didn't think Katy's outfit was flattering for her. Cleavage? Hmm, not so much. Upon consultation with my better half, he agreed that our 1, 3 and 5 year olds would never have even noticed. Maybe it's the years of breast feeding that has reduced our children's focus on breasts as functional. What with the fact that they are functional.
One of my favorite comments was the author's comment about Katy Perry cleaning up her lyrics so they could be acceptable for Sesame Street. Um, that's how it works. The excitement as a parent is wondering how your favorite pop song is going to turn into something rated G by the great minds at Sesame Street.
So maybe Katy Perry shouldn't have been wearing an ice skating outfit with her duet with Elmo. Maybe her dress up outfit could have been less conical. I guess I'm just a little desensitized by all the elementary school dance teams on YouTube wearing tassel tube tops to trashy pop songs. I guess if you are a parent who doesn't take your child to the beach or the pool or out in public at all, you may have a point. But for the rest if us, maybe it's time to take ourselves a little less seriously.
I leave you now with my all-time favorite Sesame Street/Elmo song, accompanied by the Goo Goo Dolls. The song? Slide. For those of you who don't know, it's about a teenage girl who gets pregnant. After being Sesame Streeted, it's a song about Pride. It's one of the best Sesame Street songs ever. Hands down. I mean, other than Letter B.
I was one of the last to board the plane last night. Coming back from a business trip we had attended together, Derek was on the plane leaving after mine. I was all alone heading home to our kids after a glorious weekend. Parted from my roller carry-on bag due to space issues, I headed down the aisle toward my seat, past several overhead bins with available space which would have been perfectly acceptable for my bag. I'll admit now that may have soured my mood enough to contribute to what happened next.
I climbed into my window seat past a gentleman who was chatting with the woman in the row ahead. I contemplated offering to trade seats so they could be together but something told me she was glad to be seated away from him. As I sat down, I noticed a family of four I had seen in the waiting area just a few minutes before were now seated a few rows back. The three- and four-year-old's bags were loaded with toys and activities for the three hour ride. I was glad it wasn't me.
They were in the midst of deciding who would sit where when the little girl realized she would have to sit beside her father and across the aisle from her mother. At about this moment, the little brother realized he could sit by his mom but not by his sister too. The children began to alternate wailing and sobbing. The noise was deafening. The plane door had yet to be closed by a flight attendant.
The man beside me groaned out loud. My heart sank to my stomach for the parents behind me. I heard her negotiating ("I can hold your hand across the aisle, see?" "Your sister can come over here with us in 15 minutes." "The rules say you have to sit in your OWN seat now but you can sit on mom's lap in just a few minutes.")
"Screaming kids. Great." My seatmate seemed very thrown by this turn of events. His companion turned around to look (as did several other people) and my seatmate declared, "I may have to violate FAA rules and wear my earphones for the first 10 minutes of the flight." Other people started to complain.
The frazzled mother piped up above the hum of the dissent. "We understand, people. If we could, we would change places with you. They'll stop crying in a few minutes. They just both want to sit beside me. I'm really sorry." I saw at least 3 other motherly-looking women snap their heads back in her direction along with me to give their visual support. My seatmate was not impressed.
"I can't even believe this. I can't do this."
Really? You can't do this? I instantly thought about giving birth three times and was somewhat surprised that two despondent children on a plane ride for three hours would be "undoable." Trust me. The last time I said "I can't do this," I was giving birth to a 9 pound baby. I can understand if we are two hours into a screaming fit involving a child with an ear infection that is losing his mind with pain, but these are two tired children that just want to sit with their mom for takeoff and it's not possible.
"I know," I replied to his latest concerns. "If only she would stop poking them with a fork."
He looked at me in stunned silence. I looked at him with the look of a mother who has had screaming kids on a plane and suffered the disapproving looks for things beyond my control. I glanced down at my hand and proceeded to insert one of the $ .25 earplugs into my ear.
Two minutes later the kids were silent. Ten minutes after takeoff, I got up, went to that mom and told her she was a good mother.
It was the least I could do. We parents have to stick together.
The kids came running off the bus after their very first day of school. Their little feet barely hit the pavement before they began talking about play dates and video games. These are not things a mother wants to know about the first day of school. I let them ramble on until it was time to go in different directions from our favorite neighbor friend.
K: We'll see you tomorrow morning at the bus stop!
Him: Nah, Miss Kristen. I'm not going to school tomorrow.
K: But Buddy, tomorrow is a school day.
Him: Not every day is a school day.
K: But tomorrow is.
Him: I don't think so. Anyway, I'm not going tomorrow.
I laughed and walked away. I could see how the adjustment to school is going to be different for everyone.
K: How was your first day of school?
K: What did you learn?
Ethan: Nothing. And there is NO homework.
K: It was the first day of school. I don't think that is going to be the norm.
Ethan: NO HOMEWORK!!! We don't have any.
K: Did you make any new friends?
K: Not even the girl who sits beside you? I forgot her name. What is it?
Ethan: I don't know.
K: Did you play at recess?
K: Seriously? You are five. Are you going to give me any information about school? This was a really big day for you.
His father called a few minutes later.
D: How was it?
K: I have absolutely no idea. He didn't come home crying and he appears to want to go back tomorrow. For all we know, he could have skipped the whole day and just hung out under the bleachers, dealing black market Silly Banz and mainlining YooHoos from the machine. Eat! Dad wants to know what you did today.
Ethan: I just don't remember, MOM. But my teacher did say that we need to get our rest and if we wake up early, we should stay in bed.
I relayed this story to fellow mom of a kindergartener.
"God bless her and every teacher out there who says those kinds of things. BIG gift cards for her this year. BIG!" She turned around and yelled to the boys that it was time for bed.
And that, my friends, is the biggest change at our house since the end of the first week of school. Ethan wants to go to bed at night. We headed out a little later this evening to go to a birthday party and rolled back in an hour past bedtime. The boys took a quick bath and then everyone headed off to bed. Not three minutes later, Ethan and Nathan came wailing up the steps. The sound was deafening.
Ethan: MOOOOOOMMMMM!!!! Nate won't let me go to sleep.
Ethan: He says he won't stop crying until I read him a book. EVERY NIGHT he wants me to read him a book. EVERY SINGLE NIGHT.
K: Nate. It is so late, Buddy. I'll read you lots of books tomorrow after Ethan goes to school.
Nate: I'm not going to stop crying until Ethan reads me a book (with steel cold reserve).
K: Oh my gosh, Nate. Ethan. Go to bed.
They both went wailing back down the stairs. It was 8:35 p.m. and you would have thought it was 1:30 a.m. Two minutes later it was silent. And I hope against all hope that they sleep in tomorrow. No use starting out the week tired. Even if we have no idea what he does at school.
I'm a big speller in my house. I find it to be the best form of cryptic communication with my husband on most matters involving children. More often than not my children realize we are speaking about them but for some reason let it slide. Every once in a while someone will ask what we are talking about but normally that would require someone to actually stop talking to hear me speak. Luckily that never happens.
Ethan has started to catch on every once in a while and has learned to spell big ticket kid words like "ice cream" and "park" and "zoo." This has really brought me down. I knew this day would come but I was hoping it would last forever. In order to combat the imminent decline of our top secret communications, I have begun to spell faster.
Unfortunately for us, my husband has a mild case of dyslexia. These two are a horrible combination. Add to the fact that our generation uses Google for spell check (what's a dictionary?), my spelling has become a little shoddy. Long gone is my efficiency of being able to spell "acquaintance" in a snap like I could in the third grade. So now I'm misspelling fast.
Derek also has a communication problem before his second cup of coffee in the morning. When you wake up ready to go without coffee, it sometimes slips your mind that others are not so lucky. So when I wanted to rehash a middle of the night incident of getting up, I thought I would start out slow.
K: Did you ask him "w-h-y" that happened last night?
D: Why what?
K: Seriously. I was spelling.
D: But why would you spell "why?"
K: I don't think that my spelling "why" is the issue regarding why you said "why." I spelled "why" because I didn't want him to know what we were talking about yet.
D: But does "why" really give anything away by just saying "why?"
K: Probably not but now we'll never know.
The best part about the whole situation was that Ethan was standing right there and he didn't even blink in our direction when we were not-so-subtly talking about him. I'd like to think I have just numbed him by spelling all the time. It's clearly just a habit of mine to randomly spell and has no relation to my desired level of secrecy.
I spell with everyone in front of my children and I have come to the startling realization that my husband is EXCELLENT at mental translation. Who knew? In fact, I've been known to spell while out with my friends and not in the presence of any children.One of my friends recently asked me to never again spell in her presence because she cannot spell and it stressed her out. I should have asked her how we are supposed to talk about the children in front of the children because now I don't know.
And I feel a little bad about giving Derek a difficult time about not keeping up at 5:45 a.m. on mornings like this morning. Even if I don't understand why.
Ok, well, not yet. He will be going in a week, but that's right around the corner. I have been a little stressed out lately, because I'm worried about kindergarten. Ethan did not go to preschool this past year and for the last few months, I slacked off on working with him. I expressed my concern that Ethan's writing was a little shoddy and my mother nearly lost it.
"He is five years old, Kristen. It is kindergarten."
My mother really won't discuss this with me. I made a crack about Ethan's knowledge of physics being below a first grade level, and she nearly hung up on me. Her memories of children going to kindergarten involve kids learning to adjust from being away from home and the institutionalization of snack time at 10 a.m. She doesn't know that red shirting your kindergartener is all the rage.
Before you start looking at me with the wonky "she's one of THOSE parents," let me say that I truly could not care less if Ethan is the best and brightest in his class or if he has any chance at the Kindergarten Top Gun trophy. I am simply worried that he will show up at school and everyone else will already know everything, and he will be mad or frustrated that he is behind. Sick, I know, but it's better than wanting to hold him back a year so he can possibly be the biggest quarterback at high school twelve years from now. Those people are really crazy. I'm just a little crazy.
In the old days (pre-1970s), a child would go to kindergarten if he or she turned 5 years old at some point during the school year. In the 70s, school began implementing birthday cut off dates such as December 1 for admittance to kindergarten. Red shirting your kindergartener, or holding them back a year if they have a birthday on or around the cut off date for admittance to kindergarten, is very popular these days with upper middle class families looking to give their child an edge in school. It's a less common practice for people with less money because kindergarten is free and daycare is not.
Red shirting your kindergartener once meant holding your soon-to-be five year old back a year and starting him in kindergarten as an older five year old. But with school cut offs now rolled back to September or even August in so many places, parents are looking at their "young" five year olds with summer birthdays and wondering if they are ready for the stresses of all day kindergarten.
It is understood, of course, that nearly all of these children have gone to daycare or preschool. What about my friend Jess who couldn't send her son to preschool because it started at the same time her older son got on the bus for school everyday? No preschool, and he missed the August 1 birthday cut off day by two weeks. The school said she could test him in, but he had issues with upper case versus lower case letters on the test. Are you kidding me? She found a private kindergarten that starts AFTER her other son gets on the bus, and the school said she can retest him at the semester break.
Now there is as much as an 18 month age spread in kindergarten. Some kindergartens are still half-day while others are full day. Some have cut off dates of August 1, while others have cut off dates of December 1. Hasn't it gotten a little out of control? Even I should be smacked for worrying about the big ticket items like "will he remember his seasons."
I mean, it's just kindergarten.
It's that time of year. Why don't you join us in a little sidewalk love as our kids start the school year out? Invite your kids to be agents of happiness and hope on the sidewalks nearest you, then upload your pictures to the PBS Parents Supersisters Flickr Pool or tweet us a picture at @pbssupersisters. You can also leave links to your pictures and stories in the comments below.
K: Are you frightened?
Ethan: Mom. I'm tall enough now. I'm not frightened.
K: I hate to be a downer, but you do know that the height requirement for rides has nothing to do with your level of fear, right?
Ethan: Mom. I'm TALL ENOUGH.
K: I'm just saying that if you don't want to do it, it would be totally fine.
Ethan: Mom, Harrison says that roller coasters are SO fun and that I would LOVE them.
K: Well, Harrison is an aficionado of rides so I guess that makes sense.
Ethan: Can I go on that boat?
K: Only if your father will go with you. That's the throw up boat.
Derek: Sorry, buddy. It's not happening.
Ethan: But it's a pirate boat.
K: Look at all those good parents on that throw up boat with their kids.
Ethan: Then we can go?
K: Absolutely not.
Derek: Absolutely not.
He pointed to the log flume. I sighed. Along with not wanting my food to touch on my plate unless it is a designated touching food such as a casserole, I have this thing about getting wet on rides. Okay, I have this thing about getting my hair wet any place outside of a shower or pool. It's not logical but it is what it is. If you saw my hair, you would really, really understand how illogical it is. My husband piped in with a "Mom would LOVE to go with you boys."
"Love" is a very strong word and frankly, I think we throw it around too much. But I guess it would be love to go on the log flume with your children. I looked quizzically at Nate. He nodded. Et tu, Brute? He looked me right in the eyes, nodded his head again and said, "I not sca'd, Mom."
I used to be the queen of the roller coaster. Ain't no mountain high enough. I remember going to a nearly deserted park with friends and running from the exit of the coaster to the entrance of the coaster so that we could have a nearly continuous ride. I was able to maintain a level of nausea near vomiting for 8 ride cycles before I called it quits. It was one of my all-time best days ever.
But now I'm old. My body doesn't appreciate such abuse and the nausea reminds me of morning sickness. I spent an inordinate amount of time in a torts class in law school determining liability when the giant swing lost a chair into the crowd. It's as if becoming a parent has driven me to check for that state safety sticker on every single carnival ride before I hand over my precious babies and those really, really expensive tickets.
We got off the log flume and it was as if my baby Ethan was gone forever. He was only limited by the number of tickets in his pocket. Roller coasters, swings, you name it. He was fearless. The crazier the ride, the more empowered he became. My head told me that I just didn't want him to do more than he could handle and end up being scared. My heart told me that I just wasn't ready for my boy to grow up.
Ethan: I CAN do it, Mom.
He was right. He really can. And he did.
Victory photo by Derek. FYI, there is also a complete montage of me mouthing "You" "Are" "Dead" "To" "Me" "Now" to him as we went up the steep hill before the log flume soaking. This didn't seem an appropriate place or time to share those pictures.
Derek walked in the other night as we were all making homemade pasta. Flour was everywhere and Nate kept reaching in to give the homemade dough a little love pat. I physically cringed every time he did it. Even if I dipped these children in a vat of anti-bacterial soap, I will still remain suspect of their cleanliness.
D: Did you boys wash your hands?
Ethan and Nathan: YES!!
K: They did.
D: (to me) Are you okay?
K: I'm fine. It's just they are so gross.
Derek laughed and handed the boys their very own pasta mound. It was a brilliant move. The boys put the pasta into the machine and patted it repeatedly. It fell on the ground. He picked it back up and handed it to them. They squealed with delight as they continued to make their own dinner. I finished making our real pasta and made the dirty pile disappear before the noodles went into the boiling water.
The kids greedily ate their dinner. It was a hit. That's when I realized that having the kids cook with me was a sure way to get them to eat their dinner. It seemed that because they were invested, the food seemed to taste better to them.
Use simple ingredients. Tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil and oregano will make a lovely sauce for pasta. My kids love picking tomatoes from our garden. Some are redder than others, but you can always wait a few days for those not-so-green tomatoes to ripen. Nature is kind.
Use a recipe that is forgiving. Pasta is easy to make. Flour, olive oil and an egg. There are a million and one recipes for making pasta on the internet if you are looking for one. Mix it together and roll it out with either a rolling pin or a pasta maker. Kids love rolling pins. I would highly recommend spacing your children out with approximately 6 inches to spare, but that's just the crazy that is our house. Exact measurements for pasta are not required. Another fun thing to make is sorbet. Fruit and simple syrup and you are on your way to a delicious dessert.
Shop together. At this time of the summer, the food at the farmer's market is fabulous. Everything is fresh off the farm. Lots of farms have u-pick programs that encourage people to pick their fruit and vegetables directly from the source. This promotes local farms and sustainability as well. My kids love to go picking. Learning about how the strawberry goes from the plant all the way to the table is part of the fun.
Make dinner colorful. My whole life my mother never made two vegetables that were the same color. And let me tell you, she always made two vegetables. She reminded us on more than one occasion that her home economics teacher taught them that dinner should be inviting and colorful. My kids seem more drawn to the orange food groups (carrots, peppers) but greens are not far behind. It provides a great opportunity to practice colors, although Nate still thinks everything is green but needs us to know that his favorite color is orange.
Don't worry about the mess. As the flour piles up on the floor, take a deep breath and let it go. You can clean that flour up when you are done. Better yet, your kids can clean it up. Stressing out about the mess is only going to ruin your good time. If you are Cathy Cleanup, set a goal for the amount of time you allow the mess to accumulate. That way you can focus on your kids and on teaching them how to cook and less time worrying about the little things.
Cooking with kids is as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. Here are more tips for cooking with kids. I'll admit my goal is to have my children cooking all the meals in my house by the time the last one is ten, but I don't see anything wrong with that. Do you?
I thought I heard my name as I crossed the lobby. I glanced over my shoulder for a brief second but never stopped. It isn't the first time this week that I have heard a "Kristen!" directed to someone other than me and it is not like it is an uncommon name.
I raced to the door and began to text Derek. My phone rang instead. Evidently they had been chasing me through the lobby but to no avail. I turned around and Ethan and Nathan came racing up to me. They tackled my legs and I thought for a brief second that I would go over. I leaned up to kiss The Baby in his father's arms. He gave me a big grin but didn't move from his spot of comfort.
So it's going to be like that, huh? Mama leaves for 4 days and somebody got a little bitter. I can understand that. I waved to him and Derek tried to convince him to come to me. I could see that Derek was panicked that I would do something crazy and break out into a good quality howcanyounotloveyourmother rant complete with tear-stained cheeks in the highly public train station.
I grabbed Nate's hand and told Ethan that I had missed him so much.
E: Really? Then why didn't you call?
K: I did call.
E: I don't remember.
K: I did. Remember that I called that one day but The Baby tried to eat Dad's phone and then Nate kept hanging up on me?
K: So I should have called more? Why didn't you call me?
E: I don't know.
K: It's not like you don't know how.
E: Good point. Well, I missed you too. And Lindsey let me play Wii WHENEVER I WANTED.
N: And she bringed us crayons.
K: Did you tell her we don't have any because The Baby climbs up on the table and eats them?
E: MOM. Lindsay WATCHES The Baby so he doesn't EAT the crayons.
Who knew that was the trick? Huh. A greater mother would have felt horrible and questioned her parenting skills against those of the hyper-chipper, highly-engaged, college-aged babysitter. I just stood there feeling really bad that the babysitter probably spent a ridiculous amount of time digging crayons out of The Baby's mouth. Or she just waited until The Baby took a nap. Hey, there's a winning idea!
The trouble is that I really didn't call very much. The Baby screeches like a pterodactyl from start to finish on the call , while intermittently chewing on the phone. Nate rips the phone out of his brother's hands, yells something relatively unintelligible and then hangs up. Ethan calls me back and tattles about the latest bad behavior (because that is so few and far between). By the time Derek gets the phone back, everyone is frazzled. It's actually kind of funny if you don't need to convey any pertinent information or really want to know how anyone is doing.
So Derek sends pictures of the day's events and I call the babysitter to see if they haven't given her slip yet. Other than that, it was pretty quiet while I was away. I got home and everything was relatively intact. I would complain about them setting the carpet on fire with a lamp but I'm really just glad they waited to nearly burn the house down until after I got home.
The Baby finally climbed up onto my lap and forgave me. No harm, no foul. I think I would do it the same way next time I go away. What do you think?