This past Saturday we spent the day at the National Book Festival. Standby for lots of great videos from interviews with your favorite authors of kid's books. It was a blast. But it was not without some entertaining parenting moments.
Like when I was interviewing Susan Meddaugh, author of the Martha Speaks series and now the new PBS Kids show Martha Speaks. I made the mistake of using The Boy as a prop in my interview. All was well until he broke his little airplane while I was holding him. I thought for a second that he was having a heart attack or that perhaps having a pint-sized nervous breakdown.
I started with the pleading look. Nothing. Then I moved to 'the look.' Trouble is, I don't own 'the look.' You know the look of which I speak. My mother? Had the look. I try it out for size occasionally but my children are immune to it. I glared at The Boy in hopes that he would be quiet for the last 30 seconds of my interview. Oh, no. One look and he ramped up even more, wailing about his airplane. Susan continued to answer whatever question I had asked and The Boy did what every three-year-old would do. He wailed on. I put him on the ground and pushed him to his aunt. Still wailing. How long did it take to fix that plane? Two seconds. Sheesh.
There were also some philosophical parenting moments. I had that drama before we went, wondering what his reaction to the costumed PBS Kids characters would be. He ran past Clifford four times. Clifford looked at me. At least I think he did. I shrugged my shoulders. What are you gonna do? Two minutes later he was dutifully taking video of all the characters. Crisis averted, right? Not so fast.
In the car home:
Ethan: Mom.mom.mom. Why was Curious George so big and Clifford so small? Clifford is supposed to be as big as a house.
To crush a child's fantasy or not? Clearly he wasn't buying the fantasy. Resigned, his father turned around and explained costumes and pretend. The Boy nodded his head wisely.
Goodbye, Santa Claus. And I guess we won't even try with the Tooth Fairy?
Derek: I don't think you want to do that.
Ethan: Do what, dad? Daddaddaddaddaddad?
Kristen: Ethan, did we tell you what we are going to do this weekend?
Ethan: What, Mom? Whatwhatwhatwhat?
Kristen: Would you like to meet Sid the Science Kid, Ethan?
Ethan: (looking at me like I had maybe one too many that morning) MOM. Sid is on the TV!!!!!!!! You can't meet him. He isn't real.
Does this mean that Santa Clause will be out this year too because frankly, I am thinking that the tender of age of three is a little young to be on the reality page with Saint Nick.
Kristen: I KNOW he is on t.v. but he is also going to be at the National Book Festival this weekend.
Ethan: Mom, he can't be on the t.v. AND at that book thing.
Kristen: He is. I promise. And so is Clifford and there is a rumor about Super Why.
Ethan: Mom.mom.mom.mom. Can we go today? When is it? When is Saturday? Is it Saturday now? Why can't it be Saturday?
My husband had no mercy for me. I knew better than to tell The Boy less than 2 minutes before it was actually happening. But NO. I was too excited myself. The kid will NOT stop talking about it. If you are in D.C. and around this Saturday, September 27, you should totally come too! The National Book Festival is from 10-5 and PBS Kids has its own tent. How cool is that? I don't think Clifford will be to scale because that would be the size of the Lincoln Memorial, right? Susan Meddaugh, author of the Martha Speaks series and inspiration for the newly launched PBS Kids show Martha Speaks will be reading throughout the day. You should come.
This weekend my husband took us camping. Normally he likes to take us camping when it is 95 degrees and there is a possibility of a thunderstorm or a mass mosquito attack, so I was pleasantly surprised to be camping in temperatures with highs of 75 and lows of 55. You can't beat that.
Ethan has been asking incessantly to go camping. Of course he has. His contribution to camping involves nothing related to packing or doing laundry or getting work done so we can leave. But he has that cute little voice and he whines until you break down. At least that is what his father says.
When I agreed to go camping, I didn't realize that the drive would be four hours. Four hours is a bit of a trek for an overnight stay in a tent. But my husband knew how to get all of us on his side. He told us that we were going camping at Assateague Island. He made promises that we would see wild horses and lots of wildlife. Wild horses? It took the four-hour drive to explain to Ethan the difference between tame horses and wild horses. Which was instantly shut down when we arrive because the horses were wandering between campgrounds, looking for a nice piece of steak or maybe a quality organic burger. Even with a whopping $500 fine, I have a feeling the "wild" horses are eating a little better than that sea grass we saw everywhere.
It was only after we arrived that I remembered WHY Ethan loves camping so much. Ethan loves camping because his father allows him to wield large, dangerous and sharp tools. I turned around after setting up my side of the tent to find Ethan banging a stake into the ground. With the back side of a hatchet. If it makes you feel better, he read the look of shock on my face and proceeded to explain to me exactly how to be safe with a hatchet. Me? I could do without taking any chances.
Complete with correct terminology like "crunching."
It started early on Friday.
Ethan: Mom.mom.mom.mom.mom. I think we should make applesauce. Did you see on Sid the Science Kid that they made apple sauce? They took the apples and they melted them and then they mashed them and made apple sauce. We should make apple sauce.
Kristen: Cooked. Not melted.
Ethan: MELTED, Mom. They MELTED the apples.
I know. Pick your battles with a three-year-old already. Melted, cooked. Semantics.
We got up on Saturday and Ethan started in with the applesauce recipe.
Ethan: Dad.dad.dad.dad.dad. We should make applesauce. On Sid they made applesauce but they didn't melt them the first time and it didn't work so then they melted the apples and then the smashed them and made applesauce.
An hour later we were on our way to go apple picking. Nothing says good times like handing a three-year-old a 10-foot apple picker.
He woke up the next day and asked to go apple picking again. I would like to thank the people at Sid for keeping it season-appropriate. You just can't make applesauce any time of the year other than September or October. It just isn't right. Applesauce post coming on Thursday. If television is going to be so compelling, I wonder if there is any way they can do an episode on financial investing or even making your own bed.
I just got back from a business trip. I went all by my lonesome self and I left my husband and the boys at home. I'll admit it was a little easier this time around because I have the plane debacle from vacation fresh in my mind. Three hours of a screaming toddler.
I have gone away and left everyone at home before but this was the first time Daddy couldn't take time off to watch the kids during the week. This time my husband was playing catch-up after our two week vacation and had stacks of meetings when it came time for me to go to my trade show across the country. After all those meetings he had to teach a class. That would be a thirteen-hour day with the babysitter. The kids are just fine but let's be honest. They LOVE their dad.
My mom came to help him. I'll admit, I was worried the kids would drive her crazy or that they would light the house on fire if she went to the bathroom.
I was wrong. The kids were so excited, they began blowing off my calls not long after I left. Their cousins came to visit. There were wagon rides and wagon-related injuries and a good time was being had by all. I called to chat. Apparently when someone handed the phone to The Baby, he threw the phone on the floor. When my husband picked the phone back up and began to speak with me, the kids heckled him to get off the phone. Someone asked the Boy if he wanted to talk to me. He gave a resounding "NO" well within my hearing. I just laughed.
Late nights, video games, popsicles for breakfast. It was anarchy. But that's the way it is supposed to be with the grandparents, right?
The other night we went to the first Parent/Teacher night for preschool. We were armed with 10 pages of paperwork to complete. As is always the case, I find myself hesitating on the "describe your child" form.
It starts out easy enough. Biographical data, allergies, things your child likes to do in his free time. If you haven't realized yet, I'm a bit of a smart aleck. I'm always tempted to add a little "likes to take long walks on the beach at sunset, enjoys casual dinners on Tuesdays." Or, for the eighteen-month-old crowd, "enjoys throwing sand at the beach ANY time, likes those frozen $1 pizzas you get in the freezer section of the supermarket."
What are you supposed to write there? I find myself describing the usual play suspects. Legos, cars, trains, legos, riding a bike at break-neck speed. Does this really explain anything about my child? Will it open the window to his little soul so that his teacher can jump right in and make him feel comfortable in this new class filled with alphabet charts and graphs? Will The Baby realize that this is the coolest thing ever?
This concern is premature because I haven't even gotten to the part of the form that asks how you, the parent would describe your child's personality. Eek. Surprising, The Boy flows from my heart onto the paper. "Gracious, kind and generous spirit. Willing and able to help just when you need it most."
The Baby? I find myself a little stumped. In describing my children, I find that I often lump them together as two of the same. When faced with this homework, I realize that while they both have a tremendously big heart, The Baby is not really like his brother at all. I find myself tempted to use the words "feisty, mischievous and yes, even "soul-less."
It's not that I really think The Baby has no soul. It's just that some days I feel like he is laughing at all of us for our norms and rules and restrictions. It's clear that he finds rules to be suggestions rather than the law. You can tell him a million times and he still looks at you with that look of wonder like, "you don't REALLY want me to do that, do you?"
The words I chose: decisive, committed, caring and spirited. I thought it was a nice way to put the teacher on notice that she'll probably spend lots of time pulling him down off the top of the shelves. But with that smile and determination, you just have to laugh. At least, I hope she does.
I have a confession. When PBS launches a new kids show, part of me sighs. The problem is that with the creation of Super Why and Word World last year, my son is absolutely obsessed. This makes my husband laugh because The Boy's obsession involves the need to spell everything. If you have a three-year-old asking you incessantly how to spell something, you should be happy right? "D-O-G, dog, C-A-T, cat, R-A-I-L-R-O-A-D-T-R-A-C-K, railroad track." Then there are those moments when he spells on his own. "T-L-K-R, DOG!!!! Mom, I spelled DOG!!!"
Every day is a request to watch a specific episode of Word World involving Pig and a pie. I have no idea. The Baby, who won't even remotely watch television, does like to scream "Wo Wo" when the theme comes on.
You can imagine my dismay when The Boy first saw the commercials for the new series Sid, The Science Kid. I'll admit I prayed he wouldn't notice. But he did. And it started.
The Boy: Mom.mom.mom.mom. Did you record that Sid? I want to see that Sid show.
I stumbled through the channels (thank God for living within 3 local PBS stations) and found Sid. Sid started singing. Sid started dancing. Sid got a magnifying glass.
A magnifying glass. The roof could have caved in and The Boy would have stayed where he was, riveted on the fact that Sid's teacher GAVE HIM A MAGNIFYING GLASS. Add two bugs, a journey to discover how a rolie polie moves, more dancing and we had a winner. The husband was delirious that there was actual science discussed. I was excited to see that Sid's parents were a biracial couple, something that is very common around here but is not often represented in children's programming. Aside from some excessive giggling from all the characters, it's fairly easy for kids to follow and gives great ideas for keeping a science journal and recording your scientific findings.
The Boy loved it. Loved it. I was just glad he didn't ask me to spell "magnifying glass." It's only a matter of time.
photo courtesy of noaa.gov
Growing up in South Florida, we were no strangers to hurricanes. But it wasn't until Hurricane Andrew came in 1992 and flattened a good chunk of the southern part of the state, leaving no roof untouched, that we no longer looked forward to potential days off from school or work as we sat out a storm that luckily passed us by.
I remember watching the news coverage of people partying in the French Quarter just three years ago on the eve before Katrina hit. I had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I watched the eye of the storm that was distinct and a sign of a deadly storm.
Now we have Hurricane Gustav. We are not even near the storm but like everyone else, we are riveted to the news and weather. We have had the news on constantly at our house for the past day or so. Ever since Katrina, there isn't one person who doesn't look at the coast of Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas in a situation like this and feel the dread that is the knowledge of what can happen. We watched as people evacuated. It took a few hours but before long, The Boy started asking questions about the storm. These were some of the things we did to alleviate his fears.
1. Be honest. This is a dangerous storm but people are leaving unsafe areas to find a safe place to stay. My three-year-old cannot understand flooding but he can understand that the mom and dad on the television are getting on that bus or in that car to drive to safety. This fact of parents taking care of their kids has always resonated with my son.
2. Talk about what you can do to be involved. While the hurricane is just starting to hit the coast now and the extent of the damage has yet to be determined, there will be needs identified and ways you can get involved to help some of the nearly 2 million displaced people. Focus on age-appropriate options for helping. My three-year-old can understand that another child his age that doesn't have any more toys would probably like a car or a ball.
3. Keep the conversation light and hopeful. The situation is serious but you need to make your child feel safe. There are so many people working so hard to make sure that everyone stays safe. As difficult as it was for us to do, we finally turned the television off and turned to the computer to get the news because the kids were perceptive that we were getting more and more concerned.
These were just some of the things we did. What do you your kids to help alleviate their fears?